Tight and Neat

I always dreamed of living in a place like this. I sucked it up and paid the broker's fee.

 Location Hell's Kitchen
Rent $1,400 (market)
Square feet 370 (studio in walk-up building)
Occupant Brian Anstey (managing art director, Entertainment Weekly)

This will be the Christmas column because you have a tree. Perfect angles in here. I'm such a designer. Everything in my apartment snaps to a grid. The squares in the carpet are the same size as the squares in the bookshelves, and the coffee table fits exactly in . . .

Have you always been like this? I had Lego blocks. I was going to be an architect. I was so neurotic, I mean, the plumbing in a building . . .

Brian Anstey
photo: Shiho Fukada
Brian Anstey

Is this your first apartment since you lived in your parents' house in Sheraton, Iowa? I lived in the East Village with a roommate for a while. My parents drove the minivan out from Iowa. My father's kind of neurotic. He called, I don't know where we are. I think we're at ground zero. I said, Do you see Century 21? He said, Yes.

What was in the van? File cabinets. My mom got them at this bank fire sale in Iowa. I don't have anything filed in them. I just bought a paper shredder. I'm getting all paranoid about the identity theft thing. I broke the shredder. It said it could take up to 10 pieces of paper but I started smelling smoke.

File cabinets are coffin-like, airless, opaque. Once, I was in the conference room of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, the Freudian one in the East Eighties. I was doing investigative work. The room was baby blue. And there was this huge conference table and water pitchers and note pads—it looked like a Donald Duck cartoon from the '30s—and of course there was a portrait of Freud. There was a whole wall of tall gray filing cabinets, probably from before the war. What's Sheraton, Iowa, like? It's a small farming town but my parents weren't farmers. My father worked on the railroad—he dealt with how the tracks would lay into the field and up the hillside. My mother and I work as a team. I'll send her the design for my curtains in Quark and she'll sew them. I'll silk-screen the designs on the pillows and she'll sew them.

A woman's voice just said, Seven o'clock. That's my computer. On the wall is a poster from Bill Bradley's campaign from college. Then Bill Bradley didn't win, so I worked on Gore's. He didn't win, so I kind of gave up on politics.

How did you get the apartment? It killed me but I went to a broker. I looked at six apartments. This was totally it: exposed-brick wall, hardwood floors. As a kid, I always dreamed of living in the city in a place like this. I sucked it up and paid the broker's fee. It's so weird. All my friends have moved to Hell's Kitchen—six friends within a six-block radius. One person calls—Let's go get a drink.

Then what? It's like this phone tree. We go to Therapy a lot, Posh. During the summers, we have margaritas at this open-air place, Blockhead's.

Let's keep to the season. So winter—we go out a lot. Each block in Hell's Kitchen has a neighborhood association. My friend Anthony's block has like wine tastings and stuff. He's on 46th. Maybe my block does too but I don't know. My friend just moved next to the Church of Scientology. They're building a hotel. He says, My block is booming. There are loyalties about what coffee shop to go to. I'm so loyal to Amy's Bread. My friend goes to Coffee Pot.

Are you going back to Iowa for Christmas? Yes.

What will you do? My mother and I will sit around and cook. Maybe we'll make a gingerbread-house thing. It's almost like a spa vacation. I have problems sleeping at home. It's so dark and quiet. It kind of makes me paranoid.

 
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