Irma's Pink Revenge

I am often asked --- why in the world I moved from one of the trendiest Manhattan neighborhoods to Quincy, Massachusetts. Well, that is the million dollar question. I had it all in extremely crappy -- albeit newly rehabbed -- 400 square foot, dark, dank railroad apartment, in a second floor walkup with more mice than I could count on a daily basis. And, I was paying more rent than most people pay for house mortgages. And I was lucky to find any apartment that would take me with three dogs. But it was Manhattan!!!! And, as New Yorkers love to say, "You don't live in your live in the city." Any New Yorker that would say that, had not seen this particular apartment.

It seems to me that I am always in the right place at the wrong time. My plan, in moving to Manhattan from Chicago, was to immerse myself in the cultural scene and reclaim my artistic roots. But, what did I actually do in Manhattan??? Rescue. Forget Broadway...forget the Soho art gallery scene. I became a regular at the Center For Animal Care and Control in Spanish Harlem. In an apartment not big enough to swing the proverbial cat ....I was fostering Eskies.

And, the neighbors had the nerve to complain. Honestly, some people criticize every little thing. I simply could not have been more discreet. Ann Harris and I had a brilliant system in place to gaslight the neighbors....we would walk the dogs in groups of three and nobody ever knew that they weren't the same three dogs. Well, except for Fluffy and Lucky. Out of all the tough scrapes I found myself in while I lived in this rooty tooty co-op building, the Fluffy-Lucky dynamic was the corker.

Lucky exited the Manhattan CACC with very real doubts about the trustworthyness of humans.

Fluffy shared Lucky's dim view of human nature.

We had driven into the South Bronx to pick up Fluffy from a housing project where he had been chained on the cement terrace 24/7 for a year. Fluffy was pretty pissed off by the time we got there, and he did not seem to appreciate us intervening on his behalf.

Fluffy's reputation had preceded him, so I decided to bring Nadia along as the Ambassador of Good Will, hoping that she might charm some sense into Fluffy. Well, the Ambassador of Good Will puked all over Ann's lap and was absolutely no help at all. Fluffy snarled and growled at us all the way home.

I had a full house...not that it took much to fill the house...but, I had the Angels From God--Nikita, Nadia and Toot--along with our original psycho-dog, Lucky. Enter Fluffy. The politics of introduction appeared questionable, so I thought it best to separate the varmints until they developed some common sense. I put Nikita and Nadia in their crates in the kitchen....Lucky and Toot in the bathroom, and I tied Fluffy to the front door knob. There weren't too many other options available.

Fluffy keeps watch for wandering handymen.

After a few minutes, I heard Toot complaining in the bathroom. When I went to check on her, I discovered that Lucky had locked the bathroom door from the inside. I swelled with panic as I imagined Fluffy neutering the building super as he passed through to unlock the bathroom door. Not to mention that my three dog cover would be permanently blown. Ah, but, thanks to an Internet chat buddy, who provided lock removal instructions online, I was able to troubleshoot the problem myself.

So, my cover was intact. But the neighbors began their campaign anyway. It was true, I was addicted to Eskies and I was out of control. Actually, my Grandmother, Irma bought my first Eskie when I was a teenager -- partly because she could never say no to me, but mostly because she could never bypass the chance to zing my mother, Berenice.


My mother was an off kilter mix of Felix Unger and Bette Davis. We had many a "bumpy ride" in our house. Factor in a red hot Italian temper, and you have Berenice. Our house exemplified sanitized living, and while we had dogs -- Poodles or Miniature Pinschers -- they were so well-trained that there was no evidence of them anywhere.

Enter Sasha the Eskie. Within a year, Berenice was headed for the looney bin. It was the dog hair that finally did her in. entity that my mother could not control despite Hoover's best foot forward. Berenice once pitched a half gallon of milk and a package of Oreo cookies across the room to protest a wayward Sasha hair that found its way into the cookie package. I remember Irma sitting at the antique round kitchen table, in her Pepto Bismol pink terry bathrobe....snickering, as she watched the explosion. She waited a few seconds, and then stood up in a huff, and exclaimed, "For Christ's sake, Bea, it's just a damn dog hair." And. then she gleefully cleaned up the mess.

a familiar sight to Eskie owners?

It was a testament to Berenice's great love for me that Sasha lasted one year in our house before he was relocated to a new home in Cicero, Illinois. I was traumatized. So, now that Berenice and Irma have both passed on, I have the Angels From God to prove -- without a doubt -- that I am NOT my mother. What's a little dog hair? Or alot of dog hair...who cares?

Well....who cared was the pinheaded, fussy, nosy busybody Co-op board who tried their best to toss me out of the building. According to their official letter of complaint, my neighbors were "Appalled at the thick mass of dog hair on the brown hallway carpet, which, in addition to being unsightly, is unsanitary as well." Berenice could have penned the letter herself. Now, I just didn't see it.. I realize my eyesight is going...and occasionally, I spied a tumbleweed and snatched it up, but please, a THICK MASS of dog hair?

The only "thick masses" of dog fur were firmly attached to Eskie anatomy.



To remedy the "dog hair on the brown carpet" situation, I dragged out the electrolux, which created a circular problem. The electrolux-related barking was deafening, and this related to point three on the Co-Op Board correspondence, "excessive and deafening barking that disturbs neighbors." I couldn't win. I tried muzzles, only to create a new deafening sound -- not unlike pigs at the slaughter. My goose was cooked.

Enter Irma, from beyond the Grave. Shortly after the Co-op board registered their complaint, a group of Irish painters arrived to renovate the crummy hallways. After three days, I heard loud, loud yelling outside my door. Several of my neighbors were in an tizzy because all the doors in the building had been painted Pepto Bismol Pink. Under the ghastly lighting, the pink doors glared so, that the white walls looked pink too... the result induced instant dizziness and nausea. Uncanny. Pepto Bismol pink was Irma's signature color.

And, so, the Angels From God and I got tired of crappy living conditions and crappy neighbors. We moved to the lush greenery of suburban Boston, where we now have a terrace that is bigger than our Manhattan bedroom. The last time I visited the old neighborhood, I laughed, in spite of myself, at the new business that had sprouted next door to my old apartment house. A 1950s decorative arts shop kidding...Mr. Pink. The fifties were Irma's decade and pink was her color. My Nana is still fighting my battles for me.

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© 2002 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau