Five things about my first NYC apartment

1I moved to NYC in 1987, and found my first apartment through an ad in The Village Voice—a third floor walk-SullivanStreetup, 2 bedroom on the corner of Bleecker & Sullivan, in the heart of the Village. (I had to be told what the “village” was; I was from Michigan for god’s sake.) About half of the apartments in the building were “rent-controlled” (I also had to be told what “rent controlled” meant—see note about Midwestern origins). My apartment was not rent-controlled, because it had been somewhat “renovated” in that cheap, fake wood, white cupboards kind of way. But at least it had a bathroom, so I did not have to use the one located down the hallway, shut behind a combination lock, for those rent-controlled, but toilet-less, apartment dwellers.


2The apartment was tiny and dark, of course, with one window, which looked out onto the brick wall of the adjacent building about 5 feet away.  The selling point was that I had my own “bedroom,” with a door I could close, though the room was only as wide as my double futon bed (I had to get up and out of it by crawling out the end).

3My roommate had one prized possession that served as the lone piece of “decoration” in the place: a bust of an armless female mannequin, painted gold, kept “clothed” with an oft-changing array of scarves and hats, and which sat perched upon a white Roman column. I will never forget that thing.


4We were broken into one time, during the one hour my roommate and I had gone out for a drink at the Great Jones Café (which is still open; great place). A guy climbed up the fire escape and into the window of my bedroom. Since there would be nowhere to step from the window other than directly onto my bed, I remember coming home and finding a large black footprint in the middle of my bedspread. The only thing stolen was my North Face down winter jacket that I had kept from 1970s high school days … apparently the armless mannequin was too difficult to cart off.


5I will never forget the constant presence of the strange old man who shuffled up and down my block of Sullivan Street in his slippers and bathrobe, mumbling to himself. I soon learned who he was when I opened the NY Times one morning: Strange Old Man on Sullivan Street is New Mob Power. I later found out that the FBI had a surveillance apartment right across from our apt for years, keeping an eye on good ole Vinny “The Chin” Gigante, head of the Genovese family, the second largest organized crime family in NYC.  The FBI’s story was that Vinny’s “crazy” man act was just a ruse; they did eventually convict him, and he later died in a federal prison.