The new apartment holds a view. The old one had one too, but of the elevated freeway across the decrepit wino filled alleyway with cars rushing about at eyelevel and nothing too stationary as to become familiar. Now I look out through a barbed wire security barrier across a parking lot and onto various other apartment buildings whose opulent vista must now include me! Me standing in front of my window and obscenely gesturing as my neighbors have their morning coffee and read the paper out on their swank apartments’ elegant balconies. Me coming out of the shower naked and groping for a towel as I drip water all over the carpet – a former poster child for drug abuse with the body to prove it. Me at night illuminated at my desk staring into my laptop as I try and conjure up something halfway intelligent and then input it before it is gone and lost from whence it came.
The voyeuristic lure for me of course is that my neighbors’ apartments are not the small cell-like affairs that the apartments are in my building. No, in fact from what I can see, they’re quite spacious and bright as in lots of windows and very tastefully embellished with expensive furniture and giant TV sets. My neighbors have things like dining rooms and bedrooms and living rooms. A concept so foreign to how I live that it makes me wonder what they think when they look into my one-room multi-purpose hovel?
“Look honey, he eats while writing at his computer! Such a work ethic the disadvantaged have. Why do you suppose they’re all so poor?”
Ah, the native degenerate in his little unsophisticated domain! Priceless, eh? When my building was erected there wasn’t that let’s-be-rich-and-live-in-the-city-type movement afoot that there is today and its proximity to the Bay Bridge’s soot emitting entrance deemed that it was never going to be a highly sought after address. But that was before the mass exodus of the monetary enlightened out of the sterile suburbs and into the urban realness of the mercantile downtown and its reclaimed factory spaces – thus affording the newly relocated suburbanite an easy commute of strolling the few blocks to his firm’s skyscraper every morning and then working out at the local 24 hour gym with his travel time saved in the early evenings. Accordingly his equally competitive spouse is also able to run that dot.com start-up right out of the spare bed room that is now her office in their condo apartment as life just keeps getting better and better here overlooking the bay!
“Dear? What do you suppose those crotch grabbing gestures represent?”
Unfortunately the building where I live was built to accommodate the lower class, the once indigent or at best the hired help surviving on minimum wage. And now, chalk it up to bad urban development, my unsightly flophouse is right in the way of their million dollar view and what’s worse it’s not going away; it’s getting fuller by the day. The bulging populace is oozing outside and into the streets and they don’t seem all that grateful for the opportunity to reside here. So what is the solution for the indisposed members of our little community? The police never respond when called, the ambulance and fire trucks are out front of my building every night yet it doesn’t appear that the residents are killing themselves fast enough. Besides if one wants a trendy San Francisco address the choices are limited and dwindling more so all the time, so you are going to have to put up with some sort of undesirable element no matter where you are, and it’s not like they actually live in the flat next door and are dropping in unannounced at tea time!
My favorite couple, yes, I have my favorites that I tend to scrutinize, are the young newlyweds that moved in a few weeks ago to the apartment directly across the concertina wire coils from mine. Their picture window affords me a rather startling perspective of their living room, where at times, like their house warming party, I was so close that I felt like one of their invited guests. Though the harsh glances that the hostess continually gave me did tell another story that never let me forget that I am not a guest just an unwanted witness to their extravagance – one whose objectionable presence after the party was quite easily removed by closing the drapes and retiring across the hall to the bedroom that overlooks their courtyard and probably a more acceptable class of the city’s population.
I guess that I could compare my overt interest in my neighbor’s activities to my constantly looking out the little security peephole of the front door to my place in order to watch the foot traffic in the hallway as crackheads and dope fiends wander the corridors in search of prey. But it just wouldn’t be the same as how can you compare that to the adverse luxury of the living room across the street? And where’s the vicarious pleasure of living a life that is not your own and for the most part currently unattainable? Granted I’m not one of my building’s many dissidents who on their hands and knees are scratching the hallway’s carpet in a futile attempt to find some long lost hit of rock cocaine amongst the bits of dirt and lumps of kitty litter. But out of choice I have no desire to be so. Yet an extravagant loft, happy social times with friends and even newly married with somewhat of a future ahead are not things that I would turn down if so offered. It’s just that at the moment they’re not being offered and I am on the outside looking in.
Ok, so I know what you are thinking… Why doesn’t he just close his blinds and let those poor rich folk get on with their lives? And you know in one aspect you’re right. It’s not nice to endlessly stare at the fellow citizens of your community and god knows other than writing this small bit they really haven’t provided me with much inspiration other than a small case of self-loathing, but I think I was already guilty of doing that without their help. And if the tables were turned would I want the same decorum of civility returned? Well, no. I mean after all I am who I am and having a nice address would change nothing and I’d still be dancing naked out of the shower with the drapes thrown aside and screw anyone that didn’t like it! As for closing my blinds, well you try living in a studio apartment with only one window that when closed off brings the claustrophobic hee bee gee bees in like a bad acid trip and all that you can think about is how small a place this is that you live in. Of course at night when I attempt to fall asleep while staring at the ceiling my blinds are closed, after all what kind of barbarian do you take me for? Its not like I need people to watch me in order for there to be some validity for my existence and sleep is best when it is dark.
Over on the other side of the building in my old apartment I left the blinds open and all night long I was bathed in the constantly moving headlights of oncoming traffic – a sort of industrial audio/visual lullaby to mollify yourself to sleep. So the overt interest in the seemingly technicolor lives of my neighbors may just be in response to being deprived of my former indulgence and it too may just become the norm, a backdrop to my reality as I continue on in life and they continue on with theirs.