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Barry Manilow’s New Neighbor

Location, Location, Location

January 19, 2004

The spot where we’re supposed to meet is closed, in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I’m early again, it’s cold, and I need somewhere to go, but am unfamiliar with the Village. So I duck sheepishly into The Soy Luck Club and order a six dollar non-dairy mocha, which tastes exactly like a heated Nestles Quick. You don’t pay for what you get in this city, but for where you get it. I remind myself of this later, while handing my sublet deposit to Ameet. His apartment isn’t the Taj Mahal, but at West 74th and Columbus it doesn’t have to be. They rent under-used mailboxes here for a tidy sum.

I’ve accomplished much of what I set out to do when I moved to New York. I’ve had many experiences, met various people, and done some good writing. I haven’t, however, found a real job or a real home. Whether either of these transpires in the coming months remains to be seen, but one thing will be certain – I will have stuck it out a year, and will have lived in Manhattan.

***

Maybe it’s a sign. There’s a knock on my door Saturday night, during the only dinner party I’ve had while living in Brooklyn. It’s the super from across the hall, with bad news from the basement. The forty-year-old boiler has cracked and the building will be without heat for at least a week. This update comes in the middle of one of the coldest weeks on record. He has the look of a cop telling a mother that her child didn’t survive the accident, and he speaks in hushed tones. “Remember Richard,” he admonishes, “don’t try to heat the apartment with your stove … carbon monoxide.” This reminder is icing on the cake. Not only am I the new poster boy for hypothermia, but apparently I look as dumb as I feel.

Perhaps Brooklyn senses I’m leaving and has decided to turn a literal cold shoulder. All this rambling prose and pontification, singing the borough’s gutsy praises and street-wise charm– and for what? So I could leave it for the sexy epicenter; a flashy chick with money and a hot car. Brooklyn may be losing its favorite unemployed son and weekly column with an audience of twelve, but what about me? I’m losing the only East Coast angle I had– that of choosing Jackie Gleason over Woody Allen, the Beastie Boys over Derek Jeter, and Prospect Park over Central. Now I’ll be just another guy who lives there. Like a glorified Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, ordering spaghetti with marinara and getting egg noodles with ketchup. But hey, I can always move back, and it is Manhattan.

Ameet points out that Bruce Willis and Barry Manilow will be my new neighbors. Not in his building of course, but in the nice one down the block. That he knows who Barry Manilow is worries me a bit, but it’s too late now as I’ve handed over the check. All that’s left are my final days in Brooklyn, anticipating living in a shoebox with great access to the 72nd Street Subway Station and Beacon Theater. As the Monty Python sketch goes, “you had a shoebox?” Yeah, and it wasn’t in a bad neighborhood, either.

***

I’m a California boy at heart. It’s where I grew up, what I saw, and what I breathed in. It’s the only place I’ll ever be “from”. Scotland, strangely, is the other location where I’ve derived a strong sense of being home. I don’t think I’d ever settle there, but at the risk of sounding pretentious, it might be where my soul resides. Manhattan is somewhere I’ve often pictured living, and Brooklyn is a place where I suspected I might fit in. I suppose I’m lucky. A lot of people never even get this close.

I’ve purchased an oil-filled space heater for my final days in the current sublet. It’s a bit of an extravagance at seventy bucks, considering that I won’t be taking it with me. But given the current conditions it’s also a necessity. It’s funny now, to picture the July days in my first place, spraying myself with a water bottle and standing in front of a large, rotating fan. It’s a little like feasting on a Thanksgiving meal and swearing off food for life, then returning in the early morning hours for a turkey sandwich. I’m not sure where all this is taking me, but if I manage to stay hungry, I should be OK.

2004 Rick Monaco All Rights

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