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I once had a roommate whose days were upside down. I would wake up in the morning, get dressed, and go downstairs to find him sitting on the couch, smoking a joint too big for one person, drinking a Heineken. Always Heineken. “You want some, dude?” he would ask, extending the joint my way. I always declined. It was 8am. He would eat dinner, watch daytime tv, and knock back Heinie after Heinie until he went to sleep around 11 or so. I would get home at about 5, light up a joint, and watch him get ready for work.
Many nicknames came out of that house: Big D. Chee Chee. Admiral Howe. Rosco. Keller was the only one to retain his own name, even though that was not his first but middle name. Big D had a habit of throwing his hands into the air, shaking them and referring to himself in the third person... “Big D needs some dinner!” “Bedtime for Big D.” I can’t get the essence across without the visual of the oscillating hands in the air. It became a household signal for either excitement or disgust or a reference to Big D. Good old Dan.
When they all moved in, we bought a 30 pack of Genny Red and drank it while sitting upon piles and piles of stuff. The old crew was still there, fiercely guarding what little remained of their rooms. I was lucky enough not to be moving, and I had a bed to sleep on. When I woke up in the morning, some drunk guy had wandered in off the street and nested in the bathroom. I was as patient as I could be, but finally told him to hurry up. It was the first of many unusual and uncomfortable moments.
I had never once called 911 before I had moved there, but within a year I had called at least eight times. The two crack/immigrant boarding houses across the street saw to that. Once one of the more respectable neighbors hit a pot hole at the corner and sailed over the handlebars, breaking both his arm and his face on the pavement. That was one of the more mundane 911 calls. My favorite was the time one of the Puerto Rican kid jumped over the front porch rail and chased some black kid up the street with a meat cleaver.
I could easily spend a month telling tales of Torr the Junkie. He moved in after Joanne had gotten rid of all but one of the nine kittens, and finally removed herself, her slutty cat, and its only remaining son forever from my life. It took several weeks for Torr to be forthcoming about the fact that he owned a pet rat. It took several months before I found out he was usually smacked out of his mind. I just thought he was kind of a spacey character. He would talk and just....kind of.....trail off....and then....come back....talking about fried chicken.
It wasn’t always easy having Jimmy for a roommate. Dauna used to talk about him: “...you know, Greek god Jimmy.” To say girls liked him was a gross understatement. Girls made dew in their panties at the mere mention of him. The worst part was that he and I got along really well. He was not only a shining Adonis, but an incredibly talented artist, and a profoundly humble character. We hardly knew each other upon moving in, but became good friends along our tenure at 19A. He had an older brother named Fabio, and they shared a Ford Festiva.
One night I was summoned from the depths of sleep by the sound of incessant horn honking. Someone was parked at the cul-de-sac, beeping. I went to the bathroom and gathered a long stretch of toilet paper which i balled up and ran under water. I went out to the front porch and looked at the beeper. He kept beeping. I wound up and launched the giant spit-wad as hard as I could, falling short about twenty feet. As I turned to go the beeper threw the car in gear, gunned it and sideswiped at least eight cars onthe street.
I forget why I had called, but Mary told me that Jack had cancer; a tumor the size of an orange in his stomach. I had hung up the phone and cried hard by myself in the kitchen. I suppose that’s the price people pay for being really nice people: someone they love gets dreadfully sick. He was in and out of the hospital, and seemed to be on the mend. Months after I had moved out, while revisiting, Keller gave me the news that Jack had died. Keller only found out because the flower delivery had the wrong door.
The guys at the liquor store would automatically go to the walk-in and grab a 12 pack of Meister Brau when they saw any one of us coming in. Mr. Beer: the staple supply at the house. We would all go without food or heat, but would have rather died than go one night without a taste of that sickly watery brew. Poor Benny could never get it right. He would have to call the house and ask one of us to make the run for him, because he could never remember to make it before he left for work.
One would think that five guys could come up with at least one hundred dollars to put into heating oil, but not these five. Being at home was a difficult exercise in suffering. The only relief from brutal new england winters would come when we would all shut ourselves in the kitchen and take turns cooking food in order to get some degree of heat circulating. Eventually I bought a space heater and stayed in my room at all times. I even brought a bottle to piss in so I wouldn’t have to make the journey to the frigid bathroom.
Safer Potato was the most prolific musical ensemble to emerge from The Rug Is Brown Studios. I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute talent to a few songs on the Big Boss of the Henyard album. Guitars on the title track, drums on “Even Honeybees Get Thirsty,” and various other crap on a few other songs. I later covered that beautiful love song “Jiffy Lube” in a Rosco project. I always loved that last line in which Big D screams out over a cacophonous din: “I’ll fuck you in the bathroom of the Jiffy Lube baby!” Pure poetry.
It was nice having a studio space inside the house; no need to travel to another part of town to get some work done. We all know how
goes. At first I set up shop in my bedroom, something I would never do now. Those little specks of copper dust add up quickly and have the potential to make you very sick. Then I moved to the back porch, which was really nice, except all my tools rusted in short order. It was screened in, you see. Eventually I moved upstairs into the storage space until I moved out.
I thought we were just fooling around, but Big D thought otherwise. He’s pretty fucking quick when he wants to be. He got in two shots, one to the nose and one to the side of the head before I even realized that he was taking this as seriously as a brain tumor. He kept muttering something about the Yankees, and how he was fed up with my abundant apathy for their penant race. So I tackled him and threw the both of us down into the brown chair in the corner. The Yankees ended up taking the Series anyway.
The next time I found a stranger in the house, it turned out to be Emil. Not Eh-meeel. Eemul. He was Torr’s friend from Chapel Hill, NC. Torr never mentioned that he’d be having a houseguest. I came home to a weird kid sitting on the front porch playing my guitar. He stayed with us for two weeks. At times he was amusing. One night they went out cruisin in Torr’s “new” car, the one he had gotten “for a song,” the one with no license plates, and lost the dog that Torr had somehow adopted. It’s name was Harold.
The dog’s name was Harold, not the car. We never saw Harold again. One night I heard the neighborhood kids yelling his name, and I looked out the window to see a german shepard trotting up the street. I gave chase, thinking that Harold had found his way back home, but found out too late that it was the evil german shepard that lived around the corner. He in turned chased me, biting me sharply on the ass. I plotted for months after that to kill that dog by adding ground-up no-doze into hamburger, but never got around to it.
Ben got a chess set for christmas, and we all took to playing alot. I was riding a winning streak a mile wide. Danny refused to play anymore because he couldn’t win against me. At a party one night, I found a book called
Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess
, which the owner gave to me. I secretly devoured the book in my room, snickering at how I would now be invincible. On the day I finished, I asked triumphantly “Who wants to play?” After that, I couldn’t win to save my life. I lost for months on end. Thanks alot Bobby.
It wasn’t the first time I had thought about murdering one of the neighbor’s dogs. The people next door got a Tiny Yapper, and kept it cloistered in the kitchen, directly across from ours. That thing was incessant, keeping the same tone and sense of mild urgency in its yip from morning till night. yip yip yip yip yip yip. It never stopped. Of course, poisoning this dog would take a bit of skillful maneuvering, while poisoning the evil german shepard would be as easy as lobbing a pound of caffeinated meat over the fence into his special holding cell.
I suppose I should give due attention to Caitlin and Rob, but I really can’t think of how to phrase it. Rob was a mixed bag. He could be a great guy, but too often showed how he could be a real selfish prick also. Caitlin was mousy and seemed a little out of place from the beginning. She’s the one who gave Torr the go-ahead. I never would have guessed that she and Rob would become an item. They each approached me about it separately, and asked me not to betray their individual confidences. I told neither of them.
We couldn’t say no to Michelle’s pleas.
We accepted the cat. It was November, and the cat wouldn’t survive the winter.
My People: Please.
Do NOT take unto thy hut such foul moochers.
Do not accept guests with names like “Scary” or “Lucy-Furr” or “Wee-Jah” or “Polly-Esther.”
Thy hut wouldst be befouled by such moochers.
Thy entrenched ways of selfish indulgence shall forever be besmirched.
Cat litter smelleth the same, regardless of how much money thou spendest per pound.
Thy meager furniture is but fodder for such claw-laden beasts.
Seekest not to openest thou of one single can of tuna.
You have to lift the key up, see? While you are turning it to the left. Ok. Now, closing it, also there’s a trick. First, turn the knob to the left, and firmly push the door all the way shut. Annnnd Release. Easy. Don’t slam it, ok? Not only does it not work, it really pisses off the landlord. Ok, let’s go. Clunk clunk clunk. Eight steps. Landing. Three steps. Which way do you want to see first? Let’s keep going and work our way down. Four steps. Landing. Six steps. Take a right, the can is the last door.
Ok. All set? Let’s head back down. Here on the left is the quote unquote storage room. Dan lived here for a while, and later I had a studio here. Many people lived here after that, but I wouldn’t know them. Right is Rob’s, and later Tyler’s room. Here on the left is Keller’s, as well as the Rug is Brown Studios. Straight ahead is the Tiny Space. Let me think: Joanne, then Torr, then Ben, then Dan lived here. At the right is my room, once shared by Joanne, and later by Rusted Productions. Let’s go back downstairs. ok?
Clunk clunk landing. Clunk clunk. Left: Library and front porch. Straight ahead is the Door to Nowhere. To the right is the dining room. Let’s go there. Not too shabby. Here on the left is the living room. Yeah, I dig the columns too. To be honest, the columns were the selling point for me. Ok, continuing on. Through this swinging door is the kitchen. Back here to the left resides storage, refridgerator, washer and dryer. W
D. Believe it. And back here is the back porch: Often storage, one time crashing space of Torr’s, and one time studio.
We only had one pair of gloves, so Ben and I had one hand warm, one cold as we carried the keg back to the liquor store. He got right, I got left. We had thrown a party, and haardly anyone came. The first time we did that we had a huge bash and made quite a bit of dough off the keg. Not so lucky the second time, we drank cheapo beer for weeks, until we absolutely had to get the keg back or lose our deposit. We filled up about eight two-liter bottles and set out for Blanchard’s.
I got used to the shudder that would wind its way through the entire structure when the train ran by. First time visitors were often shocked by the sudden seizure that no one else seemed to notice. It was silent and tremulous. Getting on the subway was like fumbling, suddenly awake and then stumblingly at work. I stumbled out of bed, onto the train, trundled out 13 minutes later and walked into work. While riding the train home one day, I was the only person who spoke up when a guy grabbed one of the candy-vending kids by the throat.
I have trouble believing that really happened. I never bought candy from the kids, but I still treated them with respect. One afternoon, one of the boys asked the guy sitting opposite me. Without hesitating, like a reptile striking, he grabbed the boy sharply by the throat. The poor kid stiffened like a field mouse. Incredulous, I looked around me. Everyone was watching and nobody said anything, so I yelled out. He let the kid go. Apparently, they already knew each other, because they talked for a bit. And I felt embarassed because I had made a scene. Orange Line.
I started collecting broken old televisions that people were throwing out. At one point there was a huge wall of them, stacked like bricks in the living room. We endeavored one night to each decorate one of them and return it to the room, recreating a wall of broken entertainment, and gaudy dressing up. Eventually, everyone got sick of looking at them, and Mark took them away one day for a project that I don’t think ever fructified. I kept the one that is mega-fifties style and has a slide-out record player in the side. It doesn’t work. So what?
Two days left in our sublet of the loft, and things were getting desperate. We found the house and signed on right away. I think we may have been the first to look at the joint. I can’t stress how amazing this find was. September 1st in Boston ranks up there with the Marathon; you plan to be inconvenienced if you are going anywhere; with U-hauls lining every street like an invading army. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be moving, fuggedaboutit. We were lucky not to be moving back in with our respective parents for lack of vacant apartments.
This month’s batch is a brief memoire of time spent at 19A Asticou Rd, in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Three and one-half years. I neglected to mention a couple people who lived there, but either have nothing bad to say about them, or have so many bad things to say that it would be in poor taste. The lesson I learned is this: Don’t set a pre-determined theme, and never, ever live with more than one more male. Some things that I would feel remiss in leaving out: sea-monkeys, a sink full of dirty dishes, and never enough to go around.
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