By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Be careful with that knife.
I found it buried behind the wall. I was thinking it was a murder weapon or something. I found all kinds of stufftrinkets, rosaries. Lot of Hasidic clothing was in the space. I discovered the history of the building through different clues in the walls. I moved in over a year ago. I had to put down $4000, plus a hefty broker's fee$3700. I got the place with a roommateand his credit ratingbut he's gone now. But I'll be getting more roommates. I can't tell you my real name since this is a commercial space and technically I shouldn't be living here. My plan was, I wanted to get a space big enough to fix up an old sailboat to travel around the world. I wanted to document the experience on film to send to classrooms throughout America. I haven't gotten the boat yet. Or the camera. The first year here I had no heat, no running water, no locks. I had to open the front door with a crowbar. I've been on rent strike close to a year. It was so cold, I'd make coffee and within minutes it would be slush, ice. I've woken up in my sleeping bag with snowdrifts up against me. Snow comes in through holes in the walls; the wind makes the drifts. Now I have heat. But I had to do most of the plumbing myself, bring all my appliances in. My neighbor came to me one day and said, Listen, man, feed yourself first and then spend money on materials. I earn $250 one week and I think, Oh, great, I'll buy some drywall.
You have multiples of everything! Three couches, six radios.
Most of these things don't work, actually. The junkyard guys bring them to me. They're always excited when they get me stuff. This is an isolated little industrial area. People living around here are Dominican, Haitian, Pakistani, Muslim. Some homeless people too. There are a lot of empty lots around.
You have a pirate's chest.
I got it in Albany. My friend got arrested and went to jail. He wasn't paying child support. All his friends swarmed in and got his stuff. I went to SUNY. I'm working on a film now about some of the more memorable times of my life. There are a couple of things. I've died twice.
In L.A. My mother has a propensity for finding haunted houses. We've always had the presence of a ghost in our home. This one place was particularly disturbing. It was on Martel Avenue. My brother and I were always playing Atari back then. Anyway, so there were these ghosts in the house. One day I came home from school, the ghosts threw me down the stairs and I died and . . .
Do you smell gas?
Probably. I have to fix my oven. Let me turn off the main valve.
What about the second time you died?
I was three. I basically overdosed on Robitussin.
When did you move from L.A.?
When I was in sixth grade, in '90, my father was closing his gallery in L.A. and opening one in New York. Though my parents had gotten divorced when I was a year old, they were still friends. My father got a house on Long Island for everyone to live inhe thought it would be better for everyone to be closer togethermy mother, my stepfather, my older and younger brothers, my father's grandparents, and my father and his lover. I didn't move right away. I had very close relationships with my friends in school. So while everyone was getting settled, I stayed in L.A. with an ordained Buddhist monk. When I came to live on Long Island six months later, things in the house were already falling apart.
You're living underneath a five-ton crane. If that big iron hook fell down, it could . . .
I haven't had time to fiddle with it yet. I have a lot to do here. I have floods fairly often. Water runs like a stream through the living room area. One night, there was a book, a bag, and clothing just floating away.