Orders, Planes, and Views

I am down in York, Maine, for Thanksgiving. I have taken to spending this holiday with my girlfriend’s family. Their house is properly commodious for the sort of multiday lackaday which the long weekend requires. And, yes, the food does not suck.

It has been a long semester. I have been working an average of seventy hours per week in the office. This does not count other work I’ve had, either for my two placements or for being a law student. Nor does it account for the fact that work has been, one, not what I want to do; and, two, utterly unpaid.

In short: for the first time in my life, I need a vacation.

And the world could not have better accommodated! It is in the fifties with a light breeze. The sun is the color of the drying elm-leaves. It looks like a Wyeth and smells like a Highland malt. I am in my shirtsleeves, using the edge of their deck as a standing-desk, pouring coffee down my throat, and feeling fine.

What have I been doing with myself? Well, yesterday I ate things with my face. Today I spent the morning on Reddit. And, as a result of Reddit: now I dream.

I cannot think that Reddit is brilliant or special. More that it is inevitable. Reddit simply took the message-board paradigm and made it meta; it is the One True Message Board.* It would be more accurate to say that I spent the morning looking at a variety of message boards online. To speak more simply: I spent the morning on the internet.

Much of Reddit is devoted to sharing the new or the newly-discovered to no end other than to mutually bask in coolness. In this it’s not much different from a magazine (showing off the boats and the beauties you’ll never have) or a newspaper or history-book (condensed, most likely, to an image or two).

But I do not read magazines because they tend not to be very good. Most are poorly written, poorly constructed, ad-filled to the point of horror, product placement to the point of psychosis, and the fact that they are in print means I can’t control-f them and that is just barbarism, go back to Stonehenge. But likewise, most are overspecialized. It does me little good to read about the practical advantages of one rocket-powered lawnmower or another when I am not planning on buying, using, or being affected in any way by a rocket-powered lawnmower. Really what I want is to be made aware that such a thing exists – with the option to learn more about it if I so desire, or else simply weep for humanity that such a thing exists, &c &c.

I subscribe to numerous subreddits. I would say that they provide me with ten minutes of interest per day. Sometimes more – a single interesting Thing could merit an hour’s deeper learning. And that morning I sorted r/mapporn by top posts was essentially the best morning of my life.

Some are relevant to my hobbies. If not for r/bicycletouring I would probably be dead by the trailside somewhere. I wish I had access to r/blacksmithing when I was a blacksmith; I could have made use of what I’d seen there with the metal in my hands.

I subscribe to a number of the so-called “SFW Porn” subreddits. The most famous of these is Earth Porn – it’s a place where people post beautiful landscape photographs. It is simple, and it is magical – because the world is magical. On a similar vein, AbandonedPorn is all pictures of things that have been abandoned. If you can’t get inspired by these, it’s probably time you quit showbusiness.

I also subscribe to r/roomporn. In part this is because, as has been noted, I am a fruitcake of monumental proportions. In part as well it is a very easy sub to browse – a few images per day, taking no more than a few second each, doesn’t even fill a cigarette break. And it has the rare position of being somewhat relevant to my doings in life. I have done a fair amount of work on my little rented apartment. Some of it has been inspired by what I’ve seen in roomporn. All of it has been influenced by it.

I haven’t been in a lot of apartments. I haven’t been in many that are conspicuously nicer than, or even different from mine. What I have, as far as shared experiential learning, is Reddit.

It is not only a matter of home improvement. I expect that I’ll be living in one apartment or another for a very long time – perhaps the rest of my life. As I make more money, I rather expect that an improvement in my leibensraum will prove to be the best use of my money (by the blessed textbook metric of dollar-gets-you-happiness).

Some things are absolute, and require no knowledge of comparables to be wanted. I want more space – for my stuff, for pacing. I want a more open floorplan so I can get a Roomba. I want a ceiling that isn’t a drop ceiling (I know, I know). I want even more windows. No, more than that.

Sometimes I think my ideal apartment is a fishbowl at the equator.

But these are not the most substantive improvements on what I have right now. My apartment is about six hundred square feet. It has hardwood floors, cathedral windows, it is warm and quiet and that’s really quite sufficient.

It could be bigger. It could be better laid out. It could have more windows. It could even have a view of the sea. But these would all be marginal improvements. An apartment is better or worse, but it is an apartment.

Or so I thought.

This morning, this article was linked from RoomPorn. It showcases the view from the penthouse at 432 Park, an 88th-floor vista of Central Park and Manhattan.

It is the tallest residential building in Manhattan. It is one of the tallest buildings in New York. It is among the tallest buildings in the world. The view from the penthouse rolls over the tops of skyscrapers like the view from a skyscraper rolls over the low ground – or so it was a hundred years ago. Now there is something as far above the world as the skyscrapers once were. It is not just a matter of being a little bit bigger – it is an increase of an order of magnitude. It creates something new.

This is the view from the penthouse of 432 Park, facing Up Island.


Those little buildings on the edge of park average fifteen stories – taller than the original skyscrapers.

It is common to speak of the ultra-rich, or &c, as existing upon a higher plane. This is a metaphor, and a dull one. What I speak of here is not a metaphor. This apartment creates, in fact, a third plane of homesteading. The first was ground level. The second was brought about by the skyscraper, which towered above simple homes. This third towers above the towers. It is something different. It is something new.

Is the future not here? Is this not something of which the Biblical Ancients might have dreamed, when they wrote of a tower with its top in the Heavens? The people in this apartment get to live above the city. They get a higher plane. They get to live within the clouds.

Perhaps it is not the same level of newness as the original skyscrapers. Perhaps the pyramids were more creditable effort than if we were to, I don’t know, 3D-print some even bigger pyramids. But this is a different beast, because it’s not just a building – a Big Thing – but rather it has a function. People get to live in this building. So let us move to the subjective.

Here, have view:


This is the penthouse apartment’s breakfast-nook. The owner of this penthouse – or it’s renter or AirBNBer, I don’t know – they get to wake up to this view. They get to eat their breakfast while looking at this.

The world offers legion variations upon the apartmental theme. Furniture and floorboards, windows and drawers – bigger or smaller – location after bloody location. But to this humble wordwanker they are all basically the same.

For if I am a puritanical little fucker – and I rather am, and aspire only more to be – I do not need much in my life. I certainly do not need much in my apartment. I am getting by extremely well on six hundred square feet (and that split with another person!). I need a bed (a mattress on the floor will do). I need a computer (and a chair or three). I need a few bookcases (though I could live without them). That’s about it.

My six hundred square feet of the moment are quite pleasing to me. If you gave me a thousand square feet I’d be happy as a worm. Two thousand square feet and I’d get lost in it. I do not need a castle, I do not want one. I want an apartment. And an apartment is an apartment. Then I saw this.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine waking up to the world before you? For this is not just what is within it. It is what it surveys. It is everything.

I saw this and I thought: I want it.

This surprised me. It is not very often that I want things. I like looking at things. I like learning about them. I like books and museums and Reddit. Actual ownership is not that big of a deal to me. There’s not much in the world that I really want.

I saw this, and I wanted it. Strongly. Viscerally. I pictured myself living in this apartment and I thought myself king of the world. I thought of earning this place and thinking that I had done pretty well in life.

This little missive, more than anything, is an attempt to figure out why.

Why is this apartment so very different?  Why do I want it, among all homesteads, among all things?

It does not own the world – but it puts it on display. Much as the books in a library. Much as the portraits and porcelain in a museum. Much as the daily flow of karma-seeking bullshit and wonder that bubbleth up from Reddit. A small apartment with a godly view – that, I think, is what I would like.

Some people dream of a throne. Some people would be happy with the castle. I would like the view from the parapets. That’s all.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine watching the dawn fall upon the tops of skyscrapers, can you imagine watching the sun set over both the Hudson and the East? I don’t think I can imagine anything more magnificent. I want it.

I take my dreams further. Silly, perhaps, but listen to my dreams. Strip out everything. The entire apartment – nothing. No room dividers. Pillars in the four corners – nothing else. An empty floor. Ninety feet long, ninety feet wide. Twenty foot ceilings and windows for walls. In the center of the room – a mattress on the floor, a laptop, a low chair. A camera on a tripod. C’est fin.

It would be a great plain open space, far above everything, towering above the world. It would be nothing but sunrise and sky and the city. It would be perfect – a sort of perfection knowable to only a few people in the world, a sort of perfection unknowable to any humans who have come before.

Let us dream beyond measure. I’d have an entire second apartment hidden beneath the floor, to be brought up at a command. It’s not that hard, really – a few sections of the floor raised by little electric motors, silent and swift. All hidden between the walls of the apartment below. Wouldn’t take up much of their space. They wouldn’t even notice.

For what would I need? A bookcase, maybe. A rack of clothing or two. A shelf of chatsubo, another of Islay malts. A pipe of cold water and a pipe of hot. A shower-head above, a drain below. A toilet, natürlich. A refrigerator, perhaps, or even a little stove. Throw in an exercise-bike and a set of weights, so I can work out above the world. But really, most of these things are unnecessary. In a city, with a gym, with bars and restaurants never closed, an apartment need have little. And in my simple life, I would not want it to have more.

The elevator could be inset into the floor, with stairs leading upwards hidden by a bit of floor that slides aside. That way one could sit in the middle of this chamber and have nothing between oneself and the world.

I think sometimes that I would be happy to live in a small cabin in the mountains, far from the things of man. I think sometimes that I would be happy to live in a small boat, far from shore. But all in all I would much rather live right in the heart of things, but high above. Watching the city and the water and the sky – then descending to it, to work in it as I see fit.

It is not necessary. It is dreams upon dreams. But let us be clear now – it is my dream. If all the world were set before me: this is what I would want.

“The penthouse of an ultratall skyscraper, loft-like and minimally adorned, to see sunrise and sunset above the city.”

That is what I want.




*This is my primary objection to Facebook. The next step in networking was to take everyone’s personal web page and connect them. What Facebook did was to have everyone make their own miniature web page using Facebook’s template, and make those searchable. This served to give everyone in the world a Rolodex, while at the same time reducing the infinite possibility of the Internet to a sheaf of business cards.It is easy to network people’s data when you limit their data to one universal form. As a result, Facebook’s ‘web pages’ are simple to make and to browse… rather like the headstones in an old cemetery.

…but I jeremiad.



~ by davekov on 28 November 2015.

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