Debris, the Musical

by Arthur Chertowsky

My air conditioner was ruined by falling dust and debris from brickwork being done on the outside of my building – the workmen are totally replacing the parapet, meaning every single brick has been or will be drilled out of the outside wall from my windows up to the roof – and they're going to be working directly on the scaffolding outside my windows for an indeterminate number of weeks so I can't buy a replacement air conditioner until all the work is done, so, in my top floor apartment, under a tar roof, all my windows facing the blazing sun, I might be without an air conditioner for the entire summer. If there's high humidity, my apartment is a steam bath; if it's dry heat, my apartment is an oven. In addition, the elevator on my side of the apartment building (there are two wings, 130 apartments) is out of commission until July 3rd at the soonest, so, with my painful right knee and short-windedness, I have to climb up and down to the 7th floor in an airless stairwell, or – and this is somewhat better – I can take the elevator up the other wing of my building, walk up one flight to the roof, cross the incredibly huge, maze-like and confusing roof full of cables and stray construction equipment, to the door that leads to the stairwell on my side of the building, and then try to keep my balance climbing over the door’s mysteriously bathtub-high threshold and walk down one flight to my 7th floor apartment, which greets me with a blast of hot air, and gets hotter as the night progresses, because hot air rises in buildings like mine and collects on the top floor. To add insult to injury, last night I was looking forward to the Tony awards, but the scaffolding outside of my windows is causing extreme interference on my TV (I don't have cable, just an antennae) so I had to watch the Tonys on a 12" black & white set which somehow was receiving the TV signal okay. That's my life now – sitting in a steaming hot hovel, faced with a painful walk on stairs or over a dangerous roof if I want to come or go, and watching a black & white RCA set from before the end of the Cold War, all the while thinking that when I leave the debris of my home life every morning its to travel the hellish subway to the financial district, where I’ll walk through the construction debris of Lower Manhattan to get to work. I want to run screaming out of New York.


Arthur Chertowsky lives and works in the crumbling city.