Friday, June 17, 2016

Avenue B

This was the building I lived in on Avenue B for a couple of years in the mid-eighties. It was a two-story loft, and I loved it. My bedroom was a drywall situation, with the walls not reaching the ceiling. So kind of like a bad hostel. It had astroturf carpeting. Apparently privacy and cleanliness were not my priorities back then. Downstairs was one big room with a raised kitchen in the back and a raised bathroom on the other side.

My initial roommates were Michael, who was musical, and Tony, who had once been an understudy in Balm in Gilead. Michael worked for Leonard Bernstein, who used to leave the craziest drunken and LONG speeches on our answering machine. Those were entertaining. Tony worked as a private detective (nobody had normal jobs at the time) but his cases all seemed to be about adultery, staking out cheaters, so he had no good stories. It sounded very boring, this kind of private detection.

Over time, they both moved out, and then I lived with Pete, a lighting designer (nobody had normal jobs at the time), and then a guy from Australia and a lovely girl from Liverpool named Nadia Nightingale. They worked in SoHo boutiques.

Here are my memories of Avenue B:
  • My friend Daniel was institutionalized for manic depression, and when he came out of the loony bin (his term) he slept on the floor of my bedroom for several months. He was taking Lithium, which is apparently not pleasant, and would go off it and swim in the Tompkins Square pool in the middle of the night.
  • The Mets won the World Series and my friend Geoff came over every night to watch and I've rarely been so excited in my life.
  • I used to go to this place called King Tut's Wah Wah Hut with considerable frequency. I started seeing the bartender, and he outed me to my roommates, which I didn't appreciate.
  •  The people downstairs played Secret by OMD all of the time. I loved it. 
  • Tony had a very odd way of making dinner. He always had three courses, and he cooked and ate each one in turn. Broccoli, then eating it. Chicken, then eating it. It drove me crazy.
  • One time -- I have no idea what I was thinking, I wasn't a cook -- I made black eyed peas. And burnt the shit out of them. I just stuck the pan on the fire escape. That did not turn out well.
  • Nadia and the Aussie and I had a Christmas party. We had a decorated tree. It was an insane debauch, a hundred people. Friends of mine from Kenyon and Georgetown. And some guys trashed my room. I actually cried about it. Wine may have played a part.
  • My father convinced me to sign up for the LSAT. But because I signed up late, I could only get a gig in Staten Island. He got out maps and determined a route for me. I was going to take it, but I came home the night before and there was a rogue dance party in the basement, so loud, and I couldn't sleep. So I passed. Otherwise you'd be calling me Esquire right now. (I should remind you that nobody had normal jobs at the time.)
  • I tacked things to the drywall that I liked: Concert flyers, weird-ass magazine ads, Thomas Hardy quotes that I TYPED UP... 
  • My brothers stayed with me and coming home from somewhere after midnight (King Tut's Wah Wah Hut?) Chris stepped on a live rat in the park. It was scary.
  •  My friend Doug stayed with me. Doug was a football player with a very broken nose who was also an a Capella singer. He found a VHS tape of The Sound of Music by the TV and insisted that we watch it all the way through.
My room looked out on the roof of a pretty church. I tanned on the fire escape. The vestibule of the building was always cool and smelled good. Earthy. I can still smell it. I was so focused on the future that I didn't really take it in, but in retrospect it was a lucky place to be.

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