Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Anatomy of a Neighbor

Today's memory jog is part old, part new.  There's an additional development to the story that happened during my December visit back East.

It just goes to prove that, even if you think nothing more could evolve, it does.   

Ladies and gentlemen, the photo above is my New York apartment building.  Well, "Yonkers, NY and Hasting-on-Hudson border" apartment building.  Look at the red car in the snapshot and count up to the fourth floor terrace right above it.  That's my place.  Recently and wonderfully renovated.  New kitchen.  New bathroom.  New walls.

Alas alack, there is no new neighbor next door.  On one side of my unit, there resides some crazy shit.  As it was there when I bought into the building some twenty two years ago.

I wish I could call her by name.  I don't even know it.  Only her last name appears on the directory downstairs.  Never bothered to find out more information.  I never need to.  I simply refer to her as...

The Crazy Bitch Next Door.

I became aware of her as soon as I checked in.  Fat.  Dumpy.  A bad dye job.  And horrible taste in men.  Correction: repeated horrible taste in men.  There have been several.

For somebody as slovenly as her, the Crazy Bitch Next Door certainly managed to keep herself connected to the male species.  Over the past nearly two decades, most of those years were spent with a live-in boyfriend.  Go figure.

There was one in place when I moved in.  I learned that pretty quickly as there was a knock-down, drag-out brawl every night.  They would all start the same way.  You'd hear her shrill voice carping for about five or ten minutes.  And then "he" would explode. Dishes would break.  Doors would be pounded.  Everything but her neck snapping in two.

One night, my writing partner was at my apartment.   We were working on a Nickelodeon sitcom at the time.  It had been a productive evening and he got set to leave.   As I walked along with him to the elevator, the latest Golden Gloves semi-final match had broken out.  My pal got a first-hand listen to the battles that I had been hearing...and talking about.

He was actually horrified at the ferocity of the language.  Of course, being it was the dead of winter with snow on the ground, there were boots adorning everybody's front door step.   Including those of the lummox next door.   

My writing partner, always ready to do some mischief, picked up one of the boots in one swift motion.   He ran over to the garbage compactor.   And tossed it down the chute.

"That's what he gets for hitting her."

In retrospect, we didn't think this through completely.   It would have funnier had he simply hidden the boot for a few weeks and then simply returned it unannounced to the front door weeks or months later.

Nevertheless, it was grounded up with last night's stale pizza and potato peelings.   

As my luck would have it, I was waiting for the elevator on my floor the very next day.  And was immediately joined by Bluto from next door.   He looked perturbed.

"Hey, are you on the co-op board here?"

Um, no, I answered.  Trying to be smooth as silk, but, in reality, nervous as all Hell.

"Well, somebody stole my shoe!"

That elevator ride couldn't end fast enough.

 For a long while, there was some quiet.  For a month or two.  And, then suddenly....

Another boyfriend moved in.

The pattern repeated itself.  You'd hear her shrill voice carping for about five or ten minutes. And then "he" would explode. Dishes would break. Doors would be pounded. Everything but her neck snapping in two.

Unfortunate bad luck in men?  Um, I began to wonder if the common denominator here was female in gender.

Around this time, I moved to Los Angeles.  On my second day in Southern California, I called my east coast voicemail to check on any messages.  I was astounded by what I heard.

There had been a call from some guy in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He identified as the brother of my neighbor otherwise known as the Crazy Bitch Next Door.  He was wondering if I could go and check on his sister as she had not been heard from in five days.  She had given him my name as an emergency contact and the guy wanted to know if I could check to see whether or not she had been beaten into a bloody pulp.


This loon and I had never shared more than two words of dialogue.  So, she had pulled my name off the doorbell, looked up my phone number in the White Pages, and had put me in the unfortunate potential position of identifying her body down at the county morgue.

Not only was she desperate for men, she was also really hard up for any acquaintances.  Or witnesses to her possible demise.

I called the brother back and left a message.  Er, I'm in Los Angeles at the moment and, if she's dead, I'm guessing somebody will eventually call the building manager about the stench coming from Apartment 4-A.

I didn't see the Crazy Bitch from Next Door until two years later during one of my New York sojourns.  Fittingly, I ran into her at the fourth floor garbage chute.  There was no acknowledgement from her.  No "hey, I'm still alive."  No "thanks for being my emergency contact and I'm sorry for forgetting to mention that to you."  No "my brother is sure enjoying those Cincinnati Reds." 

Nothing.  I was better off that way.

I would discover over my trips home that there was somebody new melting her butter in 4A.  He looked a bit like a Nazi sympathizer to me.  He certainly wasn't being too sympathetic to her.  The slugfests were regularly scheduled.  I understood from other neighbors that the police frequently showed up like clockwork.  Our building didn't need a superintendent.  It required a referee.

One Sunday night, I was nestled into my apartment during my first NY trip of the year.  Around 6PM, I shoved some garbage down the chute.  As I ambled past 4A, the usual fracas was in place.

"You're acting like a fucking lunatic."

"Fuck you."

"No, go fuck yourself."

Our floor was definitely R-rated.  But, still, I thought nothing of it all.  Business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.

Around 10PM, I was lying on the couch and noticed flashing red lights outside.  Okay, also business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.  There are lots of older folks in the building and they were frequently, as my father would say, being "carried out feet first."

Except that, a few minutes later, I heard a commotion out in the hallway.  Okay, this is close enough for my attention.  I opened my front door to see my neighbor from across the hall.  She's been there for about seventeen years and is quite pleasant.  Her husband never screams for her to go fuck herself.  Tonight, the two of us were just being plain nosy.

Down the hall, we saw that the conclave of firefighters and police were gathered in front of Apartment 4A.  And they were questioning the Crazy Bitch Next Door.

"I don't know what happened.  One minute he was fine and then he just went nuts."

Fine?  Like around 6PM when you were both engaged in a major fuck-off.

As we could piece together the timeline, the boyfriend did indeed go a little bonkers.  And lit a newspaper torch.  Which he proceeded to run up and down the hallway with.  Checking to see if the smoke detectors were working.

Yes, business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.

Apparently, Mr. Skinhead was already chained up in the police car downstairs and preparing for an extended stay at the local nervous hospital.  But, the way the Crazy Bitch Next Door was telling the tale, the whole affair was completely innocent.  As if he had simply found an eyelash in his minestrone soup.

Something propelled the cops to enter into their apartment.  Moments later, the first flatfoot exited.  Carrying two rifles.

My across-the-hall neighbor gasped. 

The second cop exited.  He was carrying two spears.

Spears as in "the natives are chasing Johnny Weissmuller in one of those Tarzan movies" spears.

I gasped.   And George W. Bush was looking for the weapons of mass destruction in Iran???

We were astounded by the arsenal of the warloads being housed just fifty feet away.  The Crazy Bitch Next Door noticed that we were watching the whole proceedings.

"Oh, he doesn't use these things.  He has them just for show."

For show???  Like a display???  You live in a studio apartment, not the Museum of Natural History!!!!

The Crazy Bitch Next Door somehow mistook our nosiness for concern.  She walked down the hall to talk to us.


That's exactly what she wanted to do.  We were trapped.

"Well, he's bi-polar.  And he's been drinking.  We went to the hospital yesterday to get more medication, but they made us wait for eight hours and his healthcare coverage had expired...."


My across-the-hall neighbor did just that.

"Hey, not for nothing, but we've been hearing this shit from your apartment for years.  And we've all called the cops because we're sick and tired of hearing this crap.  And, oh, by the way, you have lousy taste in men."

Slam dunk.  Score the goal.

The Crazy Bitch Next Door stared at us for a minute.  Yeah, we all knew.  How could we not?  She slowly backed away.   Sheepishly, she replied.

"Well, I'm sorry to have bothered you."

I resisted the temptation to call after her.

"Hey, after twenty years, I still don't know your name."

You would think that, after this episode, there would be no more drama.   Well, think again.

Last month on my holiday trip to New York, I arrived around 5PM on a Wednesday.   As usual, I immediately called my elegant neighbor Liz who is essentially my apartment's caretaker.  She immediately came down for a hug.  And to be bring along her new fiance that she was dying for me to meet.

As Liz and her new beau George were talking to me, I couldn't miss the sound of rushing water coming from my bathroom.   I asked Liz if she heard it, too.

"Yes and I heard it on Sunday, too, when I was checking on your apartment."

Liz and I both looked in my bathroom.  It was bone dry.  We felt the walls and the floor.  No leak.  I was not surprised.   My entire bathroom and the adjoining pipes were new as a result of my extensive renovation a few years back.   But, still, the sound of water was unmistakable.

All night, the cascade never stopped.  Indeed, to sleep, I had to close both the door to my bathroom and my bedroom.  I felt like I was staying in a motel right across the street from Niagara Falls.

The next morning, I immediately went down to the maintenance staff.   I brought one of them to my apartment to hear Old Faithful.  He pledged to start checking the line of apartments that corresponded with me as well as the studio apartment on the other side.  Somebody had a leak some place.

Ten minutes later, he was back at my door.  It didn't take him long.

"Len, I need you to be my witness."   

He led me into my neighbor's apartment which he had opened with a pass key.  The Crazy Bitch was nowhere to be found.

But her bathtub faucet was on.  Full blast.  Luckily, the drain was open.   But I am guessing next summer's water shortage in Westchester County can be attributed to this egregious waste of H2O.  She had obviously left the apartment...for several days...with her water running.

Both the maintenance guy and I shook our heads.   I tried to put a smile on it all.

"Well, at least, she wasn't lying face down in the tub with an axe buried in her skull."

The maintenance guy laughed.   Yeah, he had heard the stories, too.

And I still don't know her name.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich.

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