The People Next Door
How well do you know your next-door neighbors?
Just clicked on this little thingy from over on LJ. Because I was bored. And it isn't time yet to go to the gym or the two street fairs I plan on attending later this afternoon.
Oh, the answer? Not at all. In New York we generally prefer it that way. I live in a Victorian building in the East Village, on one of the best blocks therein, full of shops and funkiness. And my building, which was half hippies and half Ukrainians when I arrived, has been for many years about a quarter NYU student transients. Which means the population turns over roughly every couple of years: parents rent the apartments for their kids who want to live off-campus, or the kids rent for themselves, and when they graduate they mostly move on, as it's not a grand building in the slightest.
As the inhabitant of an unrenovated apartment, I am deeply fond of my decorative amenities: an original silver pressed-tin ceiling in a pleasing pattern, a white marble fireplace, twelve-foot ceilings, oak cabinets and window shutters, nice wood floors, a stripped brick wall in the book room. It's a small apartment, railroad-style, but it possesses the overwhelming advantage of being rent-controlled. It has reached its maximum scheduled base rent, and now the rent can never, ever be increased as long as I live here.
You would cry if I told you what I pay for rent, but I regard it as a subsidy for my art, and frankly, sometimes even this minuscule amount has been hard to come by. My landlord doubtless prays nightly that I will fall down the stairs and break my neck, because then he could soullessly gut and renovate this apartment as he's done with half the others, and raise the rent by a factor of ten.
But I plan on being carried out of here feet first. (That is, if the EMT guys can even get in: there's a LOT of stuff.) Jim was here with me, I was married here, all my books were written here---I'm not going anywhere. Even though a bigger place would be nice...more space...who am I kidding, I'd only fill it up with more stuff.
But I digress... Neighbors. There are four other tenants who are elders, one here longer than I, three more who arrived round about the same time. The second tier consists of people who've been here between 5 and 20 years, about eight of them, and the rest are newbies. My immediate next-door neighbor at the moment? Haven't a clue. I think they're students, but I hardly ever see them. When they're home, they're very quiet, which is good.
Nobody really hangs out with fellow tenants, but we're all cordial and every now and then we get together, as we did for a rent strike some years ago. The roof was leaking badly (top floor tenants actually had to tack up strings to lead the water away from their light fixtures), and the rat bastard Iranian-Jewish rug merchant landlord wouldn't fix it. So we hired a tenant lawyer and took him to court and won. It was great. We hung banners saying RENT STRIKE out the windows for all to see, and our anarchy-loving neighborhood cheered.
I sometimes entertain thoughts of moving to Scotland or upstate New York, but I know I'm just messing around. What the hell would I do? How would I manage? No hairdresser, no Ukrainian butchers, no dim sum place in Chinatown, no egg creams...
It's just too darn convenient where I am. I don't need to drive, I can get anything I want at any hour of the day or night, there's tons of stuff to do or see even if I never do or see any of it---it's out there. I could if I wanted to. When my feet hit the floor in the morning, I'm already in the place millions of people are trying to get to, and I don't just mean commuters.
I'm here. I'm in. I'm staying.