Thank You, Grandfather


LOCATION Kensington, Brooklyn

PRICE $215,000 in 2004 [$638 maintenance]

SQUARE FEET 960 [one-bedroom co-op in 1955 building]

OCCUPANTS Andrew Perret [performance videographer]; Hetty King [dance teacher, kindergarten through eighth grade]

I saw that big sign outside the church near here: “Abortion Stops a Human Heart From Beating . . . 4,000 Times a Day” and the EKG chart. [Andrew] There’re a lot of churches around here. [A pug jumps up.] Buster!

His growl is so deep. So I went inside. It’s called the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They celebrated their jubilee in 1993. The church must be from when the neighborhood was all Irish and Italian. Caton near East 4th is so funny, with its rows of red-brick houses and white pediments and resolute little topiaries. Two women were out on the steps with a dog with a big jaw and small pointed ears. One had dark-red dyed hair and the other had a gravelly voice. That’s the street with the sycamore trees.

I’m so mad. I wanted to see the horse stables but I couldn’t find them. I read they’re 100 years old and you can ride for an hour for $25 and there are reports that Margaret the horse was in Prospect Park and a pit bull bit her in the behind and then she bit the pit bull and they fought for a long time and Margaret needed stitches and the pit bull had to go to an animal control center. What a jungle. The little horsey girls hang out there in little T-shirts with sequined horse pictures. [To dog] Buster! He’s trying to put his terry-cloth toy on your foot. We got him in a pet store in Connecticut. There he was with a Pomeranian. We took him for a walk, put a little deposit on him, and got him a week later. He broke Hetty’s heart. I wanted a French bulldog. I really like a dog that can make you laugh.

Do pugs’ eyes really pop out of their heads? You mean if a pit bull sat on his head? That’s like an urban myth of pug owners.

You just got this apartment. Does all the space make you feel relaxed? I thought we were relaxed in our old apartment in Prospect Heights—nice big garden, mockingbirds, great neighborhood. [Hetty] We were there since 2001. [Andrew] We were looking to buy, there and in Ditmas Park, so unaffordable, more than $300,000 for a one-bedroom, on not-so-nice blocks. When we came here, it was winter. I kept hearing the expressway outside the window. I was just nervous that I would be lying at night with my eyes wide-open clutching the mattress. [Hetty] Andrew doesn’t like change. You hone in on things and won’t . . . [Andrew] I like to establish priorities. [Buster is growling.]Quiet was on my personal priority list. I grew up in Connecticut near I-95, the big interstate. Here, it’s almost reminiscent.

Do you have happy childhood memories? I grew up in a woody place on a river.

Were there wolves? Once a bald eagle passed through. [Hetty] We lived on the Lower East Side until I was five. My parents had lived all over since the ’50s, a loft on Delancey, under the bridge. In 1969, they bought the house in Park Slope when my dad won money in a poker game. He said to my mom, Let’s go to Puerto Rico and live cheap. Uncle Harry said, Why don’t you buy a house? [Andrew] It’s nice to know an artist made a good decision for his family. [Hetty] My mom’s a writer and poet. They’re always writing their memoirs. They met in San Francisco. My mom had gone to Black Mountain. Friends said, Oh, you should meet Basil King. He worked in a frame shop. [Andrew] He said everyone at the frame shop was always drunk. [Hetty] Or stoned. When he met my mother, he wrote down her name, Martha Walnut. Walnut’s not her name. [Andrew] I should say we would not have been able to purchase this apartment without my grandfather from Switzerland, Etienne. He was manager of a canning factory, one of the first to can vegetables in Switzerland.

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