Railroad-Style Studio Apartment in Tenement Building


Location Chelsea

Price $868.32 (rent-stabilized) Square feet 380

Occupants John Porter (project manager, Pentagram Design; DJ); Chris Brady (computer trainer for large law firm)

You live around the corner from the Big Cup in Chelsea! The Big Cup is so famous. It’s like Sardi’s or something. All those men with big, bare chests nibbling on scones. [Chris] We call the sidewalk in front of the Big Cup the piazza di Chelsea. [John] The angriest man in New York lives above it. He puts down baby powder on the steps so no one will sit down. People sit down anyway. He’s absolutely powerless in the face of the piazza.

I heard Chris gets excited about holiday decorations. Recently you had an assortment of Santas on the toilet tank. What are you going to do for Valentine’s Day? Which reminds me, the two of you met at a Labor Day dance at the Palladium three years ago. Then John, you moved in with Chris, who had already lived here five years. [Chris] He didn’t move in right away. [John] I thought it was important to keep my apartment in Park Slope for a while. I mean so if we had a fight, I wouldn’t be trapped. [Chris] In the rest of the world when you meet someone, the sensible thing to do is make a home together but in New York it’s . . .

. . . a big risk. You’ve really got this long skinny space organized! Antique-y living area in front with foldout couch for sleeping, John’s 2000 records in the next section, a computer and clothes-closet area, bathroom, kitchen. What are those line drawings on the wall that all look like the same doodle? [John] I like to draw basket weave pattern systems inspired by Celtic manuscript designs. I really like systems, order.

Oh heck, let’s hear it for chaos. Wasn’t it Mao who said, “There’s great chaos in the land and I’m responsible”? Such a comedian! So John, did you have a lot of chaos in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where you grew up in the ’70s in a white house on a cliff and sometimes your father played the clarinet standing on a Scandinavian rug? My father was tidy and my mother was untidy. My sister and I were Dr. Spock children. If we were punished, we had to stand in the corner.

What if people in New York made each other stand in the corner? Of course life in New York is like standing in the corner. [Chris] I’m from Jackson Heights. My father was a sax player, piano tuner, Italian. My mother was fanatically clean. I’m clean but it’s not as important to me anymore. You get older and say, Fuck this. [John] As you become more secure in life, you’re not as concerned that the bathroom isn’t perfectly clean. Of course I’ve always felt safe in the world anyway. [Chris] He has WASP entitlement. [John] I’m sloppy. I don’t care. [Chris] Ah me, poor girl from streets weds WASP from Wellesley.

Gee, your sofa reminds me of this sofa I used to know—well, that one was Early American with red, blue, and yellow flowers. It ended up in this office somewhere and three things happened on it, or so I’m told. One, there was an employee who used to keep Penthouse magazines underneath it and lie there and do you know what. Then there was another employee and the man she was having an affair with and they couldn’t help themselves and they did it on the couch. Then another employee, he had lung cancer, he would lie down on the couch to rest after his chemotherapy treatments. All at different times, of course. Oh, the historical mythological landscape of our furniture . . . [John] See that black chair?

Yes? It was my grandmother’s.

And?! I used to sit on it on Sunday afternoons at her house. And she . . .

You had an affair with your grandmother! No, we used to watch Doris Day movies.