The Amnesia Memoirs and Diaries
November 1994 - 2/3
Sat. 11.05: No sleep. Go out at 8 to avoid music. Bring breakfast and NY Times to Central Park. I look for a safe place and walk towards the road where people are jogging, find a big rock with the drop facing the road. I sit against it, eat my breakfast, leaf a bit through the paper. I feel safe enough to close my eyes and take a nap but I can't sleep. I'm too curious about the joggers. It's amazing how few of them are really healthy looking. A lot of them are too fat or run in a way that indicates something is wrong with them.
In the afternoon I take the subway to 72nd street and walk up on Columbus avenue. At 96th street, I see Manuel, the guy who sold me the bike. He's looking at some second hand merchandise or maybe he's the one who's selling it. Right away I suspect it might not be by chance that he's here but I can't resist talking to him and walk towards him. After greeting each other, I ask him if he remembers when I met him shortly after I was injured and I told him I felt the driver had done it on purpose and he (Manuel) told me I should ask for punitive damages. He says he remembers which of my legs was injured and he touches his left leg. "But why do you think a bus driver would harm you?" "He was a hit-man, I say, and then my lawyers didn't want me to tell the truth about how it happened..." "Well, he interrupts, you don't have to worry about all that, you go ahead, you get your money, like $150,000, and you live your life like an eccentric lady." "And how's your family?" I ask. Your kids must be tall now! Who's the one who's red headed?" "It's my son." he says. "Well, say hello to everybody for me." and I leave.
Sun. 11.06: Call mom. Here's the
Mon. 11.14: I go to Bancroft on Madison avenue to have the skirt of a grey flannel suit altered. It's much too wide at the hips. I pay for the alteration, get a ticket to pick up my skirt the following monday and go to the ladies'suits section. There I see midnight blue double breasted suits with a very faint window pane motif. I look if there's my size and there is a size ten. I try it on. It fits perfectly, it just needs a little narrowing of the jacket and skirt. "These suits look very serious. We sell a lot of them for job interviews." the mestizo sales-woman says. "Well, I need a serious suit to go to court." I say. I am kind of extatic at the quality of the fabric (100% wool), of the workmanship (there's even a small inside pocket) and the price $299 (why can't they be frank about it with an even 300?) Particularly after looking around at Charivari, Paul Stuart and Henri Bendel, where given the outrageous prices, you'd expect better fabric and workmanship quality.
"Yes," she says, "Bancroft is excellent quality, it's not the same as Strawberry."
I happen to have bought a rather good 6-panel zip-front jeans dress and a lacy black top last spring just after I received some cash at a very good price at Strawberry so immediately I'm alerted that it might be the sales-lady's way to tell me that she knows that I have bought clothes at Strawberry.
"Oh, I say, Strawberry is more for younger women who want to be in fashion and don't care too much about the quality." So I say I'll buy the suit and she calls again the alterations man who takes in where necessary. When I'm back in the clothes I came in with, I say I have to get some cash at the machine and ask her to wait a few minutes. We're at the cash register for the second time now. She writes an alteration ticket for the suit, and then a small old woman appears and hands out some merchandise she's buying, and the sales-lady rings up her purchase.
Now the old woman doesn't hand her money and the transaction is not going through yet. The sales-woman reaches on her side for something and she turns to me and hands me out the suit alteration ticket, and stretching out her arm and hand towards me, she drops money into my hand, and she answers my questioning look with a smile of connivance. Then I understand that she gave me back the eleven dollars and change I paid earlier for the alteration of the grey skirt. "Oh! I understand now" I say. "It's because you're our customer." she says, as if I were special. But the fact that she took the money not out of the cash register but from the side makes it look like this money is tainted and it makes me look bad in front of the old lady.
Next she handles the old lady's cash transaction while I wait for her to return to me. Then we go through the cash transaction of my suit.
My Gallo low heel lace-up ankle boots are killing me. I bought these shoes in late 88 and have taken very good care of them but they just are too old and all of a sudden I can't stand them any more. I go to the shoe department at Sacks looking for black patent oxfords and find the pair of my dream at Clergerie. They are lace- up oxfords all right, with a pointy cap toe and a classic cut that instantly reminds me of pimp shoes. I say so to the salesman and his blank look tells me that I have made a faux-pas.. After trying them on and walking around I tell him I'll buy them but ask to compare with the Ferragamo model that looks nice too, but the Clergerie look definitely more "stylish" as the salesman says. Trip to the cash machine, and after the transaction he hands me the bag and I go put the new shoes on and put my old shoes in the box, in the bag, and on my way out ask the salesman if he could do me a favor and dispose of my old shoes for me and I hand him out the Sacks bag. He says "Really?" I say "Yes, they can't be of any use to anybody." He takes the bag and I thank him very much and I'm happy to leave the store without a bag to carry.
Music medium-loud 10 to 12PM.
Tues. 11.15: Return date of reply papers re: motion for bifurcated trial and stay of the enforcement of order denying to quash subpoena room 130.
Wed. 11.16: Music downstairs 'til 3AM.
Thurs. 11.17: No Law Journal.
Fri. 11.18: I call from pay phone at 103rd and CPW. There's a man at the phone opposite me. I see the top half of his face.It's pitted with scars. I make my call and after I leave the guy tells me that he likes my shoes. I'm pissed off because I'm sure it's another set-up, particularly since the guy's face is so scarred.
Sat. 11.19: I pick up my black patent shoes from the shop where I had them stretched a bit and fitted with heel reinforcement. Right away I smell a rat. The music is loud and incommodating, and the guy goes in the back with my ticket. I expect some kind of delay because after all, these are new shoes and losing them would be a great loss. So I take a seat on the shoe-shine chair while the music goes on. As I expected the guy returns from the back after a while with empty hands and he starts looking in the front. "How come it's taking so long?" I ask. "I don't know... it's my wife ..." He would have me believe that only his wife knows the ticket system. I relax in my chair while waiting. He has turned the music down. Finally he finds them and I put them on to check if they are stretched enough and I walk around a few steps. While I'm doing this he asks me if I'm in the fashion business and I say no. Then he asks a few more questions. I think it's none of his business but I don't have a ready sentence to tell him so gracefully so I answer that I am French, that I am a musician, that I sing and play the guitar. He asks "Do you write songs?" "Not really" I say. "Do you compose?" "No, I play jazz standards, you know." He's driven down the fact that I do not write music nor lyrics, implying that I must not be a good musician if I don't. But why the hell is he asking these questions? What does a shoe repair man have to do with music? What does he know about jazz improvisation? I know he only wanted to make me feel bad, first to make me feel anxious that my new shoes had disappeared, and next to make me feel that I'm not a good or a real musician. After that I'm mad at him, and mad that I didn't stop him with a ready sentence like "Why are you asking?" or "I don't see what this has to do with your business."
Sun. 11.20: Wake up 7:30am music still playing since last night. Leave at 9 for breakfast at Positively 104th. When I return at 11.15 the music is still playing. I go downstairs and ring the bell. After waiting a while and showing myself in the window, a man in his thirties opens the door. His eyes are bloodshot. I ask when they are going to stop playing, because I live upstairs and I can't take it any more. The guy is apologetic and says he's going to lower, he's going to lower. His speech sounds like his mouth, his tongue, are paralyzed. I know he's high on coke and he lost the notion of time. I was like that once.
Mon. 11.21: Sky is dark, threatening rain. I work on "disk management" and wrestle with the renaming of old documents by chronological order while preserving the original docs. intact for the sake of electronic creation date. And juggling floppies.
Around 11am I got home at the same time the mail-carrier was delivering the mail. It was easy to see that the Law Journal wasn't there because the mail package, encircled by elastic tape, was quite small.
I asked the man how came he didnt have my paper. He said he receive the packages ready-made. I said I didn't want to yell at the super if it wasn't his fault, but that I'd like to know where the problem was coming from. He made it sound like he had absolutely no power in the affair, pointing out how many hands my journal went through before it reached me.
Around 3:15 Glen knocks on my door. I'm not sure I heard right the first time because I'm listening to music a bit louder than I would if the outside noise wasn't bothering me so much. When I open my door he hands me out the two missing issues of the LJ. I tell him I saw the mailman deliver the mail this morning and the LJ wasn't in the mail, and asked him if there was a second daily delivery that I had never heard about and he said he didn't know anything about it, that he had been working upstairs all day. I asked him when he was going to clean up the hallway. Horrible piles of dust and debris accumulate in the corner leading to the kitchen, because there is always some ladder, or a bundle of 2-by-fours or anything else, a bucket, a mop, taking-up space in the narrow passage, and the passage is never clear. In the meantime, rats come out of a hole in the wall inside the deep closet that opens-up inside the passage. And Glen is always complaining of something as if he were powerless. Thursday DECEMBER 8: I may at last be emerging from a computer nightmare that started on november 22 as I was doing some disk management work. It's been 15 days I have been in turn frantic, miserable and angry, precisely at a time when I had some court appearance to make and two deadlines to file some documents.
It is now 6:30pm and I'm going to exit the program now and check if I can come back without any more glitches before writing any further.
6:33 and I'm back. I am nervously exhausted. I have been feeling the malevolence strike again, and hit a vital organ. Without my computer I cannot communicate, my freedom of speech is zilch. I am horrified in retrospect. Ruining my computer with a virus is tantamount to murder.
So here's the calendar from november 22:
Tues. 11.22: All afternoon I've been doing some disk management tasks while drinking beer without eating anything. It's getting late, around 10.30 or 11. I feel exhausted. I know I should leave well enough alone and quit for the day, plus I have a foreboding but in spite of the voice of reason and the foreboding, I decide to make "encore un petit effort" and that's where the "petit effort" is a big mistake. I have the same document on two diskettes with different names, and just to be on the safe side I command to copy one of the documents to the diskette where the other is and that's when the message "Diskette Error" appears, and when I try to get back to the C: directory where my document was in transit, I get the disheartening message "Bad command or file name". And no matter what I do after that, I always get the same message.
Wed. 11. 23: I take a cab and bring my computer to PC Warehouse. I walk to Bancroft's to pick-up altered grey skirt and new navy suit. Now it's sales time and the navy suit costs now $200 instead of $300 and unlike the day I bought it when only two were available, there are now about six of them. I tell my saleslady that she should have told me. She has a smile of satisfaction and she says "Yes but now you have it" meaning I think that the alterations are done and it's ready to wear. I take advantage of the sale and buy a small black and white houndstooth suit with long pleated skirt and four men's cotton shirts. While all this is going on a window dresser with a very bad breath is busily walking around and working in the window. I have to leave the store to go to the cash machine and when I return I see in the window a grey suit with a narrow skirt and a long jacket, the kind of length I find so elegant. I haven't seen any suit like this in the store. I tell my saleslady that long pleated skirts are my favorite because they are the warmest and the most comfortable.
A DEATH-PAD IN SPANISH HARLEM: ANOTHER SET-UP THAT DIDN'T WORK OUT
My landlord Sylverster "Sy" Bonarti and I arrive at the same time at the building. I ask if we can talk and I complain again about the music and ask if he could move me to some other place. He says I'm a nice lady, I pay my rent, but he's mad at me because of the sexual harassment suit I filed against him. Otherwise he has nothing against me. He just happens to have a studio available on East 110th that he is willing to show me today because he has to go there. I ask what are the conditions. The rent is about $480 per month, there's one month back-rent to pay, one month deposit and one month to pay in advance of course. We agree to go together around 2PM.
In the meantime I call PC Warehouse from a pay phone to know what's the problem with my computer. The guy tells me that the hard disk has been reformatted, and that it must have been a "major virus".
I'm waiting outside for Bonarti and just as he comes out the door my former neighbor, a Cuban woman who seems to be a bit loca follows him calling him names. He smiles in a relaxed air. He says that she wants him to throw out some people whom she has invited in in the first place. She goes away still yelling at him and pointing at him.
So the first thing we speak about after getting into his car is this woman and her mental problem. Then he speaks about people who are on welfare and who do not work. Then about what a hassle it is to live in a city. "Yes" I say, "but the good thing is Central Park in Manhattan. The best of two worlds." I realize on the way that East 110th is in Spanish Harlem. I tell SB that a virus has reformatted my hard disk and wiped out everything. "But you make back-up disks, don't you?" He seems to know that the answer is yes. And my back-up disks are hidden in the back of a drawer. As if to point the suspicion away from himself he says that sometimes people in the factory put a virus in the programs to sabotage people's computer. I say that I haven't installed any program since I bought my computer in 1991. "So this morning I brought my computer to the shop." "Where?" he asks. "Where I bought it." And I remember that I took him there after I bought my system so he could buy one for himself.
Just to make conversation I ask how he's doing with his computer (since he bought it after I did all the research). He reacts with some anxiety and says he doesn't have much time to use it, but that he uses Wordperfect to play around with the features. I ask him if he uses it for accounting and the question makes him very uncomfortable. He says the data entry takes too much time.
[After we enter the building he says that he has to see the super first. We go to the second or third floor and he knocks on a door. A woman opens and welcomes him warmly, then she calls a man who appears to be the super. He looks like a criminal. Bonarti asks for some rent money the man has collected for him and he gives it to him. He introduces me and says to the man that I'm going to visit the studio on the ground floor and asks him to join us. The man says that he'll be there in a few minutes. The studio is the first door to the right when one enters the building. About seven feet farther than the door I notice a recently painted plywood board a little bigger than a door fixed to the wall, the same color as the entire lobby. We enter the studio.
The floor covering is the same cheap stuff as where I live, imitation flagstones. The kitchen is right in front of the entrance door, not partitioned or anything. The huge white sink is the first thing one sees upon entering. To the right of the foyer-kitchen is the main room. The view from the two windows is dark red brick projects across the street. Bonarti speaks of the view as if it was something pleasant, "just like what you see from your window at home." It's true that there's a "project" across from where I live but it is covered in beige bricks with a lot of white surfaces. Besides there's a lot of green space, a tree-lined walkway and my room is sunny. This studio is narrow, dark and gloomy.
A spring, telescopic curtain-rod is leaning
uprightagainst the wall. It's one of those rods that don't need any installation work. My mother always spoke of them with enthusiasm as if they were the best invention after sliced bread. Not for her, of course, but for me, because she could never see me any other way than poor. So when I see this rod that's leaning upright against the wall, of course I think of my mother and I consider it as a warning.
The bathroom is not very enticing. The sink is minuscule and the bath-tub is marred with brown and blue streaks, the faucets and the shower head, everything looks like it's never been changed since the building was built in the 1930's. The toilet also is old and stained. There is some blue imitation-tile adhesive paper on the lower part of the wall and on the floor. Just then Bonarti returns from seeing the super. He observes, as if he'd never been here before, that underneath the blue adhesive paper are tiles, yes, real tiles on the floor and on the wall. He pulls some of the paper and new tile appears. The super has arrived and Bonarti tells him to remove all this blue stuff, and also to change the way the cabinet opens underneath the bathroom sink. It looks like the cabinet has been put upside down and it should open on the right side, not the left. The super promises he'll make the changes within the week.
Bonarti says that this studio hasn't been lived in for a while because the lady who lived here before died. how nice.
Next to the bathroom is a walk-in closet. The space is allright but there is no rod to hang clothes, nor any shelf. Looks like it would take a good deal of work and money to make this space efficient. Bonarti says that I could leave the clothes that I don't use for the season in the back and the ones I'm using in the front, and alternate when the season changes, as if he cared a lot about my well-being. Inside the space, against the left wall is a new, unpainted door that looks like a bedroom door: hollow with a round brass handle. I open it and find the opening boarded- up. That's the other side of what I saw in the lobby. From the outside, it had seemed to me that it was nothing more than a thin plywood board. To hold this door there is no frame and nothing for the door to latch onto. The opening itself is irregular, just raw masonry, a quick hatchet job.
Now the windows. The place being on the ground floor, it seems that grills would be a necessary addition. As a matter of fact, the appartment on the other side of the hallway has grills. We talk about it for a moment and Bonarti offers to pay half the cost of the installation of grills.
The problem also is that it is in the far East, between First and Second I think, long blocks away from the Lexington avenue subway. SB gives me a ride around the neighborhood. He shows me a white building that he says he owns and says that there are people moving out about every three months and that I could take the studio until something becomes available in that building, a better one. Moving twice in a few months is not my idea of fun. Hispanic neighborhood. That is, all the people around are Hispanic. The stores, the young people hanging out etc. I would be the only white person in a two miles radius, and a single female at that. It looks more like a ghetto than in the Upper West side where races commingle freely.
But in spite of all the unpleasantness, I am tempted to take the studio because it is larger than where I live now, and there is no night club downstairs. I ask Bonarti if there is a basement, just to make sure that no after-hours is going to open after I've moved in, if I move in, and he has a strange, defensive reaction.
We have hardly left the building when a little boy arrives at the door and Bonarti turns around and just before the boy rings the buzzer, he opens the door for him with his key.
On the ride back I tell Bonarti that I'll take the studio. Then I ask him what he had in mind two years ago, what kind of sexual game he was playing because obviously he wasn't serious. He doesn't like the question and tells me that some day he'll tell me. Then he asks what is my immigration status and I say it's confidential information.
After a silence I tell him that I have realized that my parents have cut corners with me from the start and that when they kicked me out I hardly had a change of clothes. Near our destination I ask him if he could give me a break because of all the nights I haven't been able to sleep. It makes him laugh. I ask him why he laughed but I don't understand his answer. As we climb up the porch, I see Central Park in brilliant colors and this is such a nice sight I tell Bonarti that the good thing about this place, is the closeness of the park and the subway, which to me are very important considerations. Back in his office we start talking about dates. He says that I could move in next week, so that would be the start of December. I remember that I have oral argument in court on Dec. 1st.
November 94 3/3] [ToC] [Home]