Temps Perdu


LOCATION: West Fifties

RENT: $1,150

SQUARE FEET: 260 [high-ceilinged room in early-20th-century walk-up]

OCCUPANTS: Vincent Minervini [artist; package and toy designer, Cudlie Accessories]

Colonel Sanders’s big face is all over your apartment. I paint him with wine, fire, and rhinestones. Vintage chardonnay. [We read aloud from a book Vincent is writing.] “At times I feel as though my paintings of George high on a wall are protecting me, leading me into a better place in life, like a friend, other times he watches in judgment and pity as I toil away for his benefit.”

I’ve never been to the West Fifties. What’s down the street? My family comes there to go on their cruises. They get on the Carnival boat. I just saw them over the weekend. They drive me crazy, oh God, because, I don’t know, my mother, well, I work with glitter in my work. She called, “There was glitter on the baby when I turned her over.” My sister’s baby was there—one piece of pink glitter on the baby, trace evidence I was in their home. My father? He tries not to notice the glitter. He has his own electrical business, real tough guy from Italy. If he likes you, he’ll whack you. [Julio Ortiz, Vincent’s boyfriend, who is visiting] He whacks me all the time.

Does it hurt? [Julio] Yes, it hurts. [I ask where he lives.] Jersey City, with my family. I’m a massage therapist. [Vincent] My parents are in Parsippany, New Jersey. We had a swamp in the back. A few years ago, I saw something, pulled it out . . .

And . . . [Vincent] It was an old doll head.

Darn, I thought it was going to be human. It was my sister’s from 15 years ago. It was decomposed with roots growing through its head. I made a new body for it, a little dress.

You said Nipsey Russell lives in this neighborhood! [Julio] He shops at D’Agostino. [Vincent] He wears a little beret. [We look at The Simpsons on TV.] I watch cartoons a lot. They’ve got color. They’re simple. Everything’s war now.

We’re all getting nervous again after Spain. It comes in waves. [Vincent] I don’t know where I live anymore. The whole country is changing. Who else lives on this street? College kids—Fordham. The AOL Time Warner building is cool, like a Japanese animation.

What about the renovation of West 58, the $1.4-to-$5 million condos? I don’t need to be hearing about that. [We admire his lamp made out of a bulb inside a Poland Spring water bottle.] Places have opened around here. There’s Therapy. They have gorgeous bathrooms, very personal, everyone gets a stall, speakers in each one. [His mother calls and we listen to the message: “I’m wondering if you’re home. All right.” She breathes some. “Goodbye.”]

There’s a constant whoosh of traffic outside. At night, it’s like a ghost town. Well, college kids out at three in the morning, really drunk and loud, like it’s the first time they’ve ever had a drink. These kids don’t care.

Now what’s on TV? [Vincent] SpongeBob. [Julio] He works in a crab patty restaurant.

Your disco ball’s in an upside-down birdcage. [Vincent] If I wake up under it, I know I’m at home. I don’t go out too much anymore.

A friend was telling me about Sunday-morning parties. How clubs can’t sell liquor then, so they sell expensive water, $6 a bottle. Everybody’s on crystal meth and things and they’re so thirsty. Some people refill the bottles in the bathroom. One place supposedly turned off its cold water to force people to buy fresh bottles. You have an old-fashioned radio. It’s a record player. My mother got it for me. I’ll put on some Yaz. I have my records, honey. [He flips them in the air.] Shaking vinyl sounds like thunder. I used to be a club kid, do interiors at Limelight. Let’s say we’re all hanging out here, we’re drinking. [He scratches the record.] It’ll be like a remix I’ve never heard. If it’s a big party night, we’d be making costumes here. Plastic sleeves, leg warmers out of old hats. I’d make a hat out of a tissue box. [Julio] It’ll look cute, too.

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