Cockroach Infestation

This is an episode I’d forgotten about. These journals occasionally stir up memories that are best forgotten.bin3

September 6, 1995

More roaches. Not as many as before, but more. I began my death-spray campaign two weeks ago but they’re still here. I saw one crawling up the bedroom wall last night and a few in the silverware drawer this morning. I locked the cats in the bedroom and doubled-up on the insecticide. I’ve got a tremendous, pounding headache. I don’t know if it’s from breathing Black Flag Inner City Strength Formula or from cleaning up cockroach droppings all morning. My index finger hurts from holding the spray button down. I emptied the can.

There was a sick article in The Times about how there’s a plague of asthma in the Bronx. It’s an everyday occurrence to see men and woman stop on the street to catch their breath and reach into their pockets for an atomizer. Do you know what they say is causing this epidemic? An inordinate amount of cockroach feces and body parts, along with the rat and mice urine in the area.

I’m going nuclear tomorrow morning. I’m taking the cats to Cindy’s apartment and setting off a roach bomb. But if the dirty slobs who live around me don’t get their shit together, it’ll all be a big wast of time and money.

This exhibit at the Canada Gallery on Broome St. is an exercise in warped perspective. It’s going to be difficult to describe but I’ll give it my best shot. It might help to click on these and get a magnified look.

A Fall of Corners by Samara Golden starts with a walk up a short flight of stairs onto a long platform.


Along the right-side wall is a formal dining room with full-sized tables and chairs. Tables are set with white linen tablecloths, white chairs and place settings. The linens are stiff and hang as they would if the tables were on the ground. Plates and cutlery are glued to the table, the chairs are secured to the wall.


A spotlight slowly pans the scene which creates fantastic long, shifting shadows.



On the far wall is another dining room. This one, a more casual and festive buffet with blue and red checkered tablecloths and country chairs.



If you stand at the edge of the platform and look down, you’ll see a mirror. It creates an effective illusion of depth and space.


Turn towards the end of the platform and thrown into a heap in the corner is, what appears to be, a pile of rags.


Closer examination reveals the truth: Bodies. Some are ghastly and skeletal. Who are they? The diners? People who wanted to eat but couldn’t?


Running up the left wall is a living room with silver furniture and, in an especially nice touch, a Christmas tree in the corner.



By this time, I was fairly disoriented. I wish I’d know about this warped perceptive in advance. I’d have dug out my bong from the attic and REALLY prepared. Once again, look over the edge and there’s a mirror. A projector plays a movie of moving clouds and sky. You’ve got to look down to look up. See your intrepid reporter there? Hello!


I’ve often wondered what the end game is to these exhibits. I can only presume they’re for sale, since they’re in a gallery. But who is the target audience for these large works? Museums, I suppose. Fun fact: NONE of these galleries ever charge an admission. And, best of all, they don’t care if you take photos. New York is a friendly place!

I had dinner on the Lower East Side last Friday night. We ate at Little Poland on 2nd Avenue and 12th Street. I had the big combo platter: Kielbasa, pierogi, bigos and stuffed cabbage. About four pounds of thick, heavy, gravied, Eastern European delights. Most satisfying! Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I had to run a charity 5K race the very next morning. Oh, no! Well, guess what? I killed it. I ran a personal best. It turns out that Polish food = ROCKET FUEL. Who knew?

79 thoughts on “Cockroach Infestation

  1. I know you don’t intend connections…but juxtaposing roaches with the dining tables may not please the artist here…! I think the display is interesting… not very aesthetic, but makes me think of gatherings of people here and there.
    I just saw a piece on the news about the dangers of processed meats… such as sausage and hot dogs etc… including the danger of charring the meat, as in grilling… All carcinogens, all unhealthy, and as bad for you as smoking… So your most recent binge must equate to smoking a pack of Marlboros (yes, harsh) in other words… But that’s great about your run! 🙂

    • That’s so funny! I had no intention whatsoever. I’d say so if I did. That’s the second time there were unintended links between the subject of my posts. When I move onto the next subject, the first one is quickly forgotten. My concentration is paper-thin.

      I saw the same report about processed meats. I’m not one who consumes a great deal of red meat but I’m certainly not going to give it up. I believe that anything in moderation is okay. (Except for drugs. There doesn’t seem to be any moderating there.)

  2. That art installation really surprised me Mark. You know what it reminds me of? – those drawings where the dimensions change in the middle of the drawing – so upstairs become down and so on. So fascinating.

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  3. Congratulations on your personal best, Mark. I didn’t know that about Polish food. I never would have guessed. That is a strange perspective in the gallery. Did you feel dizzy afterward? The pictures give a sense of it, so I can imagine actually participating in it would be strange. Sorry about the cockroaches. I guess you can reflect on that and see how far you’ve come. I had a few of those situations and I’ll never forget them. I can still see them crawling. Oh, yucky!

  4. Yuck to the cockroaches. Their detritus is indeed an asthma trigger for many people.

    That exhibit actually looks really cool. I love that they let you take pictures. We’ve been at a few modern art exhibits, and there were no cameras allowed.

    Congrats on the 5K. Sounds like you found the perfect pre-race fuel. No shortage of carbs, anyway!

    • I didn’t know anything about roaches until I moved to New York. Now I know more than I ever wanted to learn. I’d like to report that we got the roach problem under control. I don’t know why it’s important you know that but it is.

      If you go to the big museums, they generally don’t want you taking pics of the special exhibits. The permanent collection is okay. WHY IS THAT, I’ve always wondered?! What’s the diff?

      Carbs, schmarbs. Go with bigos is my new running mantra.

      • I don’t want to believe that gallery owners do it for purely altruistic reason but that appears to be the case. The horse “exhibit” is a good case in point. It was expensive to produce and they made a big deal out of it but I didn’t pay anything to get in.

  5. I think the gallery could actually turn this into an actual dining experience – or sell the idea to some entrepreneur to build a gimmicky restaurant (I even got the name – Off The Wall)
    I’m not surprised about Polish food – fat has most calories per gram than most other foods, which gives you most energy with the least additional weight. So yeah, it is rocket fuel.

  6. People couldn’t breathe because of cockroach faeces? And body parts? That’s rotten to the core, that. Ewww.

    What a freaky exhibit that was! Very Alice in Wonderland.

    I love pirogi and beetroot soup. Now I’m hungry.

    • New York used to be much filthier than it is today. Everything was worse. More homeless more drugs. More violence. People pine away for the old days but not me, sister. Gentrification is a raw deal but it’s the lesser of two evils.

      I’ll pass on beetroot soup. But line up the pierogi. Don’t forget my sour cream, either. I’ll stick with traditional potato and cheese. Keep spinach to yourself.

  7. I’m very lucky that my ancient brownstone is not a roach motel, but every summer a waterbug the size of a Buick pays me a visit. Fortunately, they’re lumbering critters and not that hard to catch, but the first time I saw one I thought it was a roach from an episode of “Land of the Giants”.

    The exhibit does look very cool. Life’s been very hectic over here, so I doubt that I’ll catch it. Thanks for sharing. It made me think that there may have been a message in there about gluttony and the have and have not classes. Half formed half baked thoughts are about as deep as I get.

    • Water bugs are from hell. The devil sent them. Did you know they can fly? I’ve seen it. I could easily crush the life out of them but I run screaming like a child. It’s embarrassing.

      I’m sure your life will be hectic for the foreseeable future. Hope you get settled by the holiday. Are you having a house warming party? People will bring you stuff.

      • Yes, I’ve seen them fly. They’re rather clumsey. I’ve got a long way to go before I can even think about moving in, much less having a party. I don’t want stuff. It’s so small it can barely fit me.

  8. I am intrigued by your Polish food = rocket fuel hypothesis and believe further scientific study on the topic is needed, for which I graciously volunteer myself – and all the pierogi I can track down in the near vicinity – as a test subject.

  9. That’s some weird art there and I just don’t get it but then it does give one cause for a pause and some moments of introspection.

    I can’t imagine an apartment filled to the brim with roaches. I rarely see any and if one dares surface, my cats dispose of it in no time flat.

    You had cats in your apartment. What happened to them when you married and moved to the burbs?

    • Is it art? That’s always the question. It might not be to you and that’s valid. You can look at that and call bullshit if that’s what you’re feeling. Your reaction is as valid as mine or anyone else’s.

      That’s the problem with apartment living. You are subject to the lifestyles of your neighbors. It only takes one careless slob leaving food out and the whole building suffers.

      I had two Siamese cats. They were quite old when I met my wife and by the time we got married and packed up for the ‘burbs, they’d passed away. Lucy and Mr. Chow R.I.P.

      • Will you ever get a cat again when the Queen dog has departed?

        I hope you do not take offense when I’m not enamored with the art that you post. I need to keep my thoughts to myself. However, I do like some of it, if that makes you feel any better. 🙂

      • I’d love a cat again one day. Life is better with a cat in it. It just is!

        Are you kidding me?! I’m not the least bit offended if you don’t like the art. Not at ALL! I kind of enjoy it when people speak their mind and say it’s crap when they’re looking at crap. Please practice no censorship here. Carry on.

  10. Cockroaches + fecally produced asthma. Oh my. Is there going to be a part two?

    That art installation reminds me of Harry Potter’s school. Maybe there’s a connection. Harry Potty and the Philosopher’s Stoned Roach? I don’t know what I’m talking about ….

    • There’s no part two. The building management finally hired a professional exterminator who went into each apartment and laid down some industrial strength insecticide. People became more cautious about keeping a tight lid on the kitchen trash.

      That was a nice segue into a Potter punchline. Nice work.

  11. You were right on about this exhibit. It is a treat. A lot of work and imagination.
    My first night in my transient apartment in Florida I saw a flying water bug as big as a Snicker’s Bar. It landed in a window box and I sprayed it with a half can of Raid. It was gone the next morning. One tough bug.

    • It’s a little startling first walk in. It takes a minute to focus. There are a lot of tiny details I couldn’t capture on film.

      Aren’t they called palmetto bug down there? They’ve been around for a million years and haven’t changed a bit. A can of bug mace is no match.

  12. Do you read hyperallergic online? Right up your alley I think. (and no, it isn’t a reference to the roaches) 🙂 I had to laugh about the roaches because I live in the land of palmetto bugs which is fancy talk for bigassflyingroaches! They used to freak me out, but not anymore! *don’t ask* xoxoxox

  13. OMG your roach post just keeps on going! I’m with Savannah up there… when I lived in Florida, there was a Palmetto bug in the kitchen that hissed at me! IT HISSED!!! I will never forget that! I swear it was 2 inches long!
    Just had to share that here… not many other appropriate venues for that information other than your blog, Mark 🙂

    • My roach post has legs.

      Sorry. I couldn’t resist. If you pitch it over the plate, I’m swinging for the fence. Glad I can provide a venue for the weird, the strange and the things that crawl and hiss.

      I didn’t know you lived in FLA. Smart moving back to CLE. It’s a better place.

      • Ha! Well find your bug spray then, and keep your infestation to yourself!

        Yes, CLE is much better… that was years ago when I lived in Fla, before I moved to CLE. And if the Browns AND Cavs don’t get it together, I might have to move again!

      • Not-so-fun fact: In December, the Browns and Ravens are playing on Monday Night Football. They can call it The Battle For The Basement. I’ll bet the schedulers thought that’d be a pretty hot match-up.

  14. As someone else commented, I too thought of the rather unpleasant connection between roaches and then a dining exhibition, and then your own personal restaurant visit! I had never seen roaches in real until I lived in the states. They seem to be so much more uncommon here, I’m not really sure why, like it seems to be a big news story (well a big local story anyway, not national!) if an eating establishment, or someone’s house has a cockroach infestation.

    I felt slightly dizzy just looking at the photos of that exhibition! I love things like that. At a museum here that I went to they had a small room that you could walk into, and the angles of the floor and the walls and ceiling were all a bit wrong and you couldn’t work out if you were standing on a slant, or whether just the walls were slanted, or what, but you could also look in through a small window from the outside and get a different effect again.

    I should think that Polish meal was high in protein which probably helped with sustenance to keep you going – who could run on a salad right?

    • You should be glad they’re uncommon. They’re awful things. Tiny but terrifying. I assume you saw a few out in Las Vegas? Is that accurate? Those eating establishments had better take care. They breed fast. If you’ve got one, you’ve got dozens.

      Don’t you love art that warps your perspective like that? It’s like a cheap thrill.One exhibit was a small, white room with walls that curved up. You had to take your shoes off to enter. Once inside, they’d close the door and the lighting was such that you couldn’t tell where the floor ended and the walls began. After a minute it felt like you were floating. Very trippy.

      Oh, it was protein, was it? I thought they laced the stuffed cabbage with an amphetamine. Your explanation makes more sense.

  15. I’ve tried out various East European foods over the years. It’s not the greatest of areas of the world for vegetarians but I had the most delicious borscht in Kiev once (no doubt made with some sort of cow stock), and have made my own stuffed cabbage leaves and pierogi. Have you had plov? It’s like a rice and vegetable and fruit stew. Really delicious. It’s a very interesting cuisine.

    Last night I was at my friends’ house. They’re Hungarian so we drank a lot of palinka — a pretty deadly apricot or plum brandy.

    I thought the installation was more like a playground than art. She’s put a lot of work into it, but I don’t really get what the point of just disorientating people is. I know someone who can get some blotters which do the same trick!

    Divided By A Common Language Section: what’s a biggo?

    • Never had plov, which is kind of surprising, since I had an old-world Polish grandma who used to cook all the old dishes from the old world. I turned my nose up at that stuff when I was a kid but now I go to restaurants and happily pay for the privilege. Now it tastes like home.

      I love when an plays with my perspective. It’s like an amusement park ride. Next week I’ll visit Christie’s and Sotheby’s for the fall art auctions. Multi-millions of dollars will be spent. Some of it on CRAP. You’ll see.

      Bigos is a pork and sauerkraut stew. I know that doesn’t sound all too appealing but I can assure you it quite delicious.

  16. Putting stuff that should be on the floor on the wall is a clever gimmick, but doesn’t it get boring after seeing it the first time? Cockroaches are an important source of protein for some creatures, but maybe Polish food feels better in the belly. I’ll have to try it!

    • I suppose you have a good point but that’s the first time I’ve seen something like that. I guess the next time it will be a mundane do over. Sometimes, that’s all and artist gets. Look at poor Jackson Pollock. After those drip paintings, nobody cared.

      Every time I watch one of those survival programs I always think that bugs are the one thing I could never eat. I would, literally, rather starve to death.

  17. If the DJ is open to requests, I’d ask for more roaches (your writing) and less art, though both are intriguing — I prefer the former. Respectfully.

  18. OMG I’m glad the roach days are behind you – bleh….That exhibit is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen – thank you for sharing those amazing photos!…Congratulations on your personal best on that 5k. I know I’m way late to this party but congratulations just the same! Yes Polish food is rocket fuel – especially when it’s authentic. I love how much you get out and enjoy being in the city – you rock!

  19. I’ll never be a Buddhist, because I will kill a cockroach every time I see one, no hesitation. Don’t know why. I won’t kill a spider. Or ants. I don’t run, but I’m going to start eating Polish rocket fuel.

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