Absolutely True Minutes from a Co-op Meeting



Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Park Slope

The evening kicked off with a lively discussion of garbage. Now that Harriet and Karl have settled into Apartment 1, they were encouraged to proceed in beautifying what has become, even by the building’s lax standards, the eyesore outside their front windows. Mary says she knows of a woman who has made concealing trash a specialty. Sheila cautioned that any changes should be made in consultation with Angus McLaren, who considers the garbage area his personal fiefdom. She also made her perennial plea that people obey the recycling regulations, especially now that the city is employing Garbage Police who slice open bags, inspect contents, and issue tickets.

Harriet said she had already spoken to a man who does this sort of thing. He presented her with a quick sketch of the proposed unit and told her that because of the neighborhood’s Historic District status, a permit must be granted by the Landmarks Commission before he’d do any more. However, the permit application seems to require more detailed plans, along with a list of materials, which could not be deduced from the rudimentary sketch she had been given. Thus she found herself in the classic catch-22 situation. Angus wanted to see more detailed plans. Harriet responded that we couldn’t get more detailed plans until we got the permit. The permit can’t be obtained until…etc. etc.

A general discussion ensued. Harriet reported seeing people (“neighbors” if one can strip that word of any Christian connotation) dump their own garbage in our already overloaded cans. So a bin, even though it would take up more space and perhaps reduce our gross capacity, might lead to a net shrinkage of garbage mass. Angus insisted we should have a plan first, before even applying for the permit. And what do we know about this garbage architect? he demanded. Not even his name, apparently, or perhaps I missed it during the intense competition for the remaining brownies. Harriet said she would try getting a reference from someone he had “binned for” in the past. Sheila spoke of competing bids. Mae remembered a man, or maybe a “Manny,” who had once done some work for her. Mary chimed in with a website for handyman gossip. Hepzibah asked why we were all so down on the initial guy? In the end we agreed to do nothing.

Leigh pointed out that we’re paying a ton for water so please try and conserve. Don jovially suggested a simple way to do this is always pour drinks “straight up” rather than “on the rocks.”

It’s been noticed that the stoop smells of pee. We imagine Ziggy, the latest and cutest addition to the building, is responsible. Santos and Alicia assured everyone that his bladder is now under control, and he can make it up the street to the park. This should solve the problem, since other dogs have been peeing on his pee in a canine version of the Welcome Wagon. Myron then went off on an almost surreal tangent about smelling dog pee all over Park Slope. Sheila wondered if some human being is peeing in the stairwell leading down to our basement. Flies have been spotted there. Often, the outdoor light fails to go on. Mae proposed we mount a fake camera. This led to a wide-ranging discussion of building smells, which morphed into a debate on the relative merits of fabric softener versus incense.

Little Henry threw up on Mae.

Myron revealed a dislike of the building’s number, not the number itself but its size or font or presentation. Though no one leapt in to second, it was agreed that he should feel free to replace the number if he wishes.

It was also agreed we get a picnic table for the building’s side-yard. The dangers of arsenic-treated wood were raised. Don jovially reminded everyone of the story concerning poison and the ancient king Mithridates, the gist of it being that a little bit of poison is good for you, builds up your resistance.

Doris told a story that, while amusing, bore so little relevance to the proceedings that I defy anyone to get mad at me for not writing it down.

The co-op noted with sorrow the passing of Elaine Eisenstein, longtime resident of Apartment 3. Along with her husband Frank, she was by far the building’s longest-residing tenant, he having grown up here and she moving in, as a bride, to live with his parents in 1947.

Speaking as her upstairs neighbor, I can only add that Elaine was endlessly tolerant of our young children’s noisy footsteps, games of destruction, and crying fits, not to mention my own interest in the chamber music of Ned Rorem and Angela’s sometimes catastrophic approximations of yoga poses. Last Christmas, though she could barely walk, in return for my having brought in her mail she managed to give both Max and Flora toys. She was a nice woman and will be missed.

Insurance Inspection Report: My notes here say Myron will write a letter to Myron, which alarmingly enough I can actually envision, and enclose what the inspector found. He will send it certified mail. (Then it can’t be to himself. Even Myron wouldn’t go to such lengths.) Myron will write the letter tomorrow AM, but it’s already tomorrow PM, so I wonder what happened.

By this time any semblance of order or agenda was fast disintegrating. I tried taking minutes on many simultaneous conversations, which was like trying to transcribe a late Coltrane solo. Let’s see: Angus made a plea for the installation of a “J-bar” on the front door.  Don jovially asked if this had any relation to the G-spot. Angela suggested a bulletin board be placed in the foyer for building-wide announcements. An initial wave of approval rose, crested, then broke. Sheila, with perhaps unintentional wit, pronounced a bulletin board “tacky.” Meanwhile, Mary, with her eye on basement clearance, urged people to tag their bikes with…could it really be yarn? That’s what I have written down here. Different-colored strands of yarn. Angus retorted we should first “evaluate tricycles.” Yes, definitely he said that.

It was 9:06. There was no formal call to adjourn the meeting. We just dispersed, as if silently agreeing never to refer to what had just happened, as if it was a case of mass hallucination. Outside, it snowed.


(image: Luke Stettner)

Thomas Rayfiel’s eighth novel, Harms’ Way, will be published in September. More information can be found at








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