Saturday, November 10, 2007

My first Puerto Rico dwelling

My new apartment could serve as a "model" example of the shabbiness and shoddiness I observed on my ride from San Juan to Rincon. Too bad I forgot my camera in Atlanta and have to wait until my daughter comes for Thanksgiving to make and post any photos :-(( , so for now you'll have to do with just a description.

The villa in which my new apartment is located has recently been remodeled and looks nice and fresh, with an inviting front porch with outdoor leisure chairs and plants in pots. Also on the plus side, there is an almost unobstructed view of the sea between the two houses on the opposite side of the road, because - on the minus side - the villa during remodeling lost completely its tropical garden promised by its web site photo. So besides the flower pots on the porch there are only a few trees at the back and a bare grass in front of the house, "decorated", you guessed it, with not one, but two blue plastic garbage barrels at the road side, obstructing the view of the sea!

Inside, the apartment walls are even and freshly painted and the floors are covered with new - pinkish - tiles. There are three large windows in the kitchen/dining/living room combo, and two large windows in a bedroom and they all are new, with gleaming white dividers that rise or lower the narrow glass slats. All the cranks operating the windows are new and working. They also provide somewhat of a workout to crank up or down 9 parts of every window, or 5x6 = 30 in total. All the windows - and doors - are also equipped with new screen nets, so I might not need to hang my newly purchased mosquitiera over my bed. The refrigerator/freezer is brand new and so is the queen sized bed and box springs - still in their protective plastic covers. The bedroom furniture is also nice - not my style, but nice: light wood with an intarsia of huge tropical leaves on every drawer and with dark patina green metal leave shaped knobs.

There is a matching round table and a TV stand with drawers in the living room, but the TV stand misses one of the doors, which are supposed to cover an - for the moment absent - TV... and the missing door alone would make the entire living room looking shabby. It would have been far better to remove the other side of the door and all the hinges and leave the TV space totally open, rather than half closed. If I were the slightest bit handy (or - like Jen from Dominica - had a "Mr Wizard" of sorts accessible ;-)) I would remove that door and the hinges myself, but since I am not, I need to complain about it to my landlord and make him fix this and other shabby elements .

Because everywhere you look, some nice - or at least acceptable - appointments clash horribly with others that are either shabby or shoddy.

The so called "shabby chic" style of decorating has, in my opinion, absolutely nothing to do with chic. I personally do not crave any pseudoantiques, any 'memory' or 'character' of old things, I don't ever feel a need to be grounded in anybody's tradition - not even my own. I do not like excessive ornaments, either. For me to thrive everything needs to be clean, modern. light colored, made of natural materials, streamlined and close to perfect: I like simplicity - preferably a sophisticated one, with graceful lines. I abhor equally both the pretense of overdecorating (though I agree that simplicity, underdecorating is also a pretense) and the pretense of shabby chic. If anything is distressed, it either needs to be repaired, restored to its former glory or thrown away. But I digress, so back to the apartment:

You might find it hard to believe, but in the middle of the main living room wall there is on over sized hole for two industrially grey metal meter boxes, one with a lock, sticking out. Yes, it can - and will be by me - covered with a picture, even though the picture can't be hanged flat due to the lock, but ... what kind of a moron places meter boxes in the middle of a living room wall of an apartment????

The living room couch has an awful yellow/brown/orange color and horrid pseudo rokoko shape, but I immediately covered it with my blue, simple, though nicely textured, cotton bedspread from India, which successfully covered the ugliness of both its color - and - to a lesser extend - its pretentious shape. Boy, am I glad I took the bedspread with me, despite the space it took in my luggage!

The shabbiness does not end there: kitchen has cheapo cabinets (oh, well) and - what's worse - naked light bulb in the 9 foot ceiling! Industrial 'chic' ??? Since I am only 5'2" it would be difficult for me to remedy it on my own. But the kitchen wall has very nice ceramic plaques - presumably by a local craftsman. Go figure the philosophy behind it all.

Bathroom: the naked light bulb in the ceiling again and NO other lighting - neither over, or on the sides of the mirror above the hand basin. And no shelves or hooks of any kind and no surfaces to put anything on. Talk about minimalism! Also there is no hot water here, though there is hot water in the kitchen and in the shower - although in the shower the hot water is marked as cold and vice versa. I asked the landlord why and got an answer: "the plumber made a mistake". I asked, incredulous " and you let him get away with it???" and got a shrug as an answer.

Apparently, I have a lot to learn.

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