Friday, February 01, 2008

Light in the Window

I was working on the computer the other night when someone knocked on my side door.

It was dark, I'm alone here in this big old house and people who have legitimate business normally come to the front door in the day time instead of sneaking up the alley after sundown.

I grew up on a steady diet of horror movies and these are all the right elements for a gruesome killing.

But it was only my next door neighbor stopping by to tell me there was a light on in our upstairs apartment.

The apartment has been empty for nearly a year after the last tenants skipped out on us and we had a work crew go up there last week to clean out all of their crap.

The debris included toys, clothes, fireworks and what looked like crack spoons--no wonder they couldn't pay the rent.

The crew did a great job of getting the junk together and hauling most of it away. However, they apparently left the kitchen light on and it had been burning bright for the last two days.

I thanked my neighbor and went upstairs to throw the switch. The apartment is eerily empty now, a preview of what the downstairs rooms will look like when we finally sell our house. There is no soul, no personality to the place. It's just space.

I took a look around. I grew up here, until we moved downstairs when I was six or seven years old.

One of my earliest memories of living in that apartment was falling down those stairs, hitting my head over and over.

I don't know I didn't break my neck, but I guess God had other plans for me. Now if I just figure out what those plans are...

My brothers and I crammed into one bedroom and my sister was down the hall in what was once called the baby room because it had a glass window where you could keep an eye on the newborns.

My sister tells me I put on quite a show when I was in the baby room, putting my butt up in the air while I slept. They all used to watch me while I performed this stunt, she said.

I remember when we moved downstairs to live with my grandmother. It was a big deal for me then, this relocation. And the sad truth is I haven't moved much since then.

It's hard to believe so much time has gone by, that my parents are gone, that I'm a middle-aged man who still hasn't found a real career or put down any serious roots.

I cling to this house, even though I know most of the things that made it special are gone.

The whole building seems incredibly empty and that has become even more evident now that I'm out of work. I'm here all day--instead of just flopping here at night--and I see just how barren the place is, just how barren my life is.

The first few days of unemployment were a bit of a shock. I've never been close to loving, or even liking a job, but I have to say it feels strange not showing up at an office during the week.

I search the Internet for to the gym...listen to NPR...and wonder what the hell I'm going to do with myself. I feel like ghost in this house.

I had just heard someone on the radio talk about "your back to work Monday." What work are you talking about, lady?

My whole routine is thrown out of whack. I see how much I had when I was working, how the job, the gym and Trinity Church where all within a short distance of each other. Career, body and soul, all connected in this narrow triangle on Wall Street.

I went to church on Tuesday and then to the gym. I walked by my newly old building and I didn't feel sad or upset. All I miss is the paycheck and the benefits.

Hire and Hire

And I'm finding some intriguing items on Craigslist. Reality shows are becoming the hot ticket as the writers' strike drags on and here are some of the latest possibilities:

Can’t seem to lose that last fifteen pounds? Nat’l TV show wants you!

Why? So you can perform liposuction on live TV?


I hadn't thought about it, but if I get bored enough, who knows?

Got a stinky body part? Nat’l TV show wants you!

Now, that's entertainment!

Have you ever gotten revenge on your employer? If so, please send us your revenge story and your picture as soon as possible.

So we can forward them on to the police.

Lead Actor for Sci-fi web series.

I'm actually interested in this one.

They're looking for a male, "30's, dark looks, mysterious,athletic" who will portray "a hit man who has been asked to investigate a series of supernatural happenings that portend doom for the world."

The character is "a troubled soul who wants to reconcile his dark past with the promise of salvation."

Hell, I can do that. While I'm not in my 30's, I am athletic and dark--especially my past--and there isn't a more troubled soul in heaven, hell or purgatory.

And since its a web series, they can fake everything else with CGI or PHD or DOA or whatever that crap is. After that live action cartoon 300 what does age, looks, or talent matter? Just get some geek to start pressing buttons.

Are You Fascinating?

I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure in what way.

This production company is looking for "for smart, exemplary characters that are interested in developing a television show around their lives and careers."

Now here's a nice twist--I don't have a career.

If you are an expert in a fascinating line of work , the ad continues, and believe you have the charisma to carry your own television series, we're interested in hearing from you.

I'm an expert in trying to find a line of work and if by "charisma" you mean "neurotic" then I'm your boy.

Of course, if these leads don't work out, I can always answer the ad I saw on the subway this rainy night.

It was for parking attendants in Manhattan, and it promised plenty of overtime and room for advancement, and you don't even need experience. It's a shame I forgot to take down the number.

I hate staying in the house and looking at TV, but I don't feel very sociable. You meet up with people and sooner or later the subject of work comes up and I'll to say, oh, yeah, I'm out of work.

I know I have a lot of company as the economy continues to tank, but that's not helping any. Misery doesn't love company; misery loves a paycheck.

I was reading a biography of Gene Hackman, one of my favorite actors, the other day, and it described how one of his worst memories while trying to get into the business was working as a doorman in New York.

He was opening the door for some former Marine officers he knew and one said to him "Hackman, you're a sorry son of a bitch."

That's one of my many fears, that some scumbag "friend" from my past will show up in my life now and say "you're still in Brooklyn? You're still in your family's house?"

Yeah, I guess I'm a sorry son-of-a-bitch with stinky body parts who can't seem to lose the last 15 pounds. Maybe I should run away and get hitched in Vegas, troubled soul that I am.

The work crew got rid of almost everything in the upstairs apartment, but there is something up there that squeaks on a semi-regular basis.

I don't know what it is--perhaps a smoke alarm with a failing battery, or maybe some kind of demon bat from another dimension. I'm not sure.

I walked around the back rooms looking for the squeak's source, but I couldn't find it, even though I got incredibly close at one point. Maybe the new owners will have to worry about it.

I look one last look around the empty place. Nearly all signs of humanity are gone and it kills me to think of new people here. I know nothing lasts forever, but the pain of loss can sure last a long time.

I can't let my current situation defeat me. I'll find a job and I'll find a new place to live.

I will not live in the past, and even though I switched off the light upstairs, I will not live in darkness.


Calamity Jen said...

Don't live in isolation, either. Avoiding socializing because you're afraid to admit to people that you're out of work is counterproductive. Remember that old saying: It's not what you know, it's who you know.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

My suggestion will sound Pollyanna-ish, but it's actually given me some of the most fun of my life: volunteer. You get out of the house, you do something fascinating that the world needs, you meet all kinds of folks, and you can't get fired--and no matter what your performance is like, people are grateful to see you show up. Work with who you like best--animals, kids, old folks, the public. Brooklyn Public Library has fantastic programs. Every cultural institution wants tour guides and docents. That Superhero Supply Store on 5th Ave. (Dave Eggers' literacy project for schoolkids) actually needs writers. For years, I gave tours at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to school groups, and it not only got me outa the house from my freelance writers'block/caring for crazy momma misery, but was the highlight of my week...and the human stuff I learned there, improv-style, was priceless. The world is a vacuum of sucking needs, and it wants to suck YOU. Okay, let me rephrase that...

Rob K said...

Jen: Thanks for the great advice. I am actually trying to get out into the world.

Brenda, I think you make some excellent suggestions. And don't worry about rephrasing, I like how you said it the first time.

Mae West NYC said...

Mae West (a Brooklyn native) came up to see you, honey!
- - - -

Rob K said...

Hey, Mae, what do you say? (Sorry I'm late with this.)