Two-Room Apartment in 1880s House


Location Gowanus (Brooklyn)

Rent $675 (market)

Square feet 400

Occupant Ed Woodham (producer, teaching artist, cocreator of The It Factor on Bravo)

We’re having a second interview on the telephone. During the first interview, two weeks ago, I was more preoccupied with whether you had ever seen the Loch Ness monster in the Gowanus Canal, since you live a block away. But that was before planes crashed into buildings, made the city crumble the way it does in little boys’ comic books, and left the rest of the world—as of this conversation—in a state of terror that won’t go away. How are you feeling now? I feel numb, like I’m waking from a sleep. I guess when you bring up the Gowanus Canal again and the monster, it reminds me of the recurring dream I’ve had since I was a child, about running into a department store and grabbing a bike in order to get away from the explosions. I grew up in Atlanta with the Cuban missile crisis and my head between my legs in a hallway to do duck-and-cover from the atom bomb. That never left me.

When we talked a few weeks ago, it was a warm afternoon. We sat in your kitchen with the ceiling fan turning, Cuban music playing. I was in a cool, green Eames chair; you were in a yellow one. The apartment was so tidy and calm. Does it feel the same way to sit in your house? It does not. The sound of the second plane was right outside the window, something I’ll never forget. I was watching it on TV and I was hearing it outside.

Were you at home a lot during that first horrible week? Yes. It’s my sanctuary. You saw my house. The items are few and functional. It offers me solace, the space does. Of course you question that, too, knowing it’s so precarious—any structure. I didn’t go into Manhattan. I spent little time in the street, really. I occasionally turned on the TV, watched the updates, until I was full.

Have you seen your wonderful landlords, who gave you a box of candy and a card when you moved in four years ago and only raised your rent $25 in all that time? No, they live in Staten Island. But I’m sure they’re all right.

We also talked about the little brown heater in your kitchen, standing proudly on its four legs. I haven’t thought about my little brown heater lately.

I have, a lot. You called it a “grandma heater,” and said your grandparents had one. They lived in a weathered wood home with a tin roof in the depths of Texasville, Alabama, no central heating. Uncle Elmer lived there, too. He was a bachelor. You had wonderful memories of sitting on your grandmother’s porch and eating big Sunday dinners. You’d have fried chicken and hush puppies and corn bread and lima beans and iced tea, and just pass out afterward. Don’t you want to go back to that? Right now, for the first time in my life, my head is twisted around on my neck longing for what was safe and warm, though maybe it’s just a temporary feeling. The emotional climate, depending on the news, seems to shift every five minutes lately. No, I don’t want to go back. It’s like a dream to return to yet another dream. It’s time to face the reality of the world that we live in.

I hope that reality includes reading that newsletter you showed me when I visited. You had found it during an Internet search for a play you’re working on. The newsletter is called the Grey Play Round Table for concerned human owners of African Grey parrots. They think their parrots look like “knights in shining armor”; they have a chat group on the Web. We looked at the article on “Wing Clipping: When Is It Too Short?” Then we stared at the photos of these people sitting around a patio table in south Jersey and another group in Salinas, California, with their parrots perched on their forefingers. I just hope those people will be sitting around the table with their parrots for a long time.