I don’t approve of gentrification. But the people who complain about it the most tend to have a romanticized notion of what pre-gentrified NYC was like. It was a hellhole. Their dark, poetic remembrances are just a fancy notion.
September 10, 1994
I have got to get out of this neighborhood. It’s a great apartment but if I stay here much longer I’ll get caught in crossfire. Last night I heard a lot of yelling and commotion in the alley. Someone yelled, “Get your fucking hands up!” I turned all the lights off and ran to the window. Four cops climbed over the barbed wire top of the fence and ran down the alley with their guns drawn.
There’s been a rash of ODs over the past few days because of some tainted heroin. The Times said the police traced the sales to Clinton and Rivington, a half block away. What a lovely distinction. They published a photo of my street and it looks like one of Dante’s more sinister levels of hell. The one reserved for child molesters or politicians.
They described Clinton as “A scruffy street on the Lower East Side. The area is lined with a hodgepodge of stores, ranging from a corner bodega to an abandoned matzoh factory. Men apparently down on their luck walked around with blank expressions.” Did the reporter see me walking home from work? Last night there was a seller yelling at the top of his lungs, “POISON! POISON! I GOT POISON” That’s probably the brand that’s killing junkies. Cindy and I were talking about it this morning. She’s amazed I was able to hear him in the back of the building. She’s in the front and said it goes on all night, every night.
I called a real estate agent and told her I have to find someplace else to live. By the end of the call she had me convinced that I’m lucky to be here. She told me horror stories about trying to find an apartment that’s both affordable and humane. I told her my apartment was rent controlled, 900 sq ft and less than $600/mo. She said that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I let it go, so I guess I won’t. But I hate it. It makes me hate me.
I was interviewed at an agency by a beautiful Greek girl. Maria Stolopoloplolopos or something like that. A dark, smoldering, hairy beauty. It’s for a project at Citibank. If they don’t place me I’m going ask her out. I was tested on some graphic software. It was hard but I think I did okay. The gig is in the Citicorp building about two levels below ground. A subbasement with no natural light or windows. It looks like a Kafkaesque hell. The money is good. Still, I kind of hope I failed the test.
[Note: I passed the test and got the assignment. It was as dreary as it sounds. You could hear the subways rumble by on the other side of the wall. I don’t remember if I dated the Greek girl.]
I’m halfway through Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick. He’s such a compelling writer. I wish I could write half as well. I read stuff like this and I know there’s no hope for a poseur like me.
I saw Klinger perform at LaMaMa on Saturday night. He was okay. He’s such a generic white guy that I don’t understand why he hasn’t been picked up by a soap. He’s good looking in that clean, Midwestern, heterosexual sort of way. Afterwards, I went out for drinks with the cast and crew and had a very nice time. I like hanging around actors and actresses right after they get off the stage. Depending on how the audience responded, they’re either on fire with euphoria or they’re suicidal. Klinger tells everyone I write, which bothers me because it isn’t true.
The actress that Klinger is trying to set me up with was there—Lauren. He made sure we sat next to each other. She’s pretty. Blonde, blue eyes and a nice mouth. I think she might be pushing 40, though. In addition to acting, she also “coaches people,” whatever the hell that is. Afterwards, I asked Klinger what that meant and he couldn’t provide a clear explanation. I was the only person at a table of nine not smoking. The bar was like a gas chamber that served vodka tonics. My clothes stank when I got home.
Lauren spent a lot of time telling me that I should CONFRONT the FEARS that are HOLDING ME BACK and make it impossible for me to achieve SUCCESS and find true and long-lasting HAPPINESS. So that was WEIRD. I wanted to shut her up by kissing her pretty mouth. Actresses are wonderful and flakey. I just love them. I’ll bet she’s a pistol in bed. She asked for my number and said she would call to further discuss my BLOCKS. I gave it to her but doubt I’ll ever hear from her.
While typing that last sentence she called. We’re having brunch on Wednesday. How about that? Brunch. Christ.
That’s me on the right. I met those two yokels right around the time of this entry, 20+ years ago. I remember they were reluctant to visit my apartment on Clinton St. (with good reason). This pic was taken just last week. Even after a long absence from seeing each other, we can sit in a rooftop bar in Manhattan and pick up the conversation thread that started in 1994 as if there hadn’t been a break at all. Christopher Hitchens is right:
“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can’t make old friends.”