Of all the horrors and nightmares my life has served up, one of the things I’m luckiest for is where I live now. The story of how I got here is a gem in itself: After being evicted out of Harlem in the early-90s, I landed a roommate share near Gramercy Park in Manhattan in a pre-war 5th floor walk-up for $250/month which I barely afforded on my security guard minimum wage pay. The apartment gave a new meaning to tiny. It was built before indoor plumbing so the new amenities meant the toilet was outside the apartment in a tiny room in the hallway. The shower was in the kitchen and ran off the sink. My bedroom (later converted into an actual bathroom) was 7’x7′ and the walls were lined with clothing racks from my roommates pimp period style of dress. There was no room for a bed. I slept on a stained futon chair and watched a mini television the year OJ Simpson was chased by the police in his white SUV.
Superbowl weekend late at night/early morning, I noticed my roommate didn’t turn out the kitchen light (he was bonkers about that) and when I went in, I noticed his plastic accordion bedroom doors were slightly open and he was lying on the floor in front of his TV that was playing the Star Spangled Banner. Not like him. I remember the last thing I heard him say on the phone was he was going to work out, shower, and go out to to errands. I figured since the door to the apartment was a foot from my head (only separated by my own plastic accordion door) I’d hear him leave then wake up and start my day. I never heard him leave, but I eventually got up, did stuff, and went back to bed to try to get some order in my sleeping patterns to my wacky shift work. Me being up and about at 4 am was no biggie. He was more of a 9×5 guy. So when I saw him on the floor, I called his name to see what the hell. No answer. Exasperated, I called again and again, no answer. I went in and looked at him. He was dead. White stuff around his mouth dead. So I touched him. Stone cold dead. I freaked! I found out I do 3 things when I’m super stressed: I pace, I swear, and I stutter. I grabbed his phone (I couldn’t afford one of my own) dialed 9-1-1 and stuttered out “muh-muh-muh-muh-MY fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh-FUCKING roo-roo-roo-roo-ROOMMATE’S duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-DEAD!” while pacing like a madwoman in a 200 square foot apartment. Don’t ask me how I spit out two-one-two, east twenty-fifth street. That took forever.
The cops came, I was interviewed by detectives, and we had to wait for the Medical Examiner. In the state of New York, you’re not dead until the ME says your dead. So me and a cop waited. And waited. The ME comes and asks me to wait outside the apartment, for fear I may be traumatized (too late). So I went in the hallway and glued my ear to the door. He was a tall African man with a french accent. He waltzed into where my former roommate was and said aloud “Uh huh messieurs, not feeling very well today, ‘eh?” I had to crack up. He pronounced him dead by heart attack and his men took my roommate away in a body bag. I then notified his family and started to get on with my life immediately.
I landed my first corporate job as a receptionist for Rodale Press and looked for another apartment. Answering an ad for a roommate share in Brooklyn, I got off the 2/3 subway at Grand Army Plaza near Prospect Park and experienced love at first sight. I didn’t need to see the apartment, this was IT. Thankfully, the apartment is a sprawling 500 square foot slice of Brooklyn paradise. The roommate eventually moved on and now I rule the roost. I’ve been here 17 years now and have no plans of ever moving.
The first 4 minutes of this TV episode is a perfect love letter to my neighborhood. I live within walking distance of everything you see. My neighbors are an eclectic bunch of people from all over the world, and diverse on every income level. So pardon me if I gush on and on how I loooooove my neighborhood. At least now you can see what I’m gushing about!
Happy New Year everyone!