Friday, April 14, 2006

Keeping an Eye on the Neighbors

The building across the street from my dorm houses Columbia faculty. I’ve been watching professors totter in and out for two weeks now. Once it’s dark outside, I turn off the lights in my room and enjoy the half-dozen dumb shows that take place every evening behind the building’s windows. I swear it’s better than cable.

When I moved uptown to attend Columbia, my mother purchased a truck load of towels, blankets, and pillow cases—along with enough canned soup to feed the Donner Party. My father, whose sense of humor can border on the bizarre, supplied me with only two things—a chamber pot and a pair of opera glasses. The chamber pot was new, and its intended purpose was self-explanatory. (I’m pleased to say that I haven’t been forced to use it yet, though at times the dorm’s communal bathroom seems like it’s in New Jersey.) But the opera glasses were one of my father’s most prized possessions, and for years, they had been a mystery to me. During the day they sat on a shelf, looking prim and proper in their mother of pearl case. At night, however, whenever my father was suffering from a bout of insomnia, they came out of the china cabinet.

On many occasions when I was a child, I would stumble toward the kitchen for a late-night glass of water and find my father sitting in the dark, his favorite chair turned toward the living room windows and the opera glasses resting in his lap. In the building across the street from ours, I would see an elderly couple arguing in their living room or a teenage girl sneaking out of her apartment while her parents watched police dramas on TV. It took me years to realize that my dad was spying on the neighbors. (It’s not as strange as you think. New York is filled with peeping toms.) He could have used binoculars, he explained to me not long ago, but opera glasses made it seem so much more civilized.

Dad refuses to tell me what more than a decade of surveillance taught him about our downtown neighbors. He claims to think of them as friends, and he says their secrets will always remain safe with him.

Thanks to my father’s opera glasses, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten to know the people who live across the street from my dorm. At first I hoped I would see something that might help explain what the man in the stacks was doing in the tunnel underneath their building. Instead, I’ve discovered that El Gordo (as I’ve started to call the rotund man on the fourth floor) likes to order in tacos and watch Mexican professional wrestling in his underwear, while the Anorexic Chef (I think she teaches creative writing) takes off her wig and prances around her kitchen while baking brownies that she never eats. There’s also an old man in a bow tie who spends a great deal of time pacing and talking on the telephone, as well as a handsome Italian professor who chooses to live like a fourteenth century monk.

DeeDee is convinced my surveillance is pointless. She spends every night at Butler Library, waiting for the man in the stacks to return. Kiki is also getting impatient. I can’t possibly keep track of all the apartments in the building, she’s pointed out, and even I am starting to believe that my time would be better spent elsewhere. Luz is installing surveillance equipment in the tunnel beneath the building. Once the cameras are ready, I’ll turn my attention to the videotape. But I’m not looking forward to leaving my new friends behind. Who else is going to call 911 if El Gordo ends up choking on a quesadilla?

18 Comments:

Anonymous ss chick said...

these early (although i dont know how early they really are) posts are much more like a book (and a cool one, at that) than the most recent posts. not that the more recent ones are boring. I am ss chick.( i dont know if i should be telling you this, ananka, but ss really stands for ssss which stands for society of simple saburban spies. you see, after reading and falling inlove with your stories me and my friend became more aware of the odd things going on in our little town. some may call us peranoid, but really we're just observant.) i hope no one reads this because then our identity will be blown. darn it!

8:30 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

yess! hopefully no one read this! this should be the official meeting place/ bulletin board for the ss. muhahahhaha! if you do read this and you have no idea what im talking about, thats a good thing. if you do know what im talking about, pretend like you dont and dont ever reveal what youve read to other people. thanks.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

im brilliant...

i mean, to go to some untouched old blog that hopefully no one will look at, its just brilliant. you can call me vain if you like(if i dont hunt you down for reading this first) but really its pure geniostiy and i cant help it. yes,well, hmm...

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Cricket said...

Brilliant, ss chick! You're superb misteriosity (I am aware that that is not in the dictionary, in case anyone else is reading this) astounds me. However, who can blame you, this thing is probably beyond deserted. If so, you were certainly in touch with your inner ss chick! this is a convenient place to have discussions with yourself and other secretive allies.Hopefully this time my comments will be available!
I will examine The Wall tomorrow. If you don't know what I'm talking about, back off- this blog is not for you- not to be rude. You may think our interests are childish and petty, but when you live in a tiny, childish, and petty town, theres not much else you can do to stir life up, so why not?

9:57 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

HAHA!!cricket to the rescue! oh, how i am so glad to not be talking to myself anymore! so, wright back and tell me if youve found anyhting about the Wall. muhahahahahah! oh, thank you, thank you for finally showin gup cricket! arent i brilliant and filled with astoundingly maturosity and not libby-osoity. ou do know that when i refer to libby i mean josers? hehehehhehe!

12:24 AM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

so any ways, now that i have another member to talk to, i must announce.


OFFICIAL MEETING PLACE OF THE ----

NOT WELCOME TO NEW COMERS, NOT WELCOME TO PEOPLE WHO MAKE FUN OF OUR BRILLIANOSITY, NOT WELCOME TO YOU. THATS RIGHT, I'M TALKING TO YOU.

well, actually it's open to really anyone, because its a public website, but we would prefer if you wouldnt talk about what you've read to ANYONE!!! thank you.

pleaswe not: the small bit of 'i would prefer stuff' is quite critical because its very confidetial and vital information on our part. thank you again.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

please, cricket, where are you?!(besides at the flo bots concert w/ me) i need info on the Wall!!!!! argh! youre so infuriating sometimes! gah.... whtevr.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

don't forget plan a!!!! ps, i'm writing this on me wii.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

ok, so listen cricket. if you "leave me anything" juts type in "plan a" on here. if you cant get on here, email me. if you cant email me,call me. if you cant call me rock out hard core to damian kulash and his hotness. byeeeeee!

7:27 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

ok, so listen. if you understand email me. we (and 2 other people) are going to do a remake of ok go's a million ways. check out the video on youtube and get back to me.


ps: for those of you who arent cricket or ss chick (uh, me.) it may seem like i'm having multiple conversations with myself. i am not. just so ya know.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

erm, liek, i'm bored without you in this slaughterhouse of boredom. call me next weekend. slater's'n'all!!!

11:20 PM  
Anonymous ss chick said...

so i take it ananomous (or however you spell it) didnt work for you, cricket?: ho hum pigs bum, i'll call you today.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. you were really getting desperate. but here I am, the famous cricket. though hopefully no one has seen this,and therefore ss chicks brilliant secrecy and discreetosity will hae gone unnoticed, as will my apparent fame. so yeah, great idea. hope ur still getting on and this FINALLY works!

5:59 PM  
Anonymous u kno who... (ss) said...

it works! oh, cricket! i had no idea until i checked this and was like " 13 comments! were we discovered?!" but i spose if we were no one would be stupid enough to comment and give them selves away, so: to any unsees audience me and cricket have: hjello! hope ur enjoying our nonsensical ramblings!

oh cricket! so, hows.... wat shall we call him of ur fathers name? just plain #3? ok, so hows #3 going? hows life going? hows red hair going? speaking of which, i need to redye mine fore going to that hot sweaty oven were asher's from.ya know? yes.calll me when i get home! or i'll call u.

charge ur phone!

9:56 PM  
Anonymous i think its obvious who i am if im not cricket. said...

ok. hi delilah, and possibly more people. erm...yea. we stopped doing this a year ago cuz nothing actually happens in CBnDV(Cold Dead and Brown Valley). we where simply caught up in the moment. enjoy are 'brilliancy' and then making fun of us. actually, i wonder how cricket's doing? hmm.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous still obvious said...

why the crap did i think you were delilah? sry delhia (sp?), i guess im more clueless than i think. and less pbservant than i claim to be. lolz....6//6

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

civilized like hannibal lecter. or that man in the film "peeping tom"

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ss chick and cricket, you two were very interesting to read about here. i was browsing through old posts, very pleased with my discovery of what this blog used to be like, and with each post i would see there were only (on average) 1-2 comments. this made no sense to me. then i came across one that said 17 comments and i was surprised! i clicked on it and there i found this odd conversation of 'ss chick' and 'cricket'. i hope you had fun being the society of simple urban spies. it sounds like fun and i wish i could find something of interest like that in my small town, but i highly doubt there really is anything of interest around here. but there was that time when we jamie and i were in the elevator at the college...

3:00 PM  

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