03 March 2008

Leaving Home

Ours is a mobile society, and yet we remain nest-builders as a race. We make of friends our families, and we make of their homes our own.

The prospect, then, of the loss of one of those homes is strangely distressing: it is as if something and yet nothing is being taken away from me.

Today, Jon Feldstein will leave the apartment where he has lived for nearly as long as I’ve known him. When loved ones die, we reassure one other by saying, “He’s going to a better place,” and in Feldstein’s case (happily not mortal), this is provably true. His new apartment is bigger and fancier, and it’s in an exciting neighborhood. He claims there even will be space to lodge me, when I come to visit. But I’ll miss the old place — the shelter I sought when New York was attacked, my forwarding address, my base of operations for exploring Greenwich Village, and the setting for so many parties and flirtations and embarrassments.

It was merely a studio with a glorified alcove and dubious plumbing; the kitchen a former closet, with hardly enough room to make a sandwich. Because of the vintage leaded window panes, air conditioning the place was pretty much impossible, and Jon’s attempts to do so defied the laws of thermodynamics.

These things seldom mattered to us when he was entertaining, as he so often was. When the apartment got crowded and you wanted privacy, you’d retire to the stairwell, and when you wanted air, you’d bribe the doorman and go up to the roof. Jon’s vast collection of housewares, inherited from his aunt Martha, a compulsive shopper, always served, no matter how many we were, though we sometimes ran out of beer, and there were never enough places to sit.

The apartment commanded an excellent view of Christopher Street and Sixth Avenue and their annual parades, and it happened sometimes that random strangers came up by accident and stayed, on Halloween or Pride Day, to celebrate with us all.

On my last weekend in the city, Feldstein threw a party for me, and the tiny room was packed with my friends. But you know, even when he and I were sitting alone, the room was packed with my friends — anyway, the one who counted most.

I guess it’s time to move on. We’ll build new nests, and make of them what we can. And eventually, I’ll memorize the new address.