At recent social event I retold the story of how I had been evicted from my first apartment, all of my belongings being taken by the NYC Marshal to a spot under the Brooklyn Bridge that is now probably a hot dining spot. My daughter M heard this tale for the first time.
“How did this happen?” she asked. I told her that I didn’t pay my rent. I lived in the Diamond District on 47th between Fifth & Sixth (which now has some of the most kitschy branding in the very tasteful post-Bloomberg midtown). It was a supremely odd place to live, there being few if any other dwellings in the neighborhood. This was 1974 NYC, one block from the Times Square of the “Taxi Driver” era. My building housed several retail jewelers on the first floor. My apartment shared the second floor with the largest garnet distributor in the country, solemn men in Orthodox garb for whom I did not exist. There were three other tenants of dubious nature, one with whom I somehow had some vague connection that escapes me now.
The owning syndicate had a management agent and my $125/mo rent did not substantially add to their bottom line. Thus, my disregard for rent payments was not a big focus. Occasionally, I would get a call at work (I had no phone in the apartment, which people found shocking) from Mr. Farrell asking me to please get my payments up to date. And I would. Sort of. And then I wouldn’t, and like an assignment that is past due that causes you to cut classes, thus compounding the damage, I would continue to dig myself further into arrears. I would picture Mr. Farrell, maybe 10 years older than I, sitting at his beat up desk, trying to get this errant young Irish girl to get things right for months on end. I felt bad about letting him down.
I saw where this was heading and found a new apartment, armed with unpaid rent for damage deposit and first and last month’s rent. I came home one night after cocktails with friends at the St. Regis, a favorite after office spot, and saw that the locks on the door had been changed and a notice posted on how I could retrieve my personal property. I didn’t cry. I didn’t call my parents. I refused to ask anyone for money because I was simultaneously unashamed and fully aware that I had caused this calamity and so I had to deal with it.
I did have the new apartment, but absolutely nothing else. I was forced to recruit the driver who reported to me for routing printing deliveries to meet me at the Bridge so I could pick my things up and take them to my new place. He was befuddled, as were the men who were the caretakers of the belongings of the beleaguered as we met in the shadow of Roeblings’ masterpiece. “How did this happen [to a nice girl like you]?” “I didn’t pay my rent.” No bad landlord (ok I had no mailbox, the heat was iffy, and the hallways were never cleaned), bad tenant. I somehow liked to think that because I stood up and took my punishment, dragged no one else into this except my friend who had to house me over the weekend, that this was acceptable.
I moved my stuff to my new apartment, met my future husband and got evicted again.