Instant Anxiety Attack

oven.jpg This oven came from the apartment next door to me, which had been empty for decades. The story goes, a young cop who was killed in the line of duty had lived there with his wife and baby daughter in the 50’s. When he was killed his wife took their baby and left and never came back, leaving the furniture and a lot of their possessions behind. They continued to pay rent, though, so the apartment stayed empty.

I moved in next door around 1981 or 1982, I forget. One night there was a radiator leak in the apartment and the super had to break in to fix it. I was home so I went inside with him. At least part of the story was true. It was like going back in time. There was old furniture there that had been sitting unused for decades. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls in great big chunks. A desk full of someone’s papers sat dusty and cobweb-y.

And there was also this stove, which I thought was beautiful. The super said I could have it and it now sits in my bedroom. This picture doesn’t do it justice, it really is a lovely thing.

Which was a long lead in to this website. Michael who reads this blog sent it to me. It’s called the Baby Boomer Death Counter. Good freaking lord. Prepare yourselves fellow boomers.

Someday someone else will have my beautiful stove. They will tell their own story about how they came to own it. Maybe they will talk about how they got it from the cat lady’s apartment on the top floor. (Except, technically, I am NOT a cat lady. Two cats do not count as “cat lady,” right??)

WAIT. Have I told the stove story before? Am I repeating myself?? Has it come to this?? (Forgive me.)

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

4 thoughts on “Instant Anxiety Attack

  1. Two measly cats does NOT make one a cat lady. Methinks one has to be into double figures in cat ownership in order to join that club. A pair of cats is well…a pair of cats.

    Six pair would be another story 🙂

    Yes, the stove is neat. Once upon a time, things like that stove used to be made with the confines of our fair city. Yikes !!

    No, Stacy, you are not repeating yourself. Or is my memory (once rock solid) failing ???

    Who knows ?

  2. Talking about someday someone getting the stove from your apartment reminds me of when I bought an old sewing project thing from an antique market. It was a homemade portable wood and fabric thing which folded open to contain sewing supplies and some unfinished projects. So as I was looking though the stuff I began wondering who would eventually come into possession of my sewing room contents full of unfinished projects. Every once in awhile the concept of mortality visits your daily reality, huh?

  3. On the block in Richmond Hill Queens where I grew up we had cat ladies.

    They were two women who lived together in a house by themselves. Some say they were sisters but no one knew for sure. They had so many cats they over-flowed out of the house, onto their small yard and beyond to the sidewalk. Dozens of cats. So many that, not only was naming them impossible, but obtaining an accurate count seemed highly unlikely. They also had two dogs, one each. They were big, ugly, fat dogs that strained at their leashes whenever they walked them. Wheezing and coughing, wheezing and coughing, but constantly straining at their leashes with all their might. They were probably hoping the leather leash would one day snap and they could escape from their owners.

    The cat ladies were quite crazy. They would SCREAM obscenities at the top of their lungs, directed at anyone they passed or no one in particular. At least no one of us limited to only five senses could perceive. They sounded something like thisÉ ÒMOTHER FUCKING COCK SUCKERS! SUUUCK-ERS! YOU FUCKING SHIT HEAD! OH YEAH YOUÕD LIKE TO EAT MY PUSSY OUT WOULDÕNT YOU? YOU PRICK! PRICK! PRRRRICKKK!!!! EAT IT! EAT IT! EAT SHIT THATÕS WHAT YOU CAN EAT!Ó This could literally go on for hours at a time. The parents on the block were horrified. The children were transfixed.

    They could be heard for blocks and blocks. In the Summer laying in bed with the window open I could actually hear them leave their house across the street and down the block, travel North past my house, turn the corner, walk a block East, cross Hillside Avenue, turn up 125th streetÉ They would start to fade out when they were maybe three blocks away. Not only was the volume phenomenal but also was their range of pitch. They didnÕt just say, ÒPrickÓ, they said ÒPriiiEEEEiiick, hitting that high note, like a trumpet player blowing for all heÕs worth, on each vowel.

    No one who lived on the block would walk in front of their house. We all would cross the street rather than risk drawing their attention. There was also another reason. The stink. You could smell cat shit and piss for a good 30 feet on either side of their house. It radiated in a 360 degree pattern around their house. God help their neighbors who had to live with that smell. They couldnÕt even move away. No one would ever buy their houses.

    When they eventually died the ASPCA came to take away all the cats and their dogs (I donÕt know how many generations of dogs they owned, they always looked identical). Most of the cats scattered to the wind. The house was gutted to the frame. All their possessions, furniture, carpet, even the plaster walls were put in a dumpster out on the street. It stank up the whole block.

    From time to time IÕll go to the block I grew up on. I always see at least one of two cats roaming around in my parentÕs yard, under the car or peeking from underneath the picnic table. IÕm sure some of them must be descents of the cat ladies.

    Stacy, you’re no cat lady. Yet.

  4. Okay, so yeah, not that EXTREME, no. Good lord.

    Michelle, I love stuff like that! Like when I buy a used book, and an old letter falls out, artifacts from someone else’s life. Love that. I mean, it’s sad, but I do love finding things like that.

    And thank you for the reassurance, David! I am always tempted to get another kitten, so part of me can see how it happens.

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