One-bedroom apartment with sleeping loft in renovated tenement

 Location East Village
Rent $1181.31/mo.
Square feet 500
Occupants Erik Jensen (actor, most recently in Y2K); Jessica Blank (actor; slam poet; bartender, the Room and Another Room); Zooey (Brittany spaniel)

Ah! You have a "Free Mumia" poster near the working fireplace! [Jessica] Mumia's in a cell a little bit bigger than our bathroom. He's been in prison like 17 years for allegedly killing a police officer, and Amnesty International's called for a new trial.

What are all those little silver robots ready for battle on the bookshelves? [Erik] Star Wars miniatures. I think Star Wars informed a lot of my early idealism. Good always triumphs over evil.

Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank in their East Village kitchen
photo: Sandra-Lee Phipps
Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank in their East Village kitchen

Tell about Fred and how you got your apartment in 1995. Somebody who worked in my friend's office had a brother who was subletting from this guy—we'll call him Fred—who went to Los Angeles. I came to take over the sublease, but I had to bribe Fred in L.A. to get the lease—a finder's fee you could call it. I had to drop like $1500 on him. So this Fred was a, quote, director, unquote. My neighbor down the hall is an actress. He offered to help her with some scene work. She came in and he was like in a robe and an ascot and she sat down and he just opened up the robe and he was standing there with a big stiffy, ready to direct her. She screamed and called the police. They said, We can't do anything. Your neighbor only flashed you. Then Fred skipped town, went to L.A.

You initially got the apartment with your old girlfriend. [Erik] Moan. [Jessica] It's ancient history. [Erik] Absolutely. Then I had a series of roommates, like from college, Carnegie Mellon. [Jessica] Erik and I met in December. [Erik] Love at first sight. I'd always been such a cynic before.

Erik, you grew up in Detroit Lakes, a small Minnesota resort town where you said your grandmother is like Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond, like if you need a new boat, she'll tell you where to get it. I guess that picture on the wall is her in a canoe. She's also like Don Corleone. [Jessica] I was born in New Haven in a big old purple Victorian house with a lilac tree, a strawberry patch, and a big garden where my hippie mom grew zinnias. She's a Feldenkrais instructor. [Erik] It's like the Alexander method. [Jessica] But better. I went to school in Minnesota. I just moved east 10 months ago. I was in Jersey City. Jersey City was fine.

You look rather pained. Well, I had a great roommate, but he wasn't a soul mate roommate like you. [Erik] Oh man, I'm going to vomit. . . . The cool thing about this building is we all know each other.

You're lucky. So many buildings in New York are so cold, doors made of thick blocks of ice, silence inside small frozen spaces. Excuse the Arctic poetry. Hardly anyone pops their head out and says "Howdy, neighbor" or sings "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go." [Erik] Here we get mail for each other. There was an old retired guy. We'd help him. Actually he passed away last year. People are really willing to help each other out. Maybe it's because the building has some old actor activists living in it. I think they've carried on the sensibilities of what they did from the '60s. Instead of trying to change the world, they're changing their corner of it. There's a Free Tibet guy, actually a whole family of Free Tibet people, a pro-hemp activist, a rainforest guy, a monkey guy. He's for the rights of primates, "Support Koko." There's the guy who was in the original episode of Star Trek, some episodes of Gunsmoke. He decided acting wasn't for him. Now he's a caretaker for elderly adults. [Jessica] He gets them up and down the stairs.

 
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