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?
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.