Dave Cullen's Blog

Conclusive Evidence of My Existence

Dave Cullen

Dave Cullen
New York, New York, USA
June 03
Written for NY Times, W Post, Slate, Salon, Daily Beast. Publisher Twelve (Hachette)
An expanded paperback edition of my book COLUMBINE came out March 1, 2010. Links to the book and my bio below: http://www.davecullen.com/columbine.htm

MARCH 16, 2011 7:16PM

Hell's Kitchen: my new home

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I signed a lease Friday, and I'm moving to Hell’s Kitchen next week. (Pix soon.)

I had two big reasons from the outset:
  1.  Get closer to the city.
  2. A second bedroom for an office in a real room with a real door, and room for two tables for writing vs web. That worked really well in Denver. I need it badly.
I found a great apartment in a cool building in a great spot: in midtown, a five-minute walk from Times Square, which sounds horrifying, but that crap ends abruptly and HK is completely different. This is where friends said I belonged a year ago, but I had to test out the Upper West Side. They were right. The UWS is OK, but feels a bit far, and not at all my people. Somebody else’s neighborhood. This feels like home.

My place overlooks a garden on a quiet tree-lined block. My office is in the back, which is not perfect, but two big windows, southern exposure and no close high-rises. So lots of sky, tons of light, and trees below. It will easily fit my desk and a table with lots of breathing space, also crucial. 

One window opens onto to the (sturdy) fire escape, which I easily clambered out to on my first visit. I plan to write out there sometimes. My econo-balcony. I love the feel of it, can't wait to write in there, which was my #1 priority.

(And when friends come, I can collapse the table and inflate the air mattress in its place for a guest room.) My bedroom is small, but will fit a queen bed with room to get around it, which is all I need. I'd much rather have the space in the office. It's got just one window with a different angle onto the garden. Key things for sleeping: easy make really dark and pretty quiet.

It’s a pre-war building with high ceilings, exposed brick, hardwood floors, crown moldings, and lots of character. It’s a big living room for NY, especially with no wall to the kitchen. I only share one wall with one other apartment, and windows facing north, south and west for great breezes.

Finding a new place in NYC is quite the adventure. I spent weeks looking, and still ended up paying a broker. I thought I was headed to Chelsea, but finally accepted it's just too expensive. I would have to sacrifice the office or live in a dump. (I checked out quite a few sad little tenements.)

Hell's Kitchen is just one neighborhood north, but felt too warehousy. I‘m kinda over that. But once I spent time looking there, I started falling in love with the place. I’d only been to the edges, or passing through late-night from place to place on some previous trips. The heart of it is packed with brownstones and new restaurants and clubs and has got great charm and character. And it’s also become homo-central, as the gayboys were priced out of Chelsea as it gentrified. (Which explains all the hot clubs and restaurants and shops and so forth.) They are chasing us northward.

Mobility is huge to me, I'm already a subway hound, and the access is amazing. I had to give up walking to my gym, which was a deal-breaker initially, but I finally let that go. It’s half the subway ride I take now to get there. 

The gym-walk is less about walking there than being walking distance from there. And from members. Gyms are one of the nuclei of a gay neighborhood/life, with the homes, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, dentists, dry cleaners, etc. radiating out from there. This is a Chelsea gym, and I’ll be a Hell’s Kitchen guy, so that part of my life won’t reinforce. Different neighborhood with it’s own nucleus, one click uptown. I think a lot of members “commute” from Hell’s Kitchen, though. I could switch to Gold’s Gym, just a few blocks from me, but I tried it last summer and didn’t love it. Not really my crowd.

I actually ended the same distance from Central Park—just in a different directly. And if I ever do go to a Broadway show—I’ve been to a few off-Broadway plays, but have yet to see a musical or even a Broadway play—I’m just blocks from some of the big theaters.

Now I have to figure out furnishing it. Yuck. Good thing I have gay friends. Haha. A few of them will be in heaven, I think. A whole new place to outfit from the floor up, shopping with somebody else’s money. Hopefully not too much money. That makes me nervous. And for me, shopping and decorating are a chore. (I predict no paint will hit those walls, even if I stay 20 years. Have I ever painted a wall? I think only when a roommate or boyfriend initiated it. I helped Gregg paint his walls. That was fun.) I gave all my stuff to charity in Denver, and the sublet was furnished. About to start from scratch again after to many years.


I wrote all that on the plane to Tucson Friday, right after I signed. I was mostly excited, mixed with stabs of buyer's remorse: terrified I'd blown my budget and/or moved to the wrong place. 

But spilling all that really turned it around. I gathered 20 pages of notes on all the places, and assessed a big list of factors and got most of what I wanted, especially the big ones. It was reassuring to see it all enumerated for myself. And it helps that I've moved so many times and tried out different situations, figured out what I like and what's important.

And Tucson took all my energy—two events, and lots of prep for the second one—and I forgot all about it. My mind came back to it on the plane home, all refreshed and happy, all the fear behind me. For now. Just a lot to get done.

This place has a few flaws, and I guess I’ll see whether they turn out wear on me evaporate. I’m sure I’ll discover others I was oblivious to, which will irk me, but you can't think of everything.

Moving to NYC was the first time in my life I felt like I'd found my home. It wasn't quite there up on the UWS, but this feels much closer. Maybe even there.

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It sounds like you found a great spot! When I was first living in the UWS it seemed a little isolated, but over time as I made friends it felt like home to me. You are certainly more centrally located and being so close to Times Square you can catch subways in multiple directions quickly which is one downside of the the Upper West Side. Back in the '80s, Hell's Kitchen was plagued by the crimes of the Westies, but they are history now. Enjoy your new space, it sounds perfect!
Wow! Congratulations! I would love to have such a place and such a space! Best of luck....sounds wonderful....
Makes me wish I knew you well enough to say "I'll take that air mattress some weekend!". Enjoy it Dave, you deserve it!
thanks all of you.

i'm getting more and more excited.

when i came to the UWS last summer, a friend said that his friends referred to it as the suburbs. i kind of scoffed at that. not far at all.

and yet . . . it's not far, but people do settle into their own little niches here, and this is not mine. i think HK is the place for me. and i am REALLY eager to get there.
Room enough for all of us for coffee??!!
It might be beneficial to take a very early walk on trash pickup days over the next few weeks. My friend lives in the Village where people put out good, very usable stuff onto the street the night before and by daylight it's long gone into someone's apt. My GF has picked up (and put out) mirrors, framed art, a love seat, table & chairs, lamps, etc. Like you did in Denver, it's considered a 'donation'!
Now I'm excited. Can't wait for the pictures.
Sounds very exciting. Are you working on a new book now?
Congrats on your new place! Sounds very cool. GL with furnishing it; that can be daunting.
thanks all. i'm in here now, boxes piled all around me and i keep adding more stuff. haha.

pix soon.

yes, i'm started on a new book, but can't discuss yet. but thanks.
I plan to write out there sometimes. My econo-balcony. I love the feel of it, can't wait to write in here, which was my 1st priority. engineered wood flooring