Big Brothers


LOCATION Williamsburg

RENT $2,730 [commercial]

SQUARE FEET 2,000 [two floors of an 1845 three-story building]

OCCUPANTS Eric Merola [director of animation]; P.J. Merola [solo percussionist; multimedia designer; short-term equities trader]

You have 13 bronze bells, three drum sets, five frame drums, a xylophone, 100 mallets, a vibra-phone, a marimba—pling, pling—ahh, I think I’m in the islands. [P.J.] I play classical.

Oh, OK. It’s so gray in here, all the soundproofing foam on the walls. Look, three computer screens with green, orange, and electric-blue graphs. I use them when I trade on the stock market—technical analysis to gauge probabilities pattern resolution of the charts. I’m not sure I can summarize it so you can understand it. It’s really complicated.

I’m not really making money yet. [Eric] We moved here around 9-11. My landlord and his wife got divorced. He wanted to move, bad memories. [P.J.] What? [Eric] That’s what he said. The reason we knew him—he owned a bunch of bodegas around Brooklyn and one in Greenpoint, where I used to live with a couple of guys. [Eric says later: One guy left because he hated the other guy. I kicked the other guy out because I couldn’t stand him either.] Our landlord’s Puerto Rican. He was a lawyer for a while. The reason he owned bodegas is a lot of people from the Middle East would come over and open bodegas and he would handle those deals. Through his experience, he got some bodegas himself. He sold his last bodega. He decided he didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. He got his brokerage license. [P.J.] He just works in a big real estate company. [Eric] I don’t know every detail. The bottom floor of this building is an art gallery, the Dollhaus. There was this one show—a bunch of fetuses that were aborted. One had two faces. She gets these huge turnouts. When we moved in, we put some really incredibly thick carpet down to help drown out the noise. It really works. Girls with high heels are all over the place on it. They have to take them off. We’re both from North Carolina. My father works for the U.S. Postal Service. He’s a rural carrier. At Christmastime, he gets all these gifts—Santa Claus in a post office outfit. The town is Kernersville.

So science fiction—where the aliens invade! My brother went to North Carolina School of the Arts. He was the youngest eighth-grader ever to be allowed in. [P.J.] The youngest drummer to be accepted in the percussion program. [Eric] I went to art school. We’ve been in New York for about seven years. After 9-11, I lost my job. I had a horrible time getting new work. I had this animated project. I sent a little pitch to CAA. They loved it. They said, You should just come out here [L.A.] and work with us. I was paying rent in New York, paying rent in L.A., borrowing from my parents, I had as much cash advanced from credit cards as humanly possible. The two agents just got up and went to ICM and I was just left there and wow. I came back totally broke. I just got a letter that I’m being audited for that year. I’m going through a huge thing to prove to the IRS that I’m not a drug dealer or terrorist.

What about the deportation matter? I have a girlfriend who’s from Poland. She was living in New York as an au pair. She had a year left of school in Poland and went back to register and came back to visit me. She got stopped at JFK and they interrogated her for close to six hours. They basically sat her down and said, If you don’t admit to working here, you could spend the night in jail. She just held her ground and said no. She finally cracked and said she occasionally got $100 now and then from the family she lived with, and they brought out a confession and asked her to sign it. Then she was sent immediately back on a plane and banished from the States for five years. I was sitting in the airport waiting.

Did you ever get to see her? No. After 12 hours of travel, she called me from Germany. A cute, blue-eyed, blonde girl—they decided to completely destroy her. We’re going to end up getting married.