Last night I dreamed that I was looking for the perfect place to write and I decided to go back to my old apartment in the East Village. My sister’s friend Amy was living there now, and she had offered it as a quiet place to work. In reality, the apartment had never been a quiet place; stickball games in the street at night, women screaming at each other and brandishing broken bottles, upstairs neighbors in wooden clogs, and a couple from the Big Apple Circus (she, a fire eater and he, a sword-swallower) either fighting or fucking loudly 23 hours of the day.
In the dream, the place had been turned into a carpeted oasis with padded closets and secret rooms with hardwood floors. I crept around peeking through doorways, marveling at the silence. There were no bars on the windows, no giant cockroaches, no dirty diapers in the hallway. And definitely no circus people shouting at the top of their lungs. It was just quiet. And sunny. And I felt like a total interloper. Writing would not be taking place there.
I woke up with a strong urge to see my old neighborhood. To lay eyes on the brick facade of 208-210 E7th Street. The last time I’d been in there was late in the fall of 2001. I’d already moved at that point, but since the place was rent-controlled, I’d held onto the lease so my friends could continue to stay there. A 3-bedroom in the East Village for under $2000 was something to be pried from your cold dead hands, after all. When I went to visit there that November, there was a fine layer of gray residue coating everything. The place had been within one of the evacuation zones after 9/11, and who knows what was in that ashy layer that made the light coming through the windows look weird and gray. At any rate, I didn’t stay long enough to find out. The place wasn’t charming anymore, even in that broke-down tenement way. It felt like a sad, crumbling anachronism that even the ghosts of history no longer wished to haunt. Continue reading