Two-Bedroom Apartment in Prewar Brick Building


Location Astoria

Rent $1020 (rent-stabilized)

Square feet 500

Occupants Derek Scott Graves (publicist);
Jeremy Paskell (photographer)

You moved into this apartment in one of the hundreds of gloomy brick buildings in Queens with halls the color of the bottom of a lagoon because you said you couldn’t take it anymore. You used to live with 10 people. [Jeremy] That was in Chelsea, a one-and-a-half-bedroom. The rent was $1895. It was my friend’s idea. We’d only pay a few hundred each if we could bring in a lot of models. We had two on the loft bed. Two below on the futon. Three in the living room. [Derek] I’d rent out half my futon for $450. I became friends with these people because we were forced to sleep next to each other. Though some were sleeping with each other when they shouldn’t have been. [Jeremy] Like if somebody from the upper bunk wanted to sleep with someone from the lower bunk, they couldn’t do it because they weren’t really paying for that. [Derek] People had to take showers together to save time. Then I went to the Lower East Side and had a sublet above the Pink Pony. I wondered why my rent was only $750 when others on Ludlow were paying $1600. I said to this girl, the building’s not owned by that guy who tried to kill his tenants? The girl didn’t laugh.

Mark Glass. Now he’s in the big house. Yeah. Then I lived in the converted truck factory on South 5th in Brooklyn where all the burned-out buildings are. It wasn’t a happy experience. My friend Kamia lived there. She likes to wear high heels and fur coats and she didn’t really blend in with the neighborhood.

So Derek, you, and another roommate—now gone—got this apartment, which you painted red and purple with pretend cheetah skins for lounging on. The roommate went to a broker against my will. I have a thing against brokers. This guy in Astoria said, OK, $1000 for the broker’s fee and $700 to pay off the listings person. The listings person was just some girl at a desk. Jeremy moved in a few months ago.

Jeremy is putting on white nail polish now while we listen to hard trance music on the radio playing from the laptop. You two met when Jeremy was working in a health food store in West Hollywood in 1997. Jeremy moved to New York two years ago, lived on Staten Island with a couple of strippers, then back and forth to L.A. and San Francisco, then that apartment with 10 people, then a 6000-square-foot loft in Bushwick with not much heat. Moving around isn’t a new development for you. You said you lived in four states before you were nine. It’s not because your father worked for an oil company or something. [Jeremy] No, we were in a religious cult. We traveled around a lot to avoid police activity. It was the Sherman Tabernacle. My mother left us when I was four. My dad was a carpenter. He worked odd jobs in places like Piggly Wiggly. When I was nine, 1984, the FBI came and broke up the whole cult. All the kids in the cult went to foster homes for a few years. When I was 11, my dad and stepmother and sisters and I moved to a house in Massachusetts. It was the first time I lived anywhere normal. When we lived in Texas we were in a big former retirement home, 100 bedrooms. In Oregon, it was a compound, all fenced off. [Derek] This has been pretty stable here in this apartment. I’m from the San Gabriel Valley, West Covina, California. One hundred fifty people with two malls and a toxic dump. My family was in a cult, too. Soldiers for Mary, a Catholic fundamentalist militant offshoot. But we didn’t have to live with them. We just had to go out in the desert on weekends and sit on folding chairs.

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