“I live in East Williamsburg.”
No offense to my pals who live in Bushwick. I’m told it’s nicer than it was three years ago. When I moved out after only five months, I wondered if I would ever have a reason to go back. I doubted it. This was before I started comedy. Turns out, over 50% of NYC up and coming comedians live in Bushwick, do jokes about it onstage, and throw parties on their roofs. So I do make it out to Bushwick occasionally and the roofs are very nice.
At least on the Montrose stop, not much has changed. Cafe Moto is still there, that’s a nice place. When I first moved there, all I had within 10 blocks was five chinese restaurants, six laundromats, a karate school, and a Papa Johns. “Duck Duck” opened just before I moved out of Bushwick, and I’m sorry Duck Duck fans, but those bartenders were so rude to me and my boyfriend-at-the-time, we left the establishment in favor of Papa Johns.
How did a wide-eyed optimistic girl from Iowa end up in Bushwick? I was not a comedian. Who would recommend this neighborhood? A few days before I planned to go to New York to look for places with the couple I had agreed to live with, I get a call from the girl part of the couple.
“We found a place! It’s perfect! It’s in Williamsburg, just two stops off the L”
“Does it have a bathtub?”
And that was it. In September 2006, I went to New York and took the L two stops. It looked pretty cool. I started walking. Asking for directions to Manhattan Ave. I walked for about forty-five minutes, got to see the Marcy Projects and also some really sketchy areas. Turns out, my apartment was not the 2nd stop on the L. It was the 5th. I had left time to explore the neighborhood, which was good, because by the time I got to the apartment, it was exactly time to meet my landlord. He was an hour and half late, so I just waited for him at the Papa Johns.
I was pretty worried at this point. The neighborhood was sketchy. The landlord showed up and I saw the apartment. My room was small, but had “roof access.” Roof access meant that the landlord had not put bars on the windows for my safety, but I would be able to go out onto the small, dirty roof that didn’t look entirely secure. I avoided the roof and signed up for renter’s insurance.
The mailbox was on the outside of the building. It’s the kind of mailbox you put on your house in Iowa, no lock. So all the mail would get stolen every day. The landlord would talk excitedly about the new mailbox he was planning to install INSIDE the building. For a month, he talked about this mailbox and how it would solve our mail theft problems for good. One day I came home and saw that a new mailbox had been installed. Not inside, where the landlord said it would be, but outside, in place of the old one. It looked just like the old one, except that it had a lock and key. The landlord gave me the key, but I never bothered to use it. It was simply easier to reach into the slot in the mailbox that the mail carrier uses to insert the mail. The slot was just wide enough for someone, perhaps me, or perhaps a thief, to reach his/her hand in to retrieve the mail each day.
Right after that happened, the front door broke. The landlord, concerned for my safety, told me to be very careful walking home. He thinks someone broke the door on purpose because he is mad that the landlord “owed him a lot of money.” That landlord still owes me a lot of money. I should have seen it coming. Anyway, if I was ever walking back to the apartment and it felt like someone was following me, I should not stop at my apartment, but keep walking so I would trick the criminal. Then, when I felt like no one was following me, I should then go to the apartment.
Shortly after that, I left the sketchy apartment, the crazy landlord, and the abusive couple and I moved to Manhattan. I do go back to Bushwick from time to time for comedy parties, and my friends who live there have much better apartments than mine was. Sure, they get mugged from time to time, but they’re comedians, and getting mugged is “material.”
I left Bushwick, moved to Manhattan, and now I live in Brooklyn again. I haven’t been to Papa Johns since.
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