Saturday, August 02, 2008

I Think I Saw Your Airplane in the Sky Tonight, Through my Window, Lying on my Kitchen Floor

I don't know how I moved at all, let alone moved from one apartment to another -- I wasn't pursuing life with much intentional forward/directed motion last May. The weather was good though: May '07 busted out some of the brightest, shiniest mornings you'd ever dream to see. Then it turned on everyone. But when I first moved in, we could still walk to blue & breezy Columbia without sweating and most mornings were sunny forgiving things.

I moved into this room around 11 P.M. on May 3rd, 2007, thirteen hours later than I'd planned on arriving. At 5:30 A.M. on May 3rd, I'd succeeded in leaving the psychiatric emergency room at St. Luke's Hospital without my then-girlfriend, who was still resistant to treatment (another symptom of the issue). On May 1st, when an anonymous phone call from a concerned friend landed her (and consequently us) there, she'd convinced the tired doctors to let her leave with me. Not surprisingly, another phone call sent the police to my apartment on May 2nd, and the doctor that night was less tired. It was a hard few days for everyone.

Just quickly -- these are the factual circumstances, they are important circumstances related to me living in this apartment, which is what I want to write about. I'm not trying to make this into a relationship story about my ex. This is an apartment story, but I must provide the outline for it to begin.

That ex-character doesn't even exist anymore anyhow so it's like vapor, a real ghost story from the past.

I've never felt so restless and yet so stuck as I've felt in this room. In a month, I must move out of it. Beneath the plaster lies ambivalence, or remnants of yellow wallpaper.

So 5 A.M., May 3rd: I hadn't finished packing and I was in the hospital. On the other side of a glass divide, someone resembling someone I loved was pounding at said divide, making gestures that blamed me for all the world's ills. Chase called. She's my friend and a social worker too.

"What do you need?" She'd asked.

I don't like to need or ask people to make grand gestures for me. Sometimes, though, you need something so much it overpowers all other potential emotions, like self-consciousness: "Can you meet me here?"

"I was just about to put on my pajamas ..." But she came. She walked me home.

The next morning I woke up at noon-ish to a heap of voice mails and talked to my girlfriend's brother about what hospital to move her to -- a place she'd stay for the next two weeks.

I found a last-minute mover on craigslist. I was nearly broke and this was more expensive than my initial plan -- my girlfriend had the vehicle and the arms. I recruited Haviland & Chase for extra support, and they came and supported.

I'd picked this place a month earlier -- the only place I'd even looked at 'cause my world was unraveling and I was short on time.

I came on a rainy day. The bright-eyed faces of the boy and girl who live here emanated optimism, radiance, a sort of innocent but educated energy unlike anything I'd been close to in months. I'll live here, I thought, and be this kind of person. It's a clean, well-lit place of sobriety, with holiday decorations. I hadn't thought about the 'hood much. I assumed it couldn't be too different from where Chase lived by Columbia a few blocks farther west or any less convenient to groceries than Sparlem.

Oh, but it is!

Today I read this article in the New York Press about a woman who's moving out of Harlem 'cause the romance has fizzled. I was gonna quote it for auto-fun but I kept writing more and more about it, like the article let loose my hatred for this neighborhood.

I guess I don't have to convince myself to like it here anymore, so I don't.


May 4th: We got everything inside and then Chase & Hav left. I sat on the naked bed in my white linoleum-floored room, surrounded by boxes. I looked at the ceiling and cried. I took an ambien, slept, woke up, cried more, and went to hospital visiting hours for a conversation that had nothing to do with moving. It almost helped; all that distraction. I didn't dwell.

Did I hate it here right away? I don't know. Life in general was tough, so the crazies didn't bother me at first. There wasn't a huge gap between my real life and the street prophets hawking apocalyptic scriptures and children's coloring books. I wanted a grocery store and I disliked the strung-out people outside the methadone clinic and the rascals in the lot next to it. But like I said, I didn't dwell.

"Harlem is no place for a woman without male protection."

True. Initially, I had my not-white then-girlfriend who, when manic, looked like she could crush a skull open with her eyes.

After we broke up, I didn't know how to travel besides in male drag or not at all. Life was scary then on all levels. Petrifying, even.

My roommates were kind, outgoing, familial, generous, curious, like Sims in the green. For the first few months, it seemed someone's Mom or friend-from-home was always living on the couch.

I wanted them to like me, and so I started paying attention to things I'd never paid attention to before. I obliged ambitious cleanliness standards. I was quiet, neat, sober, friendly.

Sometimes trying hard to be well-behaved meant I'd just stay in my room while they were home, nervous that any public behavior was destined for mishap. When my girlfriend got out of the hospital, I feared they'd notice all the late-night noise and I still don't know if they did.

Later, I'd find ways to make all that late-night noise on my own. I kept my coping mechanisms far after the problems themselves subsided.

My roommates and I are so different, and I didn't want them to know that. I'm a loner, I like my room and my silence. I've got my own dream/drum, we're beat-boxing to it.

Why the self-consciousness? 'Cause I was stunned when M. told me I'd have to move out of my previous much-loved apartment at 106th. Regardless of logistics I'd never expected a friend to do that to a friend, but I'd been too busy to notice that M. had become a better friend of our other roommate than of me (M. and I were friends prior to my September '06 move-in).

So I was scared of that but also of eruption in general.

-- but I've never lived in such a mean, mean neighborhood before. I'm lucky for sure, 'cause I doubt Burma or Ethiopia or Tibet is a better place to live than silly ol' Harlem, but this is my life for me to speak from and I, who must have lived in a lot of nice places I guess, I say this: Central Harlem is mean. 125th from Manhattan Avenue to Lexington is hot and in your face. Streets packed with the craziest people you've ever seen.

"Maybe living in a gentrifying neighborhood (as opposed to using it for your bedroom while you work and play downtown) eventually brings out the worst fears and prejudices hiding inside each of us."

The grocery store & everything is packed all day, every day. No morning or 5 P.M. rush hour, every hour is rush hour. It's a corporately invaded block: Dunkin' Donuts next to a perpetually swamped Marshall's where the racks are a mess and the line's never under 30 minutes. Starbucks, a bunch of fast food restaurants, big discount stores and sportswear emporiums selling only the ugliest clothing ever made on earth, Chinese restaurants.

The only place I like around here is Lenox Lounge. I met my ex there in Winter '07, after she'd gotten better. That's where she listened to me tell her what happened to us. That's where she apologized and meant it.

I'm afraid to go there alone though, so I don't go anywhere.


The ladies sit lining the street on tacky lawn-chairs gnawing on big sticks of Popeye's chicken, yelling to friends across the street, or pushing double-wide strollers down sidewalks like they've literally got nowhere to be, EVER. The (woman I'd thought was a) trannie says: "I don't even know who my baby's daddy is," and I have to remind myself this is real life, not a day-time talk show, someone actually just said that. People say the strangest things here.

"Thug culture, not “gentrification” is the real enemy."

Gunshots like cockadooledo. Choruses of teenagers yelling in darkness. You hear fights and don't know who's joking. You look away when someone gets hit 'cause you fear continuing to look would kill both of you. You give all your cash away in a few weeks -- your stash! -- 'cause everyone else seems boiling over with want and you're on a passive simmer, who are you to deny them? -- but now you look away and if they get in your face, you want to cry: "I KNOW I should give you something but I'm just fucking not going to anyhow!" 'Cause if you do, where do you stop? Never.

On the corner at 125th and Adam Clayton, camouflage-outfitted men with posters and loudspeakers bellow into the crowds and you're singled out: "Look at the cracker crossing the street," and everyone looks, which is how you already felt anyhow.

The street fairs, hot oiled air, and always the shots and screams and drills. The party that ends in kids jumping on cars and the morning after the party when the street'll smell worse than fish off a Chinatown garbage disposal and there's trash everywhere, just so much trash. They don't clean this neighborhood like they do in other neighborhoods and the political activism that could change that is muffled by so much misdirected anger.

I switched my budget-meal to Ramen last fall 'cause the lines at CVS were shorter than McDonald's, which isn't saying much. I gave up coffee a few weeks ago to avoid all the yelling and panhandling that happens in Starbucks, where the baristas seem more battered every time. Outside Starbucks, there's five fliers to be dodged, a doctrine to duck, products and people hawked up and down like being pelted by birds.

The clothes: big, bright, flashy, gigantic, garish clothes. It's like the rainbow threw up everywhere, and then became the 90's. The woman in the walker who walks clean across the street in the middle of traffic and the Jesus lady who stops yelling to watch her. All the talk of Jesus. Sundays .

i tried to fall in it again my friends took bets
and disappeared in mine
they're sighing violins
i think i'll wait another year
-Amanda Palmer, "Another Year."
One July night, Carly and I are canvassing the neighborhood for some fucking paper -- paper! -- and nothing's open, but the streets are like hot open wet mouths with breath that'll knock you off your feet. We're cranky about the paper and so anyone's touch would've made me recoil right then but fuck, when that man placed his hand flat on my stomach for a few terrifying moments, I could've killed him with my knee. Not 'cause I know self-defense, but because I could've killed anything right that minute!

I tell Carly this kind of uninvited touch happens to me all the time and she says she's never experienced it. I know Carly is better-looking than me, and no more or less intimidating physically, but there's one thing she's got on her side that I don't -- really short hair and an androgynous style.

So in September I cut off all my hair and ditched girly clothes in hopes I'd go under the radar as a lanky boy or at least a lesbian. And I did. For many months, the yelling almost cut in half. In the winter, I covered my white limbs in sleeves and hats, which made for a relatively pleasant winter.

My Mom calls to see how I am and I end up yelling at her about how I can't go outside 'cause I can't handle the heckling right this minute -- how the blare of my ipod tries blocking out words I can see, bodies I can feel, how it's made me mean and hot and angry too, how I want to scream and die and drink all the time -- and she says "Are you taking your Wellbutrin?" and I scream "No not since 2004!" and want to kick my own teeth out.
The moments that made me love New York, when I'd vault out of the subway with my walkman on a perfect song, shimmer in the nighttime's big epilogue hug -- those stopped happening here. For one; your ipod will get stolen, fucktard, put that shit away. Not that I ever take the train home at night anyhow. Two -- your ex-boyfriend the cop tells you to never go out after sunset. That shooting on Memorial Day was nothing, he tells you, there were five other shootings in your neighborhood that same day.

I'm afraid of the moment when I know something bad's about to happen, not the something bad itself. Not the punch but the fist in the air.

In the summer there's always big loud performances or parades featuring lots of yelling about saving Harlem. In the summer there's more people outside in addition to the standard misfits peeing on the street or the drunk porch-squatters starting conversations with you sans invitation. I'm alone, you want to say. Leave me alone, let me be alone.

The first guy to yell; "Welcome to Planet Harlem, white girl." None of the playful, harmless heckling I'd loathed in Sparlem that now seem like conversations with my oldest, dearest friends. The heckling here is like bullets.

It's not about skin color, that doesn't even make sense; I don't care about the skin of my heckler. I care that people are yelling at me and being rude, and when even I stop thinking about the macro-structure of socioeconomics and just bitch about the behavior, you know something serious is happening.

Trust me, I've felt cold contempt all over the place -- the icy glare on the Upper East, the ivy-college snobbery around Columbia, the real-punk disdain lingering in the Lower East, the glowering misplaced tenants of Williamsburg, the Mexicans suspicious of us in Sparlem --

-- it's irrational to hate me or yell at me about anything when I've (me, me, me specifically) done nothing to you.

I know all about the advantages I've had in life but you're not going to even those things out or change anything by yelling at me. It's just gonna be more anger in the air, and I'm hot already.

Not all the people in Harlem are rude, obvs, most aren't. But there are more rude people per square foot here than anywhere else I've been in my life. That probably says something about my life, but actually I won't take that this time. For once: I think it says something about the neighborhood.

Everyone here is so fucking unhappy.

"How did I not realize that I had become another poster person for gentrification, the evil that the ministers of Harlem were now crusading against? The concern, or so I have been told, is that Harlem will lose its “culture” as whites move in. [but] The endangered part of the vital Harlem culture is the art, the music, the literature, the jazz at St. Nicks Pub—which is threatened by the thug culture surrounding it. The bigger part of the “culture,” thug life—celebrated in hip-hop—is intransigent like the rats and roaches and mold in gut-renovated brownstones."

By October, I realized I could go days at a time without leaving my apartment. When my roommates came home, I'd hide in my room and feel crazy. I started feeling such restraint physically w/r/t my interactions @home that I had to let every potential emotion within me unfurl entirely to compensate.

In November, a generous friend enabled me to go to IKEA with Cait and Haviland to get some new furniture and other things to make this place easier to live in.

It was a new lease, I made a new room. New sheets, new life, a new emo cave. Everything changed. Life started getting better.

2008 started. I spent big chunks of time away. This was just a place I sometimes stopped by to check the mail.

But when I was in town, I spent momentous hours in this room, listening to the sirens and the screaming. Sometimes I just want to scream and break my walls open.

Some things got worse, like now I really never go into the living room. I don't know, the other rooms never felt like my space, it was their space that was the way they wanted it and if I went in there I just ruined everything. So I never watch teevee. I eat in there sometimes, but it's awkward (for me) if anyone's around. I wasn't surprised when last week the boy told me it wasn't working out and I'd have to move out in six weeks. I just nodded and said "okay."

When M. told me I had to move out of 106th, I started sobbing. Wailing, I mean it, just wailing, and then M. started crying too, it was a scene of feelings but this time was a scene of the opposite of feelings.

So this time I'll leave with more support. With forward motion. Into territories we both know will be productive, for a change. I feel I've established destructive habits here that are fostered by the probably imaginary sensation of being trapped. I know this sounds insane, maybe I'll be able to explain it rationally once I get the hell out of Dodge.

But the roof! The roof, I'll miss you most of all. When I was with you -- and by that I mean on top of you -- I could see distance hovering out there, tiny boxes like flags being waved at me from the future. There's so many lights still on up there, rooms filled with restless people wanting light to look at each other.

From there I have something beneath me and also sky. Vast, violent, vacant violet hours. Because the roof is just way better than those streets I just described, so who in their right mind would ever jump off.

The last time I went up there was with Alex a few weeks ago. She always hops around a lot so she was hopping around alot. It was nice; the siren music and the night-time, and the girl, hopping from here to there.

"The hard luck God, you never had a chance you know,
Incurable romantics never do.
He held a flame I wasn't born to carry. I'll leave the dying young stuff up to you,

You get back on the latest flight to paradise, I found out, from a note taped to the door

I think I saw your airplane in the sky tonight,
Through my window, lying on the kitchen floor. "
-Stars, "Heart."


Mercury said...

See, it's a good thing you're getting out of there.

I think I understand about the anxiety/not being good enough to take up space in the apartment where you live, for which you pay rent/trapped-feeling/making depressed -er thing

I hope the new living situation is everything you deserve for it to be, aka awesome ritzy & free =P

FIRST COMMENT OMG 1st time in about 100 years

stef said...

i've lived in only bad neighbourhoods for the last five years, and i thought after west philly nothing would freak me out - seriously, your neighbourhood scares the crap out of me. during the day it's fine, the hecklers are kind of out of control awful, but at night.. fuck that. absolutely not. once the sun goes down, i won't walk more than 2 blocks away from my own place, and only then only on main, well lit streets. as bad as it is here (and it's bad), i admit - you've got it worse.

it's completely not gentrification - i hate to say it cos i used to live in gentrification central - but gentrification would do a lot to clean up these neighbourhoods. these people are all fucking crazy. there's a lot to be said about what's happening in brooklyn right now - this for example - but the violence and ugh the fucking heckling - it's just inexcusable. there is something kind of refreshing about living in the only parts of new york city that aren't 'cool' - but really when you live here, it's not cool at all. i don't want to live on friggin bedford avenue, i just want to feel safe walking home at night, and i don't want to have to wear a hoodie in august to keep a crowd of old men from yelling disgusting things at me while i walk to the train.

on the plus side, this is one of my favourite posts you've done recently... i think even if i hadn't walked down your street before, i'd know exactly what it felt like.

and if you need, i'll help you move.

Razia said...

Feeling trapped where you live is probably the worst thing a person could feel. I don't know how you did it for so long.

I really like this:

I'm afraid of the moment when I know something bad's about to happen, not the something bad itself.

Hope the move goes smoothly for you.

Stephanie said...

When I was in NYC several weeks ago, my friend said "where are you staying?" "Upper West Side" I said. I gave her the address. "So...that's Harlem...or most people would say."

"Well. I've never been to Harlem, but I've heard of Harlem. And I've been to Anacostia. So...I'm not in Harlem."

Apparently where I was *used* to be Harlem. Um, now I'm glad I wasn't in Harlem.

Hope the new place, wherever it is, is much better. I liked Park Slope a lot! I would live at the Chocolate Room forever and evs.

But I'm drunk, so probs stupid right now. Did this make sense? Probs not. Did in my head, though.

Lesbianist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lesbianist said...

i've been reading auto-win for a long time (maybe two years?), and never comment because all i'd ever have to say is "yes yes yes," but today i feel sort of compelled.

this post is a) totally perfect and heartbreaking and touching on things that are both obvious and barely there and b) rightly timed for me - yesterday, my room told me that i'm out at the end of august. i'm thinking of taking the path of least resistance: a borough switch to brooklyn.

dani said...

i've never been to harlem, i've never been to new york, i've never been to the USA, but that's not necessary to truely understand where you come from. i've lived in an apartment in a big german city (nothing compared to NYC, but big enough for me...the country bumpkin). before moving in i was like best friends with my roommate. but after a few month i couldn't stand the whole situation. i don't know what happend and when and why, but i really tried everything to be just alone in my room. i avoided to be in the kitchen and in the living room when she was there. i hated my neighborhood and i hated the people in the busses in the subway. i just felt akward. so i decided to move back to my parent's house. i feel like it was one of the best decisions i've ever made...
i hope you'll find a place that allows you to feel the same way.

omg, usually i don't write so long comments...because i'm afraid of making a fool of myself...the english language is a tough thing.
but...i loved your post, i love your writing.

Anonymous said...

I do that when I live with people -- not hang out in common areas because they don't feel like my common area. This is especially true if people were living there first before I moved in. It's a little easier if I had original territory.

I hope you find better luck at the next place.

shannon said...

I had friends who lived in Spanish Harlem. I only went there once, in the company of about 5 other people. I am someone who never, never fears for my own, almost to a fault - but I wouldn't leave Harlem by myself. The heckling, etc, would wear on anyone. Where are you thinking of moving to?

green said...

i liked the part about the roof :)
good luck, little petunia.

caitlin said...

i can't believe this is what you titled this entry. i fully almost used that line as my facebook status yesterday. i love when you write like this, it reminds me of why i first started reading. it was strange to see 'cait' on there, but i guess that's who i was back then. anyway, onward and upward white girl. much love.

Vesper de Vil said...

after that, i'm at a loss for words. you write amazingly. you have amazing strength, and i love how you've turned your experience into art.

basia said...

i'm also moving in a month, but i kicked myself out. it's a long story, and in a way, a PG-13 version of yours... when i get away, it'll be a relief. i hope when you get out, it'll be a relief for you too.

i feel like this post was your writing at its most lively and beautiful. cheers.

Haviland Stillwell said...

this is really lovely, riese. love the story. a real NY story, should be published in a magazine.

A. said...

Now you're just like the Littlest Hobo!

(Chances are that's a total Canadian childhood thing...)

You're also inspiring me to get the hell out of Dodge too, so thanks for that.

Coffee Stained said...

I really loved this. Thank you.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
– Carl Jung


Littlest Hobo? Hells yes!

GILLY said...

In the 6th grade, I lived in the South Chicago projects for a few months. I was the only white girl and my best friend was a boy named Isaac who at 13, was 6'3". Unfortunately for me, ALL the girls in the neighborhood hated me. Maybe it was because I wore pleated, corduroy pants before corduroy was "cool" or because I played stickball and kickball with the boys or maybe it was because I was white. WHO KNOWS! Irregardless, they informed me of the time and place they were going to "kick my ass". I showed up (with Issac) scared to death... Just when it was about to get bad for me, Isaac stepped in and took the girls aside. I am not sure what he said to them, but we were soon on our way to the corner store. Isaac told me that the girls wouldn't beat me up if I got them some Ferrara Pan candy and bubble gum tape. All 6 of us walked into the corner store, the cashier was too busy staring down the others to notice that I was filling my pockets with boxes of Alexander the Grape, Cherry Clan, Jawbreakers, and bubblegum tape. The girls never kicked my ass and I became a petty thief for serveral months.

Those black, pleated, corduroy pants were the only pair I had and if stealing candy (eventually many other trinkettes) to fit in and be accepted, I was all for it.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to share that story with you. Maybe because of the hecklers, or becoming someone or something you are not, or discovering you really are that person with those behaviors. Who knows?

I like when you write. Yep, I really do.

caitlinmae said...

my word veri is orgyg. I thought that needed to be noted.

It's hard to be a woman here. Maybe it's hard to be a woman everywhere, and I never noticed until I became one and stopped being someone's child, never alone on the streets.
also don't take the train from harlem at night, or to harlem at night alone, even if I have to sleep on the fucking floor. It's hard to be a woman here.

I say OOF to the inauspicious beginnings of your apartment, and while i think moving in general is hugely dramatic, inconvenient, and disturbing (because no matter how dreadful the sense is, having a consistent sense of yourself as part of your sense of place is really necessary) I think the change will lead to further onward and upward movement.

I moved to "friggen' bedford avenue." (well, roebling.) It feels very safe, because everyone is just as young and dumb and irresponsible as I am. However, three houses on the block just got broken into, and my roommate got her bike stolen while she was sitting literally ten feet away. Your Harlem is volatile and nasty but there's no such false sense of security.

Do you know where you're going next? I can offer boxes and a moving hand, I'm soon to be between jobs.

jack said...

This type of post if my favorite of yours, mostly because (selfishly) I can relate to that former relationship. Difference/problem is, I split when my ex checked herself into the hospital (after two years of both of us pretending nothing was wrong with her), and then allowed her to lure me back in a few months later, laden with those empty promises of Better Things and Real Love.

So in the spirit of trying to dig myself out for the second time (funny how when the craziness subsides, you find that maybe there's not enough there to hold on to), I think you moving is going to be nothing but beneficial. Aside from the general insanity of Harlem (I was spoiled and lived in Gramercy for a few months, then Wash.Heights, which I actually really liked, despite intensely long subway rides where, upon other things, I was lucky to be in the same car with a homeless man taking a shit in the middle of the car), I can only imagine how much those walls hold for you. I've no doubt that the memories have subsided, but a clean, fresh break is critical sometimes. & maybe find yourself somewhere with less antagonizing streets.

I wish I'd been able to let go & walk away once I heard the sincere apology. I admire your strength there, completely.

Wishing you a safe, easy move to somewhere full of potential.

Anonymous said...

Oddly, this entry made me miss New York, and all of its madness. Also rather oddly, it reminded me of my own time spent in my Brooklyn neighborhood, when I was the only white blond boy for blocks around and called maricon when I would come home alone early in the morning. And it also oddly reminded me of how much I feel like you felt, now, right here in downtown Honolulu, in "Paradise".

Here's to moving, and to changes, yes? And here's to not being afraid to leave our apartments. (I'll be in New York soon, anyway, so you can always call me and I will totes walk you home. Except that a skinny blond woman and a skinny blond fem gay guy might get us all the more attention. Heh.) But mostly, here's to moving and changes.

jack said...

"It was a tiny world, like a toy, and I lived in it and longed to go away."

-Eileen Myles, "Cool For You"

a;ex said...

I love when you tell stories - I could listen to you talk all you want, forevs and evs (except when its 2am and time for sleepy sloos, not cleaning a pan.)

I hate when you write so awesomely that my complimenting words don't do your words justice.

Its [way past] time for a change, yes? If you want to take me up on my offer to commandeer a boat and live as pirates, let me know. We'll have a balcony, obvs.

Haviland Stillwell said...

Also, the factory awaits...I'm organizing a team meeting, and there are interns to get all the pinkburry we all want for creativity, writing, singing, hopping about, swollen glands, etc...

Captain David James Lozo, S. S .A. F. said...

so you're moving or something?

riese said...

mercury: That's the kind of jumping back on the commenting bandwagon I like to see -- first, and with triumph. I think a lot of the trapped feelings are in my head, but I guess my head is all I have.

stef:Warlem makes me miss Sparlem and I didn't think anything would make me miss Sparlem. I've still never visited that juice bar 'cause your review of it was frightening. Sparlem was quieter at night-time but totally scary, but during the day was less obnoxious and mean.

I have to read that Adbusters thing stat. word, re: " there is something kind of refreshing about living in the only parts of new york city that aren't 'cool' -- but really when you live here, it's not cool at all." And I think that's 'cause of the hostilty from residents. It doesn't drive us out -- we can't afford to live anywhere else either -- it just makes us unhappy. I think ultimately who benefits from the situation most is Phizer, Shire, and Jim Beam.

Thisarticle about the "Queen of Harlem Real Estate"was pretty illumating too w/r/t gentrification. I mean the truth is none of us can afford to live in this city anymore no matter what color our skin is. I don't think that's ever gonna change as long as those who feel "gentrified" are focusing on race (which's permanent/fixed) instead of economics, education, other things that could actually make things better for everyone, make people happier and therefore less likely to yell at us. What am I talking about, I dunno.

razia: Yes and I know you know what I mean. Grazi, baby.

Stephanie: There's a few Harlems. Columbia has actually forcibly gentrified its immediate area by buying out all the buildings there, so far West Harlem (west of Morningside) is pretty nice and safe. The middle -- where i live -- is a boiling pit of hell. The east is Spanish Harlem, where I once lived ("Sparlem") -- um, I don't think there are any hotels there.

park SLope is one of the places I'd like to live I think.

Lesbianist: Firstly kudos on the name. Thanks for commenting and I think that like you I will be trying to take the past of least resistence most likely. Brooklyn. I think I like the word, it makes me thing of bubbling brooks of water.

dani: I'm so excitant that I'm not the only one who hides in thier room. I've had a billion roomates over the years and been living w/roommates for over 10 years now, which's insane, so I've been through myriads of situations. It's weird. You can never really predict how it's gonna work out.

Your English is just fine, you did great!

burningsteady: I know I will find better luck at the next place, for sure. And srsly, it's awesome to find out that other people also hide in their rooms, when I've tried to talk to people about that they look at me like I'm insane. 'Cause I am.

shannon: I never feared for my own either too 'til I moved to Sparlem and then I was like whoa reality check.
I don't know. Someplace West for real, maybe Brooklyn like Prospect Heights or something. Every time I do this I entertain fantasies of discovering a free brownstone in Chelsea. You never know. I mean, I do know. Astoria. JK!

green: thank you, little beautiful begonia. :)

caitlin: Onward and upward -- longer names, streets with greenery, hardwood floors etc -- the thing about how we are psychically connected and think the same thoughts at the same time is becoming I believe for real a serious super power and possibly we will one day discover we must sae the world.

Vesper de Vil: thank you for these words, though. i like it when someone thinks something I did was "art."

basia: It'll be a releif I think. I never would've kicked myself out 'til it beame more financially realistic, but that kind of thing never really happens, so sometimes i need someone else to kick me out to make it happen. and thanks!

Haviland Stillwell: Thanks I love you! I'll publish it in Field & Stream I think.

A.: I just need a big giant wolf dog and a big baloon! Cheers for getting out of Dodge!

Coffee Stained: I think when my outsides, insides and heart are more clear and beautiful, I'll be awakening and invisioning and dreaming all over the place.

GILLY: See what would've happened to me is I would've gotten really scared about getting in trouble for shoplifting and put it all on my credit card and then probs taken all the girls out for dinner on my credit card and then never moved out of the projects. Though I guess if I was 13, I never would've had a credit card.

But it's interesting who and what circumstances pushes us to be people we never thought we'd be, and how that works out, or if it does.

caitlinmae: I lived right where you lived once. I think I felt safer there than I'd ever felt anywhere I've ever been in the city. It's a strange place, Williamsburg, like gentrification there has been so obscenely "succesful" that everyone around there really did look just like me. But you're right -- my rommate had her bike stolen there too, and breakins happened all the time -- it's like in Harlem you might get mugged or caught in crossfire, but you're not so worried about break-ins, which's maybe 'cause we're more on our guard here.

I'm building quite a Team Move-in here, yay! You and Stef are already in, I love blogging.

Oh, I didn't. Walk away. After the apology.
The story goes on, I'm just not ... telling it ... ? I can't think of the right words for this sentence, so I'll just end it at that ...

I do a lot of escaping rooms to escape memories. I know if I could've afforded it I would've left this room last summer, almost immediately, and not even that but so many times I've fled an apartment to flee an event or what the walls held regardless of finances, but this time i was like "i'm getting too old to keep doing this, I will stay, I will stay it's not that bad." And I guess it's not that bad, but I'm happy, I guess, to be forced to go. To all the new potential.

atherton:Yes. Here's to moving, and to changes, and to not being afraid to leave our apartments or dwell in the negative thoughts the walls hold. You can walk me home if you wear heels. I often wondered if my gay roomie gets harassed at all, but I'm not sure if it's "apparent" -- I just listened to a This American Life called Sissies and now I'm thinking about that.

jack: I heart you backwards and sideways for quoting Eileen Myles, on so many levels, you don't even know.

a;ex: THat's good, 'cause you do listen to me talk a lot grasshopper, even as I do other characters in other voices. It's way past time for a change, and I guess we've all known this for a while. Balconies are important. For meditation and for directed, solid kinds of hopping.

Haviland Stillwell: Okay, but we have to pay the interns, 'cause I don't want anyone to do to anyone what has been done to me. Therefore I think we need to look into pinkberry sponsering the Factory. Actually, that's not a bad idea ... creating, writing, meditating, singing ... magical team meetings and all ...

Captain David James Lozo, S S AF: You BET I AM, faster than an Atlantic City Hooker.

eric mathew said...

this has nothing to do with the post, but I want to get in on the twitter thing. I have seen like 100 of them and literally want to comment on them.

it just seems like fun. if you need to cheer up watch crossroads.

it will make you happy because britney spears makes millions of people happy.... or atleast her acting does.


Crystal said...

You know how I feel about you living in Harlem. Remember that time we were on the grassy knoll and the police rammed this car of dudes off the road? And a million undercover cops came out from nowhere and arrested them? And those hysterical women were screaming forever? And your flatmates were watching Project Runway? And it was the craziest thing I'd ever seen?

I hope your new apartment isn't familiar with these COPS scenes.

This was fantastic, way more worthy than this comment. I'm really excited about this change, you deserve it.

supr said...

there are already riese coments, /a;ex and hav and cait comments, so i dont plan on a response,but, fuckin yeah i love that song, and you and yours. im moving to get away from mine, whatev, be serious, not the point AT ALL.. as far as the MEETING YOU thing goes, i cant imagine you actually liking ME, that where MY disappointment would come into place. plus i got all defensive. whatev. i stand by most of it.

carlytron said...

this was beautiful. lots of last summer memories. i'm glad you're moving out/on and i'd like to donate my building/assembling/design services to the team (not my moving services, as I cannot lift anything).

riese said...

eric mathew: You just sign up on twitter, it's so easy, and it's the most fun thing ever! I mean, it's not, but my friends and I we like to overcommunicate. I saw Crossroads already obvs.

crystal: Oh do I! Yes, yes, apparently Harlem's ills are inspiring to me; life is suck, I must write, something like that. I thought if Crystal thinks this is crazy, then I am really in for it. I also like that Project Runway stayed on, 'cause that's real life. I'm excitant for this change too. For lots of changes.

supr: Standing by what you say and loving Stars and moving to get away from yours are all good things so whatever you're doing just keep doing it.

riese said...

ooo late add!

carlytron: Oh so many summer memories. You are definitely going to be employing your high-level design skills, 'cause I heard you turned a dump into the nicest apartment I've ever seen. My favourite part is the liquor cabinet. And the patio and the lesbian dog.

emily kate said...

I know just how you feel about the space never being quite yours and feeling like you have to stay in your room to not interfere with your roommates' lives. Every time I wanted to use the living room in my old apartment (in a gorgeous old house in a gently gentrifying neighborhood across from the most beautiful park in Chicago)I would have little imaginary fights with my roommates defending my right to read or watch tv or whatever. It sucks. I hope your new place is better--especially the neighborhood.

e. said...

Late to comment and too tired (don't act broken even when you're broken--a tough job, I think), but I want to nominate this post for the "Sometimes I Am Even Cooler Than Other Times" list. 'Cause I think people are gonna want to read it over and over. Like me. And it'd be nice to have a handy-dandy little link to click.

" I can't go outside 'cause I can't handle the heckling right this minute -- how the blare of my ipod tries blocking out words I can see, bodies I can feel, how it's made me mean and hot and angry too, how I want to scream and die and drink all the time -- and she says "Are you taking your Wellbutrin?" and I scream "No not since 2004!" and want to kick my own teeth out."

This was maybe my favourite part. I felt as though I was reading the kinds of words that have been collecting like rain in the hollow of my own throat. ("Kick my own teeth out" is so exactly right.)

Anonymous said...

I live in the area your mentioning (or I think I do cause I'm not sure the exact area u live in) and I feel like I live in a different world. I live on 120th and 8th and have never had any serious problems and have never felt fear of being physically harmed or robbed.

I'm white, feminine, cute and I do get the "pssst psst" now and then but I get that everywhere. I feel most women probably do. I never thought of it as a Harlem thing.

I do clown a friend who lives on 130th and Lenox that she lives in "Harlem Harlem" (as opposed to just Harlem where I live) because I see and feel the difference between 120th and 125th and 125th and 130th.

But even though she lives in "Harlem Harlem" I still walk to her place often. Usually between 1am and 3am and havent had any problems. I unfortunately (or fortunately) choose to put my ipod in my pocket (atleast from 130th to 125th) just because I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I always feel safe when I get off the subway on 125th and 8th and walk to 120th. Theres always people out and its well lit.

I don't know maybe I've been lucky or maybe I should be grateful I live south of 125th and not north.

Or maybe I've just lucked out so far and am alittle naive. I was born and raised in New Orleans and feel I have lived in some very dangerous areas so where I live now feels like an upgrade.

Any which way I feel sad and sorry that you had the experiences that you've had in Harlem and hope that you find a great new apartment somewhere safe that u can feel fine leaving and walking around anytime you need to or want to.. ipod on and all :)

Good luck! I read your blog often and always enjoy your entries. This one threw me off alittle but I never go past 130th at night and have always said I'd be miserable if I had to live anywhere on the east side of Harlem so if u live closer to those areass than me then I guess it probably makes perfect sense that your ready to say goodbye to "Planet Harlem".

riese said...

emily kate: I know when I'm in there, I feel like my brain is sort of half off the couch, I feel like a little dog with his ears in the air so that he can stop eating the lamp before the door's all the way open and the owners have entered.

e.: Done and DONE! I'm in a phase where I'm currently obsessed with using words in sentences that don't make sense but feel impulsively correct like the only thing i can say and they totally do make sense, which's something mary gaitskill does really well. it's like there's the layer of what it means, and then the layer of what it means because it's impossible. So um, thanks for getting it.

anonymous: Yeah, it's way different even one block over, actually. I live farther north and east than you do, i know the area you're in and it's fine.

I reference in the post where my friend Chase lives -- near 125th and Claremont -- right by the 125th 1-9 stop, and I always felt safe there, even taking the bus or train home or catching a cab on the street at 3 am, usually in some way fucked up and filled with juciy confidence.

I sometimes walk up Adam Clayton from 110th up to 125th and look around and I'm like, holy shit, EVERY SINGLE BLOCK AROUND HERE IS BETTER THAN MINE. I mean, seriously, like the block two blocks west = better. Two blocks east = better. The block one block south is brownstones and beautiful trees, it's surrounded on all sides by nice blocks. I hate 125th -- the area from Fredrick Douglass on over to Lexington is so gross and dirty -- but as far as the exact block I live on, it's basically the ugliest block there is, I don't know how I got so lucky!

But, Chase got mugged on her street before, had a laptop and ipod stolen, so I know that it happens over there too. But yeah-- anywhre south and anywhere west is better than I am.

That being said, you probs have lucked out quite a bit ... as have I, of course, 'cause I've never been mugged or anything. I'm also kinda sensitive to my surroundings. But yeah even my ex would say if she was white, she wouldn't feel comfortable walking around my 'hood, though it felt safe to me at first.

i feel like you live by that nice wine store and Starbucks and stuff. I really just totally did not luck out at all.

So here's to the future!

Anonymous said...

"but as far as the exact block I live on, it's basically the ugliest block there is, I don't know how I got so lucky!"

Smh at that shit. Sounds like a week on your block would have been a week too long for me. I'm happy your finally on your way out. And its official farther north and farther east is definitely not a good look.

Glad my ass lives right next to the "nice wine store and Starbucks and stuff." lol

Heres to u finding a new apt on a good block. Fuck a bad block! And I'll keep my fingers crossed that this time u really do luck out and get a spot on not only a good block but in a good neighborhood.

Jennifer Hubbard said...

this really is an absolutely beautiful post.
and i really am not able to explain why i love it so much.
but i do.
-Jennifer Hubbard

taylor said...

This is really resonant for me right now. Leaving my neighborhood for good (well, and the city for good), I realize I'm not sure if I'll ever live in such a forgotten, disenfranchised community again. Of course, I'm only there half the week, the other half I spend in the semi-gated community/lesbian paradise of outer park slope. Those things balance out, I guess.

Last Thursday I heard 5 gunshots go off, close, really really close. I mean, yeah we hear them all the time but usually they're at least a block away. So it was either in the alley below my apt. or more likely on my roof. I live on the top floor of a walk up, the 5th, and the roof isn't locked of course. The fire escape connects the roof to my bedroom window and there are no bars or locks on my window-- something to do with fire code. So before waking Kelsey up I spent about 45 minutes in silence, stalking around my apartment trying to decide if we were both about to die, as we'd seen a vaguely out of place one-eyed character lurking around on the 5th floor hours earlier, who seemed like a good candidate to kill and rape us. Hopefully in that order?
I didn't call the cops, of course, like you would if you were in Park Slope or Williamsburg or the East Village or a lot of places, because once you do that, of course they know the two tiny white girls in #52 did it and now what?

I feel a lot safer in Winter. The New York Times murder map shows a significant downtick in murders in a 2-block range from september to march. Now I have to wear short sleeves because I'm always hot when it gets the least bit warm and my hair's longer this year, and it makes me nervous. I was mainly invisible last summer, cropped hair, long shorts and I tend to dart around for what I need. I won't wear skirts like my cousin and roommate does every day. she also will walk on Nostrand past 11pm, which I won't, but then again maybe she learned her lesson after almost getting pulled into a passing van when she was high one night. My hair was the shortest its ever been last summer because I had a Bad Year and that was the least destructive part of myself I could jettison, as women often do. My hair's longer now but at least I'm leaving.
I wish I could learn more about my neighborhood, like how it houses a well-known, well-attended gay bar right on its most dangerous street, and yet every other business is caribbean. I still haven't tried the jerk chicken and I guess I probably won't before I leave. But I'll probably start checking the interactive murder map again. And I don't know if I should feel better or worse that the NYPD moved their eye-in-the-sky cherry-picker off my block this weekend. It usually comes back around.