Sometimes one person waltzes into your life and changes everything. For me, my former landlord Frank was not that person. But he was that person for the 10–14 (number fluctuated based on how many he could contain in our building) cats he “owned” at any given time, and I like to think that the handful of complaints filed against him by women at the VFW swing dance events he frequented speaks to his lasting impact on all he encountered in this life. I use the past tense here because it has come to my attention that Frank is now chasing skirts at the big dance hall in the sky.
Frank was very interested in astrology, neighborhood surveillance and interior design. He retrofitted the inside of his Ridgewood, Queens apartment to accommodate a drop down office ceiling and wood paneled walls, with flickering fluorescent lights to complete the aesthetic. It was truly nightmarish, even before you consider that he lived with more than a baker’s dozen cats. He had a scrapbook of every cat he ever owned, and forced me to look at each one more than I ever wanted to. He not only made me look at them, but insisted that I take each photo out of its plastic sleeve and handle it in order to inspect the wonderful photographic details and appreciate all of the nuance that the album’s plastic obscured. These photos were usually xeroxed copies that he had printed at home, so this dog and pony show proved excessive. But I would hold the pictures up to the light and squint while tilting it back and forth appraisingly, like, ohhh… …whoa.
At this point you’re probably wondering why I spent some of my evenings hanging out with my deranged landlord, and not all of my evenings hanging out with my deranged landlord. Our dynamic was, I’d knock on his door to say like, “Hi Frank there’s a hole in the roof” and 2 hours later be fully up to speed on his astrological compatibility with Faye Dunaway and Joan Crawford (extremely high for both, with page markers indicating where the ample evidence exists in his body of literature). I also got the tea on all of the high stakes drama that pervaded the Ridgewood/Maspeth senior citizen swing dancing circuit, of which Frank was the reigning devil-may-care bad boy.
As previously touched upon, the callous women at the VFW dances were intimidated by his straightforward approach. His stories of love and loss were difficult to listen to — often they ended with him screaming obscenities at his rejector and then being summoned to court soon thereafter. He only wanted what we all want in this life, though. Someone who sees the cracks in our veneer but remains too apathetic to reject our advances regardless. His cats offered this where the “tramps” at the big band swing dances could not.
Frank’s relationship with his cats was tempestuous at best. However, unlucky at love, it remained the great love affair of his life to the very end. As with any passionate arrangement they were extremely hot-and-cold, and I would sometimes hear them yelling at each other deep into the night. But they always made peace with each other quickly enough.
💓 💓 💓💓 💓 💓💓 💓 💓💓 💓 💓 💓 💓 💓💓 💓
BYE FRANKY BABY LOVE U!!!!!