Monday, June 18, 2007

Apartment neighbors

If your own house burns down, it's usually your own fault in one way or another, a preventable "accident." But if you burn your own apartment up, you can make everyone in your building homeless. There are 20 apartments in my building, & I can't control what the other tenants do. Which is an anxiety shared by nearly all apartment dwellers with any sense. The guy upstairs let his bathtub overflow last week. The quiet man who used to live across the hall occasionally forgot about food he was cooking, but he always set off his own smoke detector. These forgetful types concern me. Pot heads & happy drinkers, companionable when you see them around the place, are untrustworthy neighbors. Anyone who keeps an ashtray next to the bed is crazy. Well, it's ok temporarily, if you're doing some doob with a lover. But the pot itself can make you get out a 1/2 gallon of ice cream & two spoons even as you overlook the French Bread pizza in the toaster oven. There are always annoyances in apartment buildings reminding you the other people have their own small worlds apart; the loud music, the unpleasant seasonings that make you imagine a goat head boiling in a kettle, escalating domestic arguments. I lived in a three apartment house with only a wall between me & two criminal types. One of them was taken away in handcuffs for, I think, breaking his probation. I knew he wasn't especially dangerous because Rahway assigned the job to one, short, overweight patrolman. The other one was a loud, loony crackhead whose existence I wouldn't even acknowledge when I saw him outside. & this was in an otherwise quiet neighborhood of mostly single family homes.

My current building has more children & less tenant turnover than my previous residency, a newer building of similar size that got a lot of freshly divorced men passing through on their way to God knows where, another bad marriage probably; they had few possessions beyond a bed, a television, & a comfortable chair to sit in as they watched it. Some of them invited me in for beers, & I don't remember any of their names. I always recommended the same bar to them, The Back Porch, where local middle-aged male & female divorcees hung out. I never went there unless invited by someone, usually patronized another place up the street with a better juke, a pinball game, & a young lady tending bar who looked beautiful after only two drinks. Anyway, those men were alright as neighbors. The only kitchen appliance they used was the fridge.


Beautiful. That last line the perfect kicker.

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