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The Column

When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
9/1/02

I don’t want to know why crazy people are crazy. I just want to know how they find apartments.

There’s a woman who lives down the hall from me who is totally nuts. Every time I walk by her apartment, she’s screaming something. I used to think that she was just singing in another language, but then I stopped to listen one day. It was technically English, however garbled, and I’m not sure if I can still call it singing. There was a little singing to it, but not with any discernable melody. If I tried to play along, my guitar would be out of tune in three seconds.

Yesterday, I stopped long enough to hear her sing/yell, “The trees…and the forest…with the paint…and the chair…for you…” It’s possible that she’s redecorating in a jungle motif and is just really, really into it. But more than likely, the woman is, well, a few trees short of a forest. Yet somehow, she is still living in a beautiful high rise in a fairly expensive part of town.

Lest you misunderstand me, I do not really live in a beautiful high rise in a fairly expensive part of town. I can not afford to, and thus am staying at my friend’s place until this Sunday, when I move into my more permanent digs. I’ll be living in a house where my roommates thankfully do not sing about trees, chairs, and other such wooden items. Or at least as far as I know.

But this woman does live in a beautiful high rise in a fairly expensive part of town. And though Anna Nicole Smith seems to make a good living at it, I can’t imagine being an utter nutcase is very lucrative.

I had a horrible time looking for an apartment. The house I’ll be living in is the 16th place I contacted. And while it seems like I will love it there, it was almost impossible to find, and I like to think of myself as someone with all of his plants intact.

“If you could just fill out this lease agreement, we’ll be underway.”

“The tiger…and the herd…with the curtains…and the lamp…for you…”

“Thank you ma’am. Here are your keys.”

If someone is actually mentally ill, that is not something to laugh at. Usually. But this woman is not disabled; she’s obviously stable enough to have a wonderful apartment. She’s just not stable enough to do it without singing to her furniture.

So I feel no remorse about making fun of her. And I’m not willing to believe that I’m the only one who does it. There must have been a tenant meeting sometime where she showed up and threw everyone off.

“We’re here to discuss the conditions of the parking garage.”

“Garage…and the stapler…with the circus…and the cupboard…for you…”

“We’re here to discuss the conditions of the parking garage and the crazy singing lady on the second floor.”

The woman is entitled to have a place to live. But she is not entitled to have a place to live nicer than mine. Is there no housing Darwinism? Sure, I occasionally throw my garbage down the chute without tying the bag shut. And I’ll admit that I have removed someone else’s load of laundry from the dryer before it was completely dry (the time ran out, I swear). But I have never, ever, ever sang about upholstery or a large wooded area. That should count for something.

My new place has a lot of things that I’m looking forward to. There’s a pool table. And a porch. And cool roommates (one of them is even named David Cone). So when I threw out my garbage today (the bag was tied, I swear), I stopped in front of her door for one last concert. Mainly to remind myself how much better off I’d be in my new place.

I didn’t hear the woman, so I’m guessing she wasn’t home. But I did hear the guy next door on a phone call.

“I’ve got this crazy neighbor,” he said, as I began to nod knowingly. “Every time I see him, he’s just standing outside my other neighbor’s apartment.”

Perhaps I should go pack.

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