Jerri Capolla still lives on King Street. I walked past her West Village rent controlled apartment this morning. I haven’t been down that block in almost seven years. I made a promise to myself to stay off that street for a while. So much went on during the summer of 2000 when I rented her place while she was away in Canada for the summer, taking photographs.A famous friend of mine suggested that I contact the struggling artist/ photographer for a place to live. “I don’t want you sleeping on my sofa. Call this woman, ha ha ha!” He chuckled in his trademark laugh while handing me a little piece of paper.
My lover Frank had a restraining order put on me for shredding his clothing after I caught him fucking a woman in my bed. The court order prohibited me from returning to my own house to obtain my things, and I certainly was not permitted to live there. Thankfully, Jerri had not yet advertised her sublet and the $800 per month rental unit in the heart of Manhattan’s most charming neighborhoods was mine for the taking.“I have a cat, is that alright?” I asked on the phone.
“Well, I suppose so. I was going to bring that up to you. I have a cat too and whoever gets the place must agree to take care of Tom for the summer. I’m sure the cats will get along,” Jerri explained. “Bette is very friendly,” I said to her, although I knew very well that my orange and white tabby did not get along with other cats. My eighteen pound feline almost killed my neighbor’s kitten when I lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The poor little fur ball was in my backyard trying to drink from a birdbath when Bette charged out the kitchen window in a territorial kind of way. Hisses could be heard all the way to Bay ridge that summer morning.
I went to Jerri’s apartment and met her face to face for an informal interview. She asked very few questions and showed me the place. She didn’t even require a security deposit. “Just mail me the rent each month at this address and forward all my mail to me. You know Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade, so I’m sure I can trust you.”
I arrived on May 1st to pick up my keys. Jerri was leaving for Canada that day. She was driving north with a guy she had just met.
“Where’s your cat?”
“Oh, I intended to call and tell you. He died last week, so Bette and you will have the place to yourself.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Tom was 20 years old. It was his time. You’re going to love this place. Help yourself to my books if you’d like. This place is so quiet. You can get lost in a book here. I’ll see you in October, Charlie.”
Finally, I had my own place again. Jerri had very little furniture in her studio but the small apartment had several bookcases full of literature relating to witchcraft. I chose not to read that summer.
For months I had moved from house to house, staying with friends, and carrying everything I owned in bags. The skulls of horse and cow heads that Jerri had hanging all over her apartment didn’t frighten me at all. It felt good to have a home again. I had an idea to make some quick cash. I logged onto the AOL chatroom NYCM4M and posted this message
“Nude Apartment Cleaning. Will do windows. $300”