Two-Bedroom Apartment in Three-Story Attached House

Location Marble Hill
Rent $850 (market)
Square feet 600
Occupants Rodney Hill (marketing manager, Winstar Cinema); Jeremy Slaugenwhite (marketing manager, Eceed, Web consulting and design)

Well, Mr. Hill and Mr. Slaugenwhite, since you live in Marble Hill, I assumed you'd be sitting on top of a pile of Carrara, which brings to mind Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, where that architect works in a quarry and then has violent sex with a rich woman on or near a slab of marble.[Rodney] We live in a house with vinyl siding.

Marble Hill, which used to have a quarry, is so far away. In fact, it is like an orphan. It was geographically severed from Manhattan in 1895 when the Harlem River was redug to make room for a ship canal. Marble Hill is across the river and logically should be the Bronx—but it's not. A little confusing. It is a netherworld, a kind of strange neighborhood, because we vote in Manhattan, but virtually everything else is the Bronx—mailing address, area code, municipal services.

You live between a 1950s public housing complex on Broadway and the area called the hill, with all the small wooden houses that have been owned by the same people for decades. You moved here because you simply had to get out of Brooklyn. That place was a dump. The rent was getting out of control. The stairs were a death trap.

Your life was in the balance. I had thought of moving to Inwood, because it's so beautiful. Then I saw an ad for Marble Hill. The moment I walked in, I knew I had to live here. I don't think I took my eyes off the floor.

The wood floors are shining, the walls perfectly white, two large bedrooms. There is a high degree of civility in your landlord's renovation. You're not in some overly big crumbling loft or overly small crumbling hole. Isn't it refreshing? I have mixed feelings about crumbling. Crumbling is often about history.

You have so many crosscurrents of air. I love the breeze that blows the film posters on the walls—Mi Secreto Me Condema with Montgomery Clift and the powder blue Silken Skin poster where Jean DeSailly is just about to kiss Françoise Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve's sister. With all these film posters, I was thinking of interiors in films. Like in Hitchcock films, there's such a palpable sense of interior. I can feel the fabric on a chair. They always seem to be such claustrophobic spaces. That house in North by Northwest— the ceiling is on top of Cary Grant's head. In Psycho, Hitchcock puts the camera where the wall would be, like behind the night table.

Each architectural detail is invested with what one human being is capable of doing to another. Rodney, you're originally from Gainsville, Georgia—a ranch house where your father fixed antique cars. You became roommates with Jeremy through a mutual friend at Media Blasters! Jeremy has a gold plush recliner and a Tori Amos poster in his room. [Jeremy] I'm from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania—9000 people. I lived in a tall, skinny white house, my great-grandfather's. Lock Haven is the dead center of Pennsylvania. It's where they make Hammermill paper.

Those endless packages of white and green and blue photocopy paper that are in every office in New York that people tear open all day long. You've been here over a year, but you say you don't know anyone in the neighborhood. Do you feel isolated? [Rodney] Sometimes, but it can be a good thing. I had to answer 40 e-mails today at work. On weekends, it's awfully tempting just to stay up here. [Jeremy] But we can't walk out to a café. [Rodney] I'm pretty sure it's the most northern house in the borough of Manhattan. To me it's not that different than an apartment on the Upper West Side. Once you're home, you're home. You're always isolated to some extent.

 
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