Location Sunset Park
Price $1500 (market) Square feet 2200
Occupants Darry Romano (artist; teacher, Kingsborough Community College; owner, Graphos Studios/Virtual Fine Art)
You live right next to Green-Wood Cemetery, with all those marble urns and the tombs of Leonard Bernstein, Lola Montez—she had an affair with King Ludwig!—and also those statues of handsome Civil War soldiers with sideburns. What a view! In the summer it’s absolutely delightful.
This is the whitest loft I’ve ever seen—white floors, walls, drapes, sofas, white holiday flocking and sparkling balls on the windows—it looks like where Frosty the Snowman lives. What a charming display you have on the floor! It’s as though your loft were wearing Christmas earrings—presents wrapped with bows, an electric train set, little ceramic Christmas houses! There’s a snowy church, a snowy grocery, a snowy grist mill—these houses are always so happy, never grim, yet what if one were to look deep inside, beyond the gumdrop doorknobs—one might see the red velvet hangings of a bordello or a closet with a body in an oil drum. Oh, let’s not go there. Okay.
You found your loft last spring—with its 5000-foot roof deck—from a flyer on a lamppost. You said it used to be a concrete factory, then a mother-of-pearl factory. How much did you renovate? I spent about $38,000 painting it myself, putting down flooring, building the shower, bedroom, closets, laundry room, kitchen. Another $4000 on plants and trees. It’s amazing a kid from the Bronx can grow things.
Ah, yes, you grew up playing stickball on 174th off the Grand Concourse with your four brothers—one’s in the FBI now! You have so many old mantel clocks here. I love clocks and watches. I don’t wind them. But I like the idea of them.
Do you have a preoccupation with time fleeting? No, I just like clocks and watches.
I don’t mean to get all Freudian. Feel free.
Maybe I’m the one with the preoccupation. You’ve made other New York lofts habitable—that is, after you were in the Peace Corps in 1974 and lived in the Ivory Coast in a cinder-block villa with a tin roof. I had a loft on Mercer, early ’80s, dark as hell, in a building that was like living inside a piano because everything reverberated and the woman next door said my answering machine was too loud. She was a light artist and had all her windows closed off so any sound disturbed her. She had a piece of paper on the door. When it was green, I could listen to music. When it was red, no, no.
The other loft, the one before this one, was in Park Slope, where for five years you fought ceiling floods. You know what happened to my friend S. her first week in New York? She came home and all her furniture was covered with brown liquid dripping from the ceiling—her toothbrush and everything—and she went to the apartment upstairs and there was this older woman and a small dog barking madly and the bathtub was spilling over with brown you-know-what and these plumbers from Bensonhurst were shaking and trembling trying to stop the flow as the toilet was backing up into everything. It was a terrible experience. You’re holding your head, your eyes are rolling. It must bring back memories. You also said you found arms and legs underneath the dropped ceiling. I thought I’d found Jeffrey Dahmer’s summer home. They were mannequin parts.
Now, this loft has brought you only happiness? The landlord here is wonderful. Though when I first walked in, the loft was so sad and dirty. But it wanted to be clean and it wanted to be free . . .
What are these color photos of nude men, perched on a rock, leaning against a front door? They have names—Lie Boy, Wetman, Still Not About Dick . . . I take pornography from the Internet and turn it into fine art. I put the photos in 3-D sometimes. I’m making the object what it wants to be . . .
Doesn’t leave you a lot of time for gazing at the cemetery. No, no time.