The Corpse went cyber, I often mentioned my downstairs neighbor,
Elmer, he of the Frankenstein-shaped head, crab-like sidewards walk,
and tendency to obsessively rant on...you name the subject. He lives
on mental disability checks but claims to be an "antiques dealer"--he
will sell you a used extension chord for 50 cents. He's the type
of guy who, if found on a rooftop with an AK-47 picking off pedestrians,
would not elicit the usual neighborly responses to the press: "But
he seemed so normal!!!"
back, because he basically had nothing better to do, he decided
to wage a campaign of terror against me. He discovered an obscure
branch of the N.Y.C. Civil Courts System: the IMCR Dispute Resolution
Center. It was established for tenants to resolve grudges against
other tenants through the use of "mediators". The IMCR Dispute Resolution
Center is so Kafka-esque that you would actually have to be crazy
just to locate it, no less utilize it. Elmer had been on my case
for "walking too loudly" for years, even though the previous tenants
of this apartment had been a 250 lb.wife, her raging alcoholic husband,
and their abused foster daughter. I tried to reason that physics
alone would dictate that a fat family of three would create a louder
decibel level than a single, slender woman who basically walked
from her bedroom to her office in the kitchen and back. I also reminded
Elmer that, for one thing, I had graciously complied with his request
when I first moved in that I go barefoot whenever I was at home,
even though I was under no legal obligation to do so, and that he
had never been particularly thankful for this effort on my part.
Rather, he was always compulsively rude and nasty whenever I saw
him. He also requested that I do no walking whatsoever after 3 a.m.
I said, "But Elmer, what am I supposed to do if I need to go the
bathroom? Fly there?" "Just don't go," he responded. The next logical
step would have been for him to get a court-order for me to wear
Depends at night.
landlord was too wimpy to intervene, and at that time, everyone
in the building was afraid of Elmer, because he was doing lots of
blow (he told me this much later) and was so aggressive and angry,
picking fights with everyone, that no one wanted to get in the same
elevator as him, no less sign a petition on my behalf.
I kept finding these little yellow slips under my front door summoning
me to the IMCR Dispute Resolution Center, threatening me that if
I didn't go, the "case" would go to Civil Court. I finally decided
to go, because I know that Elmer's mind is so anarchic, so oceanic,
that he needs to have someone telling him how to behave (like a
mediator saying, "Leave her alone, you creep.") Sort of like a habitual
offender who can't make it on the outside, so he keeps committing
crimes because he craves the structure of prison life.
I finally showed up, the building was as shabby as a South Bronx
tenement. In the family court in front of the IMCR "Court", an African-American
woman stood up and said that she wanted the man she lived with to
stop beating on her. "And what is this man's name?" asked the judge.
"Tyrone." "Tyrone What?" "How the fuck am I supposed to know?" I
knew I had descended into one of Dante's Circles of Hell.
"Center" was actually a small room, where Elmer and I sat across
from each other on folding chairs. A Black man in judge's garb sat
at a table before us. He seemed pleasant enough, until he introduced
himself, with a West Indian accent, as a "Judge, lawyer, musician,
playwright, poet and taxidermist."
I thought. 'He's even crazier than Elmer!!!' ( a possibility I had
never considered.) I chided myself for not having brought along
a dead squirrel for the "judge" to stuff while he deliberated.
spoke first. Believing himself to be in a 19th Century British courtroom
filled with barristers wearing powdered wigs, he enunciated in a
peculiarly pretentious style.
see, your Honor, when Ms. Surovell peruses the length of her abode,
she creates an unbearable cacophony which is astoundingly disconcerting."
my utter amazement, the mediator replied, "But Ms. Surovell is but
a young woman. Would you wish that she had...no vitality?"
in a state of total shock and amazement. It had never before occurred
to me, and yet it was all so obvious. The only way to "get through"
to someone crazy is to talk to them in their language.
no...I guess I want her to have vitality. But her walking really
disturbs me after 10 p.m." Here he held up a map of my apartment,
which was the same scale as his own, and in the livingroom he had
drawn a small pathway on which I should be restricted to walking
on at certain hours. I became instantly livid. "You motherfucker!"
I shouted. "How dare you think you can tell me where to walk in
the apartment I pay rent for?"
down," said the mediator. "Elmer, Ms. Surovell is a writer, she
is an artist. Do you wish her to be restricted to sitting on a sofa?
Don't you agree that she must have the freedom to walk from room
to room, seeking inspiration, communing with the muse?"
into the spirit. "Yes!" I exclaimed. "And furthermore, is this not
America? Is this Russia, where the government comes in and tells
you how to furnish your home?" (I don't know whether they do that
in Russia, but it sounded plausible at the time.)
no," said Elmer, mulling it over. " I guess you guys are right."
if Ms. Surovell agrees to always wear rubber-soled slippers, like
hospital slippers, in the apartment, would that be an adequate solution
said Elmer, beaming scarily.
the mediator said, "Ms. Surovell, I was wondering if I could ask
you how to get published?" and he handed both of us sheets of his
original poetry. Illustrated with the kind of kindergarten-esque
drawings of robins and stick-figures a schizophrenic homeless person
begging for money on the subway would shove in your face. The rhymes
went along the lines of "In the merry month of May, we have fun
all day, then the sun goes down and we can't play."
um, I'll see what I can do." I was quickly making headway to the
I want you to shake hands and walk out together." I disdainfully
shook Elmer's sweaty palm; he was still radiant with the thrill
of "victory", even though, technically, he had lost. As we walked
out, Elmer asked me. "Weren't those poems brilliant?"
mediator had followed us, and said he had to speak to me personally.
He asked if he could take me me out to lunch, and I accepted his
offer, hoping I could convince him to issue a decree that Elmer
never have further verbal contact with me, under penalty of, say,
a monetary fine. At a tacky nearby cafeteria, the judge instead
unsuccessfully tried to put the moves on me. I did some checking
up and found that he was neither a judge nor a lawyer. NYC trains
psychotic people and then pays them $30,000 a year to be "mediators".
However, this Romeo may well have legitimately been a taxidermist...I
just didn't really want to go there and find out. All I wanted him
to stuff was...
began a campaign of writing to the mayor, who is always whining
about finances, as mayors tend to do, saying that I found it unfair
that any mentally-ill person could harass a fellow tenant with any
complaint whatsoever (she has little green men standing on her fire
escape shooting gamma rays at me) and that he could save millions
by simply disbanding this idiotic "pseudo-court". I continued to
receive replies from the N.Y. Dept. of Mental Health saying that
mentally-ill people have the same rights as do any other people
to annoy their neighbors.
never once wore the slippers. Elmer never mentioned the subject
of my "thundering footsteps" again. I think, essentially, that he
ran out of money or lost his blow connection, so that every sound
emanating from my apartment wasn't amplified 50 million times in
his already deranged brain. I still suspected, nonetheless, that
he could probably hear those silent dog whistles.
they invented Prozac. Now, Elmer is still an energy vampire, he
will rant at a moment's notice, but he doesn't seem homicidal.
I decided to do get revenge in my own way. I got a black candle
in the shape of a nude male from the creepy Satanic evil witchcraft
store, (which has since been closed down by the N.Y.P.D.), retrieved
one of Elmer's many erratic, nonsensical notes featuring the looniest
handwriting in the annals of graphology, (because I needed something
that had personally belonged to him to work the spell), & stuck
the note up the candle's ass with a pushpin. Then I put it in the
freezer. I told my neighbor Sherry I was doing this.
was summer & I had a problem with the freezer a few days later.
I had forgotten about the candle, but the Russian immigrant super
never mentioned it. Perhaps he thought frozen candles were a common
weeks later Sherry stopped me in the hallway as I was coming home
to my apartment and looked at me with genuine fear. "I will never,
ever fuck with you for the rest of my life," she said. (Naturally,
she fucked with me big-time several months later, but that's another
is in the hospital."
the regular kind. He has a perforated bowel."
justice had prevailed.