Monday, February 5, 2007
Filth. My life is surrounded by filth. I haven’t lived in Bushwick long—three, four weeks—but there are still the bits of filth that engulf my living room.
Some of it is the Diaspora of my personal history, precariously arranged. I sit on a miniscule, dirty white couch, which I got free from a famous Theremin player over Craigslist. She said Bob Moog sat on it in a Moog documentary. On the square coffee table in front of me, its thick, gold-trimmed, black-painted frame propping up a wide sheet of tainted mirror, there are layers of coffee-table books, all Christmas presents that I’ve barely examined. And cylindrical stacks of badly treated CD-Rs and DVDs, my roommate Ryan’s video games and my cheap comedy bootlegs. At my feet, long, twisted cords for the T.V. and Playstation snake around the table and between each other, into a loose, black knot.
Also, there are untouched bits of refuse that should have been destroyed long ago. Old receipts, shards of paper, pages from the smut section of The Village Voice, or coffee-stained horoscopes from The Onion fill out the table-top and spread across the floors. But the bags are really the most prominent species in this place. They have no use to me or Ryan. But they stay. And multiply. Thick, yellow Game Stop bags. Stretchy blue newspaper bags. Wide, long, thin garbage bags, with ties. Black, pocked bodega bags.
We have no garbage cans. Ryan and I decided to abandon our old ones—having garnered dampening smells, thin films of rot and famished fruit flies—when we moved. Lately, we’ve been using the boxes we employed on the move.
Right now, 24 oz. cans of beer, newspaper sheafs, old toilet paper rolls, orange juice cartons and a few subtly placed condom wrappers are precariously piled into two small boxes. I haven’t given much thought to when Ryan and I could take them out. Or where we’d put them—I’m nervous about how the Sanitation workers will take to our piles of mixed plastics and paper.
I know that this refuse surrounds me because I’m the only one responsible for picking it all up—and I don’t. The chaos irritates me. Nevertheless, here I sit. The truth is, I think I’ve gotten used to all of this trash.
My first apartment in New York City was filthy. That was in September of 2005. Ryan, Zack and I (well, really Ryan and I, since Zack was ambivalent) picked it up in late-August from Seth, a chameleon-like broker with a long jaw, post-modern designer patch-work for shirts, a mop of shaggy brown hair and perfectly square shoulders. He was a straight talker, had a fast gait and he was smart to take us to the roof. It was wide and flat.
“Holy shit,” I thought, when I came around the corner of the elevator and planted my eyes on the girthy Williamsburg bridge. Squinting into the beyond, I counted seven others. I looked along the wide Brooklyn skyline, out to the tallest building in Queens. A layer of smog hung over Manhattan. A terrific view! We gave Seth $500 in cash, and planned a day to sign a commercial-loft lease, for the mess downstairs—dusty sheet-rock, piles of wooden beams and pornographic graffitos that beleaguered an unseen floor and covered a set of undone walls.
We were supposed to move in September first, and it wasn’t even habitable until the 20th. When I slept there the first night, in the living room on a flimsy air mattress I bought from Kmart, a white dust covered the walls and dark, slated floors. Spackles of paint adorned the walls, like spatters of white blood. Our rooms, which we had built by a contractor, shared the wall-sized window that faced the street. Each room was twenty feet long and about 5 and a half feet wide. A wall with three identical doors, and three identical square windows—we had them put in windows, thinking it would take in sunlight—faced the interior space, a dull white room that obviously used to be a factory. Artificial luminosity was provided by an exposed light-bulb, protruding from the wall nearest the front door. There was no stove. No kitchen counter-tops or cabinets. No door to the bathroom. All of which had been promised us by the enterprising Seth.
Believe you me: that was just the beginning.