Tag Archives: Scary Gary

Story of the Day: 2-19-11


The Beast in the Hall

When Don and I moved into 21-20, we were given explicit orders from our landlady, Mrs. Talgot.

“No guest,” she said. “No party.”

“No guests?” we asked. “We’re from Michigan. Our relatives don’t live around here. We’ll definitely have guests.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “No long stay.”

Okay, we agreed. No parties. No guests for long stays. Should be easy enough.

The week after we moved in, our friend Rion from high school came out to visit. He was planning on moving to New York and he needed a place to crash while he looked for an apartment. We were not real excited to break one of our two rules in our first week living there, but we thought as long as we kept it quiet, no one would ever know. Rion would hang out with us for a few days, find a place, go off on his own, and no one would be the wiser.

We really should have known better. Mrs. Talgot lived in the apartment next door, and no one who lived in our building ever left. With Scary Gary patrolling out in the front and his mom rooting around in the garbage all the time, it was impossible to go in or out of our building without everyone knowing you were there.

The second day Rion was there, Mrs. Talgot knocked on our door.

“I see man. He leaving. Who he?” she asked, suspiciously.

“Oh, that’s our friend Rion,” we said. “He’s just here for a few days.”

“I don’t like. He leave,” she said. God knows what Rion had done to upset her. He did have blue hair, but then, so did she.

“Well, he’s looking for an apartment,” we said. “He’ll be gone in a few days.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Few days. After that, gone.”

The few days stretched into a week. Rion was having no luck finding an apartment and in our estimation was not trying particularly hard. We told him about our predicament, but he didn’t seem to grasp the difficulty of the situation.

“She’ll be fine,” he said. “Who ever heard of an apartment where you weren’t allowed to have guests?”

Which, in retrospect, is absolutely true. It was our apartment, we were fully grown adults, and if we wanted to let our friend crash on our couch for two years it was nobody’s business but ours. But we were fresh off the boat; we didn’t know how things worked in New York, and we didn’t think it was advisable to piss off our landlady who lived right next door in our first week in the apartment.

Everything came to a head after about ten days. Rion went out for the night and for whatever reason, we neglected to give him our keys. He got home early in the morning, around four o’ clock, when Don and I were both dead asleep. He rang our buzzer repeatedly with no response. Somehow, he managed to get in the building … I’m still not sure how that happened, ’cause that place was locked down tighter than Al Capone’s vault.

We woke up around 7 to find Rion and Mrs. Talgot engaged in a screaming match in the hall outside our door. I went out in the hall to find out what was going on.

“He sleeping!” she screamed. “He sleeping in hall!”

“I had to!” he shouted back. “They wouldn’t let me in!”

“I want him out!” she said to me.

“You get out, you old bitch!” Rion screamed back.

That was the last straw. Rion had no money, so Don and I gave him $100 to find a hotel for the night. He begged us to stay, but we felt like we didn’t have an option. We sent him out into the streets, and I didn’t hear from him again for almost eight years.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I still regret it. Yes, he probably could have been a more conscientious guest. If I’d been in his position, I would’ve found an all-night diner to go to instead of sleeping in the hall of our building, right outside the door of the woman I knew was gunning for me. But hindsight is 20/20, and as one of his close friends, it was a pretty shitty thing for me to do.

The next time I saw him was at my going-away party, when Sarah and I were leaving New York. He had gained about 30 pounds in muscle mass and he was now a renowned hairdresser who operated under the name Orion. Things had turned out well for him, it seemed, which eased my conscious a bit. I don’t know where he is today. But Rion, if you read this and you ever need a place to crash in LA, please know that you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Just try not to call my wife an old bitch.

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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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