My Neighbors/Myself



It’s just 10:53 pm and my neighbors are already jumping around like the drug crazed infidels that they truly are—though at the moment a little bit more than usual, and no doubt dancing that forbidden dance of the Voodoo while ritual-sacrificing some warm blooded beast to last night’s full moon. I can already smell the acidic scent of lighter fluid on the night’s air as they ignite tonight’s BBQ up on the roof and if I can indeed smell lighter fluid from down here four flights below then they’re up to their usual shenanigans and I’ll be lucky if the building is left standing after they get done tonight! And no, as tempting as it would be to dine al fresco on the roof of my splendid building overlooking the freeway and dark alleys off of 3rd Street, I have to decline. Not really wanting to associate with my neighbors any more than I already have to. Knowing how little time it will take until the Old English 800 takes effect only to be followed closely by the sacrament of smoking Crack and then how soon after that the short outbursts of small arms fire will begin is probably up to the position of the evening’s celestial stars, tonight’s orbit of the moon and its gravitational pull or any other number of the given ecliptic influences that effect this terrestrial globe that we all live on.

From the hand scrawled invite posted on the wall of the elevator car that I glanced at earlier in the day I’m gathering that I’m allowed to bring one guest to this impromptu soirée and “party until the food runs out”—whatever that means. Maybe after the food runs out they will cook and eat my invited friend? This is something I wouldn’t put past them! But anyway as an alternative to that reality, I am closing my window so that my entire apartment doesn’t smell like lighter fluid or worse like whatever will be BBQ’ed later on and shutting my blinds and then if it gets too out a hand—like flame-engulfed hallways or rapid fire assault rifles—well, then I’ll be slipping quietly out down the stairs and through the side door to the street. In situations like these it’s always good to have a backup plan or at least some clear path to the fire exits. Even though leaving the apartment itself during these episodes is a tad disconcerting at times.

Another thing: Did I mention that I’ve just discovered that the guy who’s out there on Market Street all day, everyday, marching up and down with the day-glo green “Jesus Christ Loves You!” sign while screaming incoherently about god, fornicators and heathens lives in my building? Hell, he actually lives on the same floor as me even! You know, I can’t begin to tell you just how proud that makes me feel to know that he is one of my immediate neighbors and ya know? I am only too sure that he too is up on the roof with the rest of the local denizens—can of 2-11 in hand and Jesus no doubt loving him as he drinks himself into another holy stupor of biblical proportions.

Unfortunately tonight it is not just the sound of merry making that is intruding on my senses but also the insane woman next door keeps pounding on the wall that separates our apartments—I can hardly be making that much noise while typing!? She’s about two hundred pounds of crack smoking menace and yes:

           a) She could be dying

           b) She could be out of crack

           c) Your guess is as good as mine

           d) All of the above

Maybe she will stop soon and I can go on about doing other things, like not wishing her grievous bodily harm or attempting to wash my clothes; not that her banging really impedes my laundry, it’s just a tad bit unsettling here whilst I write on my laptop. You know in all fairness there is an apartment on either side of hers, can’t she see that I’m not answering the wall right now, like maybe I’m busy and it may help to try the other side? But then there’s visions of her stuck somehow wedged into something; though this would be hard given the logistics, the size of the apartment, the size of her and besides the knocking is above my head anyway and I doubt she’s wedged into the ceiling, so no, that’s not it.

I’m hoping that tonight the laundry room is finally going to be open—though I think that someone has done something unspeakably wrong in there. It’s been locked for days and when I approach the front desk inquiring about it they claim ignorance. (However if you knew them, they really wouldn’t have to do that.) And all that they’ll divulge is that there is no record as to why it may be locked. Be that as it may, I tell them that it is indeed locked—as in the door won’t open, and could they come see why? This brings on shocked looks as if I am asking them to turn their heads whilst I jimmy the already jimmied soda machine in the lobby. “Couldn’t possible leave the desk, security reasons ya know!” is the response and then it’s my turn to look all shocked as they are hardly ever at the desk except on the first of the month looking for the rent and giving the evil eye to those they suspect haven’t paid yet. But this still isn’t helping with my laundry situation, and I’m dreading that I’ll have to venture forth to one of the other laundry rooms in the building.

I’m at least hoping that tonight there will be some sign as to what the hell’s happening in there. I mean it’s been flooded for months and that never got it locked up. There’s even been a somewhat clandestine love affair type rendezvous between certain unattractive tenants going on amongst the dryers on the weekends. One of which doesn’t really dry clothes—the dryer not the sordid clandestine affair, though it does take your money and spin slowly around in a very weak attempt at operating. But there’s been no yellow police crime scene tape, no “Closed due to repairs” sign, nothing and I am expecting that any day now to at least see blood seeping out from under the door or worse a gory bloody body drag trail off down the hallway into one of the other apartments. But no, nothing! Very strange, very strange, and I guess I’m gonna hafta go down to the creepy 2nd floor to wade through their laundry room where there’s usually some guy dressed only in his boxer shorts crouching half hidden in the shadows supposedly waiting for the dryers to be free.

Ok, I just want you to know that I am not making any of this shit up, but this morning the dude at the front desk—the weird little Ethiopian with the big head, not the Costa Rican rock-a-billy-guy with the tight rolled up cuffs on his levis—told me that they just tossed a “foreign” gentleman out of the building who was raising and then eating cats. Yep, you heard right, eating cats—“Tastes just like chicken!” and apparently he had them in cages in his room and apparently not all too hygienic about the whole deal because the entire 6th floor now smells like one giant cat piss filled litter box, which is also due to the workmen dragging out the urine soaked rug, bedding, etc. And it’s just like all those mass murderers you read about, because all his neighbors are going around describing him as a nice quiet guy who I’m sure if the building allowed children would have been known for being good to the kids. It was just the felines he had it in for. And I’m trying to get the story on how all this came to light, but the rest of the management is being unusually tight lipped about the incident and for good reason as they lifted the strictly enforced animal embargo with the allowance of the forty pound limit only recently. We are all allowed per our unpublished “tenant guidelines” pamphlet – forty pounds of animal in our perspective rooms – and obviously this guy took it to heart, so to speak, with forty pounds of cat to go, butchered and on the paw. And I’m a little worried because my forty pounds of Grub Worms has gone into a metamorphosis stage, all cocooned and such, and will they still be forty pounds when they hatch into god knows what? But I’m thinking of taking definite precautions and putting them in the elevator and punching the button for the lobby and letting the security staff downstairs deal with them.

Earlier tonight the tall gangly girl that I barely know who lives on the first floor of my building tried to forcefully get me to taste her bouillabaisse, and this after I had just got home—sort of chasing me down the hall with a giant spoon of steaming glop as I dropped my mail and fled in terror and it looked like New England Clam Chowder and besides I wasn’t even hungry and to top it all off she’s a student chef at the culinary institute and, well, I wasn’t in the mood to be a guinea pig—or any pig for that matter—and being forced to sample some weird white soup as soon as I set foot in the front door wasn’t really on my agenda and anyway I don’t remember bouillabaisse being white—a color for food that I sometimes find distasteful, so like I ran screaming down the hallway leaving today’s useless postal deliveries fluttering in my wake as I fumbled for my apartment key with my cell phone ringing away.

The phone call was of course from the front desk, which I had just passed not five seconds earlier, saying: “There’s a package here for you and you must claim it immediately… there is no room for it down here.” So with visions of a Volkswagen sized package arising in my gullible brain I descended to the lower level, all the while keeping an eye out for the marauding saucier wielding her steaming spoons of bouillabaisse, in order to retrieve said package un-accosted or at least unsoiled. Whereas at the front desk I signed the receipt book and the purveyor of security for my humble abode hands me a moderately small sized package. “There’s no room for this?” I queried. “Things have been stolen as of late, besides the nation’s on Orange Alert and you never can tell with packages!” I do not lie here, those were his actual words. I cannot begin to tell you how safe and well protected I feel here in my humble abode after that!

Now when these bizarre interactions become the norm and my day-to-day routine starts becoming remote and I tend to start viewing my life as a bit on the repetitious side— mainly because of inherited traits like: I work too much, I’m high on overtime, and when I am not working I sit in my apartment drinking endless lattes and stare at the freeway. In reality I live under the freeway, I live for the freeway. My apartment screams to be cleaned, my apartment is knee deep in empty used Starbuck’s latte cups, my dust bunnies could be Ikea furniture, my books pile up and want to go home to the library, my newspapers seem to mate and evolve into more useless sports sections in the corner, my fingers drum the table when they aren’t typing, I’ve quit smoking, but I’d mug an aging grandmother for her Benson and Hedges Ultra Light 100. I still haven’t finished writing the great American novel because I have to go to work to pay the bills, which enables me to keep writing, keep writing, keep going to work. It is a process, and smoking and eating and communicating with people just got in the way. But tonight to try and change this monotony, to break out of life’s repetitious cycle of the same thing over and over again, I took a little time out and I was able to wolf down some leftover Thai takeout and watch a pleasant little documentary on solitary confinement in the Indiana penal system, where there seem to be an over abundance of very angry tattooed white guys. Yeah I know, go figure, which just about proves that when I am in that I-gotta-do-something-different mood I’ll try just about anything and that maybe repetition isn’t such a bad thing after all, especially if it saves me from witnessing the Indiana penal system or for that matter anything else that cable TV has to offer.

Last night crazy Sherry dropped by to borrow a twenty spot. She has lost an amazing amount of weight—just on her ass alone, and faced with another neighbor—another myself really, I am powerless. So I lent her the cash, no questions asked. But just what does someone really need 20 smack-a-roons at 11 pm at night for anyway? Hmmm? Nutritious snacks from the liquor store? Delivered Chinese food? A shot of dope maybe?! I know I’ll regret lending it to her when I see her glide by ghost-like on 3rd Street oblivious and in a daze—a shell of her former self and its not the fact that she isn’t ever gonna pay back the money, or that she somehow got over on me It’s just knowing that I willingly contributed to her slow demise that really hurts, but for some reason I couldn’t find the heart to say no.

So, you ask, what is it that’s really going on down there in that South of Market building of yours? Well, I’d hafta say, urban life, I guess. It is hardly what one would call a “Clean and Sober” environment; yet the entire building isn’t a crack-house, though one of the local crack dealers does live a few doors down the hall, which probably accounts for the decrepit midget women with the cane that I see creeping down my hallway at all hours of the night, and the forty ounce beer bottles piled up against the garbage chute as they compete for space next to the half gallon jugs that once held vodka or the uppity and no longer mobile merlot bottles that actually used to have corks all gather dust until the maintenance man tried of seeing them tosses them down the chute together with the rest of the trash in his special way of recycling.

All day and night a rotating parade of stinky speed freaks with extra dark sunglasses ride the elevator to the fifth floor sweating profusely, while certain hallways reek-o-the-skunk-weed and more than a few people that I used to know don’t look so good anymore, or more to the point, don’t look me in the eye anymore. On any given day one of the more industrious crack dealers is always out front waiting for cars to pull up to the curb and this one older black woman, when she’s not exposing herself on the elevator or incessantly pounding on the dealer’s door, can be found outside the building wandering in the adjacent trash strewn parking lots staring at the ground. Hell, the whole world’s getting high—just look around you! But none the less everyday more seemingly happy people enter to become residents as more apartments vacate and people suddenly disappear and the ambulance arrives one more time for apartment 417 and the traffic continues overhead on the bridge and right now in the apartment downstairs there’s a lot of yelling going on regarding bitches and ho’s, the merits of certain women of certain races and the effectiveness of the AN-64 Apache Assault Helicopter on jungle warfare during the Tet offensive of the Viet Nam war.

You know maybe one a these days I can get out of here, like when I can afford it, like when Hades has a morning frost or another apartment opens up in another building, one where they’ll let me in with my bad credit and even worse income. But that probably narrows it down to some skid row hotel with one of those pitiful ceiling fans or better yet a rundown brick tenement with leaking air conditioning and a hefty torn yellowed shade for the window and a liquor store on the ground floor that caters to hookers and dope addicts and, well, am I being a little too choosey? No, I forgot: that’s where I do live!

Ok, the next-door neighbor? The one who communicates by bashing a shorthand Morse code on the wall that separates our apartments? Well, she’s about to make it into my apartment the hard way, like making a new door kinda way. I wonder if that last hit-o-crack really did the trick and she’s beating her approval while stomping her feet because there seems to be a reverberating echo, sort a like an under tone kinda tempo that’s going along with the intense primal banging right in front of me behind my computer and just a bit above my head. But hey! Maybe that’s just the next neighbor down and my floor’s doing the bang-the-wall wave at midnight and they forgot to tell me when I came home.

Outside my window is the waning full moon and for some reason it’s quiet. Well, not all that quiet, there’s still the throbbing primal rhythm coming from the party on the roof as the freeway’s relentless audio barrage still expresses itself with a mighty roar of night traffic that almost makes me think that I’ve got to quit huffing gasoline first thing in the morning, like it kinda makes writing at night a whole new ball game and it’s a bit hard to type too! Now you’ll have to excuse me I’ve got to turn my stereo back up before I get hypnotized into a zombie by the drums of the Calypso beat.

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