Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Wire

Since I'm on the top floor I patrol the roof. Back in the day footfalls up there meant most likely bad news. A junkie from the then drug market on 1st street fleeing a raid, or one of the many bonafide squatters from CUANDO in back (more on that later) taking a short cut. Before all the development in the neighborhood, boundaries, both physical and psychological it seemed, were a lot more porous. Nowadays it's only people whom I have let up there, roofers or the telephone guy, and of most late, surveyors and agents for the development company that is soon to own the building. This Monday for instance I'll be hosting a tour for the 'demolition expert' (yikes). I'm sure he'll want to see the roof. As did the FDNY on more than one occasion...

Our general rule for years was don't let anyone you don't know into the building. That especially went for burly and officious looking men with firefighter outfits or DOT IDs and walkies. So we didn't. Unless they let themselves in, by popping the roof lock and tromping down the stairs like a kind of crowbar-wielding Gestapo. I say a kind of. A 24-hour Vacate Order for code and safety violations is neither the horror of war nor life threatening, although it could feel that way as I hunkered down quiet as a mouse playing not home right now to the boots in the hall. It's more like way-of-life threatening.

We never got the dreaded 24-hour Vacate Order knock wood, but we did get a couple 7-day notices to fix minor violations-or-else which sent us scrambling sweat and resources to repair whatever was cited.

Once it was the wads of old telephone wire strung up and around the roof, like malevolent jump ropes just waiting to trip someone over the edge to their deaths. It ran wild up there like a huge filthy cobweb, pooling in the back corner only to cascade all the way down the back of the building like a thick wire waterfall, lamely bundled here and there with fraying ropes and disintegrating zip ties. When was the zip tie invented? When was the telephone invented? Whenever it was I took that many years of wire off the building that day. As I untangled and wrangled it in tar covered blobs I became interested in it. And then sort of attached to it. There were all kinds of different guages and qualities of wire, and better, each one had been some past resident's phoneline, some of it some way-past resident's phoneline. This wire was literally infused with the personal vibrations of billions of not just past but downright ancient phone conversations! I don't usually get all New Age-y like that, but you had to wonder...this was veritable telephone wire museum! This onorous and too-long procrastinated-upon chore was yielding a treasure trove of obtuse art material imbued with historical significance and intrigue! Spooky! I could make art out of this! Never mind that that's just the kind of artwork I hate...formally one has to be very careful when employing les objets-trouves n'est pas?...

Despite this I saved it. Stuffed it all into two huge contractor bags and secured it with a somewhat superfluous note that says 'Andrea's wire do not touch' or something like that. I was determined to use it and still might; first scrub the hundred years of NYC grime and tar off of it then weave, tie, twist or braid it into something Glorious And Transcendent In Black. And it won't so much as whisper lowly Scrap Art....'t gotten around to this project yet. Right from the get-go the part about scraping decades of tar and dirt off 10,000 feet of old wire in my bathtub has put me off.

I fear moving day most partly on account of those giant bags of wire. What's that expression... 'less interesting than a box of hair'...? Maybe I can poll you all as to whether the wire makes it to the storage space or not.

Thanks for reading!

More later let's hope!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I live in Australia, have never been to your beautiful city and just today read the article about your buildings in the New York Times, which had a link to your blog. I am so sad that they haven't just done a gentle renovation and allowed it to be occupied by you and your friends. The proposed building to replace them is one of those hideous, homogenised, glass-walled, featureless bricks that obliterates character from a neighbourhood. I hope you find somewhere where you will be happy. I wish they didn't have to tear them down. I love old buildings with character and charm. They are, together with the art deco skyscrapers, what makes New York NEW YORK. Progress? Bah, humbug!!!!