are they watching me too?

1. To anyone outside of New York, living in New York is enough. To anyone living in New York, where you live seems to make a difference. Some use it as an indicator of how much money you make. Others use it as an indicator of how many tourists you’ll have walking around and whether or not that makes you worth visiting. I use it as an indicator of how much material a writer might get from spending time with you in your neighbourhood. Because this is New York and in every neighbourhood you get a different cast of characters.

2. Yes, neighbours. You can’t live with them and in many cases you definitely can live without them.

3. Take my neighbours. I’m not saying that they’re all awful. BUT if this entire building were my house, some of them have really overstayed their welcome.

4. In no particular order.

5. The ‘Blondies.’ three blonde girls who live on my floor, are all nice and really polite. The jury is still out as to whether or not the tallest one is a bottle-blonde.

6. Rico Suave, the sexy sexy Spanish man who lives one floor up, never ceases to impress me with his fashion sense. My girlfriends think it’s best to assume he’s gay. Gay until proven straight. That’s a New York City rule.

7. Mike, the guy who lives next door has always been really friendly and welcoming. He has a cute dog. He had a girlfriend. She went missing. No weird smells are coming out of his apartment so she is probably alive somewhere else.

8. Mr. Garbage. Word out on the hallway is that he is an old man. I’ve never actually seen him, but I’ll believe it. Whatever his age, he must get tired of walking up and down steps, but I really don’t think that’s an excuse not to throw his garbage properly. I mean, if he is really having problems with it, why not ask one of the neighbours to help? Nope. Instead, he leaves his garbage near the top of the building’s back steps, right on the second floor landing.

a) This always sparks a mutiny. When people see a garbage bag there, they begin disregarding the rules (which ask us all to go down the steps and put the garbage in bins in the back) and they start leaving their garbage on the steps too. And since I live on the second floor, it more than sucks for me because before I can say the word ‘ridiculous’ I’ve got a pile of garbage sitting about ten feet away from my apartment.

b) Since moving in, I’ve witnessed two mutinies headed by Mr. Garbage. The building owners and the super must have done something about him or the situation because we haven’t had one in a while. But thanks to him, I’ve made it a bit of a habit to hold my breath when heading down the hallway.

9) Boots. In all likelihood the zaniest human being I’ve ever met. Lives in the apartment right above mine. There’s a good chance his name is Victor. I call him Boots.

a. Boots got his nickname from my first two weeks in my apartment. Living directly above me in this five-story walk-up, the thud thud thud of his walking around his apartment and running down the building stairs wakes me up every morning. 6:45 a.m. right on the dot. But his choice in footwear and insistence on thudding is not what makes Boots a noteworthy neighbour. No, it’s all the other things he does.

b. On Sundays, Boots lugs his huge amp out onto the sidewalk right in front of our building. He then proceeds to play his guitar or ukulele or makeshift banjo. He doesn’t play for money. He plays because he just wants to share his—awful—music with the world. So whether you like it or not, on Sundays, you have to listen to him play.

c. On weekday afternoons, Boots makes it a habit to yell out of his window, especially if he knows or recognises someone walking on the street. It being directly above mine, I hear everything he has to say to his many friends and acquaintances in the neighbourhood. For a week all he yelled out was “Giselle!!” That week I looked at my boyfriend and said, “I guess Boots is heartbroken.”

d. To top off his eccentricities, Boots owns the weirdest truck in the city. It’s a beat-up Ford pick-up truck; its red paint chipping off on all sides. He’s got an old boat (more of a dingy) strapped on to the top of it. In the back, he’s got an old piano, a mattress, and a variety of other things that look like they’ve been pulled out of the East River, including a filthy Santa Claus hand-puppet which he’s recently tied right above the left headlight. Everything is fastened to his car with old rope and fishing line. Not that anyone would ever want to steal any of that stuff. The car and its inhabitants are an eyesore no matter where he parks it, which is usually somewhere around our block.

10. But where do neighbours end? Are neighbours just the people in your building?

11. Other potential neighbours include.

12. The homeless man in a wheelchair. Most polite person in the world. Never asks for anything. He lives in the shelter up the street. He just wheels himself up and down all day, greeting people and wishing them well. Michelle, the manager of the bar downstairs gives him a bottle of water everyday.

13. The deli men across the street. They can see our window from their store window. We get to order coffee and pay for it later. They wish me luck when I play the MegaMillions. They give the homeless guy food sometimes. That’s neighbourly, right?

14. The family in the building across the street, their windows directly across my windows. They have five kids. And a one bedroom apartment with a loft in the living room. The eldest is a girl. Then the twin boys. Then another boy. Sex of the baby is undetermined. It’s still wearing nondescript clothes. I think they’re moving out soon. I saw grandparent-types packing up their stuff.

15. I say hello to all my neighbours, but I never ask questions. I’d rather try guessing their lives, the size of their apartments, what they’re having for dinner.


Written in August 2014. Bleecker Street.


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