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!

Monday, March 7, 2011

aka 7-and-a-half

wow that was not easy, setting up this blog. This may be my first and last blog post, ever....

I decided to do this as a kind of memorial to the building I live in, have lived in for the past 20+ years. It's not gone yet, but the plan is for it to be torn down this summer. It's a very old, very run down old tenement at 9 2nd Avenue just north of Houston street in Manhattan. For lack of a better term we are homesteaders, although the building's murky past re abandonment-or-not technically exempts us from officially claiming either squatter or homesteader identity. That said, this murky past, (plus repeated service technicalities) has helped us thwart 2 eviction attempts by the City (of NYC, a past owner) and enabled our ongoing residency here. We set our own monthly dues, enough to keep the building running and not falling down tomorrow. What we don't pay in cash we pay dearly in sweat and, at times, worry.

Shortly after I came into the building in 1991 I moved from a small apartment on the 3rd floor to the top floor in the back, converting a space that was 2 half-railroad apartments destroyed; a windowless, windswept unlivable garret, into a home. Can I put pictures on this thing? I want to show you a 360 view of my place. Forgive the mess in spots, I'm going thru my stuff. I think the pic below is clickable.

I have the rather unique configuration of having light from windows which face all 4 directions. More directions than that actually, thanks to the old shaftways on each side of the building, which were mandated in these tenements over a century ago in order to provide a newly legal amount of ventilation. Of my bunch of windows, at least one each faces N, S, E, and W, with additional NE and SE exposures thanks to the angled shaftway walls. Years ago Adam Thom, an architect friend of mine, referring to the rarity of such a layout at least in the not-top-end luxury apartment market, stressed that I never let go of this place. By then I had taken the home I built for granted, but I also knew what I had, and indeed, was never letting go of this place.