Thursday, January 31, 2008

Little apartment of doom

When my kids were little, Mr Charm determined to finish his PhD, which meant we had to move back to New York City. I made the foolish mistake of trusting him with the task of finding an apartment. He found one out in the far reaches of Far Rockaway. It was Farthest Rockaway, because it cost two subway tokens to get there.

It was hard to believe you were still in New York City--it was about as un-urban as it could get, without being in any way rural.

Our apartment was on the second floor. As we drove up, we caught an unwelcome glimpse of the downstairs neighbors. Mom was an enormous slattern, one son looked like a thug, and another was clearly a little bit wanting in the upper storey. They were arranged all over the front of the house, wearing wife-beater T-shirts (Mom wore a stained housedress), drinking beer, and playing the radio at a deafening pitch. Apparently the first floor apartments in this neighborhood were very difficult to rent as they were prone to flooding, and so attracted undesirables. We nicknamed these folks the Jukes family, but they could as easily have been the Kallikaks.

In all but the worst weather, the Jukes held court in front of the house, playing music, eating, and throwing food wrappers all over the sidewalk. We got to consider them something of a conversation piece after a while.

After meeting the Jukes, we had another surprise in store, but that one had to wait until we went to bed. I was exhausted, and dreamed that a railroad train was running over me. It wasn't a train--we were directly under the landing approach for Kennedy Airport. Every night, all summer long, planes flew directly over our heads, making television watching, conversation, and for the matter of that, coherent thought, impossible.

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