Mar. 9th, 2017

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We sanded the floors today. For me this is the first time in almost 37 years. It brought me back to another time...

In the late '70s I lived in B'klyn's Park Slope, back then just beginning to gentrify. While living there it went from red-lined & impossible to get a mortgage to you-can't-afford-to-buy-here in a period of about a year. Having never ever having lived on my own, I wanted to move to a smaller place in the neighborhood by myself. I'd left home at 17, and had either lived in dorms or with roommates/flat mates for 8 years.

I wanted a cat, but I'd always had someone who was allergic living under the same roof. With a couple of months to graduation and then residency, I started scouting the neighborhood. In the two years I'd been in the area I'd lived in a three bedroom railroad flat on the third floor of a brownstone. Shared, the rent was very reasonable. All I was able to find were studios that would be minimum, double the rent I was paying. $600/month may not would like all that much, but those were 1980 dollars and residents didn't make all that much.

The last place I looked at, the owner was adamant; he only wanted to rent to gay men.


I wasn't terribly open about my sexuality at the time; it was after all 1980 and medicine was still a very closeted profession. Frankly, I still wasn't completely sure which side of the street I was walking on. Anyway, the owner, an older middle-aged, straight Italian guy with a gut, and the requisite heavy gold chain on his neck, came right out and asked if I was gay. Apparently, the surprise on my face at his question made him assume I was not. He looked at me and said, "you seem like a nice young guy, but I only want to rent to gay men."

I didn't believe what I was hearing. "Excuse me? You only want to rent to gay men?"

"Most of my tenants are gay (actually I think he used queer) and I don't want anyone bringing a woman into the building at night and making noise that might offend them."

"You only rent to gay men...." my disbelief obvious.

"Yeah. They do good things for my property value. I've had tenants scrape and refinish the floors, others that have stripped the paint off the woodwork." At that point he leaned in, put his hand on my shoulder and pointing to the front of he building he continued, "Look at this front yard and those window boxes. The two guys in the front first floor apartment put them in." Talk about gentrification.

Ultimately, I kept the apartment I was living in and got one flat mate instead of two.

Then I got a cat.

And right after graduation, I stripped and refinished the floors.


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