The Mayor

by

08/10/2006

100 West 15th St., New York, NY, 10011

Neighborhood: Chelsea

A guy on my street, let’s call him Eddie, is probably thirty-eight, only two or three inches shorter than Wilt Chamberlain, with a sort of pirate’s crook nose and a Russian infantryman’s sinewy musculoskeletal system. He doesn’t seem to mind the smell of trash. I know this because he’s my trash man. He used to live somewhere far beneath my building (I believe in the alley), and now he lives in it, on the first floor, where a whole community of sketchy people seem to come and go, and where, if you stop too long to check your mail, you might eavesdrop on a “fuck you” or two between the clanking of saucepans.

Eddie also sweeps the stoop, greets the visitors, buzzes in delivery guys, and holds the door for women. He is the mayor of our block. I mean this in a libertarian sense. If every tenant in the West 200s on Fifteenth Street had to identify in a lineup the one person they made eye contact with the most in any given month, it would be Eddie. I guess what makes him such a public figure is his continual presence; I have at least a hundred extended neighbors, and none of us really know each other, but all of us know him. When I go to work in the morning, he’s there; when the unemployed insurance salesman across the street steps out to check his P.O. box or pick up his wired cash from his mother in Lansing, he’s there; when the smoking hyena adsales girls who live below me go out for their evening fixes, he’s there. I officially inaugurated Eddie myself in 2002, a few weeks after I moved in, when I noticed that I didn’t have to separate my cardboard from my plastic in the recycling bag—Eddie would do it for me, with the sort of alacrity that only inspires those who truly enjoy their occupations. It is a specific “I enjoy service” face. He is not thinking, “You are a shithead” under his breath. Delivery guys don’t make this face, but deli guys do, and so do the people who handout the ad-fat free daily papers on the subway.

Over the years, Eddie has teamed up with various “lieutenant mayors”, but none of them have lasted even a half term. Some of them were too cracked out; others too lazy. The only first lady was a mid-day snoozer with a penchant for Swiss Cake Rolls and caterwauling at rival congressmen around the block. Her committees convened during trash pick-up hours, which left her other half constantly in the lurch.

Recently, he acquired a really lusterless-yet-functional lacquer folding chair from the mid-century. He wears a bomber in the winter lined with fuzzy shearling, which he wears with a pair of gamekeeper tweeds. He wears a pair of original Nike Air Dunk hi-tops, always, and his shorts in the summer are mesh – short mesh, like the Lakers in 1969.

Trash days are Mondays and Thursdays, and of the off days, he sells books and socks around the corner on 8th Avenue. The likelihood of him reading this essay is nil, but he has been known to pawn back issues of ArtForum off to unwitting Midwestern Chelsea boys on their way to, or from, the 8th Avenue New York Sports Club. On a day when my girlfriends nominate their ugly crushes—Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Peter Gallagher, it comes my turn and I don’t have one. And then I realize when Eddie walks out of the alley in the middle of the day in a kind of disoriented pleasure-wooze with a big sucker kiss – a hickey the size of the dial on an industrial washing machine, but a little less perfectly circular – that I am jealous. That Eddie is my ugly crush. And not only that – that to me, he is not ugly.

My boyfriend, easily only a Jerry West to Eddie’s Wilt Chamberlain, said he once saw Eddie hand off a dime bag to a murky street skulker in the middle of the night, just outside my apartment; then deduced that the clanking pots and pans might be the kitchen for cooking methamphetamine, about which all I know is this: because of it, there is a growing demand for dentists in Kansas.

I’m moving out next month, and I’ve thought about calling the cops, or the management company, or the super, about the drug stuff. But there are such bigger problems (like the woman who feeds the birds and rats with Grape Nuts), and anyway, I know he’s in cahoots with the super—he has tammanyed almost anyone who might get in the way of his platform.

Truth is though—he’s just too damn cute.

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