One Room on Top Floor of 1898 Brownstone


Location Park Slope, Brooklyn

Rent $800 (market)

Square feet 1000

Occupant Steven Joerg (owner-operator, AUM Fidelity, recording label; salesperson, Uprising Bread Bakery)

Imagine, you grew up next to O’Hare Airport in Chicago where the sky is always gray and you lived in a cul-de-sac with your parents from Germany who had a lot of Volkswagens and you went to the University of Illinois where you pored over your subscription to The Village Voice and dreamed of making it in the music business. But who knew when you went east, moving across the vast swath of North America where woolly mammoths once roamed, to Brooklyn where the Munsee Indians ate shellfish—you are sitting on top of a lot of history!—that you’d end up living in a room in a brownstone where Republicans used to come and stare at their intramural sports trophies and their delegate badges to the presidential conventions? This used to be a Republican club. Vinny Riccio, a former assemblyman and councilman at large, ran the club from about 1968 to l982. He was a big cheese. But then he became a jailbird for a year, after he was found guilty of bilking the state out of $5800 and giving the money to his mistress! Then the building reportedly left Republican hands for the first time in its history, and became the property of your landlords, a dentist and his wife, an artist, who live in Soho. Steve Buscemi and his wife used to live on the second floor! I believe Steve got a place up the block. His brother Michael lives next door.

You have the flu. How is it to have the flu in a beautiful orangy brown oak-paneled room that is slightly medieval—all those ceiling beams, ivy covering the windows? The light fixtures are white globes with pink flowers! If I could relax, as if I had the flu all the time, it would be fantastic not doing anything in this room. But I couldn’t be lying around all day, every day. That would be goofy.

People always long to live in beautiful mansions, but the beauty cannot change the tortures of life—broken hearts, earning a living. Rooms are merely stage sets for whatever else is going on. In your case, I see hundreds of records, sound equipment, and a CD with the song “What RU Going 2 Due?” and I can hear your thoughts about the earnest potato bread in the bakery down the street where you work to support your love of music. I’ve had these live acoustic jazz performances here since I moved in two years ago. The groups always play right in front of the computer. There are 75, 80 people in here at a time. The crowds are very well behaved. They are so enraptured by the music.

You have nine windows. Being into the number three, that makes me very happy. Aum is one example of the number three—three letters. Aum is the Hindu mantra of mantras, the original tone from which everything sprang. AUM is the name of my record label.

Is it! You know, I feel like we’ve chased the last of the Republican demons out of the space. I thought we had chased them out after the first performance here. I was wrong. My girlfriend and I broke up shortly after the show.

At least you had the lease. Finally, after five more performances, the demons were gone. I could tell you the groups who played in the performances. Joe Morris…

So did you ever think, when you were dreaming of going into the music business, that you’d be doing it in some Republican club from another century? You keep asking me that question. No, but l0 years from now, when people move in, they can say this is where AUM Fidelity used to be. That’s far more important than 100 years of Republicans. That’s my sense of history.