Location West Village
Price Under $5000 in 1972 ($693.75/mo. maintenance)
Square feet 950
Occupant Susan Hoover (guitarist, poet)
I met you last summer near a bowl of Wheat Chex on a bar in a roadhouse across from the Full Moon Hotel in Oliveria, New York, where they say at the desk, “Welcome to the moon, man!” Hippie talk. Anyway, you promised you’d be in a Shelter column and talk about your cabin in the Catskills and your Village apartment. Now you say you can’t deal with anything but thinking about the tragedy and terrorist attacks, but I’m forcing you to. So let’s have a refreshing country getaway and talk about the cabin. It was spring 1980. I felt like getting out of the city one weekend and riding my motorcycle insanely. It’s a white vintage BMW, and I was all in white. I always wear high heels. I was visiting a chiropractor and his wife in Woodstock, and I arrived covered in oil. But it was a great, great weekend. When I was ready to leave, I don’t know what made me say this, but I said, “If somebody“—I put this in the third person as if I were getting information for somebody else—”if somebody wanted to try to buy a house here, what would they do?” My friends immediately called this real estate agent, and I said to her, “I’m not looking for anything, and even if I were, I would only want something on top of a mountain and totally isolated, and I don’t care if it has electricity or running water.” I had lived like this when I graduated University of Colorado in the ’60s, but I only said all this to fend her off. But then she said, “I have just the thing.” She whipped over, and when we got there, I remember standing at the top of the driveway. Every cell in my body knew I was going to have this place. It’s a hand-built cabin with logs from the land. It’s small, on three levels. It’s just totally charming, bluestone floor. At the end of the driveway, there’s a gigantic stone circle commemorating an Indian tepee. Two hippie people built it and had two babies.
What were the hippie couple like? They were getting divorced. So, anyway, you could be in the Wild West up there. No sense of anything human, so kind of primitive, gorgeous. I’ve had bears standing on their rear legs and sniffing at my windows. I have no running water. I buy an Empire State Park pass and pump water out of a well. I take showers there, too—five minutes for a quarter. Most people think I’m crazy to do this. I’m there June through mid September. This year, I had this legal matter about my car and I chose a hearing date in Manhattan on September 11. Oh, God.
Let’s back up a minute. You said you were born in Montreal. Then your family moved to Vermont after your father invented the hydraulic variable-pitch propeller that was on all warplanes, but then the government appropriated the invention and your father signed away all his rights, and it’s a long story. We lived in Vermont on top of a mountain. I remember snowshoeing down to go to a one-room schoolhouse. My mother said she would divorce my father if she had to stay on the mountain any longer. So we moved to Williamstown, Massachusetts. By 1966, I was in New York, in an apartment in the building next to the one I’m in now. The rent was, like, $91. The story was that the girl who’d lived there had a dog. She’d been up on the roof playing with the dog and a ball, and the dog went sailing off the roof after the ball. There were no locks on the front door; garbage pickup had stopped. I got pissed off and decided to sue. It took two years, but I won rent reduction for everybody in the building. We had a pretty strong tenants’ advocacy group. We went to the city and kept hammering to buy that building or the one I’m in now. We had to get financing because none of us had any money. We lived with our bags packed. The landlord could have evicted us at any moment. Finally, everything was a go. We got the building next door. We had 24 hours to get out. The buildings are connected. I moved across the roof in the night. When I got here, all the ceilings were gone. Everything had to be redone—wiring, plumbing. I bought the apartment sight unseen. I picked the top floor.