Two-Story Early-1950s House


Location Whitestone, Queens

Rent $0 Square feet 1600

Occupant Stuart Cohn (producer, MTV news and specials)

Whew! That number 7 train. I think I was drugged. So was everyone else. We were dozing off like in Sleeping Beauty. They overheat the cars.

Whitestone was like the valley of death last summer, what with the deadly encephalitis mosquito and then all those news photos of fumigators standing over inflatable swimming tanks and blasting out the larvae with pesticide sprinkle. Weren’t you scared? Nah.

Let’s not waste any time and go right to the combination dining room and wood-paneled den area with the avocado mod tablecloth, the Chinese-style buffet cabinet, and small porcelain animals. This is your parents’ house, but they’ve been living in Delray Beach, Florida, for three years, so you have the run of the place. Yeah.

Your stuff is everywhere. Your knit hat’s on one chair, another’s on the living room floor, your socks are on the kitchen counter near your mother’s Farberware electric coffeepot. You’ve been home alone here three years, but you haven’t always lived in the house of your parents—former high school teachers—in this mainly Catholic Irish and Italian neighborhood. You left in 1974 to go to SUNY Binghamton and then got an apartment in Carroll Gardens in the pioneer days, 1981. I lived with someone, but then she went crawling back to the East Village. I had a nice floor-through for $400. The landlord raised it to $440. I thought it was too expensive.

Then the L.A. years, 1990 to ’96, commissioning music videos for Hollywood Records, driving on the Disney lot, going past the guard with his thumbs up. You lived in a wooden Craftsman style bungalow with orange, fig, and lime trees in Atwater Village, the cool side of the city. You said it’s like living in Brooklyn, but then after a few years everything was not so cool, because you realized in L.A. you have to be hooked up, in some sort of relationship, otherwise you just sort of drift—that noir dread stuff really exists. I didn’t plan to rob or kill anybody.

I know. So you came back to New York for a visit, got involved with a woman at a party, moved back here, broke up. Que será será. Anyway, it’s three years later and now what? Are you going to sit in that Eames chair forever, near your pile of Rolling Stone magazines, opera CDs, and Mets scorecards from almost every game since 1963, sitting there watching ESPN, day in, day out, or are you going to buy a place, which I know you’ve been dwelling on, though I can’t really see you living in that 1920s co-op apartment you were looking at in Jackson Heights and hanging out in the neighboring tearoom where they like to play the music from The Wizard of Oz. Now I’m thinking maybe Brooklyn. I met this woman and she said, Stuart, we’ve got to get you to DUMBO. But I like having a backyard, a lot of space. I like all the memories of being in this house. It’s not like I think consciously about when I broke my front teeth when I was four. But it’s more like a kind of secure feeling. But my mom is going to sell this house by spring, so I’ll have to find something. Unless she sells it to me. Today I saw this apartment in Astoria for $1500, but it’s like a third-floor walk-up. What’s up with that? I’m going through what everyone goes through in New York. Everything costs a lot of money and nothing seems to be worth it. Of course, I don’t have as much in common with adults in this neighborhood. People my age here have kids, go to church. I don’t live near my friends or anything. My home life is not like a social life. But Mr. Softie does still come around.

Would he come to DUMBO? I doubt it. Fuck DUMBO.

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