Monday, August 15, 2005


living with toxins

I don’t know the toxicity of our mold colony. Some molds, we are told, are highly toxic, and cause lingering physical dysfunction and disease. Ours is probably such a mold colony, but it’s impossible to tell. By the time our mold could be properly analyzed, we will be long gone from here.

We met our mold yesterday evening. Rainwater was pouring, once again, through the hole in the ceiling. We used a pasta pot as a catchbasin, and draped a washtowel over its side to prevent water from splattering everywhere. It is tough for us to get the catchbasin up against the wall of our apartment on Grand Street because the renovator has ringed the floor with a decorative molding. The molding is split now from water damage, and winged ants and other insects crawl through the cracks and lay eggs in the cool underside of the racks that hold our compact disc collection.

After the last rainstorm, we’d put a full-length mirror over the hole in the wall. Instead of seeing the decay around us, we’d see ourselves. A month earlier, Hilary had scraped the decayed portions of the walls and ceiling and repainted them. The ceiling, we’d found, had been clumsily repaired during the renovation. Gauze, tape, and cardboard had been stretched over the cracks, and the hole had been imperfectly wadded up with newspaper. Hilary, normally fast with solutions, was at a loss. She painted over the newspaper.

Last night, rainwater sluiced down the surface of the mirror and on to the lacquered hardwood floor. When we moved the mirror we saw the mold colony, spreading out across the crack like a great black firework. My first instinct, as always, was protective: this was our mold, a guest in our home, and it needed to live, too. It had probably peeped its head through the crack to see what was shaking. Somewhere deep within its moldy consciousness, it knew our home had surplus of heat and electric energy, good for growing.

Most of us face white walls all day. The white wall is an impassive face, an arbitrary imposition of a boundary on the space we’re meant to inhabit. In our imagination, a wall has no dimensionality. It is the end of a dimension of our habitation. This allows, among other things, for us to forget what is happening inside the wall, four feet from the dinner table and the telephone, Wurlitzer electric piano, and the little wooden cat curled up on top of the ottoman. But I know at least two of the things inside the wall: winged insects and black mold. The insects are unconscionable, but harmless. They are acquaintances. The mold is spectacular, but cold, defiant, malicious.

I murdered my mold this morning. We used a combination of bleach, soap, and water, mixed in the same pasta pot that we’d caught the rain in. The water in the pot turned filmy and thick. I scrubbed the decaying wall with a Dobie pad, my right hand inside a Ziploc bag. Then I sat down at the computer and began this weblog. Having given up on any hope that our landlord will address the decomposition of his two-hundred year old house, I have also dismissed any lingering fantasies about renewing the lease. We do not live in a slum: we inhabit a renovated apartment in the wealthiest neighborhood in town. In two and a half months, we won’t anymore.

The subject of this journal is search: for a new place to live, but also for a deeper and fuller relationship with my community and with Hudson County. Our days on this block were always numbered. If there was a moment where we fit in here, it has passed. My way has been to put a mirror over the mold, and concentrate on the comfort of our reflections rather than the decay around us. It makes for a hothouse atmosphere, a good home. It is, however, garbage citizenship. Like all apartment hunts, this one will be a flight from something. Perhaps by writing myself through it, it can also become a journey into something else.

The link says "new traditional weblog" - but there's not a word here about "Beautiful World," "Love Without Anger," or even "Through Being Cool." I am, once more, confused.
Now I don't feel so bad about never getting invited over for dinner.
oh, snap.
I suggest you rig something to the ceiling that will allow water to 'migrate' to a desired receptacle. I had made elaborate plans to build a contraption at the old melody lanes to direct potential water leaks away from the Studer tape machine. Needless to say we never actually built it.
The suburbs await.
enjoy the hunt. youse'll have to come visit my place: my landlord said an apartment would be opening up in about two-and-a-half months. incidentally.
"Jim Teacher said...
The suburbs await."

no chance. even if i had some crazy idea to try it, hilary would never let it happen. we'll move to paterson or passaic first. or bushwick or something.
Techically, I don't think you actually hit suburbs until maybe Morris County -- that is, it's back to back cities for a good fifteen miles from the Hudson.

Regardless, downtown Paterson is an amazing place. Reminds me of a European city.
I think you are officially in the 'burbs when no one on your block worries about carjacking.
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