Seems there was always something waking me up at the shop. The rusty sprinkler system that always seemed to drip onto my bed. The mysterious alarm that would go off in the middle of the night. I could never figure out why and no one ever showed up but I did figure out how to silence it for a few minutes the third time it happened. Then there was the crack whore who kept bothering me to buy a carton of odd sized sandpaper which didn’t work very well and I still have in my garage to this day. My big mistake was giving her $10 for it which was an invitation for her to come by once a week and kick my window to try to shake me down for more.

I always kept my day job working at MoMA during these years. I would leave every morning and catch the train at Highland Avenue station, then I’d arrive back at 6:00 PM, eat and when the other guys got there we would work on kiosks and other jobs which we were starting to get in until about 11:00 PM. We did this every day with one night off for about 2 years. Sometime right after Y2K my friend Tim left his wife and moved into the shop. He slept in a sleeping bag in a television enclosure we built. It was fun having him there but after 6 months I felt the urge to move out of the shop and buy a house. The urge was actually brought on by scratching sounds emanating from the bathroom. Upon investigating and discovering a sick looking rat licking the condensation from the toilet bowl which hissed at me when I turned on the light my plans were set into motion.

I left, Tim moved into “the room” and stayed there a few years and we dissolved our business in 2004. It was around this time that Ernie was kicked out by his wife and moved into his shop. Using me as a model he sectioned off a small area of his space but without a shower, kitchen or proper building methods. He even moved some woman named Juanita in with him. Poor Ernie, last I heard he was in a nursing home, all his machinery sold off for back rent.

Tim moved out years ago but still keeps the shop as a workshop for his business. Going back the first thing that hits you is the smell. Part mold, part dust with a hint of something burnt. Everything stored for more than a few weeks takes on this smell and retains it forever. We joke now that we can’t believe we ever lived there. From a hat factory to a home for wayward men. Standing there I can still hear Ernie say “it aint easy baby” but now I add “but you get used to it”.