Ghost Powder



RENT $2,700 [market]

SQUARE FEET 2,200 [top two floors of 1840s Italianate mansion]

OCCUPANTS Richard Meagher [grants administrator, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Ph.D. student, political science]; Scott Lazar [filmmaker]; Janice Brandine [stage manager]; Cole Bonenberger [stage manager]; and occasional boarders: Marcus Krause [nonprofit administrator-musician]; Chris Seivard [cinematographer]

This is a scary mansion like you said. The doors are peeling. Why is there an old, wet Muhlenberg College towel draped over the railing? [Richard] Scott and I went to Muhlenberg.

I’ve visited. It’s in Allentown with Mr. Matt the dry cleaners and the laundromat with the 1960s chairs. [Scott] This house has been in the process of renovation since I moved in, in 1999. There was a series of floods. Pipes burst twice and there was a fire in our kitchen. The landlady’s been here not much longer than I. She has the apartment downstairs. She’s a family-practice attorney. She’s Greek. She has a house here and in Athens.

It’s like a frat house here—the giant crayon, the liquor shelf. The Boar’s Head sign with the snap-on letters. It reads: “Basic Sex $5.99. Virgin on a stick $9.43. Adam—Seasonal.” Adam was a former roommate, one of 12 roommates and 11 boarders in five years. My favorite on the sign is Romance. It is so cheap—”95 cents.” [Richard] Oral pleasure is so expensive—$249.

For some. Scott is drinking water out of a giant beer mug. Everything here is oversized [six sleeping rooms, four couches].

Even the Cheez-It box. We just went to Costco.

It took so long to get here, l5 blocks from the Astoria Boulevard stop. On my walk, I passed the United Cypriots of America, Pasta-Mat with “Ravioli 22 Varieties!,” the Bosnian American Association with the small maroon plastic awnings, El Adobe Coffee Bar, and Roti Doti. There was also Astoria World Manor with the brass and mirrored lobby that looks like a Trump building, but if you look on the side it’s just dumpy old brick with piles of rose-colored chairs piled up. Where are your roommates? Janice is in Atlantic City. She’s stage manager for Singin’ in the Rain at the Taj. [Scott] I have 775 DVDs, 250 laser discs.

Look, 3-D puzzles—a robot and an antique clock. I did them when I was going through an angst-ridden time. A former roommate had a dartboard. I was jamming darts into a catalog. One went into my hand.

Did you go to the hospital? No, I went to the supermarket and bought hydrogen peroxide, a Band-Aid, and flour.

What does the flour do? I was supposed to bake pumpkin bread that day.

This is one of the older houses in Astoria, from when lumber and shipping magnates built mansions. A few remain, though deprived of their former splendor. Your house has the symmetrical treatment of the Renaissance and eyebrow windows, raised questioningly. I found the apartment when I was living off 30th and Steinway in a basement one-bedroom. The market was so dry. The broker said, I have a four-bedroom. These two girls were looking too. We all went. I saw the staircase and I said to the girls, “We’re all moving in.” There was no way I would not take this. The girls were awful. They moved out. Did Rich tell you about the graves out back, the headstone of a girl who died in 1900-something? [Richard] A lot of people are afraid who saw that movie The Ring. This dead girl lives in a well. We’ve got a well in the yard.

The tall, thick green trees are swaying outside the windows. How can you ever leave? [Scott] One, because transportation is so far.

Do you think the house’s spirit has captured you? [We walk downstairs.] Look, the chandelier fell from the hall ceiling. Why does it have powder on it, like ghost powder? I wish I could stay. I feel the pull. I’m going to fall in the well.