Encroachment #3 ~ Fighting the NYC Roach Wars was interesting. I guess.

Old Song
        It isn’t raining violets, either 
(Before the advent of Facebook, we had walls, too)

          We eventually moved to an apartment building just a block north of Roachville.
          A dozen four-story-high buildings were connected, with concrete courtyards in between. The courtyards stretched back about a hundred feet and were wide enough for the huge New York City garbage trucks to enter and pick up dozens of trash cans from each building.
         Let it be said, the outside trash cans for each New York City apartment are stored outside where the building superintendents would make sure they were tightly covered. The roaches socialized around the garbage cans, but could not get in. In some neighborhoods, they were brought to the sidewalk on pickup days; in places like ours, they were stored in the courtyards.
          No elevator existed in the buildings, so we all used the inner halls’ stairs. Each floor contained six apartments. Our apartment was on the second floor and we fronted on the street. The apartments were semi-railroad style: one room led into another. Furthermore, the apartments abutted each other, kitchen to kitchen, so the living quarters were very quiet. Small, short internal halls abutted each other in mirror fashion in adjoining apartments.
        During the day, the roach problem was non-existent, as we owners sprayed DDT regularly – it was 1957. At night, one of the walls of our kitchen was alive. The insects were the smaller American Cockroaches. For reasons we and the neighbors could not explain, Water Bugs were not found in the buildings.
         The roaches rarely left the abutment wall of the kitchen. They carried on their social networking and did whatever else it is roaches do. But they seldom came on to the other kitchen walls or into the other rooms. We thought it bizarre until several others told us our landlord had the painters put a roach repellent into the paint.
         The young couple whose apartment nosed ours was a young family with a cocker spaniel. They eventually welcomed a baby boy just before we moved to New Jersey. Her name was Carmen, and she was only five feet high. His name was Carlos, and he was six feet tall. Carmen and I were great pals and shared a great deal. Her mother and dad lived in the apartment one floor up from them.
          Carlos had made his living as a trumpeter before he was drafted to fight in the Korean War. Eventually he was seriously wounded and the fingers of his right hand became somewhat moveable stumps. Carlos told us “I have feeling in them, and now I need to train the stumps to be more supple. It will take time, but I need to get back into a band. I cannot live without my music.”
          He came back bitter and disillusioned, like many of the Korean veterans, but determined his musical career would not be ruined by the loss of fingers. So every night, when he came home from a job he detested, he would practice the trumpet until curfew at 10 pm. It didn’t bother us, as we didn’t hear the noise in the front of the apartment where the living room and bedroom was located. We could hear him in the kitchen and through the open windows, but it was no problem.
          Whenever he made a mistake, he would take a shot of rum. And another. And another. Soon, the bottle was empty.
          Carlos was seldom sober at night and on weekends.
          When he was drunk enough, mostly on weekends, he picked arguments with Carmen, and they would end up in a fist fight with lots of screaming. Carmen was small, but she was a tiger. Nearly every cooking utensil in their kitchen ended up on Carlos’ body. He retaliated by picking her up and throwing her repeatedly at the common wall, screaming, “I’m doing this because I love you! I love you! I love you!”
          Whenever a utensil or Carmen hit the common wall, the shock would knock the roaches off our kitchen wall behind the stove. Immediately, several dozen would scuttle back to the wall and continue their lives. It was fascinating to watch.
          “I’m doing this because I love you!” WHAM. Shake. Roach rain. Pickety. Pickety. Pickety. Their hard bodies clicked as they hit the stove and floor. It didn’t bother them, they just ran up again.
          Whack. Thump. Rain. It continued until the police came, called by Carmen’s mother and several other neighbors. The police calmed him down and got him into bed. In those days, wife abuse was not considered abnormal.
          After he was bedded down, they would once again talk to Carmen to tell her she had the responsibility of not getting him agitated because she bringing it on herself. Eventually, Carmen developed amnesia from the constant trauma to her head and was hospitalized. Three months later, she was finally discharged, and a very contrite Carlos had found a job with a local band. The fights stopped.
          The drinking continued. Now he drank to celebrate his victory over his handicap. He never laid a hand on Carmen again, though.
          The entertainment of raining roaches pickety-picketying deeply amused Karl and me, and we (almost) started to enjoy watching their social interactions during the brouhahas on the other side of the wall. Another step toward my eventual roach cure was being taken.
          Remember: inure not like.


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