Wednesday, February 4, 2009

There's a Riot Going On!

My arthritis is acting up. Dad said, his felt like broken glass in his neck. Mine's like this...
My spine and its soft tissue neighbors are an ‘Old Law’ five-story walk-up. A tilting windmill with missing mortar between its bricks, and “C” violations citing structural weakness. The building has no tenants, only squatters. No one pays rent but everybody enjoys the space. Parties rage and the racket rocks the walls all the way to the cellar, my sacrum. The tenement faces Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side. The squatters steeped in a long tradition of anarchy, bait the cops blasting, “There’s a Riot Going On,” from speakers lined along the roof’s parapet wall. The cops’ dogs bark back.

My favorite squatters, the rotators, live on the 4th floor on the right. They recently formed a small orchestra despite their complete lack of harmony and inability to ever be in tune. They are rude and indiscriminate about when they play, or how loud. They stagger through the halls trying to drag other apartments into the conflict.

On the 5th floor are the building’s nasty drunks, trap and neck muscles. Always irritable, they can’t keep still and fight with everyone. They have a nasty relationship with the couple below them the rhomboids and the lats. Trap and neck drink to all hours banging and screaming through the night about the peanut subsidy. This pisses off the rhomboids and lats who get all wound up as trap and neck finally pass out crashing to the floor... Now it’s their turn… Popping up off the couch, bouncing down the front stoop, rhomboids and lats veer through the streets to the liquor store, where they fill up their cart like it’s the day before Prohibition kicks off.

On the way back to the building, punching each other in the arm, they drop into the Tropicana Club, making sure Ricky brings the entire band home for the lease breaking party, “Babaloo, Boom, boom, boom.” These fellows are mischief. Each has been known to start a fight coming out of their sleep without being fully awake, so by the time they are awake, someone’s got someone else in a headlock for no apparent reason.

The back of the building holds its own secrets. Think of it as the set for Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” tension and anxiety viewed through every window. Pull out your binoculars and voyeur away. In this film, there are four to five Raymond Burrs scurrying around burying their hacked up spouses in the backyard. The flower bed is a mess.

The front of the building is deceptive. It appears structurally sound, but it’s out of rhythm. The outward sign of serenity leaves the building’s rear resentful, disturbed. Especially, about the couple in the top front apartment who enjoy reading. Occasionally, when their small reading lamp is lit, the entire building comes to a reluctant rest. A clear moment. The quiet is deafening. Beneath the floorboards a slow steady drumming builds, out of the silence in a rare show of solidarity comes a roar from the building’s core tearing the peaceful lull apart. Snap!
The front muscle attachments curl, tangle, and knot into a spasm. This brings the lights on in every apartment. The beat steps up, pumping up the pain…


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