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.
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Saturday, October 16th, 2004 at
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I had just finished washing and drying my clothes in the machines that my building’s apathetic management provides for us lowly tenants to do their laundry in. And now while in my apartment folding and putting them away I can smell a rather strong aroma of musky cologne, a scent that I neither wear nor want to wear, coming off of my supposedly clean clothes. Apparently the swarthy dark haired gentleman from down the hall, the one with the unbuttoned to his navel polyester shirts and gold chains, that reeks of this same fragrant aberration and who must use it by the gallon on a daily basis, has contaminated the public domain of the laundry room and its appliances and I have fallen victim to his odorous indiscretion!
Not that this is by any means the most disgusting aspect of doing laundry on the premises and rather than drag it the two blocks over to the laundromat on 3rd Street, which, believe it or not is guilty of much worse infractions of the public health code, I have grown accustomed to such atrocities and endure them like I do every other malady that living here seems to accost me with. Most of the time just going into the laundry room is bad enough with the perennial flooding forming the mounds of discarded lint into small islands so that in order to not get your feet soaked you are forced to jump from one soggy mass to another on your way across this mini trash strewn archipelago to the dryers. And like some advancing armada you are surrounded by a small fleet of those little single serve boxes of detergent that are acquired from the lobby’s vending machines now discarded and floating aimlessly in the tepid sludge.
But even wading in the stagnant mire is preferable to having to use the same washer that whoever it is that seems to be so cleanliness challenged that they leave a grungy ring of dirt caked around the inside of the machine after every time they use it. I might as well just throw my clothes on the fetid floor and stomp on them rather then use that washer because when I have mistakenly in the past, my clothes come out soiled and dingy like I never tried to wash them in the first place, and one can only imagine the state of the dryer after that. Well, you get the idea as obviously it’s a losing battle to try and keep anything clean in this building and for some reason that’s the way everyone seems to want it to be.
Whether it’s a case of misuse, planned obsolescence or a general lack of respect, one machine after another breaks down and sits idle, flooded with sullied water for months at a time and as soon as one is fixed another bites the dust and the process is repeated and played out over and over again – with sometimes more washers to use than dyers. And then the next week just the opposite till you’re just happy that one of the machines is working even with the crud on its rim, and you know maybe that’s the grand scheme of things and you’re just being too naive about the whole affair.
Why I am even the least bit surprised by the laundry room environment I do not know. When all I have to do is walk around and see the same mistreatment of the entire neighborhood. Outside this morning among the other bits of discarded crap there was what appeared to be a well used condom lying on the sidewalk by the street corner. Out of place as a used rubber was just laying there it didn’t faze me at first as I’ve seen a many a strange thing out on the street. But what’s the deal here? Was somebody really fucking right there on the sidewalk in plain view of the whole world and half the commuter traffic going over the Bay Bridge and then just rolled over and left it there? Or did one of my fellow tenants sling it out the window from high above and the wind caught it and deposited it here on the street corner? Hypothetically speaking, in my mind I tend to not prefer the later explanation as it would forever leave me scanning the skies whenever I was entering and exiting the building in fear of being slapped in the head by a used airborne latex cum receptacle. And evidently this concept of discarding even the most personal of items is how everything around here is treated, like one big dumpster. Yet the public trashcans are ignored in favor of the common greater ease of bulk disposability by tossing everything straight onto the ground and into the streets.
Accordingly this adverse external behavior of the local denizens directly translates into their obvious lack of laundry room etiquette that in my building is continually being brought into practice. Where the question of just how long do you wait for your neighbor to retrieve their washed clothing and put it into the dryer or do you remove said clothes to the top of the dryer while you engage the washer instead of waiting all day for someone that isn’t even conscious? When I first moved here I would always sneak a look at what type of clothes they were and not wanting to upset some older woman by having handled her undergarments I’d leave them in hopes that she’d return soon. Otherwise if they looked manly-ish or like some dudes apparel, I’d move them out immediately and continue with my wash. This was of course a wiser choice than leaving my laundry unattended because at first I lost quite a few articles of clothing and more than a few times rode the elevator down while trying to figure out if that nodding dope fiend next to me was wearing my missing t-shirt or do all black pocket t’s tend to look the same in the glare of a hundred and fifty watt anti-crime light?
What finally broke me of the habit of being so overly polite was my then next door neighbor who when she wasn’t partaking in the smoking of crack behind the locked doors of her apartment would be in the laundry room nodding off asleep, her head in the dryer with her generous ass sticking out and that’s how I’d sometimes found her which led to another question: What is the proper way to handle a volatile coming-off-a-run-crackhead that is attempting to either warm herself or steal somebody’s freshly dried garments? Thankfully she’d never be able to fit into my stuff so we never had to broach the subject of whether she was wearing anything of mine. But there were more than a few loud arguments in front of her apartment between the other women who lived on the fourth floor. I’m not saying that that was what they were all about because there was always some sort of altercation going on over there at just about any time of the day or night and other than the often repeated phrase “Bitch, I want my money!” I really couldn’t make out what it was that they were going on about.
Most of this conjecture on my neighbor’s behavior is of course meaningless unless you’re writing your thesis on the exaggerated activities of the crack ho in her natural habitat and I have once again as usual strayed way off from the subject at hand. Laundry, tenant relations and saving the environment all have a productive sort a ring to them but to be truthful it is only a piece of the reality and that socioeconomics tend to govern the behavior and circumstances of the people in my community. But none the less it is still something that we are all forced to deal with on some level and as the saying goes, what doesn’t come out in the wash usually comes out in the rinse.
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Tuesday, October 12th, 2004 at
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I really haven’t done this kinda stuff a lot, like dealt with the small things that resemble the vagaries of reality. Hence my involvement in the mundane doctrine of moving apartments, changing phone services and the normal routines of everyday life seem to momentarily escape me. It’s just that for most of my life I was never bothered by these intricacies and that consistency and reliability where not words that were used very often to describe me or at the very least my behavior. However the changing of time and growing older seem to find me at least trying to deal with it all on a different level; yet I am constantly amazed at what passes for the normal way that things are done.
A most recent example of what I’m talking about: After moving from one apartment to another in the same building that I already live in. I filled out the change of address form that I’d picked up while visiting my sister and brought it down to the local Post Office and stood in line waiting for the lone employee to stop fixing the display of this month’s Snowy Egret stamps and attend to the procession of people waiting ahead of me. For some unknown reason I felt better giving this mailable postcard type form directly to another human being instead of just dropping it in the mailbox on the corner by the winos and derelicts. So when it finally got to be my turn to be helped I handed it to the postal clerk and he stared at it and then at me and then he said. “What do you want me to do with this?”
“Well.” I said “Correct me if I’m wrong but this is the Post Office right? And that is one of your change of address forms isn’t it?”
I had thought that what I was getting at was sorta self-explanatory, a no brainer – I wanna change my mailing address, here’s the form, end of story!
“You hafta mail this.” was all that he said as he tried to hand it back to me.
Wherein I did the universal “Well?” gesture of my hands palms up as I shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyebrows simultaneously refusing to accept the card in question.
“Take it outside and put it in the mailbox by the front door and it will get picked up today at five.” and with that he dropped it onto the counter and looked over my shoulder and shouted “Next!” motioning the gibberish muttering woman behind me forward.
A bit confusing, no? Had I just pissed him off by being a wiseass or is this considered the normal procedure down at the post office? Plainly I could have protested and said that I knew for a fact that he took letters to be mailed and dropped them in a bin to his left below the counter because I had seen him do it several times for others while I waited in line to be helped. But then there’s that trust in your fellow human being thing again and that maybe it wasn’t in my change of address form’s best interest to be in the hands of a mad man and that in fact he was doing me a service by making me take hold of my own destiny and delivering it to the waiting mailbox outside by the scruffy yet polite panhandling amputee sprawled haphazardly on the ground.
Unfortunately it all didn’t just end there because yesterday I got a notice from the US Postal Service that the former tenant whose apartment I now inhabited had turned in his own change of address form and that from this moment forth all of his mail would be forwarded to his new address. Which wasn’t such a bad idea considering that I’d been receiving a bunch of his mail and most of it seemed to be from credit card companies or banks with the word “Urgent” stamped across the front of them in red. But in the back of my head I started to worry because just how was this all gonna get achieved with his mail going out to somewhere else and mine not going where it use to but now coming here? And after my dealings with the manic mailman, did I really have faith that there wasn’t just going to be some heinous mix up with the cross pollination of mail and the whole thing turning all haywire in a delivery nightmare?
The current notice had a phone number to call only if the above aforementioned information was not correct and someone is trying to mess with you in a decidedly evil passive aggressive way by rerouting your incoming mail. And below that was an advert for their web site for changing your mailing address and whatever other moving type mail problems that you might be encountering. I realized that I had already turned in my change of address form, or what the notice referred to as a PS Form 3575, but did I really trust the system to get it right? I still hadn’t returned the key to my old mailbox and I was checking everyday and there hadn’t been one of these notices informing the current tenant, which at the moment I guess would still be me, of any forwarding of the mail. Should I call them? Should I reiterate my change of address only this time online over the internet? Jesus Christ, it’s hard to believe that here I was getting bent out of shape and stressing about my mail delivery. Had my life digressed to such a convention of normalcy that the complexities of the postal service were my primary concern?
In the past during, my formidable years, when I moved I just moved and if the mail followed me I was usually pretty disappointed that it did. In those days moving was like a fresh start – a good time to begin chalking up new offenses on a clean slate, if you will. Gone and with good riddance were those endless incessant letters asking for their money back, no more would I be plagued with the headache of bills owed or once trusting creditors clamoring to be paid. Usually by the time it had gotten that bad moving had become a necessity: the electricity had been shut off, the landlord was banging at my front door looking for the rent and what decrepit car I owned was either towed or abandoned dead on some street and in the process of being stripped by the marauding crackheads. Obviously with all the omens in place it was time to start a new bar tab somewhere else and preferably across town!
But that was all in the days before computers and their never failing memories. Now a days, short of an act of god destroying the earth with pestilence or a really unparalleled cyber virus, a person is to expect their debt to live longer then they will. Faking what was once any easy “alternative identity” is now in the hands of semi-professional criminals or overactive speed freaks and is not so easily achieved with a simple phone call as it used to be. And these days with this ludicrous war on terrorism, well I can safely say that I am not the only one whose former lifestyle is being hindered by Homeland Security!
Obviously I’m regressing a ways down memory lane here instead of addressing the situation proactively as I should. The simple fact though was that today there was no mail in either mailbox which really didn’t reassure me that the US Postal Service was diligently on the job no matter how nice the weather was outside and that dueling address changes could be too daunting a challenge even for the best run companies. It wasn’t that I was worrying where this month’s L.L.Bean catalog was but I was sorta wondering about the various utility companies with their monthly bills that just love to throw on penalties and late fees as soon as they’re a second overdue. Which eventually leads to bad credit ratings and credit reports and… I just said credit reports didn’t I?
A vicious circle this getting it together thing is! Words you thought that you’d never utter just find their way into your vocabulary and out of your mouth. When just staying off police reports used to be your primary concern, your credibility for equity is suddenly at stake and the harsh reality of it all hits home and suddenly a horrifying realization emerges in my mind: I have sold out! Somewhere, somehow I had left the anarchistic fold and done the deed and not only for the god damn Postal Service Form 3575 and its mail delivery capabilities. But as I look around my apartment it has become all too apparent that I have also sold out for Dell Laptop Computers, LG Cell Phones, Aiwa CD Players, Ikea Reading Lamps, High Speed SBC DSL, Saeco Espresso Machines, Epson Printers, Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers, Panasonic TV’s, Kenneth Cole Clothing, GE Microwaves, Lucky Brand Jeans, Sony DVD Players, Lily Pharmaceutical’s Prozac, Honda Civics, iMacs, The Company Store Down Quilts, Ben Davis Clothing, Firstgear Leather Jackets, Chippewa Boots, Memorex CD-R’s, Whole Foods Markets, Cannon Digital Cameras, Creative Living 500 TC Linen Sheets, New Balance Running Shoes, 24 Hour Fitness Centers, Borders Books, Netflix DVD’s and a million other generic or no name brand merchandises and services that I devour on a daily basis like the lackey running dog that I seem to have become!
And in the end is it all worth it?
I guess that if the question is whether living in a capitalistic society as a participating consuming wanker is better than being an incarcerated spectator, well, then I guess that I’d have to say yes. Otherwise I’d be living a lie, no? Surviving righteously outside of society eventually takes its toll. Living as a parasite on what you can take from society, well, that’s a whole other equation and to truly be free you can’t live your life that way. Though mainlining consumer culture is no substitute for freedom, it beats the confinement of a cold cell or the final embrace of a warm overdose and as always freedom is really a state of mind not what clothes you wear or what car you drive. Those in fact are just the bribes given out to look the other way as yet again another civilization consumes itself into oblivion.
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Friday, October 8th, 2004 at
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