Location Bay Ridge
Rent $1,400 (market)
Square feet 1,400 (top floor of red brick house)
Occupants Jon Seifer (writer, legal secretary), Gary Perkins (home health aide)
Gary, your plants . . . [Gary] I counted: 47 outside, 16 in the bedroom, eight in the living room, nine in the hallway. I got 12 in the other bedroom. There’s eight in the back den. I go over them all the time. The plants help me. Doing the kind of work I do, you gotta be up and positive with the people—because they’re leaving us. I do long-term care.
You both moved here together from San Francisco in 1995. You’re roommates, not a couple. This neighborhood has little houses with peaked roofs, like they’re standing on their toes, 1930s buildings, and mid-century red brick ones with balconies. I walked along the water with the barges moving so slowly, eerie because they’re like floating land. It was pretty empty on a Sunday morning. A man was holding a paper cup. Another was staring out at the Verrazano. [Jon] We got this apartment last year. [Gary] We used to live somewhere else seven years. We first moved in with friends of his. [Jon] We wanted to be in Manhattan, but the prices. [Gary] I don’t feel like living in a shoebox! Oh, to get to my job at 103rd and Central Park West, I start off with the R, switch to the W, then to the D, then I switch to the C. It takes me two and a half hours on a weekend. [Jon] It only takes me one. A lot of landlords didn’t want two men, too unstable. I found a realtor called New Spirit. The landlord lives underneath, a Greek couple who own a coffee shop in the neighborhood. I work with a lawyer who’s Greek. He said, “You want the apartment? Bring them a bottle of Mavrodaphne wine from Patras.” It worked. The neighborhood is boring but lovely. Lot of small business owners, retired people.
There’s a poignancy about living in other people’s neighborhoods, ones they grew up in but you didn’t. [Gary] I’m from Florida! I love the heat. I was in the army, ’76, stationed over in Germany. Then I moved down to Lauderdale. I was working at the Marlin Beach, what they called a bar back. I used to work the tea dances. Everyone would come in their little bathing suits and they would dance on the floor. I rolled in kegs of beer. That was my big thing, had to keep filling them—go, go, go! Back then, the Marlin was a world-famous gay resort. Then I started working at Shooters in Boca. Then I met someone. His friend had AIDS. We knew there was better care out in San Francisco. We moved. I worked at Visiting Nurse. That was a sad ship job. Weekends I used to go down the street, help the Buddhists, the ones that had the AIDS. They had this big boom thing.
A gong! And that let us know it was time to bring them down.
Jon, you grew up next door to Jack Kerouac and your father is a New Age healer! [Jon] I didn’t know Kerouac. He was the town drunk by then. This was Northport, the early ’60s. When my father married again, he formed a commune—one other couple, their kids and step-siblings in this typical suburban house. They baked bread. One did portraits of people’s pets. My stepmother had potting classes in the garage. I worked with my dad in construction so he could save up to go on a boat trip around the world but he only got to North Carolina and then went to England to this sort of Gurdjieff school and then back into psychology and discovered his healing powers. He’s healed me twice. [Gary] I love him to death. He hugs you and kisses you. [Jon] It was Gary who saved me. He rescued me when I was homeless, in San Francisco, 10 years ago. I had no place to go. Gary let me move in. [Gary] We’ve been looking out for each other ever since.