Posts Tagged ‘“new york city”’

he don’t live here no more

March 28, 2010

Today at about 2pm, I got home from a lovely adventure.  I set my iPod to play Dessa and I turned the speakers up loud.  I had energy and it was positive, and of course, I set out to do some housecleaning.

Shortly thereafter, before I even grabbed the broom, there was a knock at my door. I wasn’t expecting guests and nobody stops by unannounced in my ‘hood.

“Is D* home?” she said after looking me up and down.  It wasn’t really a negative look-up-and-down, but more of a curiosity.

She was blonde and probably in her 50s.  A gentleman hovered near her side with a quizzical look.

Nervously, I hugged my body to the door and said to her slowly, “I’m the new tenant – moved here last December…I understand that D* passed away.”

The woman extended her hand towards the man, who was already moving closer to her.  “Did you know…”

“No ma’am, I didn’t know him, but the super told me he killed himself.”

She began to tear up and said that she was a friend of D*’s ex-girlfriend who had also just died.  The ex- had also taken her own life.

This is actually the second time strangers have appeared at my apartment door since I moved from the sixth floor to the second in this building.   When I had been looking to move, it was due to a painful break-up. I was aware that at least one of the three available apartments had been inhabited by a man who had committed suicide.  I was content to never find out which one because I really needed to move and moving intra-building was the most cost-efficient way.

The first time folks stopped by to check on D* was in December, shortly after I moved in.  I was hungover and still in my bathrobe at 1pm on a Sunday.  I assumed that couple knocking on my door were religious-folk.  We get a lot of that here in Queens, so I silently peered through the peephole.  They continued to knock, the woman bringing her face close to the glass.   “No thank you, ” I said.

“D*?  Is D* there?”

I had seen D*’s name on bills and advertisements that were still being delivered to my mailbox, but I had never heard anyone say it out loud.  It was a bit horrifying in a superstitious way…a way that I never thought I had ever felt.  In my state, I stupidly said through the door, “He died.”  Closing my eyes and putting my head to the door for a minute, I regretted it.

Even though I was dried out and messy in my robe, I opened the door to apologize. The couple had already fled.

After that, I continued to receive his mail.  He got mail from the government, utility companies, Indian reservations selling cigarettes, and western clothing outfitters.  That month, he also received quite a few Christmas cards.  There was also some mail addressed to a woman, who I began to call, “the dead guy’s girl.”

D*, who’s name really does start with D became “the dead guy.”  It became a way to refer to him internally.  That’s who he was.  The Wrangler jean wearing, cigarette smoking guy who had offed himself in my foyer closet.  A coping mechanism, I suppose.  I tend to employ them.

My Super passed all of this on during a toilet repair.  He said the woman was the dead guy’s girlfriend and she found D* hanging there – right where my coats and jackets hang now.

There was a month or two where I would stare into that closet and think about it a bit.  I don’t know what D* looked like, but I had an image.   Eventually I marveled at how a cylindrical piece of wood could hold up a man until he took his last breath.  Friends were understandably horrified when I told them a man had killed himself in my apartment.  They almost always ask how, which I guess I understand.  Curiosity is a strong urge.

One really never knows what has happened in an old apartment, especially in New York City.  I mean, at least the former tenant hadn’t been murdered or been a murderer himself, right?  How this comforts me, I don’t know.  Another coping mechanism, I suppose.


Since D* still receives a lot of mail from Social Security and other government agencies, I presumed he had been depressed severely enough and long enough to get a check.  I was sure some of the mail that I marked “Not at this address – Deceased” contained  government support for someone who must have been that debilitated by a disease.

I held on to the Christmas cards for over a month. I considered responding to the well-meaning folks updating D* on their lives and wishing him holiday cheer.   I continued to receive a large (standard for a living human?) volume of mail in the dead guy’s name.  By February, it was clear that his loved ones had not notified any of his creditors or friends that he had died.  I never could muster the courage to write to them.   It seemed like an insurmountable task.

Sometime in mid-February, I threw the cards out.  Who was I to tell them?


Just last Friday, I got a frantic call from my Super, “M*!  They are here shutting off your gas.  They said that Mr. D* didn’t pay and I try to tell them he not alive…”

Shit.  The last time I paid my gas bill was in early February.

When I moved in December, I called the gas company to close my old account and to open the new one. After a heated 20 minute conversation, it was established that the gas company had somehow managed to close my old account, but not start my new one.  All the cooking (necessary and therapeutic) I had been doing for the last 4 months had apparently been on the dead guy’s overdue account.

The gas company representative failed to understand that I would not have gotten a turn-off notice addressed to D* – that envelope, like all the others had been marked with “Not at this address – Deceased.”

“Didn’t you notice you hadn’t paid this month?”

I thought about it. Well sir, I don’t sit around by the mailbox waiting for a gas bill.   I just don’t.  Wearing him down, and then finally conceding that the goal was to get my gas turned back on, I agreed to fax my documents and arrange for them to come out next week.  Why fight?

After the couple came by looking for D* earlier, I pushed STOP on my iPod.  I had a succession of  very difficult phone calls with family members to attend to.  Illness, job loss, home foreclosure, bankrupcty, anger, and despair.  Everything happening in a state far away.

In my state, I really want to chop things up, roast something, make a big pot of soup and hand-blend it smooth with music blaring.  It would take hours and fill my home with the smell of beautiful things.

Without gas, I can’t use the stove or the oven to calm my nerves.  I think about D* and the mail I continue to receive in his name.  (Apparently, he is due a new shipment of smokes and his Visa bill is going to collections – according to the red stamp on the envelope.)

I push PLAY on my iPod and raise the volume.  I pour myself a gin & tonic and raise it, too.



November 8, 2009


I’m a lady with an amazing commute.

I live in New York City, but unlike most of my friends and coworkers, I travel from West to East when I go to work.  Traveling that way is so easy in many ways – even to folks who work in other states and cities.

Folks in New York, especially those who live in the outer-boroughs (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island), usually have a subway/bus/ferry ride to work and back everyday.  Those rides allow us to read more books and news than folks outside.  People who live on Long Island or in Connnecticut or Jersey who take trains in also have an incredible number of hours to read or work on the train.

I have a 15-minute subway ride to and from work and I read a lot during that time.  Sometimes I bring parts of the Sunday NY Times that I didn’t get a chance to read over the weekend.  If not, I have the New Yorker or Bust or Bitch Magazine.  Lately I’ve been also getting OUT and The Advocate for free.   WIRED and SPIN and Rolling Stone show up at the apartment from time to time as well.

Needless to say, there is not a shortage of reading material for me to choose from when I’m leaving in the morning.  (Sometimes I forget to put my headphones on – new music that I must hear! But I’ll save that for another day.) Having the analytical mind that I have, I often feel compelled to prioritize these readings.  Clearly, it will be a daily, then a weeky, followed by a monthly publication.

The nature of my job also allows me to read quite a bit while I wait for court cases to be called, so whatever I’ve brought for the commute can be read then, too.  I can never count on what kind of waiting time I will have on a given day though.  It could be hours. It could be minutes. Or no time at all.

So, given my daily 15-minute commute and my uncertain waiting time, I read a lot, some, or very little of my many available reading material.  Since I have aforementioned analytical mind and a tendency to be anxious, I sometimes feel a bit pressured to get through it.

This leaves little time for short stories, novels, or the history books I crave.

Seeing as thing have become a bit tight financially lately, I suspended my NY Times subscription.  I figure I can read that shit on-line.  I did not re-subscribe to either Bust or Bitch recently, but I’m not sure when my subscriptions are up.  (I feel guilty about this because they are two publications that need support…) My New Yorker keeps coming – so I’m figuring I must have re-subscribed to that recently.  I have started to think about all the things I read and what I pay and what it means to not pay and whether I’ll miss it and whether I will feel like shit for not paying to get it…

With no Sunday Times on my conscience this week (though I did read quite a few articles online for free), I was able to finish a novel.  Not the best thing I’ve ever read, but reading it meant that I learned about Lebensborns.  If you know me, you know my interest in Jewish culture and my youthful pursuit of all writing I could find on the Holocaust/Jewish History and WWII.  And that lead to a lot of research online, which is my custom.

Really, I am truly a “Google Girl,” if that exisits.  If it doesn’t, I have just made it so.  I keep a list in my head (mostly) of things I need to research online.   Sometimes I wish I made an actual list – I forget things sometimes – but I don’t usually forget the things I need to look up.  Often, I am reminded of things by other folks and that will add incredible items to my list.

Look.  I am 33 years old and I know my place in this world.  I am old enough to appreciate and crave the feeling of pages in my hands, but young (and educated) enough to understand how easy it is to find anything and everything on the World Wide Web.  Yes kids, that is what WWW stands for.

In 1998, I graduated from a college that actually offered a major in American Studies. In 1998, nobody knew what that was and I imagine that most folks still have no idea what that means. But now, I live in New York City, where they even have a high school for that. If only I had grown up in New York City, I’d have been able to major in something more lucrative in college.  That course of study is possibly the root of (or reason for?) my insatiatble thirst for information.  It also created an awareness that I can’t deny.

I am a woman who supports the news and magazine community and I can’t help but feel good when I actually subscribe.  (Did you watch that season of The Wire?) The written word should not necessarily be free, but in some ways, I think the access to it should be.   That doesn’t make any sense, I know. Reconciliation can be made through advertisements, right?  Do I feel OK about that? Not really.

I am not a big fan of advertisements, so that’s why I will probably not stop subscribing to BITCH, at least. No complimentary copy there – no bullshit. I sent an old high school friend a subscription recently and damn, she’s enjoying it.

Outside of that, I doubt I will feel compelled to subscribe to other magazines.  The New Yorker keeps coming, as I said before – and I am not too proud to admit I like how that high-brow publication (weekly!) makes me think, pisses me off, and delights me all the time.  I stuff the damn thing into my work bag each week.

Sadly, I know there are tons of publications that deserve my loyalty.  I am thinking about HEEB and how if I were Jewish and not just fascinated by Jewish culture, I’d subscribe to that, too. Really though, if I were rich, I’d do it…goyim or not.

I’m stuck.