Isn’t this how they found Elvis?

It’s been a while since I stripped back a layer of skin so here’s another entry from my journals. In this painful episode, I get sick and then sign the lease that changed my life.

January 5, 1993

I drank half a bottle of white wine by myself and woke up the next morning violently ill with a pounding headache and a terrible stomach cramp. I couldn’t even get out of bed to put the stereo on. Finally, out of necessity, I got dressed, crawled to the bathroom and sat on the commode for a long while. That’s when things got much worse. I was overwhelmed with a fever and BLACKED OUT. I came-to on the floor with my pants and underwear around my ankles and the cats staring at me. (No, guys, not dead yet.) I had pitched forward and fell off the toilet. I’m lucky I didn’t crack my head on the tub.

There was feces everywhere. I peeled off my clothes and took a scolding hot shower. Afterwards, I cleaned the bathroom, carefully placed my clothes in a garbage bag, double-bagged it and set it in the hallway. I looked at myself in the mirror and my skin looked like alabaster.

Kay phoned. I was supposed to go to her place but I told her I was too sick. I left out the pretty details. She said she was sorry and told me to call later if I felt better.

I went back to bed and fell into a deep, deep sleep. Woke up a half day later and still had a pounding headache but the stomach cramp was gone, thank God. I made a medicinal bacon/fried egg/cheese sandwich, phoned Kay and was at her apartment by 7:00. We sat on her sofa, made out and watched the college bowl games. White wine tastes and smells like a headache to me now. [Note: Miraculous recuperative powers are long gone, but I still never touch white wine.]

I’m signing the lease on the Lower East Side apartment tomorrow. Cindy is going to boil two lobsters in celebration, the poor things. What the hell am I DOING?! Am I insane? It’s affordable but Clinton Street is nothing but junkies, whores and gunshots. It’s nighttime, 24-hours a day. The liquor store on the corner has a thick, Plexiglas bullet proof booth that you step into. You tell them what you want, they fetch it and put it on a turntable. That’s AFTER you give them the money, of course. I can’t invite anyone over!

The building was built in 1939 and is in great shape. Many art deco flourishes. The apartment is remarkable. Two bedrooms, 900 square feet with hardwood parquet floors and a step-down living room. And it’s a real two bedroom. They didn’t construct a plywood wall in a bedroom and call it two. There’s an unobstructed view of the sky out the front and you can see the tops of the World Trade Center towers from the bedroom. The rent is $511.20/month and it’s rent stabilized, so it’ll only go up 3-4% annually. Howard said I should take all the money I’m saving and invest in a cemetery plot.

The previous tenant died of AIDS. The refrigerator was stocked-full of medications and concoctions. There was box of hypodermics in the cupboards. I wonder how much I can get for them outside?

Everyone at work is talking about their upcoming vacations. One is going to Colorado skiing. Another is going to Margarita Island. My life is so slow and hopeless. I can’t say I envy those guys because they practically live at the office. Their hours are brutal and their work seems insufferably dull to me. But they make up for it when they’re off. Michele is worried because her career is on an upward trajectory but John is complacent and not professionally motivated. It bothers her. I should warn him that he’s about to be dumped.

Does complacent and not professionally motivated sound uncomfortably familiar? Bonnie said we should sit down and talk about “the career thing” (her words) after my move to Manhattan. I don’t know what to do with myself. I never went to school. I’m ashamed of where I live. Who’ll have me? I’m scared.

Epilogue: On January 22nd of this year, the apartment below mine sold as a condo.

Asking price: $990,000
Sale price: $1,085,000

I couldn’t afford to move back there if I wanted to. It’s an interesting arc; what once was to what now is. For Clinton Street and for me.

Here’s a tease for my next post. It’s time for my semi-annual Christie’s contemporary art auction report. My favorite! Wanna guess whether or not this lot sold?

Robert Gober
Three Urinals
Est.: $3,500,000–4,500,000


Bonus Track

Apartments in the iconic Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West never come on the market. They’re held by families for generation after generation. (Though still referred to as “apartments,” that’s a misnomer. They’re actually co-ops.)

Well, almost never.

Take a look at this fantasy. The description states: “Retained by the original owner since the 1960’s…” That original owner was Lauren Bacall, who passed away in August. This, brothers and sisters, is how I would choose to live, if the choice were mine to make. Apartment 43 in The Dakota.

95 thoughts on “Isn’t this how they found Elvis?

  1. I can’t think of The Dakota without thinking about Rosemary’s Baby. Beautiful place though, definitely adding to my lottery dream list.

    Looking forward to the next art review!

  2. Seriously the best post I’ve ever read. Coincidentally while on the toilet.
    Clinton Street Bakery, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Shopsin’s – fucking SCORE!
    $511.20 a month?!!! You can afford to buy your own drugs to use in those needles you found and get your own Aids.

  3. The Dakota means John Lennon to me .

    You took me back to the days when I lived in a marginal neighborhood with serious bowel trouble. The neighbors all thought I was nervous but I was just trying to get to the bathroom.

    • For me, thankfully, it was an isolated incident. In retrospect it sounds like a case of food poisoning but at that time I blamed white wine. Living in a marginal neighborhood can have a dark, poetic panache to it, as I later found out.

      Lennon is pretty much the point of reference now for The Dakota for everybody. Sadly.

    • Hi, Wendy. Welcome! Please wipe your feet.

      It’s true that I’ve never been, and to this day, am not much of a drinker. But I think it was food poisoning. I can handle a half bottle! Maybe even 3/4. But much more than that and I’m fast asleep. Every girl I ever dated drank me under the table. Do you know how embarrassing that is?! All I ever wanted to hear was a girl slur, “Take me.” More often than not, I heard, “Are you drunk already?!”

  4. I read a book (it’s actually a series) where a wealthy FBI special agent has a place at The Dakota (he has old family money). I never understood why all the other characters were so impressed with his real estate. Now, thanks to you, I do!

  5. You flashed at your cats? Man, I hope you compensated them afterwards – a saucer of milk or something. Interesting that your younger self didn’t envy the guys in your office who worked their butts off to go on skiing holidays. Maybe you did have little wisdom. 🙂

    • The look on the cat’s face was, “Who’ll open the cans now?” I think their biggest concern wasn’t for my well being.

      I don’t know if I could ascribe it to wisdom. You look at something and you either like it or you don’t. And the investment banking/asset management grind was not for me. Not that I was qualified to do it. I wasn’t. But still…it didn’t appeal to me.

  6. Well, sure, Mark. What was down in the 90s must go up, even on Clinton Street. The rents my grandparents paid in Greenpoint flats in the 60s and 70s was seriously under three figures a month for clean railroad-style two-bedroom places. Now, I betcha, add three decimal places? Smooth journal entry and adendums. The Dakota to me will always be asshole wacko Chapman assinating Lennon and Howard Cosell telling me the tragic news on Monday Night Football. And you know how I feel about urinal art and how much money it fetches. Piss on revisiting that!

    • It’s the oldest story in the book. I’ll bet you could have bought one of those apartments in The Dakota for a song when the city defaulted in the 70s. Now look at it! $26 million! But it’s a killer view and a nice naib. I swear if I were uber-wealthy I’d do it. Without hesitation.

      Greenpoint. Polish. My people.

      As far as the “art,” I simply MUST revisit it. The world needs to know. I should have peed in one of them. I could have claimed that it was MY art.

      • You’re a kielbasa and pierogi guy, too? Roll out the barrel, my friend. If you were uber-wealthy, I’d drop by to enjoy the view. Indeed. And take a whiz in your new art installation cum toilet bowl. 🙂

      • I detected a certain quality about you but I couldn’t put my thumb on it. Now I know! I’m only second generation. My grandparents are from the old country. I have stuffed cabbage in my veins.

  7. It had to be food poisoning Mark – no way a 1/2 bottle of wine could do that. Excellent story. as usual. It was as if i was standing there loking at your new apt.

    Urinal art just does not do it for me, not sure why. ha!

    Great post Mark. Thank You.

    • Yes, even really shitty wine, which is all I could afford in those days, won’t do that to you. I should have sworn off shellfish in stead of white wine.

      Urinal art doesn’t do it for you? Do you know what that makes you, doesn’t it? NORMAL.

  8. I don’t think you should worry about the lack of education/job/crappy apartment situation…let’s focus on NOT shitting all over yourself again 😉

    Looking forward to the next Art Review. I absolutely think they sold! Anything that ridiculously stupid would HAVE to be considered art by someone.

    • Well, remember this was back in 1993. Twenty years is a LONG time. Although I certainly don’t worry about that stuff anymore (and haven’t for a long time) it’s ALL I thought about when I was a young buck trying to find my way in the city.

      I’ll reveal this much: It DID, in fact sell! But for how much?

  9. $26,000,000! Gulp! Did I read that right?! Whoa. Yeah, that’s a nice little dream. It’s pretty spiffy and I love all the wood. That’s so fascinating how time puts a spin on things. That’s crazy. I can see why you’re done with white wine. That’s pretty bad! I had a bad ordeal with black Russians and can’t drink Bailey’s Irish Cream, even though it’s so good. Can’t do it. I look forward to the auction report to see how the rich spend their money!

    • $26M is a lot of cash but that’s a big apartment with views of the park. Great neighborhood, too. I’d have an unending parade of guests. It’d irritate my privacy-obsessed neighbors, I’m sure.

      I also had an episode with vodka that ruined it for me for a good number of years. Thankfully, I got over that one. But I still don’t like white wine. I’m just glad I didn’t dink red wine. I’d hate to have that taken away from me.

      Some of the lots in my auction report will be quite lovely. But it’s much more fun to comment on the bad art, isn’t it?

    • Full disclosure: I clean up the spelling and syntax a bit. I’m still not any good at the rules of grammar and I’m sure it shows, but to publish these thing raw is a terrible idea. The word pile-up would distract from the content.

      Snark? Me? Actually, when I was younger my New York friends used to call me Dark Mark. Can you imagine?!

      • Well, I think the spelling and syntax cleanups are just kind to your readers… but my stuff just seems so insipid to me now. I have moments of clarity or deep introspection, but they are rare.

        I like dark Mark’s snark.

        I mean, I’m still talking to you and you once accused me of being a man. I think that says a lot 🙂

      • I have a idea. Put some of your stuff out here and let us decide if it’s insipid or not.

        I think “accuse” is too strong of a word. I choose to think I was playfully curious.

      • Lol well that’s a perfect case in point about how sometimes it’s best to follow up a comment with a inquiry 🙂

        Okay, expect dull ramblings of a teenage girl shortly. Didya see my “breakup letter” from a few weeks ago? I was 13 and I remember kissing this guy to the song “touch me” by Samantha Fox. Sigh.

  10. Half a bottle of wine? You bloody lightweight 😉 Good job you had a fever too or I’d have to give you drinking lessons.

    Well I do like Howard’s comment…still mates with him?

    Love apartment 43 but the price is as ridiculous as a Mayfair apartment. Who can afford these bloody places? Guess the same person who has purchased the urinals because yes, I KNOW someone is stupid enough to buy them.

    • Yeah, I’m a terrible drinker. I never learned how to properly hold my liquor. Probably not such a bad thing in the long run. In hindsight, I’m blaming food poisoning. What else could it have been with such a quick recovery?

      I haven’t seen Howard in many, many years. I reached out to him once but never heard back. People fall through the cracks. They pass in and out of your life.

      My mother- and father-in-law were ex-pats living in London while he worked for AT&T. The corporate housing was a flat in Mayfair. It was spectacular. It’s how I aspire to live but NEVER WILL.

      • He got a flat in Mayfair and he DIDN’T PAY FOR IT. It was company housing. He lived in Mayfair rent/ mortgage free. On Park Street, no less! Corporations and rich people live in the sun.

      • Trust me, I’d find things to do.
        In Turks and Caicos, there are a lot of great bars and some fantastic hiking.
        St Lucia has two good mountains for hiking/climbing.
        Both have incredible food (fresh!), stunning vistas, plenty to do in the water, and you can always hop on a jet ski and go from island to island.

      • It sounds like you’ve put some thought into this. But the Dakota apartment belonged to Lauren Bacall!

        Anyone than can afford The Dakota probably has a house in St. Lucia as well.

  11. Your rent was UBER-LOW, given it was the City. I swing danced once on Windows to the World around then.

    “Michele is worried because her career is on an upward trajectory but John is complacent and not professionally motivated. It bothers her. I should warn him that he’s about to be dumped.”

    Poignant ending, M. Appreciate the vulnerability (that is, sharing it out here). Glad that was not the end. =) I agree with Paul. You’ve come a long way, baby.

    • The rent was the ONLY reason to take that apartment! That neighborhood was such a mess in1993. I wouldn’t allow my family to visit for a couple of years until things got better. I was afraid they’d knock me out, toss me in the trunk and drag me back to Ohio against my will.

      I’m a different person today. I was such an insecure mess back then. I didn’t realize how wanted I actually was. It’s a shame, really. Youth truly is wasted on the young.

      • I don’t know if you realize the goldmine of a saving grace you tapped. It is when we don’t see how wanted we really are that we can tailspin into trouble.

        When you can, please chk for new comments under your guest post this wk and any comments you may wish to reply to under the She’s Not Sorry. Thx.

  12. I reference Dakota = Lennon too. But then the Rosemary’s Baby reference and I’m “Oh yeah…” so I get half a point. Your comment “sad” is ambiguous, so I’m going to leap in and tell you that today, walking, I was thinking, not for the first time, how sick I am of “Imagine.” Lugubrious, trite song. Give me Harrison any day. He could be trite too but at least he was sunny about it.
    That Bacall apartment is stunning.

  13. nothing pithy to add, sweet pea, just keep sharing your past because your ’90’s were so, so different from mine! 😉 xoxoxoxo

    p.s. love, love, LOVE the apartment link. if i could, i’d spring for the 26k, and the 11k PER MONTH, and the taxes, and the interior upkeep, and, and, and because we KNOW, it isn’t the getting in one needs to worry about at that level, it’s the fucking upkeep and ongoing expenses! LOL

    • How was it different? Do you mean that you didn’t live in a crime-infested neighborhood and weren’t mystified by the opposite sex? Because that’s how I spent that decade.

      You said the apartment is $26K. I wish! $26 MILLION.

      • you’re right! that was my wishful thinking or maybe a residual from looking at insane rents in lalaland. re my 90’s, you’re i didn’t have that experience in nyc, but i was there a few times…

  14. We’ve all had those moments on the shitter… Remind me to tell you about my bout with mono, while my dog was puking up his own feces on the carpet while i carried a fever of 105F….

    TWENTYSIXMILLIONFUCKINGDOLLARS?!?!?! There is NO apartment/co-op/condo/island worth that…. Fuck that shit…..

    • I didn’t know what hit me. I remember waking up and seeing the black and white tile and feeling my cheek on the cool floor. Both cats staring, wondering will open the cans now.

      That’s an insane amount of money, it’s true, but that’s no ordinary apartment. I’d do it if I could. In a New York minute.

  15. Crikey, those were the days — Mahnhattan for (500 dollars) £350 a month. Are there still rent-controlled flats in NYC?

    I understand now what you mean by not having a head for drink. To feel *that* bad on half a bottle of wine — you must have a medical condition for you to react so badly. I’m not proud of it but I’ll have a bottle of red and *then* go out, just to save money.

    • The rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments are falling like flies. Those apartments were anchors for the middle class. Pretty soon, the city will consist of government-assisted housing for people too poor to leave and the super-wealthy. The middle class is being systematically wiped out of the city (if it hasn’t already).

      In retrospect, I think I had a serious bout of food poisoning. I don’t think it was the drink. I’ve certainly drank more than that subsequently and haven’t had such a violent, ill effect. But it DID ruin me for white wine. No great loss, in my book.

      • Parts of London are like that, — only the very rich and the very poor — and it’s getting worse under a government that hates seeing the poor.

        White wine is an absolute joy (above the cheap anti-freeze which sounds like what you had!)

      • Yes — much of London is like that now. There are only the very poor, servicing the very rich. People like teachers or postmen just can’t afford it any more, and it’s becoming worse under this government, who want to turn the country into a feudal system, and who intensely dislike social housing.

        Sorry if this comes up twice — wordpress’s godawful comment system is playing up again.

      • Blogger-to-WordPress commenters always seem to have a problem here. I hate it. People who are kind enough to take the time and comment shouldn’t be tortured by technology for their trouble.

  16. It’s a good thing you and I never went out drinking in NY 😉

    I adore reading your old diaries. I don’t know why – I think some of your worries and thoughts and opinions and analysis remind me of me sometimes. Except I’d never feel that bad after half a bottle of wine!

    Much love.

    • Oh, I can keep up better than THIS. It sounds like food poisoning to me. Not white wine.

      I think you probably enjoy these posts more than anyone. For that reason alone, I’ll keep ’em coming. Plus, they’re fun to revisit. You should see the stuff not fit for public consumption! Yikes!

  17. I used to get some wicked bouts of the gout (somehow i haven’t had it for awhile and i can only assume that it’s all the clean livin’ i been doin) now someone once told me that the only alchohol that doesn’t exacerbate the problem was white wine, so what did i do? when it flared up i’d go get 2 or 3 bottles of white wine and drink it in pint glasses, one night i finished four bottles and my friends stared at me in amazement, it was as if i’d been drinking water, practically no effect whatsoever, one of my friends even examined the bottle to make sure the shit was real, it was like that every time, pint after pint of white wine and it was nothing, funny how things can effect people differently… or maybe you’re just a fucking lightweight… just kidding man.

    • What the hell is gout? It sounds awful! Isn’t gout the ‘rich man’s’ disease? Who knew white wine had medicinal qualities. And weed for glaucoma, don’t forget.

      I don’t think it was the wine. I might have then but today I’m convinced I had food poisoning. Who get that violently ill over a couple glasses of wine? And, yes, I am a complete lightweight. Maybe I’m better off for it in the long run but I can be a big bore on a night out of bar hopping.

  18. Even if we all clubbed together I don’t think we could buy that apartment!
    Do you have any pictures of your youth that you could dig out and share with your diary entries? Would be fab to seen some then and now pics, especially for this Brit who thinks that you must have inhabited Starsky and Hutch world.

    • That’s an interesting proposition. I only WISH I had photos of what that place looked like! As far as me personally, I don’t have any photos from that era and knowing my fragile ego, I can’t imagine I’d actually post them. Those would be on my paid site.

  19. Well that was real! You poor thing, all alone and feeling like that.
    I don’t like that apartment, there’s something unloved about it, it’s cold looking. I much prefer the home of Olatz Schnabel which I would move into in a blink if the opportunity arose.

    • Not alone! I had those two Siamese cats. They were with me for 14 years. Girls would come and go (mostly go) but those cats were always happy to see me, and I them. They had a lot to say.

      I think you’re the first one to turn her pretty nose up at that apartment. Probably’ll be the only one, too.

      • 14 years, wow, that’s impressive.

        I think I’m probably too scruffy for that apartment, I can’t stand the thought of my home being more beautiful than me, I feel the same about cars.

  20. To this day the smell of Blackberry Brandy will make me sick from a drunken night 40 years ago. Sometimes we do learn from a crappy experience.
    One of your replies you defined future housing in NYC as Super-Wealthy or Too Poor and the Middle Class is DOOMED. You are absolutely correct. There is no way to have a middle class neighborhood anymore in NYC. They will always sell out to the highest bidder to make a quick capital gain or the Too Poor will hang out because it is a little safer and then lower it down to a ghetto. Then after a few years gentrification takes over. Either way it goes down, it has the same ending, no middle class neighborhoods.
    You must have wanted to live in NYC pretty bad to move there!
    What is it like to have a girlfriend who motivates/plans you up the rungs of the latter of success?
    Looking forward to the Art review.

    • I got super-sick on vodka once and couldn’t touchnit for YEARS. I eventually got over that one, thank god.

      I’m solid middle class and had to leave NYC after my first daughter came along. I simply couldn’t afford to live there. I do okay. But I don’t do THAT well!

      I moved to NY not out of a desire to live there. I moved there because I didn’t know where else to go! Do you know in the song —if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere? Well, some of us make it there because we are incapable is making it anywhere else!

      All of those girls were so good to me. So kind. I didn’t know it at the time.

  21. What the heck kind of wine was it? Sounds like a horrid experience. So does that apartment. I guess the lesson here is: never sell real estate. Or something. Did you hear there’s a tell-all book about Elvis coming out? Apparently, he was a pretty dirty lad. Go figure.

    So I’m curious about the toilets. But the image that’s staying with me is you wanting to know how much you could sell all that medication for. I know exactly what that feels like.

    • I don’t think it was white wine’s fault. but I continue to take it out on white wine like it was. Never touch the stuff. I wonder if you’re kidding about the tell-all? What’s left to tell?! What sadder/ more salacious than dying on the bathroom floor with your pants around your ankle?

      I had just moved and was tapped-out. If someone offered me Cash for that box o’ needles, I’d have taken it.

      • I don’t know, something about threesomes and weird sex or the like. You know, I don’t think I know he went out like that… poor sap. At least someone could have done up his pants.

        I hear you on the cash. Crike, do I ever hear you.

  22. You know, as wonderful as that apartment is, and the location of course, I really do like to have a bit of a garden/back yard of my own. The times in my life when I’ve lived in apartments, I’ve missed that. if I was going to spend that amount of money, it’d be on a house that has it’s own bit of land with it. I wouldn’t mind having a great city apartment like that if it was a second home though, so with $26,000,000 I could get a smaller and less grand apartment than that one AND a house with a bit of land. Yes, I think that’s what I’ll do.

    • It’s funny you should mention that. For all my posturing about how much I loved the city, the fact is that I could never just step outside my building and read a book. There was nowhere for me to sit! Every time I left that apartment I had to have a destination. I complain about the suburbs but on Sunday mornings, there’s nothing better than taking my cup of coffee and New York Times outside and sit on my patio. I can smell grass being cut. It’s splendid.

      I like your economics.

  23. Yes – sounds like food poisoning.
    I’m sure the Dakota apartment isn’t overlooked but it would feel to me like living in a shop window. I must have my nooks and crannies.

  24. This was quite an interesting journal entry and it is so cool that you closed it with some Modern Art, too. All wrapped up into a unique post. I found my way over from Mark’s place. I enjoyed this one. I bet you are thankful for your detailed journal of ’93. Take care and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I left you a note about my being a Cleveland, Ohio girl… hope to get to know you better, like I like Mark’s posts!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Robin. (Is that correct? Robin? Or did I get that wrong?) Welcome. Please wipe your feet. My journal entries are chocked full of nonsense like this. When I was writing them all those years ago, I though I wasn’t doing anything much but in retrospect it turns out I was having quite a nice time! We always realize it in retrospect.

      Ah, Cleveland. Why did I forsake thee? Can you ever forgive?

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