PRICE $20,000 in 2000 [$277 monthly maintenance]
SQUARE FEET 550 [one bedroom co-op in 1920s six-story building]
OCCUPANTS Jim Comeau [freelance photographer; program assistant, Advantage Testing]
What is your chihuahua doing? He’s humping the echidna.
What’s an echidna? It’s an Australian animal. This is a toy.
The chihuahua won’t stop. I’ve had him five years and he never did it with the other animals. When I went to Australia, I got him some others but it wasn’t the same. This one I bought in Brooklyn, on Bedford. Within a matter of hours, he was humping it.
He might have a medical condition. He’ll bite it for two hours sometimes. He had a Cabbage Patch Doll but nothing happened. And he’s fixed. I had a birthday party a few months ago. Of course, he got excited and was humping the echidna. His lipstick got a little too far out. It took a while to get it back in.
We’ve really got to get onto the Finnish topic. So this co-op, Varma Cooperative Homes, was started by a Finnish community in 1925 and everybody was Finnish. Then I read that the first nonprofit or limited-dividend co-op was a Finnish one, the Alku in Sunset Park, in l9l6. That inspired others like this and inspired the acceptance of the cooperative movement throughout the U.S. In l900, the city had 9,845 Finns, according to the census. In 1930 there were 20,043. In 1970, only 6,954. The buildings were owned by Jewish people originally. In the 1980s things changed hands a bit here, and now it’s primarily Asian. When we have co-op meetings, sometimes they have interpreters who speak Mandarin.
He’s still doing it. I’m going to lift the echidna in the air. He goes right with it. He’s just trembling. He likes it rough too.
Why is there a single wooden chair painted white on each floor? I don’t know, a Finnish touch.
You are just one block from Yankee Stadium. It looks all silver on top, from the lights. I heard people on the train coming here. This one woman kept saying—though you could tell she would probably rather be home reading—”Oh, I’m so psyched.” Everyone walking on the street has a single purpose—the game! Their eyes look like they are in a cult. There was a man with all gold teeth. People are crawling around outside your building, jumping up, hitting signs. There is a lot of banging. It wears on me a bit. Look, I can see the bleachers from my bathroom. You know the Yankees lost when they have Liza Minnelli singing “New York, New York.” When they win, it’s Frank Sinatra.
Liza’s pathos. A neighbor told me that Leonard Bernstein’s personal assistant lived in my apartment. [Jeannine Comeau, Jim’s sister, comes in. She also has an apartment in the building.] I work on Law & Order. I started as a stand-in. I’m the D.A.’s secretary. [Jim] We both moved to New York at the same time. [Jeannine] We lived together five and a half years. [Jim] She’s a slob. We were on 23rd Street. I slept in the hallway. She slept in the living room. The place was a dump. Steve Croman was our landlord. The Voice voted him one of the 10 worst landlords a few years ago. [Jeannine] One of my friends used to live on the Grand Concourse. I saw the sign advertising this. [Jim] Within two weeks, we bought our places. We grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts. We’re very close. People think we’re twins. We just vacationed in Florida. We went to Ireland last summer.
What are these miniature metal swords? Each one is in a holder. [Jim] My mom got them in the ’50s. [Jeannine] They’re olive picks. Our mother died three years ago. I took her to the hospital on a Monday. She died the following Monday. She had lymphoma. [Jim] We were very close to her.
It’s lucky you have each other. [Jim] Yes. Once at 4 a.m., I went to her apartment and just broke down.
That chihuahua’s going to collapse.