Location Prospect Heights
Rent $2,500 [market]
Square feet 1,500 [two floors, row house]
Occupants Alyna Jacobs [elementary school teacher]; Thomas Witte [artist; personal assistant, concierge service]; Matthew Donovan [filmmaker; bartender, Jersey Shore]; Ranjit Arapurakal [musician]
Your low stucco ceiling is so suburban. [Alyna] I know. All my friends in the neighborhood, they live in walk-ups. These houses were renovated by the government. [Thomas] Mohammed owns it. He lives in the basement. [Alyna] They redid the house. [Thomas] Because his wife is a diplomat. [Alyna] She works in Cairo. [Thomas] Her son is at the international school. [Alyna] They moved out of this part of the house because they’re never here. [Thomas] He’s from Mali. [We go to see Matthew’s bedroom.]
Look at these pieces of cracked mirror on your wall. [Matthew] Thomas is a total genius at finding things. He’s a wizard.
All this wall-to-wall carpeting.[Alyna] It’s like the carpeting in my parents’ house. I’m from South Orange. [Thomas] It’s the most beautiful suburb. [Alyna] My family all immigrated in the ’70s. [Thomas] They escaped Communist Romania. They were brought over by an aunt who stashed money in her girdle. [Thomas brings out a tray.]
Plum martinis! [Ranjit] I call them Plumtinis. [Rinnnng]
What’s that?The oven. [Knock, knock, knock.]
Who’s that? [Ranjit] Darren and Daryl. [Alyna] They’re twins. [Thomas] They live down the street.
Tell me about your concierge job. [Thomas] I shop with other people’s money. I walk into a store wearing ripped jeans with a $4,000 Cartier watch to be repaired. I’ve rarely met or seen the people I work for. I’m often in the apartment all alone. I sit on their couches waiting for people to deliver stuff. The delivery people think I’m the owner. For the most part, people at the concierge service are hired by personal assistants.
I think I’ll have a hazelnut. I’ve worked for people where I had to drive out to their house in Connecticut and move furniture back to the way it was before the party. I’ve had this job for six months, since we came back from Argentina. We were all simultaneously in Argentina, Matt, Alyna, and I.
Why? [Alyna] It’s so beautiful there. We had an apartment for $750 for two months. That was the tourist price. [Thomas] Alyna and I have lived together in different places. We went to college with Ranjit. I’ve known Matt since elementary school. We both grew up down at the shore. [Matthew] We got to know each other in Buenos Aires. I was supposed to go with a friend to Southeast Asia.
What happened? The tsunami hit. Thomas and I were so grateful to be together. We didn’t know each other well before. There was so much love and enthusiasm down there between us. We were making art. We thought, Where can we continue this and make it better and bigger? I feel like Thomas and Alyna have so many things to teach me. I’ve learned so much about cooking and gardening. We do things for each other all the time. I don’t mean to say it’s like Shangri-la every day. [Alyna] I work 15 hours teaching. I am so grateful to have Thomas, to have a cocktail. [Thomas] I feel like we enjoy every meal. [Matthew] Thomas makes, like, these feasts, desserts out of nowhere. [Ranjit] All the food groups. [Thomas] Speaking of which, I will whip up a dessert right now. [He brings out a plum tart.]
Plums are so autumn.[Thomas] In fact, at exactly 6:30, it is autumn. [Ranjit] Nine minutes until. [Thomas] We know all our neighbors. [Alyna] Everybody says hello.
Thomas, you look like Beaver Cleaver. [Alyna] He does. [Ranjit] Speaking of which, I have to help someone down the street. [Matthew] Later, dude.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2005