The House of Carpati

by

07/07/2005

224 E 47th St, New York, NY

Neighborhood: Midtown

For 10 years I lived in New York City in the House of Carpati. Moving to New York after college was an ideal next step for a person who wanted to be a magazine editor, so that’s what I did. After spending the summer post-grad as a nanny in Scarsdale, and then six weeks house sitting for friends of the family on the Upper East Side, finding a room in the House of Carpati was my destiny: It was the second place that I looked at and the rent was only around $500 a month.

Never mind that half of the floor I rented was wallpapered in silver metallic red, white, and blue. The front room had been the son’s playroom in the 1960s and was perfectly preserved…down to the carpeting, also flag-colored. It felt like a flashback to the set of a patriotic Star Wars. The landlady of the house, Mrs. Carpati, was a former opera singer and magazine ad sales executive. After a few months she introduced me to Hearst Magazines, where I worked for most of the 10 years that I lived in her house.

As the famous Turtle Bay resident E.B. White said, “No one should come to New York unless they are very lucky.” I had the good fortune to be renting the top floor of this fabulous townhouse, and serve as caretaker while Mrs. Carpati lived in her apartment in Paris for most of the year.

New York is the ultimate stimulant; the energy people speak of is palpable and true and pushes someone to do the most they can, the best they can. I sped up the ranks at the magazines I worked for, jumping from one to two to five different titles. I was a full-fledged participant in the survival of the bitchiest race common in women’s magazines, although not always a willing one. I loved life and loved that hard work went along with partying hard. What could be more inspiring than sitting on the steps of an historical brownstone watching people walk by? Throwing parties in one, I discovered.

Living in Turtle Bay AKA Midtown didn’t come without its drawbacks: the sound of the garbage trucks at 3 am, the car alarms, the sirens, the brothel at the end of my block. However, one of the most aggravating experiences was not when Katharine Hepburn, who lived in the neighborhood, cut in front of me at the grocery store; nor was it having to cross police barricades and show ID when my street was blocked off due to protests. It was the day George W. Bush visited the United Nations on September 13, 2002 and completely ruined the better part of my 30th birthday. As W. addressed the delegates on Iraq, I was coping with gridlocked traffic for miles around as imposing military escorts sped down my street with soldiers brandishing machine guns hanging out the windows. Was I in a war zone? I only wanted to park the car and pick up my bags to drive to the Hamptons to celebrate my birthday. It took seven hours. And Bush’s negotiations with the U.N. were a waste. Thank You, Mr. President. That was the beginning of the end for me. I high-tailed it to the Left Coast.

The ten years I lived in Turtle Bay are unforgettable. There was the night next-door neighbor Kurt Vonnegut left a cigarette burning and his house caught fire. Coming home I saw the fire trucks and panicked, thinking it was my house and I had left a cigarette burning. The House of Carpati kept me safe during the blizzard of ’96 and the 2003 blackout and I remain unscathed. When the building of my soul collapsed along with the Twin Towers, I was sheltered. It was at times the best and the worst. It was freezing and it was hot as hell. New York shaped who I am—a moderate but sometimes temperamental person who was living in the city of extremes.

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