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2007-08-08 - 1:40 p.m.

Things I’ve learned today…

1.) Standing in a toilet for an extended period of time can be physically exhausting.

2.) New York really, really, really, doesn't like rain.


As anyone who knows me can attest, ‘neat’ is rarely a term that can attributed to me. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but to err is human, and I am inexorably human. By which I mean, dirty socks go where ever they crumble off my crumpled feet. Where they roam from there is all on them. Free range socks in my house. Totally organic, if you will.

So, as I’ve detailed before, when my latent anal compulsions arize, forcing be to scrub every last surface, neatly fold every last piece of laundry, even if I haven’t worn it since the turn of the millennium, and rummage into the bowels of my refrigerator to scrape lingering leftovers into the bin, it is most certainly a rare occurrence…one generally coinciding with the full moon. I’m a were-retentive.

So last night, as my eyes scanned over a closet full of clean, neatly hung shirts, over polished hard wood floors, over a kitchen table devoid of detritus, it was a moment of overwhelming pride and singularity.

Summer cleaning. Just like Spring Cleaning…only sweatier.



The drums rumbled in. Then, a moment later, the lights.


Cue the Tympani. Then cue the strobe.



“Jesus Christ, it’s everywhere.”

Living in the basement allows a person a certain apathy about the weather. The wind never whips too hard through the blinds. The rain rarely even filters down to those two dingy half windows you have peeking out onto street level.

I have a screen to keep my windows open a little; let some air in. When it rains I don’t even think of closing up the window. Someone would have to be throwing buckets of water at the window for anything to dribble inside. (That particular imagery has nothing to do with my neighbors washing their car in front of the building. Nothing at all.)

Six in the morning, the storm comes. Six. After an evening up till one babbling at friends in kinder time zones no less.


Someone leaves the stage on the Gong Show.

I generally like listening to thunder and lightening. It’s nice seeing nature express itself. Gaia should feel self-actualized on occasion. It’s a fun little ditty, gurgling drums and a tinkling piano running up and down the scales with incessant consistency.

Tucked down in my cozy underground cave, I can barely hear the rivulets and streams forming on the street. At least in most storms. But this morning, between counts, the water sounded like it was gushing. The rivers were loud enough to get this weary bundle out of the sheets, and shuffling to the window.

I took the screen out and blunted the window down into the frame. Thing was, as soon as the window shut, the music outside, the lightning, the thunder, it was muffled. That rushing water, though, it didn’t get any quieter.

I inched towards my bathroom, home of the one other window in my apartment, now convinced that something must have flooded the side of the building and busted open the bits of glass protecting my powder room.

Before I left my bedroom, I stepped in an inch of water.


“John! John!!! There’s water everywhere…”

“Hang on. Be there in a…”

As my building sprung to life in the early morning, my neighbors and landlord hustling through the hallways, cursing in a few different languages, I gathered myself into the visage of iron resolve. A calamity had befallen us. But I would be willful and courageous in its wake. With spry mind, and full purpose I took the situation, and did first what had to be done…

I put on pants.

A man cannot face danger without pants.

True, my feet were soggy, and panic was squirreling itself into every corner. True that my apartment’s floor was all but entirely covered in water, and the tide showed no signs of stemming.

But I needed pants.

Dealing with stress is one thing. Dealing with stress while also worrying that one's better half might squirm out to see what all the hub-bub is about, that is simply intolerable.

“Be right there…whoa!”

Oh, a third thing I learned today.

Don’t put pants on while standing on a smooth surface immersed in water.


The oncoming storm wasn’t seeping in through the window. My toilet was overflowing. As were all the toilets in the basement of my building.

But putting it that way doesn’t really paint the image. An overflowing toilet, in usual recollection, looks like a Grecian fountain, with water drooling over the side in languid strips. This was nothing like that.

This was a tempest.

Led by a Napoleonic Poseidon, driving his Lilliputian chariot along the rim of my bowl, massive crests slammed, crashed and shot themselves into the air, circling out a blast radius of a good two feet. My toilet raged in retaliation for all the crap its been forced to take. It screamed bloody murder, gushing like a Satanic bidet.

Ulysses himself would have balked.

And what did my gathered, pants’ed self do?

The only thing that made sense…

I flushed my toilet.


It proved slightly ineffective.

The landlord however, had a better idea what to do. She gathered a myriad of towels and rags and gagged the bastard. She slammed a foot into the mouth of the beast and rammed the cork down its throat.

“I go fix. You hold this.”

“Right. Right. I tried flushing it…”

“Good. Yes. Hold this.”

As soon as she pulled her toesies off the towels the water went back to splashing down like so many of drink-me-Alice’s gargantuan tears. (I’m in a weird literary reference space today, ain’t I?) I jumped to her spot, landed my foot, and…made little difference in the stream.

It’s not to say that my landlord is large, but rather that I’m kind of lanky, and the ten or so pounds in my leg weren’t holding up the dyke. So I figured maybe the other hundred and fifty might.

I stood in my toilet.

I stood in my toilet, my foot in brown gurgling water.

I stood in my toilet, resting my head on the top of my bathroom door.

I stood in my toilet, waiting for ten minutes as they did whatever it is they did.

“Hello?” No answer. “Any progress?” Nothing. “Ummm…I’m standing in a toilet…in case anyone was wondering…”

No one was wondering.


It was overflow from the street. I figured this out once I stared seeing leaves floating in the ebb and flow.

It took a while to clean. We shoveled up water in dust bins. Ran through about twenty or so towels. Used paper towels to pick up dust and grime coagulated into stringy hairballs that bobbed their way through my new man-made lake.

The newspapers that had been gathering in the corner did some gathering of their own, so schlepping their sopping selves out to the curb removed another gallon or so from the room.

“The bottles. They’re wet. We should take them out.”

And thus the evidence of my growing alcoholism was trundled out front as well. As we finished running the bags out front, my landlord turned to me.

“A little spring cleaning. Yeah?”

“Yeah. Just like spring cleaning. Only…moist.”

I rung out the corner of my drenched t-shirt.


Post Script

Despite the fact that this city has withstood terrorist attack, and dismissed deranged nor’easters that unceremoniously dump yards of snow over the whole of the boroughs, a good rain-storm will bitch-smack New York into submission. After my adventures with the over-moisturized toilet, I went to the corner only to discover that the subway system had given up the ghost. Only the elevated lines were running, and, of course, none of those are in my neighborhood.

I threw on my hoodie, my boots, and my big ass helmet, and Jeanette and I made our way through rush hour traffic over the Polanski Bridge into Queens. I found a nice block to park her on, and made my way onto the elevated train.

The ride over to the subway had gone without incident, but in the baking heat, in helmet boots and sweatshirt, I was rendered into a sweaty mess. It’s ninety degrees and muggy out anyway, but throw on an extra layer and you’re going to be drenched.

I managed to squirm into the first elevated train that went by. I did my best not to knock into the others crammed into the train, taking careful notice of a little Chinese girl who was quickly disappearing in the taller crowd. When we all shuffled over, I bumped her a little. I apologized quickly, and gave her room to shuffle into a new opening in the mass.

We plowed slowly into Manhattan, stopping repeatedly in the middle of the tunnel to wait for other crammed cars in front of us. As we hung there, I reached my face up to greet the air conditioning on my still shimmering, soaked face, when I suddenly felt a little tap on my chest.

The little girl held up a tissue for me. She was beaming.

I almost laughed a bit.

“Thank you.”

She nodded.

Next to me, someone stepped on someone else’s ankle. Words were shared, as I wiped the sweat off my face, and the little girl bopped to the music on her iPod just underneath the rest of us.

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