Home, thy name is New Jefferson Arms

United States 2005

The elevator creeps slowly down to the ground floor. You’re feeling more tired than usual this morning, and your arthritis is giving you a little gyp — probably because the heaters aren’t working and it’s cold in your apartment. You reach up and touch your signature red bowler hat to make sure you put it on; it’s there.

The elevator pings to announce you’ve reached the ground floor. As the doors open you step out into the lobby. It seems a little quiet for a weekday morning. You squint through your thick glasses at the empty couches across from the mahogany coffee tables; there’s no-one there. You turn your head left an look over the piano towards the aviary and the post boxes. No-one. You look right towards the TV — a ha! There we are: a young lad sitting at one of them computer things. You shuffle over to him; maybe he knows what’s going on.

That young lad is me, and this is a situation I found myself in a few weeks ago. I was checking my email on the computer in the lobby of the apartment block when I heard the soft noises of someone moving towards me. As they got closer I realised they were heading for me. I stopped reading and turned to see an elderly black gentleman looking at me. He was well turned out in a tweed jacket, and was leaning on a walking stick. The effect was made extra-special by his bright red bowler hat; he looked splendid.

‘What time is it, son?’ he asked.

‘Twelve-thirty,’ I said.

‘Whut?’ he asked.

‘Twelve-thirty,’ I said.

‘Whut?’ he asked.

‘Midnight,’ I said.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Is it still dark outside?’

I leaned to the left so I could see past him and out the windows. The streets were lit only by the ephemeral glow from the street lights. It was definitely still dark outside.

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘So I still have time to sleep?’ he asked. I nodded, unsure of what was happening.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I thought it was still dark. I guess I’ll go back to bed for a while.’ I nodded.

And with that, he shuffled away.

That dialogue sums up our apartment block, the New Jefferson Arms. Originally built as a hotel for the 1904 World’s Fair, such luminaries as president Harry Truman stayed here before it was turned into private apartments in 1975. The apartments were rented out only to those over the age of fifty-two because, and I quote, they didn’t want any ‘swinging youngsters’. Eventually the age restriction was dropped but the average age is still about eighty. And it seems a new requirement has been added that you have to be mental eccentric to live here.

The New Jefferson Arms has all the faded grandeur of an old hotel. There’s a ballroom, a dining hall, a chapel, a theatre, and a cocktail bar. The huge lobby comes complete with a piano, lounge chairs, aviary, and chandelier. All-in-all it’s an interesting place to live. Our apartment is just fine, and probably too roomy for our needs. All we have for furniture is two collapsible chairs and a collapsible table. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a quick video of our flat [Ed: since gone from the internet].

Update: I hadn’t set up the server correctly, so the video wouldn’t play. It’s fixed now.

And that is what we call home.

Road trippin’

Just so you know, we leave for Chicago early tomorrow morning. We’ll be away for twelve days, when I fly back from Rhode Island just in time for St Patrick’s Day and injections for yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid-diphtheria, and tetanus. Painful. Anyway if you don’t hear from me then that’s why.

Home 1, Visitors 1

And finally, we drew our indoor football game last night, 1–1. The away team were our main opposition in the league so it wasn’t a bad result. We scored first though so it was a shame we couldn’t hang on for a win.