Two-Bedroom Apartment Over a Restaurant


Location: Astoria

Rent: $1000 (market)

Square Feet: 1200

Occupants: Nicky Beer (publicity assistant, book publishing; freelance copywriter; poet); Miles Kahn (filmmaker; production coordinator)

It’s like three of you are living here— Miles, Nicky, and the live music from the Greek restaurant downstairs. Miles, you were saying . . . I hate the music. It’s yelling and screaming and moaning. It’s so loud it keeps us up at all times. Nicky’s bedroom gets it the worst. Bouzouki music is like a faucet that’s dripping. All the stars look like my Uncle Murray.

You’ve lived here two years. The noise struggle’s been going on seven months— since new owners bought the restaurant, which has bas-reliefs of men wrestling and playing croquet. We’ve been through so many different channels. I called the police. They didn’t show. Then one time the cops conference-called the restaurant and we had a three-way conversation. They were like, Mr. Kahn would like you to turn the music down. It didn’t do anything. One day I saw the cops go in and hug and kiss the owner on the cheek. I called the Department of Environmental Protection a couple of times. They have to come and get a reading. The sound has to be over 60 decibels. Then they come to get another reading and it has to be a 20-decibel change. Of course when they come, the music’s not as loud. Nicky used to have this big tattooed boyfriend. He tried to scare them. At first the owners started out very friendly. They offered us food and drink, which we refused. They put an extra pane of glass under their skylight. They had contractors put in sound insulation. Nothing worked. A lot of buildings in Queens are built really cheaply— brick wall, drywall.

Your landlord felt so sorry for you, he lowered your rent. He’s Chinese, from Peru. He owns the chicken place downstairs. I told him about the noise. A few weeks later he said, I’ll lower your rent, $l00 a month. I said, You’re the best landlord in New York. He said, You’re the best tenant in New York. Then I found out that standard
leases say landlords have to provide reasonably quiet apartments.

Lately, the noise is better? Summer is the slow
season. People go back to Athens. But recently the living room was vibrating. Nicky wasn’t here. I knew it would upset her. I stormed in the restaurant and the big guy, Steve, took me by the shirt. I said, Guys, I’m not here to fight.

Let’s talk about how tidy everything is, the books in neat piles on the large mirrored coffee table. I found the table. It’s like from some ’80s coke den. I like to keep things neat. My mother was an immaculate woman. She could not live with clutter. It got to me when I grew up. I walk into a place that’s cluttered, I get claustrophobic. Fighting the junk mail, keeping the table clean. It’s like a war.

You’re rocking violently in your chair. [Nicky] Tell her about when you hurt your back trying to clean. [Miles] I’d jumped into Nicky’s bed to wake her up. When I turned around, my back was stuck. Then I was trying to mop the floor, but my back was all cranked up. I had to drive to my chiropractor and have him do emergency treatment on my back. I couldn’t stand Nicky cleaning the apartment by herself.

You went to high school together in Northport, Long Island, where Jack Kerouac once sat on his mother’s porch drinking. Then Nicky went to Yale. You went to Florida State, moved here. Nicky came a year later. Will you stay a long time? [Nicky] I’m applying for an M.F.A. in poetry at NYU, or in Houston. [Miles] I’m not letting you move. I would never get another roommate. My next roommate is going to be someone I’m in love with. [Nicky] I love you. [Miles] I love you. [Nicky] We have a strong familial bond that’s developed over the years. His family thinks it’s strange we’re not sleeping together. [Miles] We walk around nude and no eroticism passes between us at all.

You need to stop thinking about the bouzouki music all the time.

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