The Author’s Lair

I am very fortunate to have an office in my apartment in Manhattan where I can write without interruption—though in the city this requires one to overlook the innumerable sources of noise that can infiltrate the day, from giant pneumatic hammers used to rebuild the playground across the street, to trucks that crush the debris hauled from the many nearby apartments being gutted for renovation. My favorite time to work has always been early morning, and this is the case now more than ever before, with the city engulfed in scaffolding and clattering with construction noise.

My desk is a large table, built of unfinished wood. I like the expansiveness of its surface, though bit by bit this has been reduced by the addition of desk toys and ornaments, which are vital to my well-being. These include: a tiny Madagascar lemur rendered in straw, a gift from my eldest daughter, who seems always to be traveling to exotic locales; two monkey lamps, which I adore; a Stay Puft marshmallow man, like the one in “Ghostbusters,” only smaller and thankfully less gooey; a toy Hess truck, given me by my wife after I told her I had coveted one throughout my childhood; and, also from my wife, numerous cards to encourage me in my writing, like the one that admonishes me to “Freak Out and Throw Stuff.” I also have a miniature Adirondack chair, an hour glass, and an etching of a bat in mid-flight. I do not know why I have these things, but I do.

The best thing about my office, though, is that it has a ton of light, which enters through two big windows. I live on the fourth floor, and this gives me an intimate sense of the ebb and flow of street-level life in my neighborhood. In the morning I love watching people setting off to walk their dogs in the park. The outbound dogs tug ahead with anticipation; the golden retrievers among them look as though they are trying their best to be good dogs, but inside are screaming “come on please can we pick up the pace.” The body language of the dogs changes on the return leg. Tongues loll; leashes sag; there is an overall aura of canine depression. I have come to know some of these people and dogs from afar. There is my dental hygienist, who walks by with her dog. There is Tulip, an adorable corgi; and Huckleberry, a brown dog of indeterminate heritage; and there are the dogs marshaled by the professional dog walkers, each with about twenty in hand. Some mornings, when an ambulance happens to come by, they all howl at once. Not the walkers, just the dogs. It is a remarkable thing.

My favorite moment of the morning is when I first sit down at my desk, typically about 5:30 a.m., with a cup of black coffee (the first of many) and a Double Stuf Oreo cookie (the first of…well, only one, unless it’s a bad day, in which case I allow myself two). I love it when big storms loom and the streetscape darkens, as I sit snug in my office, secure in the knowledge that my roof will not leak, or at least, since the roof is ten floors above, will not leak on me. And I love it as well when, often, I will glance out and catch a glimpse of one of the city’s hawks or falcons riding the updrafts of the stone and concrete escarpment outside, their feathers shuddering for purchase as the traffic below flows past, oblivious.

And oh, I get some writing done too.

Room with a view

The Stay Puft marshmallow man

Erik’s Hess truck

Encouraging cards from Erik’s wife

A lemur from Madagascar

Erik’s idea of fine art

One of two monkey lamps

Erik’s favorite cartoon