The Wandering Eye: House Guests
Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
Okay. Hermes had (another) good idea.. A blog on House Guests. Avoiding all the clichés, comparisons to old fish, etc.
All it takes is a few moments searching the Interweb to know we have pay dirt…The images! The advice! The incredibly stupid How To lists - “Entertaining ‘Tempestuous Twenty-Something’s’ (Yeah, right. See below..) ‘Super Senior Citizens as Houseguests’ (only if they are continent, rich, and I am in the will).
We never have house guests in town—our friends are old and established and prefer hotels… And upstate, infrequently. But this summer has been more “House Guest-y” than usual…
A Straight Shot from East Texas to West L.A.
In June I foisted a University of Texas senior onto our willing and generous BFF’s in LA. For three weeks William the Younger stayed in their swell pool house, and they launched him into TinselTown with the most glam Hollywood internship possible. The perfect hosts.
And William the Younger was an exemplary guest. Quiet, invisible (and handsome when visible), played nice with the puppy. But all was not perfect. Our girlfriend had problems with his laundry habits (“How could he have any clean underwear?”). Girls…
So I pipe up, “Just send Carmen in and muck him out”. Well – this was construed by BFF as unduly indulging William the Younger. “He needs to learn how to do it himself—not wait for the maid.”
Hmm. No, he doesn’t. Really. I know of what I speak… If you wait long enough, in my personal experience, that underwear gets magically clean. Is that a guy thing?
Carey into Carmen, Now I Can Relate
Well, two months later, I have a house guest, and I am washing and drip drying Young Adrian’s shirts… “Carmen”, right, courtesy of Duane Hanson (whose work freaks me out)
Our friend Young Adrian arrived from Havana to spend two weeks in my Dressing Room before launching on a Grand Tour. The name is not accidental. From Day One it has been my Dressing room. Never a guest room - - ever. A rule.
But Adrian is an exception to the rule. He is young, and he’s good looking, a struggling (albeit successful) artist. He’s worked for us—so I know I can boss him around. He’s Cuban so the lame AC in my apartment will seem arctic. .
And it’s the dead of summer – I can take a few days off and go upstate and leave him to it. I’m not a good roommate – nor do I share well for long.. I can rally for a day or two – but quickly I want all my space for me.
We didn’t have an auspicious start. Adrian was put up by NYU/Tisch School in a Best Western way downtown for his first week. He came up to me midweek for dinner and a little apartment orientation. I fed him, we laughed, I bought him Time Out New York for the long ride south, and pointed at the #1 subway. Sadly, I pointed at the uptown entrance.
I hate when this happens.
At midnight in that horrible heat wave when he cleverly realized his (my) mistake, he fled the northbound train at 181st Street (OMG - that is north of the George Washington Bridge!). His tale of simply crossing to the southbound side was terrifying. Damn. I coulda lost him before I even had him… His mother would kill me.
So after his week in a hotel, he ‘checks in’ to my dressing room, inflates his mattress and figures out the Wifi…
Now what? We go to the grocery store. (You know it’s not your strength when the foreigner has to ask “Is this ‘food place’ you talk about what we call a ‘grocery store?’ ”). Okay, I don’t shop well for food. “Carey, what is the difference between a peach and a nectarine?” (OMG - biology! Or something..Is this a trick question?) “Hair?”
That field trip finished. (“No you can’t have those cookies. Put them back.” —him talking to me.) I ordered Bacon Cheeseburgers Deluxe from E.J’s Luncheonette. (“They bring them to you? We could have picked them up when we were at the Food Place. Why didn’t we buy something to cook at the Food Place? It’s cheaper, right?” Shut up, Adrian.)
Cuban Heat Dries Cuban Clothes
So while waiting for the burgers I asked if he had any laundry to do. Indeed he did so I show him the laundry closet. The sparkly new washing machine was recognized but when someone looks at a dryer and asks, “What’s that for?” your fate is sealed. He ain’t touching those machines without a long Spanglish tutorial that I may be incapable of delivering.
I am going to be doing Young Adrian’s effing laundry that night…
We then sorted out the Nespresso machine, the microwave (“Nada metal!”) and NetFlix. I slowly realized this wasn’t simply Adrian the Provincial Cuban, this was Adrian the Spoiled Cuban. I am thinking Mami and Abuelita’s baby boy never lifts a domestic finger in La Habana.
Why is this behavior strangely familiar?? Oh – I know. Because Cuban men are spoiled. I’m an authority. I married one.
For example - Hermes has never learned how to put gas in the car. My pointed barbs are met with a Cuban shrug and a wide smile. He can’t use the TV remote. Nada nada nada.. Why bother when he has me?
Who Else Misses “Full Service?”
Of course, I quickly realized the power I gained from this set up. Wanna watch Bill Maher? Beg…
Nice, But It Ain’t Olana
So we invite Adrian upstate to see the glory of the Hudson Valley. Bear in mind, this is a first trip out of Cuba and into the USA. His first time with unlimited internet access. Endless hot and cold running water. Steaks that don’t require that they be Very Well Done. Havana is far away.
We made stops at construction projects on the drive north. Billionaire #1 in Greenwich (“This house is just for the pool?”) and Billionaire #2 in Katonah (“Dios mio”.) We cruise up the Taconic with him asking El Jefe in Espanol, “Are we there yet?” Kids…
As we pass the new modular spec houses on Route 199 he is happily snapping photos (“Beautiful!”). Finally, Hermes pipes up, “Save the memory space, Adrian. These aren’t the star attractions”. We drive through the Chiddingstone gates to our house and his eyebrows arch. Commie our entrance ain’t…“Explain again how private property works?” I kid you not.
FYI: That subject is fraught with contradictions; way too hard for me…
Hermes had to change clothes and bolt to the Bard pre-Opera dinner. So we pile back in the car and drive through Bard and down River Road to a house named “Okefenokee” (name changed to protect the innocent) to drop him off. Trust me, my eyes got wide when we cruised into that spread. A million acres of mowed green lawn studded with sculpture. I felt like I was on a Rancho Mirage golf course. Adrian is silent and, I assume, thinking revolutionary thoughts.
Well, Adrian and I survived. He left for his Grand Tour well fed, well dressed, and better informed than he was when he arrived—and with a shitload of downloaded music.
As I said, we are infrequent hosts and always to the same few friends. We play to a small audience. Our target market maybe isn’t your target market..
WiFi: Keep ‘em wired and out of earshot
We can lose them for hours, and they seem happy…
Bicycles; No Helmet But Proper Shoes
We have a magical little route around Tivoli with no hills and completed in under an hour—works for all fitness levels. We get the tires pumped up and see them off safely—and damned if more than one doesn’t come home bloody.
Our friend Joe C lost some ink on the Clermont driveway—which is way steep, stupid.
NetFlix, Apple TV, Direct TV
...and lots of premium channels—this is more for me than the guests. They can enjoy the great outdoors and I can chill in the dark bar and watch Tosh.O. on Comedy Central.
A well-rested guest is a happy guest. Prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet always elicit squeals of delight (Note to guests: the wall is thin between those two baths. Very thin.) Ambien, Ativan, Halcion, Oxycontin. Push the downers. Avoid Provigil (Hermes calls it the Divorce Drug) and those post-op pain things that made me not poop. Clearly label it! (See how responsible I am?)
Booze and Smokes
Keeps ‘em busy at night. We are teetotalers but since Drunk = Sleepy, we get them drunk. Nowhere to drive. Frankie’s friend Rocket has “a problem,” we think….
The crummy basement bedroom (the ‘Chauffeur’s Room’ on the old electrical panel box.. How hot is that?) is full of entertaining paperbacks and out-of-date travel books, edited and fairly well organized. Move upstairs and novels fill one wall of the Guest Room. The Powder Room has a Cecil Beaton (left, a treasure…simply a treasure.) and royal theme going (Princess Anne’s wedding present list is an excellent loo read—). Reference is in Hermes’ room. The Bar has good stuff. Beach Reading is in my room. Thousands to choose from. If your guests aren’t engaged by lit’riture—get new guests.
And now maybe a few well-intentioned suggestions for Guests. We love you but…
The House Present
Don’t spend a moment worrying about a gift. You can shop local. The best recent Bread and Butter present we got was a Hustler. I was laughing telling someone, and they got all wide-eyed. “Where did they find a hustler?” “The Mobil station, I guess.” “In Germantown? A hustler?? On 9G?” Then I realized they thought I meant a person (which would definitely qualify as an inspired gift) when what we got was the magazine…For you Country Folk… Black leather pants = hustler
And what an eye into contemporary mores that periodical is. Not a word in it—not even captions—and not a hair out of place—what little hair there was. The “models” were, shall we say, well groomed? And cheerful. Damn. Dazzling smile into the camera over her left shoulder. Meanwhile, down a bit and over to the right, what that man is doing cannot be comfortable…No Welcome Mat on a Hustler model… Upshot - Don’t listen to your stick-in-the-mud husband. Straight Print Porn is a super retro gift that’s always in good taste. Hint: Give porn with a lottery ticket and a twelve pack of Diet Coke—to make it extra special…
When someone asks what to bring, our standard (joke) response is “A case of red and a case of white.” Great line, right? This was a ‘gift’ from a friend. She got that response when she asked a Business Associate of Her Husband’s what she could bring for a weekend. Didn’t bode well, right? The story ended when they left silently before dawn on Sunday a.m., coasting down the driveway in neutral..
Don’t Mess with the Good Stuff and Don’t Wear Our Clothes…
And if you do, don’t post it on Facebook. Busted. This fun Dress Up shot was taken by buds we’d loaned the house to. The birthday boy is sporting a very fragile African straw mask of great rarity and illustrious provenance. What fun to wear!! NOT… When this little pearl surfaced, my post on their wall had them running for the hills - “OMG! Is he mad?!?”
Oh, and Pick Up After Yourself.
Empty the ashtrays. Find the errant underwear, which spares the housekeeper leaving me little immodest laundered thongs to mail back. We had a friend suffering from a cold one weekend. First -don’t come if you’re sick. Second - when I went into her room after her damp departure, it was strewn with used Kleenex. A blizzard. Gross.
Worst was the horribly bloody T shirt I found in the bushes. I am talking knife fight bloody. Truly shocking. Turns out the same crew playing dress up, above, on a different “festive” weekend—had punked a friend and faked an accident with artificial blood (this is funny?!). In the ensuing merriment they neglected to ‘clean up.’ Freaked me out..
Damn. For all their foibles, our friends are fun (and funny) house guests. Oddly, these two continue to be our favorite guests…Perhaps an acquired taste…
As my mother would say when I’d return to school after a vacation, “Happy to see you come and happy to see you go”. (Hmmm… Was that hurtful? Nah…) —Carey Maloney
For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.