Out of the Past


LOCATION Boerum Hill

RENT $1,000 [market]

SQUARE FEET 350 [duplex in walk-up building]

OCCUPANTS Eric Pliner [comprehensive health coordinator, NYC Department of Education]

Were you turning the pages of the Voice and screaming, “That’s my wall! That’s my wall”? Adam actually called me at work. He said, There’s something you need to see. I said, Will it upset me? He said, I’m not sure. Go to right now and look in the Shelter column. I couldn’t possibly figure out what he could be so worked up about and then I looked. Oh my gosh. He said, You have to read it. I said, We have to tell you where the wall came from. While he was on the phone, I tore off an e-mail to you.

This has never happened before. A person recognized his own wall in someone else’s apartment. How could you not!

That orange-and-white wall is rather striking. [See “The Abominable Snowman,” Shelter, September 1–7] You and Adam, your ex-partner, painted it together when you lived in that apartment. It would be like recognizing your mother or something. It was a big project.

A pair of orange and white Old Navy boxer shorts was the inspiration. The same ones you’re wearing now. Who had the shorts? I think Adam. We’d lived in another place in Gowanus before. We’d done almost every room in a different color, inspired by different things for each of those rooms. We painted a wall to mimic the pattern on the candle. So when we moved into our new place in Boerum Hill, the one color we’d never used was orange. I had this dinette set from my grandparents.

Smoked Lucite. The table’s glass. We wanted something on the wall that was a little bit mod. I think Adam noticed the shorts design.

So you plunged in. We designed three different stencils and then we used the stencils to outline the design and painted it all by hand. It took a lot of hours and the touch-ups took even more hours. We were really excited that the people wanted to keep it.

It’s like planting a tree that continues to flower. I did a bunch of sketches for that apartment and for this one. I keep a sketch pad in my bag. [He pulls it out.]

With this apartment you went all out. The upstairs is turquoise and the downstairs red. The books in this pile are all red. You’re the second person to notice. A friend of mine was over one day making fun of me. Here’s the unscientific version of the apartment with me in the bathtub. [He shows a drawing.]

Do you have art in your background? I lived in a craft co-op in college for two years.

Aha! Folks who did candle making, marbling.

How did you end up there? It was an accident.

What’s that vortex? I tried to do that in the bedroom but it didn’t work. Adam and I were lucky we had a wonderful landlord in that apartment. I don’t have anything to gain by saying this. He’s not my landlord now. When Adam and I split up, he was really terrific.

Why did you split up? We were a happy combination. We were just in different places in our lives. We have a wonderful friendship. Even this experience of meeting you and talking to you is another wonderful shared activity. I moved out a few months before he did. [I look closely at the shorts.]

You didn’t reproduce the little martini glasses on the shorts pattern. No, we decided that was too specific. I just want to say, Toni, some think it’s sad about the breakup but it’s been so great with Adam on the phone, talking about the wall again.

Who kept the shorts? Adam. We met in the subway station today to do the handoff.

[Next week—Adam wears the shorts.]