Tues. 2 My bank account is getting below the $1,000 mark and the alarm is ringing with no immediate prospect of income. Flea markets do not happen on a regular basis, and it takes phone calls and some paper work. Of course I can't use my phone to do business, I can't receive mail, so the whole idea of flea markets is far from being a sure way to make a living.
I called Jerry Palace, asking him to return me the deposit. I explained that since there is no way for him or his guys to enter the building without being noticed, there is no point in doing this type of surveillance and besides, the problem I have is that I have absolutely no income, no prospect of getting any, and that I am actually running low on cash and that I need the money. He pretends he did not understand that I want to terminate our relationship and says that he has to keep at least $250 deposit for future services. Finally I tell him to keep $100 because I have been bending his ears for a while, and to return $400 to me. He agrees.
The last time I called him was because I had the idea to call Cohen and tape the conversation, to know what his defense would be. I had asked Jerry if he had the means at his office to record a telephone conversation and he had said yes, and he had agreed that I come to his office to call Cohen and tape the conversation. We agreed on a date and time. When I called one hour before our appointment, his secretary said that he was out and she didn't know when he would return. Somehow this sounded bad news to me and I decided not to go. I bought a tiny microphone at Radio Shack and I figured out how to tape a telephone conversation from the comfort of my home. The law permits a party to a telephone conversation to record it even without notifying the other party. What is illegal is for a person who is not a party to a phone conversation to listen in and/or record the conversation, in other words "eavesdrop". Unless that person is a law enforcement officer in possession of a search warrant.
Mon. 8 I call Terry Poe at the SRO Law Project and thank him for being such a good listener when I cried at his office. I ask him a few questions about the rights of landlords regarding entry into tenants'premises. He said that landlords have a right to have a copy of all keys in case there is an emergency and the tenant is not there, and that it is illegal for a tenant to change the locks without giving a copy to the landlord. But what if the landlord violates the tenant's privacy? It looks like in order to protect my privacy I have to break the law, and even then, he finds a way to get in anyway.
I also called my mother. Here's the transcript:
Tues. 9: Yesterday I called Maman. She had left a message on my machine saying that she was coming to New York just for one or two days. "It's a month of birthdays" she had said, without mentioning my own that is on the 12th. She was trying to make believe that she might have a present for me. I was genuinely afraid to see her. I couldn't allow her to enter my apartment, she would have searched it as the first opportunity, and opportunities would have abounded. Just going to the toilet required one to leave the apartment. What about taking a shower! I contemplated the idea of renting a room for her just to give her a taste of the conditions I live in. I'm sure she would have acted as if she were herself used to the same conditions in order to avoid bringing up the subject. Play her the Queen of Mean treat, as happens to Leona Hemsley right now. But for the sake of a vengence I would put myself in jeopardy. I couldn't stand the thought of her company, her lying as a matter of course, her emotional manipulation. was aware of all that and I could avoid to be harmed emotionally, but maybe I would be harmed anyway. I knew she wanted something special but I was wondering what. Maybe she would try to kill me. No, she would rather hire someone to do it and make believe that it was a stray bullet. The thought came that she wanted me to sign a blanket agreement to sell the remaining building. So that was what she would do the trip for. She wanted to make believe that she would have a birthday present for me, she certainly would have brought some cash, which I need badly, and then would have extorted my signature. There we are. The circumstances would not be appropriate to negotiate and I didn't want to see her jusst to accuse her. I didn't want to become frantic. I didn't berate myself for not coming up with an instant solution to a very serious problem. I camed down and asked my deep self to work on it while I was engaged in other occupations, confident that a solution would present itself after due time. I remembered there had been an occasion when a police officer had told me "If you're afraid to go, don't go." as if that were my inviolable right, no matter whom I was afraid of. Then I remembered the occasion had occurred when Agnes was in New York and had invited me to dinner in the apartment of the old man. She and Val expected me to bring my camera to loan to Val so he could make slides of his artwork. I was convinced that I would never see my camera again if I loaned it to Val. Anyway, that was AgnŠs, my big sister, whom I had been so afraid of, that I had to talk to the police about it. And now it was Maman. What a family! Because of the fear, the search for a solution to the problem, the instinct of preservation was entering into action and in the rush I felt through my whole body, I turned the microphone a bit to high and we experienced some feed-back in the beginning. I believe she became aware that I was taping the conversation and showed an extreme reserve in response to my accusations.
Wed. 10 I receive a letter from the Disciplinary Committee informing me that Mr. Kurach, of whom I had complained, is deceased. "In the circumstances, we are unable to assist you in this matter." They seem to take me for a fool. So what was that guy's name at the workers'comp. board? He didn't even introduce himself, so I assumed that he was the other part of Kurach and Cassell.
A cover letter transmits Cassell's answer. He says that at the Workers' comp. hearing of september 8, 92 at which I didn't see anybody representing me, Mr. Koenigsberg (So that's his name) paged me and received no reply. Yes, I had left because it seemed inadmissible to me that my attorney would not be there when my case was called, and I took it as a show of unwillingness to deal with my case. I showed up before the judge and said that my attorney wasn't there, and nobody told me anything, nobody told me to stick around, that my case would be called again later to give my attorney a chance to show up. So I left.
Then Cassell says that he telephoned several times and got no answer, and that I have not contacted him since then.
Well, the first time, for the hearing of July 23 91, I called him the day before and he pretended that he had not received the notice of hearing and now he makes me look like I am the one who neglects things.
Fri. 12 My 41st birthday. Receive this from Elisabeth:
"To Brigitte I have been keeping a secret for years - which I think, imagine or believe is yours - which I believe I know. How can I know? Elisabeth."
What a charming birthday note! She thinks that I have a secret that she knows? Well, I'm not surprised. As a matter of fact, with my privacy invaded the way it is, I don't think I have any secret for anybody, but why does she ask me how she can know if we share the same non-secret, if she doesn't tell me what it is? Is it her husband? Does she think I have an affair with her husband? Or rather, would she like me to have an affair with her husband? I think that's what it is. She has said in one of her end-of-year letter, addressed to the whole extended family "Theo flies to New York to see his sister-in-law" or something like that, referring to me as her husband's sister-in-law instead of her sister, and I was shocked at the scandalous implication.
Sometimes I think she married him only because she thought that, as a scientist, he would be a man I wished I had married myself. (I was the family scientist when I was a child and got excellent grades at Science). She married him because she thought I would envy her. Why are they all trying to make me envy their man, their house and what not, unless it is because they envy me?
Anyway, every time I saw Theo in NY it was because he had written to me that he was going to be in NY at a certain date and proposed that we meet, and I saw him as a representative of the family to whom I gave news of myself and from whom I hoped to hear news regarding the whole family. I accepted to see him out of a sense of familial obligation but I had to force myself because he's the most boring guy I've ever known. He speaks so slowly, what he says is devoid of interest, he always makes me wonder what is the point he's trying to make but there seems to be none, he always manages to make a sexual innuendo that I find out of place and embarrassing, (once I remarked that the salt shaker in the restaurant reminded me of the Chrysler building and he said it reminded him of something else) what makes him laugh is utterly bland, it doesn't matter to me how many diplomas he has, he's so fucking boring, how could I find sexy a man who bores me out of my mind? He makes me want to hit him and shake him, that's what he makes me feel like doing to him. After leaving him I'm a nervous wreck because I feel the boredom he has inflicted upon me is nothing short of mental abuse. And I always hated the way he hugged me when we parted. To me it was not an appropriate way for a man to behave with his sister-in-law. Maybe he was trying to make me want him sexually? Thanks, but no thanks. Maybe it was an agreement between Elisabeth and him that he would try to seduce me, so that she would have a good excuse to hate me? Or to make me feel guilty? Well, it's not that he's bad-looking, he's rather cute as a matter of fact, but the shoes he wears! I could never have sex with a man who wears shoes like that. A total, definite and unequivocal turnoff. Real asshole shoes.
Besides, with all the men in New York, why should I want to have an affair with a married man who lives in Germany? Because he's my sister's husband? To spite her? To take revenge on her? Why? Does she think I have grounds to want revenge? Thank you very much, but I have no desire to share a man with one of my sisters if I can help it. That would be really sick and perverted, and I'm neither.
Sorry, sister, but your husband doesn't get my seal of approval and you can keep him all to yourself, I won't try to rob him from you or break your marriage.
Wed. 17 I receive a fax from mother:
I am no longer able to answer your request. Since your phone call I've been falling apart. From now on, address yourself only to Me. Laurent or Lucien Sautreuil, the accountant.
The apartment in Paris doesn't belong to anybody in particular, and not everybody agrees to sell it.
While you are procrastinating, the prices are crashing down; you made us lose a lot of money in two years.
So now we must find another solution: since you don't sign for the sale of the Pantin building, we have to rent the units we had left empty to sell them at a better price: commercial space that had been vacated after bankruptcy, apartments where the lease had expired. The revenue from the building doesn't cover the costs. An immense fatigue overcomes me. Your mother Claire Picart
I went to Small Claims Court in the evening. When the case was called I said "by the Court", meaning I wanted a trial instead of a settlement before an arbitrator. I don't know how it happened, but Cohen managed to have the case put before the arbitrator. I understood what had happened only after both me and Cohen were sitting in front of the arbitrator. Then I realized that the case wouldn't go to trial if we settled with the arbitrator, and I said I had requested a trial, how come we were there? I guess it was my mental exhaustion and Cohen's sneakiness that had brought us there. But I insisted that I wanted a trial and we left the arbitrator's office and got another court date.
I had returned to Prince Street -one of several times- to inquire about the situation regarding the arrests and confiscation of merchandise. I had spoken with this guy for the first time after seeing him almost every day last winter. I was in a good mood, felt the excitement of the street and I had gone to buy him a coffee, he had said that he was a very good pianist, that he owned a Steinway baby grand and that he was shipping it to his native Belize where he would spend several winter months. He had said that he owned a house on the beach there. He said that he was teaching himself to play the guitar. Then I had told him about my own guitar work, saying that all I needed was performing experience, and that between the berets and the music I should be able to make a living. He had asked if I knew anything about Belize. I thought about my brother Fran‡ois who had spent some time there, but I said all I knew about it was from a client at the immigration law firm where I had worked who was from there. She had said it was paradise, but she was immigrating to the US so that her children could get a good education. Then I talked about education and human rights, saying that parents who forced their children into an education they were not made for, like for instance parents who want their son to be a doctor or la lawyer, when the son in fact wants to be a writer, were the first people to violate a person's human rights. The guy broached the conversation on sex. He said that American women were terrible in bed, and asked if what was said about French women was true. I said "Here we go with the cliches". I said he should not ask me, I was in no position to answer this question. He asked me how I did it. I said that was private. Then, a little angry, I asked "And you, how do you do it? You put it in?" Then he asked about cooking, if I could cook. I said I knew how to cook delicious foods, like long simmered stews, but that being alone I lacked some motivation. "I don't eat meat anyway" he said. He was implying that I would cook for him but I didn't understand at the time. "You must be very healthy" I said. "Another cliche" he said. I said that I was very good at cooking potatoes. Anyway the conversation was filled with aggression on his part, but I was in the mood for a friendly chat, having not had one in a long time, and I didn't perceive the aggression right away for what it was. At five minutes before six, someone bought a pair of earrings. The guy asked if I had five dollars because he lacked change, and I just happenend to have them in my coat pocket. I handed them out to him and he made change. But I was still on another train of thought. I was begin- ning to feel uncomfortable and frustrated that the human warmth I had been seeking had not been provided, and at six I left without him having returned the five dollars to me. What a friendly chat!
Fri. 26 I found an ad in the Village Voice seeking vendors for a flea market. I called from a pay phone. The person responsible wasn't there and I gave my home number. A woman called and said that she was the organizer of a classy flea market that took place in a museum somewhere far away on Long Island. She said that the customers were members of a club, and that they were all well educated and had good taste and money to spend. I spoke about my berets and she said it looked like this merchandise would be well received by the members of the club. All I had to do to be a vendor in her organization was to buy a club membership that was valid for one year and pay $20 for a table. She was ebullient and gave me some feel good talk. At one point I told her that my phone was tapped and that I was going to call her back from a pay phone. But after I had hung up the whole business seemed fishy to me. Since when were there flea-markets in museums? And her talk about the club members seemed too good to be true and I didn't call back. Besides it was at the far end of Long Island and I didn't feel like traveling there by train.
Sat. 27 I remembered that, while I was being sideswiped by the bus, I knew the driver was trying to kill me. The way it snuck up treacherously from behind at such a small angle that when I saw it, it was half a second before it came in contact with me. And the fact that since I was first in line at the red light, the avenue ahead of me was empty of traffic, giving the bus all the room it needed to change lanes.
Until today the thought had been dormant in memory because I couldn't think of a motive but now it all comes out clear: it was while my father was dying of cancer, actually 4 months before his death. In light of the way the distribution of the estate is being handled, as far as I'm concerned, it is clear now that my mother had counted me out from the start, and the fact that I survived the accident instead of dying didn't make her change her plans. She has extorted my signature for three years to sell the property without giving me any quantity of money that would have allowed me to move out of here and/or invest in my business. In fact she wants to keep me here because all her network of intelligence and intervention is depending on my landlord's complicity. It is not impossible that, within the Italian community my landlord got in touch with Anthony Pizzimenti the bus driver whose limited-stops route was along Fifth Avenue, and who reached the 40th Street stop every day at 1:15pm. Then it was possible to time a pick-up for me on 57th street so that I would take 5th Ave. to my next stop on 26th Street at the same time as the bus. Being a limited-stop bus, the driver could follow me, which a local bus couldn't do. It was fairly predictable that I would stop at the traffic light at 42nd Street and he could manage to be there at the same time. Then it was easy for him to let me start first at the green light and sneak up from behind while I was pedaling uphill. The site had been chosen precisely because it was uphill, where I would lose my balance more easily than on flat ground. Downhill, I would have outraced the bus. The effect of surprise, a crucial ingredient, was also present. But how did the driver know whom to kill?
While I was lying on Fifth Avenue, the Tall Pale man was in the front row of the onlookers. I recognized him instantly. It was him who had talked to me about bicycle gadgetry when I ran into an old man in front of 666 Broadway a month before. This time on 5th Ave. he proposed to tie my bicycle for me and I reached for my keyring and handed it out to him, not without a strange feeling but I was so bewildered I let him have it, but at this instant one of the ambulance men said that they would put my bike in the van with me and the guy returned the bunch of keys to me. So this guy had been following me, he was unmistakable, over 6 feet tall, very skinny and very pale with brown or black hair and a face without expression.
Three and a half years later, the motive of the crime emerges: eliminate me from the list of heirs.
Mon. 29 Bonarti, the landlord, has the leaking faucet fixed in the bathroom. He also asks if this wooden cabinet which I left in the kitchen-garbage room is mine. I say yes. He says he'll throw it out or give it away. Joe, a new employee, asks about my hats and says he'd like to see them and maybe buy one.
Tues. 30 Bonarti leaves a refrigerator just next to the entrance door to the west wing where I live. I had shown him my old ugly fridge during the summer and asked if he could replace it with a newer one. He had asked if it worked and I had said it did, but it was run down. Now he left this newer fridge but didn't clearly say that it was for me. He waited for me to jump on the opportunity and take it. Maybe he would have said that it was intended for someone else and make me beg for it, and pretend that he was giving in to my entreaties over a used fridge and make me feel that he did me a big favor.
I receive a letter from the Disciplinary Committee, the third saying exactly the same thing, with only the name of the attorney complained of changing:
Dear Ms. Picart,
Upon receipt of your complaint against (Leonard Slavit, Ira Slavit, Irwin Cassell) our staff undertook a careful investigation of the allegation in it. After that investigation and further review by a member of the D. C., we have concluded that there is no basis for taking further action (my emphasis). This decision was based on a number of factors, including the nature of your complaint, other priorities of the office, and prosecutorial discretion. You may of course pursue whatever remedies are available.
Under the circumstances, we have determined to close the file on this matter. Very truly yours, Hal R. Lieberman.
In the evening Fran‡ois called. I let the machine take care of it. He was in New York and would like to see me, and would call again in half an hour. I had the time to think what to say and decided I would give him an appointment for the next day at 7PM. I understood he must be there because Maman had failed, just three weeks ago, to convince me to sign an authorization to sell the Pantin building. So little time had elapsed since the last conversation with her. "Quelle surprise!" I said when he called for the second time. He said he was on his way to Mexico, would be two days in New York and asked if we could meet. He also asked if he could sleep at my place. I said no and told him to call me at 7PM the day after.
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