Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake, looks at contemporary life in New York (and Alaska) in her new book of essays, How Did You Get This Number (Riverhead Hardcover, 2010.)
Event: Bryant Park's Word for Word Series.
I had mostly very positive experiences with roommates throughout the 90s til 2004 with one exception. She was renting a sleeping loft space in my 1BR and somehow never figured out until after she was moved in that her need to sleep sitting up due to an undisclosed medical condition was not possible in the loft. Also, she claimed her father was a pharmacist and had a locked box of all kinds of medication she needed for whatever was wrong with her lungs/esophagus. She lasted 3 months in my place, whereas none of my other roommates ever left until being there one year.
The summer of 1968 was really hot, the way summers were hot in those days (much like this summer).
My first apt. was a $50 one-room on Bank St. Something was wrong with the front window, and I had hinged a huge piece of 3/4" plywood so that I could lock and secure it when I went out--which I often did, for some reason I can't remember, through that window.
And the apt. was right above the boiler, and the wall was often HOT.
I got sick. I had a raging fever. I couldn't swallow. Anything. Everything I tried to drink burned my throat. Finally I discovered I could get down Coke, or any carbonated drink. That, and St. Vincent's, helped a lot!
(Soo spooky to see the empty St. Vincent's at night these days, like this hovering beast from a horror movie . . .)
Moved to New York after college, broke, temping, trying to find a place to live. After weeks of couch crashing and looking at overpriced shoe boxes for $1000/mo I beat out a number of competitors for a sublet in Bushwick (because I had cash in an envelope). The loft space was DIY, no AC during a heat wave, no idea who was living there (although I heard a baby crying from one of the rooms). Got a terrible rash (or bug bites??) from the sheets, someone stole all my food (found out years later that the building was shut down by the city and gutted).
My first apartment was the WORST.
It was in South Park Slope.
Tiny rooms, mice, cockroaches, 7' ceilings (I later learned that 8' are the legal minimum). Many winter days without heat. Broken windows, walls that seeped liquid. The water came out of the tap almost boiling- which we thought was an asset, as we never needed to boil water for tea. Apparently that's a major housing no-no, and what ended tripping up the development company-landlord in housing court.
It was so horrible that when the housing inspectors came one of them told the other "It's horrible here, I don't want to be here any longer, can we go?"
If you're freaking out an NYC housing inspector you know you've reached rock bottom.
The good news is that my roomie and I found an incredible apartment that is much larger, cheaper and does not terrify visitors.
I was one of the lucky ones - sort of. Found a 5th floor walk-up on W 106 at Riverside with two terraces overlooking the river, high ceilings, brick, and newly renovated - even a dishwasher and lots of sun, at age 26, and just out of school we felt like were living like kings. Threw some wild parties and planted a garden with Manhattan-grown tomatoes and strawberries. Moved in with a friend which was great, until he moved back to India and I have had a series of roommates of varying sanity. The place is still lovely with the exception of the FLOODS when it rains heavily, and a serious mold problem coming through the bricks. It takes 4 weeks for the landlord to send someone to make shoddy repairs that don't actually fix the problems - but still I endure.
Forgot, the Caramoor show in the Greene Space last night was FABULOUS!!!
My first apartment I lived in Bay Ridge with a hoarder who didn't shower, EVER!Her family came over to visit leaving dirty dippers everywhere. I intervened when the garbage and dirty laundry in her room was waist high and reeked. Horrific.
my second apartment had our first dishwasher.... roommate figured dish soap goes in the dishwasher... makes sense... bubbles and water started pouring our of the dishwasher onto the floor the second day of our new apartment!
One roommate was a complete control freak who tried to rule me in my apartment.
One left at the end of the month leaving a note that she could not afford the place anymore leaving me to pay her portion of the rent for that month.
Another one was a total nightmare - broke all my rules and put me in trouble with the building management twice.
I had two roommates. One was a promiscuous bisexual--you never knew who you'd bump into. I put up with that. But when it turned out that my other roommate was dealing heroin, I moved out. Oh, the '70s.
Young artist, early 80's that famous Brooklyn Gowanus artist building at 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street. There were 10 of us, it was November, heat had just been turned off for non-payment. We lived in tents with kerosene heaters. Amazing we didn't burn the place down! Cold showers. Young eager artists. OK, back to painting now. Thank you! Gail
Funny book on the subject: "Roomies" by Kathryn Williams (Chronicle)
My first apartment was on Staten Island, still part of New York City I believe. It was in a not well maintained garden apartment, and even after I painted, mold grew on the inside of an exterior wall. While taking a shower before work, an entire wall of tile fell off the wall into the tub. Scared the hell out of me, but no injuries.
1975, the last building on Atlantic Avenue before the BQE, floor-through (at least I had the bedroom with the windows).
My roommate's cat peeed on my collection of Haight-Ashbury concert posters, broke my heart.
My first roommate went off to work at a summer camp and returned with a bunch of foreign nationals with extra time on their visas. This went on for three months! One night I remember counting 15 people and a pet rat sleeping in our three bedroom in Ridgewood Queens. It was basically a hostel.
1st apt was in the Village, 1989. 5 rooms carved out of 600 square feet... 1st roommate wound up in rehab, another in a mental institution, another ran out on 2 months rent and a $200+ phone bill, another became a "Single White Female"-style stalker of my girlfriend and gave both my bandmates the clap... The landlord wound up taking my deposit, blaming all the damage that was there when I moved in on me.
Kate Millet - she's the one who made it famous. more so than McGurks. Kate is like the last hold-out of the old Bowery.
I can tie her, my place at 208 bowery was busted for slave trading in 1995. lol.
The room mate thing never works, why do people keep doing it? Insanity.
It's not exactly about roommates, but SMITH magazine (they of the 6-word memoir) did a whole series of comics about memorable next-door neighbors, at http://www.smithmag.net/nextdoorneighbor
A huge loft space, entire 2nd floor of an industrial building in Bed Stuy for only $1000 a month. Wonderful! Until the Unknown Bikers moved their gang clubhouse into the empty space on the ground floor. After that it was all night parties, threats and a mobile brothel that mysteriously reduced our water pressure to a trickle.
At my second apartment in New York, which I found on Craigslist, I ended up living with a nice girl...who attempted to kill herself in her lingerie twice in a week. She disappeared for a few weeks after that, probably to the psych ward...when she returned I told her I had to leave to go live with my boyfriend in a new amazing apartment we'd found...which was a lie. I actually moved back in with some old friends until I found an studio for JUST ME.
Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm
your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the
right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the
Comment Guidelines before
By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's
It's your neighborhood, your city, your country, your world, and now your website. Brian Lehrer delves into the issues and links them to real life.