An Upstairs Curse

Maybe curse is a little harsh. Let’s call it bad luck, on and off for the past two years, with our upstairs neighbors. First was a little meatball of a Latino man in his mid 20s, with a primer’d Mitsubishi that had a racing fin on the back of it twice the size of the actual car, and wavy hair that was shaved around the back and sides and poofy on top, like a mushroom. In hindsight, he wasn’t totally terrible or evil. He was just the one guy, out of all of his friends, who seemed to be doing well enough to actually be able to spend $800 a month on his own apartment. And for that reason, his apartment became party central for him and his circle of friends. He worked during the week, so the parties were relegated to the weekends. But man, once the weekend came, they raged from Friday night to Sunday night, without going to sleep at all. Music, dancing, wrestling and more dancing, for 48 hours straight. We called the cops once, probably around 5 in the morning. They came, it quieted down for about 20 minutes, and then the party picked up again. Luckily, he left about six months into our one-year lease. And it was quiet from then on out.

Then we moved. And things were quiet. The man above us lived alone and drew freehand sketches of people and places around New York City. He was creepy, but quiet. Once, we found out that he asked a friend of ours if he could draw her naked. But then he left, telling us he was moving into a homeless shelter because he couldn’t afford rent. And we haven’t seen him since.

But then the current upstairs neighbor arrived. She offers up the usual aggravations, like not separating recyclables and never taking out the trash. But then she and her boyfriend got weird in a weird, weird way. One night, I was looking out the window watching the neighborhood cats squabble when I heard them descending the stairs around 11:30 PM. They walked onto the sidewalk in front of the house, he motioned liked he was vomiting, and then they hugged. On the sidewalk, for about two to three minutes in 40 degree weather. They do weird shit like that almost every night, usually after 11 PM.

From what we can gather, they’re students. The space they live in can’t be bigger than 200 to 300 square feet. The other day, three guests arrived to stay with them. Five people in a very small space, possibly talking about how the boyfriend is so funny because he can fake vomit better than almost anyone. Then it got weirder. The other day, the girl and her family were getting off the PATH train just when I was, around 6:40 PM. I noticed them exiting the train, mainly because it was hard not to notice them. They were the only three people on the train wearing swine flu masks.

And then last night happened.

Our house has an additional dead bolt on the front door that no one has a key to. Not us, not the downstairs neighbors and not the upstairs neighbors. We were all told by the landlord, “Don’t lock this. We don’t have the key.” The upstairs neighbor, a few times now, has locked it, while we’re out of the house, locking us out of the house. They do things like this all the time, completely oblivious to everything around them.

So I’m out late last night and arrive home around 2:30 in the morning. The door is dead bolted shut. I am locked out of my own house. I call the police, explain the situation, and am told that they can’t legally do anything. Their advice is to try to wake up whomever might be in the house. So I start scrambling for rocks to throw at the upstairs neighbor window.

Eventually, she wakes, opens the window, and threatens to call the police. I tell her that I already have, explain that she dead bolted the door and that she needs to open it up. She tells me to ask the downstairs neighbors to open it, and how dare I wake her and her family. She asks my name, says she’s never seen me here and to go away. I say, “Look, there are a lot nicer places to break into around here than your 200-square foot apartment. I unfortunately fucking live here.”

At this point, I get mad. And curse. And tell her to come downstairs and open the fucking door. And eventually, she concedes. She tells me that I’m rude for waking them, I tell her to eat shit and stop playing God with the door. Then I grab a Phillips head screwdriver, walk back downstairs and take the dead bolt in question out of the door.

I’ve never really understood the expression ‘The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back.’ Mainly because I haven’t really spent any time around camels. So instead, I’ll apply the Arab concept to beer and say that last night was the drop of beer that made the pint glass overflow. And because of that, we’ve decided to move yet again. Hopefully into a top floor apartment. Hopefully away from any taboo dead bolts. Now that I think about it, I should really offer this apartment to our former upstairs neighbor with the mushroom haircut and the Mitsubishi.

But now, without further adieu, comes the hallway awkwardness.

The Great Dying Part Six

It probably doesn’t feel like we’re living through a new age of extinction, probably because humans don’t actually know what living through an age of extinction is like. We missed the first, second, third, fourth and fifth ages of extinction. And were humanity there in the first place, there’s no way we would’ve made it through a six-mile-wide asteroid collision with Earth. Or any of the other shit that killed off virtually everything on the planet during those times, from ice to global warming.

But of course, we’re responsible, or at least facilitators, of the sixth age of extinction, which seems to be taking the form of a fungus called ‘Chytrid.’ It’s already done a number on frogs and bats, and who knows what next.

Fungus. Think about that for a second. The same thing that produces mushrooms and makes our feet itchy after we take showers in dirty bath tubs, could potentially kill us off.

I know I should take this more seriously, but my first thought was of how humanity being killed off by a fungus might influence gangsta rap, or any other subculture obsessed with dying a glorious death, of which I would hope there are only a few by now. I just don’t think Ice-T would be too psyched if he dies at the hand of a killer mushroom. I cold be wrong though.

Let Me Tell You Something

I’ve never understood the phrase, “Let me tell you something.”

Mainly because, the person making that statement is not implicitly asking permission to tell you something. It’s just a forewarning that they are about to tell you something.

And that something, bearing that forewarning, is supposed to be viewed as the most important part of what that person is saying in the first place.

No one is saying, “Let me tell you something…. Pickles are awesome.” Well, maybe they are, but they’re probably drunk, or high, or both.

But people do say, “Let me tell you something…. Them there alligators will kill you.” Well, okay, at least one person is saying this, doing swamp tours in the bayou. And if you’re in the bayou, knowing that an alligator can kill you is pretty important. A lot more important that one’s subjective love for pickles.

I got to thinking though. Next time the phrase does come up in a conversation, and I’m on the receiving end, I’m just going to answer them.

“Let me tell you something Brian.”

“No,” or even better, “Shouldn’t you say please?”

Just to see how they react. I’ll probably forget to be so quick with my response should that occasion arise, but it would be funny.

This all goes back to my feeling that the English language has a tendency to make something simple complicated. No, I’m not just going to tell you what it is that I was going to tell you. Not just yet anyway. I am going to preempt it with the fact that I am going to tell you something. Then in fact tell you what I wanted to in the first place.

Now let me tell you something. I just don’t get it.

Abusive Bipedalism

Ever tried to lap a cigarette smoker underneath a golf umbrella on a Manhattan street enshrouded by Empire State Building scaffolding?

Neither had I, until today. And from my new experience, I can say that it’s not easy.

By my own admission, I’m pretty impatient while walking. Partly because I know where I’m going, but also because I know the fastest way to get there. Don’t think I’m being full of myself. This is walking, something I’ve been doing for a long, long time now (in relative terms.) It’s not rocket science. But man, people have a special way of making something as simple as walking into a complicated process. And not in the evolution of pre-human to bipedal primate way either.

First, there are the texters, which by default, automatically decreases anyone’s gait. Even the fastest walkers and most seasoned texters fall prey to at least a 2 mph decrease in walking speed when the desire to type “Yo. LMAO at amercn idol! :)” beckons them to unlock their phones. I’ve actually grown accustomed to the texters, mainly because they make me laugh, and sometimes because they fall into a more clearly defined category which makes me laugh even more: the lateral texter.

The lateral texter types text messages with their thumb, and their gait follows the direction of their thumb. If they’re typing something on the right side of the their keyboard, their gait veers to the right. And if they’re typing something on the left side of their phone’s keyboard, they veer left. You might think I’m making this up. Part of me wishes I was, but I’m not. I just think some people’s brains spend more time concentrating on sending a text message than walking.

The rain adds an entirely different element to walking down a New York City street. Umbrellas are big, with pointed ends that are usually at eye level, being held by people that do not account for the safety of the eyes of the people they are walking past. This is a different type of complication. The walker isn’t making walking more difficult for themselves by holding an umbrella; they make walking more difficult for the people walking at and around them. A sea of umbrellas. Pointed and ready to gouge all those without glasses that dare to pass. I’m not mad that people use umbrellas though, I just wish they would be more attentive to those around them. You know, just a little raise of the umbrella when passing someone coming at them or trying to get by them.

Golf umbrellas are an entirely different story. The golf umbrella has a wingspan of like 12-feet in all directions. It’s impassable by anyone over 4-feet tall with a hurried gait and a waterproof North Face jacket. And most of the time, they’re carried by seasoned golfers, who usually think they belong in a cab instead of on the sidewalk. The kind of person who is already accustomed to abusing their public space, which brings me to my next subject.

But I won’t attack cigarette smokers. They already get enough shit. I’m not a fan, and it’s hard to pass a smoker on the street dangling a lit cigarette from their hand, but the smoker is already a dying breed and they don’t need my two cents to make it even worse. I just don’t want a cigarette burn from a wayward walker with a swinging arm anytime soon.

Now combine that cigarette with a golf umbrella, and you’re looking at at least a 6-foot diameter to navigate around. Scaffolding cuts down your squeeze-by space in half. Bus tour guides standing on the corner cut that space down by a third. And the one or two texters laterally coming at you because of the direction of their thumbs means that the wet sidewalk in midtown is more like a minefield of complicated distractions and processes.

All this from walking on two feet out of the water. Terrestrial locomotion-ists, please save us from our abusive bipedalism….