My Apartment Is a Torture Cell
I sit in my apartment on a Saturday morning typing this, a day in what we call Easter (a Pagan goddess) weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and this morning is too quite, it's deadly quite, and it's so quiet it's beginning to wrack my nerves.
As a New York City apartment dweller for many years now I wake up every morning taking for granted there is always present that noise that you just take for granted when you live here, the noise of traffic night and day, the noise of fire engines wailing, the noise of the ambulances rushing about with their sirens screaming at you, police cars squealing and high-pitchly whining around town, the noise of garbage trucks picking up the tons and tons of garbage, the noise of Con-Ed jackhammering up the street on what seems like every other street, and during the regular week you of course expect the noise of the many construction sites developing like weeds around you, and there are usually a lot of helicopters flying over Manhattan during the days, and even in the middle of the night there are jackhammering noises and roaring noises and beeping-truck noises and always sirens, and there are people hollering or screaming or hooting in a celebration or harm of some kind all the time and horns honking and truck horns blasting--you see what I mean? So to wake up and suddenly realize you don't hear that taken-for-granted noise and instead it's deadly quite scares the hell out of you. You lay there going, "What the hell's going on--it's so fucking quiet? Come on. There's gotta be some noise somewhere! Has the rapture happened?" [I know, I have White Anglo-Saxon Protestant thoughts--I can't help it.]
I get up and go get my breakfast around on Fifth Avenue. The city is silent except for gangs of tourist-bus tourists gaggled up and walking around freezing and looking at maps and gawking up, always gawking up--
And it was cold as hell this morning in Manhattan and the tourists weren't dressed for it--in their cheap-looking polyester winter jackets--but damn I hate tourists--and I also hate being a tourist, too. When I visit a place, I wanna try and live there--that's traveling to me, not going to some junky manmade "paradise" for some quicky week's worth of doing the same thing you could have done had you stayed home and gone to a fancy Holiday Inn or something where everything looks the same and even the natives look the same and the food's the same no matter the country and like I said the tourist hotels all still look like early-day Holiday Inns to me, tacky rooms that seem exactly the same, the same sheetrock and plastered thin walls with the crappy starving artist art, the same furniture, the same television set sitting on a table that looks like that same furniture, and a sliding glass door leading to a balcony overlooking a swimming pool area--
When I visit another "land," as the old folks used to call a country, I like to check into a local small hotel, I used to like the South American hotels with the canaries and love birds in cages all around courtyards of banana trees and jacaranda bushes with wrought iron balconies precariously dangling off the old building over your head, and then you order up beers and a bottle of rum and some coffee and some cigars and the local papers and you peruse the local papers looking for an apartment--or you ask the hotel people if the hotel will rent you their best suite of rooms on a monthly basis--like when I moved to Mexico City to live there I went to the manager of the swinging little art deco hotel my wife and I had checked into to use as a base of operations in looking for digs and ask him about renting apartments in the neighborhood and he offered me the hotel's penthouse suite on a very reasonable monthly basis and my wife and I took it and lived there in a miniature Senor Slim lifestyle for almost a year, with, just outside our sitting room, our own garden and fountain on the roof that overlooked the Reforma as it ran elegantly toward the Angel and the Hotel Isabella (La Zona Rosa where we hung out every night--usually at Chips Jazz Club and the Swiss Chalet Restaurant) and Chapultepec high below you on the smoky horizon. And in Mexico of course I was taken for a turista, "Shoo shine, meester?" "Chicle, Senor?"--except my wife saved my ass 'cause she looked Mexican as hell, she was a Mexican-Choctaw-Welsh mixture, a white beauty in the winter and a brown beauty in the summer, with long "raven" hair that los caballeros del Mexico (Los Machos) love and Praise the Lard she had that wonderful full and gorgeously round Hay Yi Yi Span-eesh ass and a bosom as full as Daisy Martinez's, so I hid my Gringo-blanco cula behind her skirts, except she seldom wore skirts, always tight pants and jeans--what a beauty--I should have stuck with her, but then, yep, there's a lot of things I should have stuck with but didn't. Hey, I'm like Mr. Natural, I just keep on truckin' no matter the road. Thing is this little darling didn't understand how much I loved truckin' and keepin' on truckin' and one day she was ready to nest build and nest-egg lay and all that homey shit and I tried to live it with her but couldn't and ended up fleeing her, flying back to Texas where I tried to get my PhD at the University of Texas--though soon she came back to me and we were galloping off into the sunset again only to end up with her finagling me one day sittin' in a bar on Michigan Avenue in Chicago into returning with her to New York City and I did it, I followed her back here to NYC and as soon as we got back here our marriage fell apart and soon as I was in Port au Prince, Haiti, getting a divorce in Baby Doc's private court next to the National Palace, and then able to leave Haiti (or stay there, hell, I was having a sordid affair with the absolutely gorgeous salad lady at my hotel) free as a bird--SO where do I return? Why, of course, to my Capistrano, New York City! I had the chance to go anywhere in the world to live I wanted once I was divorced--she kept the apartment in NYC--so I had no ties to NYC--I was a freelancer so I didn't need to be in NYC to get work from television and publishing--I had money in the bank, plus my generous wife gave me some good oil stocks--but I came back to New York City. Why? I'll tell you why!--because by then I had gotten involved with another god-damn blessed woman, a woman ten years younger than I was, fresh, and I do mean fresh, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I fell, you know, head over friggin' heels for this symmetrical bundle of youthful energy and bouncy charm all wrapped up in a fatless firm worked-out soul-disturbing body--and as a result of this return, I've become stuck in New York City for a huge chunk of my life now, nailed to the cross of NYC--and there I go talkin' WASP again--but, like I said, I can't help it.
The quiet day stretched on toward eleven o'clock. I still couldn't believe it was still deadly quiet after I finished my breakfast and started practicing my piano. My nerves were jitterbugging. There had been a horribly torturous noise coming through my windows all the past week as the demolition crews were beginning to demolish to two buildings next to my building--there are two instruments of noise torture that all construction workers in New York City have and that's one of these hand-held jackhammers and a regular old hammer. These hand-held jackhammers are used for everything from tearing down a brick wall to tearing out window frames and facings to ripping up hardwood flooring. The regular old hammers follow the jackhammers--they jackhammer for several minutes then they regular-old-hammer for several minutes--all day long from morning until around 5 in the afternoon--so I sat not able to enjoy the deadly quiet due to the torture of anticipating the taken-for-granted noise--GOD-DAMMIT, I KNOW IT'S COMING, THE NOISE, WHERE THE HELL IS IT! THERE'S GOT TO BE NOISE! It got so bad it was as though suddenly I had to have noise or I was gonna go bananas. Shit. It was pure-dee torture, folks.
The noise started around 11 o'clock while I was drinking the last of my coffee and had the laptop out fixing to start writing on another one of my several-intended jazz stories--though the one I'm working on right now is rather sociologically taxing--very deep, calling for deep thinking writing, writing that has to solved a couple of parallel solar-plexus issues--it's deep--you know, I'm writing transcendentally--holy cow, I'm writing this new jazz story like Ives wrote the Concord Sonata! And just as I got Charlie Ives's book on how he wrote the Concord down off the shelf and was searching through it for inspiration, the noise began, the hand-held jackhammer in the being-demolished building next to mine, just one apartment away from my apartment and the one window I have that faces in that direction. At first the jackhammering was barely perceptible so I figured I was conjuring it up out of my anticipation of it. That satisfied me for a while though it gave me no peace; I still was fiercely so anticipating this noise that again I was losing control of my composure, COME ON ALREADY, YOU BASTARDS, DRILL A HOLE IN THIS PEACE...JACKHAMMER ME BACK TO SANITY! And just as I was about to pull my hair out, the jackhammer came out naked in the open and started drilling and rasping and machine-gunning noisily away as though just outside my window, so noisy it reverberated all around the neighborhood.
I finally relaxed and watched television. What was on the news? The New York City Department of Buildings has been using volunteer engineers to inspect building sites around town and they arrested this elderly old codger engineer who had put his blessing on the construction crane that toppled over on the blessed Upper East Side of Manhattan, killing 7, 6 of them construction workers, and 1 woman who was visiting NYC for St. Paddy's Day, and injured 20, and caused several hundreds of millions of dollars in damages (it destroyed a whole 5-story building and structurally damaged who knows how many other buildings--pretty much crushing the top three floors of the apartment building onto which the crane toppled in the first place).
It seems at this moment in NYC there are 250 cranes up and running--all of them having been inspected by this Dept. of Buildings handful of tottering old volunteer engineers--in the meantime, our little billionaire mayor is out in the street talking about what a tragedy this is and how he's gonna look into it and I'm thinking, you little prick, it's your rezoning policies and selling out our land from under us to your developer pals or the royal-ass families of Saudi-Arabia, Dubai, Oman, the Arab Emirates, or rich bastards from Great Britain, Israel, Japan, and of course, the world's leading Capitalist Pig nation, the People's Republic of COMMIE China that is causing this wild-ass stupid hi-rise-luxury-apartment-and-hotel-building spree going on here; it's your construction bullshit that is causing all the traffic tie ups that your congestion pricing flim-flam is now supposed to remedy, you crooked little-man creep! I am ironically laughing like a cynical hyena--even though I'm a man-wolf hybrid--you see how whipped I was this morning--all that peace and quiet! I couldn't take it. I squealed.
for The Daily Growler