Renovated Loft in Former Industrial Building


Location East Williamsburg

Rent $1100 (commercial)

Square feet 1100

Occupants Xico Greenwald and Manena Frazier (artists/gallerists); Imogen (seven weeks old)

Wobby nobby doo do, Imogeneee, what a teeny weeny baby in a biggy wiggy lofty, so cheepy weepy for nice floory, whitey wally, bathwathy roomy so newy. Nicey landlordy! [Xico] Should we give the nursing another try? She has a burp that hasn’t come up yet. I think she’s pooping.

There is nothing more industrial than near the Morgan L stop. Big sweep of hard gray sky, open lots with red Boar’s Head trucks and floodlights, fences. Having grown up in a post-war neighborhood with baby carriages on sidewalks, I think it’s startling to imagine this new generation of industrial babies. Their childhood is like a perpetual Robert de Niro movie, guys in zippered jackets. [Manena] That’s going to be the foundation of her consciousness. Or she could end up, well, Republican. I always tell her. I love you even if you end up a Republican. [Xico] She is farting up a storm. [Manena] The neighborhood’s expanding. A health food store opened up near here last week.

You rent another 1000 square foot loft on the ground floor which is now Manena’s studio and your Diamantina Gallery. [Manena] It’s my mom’s name. It means little diamond. The gallery is like a little diamond in the midst of all this industry.

What’s the Italian music playing? It’s Roberto Murolo, a Neapolitan song about a sardine that falls in love with a tuna and it can’t ever fulfill its love because the tuna is so big and the sardine is so small. The sardine dresses up in jewelry.

Xico, you used to live downstairs until you fell in love with Manena and moved upstairs. She told me the back story on the phone: “I used to live with my boyfriend in this apartment. And then it all went horribly wrong and then I became friends with Xico. Before that we were always trying to get him to come play Scrabble with us because a friend of mine had a crush on him. So then after my boyfriend left, I used to hang out with Xico a lot. We’d get breakfast together. And then he was modeling for me for a painting. It was a big painting, four by eight, because I knew it would take me like a long time. Then once I asked him if I could take a nap on his bed. I knew he was going to kiss me. But then I couldn’t enjoy it because my mental dialogue was going on the whole time, “Oh, he’s kissing me just like I thought and . . . ” [Xico] You know more about our first encounter than I do. When I moved in the downstairs loft, the rent was $950 but now it’s only $450 because I work as a super for the building taking out the the dumpsters once a week, replacing lightbulbs. The building was one of the first converted loft buildings in the neighborhood, three years ago, Kay Management. [Manena] For a while we sublet the downstairs space, but then that person met someone on our floor and now he moved up. [Xico] Would you like to see Imogen’s room? She has a Stim Mobile. Babies are drawn to black and white abstract patterns. When the baby changes, I don’t know when, the mobile comes with color replacements. This bed was only $150 but the mattress was twice the price. [Manena] We read that sudden infant death syndrome can be caused by flame retardant chemicals in the mattress. [Xico] So we had to search the Internet for a safe mattress.

You grew up in Iran . . . [Manena] . . . and the United Arab Emirates and England. My dad, American, translates classical Arabic. My mother’s Mexican American. She had a chain of flower shops in the Emirates. Now they’re retired in Cyprus. [Xico]. My dad’s an international trade lawyer in D.C. [Manena] Look, we made prints with the placenta. This one’s a tree. [Xico] Did you hear that burp? [Manena] [To Imogen] You did that beautiful burp.