My building manager was so shocked when she saw the photos of the hole that she made my repairs a priority and is now more amenable to listening when I complain or warn that something dire is approaching. It helps that she is female and was there when I told the contractor the ceiling was going to cave while he quietly blew me off as the usual hysterical female. I sure showed him! Too bad my last laugh had to include weeks of cleaning, severe emotional stress, the risk of my cat's life, breathing in a quantity of black dirt and damage to an irreplaceable antique photographer's chair that my mother refinished by hand.
I did go to a friend-recommended lawyer who told me that my rent is so low that by the time we went through the trouble of legalities and the court system I would owe him more than I would make back in a one or two month rent abatement. When I asked if my landlord would ever offer anything out of sheer decency, he laughed. Apparently no landlord offers anything except a low ballpark buy-out these days. I told him I'd come back when I'm ready to leave so they can pay me for the favor
But my kitchen and living room ceilings are now repaired. It was a big chore and mess, and meant 75% of my apartment was off-limits for days at a time while they worked. I had to herd my four animals into the bedroom and was nervous about leaving them alone for major stretches of time. Which, truth be told was not the worst thing as it was nice to have an excuse to lounge in bed for hours, reading and surrounded by animals.
The ceiling looks pretty good; they drilled drywall into the existing beams and plastered and painted over the whole thing, which, according to friends in the know, is how it's done nowadays when an apartment is still occupied. Our little family is no longer living under a rain of plaster or in fear for our lives. I also got a promise of a new paint job, new cupboards and possibly a new sink unit if I harass them enough.
I went upstairs and looked at the mini-palace being built in a space the same size as mine, which is a one bedroom with the bedroom being extremely small. The renovated apartment is quite fancy, with nice looking tile and floorwork and even including a tiny washer/dryer in the bathroom, which will probably steal all my hot water. I am guessing they'll call it a two-bedroom as a section of the kitchen has been maneuvered into acting as a tiny living room while the actual living room is walled off into what could pass for as the bigger bedroom. I'm guessing this apartment will go for $2500-$3000. Wrap your brain around that: it's a six flight walk-up in a no-doorman tenement building on Avenue B.
My poor little apartment is still in desperate need of renovation, which can only happen properly if I exit with all my stuff, never to be seen again, leaving the landlord free to gut it and start afresh. This is not going to happen right away. I have no desire to live out my dotage in a crumbling five flight walk-up; I have a life here, with friends I love and really don't want to leave.
Still the nudges that it's coming get more frequent with each passing month. Every Saturday night there are always two or three incredibly bad and spoiled eggs present during my bartending shift that remind me that this city, at least in its current state, will not be my final destination. Last week I waited on a guy who claimed to once have been a bartender, then announced that all bartenders are shady, then didn't tip because he thought $10 was too expensive for his premium bourbon, the implication being that I was already scamming him out of money. So he essentially called me a thief and didn't pay me for my work, the energetic equivalent of spitting poison at someone and then walking away. The tip stiff is less hurtful than being insulted and demeaned for just doing my job. That kind of thing gets under your skin after a time, and is the reason there are so many surly bartenders and waiters in the world.
Then there was a this guy, who will remain legend among my co-workers for years to come:
1. Upon entrance dropped his coat down on a banquette and walked away for the night's festivities, never looking back.
2. Had a few Jamos and Bud Lights (it's their favorite) and eventually got so drunk that he felt the need to show me how limber he was while bro-dancing to Daft Punk ripping off Earth, Wind & Fire by throwing his foot up on the bar as if it were a barre.
3. Discovered at 3:00 am that he couldn't find his favorite $2700 pea coat. Not finding his favorite $2700 pea coat where he was sure he left it made him feel cranky and convinced that someone had stolen it. Because he left it RIGHT THERE.
4. When security found his favorite fucking $2700 pea coat on a different banquette, probably the first one he passed on his way in to show us how awesome and bendy he is, instead of being grateful and relieved and perhaps embarrassed that he made such a stink, he only got more angry and belligerent and accused security of trying to steal it.
5. Got so aggressive regarding the imagined grand theft of his bullshit $2700 pea coat that he got in people's faces until he had to be forcibly shoved out the door.
6. Once shoved out the door he announced to very visibly tattooed and non-golfy members of the staff that they were going to be really sorry because they were now banned from the fabulous golf courses that his dad, and he by default, own.
You can't make this stuff up, people. Well, you can, but there's no need when it's happening nightly right outside your door. And I do mean right outside: I have to step over vomit nearly every weekend on my way into my building.
So how long can you live next door to it, or above it, or underneath it, unless your name has a III after it and you enjoy golfing and drinking until you vomit in the street? My guess is not forever. But I grateful that I am living in a building that while undergoing the standard painful upgrades and ensuing market-value price gouges, remains relatively safe for its rent-stabilized tenants for the time-being.
I am also really gratified that the people in our little community of aging freaks are still willing to reach out to one another in time of crisis. That connection is invaluable and I hope that I am able to pay it forward when the opportunity arises. I am sick of talking about how New York sucks these days and want to focus on what we do have, and that is primarily each other. There is still a bit of time left and it would be nice to enjoy what we can while we can.
And lastly, on the topic of the shortness of life-- the very talented Philip Seymour Hoffman. I didn't know him, but by all reports from people who did, he was a very nice guy. Many in our scene are no stranger to drugs or drug addicts, and I've read some strong opinions on his weakness, on the weakness of junkies, etc. I have witnessed that weakness firsthand and yes, it's frustrating and many times you just have to walk away or lose your mind. But I loved what Puma Perl had to say about it, and thought it was worthy of sharing as a final thought:
"Addiction is sneaky and insidious. It's not a rational being where you can explain that you have kids, fame, talent, a wife, and it agrees to go away. I've read a few 'how could he' statements. Because he suffered from this disease, the same one as the guy on the corner, that's how. Please don't judge. RIP PSH."