People who live anywhere but New York City take outdoor space for granted. In L.A., the only other city I've lived in my adult life, even the shit-ass lowliest apartments often had balconies (and sometimes swimming pools). The last time I lived there, for the same price as my grungy New York apartment, we had a whole house with a yard, a hammock, a hot tub, and a resident pet bunny. We barbecued -- even in February.
One of the nicer aspects of the Upper West Side apartment I rented in 2004 turned out to be its fire escape.Sure, the paint job was decrepit and probably lead, the satellite dish towered over us, and there was only a 3x6 foot area available for humans. But on warm spring and summer days we would put out a fleece blanket and read, play cards, or even nap.
In spring and fall, the fifth-floor faux-terrace afforded us great views from above of the blocks' trees in their white-flower stage and then their colorful foliage stage. And when snow fell, we could measure its depth on the metal railings.
(The rest of the year we tried not to notice the underwear and shoes that had somehow gotten tangled in the branches.)
Even Jasper, the cat, appreciated the fire escape, because there were always pigeons and doves coming by to roost, providing his version of a nature TV channel. One spring, Sydney called me to the window to see a flock of bright green parrots had landed in a tree across the way. (Sadly, my camera didn't capture them).
So one of the most appealing aspects of the new Harlem apartment we just moved to was the fact it had a real, full-fledged balcony, up on the eighth floor in a fairly low-rise (at least for now) neighborhood. No more worrying that if I fell asleep I might fall through the opening. When the weather turns warm, we could get real outdoor furniture. maybe a grill.
But already, every day we see seagulls and hawks flying around at eye level, and it struck us -- why not get a bird feeder? Surely there are species who don't want to eat the frozen McDonald's bun detritus, who will immediately seek out a real bird-driven restaurant with such a nice view. So we went online, and discovered there are a lot of bird feeders for sale. None of them seems particularly geared toward a city apartment balcony, so we just had to wing it.
Well, we're three days into the experiment, and you might see this and say, wow, the birds have already eaten nearly half a tube's worth. But that's not actually the case. What we learned the hard way is, it's pretty windy up on the 8th floor. And the feeder has been making slow gyroscopic turns, spreading its seed below kind of the way the sand trucks spread on snowy streets. Every now and then we peer over the edge to see if birds have landed on rooftops below to gobble up the spillage. But none of them has figured out where it's coming from, so we're just left with this weird prop jutting out from our railing, slowly winnowing its contents to an unheeding city.
I guess the moral is, you can't always force the city to give you a country feeling. Still, the views have been nice.