The Cost of a False Sense of Security: One $95 Earthquake Kit

When a small earthquake passed through New York on a hot afternoon in August 2011, I was home from work, reading a novel in bed. The bookshelf above my feet rattled, and for a few seconds the building went liquid. The rattle I immediately attributed to my roommate’s sex life, but when the walls seemed to slide my annoyance turned to fear. Our landlord was a former building inspector, which we understood to mean our apartment had never been officially evaluated. “Is the building collapsing?” my roommate called out from the living room. “I think so!” I replied. We ran out into the street and stood on the sidewalk barefoot; I looked down to find myself clutching, of all things, an uncharged laptop.

Places I’ve Lived: A Black Tub, Missed Sunsets, And The Original Airbnb

Where have you lived, Anna Wiener?

2009-2013, Eckford Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, $1000/mo.

This apartment! It felt like a stage set. I loved it desperately and didn’t deserve it at all; how my friend Maya found it is still a mystery to me. It was on the top floor of a small, three-story building; everything, including the stairwell, slanted at about fifteen degrees. When Maya and I moved in, we were told that the place used to be an illegal nightclub, with an underground tunnel to the laundromat next door. The landlords had broken down the wall between two studio apartments; we slept in walk-in closets and had two bathrooms, two living rooms, and no privacy. The ceiling was popcorn plaster and the fixtures in one bathroom were black. As far as I know, nobody ever snorted cocaine off the rim of the tub, but everyone mentioned the possibility.

The Eckford Street apartment was beautiful, and constantly surprised us with new ways an apartment can be broken.