Houseguests With Love

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my friend joe and i are redefining our domestic spaces. we've been turning ourselves, our high-strung ménage of cats and dogs and our sun-dappled apartment inside out. we installed two huge white bookcases (donated by our totally generous and ingenious neighbor andrea basile) to partition off part of the living room and thus create a sort of guest room. t'was andrea who suggested pushing the bed against the wall to make the guestroom feel larger.

we've painted everything white in the guest room that doesn't move. we've offended golden-eyed little kitty and blue-eyed gizmo by shifting their cat-feeding stations. i fluffed brand new sheets and a silky down comforter. even our sort-of beagle has been taken to the groomer and stoically passed her ordeal. i've also made sure no guest of mine will open a drawer to discover cat food cans mixed with kitchen scissors or stain remover. i'm drafting a letter about when we cook salmon and the ungodly hour the cats yowl for food. and i'm selling fine but dusty oriental rugs stored under the guest bed. i'm donating many other goodies to housing works thrift shop.

i totally welcome the shake, rattle and shape-up that precedes the blissful moment when a guest pulls suitcases into the foyer. yes, our guests are much loved. i don't understand people who complain about houseguests. i love the opportunity to share downtime with friends from out of town. a huge luxury of living in this marketplace- and museum-rich city is the fact that people travel to us. and lucky me, i get to sleep in my own bed and avoid teeth-grinding airport indignities.

this month's guests lead great lives. caroll michels was my best friend when we were yale student wives. i'll never forget how she admonished me with a giggle when i collapsed with horror at a glimpse of my face in a hand mirror one sunday after she woke me for a hike: "silly, never look in a mirror until 15 minutes after you wake up."

caroll, who lives in sarasota, is a prize-winning artist and born nurturer doing her own work and writing books (how to survive and prosper as an artist: selling yourself without selling your soul, henry holt 6th edition, $20). caroll's coached thousands of clients-institutions and artists-who win grants.

jeannine oppewal, who's coming first, is a four-time academy award-nominated production designer who's found locations and built sets for great movies like tender mercies and seabiscuit. she's wrapped a movie directed by jim brooks in philadelphia. jeannine's one of very few humans who recognizes a good script when she reads it.

i'm not worried about jeannine. she's stayed here months while in pre-production for bob de niro's the good shepherd. caroll promises she won't mind sunrises bursting through balcony doors or the littlest yapping dog.

i can't imagine (even given our idiosyncratic household) that any friend would rather stay in a hotel. i personally love being a guest, overhearing and participating in friends' lives. maybe i'll make it all the way to venice, calif., this winter and luxuriate in jeannine's pristine turf. she lives across from the golf course and drolly fills a bowl with golf balls that slow to a stop on her front lawn. her serene backyard is fenced in with huge succulents and old trees-a work of art.

but if work keeps me here, seeing jeannine and caroll in the flesh in my living room still makes me one damn lucky manhattanite. n


susan braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, family circle: the boudins and the aristocracy of the left, was nominated for a pulitzer by publisher alfred knopf.

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