Category Archives: Greatest Hits

Story of the Day: 2-5-11

The Legend of Scary Gary Part 6

The Snakes

Gary loved to make up stories about what he did with his time. What he actually did with his time was hang out on the stoop with his mangy dog and bother us. But in his fantasies, he was the next Scarface.

Of the professions he invented for himself, his favorite was gun-runner. Or gun-sitter, rather. He didn’t run anywhere. People came to him. His stock in trade was machine guns. We first learned about Gary’s side business the way we learned about everything in Gary World: he cornered us as we came home from work and bragged about it to us against our will as we tried in vain to end the conversation.

“Hey meh, you wanna buy a gun?” he asked us.

“We’re good,” we said.

“‘Cause I got guns, meh. I got lots of guns.”

“That’s okay,” we said. “We don’t need a gun.”

We put our key in the lock to the front door, hoping that would give him a sign that the conversation was over.

“I got machine guns, meh. I sell ’em. Don’t try to steal ’em, meh. If you try to steal my guns, I’ll shoot up through the ceiling,” he said.

We removed our key from the lock. This was in the early stage of our relationship with Gary, and we didn’t yet know how seriously we should take his threats.

“We won’t steal your guns,” we said. “We don’t even want a gun. We don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Don’t try to get in my apartment, meh,” he continued. “‘Cause I got snakes.”

“Snakes?” we asked. This was starting to sound a little suspect. “What kind of snakes?”

“Big snakes, meh!” he shouted. One of Gary’s many irritating conversational tics was that he greeted almost everything we said as if we were totally naive, no matter how uncontroversial the topic. Like he could say, “Hey meh, you got your keys?” and we’d say, “yes,” and he’d say, “Phhhh, what do you mean you got your keys, meh? You don’t got no keys!”

But back to the snakes. “Yeah, meh,” he said, “I got big snakes. And if you try to get in my apartment, they’ll bite you.”

“Aren’t they in a cage?” we asked.

“No, meh!” he shouted. “Phhhh, a cage!” as if keeping your snakes in a cage was the dumbest idea he’d ever heard. “They just slither around, meh! And if you try to take my guns, they’ll bite you!”

“All right, Gary,” we said, “we won’t steal your guns.”

“You better not, meh,” he said.

“We won’t,” we insisted.

“You better not.”

“We gotta go now, Gary,” we said.

“Go, meh,” he said. “Stay out of my apartment.”


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Story of the Day: 2-4-11

The Legend of Scary Gary Part 5

Garo Zamrutian is the only person I’ve ever met who had absolutely no redeeming qualities. He was the person for whom the word “odious” was invented. He was odiousness and odiosity made flesh. He looked like a pile of shit, he had nothing but evil thoughts, and he hated everyone who wasn’t white, straight, and/or Armenian.

He wasn’t always that way, or so we heard. Primarily from Gary himself. He loved to tell the story about how he got hit on the head with a baseball bat years ago and now he has the seizure disorder. Those were exactly the words he used when he told us the story. “Hey man,” he’d say. He sounded kind of like Cheech from Cheech & Chong, like he said “meh” instead of “man.” “Hey meh,” he’d say, “I got hit on the head with a baseball bat and now I’ve got the seizure disorder.” He told us this story every other time we ran into him, always unprompted. It was his catchphrase.

Son of Talgot confirmed Gary’s story. He wasn’t sure whether it was a random beating or if Gary was involved in something illegal. Gary was pretty cagey about what happened, so I would assume he was partly at fault. But according to Son of Talgot, Gary was a relatively normal guy before the accident. The beaters must have knocked his frontal lobe out of whack or something. We felt a little bad for Gary the first time we heard that he told us the story. After the tenth time, we wished he would shut up. After the fiftieth time, we wanted him dead.

It would have been a lot easier to have sympathy for Gary if he wasn’t such an unconscionable bastard. On top of being a dog-beater, which we observed with our own eyes often, we had suspicions he beat his mother. Twice in the time we lived above her she had black eyes. When we asked her about them, she’d say things like, “Fall … chair … waters … no trash.” To be fair, she was nearly blind, so if she ever actually had cause to stand on a chair, chances are she would fall off. But what kind of 80 year-old woman gets black eyes? Twice? Ones who are being beaten, that’s … what kind.

The bruises weren’t our only tip-off; about once a month, we’d hear Gary fly into a rage-filled tantrum through our floorboards. His Hitleresque screams, pulsing with fury and hatred, still haunt my nightmares. We never knew what he was angry about because his tantrums were in Armenian. But we knew he was yelling at his mother – throughout the tantrum her mousine squeaks would interrupt his screams, ramping his rage up to ever-greater heights. We never heard anything that sounded like physical violence, but I’m not sure what we would have done even if we had. We were prisoners in our own apartment … if the police showed up, they would not have done anything, and there would have been no question which tenants in the building made the call. He wouldn’t blame the Talgots, I’m sure of that, and the Egyptians flew so far under the radar we all pretty much forgot they were there. And after the police left, we would still be in our apartment, right above a lunatic who was prone to fits of fury and who now hated our guts. We weighed our options and decided if Blueberry Ankles had managed to live this long with that nutcase in the next room, she must know how to handle him.

All that having been said … and that’s a lot for me to admit, that I sat by like a scared rabbit as a man beat his dog and possibly his own mother … Gary was not all terror. He was all terrible. But after awhile, we began to see him as all talk, no action. He had no trouble kicking a defenseless dog and slapping an old woman (again: unconfirmed), but he had a strange respect for Don and me. I feel horrible even thinking this, but we were probably his best friends. At no time did we ever like or respect Gary, but as a source of ridicule, he was unparalleled. The comedy begins … tomorrow.

And by tomorrow, I mean later today. I’m really behind on the story of the day.

— To be continued —

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Story of the Day: 2-3-11

The Legend of Scary Gary Part 4

21-20 22nd Drive was a nightmare of a place, a Hell on earth. It meant well, for the most part. And it didn’t really bother us for the first two years we lived there … we were just psyched to be living in New York. But once we saw how fucked up that place was, we could never unsee it, like the penis on a pack of Camel cigarettes.

There were four apartments in the building. Our apartment was on the second floor. Next door to us were the landlady, Mrs. Talgot, and her troll of a husband. When I say he was a troll, I don’t mean it facetiously. He was an actual, living troll, straight out of a Grimm fairy tale. He had long, greasy greenish-white hair and he appeared to be in his early hundreds. His VW van was completely rusted over and it was filled to bursting with old, broken things and the bones of goats and children.

On the Talgot’s mailbox, underneath their name, Mr. Talgot had written “Talgot Frut Distribs” in a childlike scrawl. A few times a week, we would leave our apartment to find a giant box of rotting cantaloupes or maggot-infested apples sitting in the hallway, stinking up the place. I’m not sure who he was distribbing these fruts to, but I hope they had other ways of getting vitamin C.

The Talgots had a son in his 30s who either lived there or just came over to visit all the time. He always had some kind of get-rich-quick scheme percolating. I asked him once why he didn’t just get involved in the family fruit empire, and he turned serious. “The old man’ll die before I get a piece of that action,” he said. I didn’t have the heart to tell him his father was one of the undead.

In the apartment below the Talgots lived two guys known only as the Egyptians. They were very mysterious. I only saw them three or four times in the entire time I lived there. The only thing we knew about them was that they never made a peep and they had a taste for the kind of women who took reservations, if you get my drift. In a post-9/11 world, we might have suspected the Egyptians of being a terrorist cell, but back then they just seemed inconsequential.

Next door to the Egyptians, beneath our apartment, lived the biggest piece of shit to ever slither out of the womb, a 300-pound Armenian former hairdresser named Garo Zamrutian, a/k/a Scary Gary. Gary looked exactly like Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. Like Ignatius, he lived with his mother, an ancient, unwashed woman with Coke-bottle glasses and a single tooth who wore the same, stained muumuu day out and day in. We called her Blueberry Ankles on account of the prominent varicose veins on her legs. Which was just awful of us … she had the hardest life of anyone on the planet, having to live with that horrorshow of a son.

Still, she was no paragon of decency herself; her only joy in life came from rifling through our garbage, removing items that could have gone in the recycling bin, and presenting them to us with a disapproving lecture in severely broken English. Like, she would go into the trashcan, tear open our bags of garbage, and pull out nasty old cartons of moldy food, then put them somewhere so she could show them to us the next time we left the building. And she’d stare at us with that single-toothed grin and say things like, “This … can … bag … no good.” This happened at least once a week for the four years we lived there. And despite our rude nicknames, we really couldn’t be mean to an old, nearly blind woman, so we’d listen patiently to her lectures while secretly wishing she would fall into one of her beloved trash cans and get carted off to a landfill.

We moved into the apartment in the fall of 1997. Jill and Don drove out in a U-Haul and my dad and I followed them a few days later. As I found out when I arrived, the trouble with Gary started the minute Don and Jill started unpacking the truck. According to Don, Gary insisted on helping them unload. Which would have been great if he’d actually bothered to pick up an object and carry it into the apartment. Instead, he stood by the truck and told them they were lifting things the wrong way for the 2 hours it took them to unload everything. Which was a very Gary thing to do … like his mother, he liked nothing better than to lecture you about what you were doing wrong. And his advice was never, ever useful. Like, you’d wear a new pair of shoes, and he’d say, “hey man, how much did you pay for those shoes?” and no matter what price you told him, he’d say, “Phhhh, that’s stupid, man. That’s too expensive. You shouldn’t pay that much for shoes. Why would you buy shoes? You’re stupid, man.” Like, literally, he would question why you would ever buy shoes. And if you tried to argue with him about it, he’d get angry. “No no no no, man,” he’d say, “You don’t buy shoes! You just get them! You know what I’m saying? You just get shoes!”

It took about two weeks for this act to get old and about three for it to become downright torturous. And we couldn’t avoid him, because he spent every minute of every day guarding the front stoop with his mangy, terrifying pit bull on a leash next to him. That pit bull was a fucking menace and it was because Gary beat the living hell out of him several times a day. He was scrawny and underfed and had this crazed look in his eye like he was just one kick away from ripping out Gary’s jugular and tossing it in our trashcan so Blueberry Ankles could find it and accuse us of fucking up the recycling.


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Story of the Day: 2-2-11

The Legend of Scary Gary Part 3

Before we could move to New York, we needed a place to move to. Luckily, Don knew an old queen with an apartment in Spanish Harlem where we could crash for a week while we looked for a place. Don’s straight, but he was a musical theater major who worked out all the time, so old queens fell all over themselves to give him the keys to their apartments.

The day we left, Don informed me that we had to stop and pick up his friend Jill on the way. I had no idea anyone was going with us, but Don was the master of the ol’ switcheroo. And more often than not, the switcheroo was directly connected to the possibility of Don getting laid.

Jill was okay, but I didn’t really get much of a chance to connect with her. That is to say, I thought she was just okay at the time … over time we became really close. But that’s a story for another time. On the apartment-hunting trip, at least, we didn’t become best friends. Part of the problem was that she and Don were both musical theater people, and they forced me to listen to the Rent soundtrack all the way to New York and back while they harmonized along in musical theatery vibratos. That was most of the problem actually. The other part of the problem was that she and Don seemed to have a thing for each other and I was the giggling jackass who had invited myself along to their party. But if this was what it took to get me out of my pathetic post-collegiate haze, then I was prepared to suffer.

My roommate Jesse in Ann Arbor was from New York, so before we left, I asked him how to find an apartment once we got there. He told me to check the back of The Village Voice. So as soon as we got to New York, I stopped into the nearest convenience store … which I soon learned was called a “bodega” in New York … and bought a copy of the Voice. New Yorkers will immediately recognize the rookie mistake in that statement – the Voice is free. The guy at the bodega wasn’t even sure how much to charge. He was polite enough to take my money when I offered it, though.

The Voice turned out to be useless. Unless you woke up at 5 AM on Wednesday, the day it came out, there was no chance of you getting a no-fee apartment. We had to go the other route, which was to hire a broker. I’m not sure if it still works this way, but back then, apartment brokers in New York took it from both ends. The landlord would pay them to find a renter, and the renter would pay them to find an apartment. It was not cheap, either; one and ½ month’s rent was typical. My second apartment was right above the realty office. I paid the broker something like $1500 to unlock the upstairs’ door.

After a few days of hunting, we found a place in Astoria, Queens, right off the Ditmars stop on the N/R line. It was small, but good enough for two people. Good enough for two people. Not quite so good for three. But Jill couldn’t find a place, so three it became, with the agreement that Jill would move out after we had settled and gotten our bearings. I was somewhat annoyed with this arrangement, having little interest in becoming a third wheel in my own apartment.

I soon learned that three wheels weren’t nearly enough. We needed four wheels, five wheels. We need an army. It was the only way we were going to survive living upstairs from Scary Gary.

— to be continued —

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Story of the Day: 2-1-11

The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 2

Player Black came to us by way of Zeta Psi. Zeta Psi was the Animal House of U of M. It was the frat for the weirdoes and the druggies and the people who would never in a million years join a frat. It wasn’t even a real frat. Legend had it they were kicked out of the Greek Council because someone was making cat in their attic. Cat is short for methcathinone. It’s like crystal meth on crystal meth. It’s made from paint remover and battery acid and it supposedly makes users bleed out of their peeholes. The only place I’ve ever read about cat is in a 1995 article in Spin Magazine. The article claimed the drug was sweeping the nation, but judging from the amount of time I just spent explaining what it is, I think it’s fair to say the cat epidemic has yet to take off.

Even though Zeta Psi wasn’t technically a frat, they still had pledges and hazing and all that fratty stuff. Just because one’s peers do not recognize one’s legitimacy does not mean one cannot adopt those peers’ rituals. I think Thomas Paine said that. I don’t know what kind of thing goes on during the pledge period at normal frats, but from what I gather, the thing that went on during Zeta Psi’s pledge period was drugs. Lots of drugs. They would make their pledges do lots of drugs and then scare them with Frankenstein masks and things. If the pledge didn’t go insane, he was Zeta Psi material.

My freshman and sophomore years, I lived in the weirdo dorm, East Quad. East Quad was home to the Residential College, the program from which I graduated. The R.C. was a small, creative arts-focused college inside of U of M. Most of our classes took place in East Quad, so we didn’t really ever have to leave or get dressed if we didn’t want to. We didn’t have a functioning grade point average because we got written evaluations instead of letter grades. My college transcripts say things like, “participates in class regularly” and “great handwriting.”

Zeta Psi loved weirdoes, so East Quad was the unofficial breeding ground for Zeta Psi pledges. And frat parties had free beer, so we spent a considerable amount of time at Zeta Psi. They once had an Easter party where they gave one of their guys a bunch of acid and crucified him above the front door for the entire party. It was like the Hall of Presidents, only real and scary and with Jesus.

One of the punks I lived with senior year was a Zete, which was how Player Black came into our lives. Player Black had stumbled upon Zeta Psi during a party and made himself at home. The technical term for his residential status would be “homeless,” but he wasn’t like a crusty-old-pee-flavored kind of homeless. He was a hustly, moochy kind of homeless. Like he had more important things to do than find an apartment, and you should be pumped that he decided to share his genius with you for a few weeks. Zeta Psi was in such a constant state of anarchy that they could go weeks without noticing someone had moved in, so it was the perfect place for a dude like Player Black to crash.

He showed up at a couple of our parties, by way of our Zete housemate. The young punks liked him because they were sophomores and he was a total character. As a wisened-old graduate, I had lost my patience for characters. Characters thrive in college towns, where there are plenty of wide-eyed undergraduates looking for a story to tell the next day. Unfortunately, as one learns, the story loses some of its fun when one wakes up and the character is still there.

No one really knows how Player Black got his nickname. He was black. So, I guess that was part of it. But he did not fit any definition of player I’ve ever known. Having a place to sleep at night is pretty much the most minimal criteria for being a player. I can only assume he gave himself the nickname Player Black, which is about the most un-player thing you can do.

His other nickname was the King of Cats, which I also assume he gave to himself. He claimed that cats couldn’t get enough of him. This one appeared to have some basis in reality. Andre’s cat Tricky Kitty really did seem to perk up whenever Player Black came around.

Nearly a month into his stay on the couch at Zeta Psi, the Zetes finally had enough of Player Black and they sent him out on his ass. He packed up his gym bag and headed straight over to our house. At this point, I was no longer on the lease; I was subletting from Andre and the punks for the summer. So I had little say or responsibility over what went on in the house. If they wanted to spray-paint the upper living room and knock out the stairs to the basement so none of us could do our laundry, it was not my concern. I had graduated, and I was sure to be on to bigger and better things come fall. I didn’t know what those things were, but pretty much anything is bigger and better than living in a non-functional house whose interior walls are coated with spray paint.

Player Black fancied himself a rapper. His sole possession was a cheap Korg drum machine that he used for making beats. It didn’t have a speaker, so he’d punch up the beats and make us listen to them through his waxy old headphones, staring at us with a huge grin while we pretended to enjoy them.

“Nice,” we’d say, nodding our heads, because that’s what we were expected to do.

“That’d get the party started, ‘miright?” he’d ask.

“It certainly would get some kind of party started,” we’d answer.

For the first few days of Player Black’s residency, I tried to keep out of it. If the punks wanted him to stay in their house, that was their right. It soon became apparent, though, that no one wanted him there; they just weren’t sure how to get rid of him. And as the only functioning adult, it eventually fell to me to kick him out.

There were two straws that broke the camel’s back. The first happened in the middle of the night. I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I heard Player Black talking to someone in our upstairs living room. “Yeah,” he said, “you like that?” I walked out into the living room to find him sitting on the couch, holding his headphones up to Tricky Kitty’s ears. When he saw me, he looked up and grinned.

“He likes my beats,” he said.

The next morning I’d told the punks what had happened. “I can’t have this guy playing his beats for the cat at 3 o’ clock in the morning,” I said. “He’s a total lunatic. I want him out. Today.” When I got home from work that night, however, he was still there. He was sleeping on the couch in the downstairs living room. The only light came from the TV, which was tuned to a WNBA game. I don’t know why, but the thought of him falling asleep on my couch while watching the WNBA suddenly felt like the ultimate sign of insolence.

“That’s it,” I said. “You’re out of here.”

Luckily, he went without much of a fuss. I guess a guy like Player Black has gotten used to being kicked out of places. Nevertheless, it was the end of the road for me. When my high school buddy Don called up the next week and asked if I wanted to move to New York with him, it didn’t take me long to make a decision.

Spoiler alert: that decision was yes.


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Story of the Day: 1-31-11

The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 1

This one might be a little twisty-turny, because the minute I started writing about it, another part of the story popped into my memory banks and I had to readjust the starting point. But it’ll be worth it, I promise. I hope. I hope to promise.

By the way, 1 month of stories, right? Not bad, right? Thanks. And we begin.

I moved to New York at the end of the summer after my senior year of college. That summer, I had been working in the children’s section at Borders in Ann Arbor with no idea of what I should do with the rest of my life. I wasn’t very worried about it, because I was young and that summer was filled with a steady diet of shenanigans. It’s hard to get too worried about anything when shenanigans are on the menu.

Borders was the best place to work, especially in the children’s section, where we got to do fun things like read books to kids at story hour and figure out how to shelf that annoying series of kids’ books with the googly-eyed animals in which the round, liquid-filled googly-eyes jut out 2 inches on either side of the cover.

That was also where I first discovered my fear of animal costumes. Not of encountering them, of being inside them. I was signed up to wear the Curious George costume for story time. The night before I got drunk. Yeah, college! I’m sure the alcohol was still leaking out of my pores when I got into work, but my coworkers were kind enough to not say anything, even though I was about to climb into a fuzzy suit and interact with a bunch of children.

I got the feet and the body on, no problem. It was when they put the head on me that I broke down. “I can’t do it!” I screamed. “Get this fucking thing off me!” I felt so gross and it was so hot and claustrophobic that I knew the minute I got in front of children, I would either pass out or accidentally murder one of them. I had to spend the rest of the morning watching my coworker Meredith valiantly performing the task that I was too chickenshit to do as I reorganized the googly-eye books for the gazillionth time.

When I wasn’t freaking out inside Curious George costumes, I was going through the post-grad motions in the house where I’d spent the previous 2 years of my life. I moved in the summer after my sophomore year with Chris O’ Connell and four strange upper-classmen, and I was currently on my fourth and final iteration of roommates. This iteration was anchored by Lisi’s younger brother Andre and his friends. I loved Andre like my own brother but his friends were punks. They spray-painted their tags all over the walls of the upstairs living room. Not in a drunken stupor, either. They had a house meeting about it. One dude was like, “do you guys think it would look fresh if we spray-painted our tags all over the upstairs living room, even though none of us know how to paint graffiti and our tags look like the scrawlings of preschoolers?” and the other dudes were all, “Totally.”

We had a lot of weird parties that summer with a lot of weird guests. One night we were hanging out on the porch and this older dude with a brushtache walked by and started talking to us. He introduced himself as Carl. He looked like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused with a dash of Hulk Hogan. He was drinking buttermilk out of the carton. He was one of those guys that you think it’s cool to talk to when you’re in college and drunk on a porch but if he came by one of your parties today you would probably call the police.

That night we ran out of beer after the stores had closed. Carl told us if we drove him to his ex-wife’s trailer, he had a case of beer that he could bring back to the house. I was the only one with a car, so I loaded up 2 guys with me … I wasn’t about to go by myself … and we headed out to Carl’s ex-wife’s trailer, which was like 15 miles outside of town at the end of a bunch of twisty-turny-methy-murdery dirt roads. Carl’s ex-wife was so country that her trailer wasn’t even in a trailer park. Just a trailer, all alone, in the woods.

Before Carl went up to the trailer, he gave us some helpful advice.

“I don’t think my ex-wife is home,” he said. “but if she is, she’ll probably try to shoot me. Keep the car running, and if you hear gunshots, get the fuck out of here.”

Sure, we said, nodding vigorously. Of course. Of course we would get the fuck out of there if we heard gunshots.

He nodded and got out. At the door to his wife’s trailer, he looked back at us and gave us a thumbs-up sign. He unlocked the trailer and walked inside while we watched in terrified silence, hyperventilatedly. After a few minutes that felt like more than a few minutes, like several minutes, like maybe even more, Carl came running out of the house carrying a case of beer. He leapt into the car and slammed the beer on the floor. “Go!” he screamed. “Go, go, go, go!”

We went. We went like we were getting chased by Mothman. We went screaming like children who had been terrorized by a berserker drunkard in a Curious George outfit.

“What the fuck, man?” I asked Carl, who was sitting in the passenger seat, chugging a Natural Light from the case. Natural Light! I swear, we went through all of that for a case of Natty Light.

“Oh, I was just fucking with you,” he said.

“Was that even your ex-wife’s trailer?” I asked.

“Yeah, but we’re cool. I’m still fucking her.”

“Cool,” I said. Inside, I was starting to wonder if maybe it wasn’t time to look into getting out of Ann Arbor.

Carl stopped by one more time that summer, but by then we had a bigger concern: Player Black.

— To be continued —


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Story of the Day: 1-30-11


Our first apartment in LA was in Los Feliz, just east of Hollywood. Before we moved here, our brother-in-law Sonny drove around looking at apartments for us. He found us a reasonably-priced place in a great location. We filled out all the paperwork over email and got the apartment even though all we had seen of the apartment were a few dimly-lit pictures.

It didn’t really matter, because any apartment in Los Angeles is a palace compared to any apartment in New York. The day we arrived, we were speechless. It looked so huge. Our stuff hadn’t arrived yet, so we spent the first three nights sleeping on a foam mattress we borrowed from Sonny & Julia and drinking wine out of paper cups.

One of the biggest selling points of the apartment was the fact that we didn’t have upstairs neighbors. At my previous apartment in Brooklyn, the upstairs neighbors had made me very tense. They fought loudly and often. I always expected that at any minute I would hear a gunshot followed by a massive thump. And one of them wore what sounded like wooden shoes. And she paced back and forth in her 12 X 12 apartment for hours on end. I could never figure out what she was doing, because you could clear the entire apartment in 4 steps.

The only thing above our LA apartment was a patio that was shared by everyone in the building but no one ever used. We did have a downstairs neighbor, a very nice fiftysomething Cuban man named Herve who wore his eye makeup with such regularity that we were pretty sure it was tattooed on. He had a dog named Booboo who he would call to from his porch at night: “BOOOOboooo! BOOOOboooo!” We could sometimes hear his TV through the floor and he sometimes played his disco music a little loud, but overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor.

After we had been there for a few years, Herve was forced out by a rent increase and three hipster kids in their 20s moved in. They weren’t there very often, leaving for weeks at a time to go to Ibiza or wherever beautiful young hipsters go. When they were there, they partied loudly every night until about 11, and then they’d go out for the rest of the night. Which wasn’t such a terrible schedule, because they were usually gone by the time we went to sleep.

When they moved out, another couple moved in who were the exact opposites of the hipsters. They never made a peep. And when I exercised in the apartment — which I did very rarely — the woman in the couple would knock on her ceiling with a broomstick handle instead of coming up to talk to me about it like a civilized human being.

One day I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, and she knocked on the ceiling. I went down to confront her.

“Hi,” I said, “I was sitting on the couch just now and I thought I heard you knock on the ceiling.”

“It sounded like someone was stomping around,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I was sitting on the couch.”

“It sounded like a hippopotamus,” she said. “It was really loud.”

“Well, I exercise sometimes in the apartment,” I said. “You’ve knocked on the ceiling before when I’ve done that. You don’t need to knock on the ceiling, though. You can just come up and ask me to be quiet.”

“That must have been it,” she said. “You must have been exercising.”

“No!” I insisted. “I exercise sometimes, but this time I wasn’t! I was just sitting on the couch!”

“Could you get a rug?” she asked. “That might help.”

This went on for awhile until I finally told her I would appreciate it if she stopped knocking on the ceiling and I walked away. I never exercised in our apartment again, but to be fair, she never knocked on the ceiling again, either. Thankfully, they moved away after about 6 months, I guess because they couldn’t handle my hippopotomusian-bulk.

The final neighbors pushed us over the edge. They nearly pushed the entire neighborhood over the edge. It was two women in their 20s. A few days after moving in, one of them bought a puppy. That night, she put the puppy out on the porch and left. For hours.

As we learned, the “cry it out” method does not work for puppies. After about two hours of incessant crying, people in the neighboring buildings began shouting out of their windows for someone to “shut that beast up.” I thought they were going to start throwing shoes and tomatoes. At 2 in the morning, we finally could take it no longer. We woke the building manager up and told him the neighborhood was on the verge of blowing up our building. He immediately got on the phone and called the tenants, who came home and brought the dog in about an hour later, still yapping.

The exact same thing happened again the next night. Only this time, the building manager couldn’t get in touch with the tenants. The dog yapped straight through until about 5 in the morning, when the tenants got home from work or the club or wherever it was they went at night.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sarah wrote a terse letter explaining to the neighbors that their dog had ruined the entire world and everyone hated them. It wasn’t really that bad. Sarah’s nice. It was the nice version of “your dog has ruined the entire world and everyone hates you.”

Later that day, we got a knock on the door. I opened it to find an incredibly cute twentyish British girl standing in my doorway.

“Hello,” she said in an adorable British accent, “I live downstairs, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m terribly sorry about the dog.”

“It’s not a problem,” I grinned, little cartoon hearts flying around my head.

“He belongs to my roommate, and she works at night, and we didn’t know he barked so much, and it will never, ever happen again.” Smiling and fluttering her eyelids.

“Great!” I said. “Thank you so much for coming up. Really, you didn’t need to do this.” Which was true; she really didn’t need to do that.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said, solemnly. “I’m so sorry he disturbed you.”

“No problem,” I said, “bye now.”

And she went back downstairs. Her apology made no difference; we were already on the hunt for a new place to live. But it was still by far the most neighborlyiest thing I’ve ever seen a neighbor do in response to a complaint.

A few days later I went to see the Ben Stiller movie Greenberg. The movie ends with a big party scene in which Ben Stiller’s character decides to go to Australia with his niece and her friend. The friend looked extremely familiar to me. Long story short: it was my downstairs neighbor. I met her on Sunday, and on Wednesday I was watching her on the silver screen. These are the kinds of things that only happen in Hollywood.

Just this morning I read an article about how she’s going to be the next big thing. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone called her “a sorceress of an actress.” She’s in this movie. She’s the British one.

If any reporters stumble on this looking for dirt, I can tell you this: she’s a good neighbor. But her roommate’s dog is kind of an asshole.


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