August 27, 2006
A few days ago I noticed the front door of 135 Joralemon was open. As I've been fascinated with this house for a while, I poked my head inside. The door opened onto a stairway/parlor completely blackened with heavy layers of smoke. There were still pictures on the walls, but they were black with oily soot. I could hear someone upstairs dragging something. I was about to shout out a hello when a voice yelled, "Hey, what the hell are you doing?"
From the upstairs emerged a tall gentleman probably in his 70's. He was wearing soot covered undershirt and thick dirty gloves. I explained myself and my fascination with the house and he softened. "I was born in this house," he said, "I lived my whole life here and it's been in my family a long time. You don't know how wonderful this street used to be." He talked about the neighborhood and told me who used to live in this house and that house and how everyone knew everyone else.
He explained he was in court with ConEdison who he blamed for the New Years Eve fire. "I'm going to win and restore this house exactly as it was." And he started to give me some of the details... walnut staircase, brass hardware, etc. But he noticed my camera again and suddenly became suspicious. "Why are you here?" he asked, "Why are you asking these questions? Nobody cares about this house except people who want to steal it." I explained that I lived around the corner that that everyone on the street cared about the place. Trying to show sympathy I told him how Hurricane Rita had destroyed a portion of my childhood home. "Was anything left?" he asked. Without waiting for the reply he continued, "I lost everything. Everything was burned up. Do you know what that's like? To see your house burned up like this?" Wordless he turned to go back up the stairs. I watched him vanish into the dark and knew it was my time to go.