Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No. They live this way.

Australian Builder asked me last week if I remembered the Mt. Pleasant drive-by shooter from the early 90s. And I immediately said yes.

He actually played an important role in our lives, in a weird way.

So this confluence of things has had me thinking about living in my first apartment with Maude.

That conversation plus state of our house - and telling people who haven't seen the house in it's normal state that we're living with all these open walls and ceilings and plastic and waiting...but it's fine living like this (which is true)...

And most importantly, seeing Maude recently, who added a detail to the story of the night of her almost-rape....

Because, like my farting-on-the-plane incident, this is one of our stories, to be repeated forward forever and ever.

I've written about this before, but instead of sending you back and forth, I'm just going re-tell it here, because I believe I'm a better storyteller than seven (yes, almost seven!) years ago.

So. Here you go.

Way back right after college, my friend Maude and I lived in this sketchy apartment in Mt. Pleasant, back when the neighborhood was considered marginal.

I had an entry-level job at a non-profit and Maude worked at a day care, and $700 rent was about what we could swing. We had a slum lord whose name I cannot remember; Lyrae, who lived with us the first summer, named him Mr. Mostaccioli, and that's what's stuck in my mind.

The wonderful neighbors, the fun parties, the furniture acquired from the curb, the bodegas that sold the flavors of Tang Maude and I grew up with, Mr. Mostaccioli, the drive-by shooter, the rapist.


During the spring of 1993, there was a drive-by shooter on the loose, and, it turned out, a serial rapist, who ultimately broke into our apartment and attacked Maude.

We had lived in our apartment almost a year. We were both, to put it mildly, rather casual housekeepers. Which is to say, our place was always a wreck. Piles of clothes, piles of books, newspapers, mail.

We weren't hoarders. We just weren't tidy. 

That night, I wasn't home, because my brother, who was visiting, and I were at the house of friends until late. Somewhere around midnight we called to say we were sleeping there because we were afraid of being shot on the street coming home that late.

I do not exaggerate here. It was a scary time.

Maude. Maude had fortunately dozed off in a big comfy chair waiting for her in-a-band boyfriend, and at 3:00 am awoke to a half-naked man about to put one of my sweaters over her face. He'd found it on the floor. Which, as mentioned, is where we tended to keep much of our clothing.

The half-naked was his M.O. He left his boxers at every scene.

Kind of an expensive habit, actually.

We were shocked that the police weren't interested in taking the boxers, although this was prior to DNA evidence, Nick has since pointed out.

And the police didn't jump at Maude's band-boyfriend's suggestion that since each person has a personal smell, wouldn't they want to take them to maybe match the smell when they ultimately caught the guy?

(Look. He was very cute, and in a band.)

It is that night, past 3:00 am. Maude is asleep in the big squishy chair in the front. The chair that makes it impossible for anyone to get a good grip on her.

Serial rapist, we later come to understand, has been watching our apartment. He knows to climb over the wall in the back. To stack up bricks high enough to get to the back window. He is thin enough to fit under the bars. He is strong enough to break the flimsy lock.

He undresses in the back, which is Maude's bedroom, leaves his boxers in the bathroom on the way to the living room in the front.

Our living room lights are on, because Maude was up reading while she was waiting.

Maude awoke, she says, not because she heard anything. She just sensed a presence.

And when she saw the guy and the sweater - a black alpaca cardigan - she immediately began to scream very loudly. She screamed and struggled and he hit her and tried very hard to subdue her but to no avail.

She is tough.

Our walls were thin, and our neighbors were good friends, and they heard her and called 911 immediately.

And this is where the drive-by shooter is important.

The rapist knew that because of the drive-by shooter, the police were all over our neighborhood. They were a block or so away when this happened, in fact. He knew there would be a cop nearby. So when he could not subdue her, he stopped attacking and ran.

It turned out, once he was caught, that his girlfriend lived in the neighborhood. He knew it well.

A police officer arrived almost immediately, walked in, looked around at the chaos of the living room: clothing strewn about, books on the floor, general calamity. He did a double take.

"Did HE do this?!!?"

Maude said, "Uh, no. We live like this."

This is the story I know by heart.

What I didn't know was the following. Minutes later, more police arrived. The next one to walk in looked around and began, "Did HE do this?!!?"

To which the first officer drily replied, "No. They live this way."


  1. One of the funniest stories I have ever heard. I could see it all happening. Thanks for making me smile in the morning!

    1. It is kind of impressive when you can shock the cops, no? :)

  2. Terrifying through and through. Even if I could get past the scary attack and emotional effect and a shooter on the loose....I can't find humor in "general calamity" with a household. I'll focus on the fun you and Maude had as room mates and your wonderful neighbors. And the mention of Tang. Stay safe!

    1. Heather, it was a very scary spring, it really was. We moved out the day after the attack.

  3. When I was in graduate school a lot of my classmates were members of the NYPD, back in school to prepare for their second careers. One of those classmates was a lieutenant in an important department, a lovely and well-respected guy. His wife also had a career. Neither of them was particularly interested in homemaking.

    Your story brought to mind a story he told me: One evening they'd been out on a date and got home late. When they reached their front door, they could tell it had been forced open and their home broken into. The called the police and waited outside, as my classmate was armed but didn't particularly want to confront the intruder on is own should the guy still be inside. So they went in at the same time as the guys in the squad car. It turned out no one was inside.

    But the house was in chaos -- very much the same way it usually was, according to my friend -- with clothes and papers scattered all over and drawers left open throughout the living room and the bedroom. Even the kitchen and bathroom looked as though things had been tossed around as someone searched for items of value. The young cops who answered the 911 call looked around and exclaimed; "Wow, they really torn your place apart!"

    And my friend -- the respected NYPD lieutenant -- and his wife nodded and didn't let on that they couldn't even tell what the burglar had gone through because, heck, they lived like that.

    1. THAT is hilarious! Wow! Thank you for sharing!


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