Lame Adventure 422: Eulogy for The Flusher

The Flusher was not the type of tenant inclined to smell the fragrant roses that bloomed last week in my apartment building’s garden.

In bloom!

In bloom!

Nor was he the type who would appreciate this sign that was recently posted over our mailboxes.

Happy House notice.

Happy House notice.

He was the antithesis of friendly, the embodiment of prickly, with an accent on the first syllable. When I first encountered him in my building’s vestibule almost 31 years ago, I was 24 and he, 42. I made the mistake of saying hi. He narrowed his eyes trying to focus on where this offensive sound had emanated even though I was standing right in front of him. His forehead looked reminiscent of a slab of slowly melting Monterey Jack. He growled with a heavy German accent:

The Flusher: Fuck you.

Contempt was not the response I was anticipating. I became friends with The Flusher’s next door neighbor, Paul, the tenant in 2D, or as he called it:

Paul: Too delicious!

Paul was a kind-hearted, gay, 33-year-old photographer and my all-time favorite fellow tenant. He dished about The Flusher.

Paul: He’s the building menace. He hates everyone. He’s always threatening to shoot me. Have you heard him screaming yet?

Me: I don’t think so.

Paul: You will — and honey, you’ll know it when you hear it.

Me: Do you ever talk to him?

Paul: I’ve only spoken six words to him in my life: shut up, shut up, you asshole.

The Flusher had been a tenant probably since the Sixties. His lease was rent controlled so what he paid in an entire year was considerably less than what other tenants pay per month. He was a solidly built, pasty white, compact man with the classic bad comb-over. He wore the same uniform every time I saw him — a short sleeve, plaid, button down shirt, faded blue jeans — about an inch and a half too short, white socks and black oxfords. When the weather was cool, he wore a black satin baseball jacket emblazoned with the New York Times logo. Paul told me that he worked at the Times.

Me: What does he do?

Paul: Probably folds section c.

Around the time Paul succumbed from AIDS in 1986, The Flusher and I locked horns on a workday morning. I was blindsided when he detonated while I was doing my usual morning work-out, claiming it was too loud. This prompted him to bang on my door, ring my buzzer, call me “a fucking kike” and promise to kill me. It was surreal. It was the same workout I had been doing for years. I didn’t suddenly add a jackhammer to it. Even though I’m not Jewish, I was feeling very threatened, afraid that he might be lurking outside my door. I called the cops.

The police came quickly, a white male and a black female. I told them my side, they went down to visit The Flusher to hear his, but he wouldn’t open his door. When he finally relented and let them in, the black female cop asked:

Black Female Cop: Sir, have you been drinking?

The obvious answer was yes but he denied it. She disagreed. He disagreed back and called her the N-word. I thought for sure that they would cuff him then and there, but they didn’t. They sternly warned him to stay away from me, or face arrest. He never came banging or buzzing on my door again.

But he continued to harass other tenants. He also liked to curse loudly out his window at people in neighboring buildings who would play music at back yard gatherings in summer. After Paul died, that started a revolving door of new victims for The Flusher to antagonize. His midnight hour screaming made tenancy short for whoever took up residence next door.

As for his name, The Flusher, a friend of mine came up with that moniker ten years ago. We were having dinner when we heard my downstairs neighbor flushing his toilet incessantly.

My Friend: What the hell is going on down there?

Me: Lately, he’s been flushing his toilet non-stop. Ignore it.

But my friend decided we should call him The Flusher. It was especially irritating when he’d get on a flushing tangent while I was showering. The flush would consume all of the cold water and I risked getting scalded. It had crossed my mind that he was so full of vitriol he was doing that intentionally.

When I would see The Flusher on the street, if he were walking ahead of me, I would slow my pace. If he were walking toward me, I’d cross to the other side. As for how he walked, his body lurched forward. It was an odd gait, perfect for an odd man. I warned my friends and sleepover guests that he was bad news and they should keep their distance. Drunk or sober his usual expression was a frown. Never once do I recall seeing him smile. He was always alone.

About twenty years ago, his apartment door was open, allowing a glimpse inside. It was very dark. Hanging over the non-working fireplace mantle was a mirror with multiple cracks that extended from a bullet hole in the center. He was always threatening people with gun violence so maybe he shot his mirror.

Sometimes as I would be leaving for work, I’d see him coming home, carrying a six-pack of Budweiser.

Pioneer Market on Columbus Avenue, shithole market with great prices on beer: The Flusher's go-to retailer.

Pioneer Market on Columbus Avenue, market with great prices on beer: The Flusher’s go-to retailer.

Other times, particularly on sunny days, I’d see him out walking, carrying a slender paperback book. Possibly he had been re-reading the same novel for decades too soused to recall the story.

About a year ago, I noticed that he was looking gaunt. I suspected that he was ill. Last fall, I was going out as he was coming in. He was wearing his old black satin New York Times jacket. Normally, he would just walk by me, but this time, he waited and held the door for me. This simple act of common courtesy from someone so hostile surprised me as much as when he told me “Fuck you” thirty years earlier. I said:

Me: Thanks.

Maybe that was his way of saying he was sorry that he had been a dick toward me for thirty years. Or maybe because he was sober he was just being courteous.

My building’s management discovered The Flusher dead last week on the floor of his apartment. He was 73. The tenant below reported that water was leaking. The Flusher had left his faucet running. Possibly he was too weak to resume a final hurrah of constant toilet flushing. His mail had piled in the vestibule all month, but it did not occur to anyone that he was home, gravely ill and unable to climb down the flight of stairs to get it. It seems that he has no friends or family so the police have sealed his apartment pending a routine investigation.

NYPD DOA premises seal on The Flusher's door.

NYPD DOA premises seal on The Flusher’s door.

I spoke with the woman who co-manages my building about him. She is gracious and friendly. He was always nasty to her.

Co-manager: He was an old man, he was sick and he died alone. I should feel sorry for him because he was a human being, but my cat’s sick right now and I’m so worried.

Me: I’m sure your cat is a lot nicer to you than he ever was.

She asked if I remembered when I last saw The Flusher. I said I didn’t. She said that she couldn’t either, but he paid his May rent. It’s possible that was the last time he stepped out of his garret.

The Flusher's pile of mail.

The Flusher’s pile of mail.

This pathetic misanthrope, who was loathed by every resident and building management, who suffered a lonely and agonizing death, will soon be forgotten. But that’s where Lame Adventures enters the picture. I Google searched The Flusher expecting to find nothing, but I discovered that this belligerent drunk, who was quick to spew racial slurs and seemed to detest anyone of color, LGBT or human, contributed $3,750 to the Democratic Party in 2012, including $250 to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. I expected to discover that he was an NRA cheerleader, a white supremacist, or both. Even though I  shared two words of civility with him thirty years apart, I now know that he was not a total douche bag after all. In tribute to The Flusher, I will now flush my toilet.

Dean man's door.

Dead man’s door.

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75 responses to “Lame Adventure 422: Eulogy for The Flusher

  1. What a sad story. I don’t know what to say. How many people around us lead lives of fear, anger, bitterness…and remain hidden from our view. They refuse to open the door to let others in. They keep it locked on purpose.

    I’m glad you found those other things about him. It adds such an ironic twist.

    May he rest in peace.

    Like

    • It does indeed add an ironic twist, Jim! The cynic in me, actually that’s about all of me, wonders if turning this new end of life leaf had something to do with his diagnosis. He was too socially stunted to talk to his neighbors civilly, so maybe he chose to speak with his bank account instead? Overall, he remains an enigma, but not entirely forgotten. I know that I will never forget him.

      Like

  2. Great story telling.

    Cheers,

    R.

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  3. Can’t imagine what he was like at work. What a surprise when he held the door for you. Yes, I think it was an apology … and I enjoyed your tribute to him in your style.

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  4. It really is true about New York stories, sugar! He may have been a hateful neighbor, but thanks to your writing, he’ll never be forgotten. xoxoxo

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  5. Gripping and poignant. So well written. Thanks for the Monday morning jolt.

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  6. As usual, fabulous story-telling, V. It sounds like The Flusher probably suffered from severe mental illness undiagnosed and untreated. What a sad and wasted life. Even so, we all make choices in life, and he seemingly chose the dark side.

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    • Judging from his accent. Cathy, he was born in Germany in 1941. Who knows what hardships he endured in his youth that scarred him for the remainder of his life? What I know for certain is that he was one of the most socially stunted functioning individuals I have ever encountered. Looking back, I think that arguing was the only way he knew how to interact. The screaming that came out of his apartment must have been terrifying to his neighbors after Paul. They could not move out fast enough. Amazingly, I was so used to it I could soundly sleep through it. I suppose I’m mental in my own way.

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  7. How sad for a person to live his life being miserable. Imagine what things might have been like for him if he’d tried holding the door for someone 30 years earlier?

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  8. I feel like we can all picture our version of The Flusher in our lives, although this guy pretty much takes the cake. That’s so interesting about his donations, though – Elizabeth Warren can cross all divides, I guess.

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  9. It sounds like you may well be the only person on the planet who wrote an obit for The Flusher. What a dreadful waste of a life (his, not yours). Very sad … and, par for the course, extremely well written.

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    • I think you’re right about that, Patricia. He was definitely the death of the party, but I truly feel a twinge of something when I reflect on how he shed his mortal coil, or maybe I’m just having a reaction to the plums I ate earlier today. Glad you liked the story.

      Like

  10. Don’t be too certain that because of his donation to the Democratic party that there is something admirable, after all, in him. Perhaps he harbored a nasty, illicit background, that, if/when exposed, could bring, at the least, shame and scorn on the receivers of the funds!

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  11. I like your reappraisal of this nasty old man. For me, however, where a person donates his money doesn’t affect my opinion of them much. Donald Sterling gave a lot of money to the NAACP.

    But everybody’s got a story that’s more than what’s apparent. A recent example from my own life. My neighbor Nancy is quiet, but really cool. Nancy had a girlfriend (platonic or romantic I don’t know; Nancy’s really private) who would spend a lot of time at her house. Nancy is really friendly, but her friend wasn’t. I’d say hi and she’d answer shortly, and she always seemed to be in a bad mood. I started to think of her as “Nancy’s bitchy girlfriend.”

    Well, about three or four months ago, I noticed Nancy had a “new” car. I asked her about it and she told me that her friend (“Nancy’s bitchy girlfriend”) had been battling cancer for the last couple years, and she had finally succumbed. She wanted Nancy to have her car.

    Oh. My. God. It put the last two years in an entirely new light. What had been unfriendly became “about as friendly as you can get considering” and what was bitchy became “unspeakably brave.” I was never rude to Nancy’s brave girlfriend, but just the same I wish I’d seen her for what she really was.

    Now, I doubt there’s anything quite so redeeming about the Flusher, but everyone’s got a story.

    And I thought you WERE a little bit Jewish? Am I remembering incorrectly?

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    • Thanks for sharing that great story about “Nancy’s bitchy girlfriend”, Smak — and I think you’re right, everybody’s got a story, but unlike “Nancy’s brave girlfriend” there’s little that can justify The Flusher orchestrating decades of angry antics on the residents here. He also took his shitshow on the road or at least to the school assembly room across the street. It was there that I witnessed him disrupt a peaceful neighborhood watch gathering. He made such a spectacle of himself the police escorted him off the premises. As usual, he was three sheets to the wind.

      Rumor has it that I might have a thimble of Jewish blood mixed into these otherwise Chianti-filled veins.

      Like

  12. What a sad way to go.
    I wonder about people like that… what happened in their lives to make them so mean-spirited.
    I hope you get a nice, cheerful new tenant to take his apartment. You deserve it!

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    • I wonder if he was abused in his youth or if he was born rotten, or maybe Cathy at Large Self is right, he was mentally ill. He was always so angry and rude, I avoided him as much as I could. A nice, cheerful new tenant in that apartment would be a welcome change, Jackie! Meanwhile, his next door neighbor, a young woman about my age when I moved here, is hanging what looks like a bundle of herbs outside her door, maybe to absorb any lingering bad karma?

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  13. Well, I still didn’t get an email when you posted–Dammit. Maybe the Flusher didnt want me to read this story, but HA!, i read it anyway. My philosphy is that they only thing that’s really important in life if our relationships. I doubt my car, coffee cup, or keyboard will miss me when I’m gone, but it would be nice to think that some human being somewhere would notice I’m gone. Not trying to sound cold, but he build his own prison and died in it alone–probably as he wished.

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    • That’s so frustrating that you didn’t get an email! I hope my post at least appears in your Reader, Russell. I wholeheartedly share your philosophy of life. Things are replaceable, but the people that matter aren’t. As for The Flusher, he wore his anger and isolation like a favorite pair of shoes, not to imply that either seemed to be very comforting at the bitter end.

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  14. What a sad story. It sounds like he lead a lonely, sad existence! But what a character. Even though he is forgettable, I bet you’ll never forget him. Sounds like a character straight out of Seinfeld or something.

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  15. Flushing the toilet is a wonderful way to give tribute to him. Something new to me now that I live in a new place are the occasional list of names in the newspaper of people who have died with a line following the name: “Anyone with information on this person please contact…” A lot more people die without ties than I realized.

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  16. Wow. Thanks for sharing this, Virginia. Everyone has a story and you told this in such a lovely Lame Adventures way. I’m glad this story had some sense of redemption. It was nice of you to Google-ize The Flusher and find his humane and compassionate side. I hope he’s Flushing in peace now.

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    • Thanks Tania. I hope his bad karma stayed behind and he’s in a good place now, if there is a place to go after one sheds one’s mortal coil. New York City is a tough town. It can absorb his venom; maybe his anger has already transformed into a few more sewer rats. Yes, this is me being optimistic.

      Like

  17. What a great story, told by a great storyteller! I shall flush my low-flow toilet in tribute. (Your friend Paul was taken too soon. I’d like to hear more about him.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awwwwwwwwwwww, thanks buddy!

      Yeah, Paul was a great guy. Very witty. Very pithy. Very gay. I miss him to this day. A wave of emotion came over me again when I saw that the cement sidewalk where he wrote his name was replaced several years after his death. Although his parents had pre-deceased him, and I don’t recall him having any siblings, he had an army of friends when he died who mourned his loss. One other person that I knew of, besides The Flusher who did not like him, was our landlady. I don’t exactly know why that was. I don’t think it was because he was gay. As you know, I’m a lesbian and many gay people have resided in my building. They might have just rubbed each other wrong. Anyway, After Paul checked out, I inherited his film books and the decorative plates he acquired while traveling on a photo shoot in Morocco. I hung the plates on my wall as he did on his. The winter after he died a valve crapped out on my radiator. I called her about it and she came over herself that evening to do the repair. It was pretty simple, unscrew the dead valve, screw in the new one. She and I were making innocuous small talk. At one point she turned around, ostensibly to face me, when a look of horror came across her face and she gasped audibly. I looked over my shoulder but all I could see was the plates. She quickly gathered her tools and could not escape my lair fast enough. I like to think that for a split second Paul’s face appeared. And he stuck his tongue out at her.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What a sad story. I feel for people like this because they must be miserable. Not a good life to live, full of hate, anger, and feeling lost. At least he apologized in the end by holding the door open. I do hope that he’s finally at peace and has a toilet to flush wherever he is.

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  19. What a sad story, maybe a sad life. We never know what lies beneath a gruff exterior. We never know what caused him to push the rest of humanity outside of his circle, what may have hurt him.

    This was very kind of you.

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  20. V, this is so sad. It sounds as if this person suffered from something..some mental health issue possibly? But how did he function at work? And it’s hard to feel sympathy for someone who made life miserable for so many. Over abundance of stimulants, alcohol coupled with bi-polar or something other mental malady can cause a person to do all kinds of nasty things, I guess.

    Still, it’s really sad he had no one and no one noticed what happened to him or maybe even cared. I wonder what “made” him like that. It’s very writerly and sensitive of you to write a kind of ode to the Flusher despite how he treated you. It made for great reading and it also makes one realize how we really don’t know our neighbors and man oh man what can go on behind closed doors. That mirror thing is creepy, but it’s still sad he died alone and not loved. Karma is a bitch I guess.

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    • Brig, I have no idea how he functioned at work, but he seemed to retire around age 62, so he probably had a decent pension. When he was quiet, as he’d been for much of the past year (upon reflection), I cannot say that my thoughts ever drifted in his direction. I just appreciated the peace. Even when his mail began piling up, I assumed he was away. He did go away on occasion, but I’ve since learned that it was to the hospital. He was a miserable guy who did all he could to spread the gospel of misery until he realized that the end was near. By then, it was too late. Even when he held the door for me that one time, I was suspicious. He was a loose canon. I didn’t want to find myself in his line of fire ever again. All that said, after I heard that he was now quaffing in the sky I wanted to give him a kernel of acknowledgement and tell what I knew of his story. Thanks for reading the post and for participating in the thoughtful commenting. He would probably be surprised if he knew. Or, maybe he’d go after me viciously again … Like old times.

      Like

  21. A sad tale of the man nobody will miss. Whether or not he finds peace, the rest of the tenants finally will.

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  22. What a waste of his years. I mean, I have a misanthropic streak in me, but I also smile, say hello to people, have friends. Unless this guy was hiding out from his Nazi past catching up with him, I can’t imagine why anyone would be so hateful of everyone. On the plus side, maybe an attractive, single lady will move into his apartment soon!

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    • I completely agree with you, Mike: what a waste of time and energy being so sour and mean-spirited. Where does it get you? It seems to me a lonely, agonizing death followed with being instantly forgotten (unless you win the blogospheric equivalent of Powerball and encounter me). I don’t have a million friends, but I like to think that the ones I’ve got will miss me when my time comes to take the big dirt nap. I have someone in mind for his vacant lair who is indeed attractive (a complete 10) and single (hubba hubba!) … but solidly straight. Oh well, no one’s perfect.

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      • May she can be turned. Here’s the plan:

        1. Mention you heard footsteps and flushing coming from that apartment when no one was living there. Then, laugh it off as being your imagination.

        2. Using a series of strings and pulleys, create “ghostly” manipulations of the new tenant’s belongings.

        3. Using a hidden speaker, tell the new tenant, in your best German accent, to “Get out!!!”

        4. She shows up at your door, terrified, unsure where to go. “Can I sleep you with you, tonight?”

        5. Thank me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’d be freaked out if this uber-straight friend turned (we’ve known each other years; she’s an excellent platonic bud), but if some other ten moved in there, watch out: I’ve got a plan! So yeah, thanks!

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  23. He had some serious problems. I bet he did have the faucet on to take all the hot water from other tenant’s showers!
    It did occur to me that he may have yelled “dyke” through your door instead of kyke. I guess you’re rid of a nasty character either way! Amen to that!

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    • Although The Flusher was very homophobic about my friend, Paul, I don’t think he put any thought into me being a lesbian. Had he dropped a d-bomb, I would have known it. As is, I was not happy about being called the K-bomb. My fellow neighbors and I try to speak well of the dead, but in his case, we’ve made an exception.

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  24. LA, I didn’t like the sound of the Flusher one bit. We all have to live and get on with it, but some people seem to like making life hell for others. Even though I didn’t like the sound of him, I still felt for him being ill and alone like that, and dying alone with nobody around. So sad. Things could have been so different for him if he’d only realised how his actions affected others.

    Your tribute to him wasn’t really deserved, but it was a nice touch. And very well written.

    Apologies for not being around much of late, I’m trying to get back into things… slowly.

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    • Tom, you’va nailed EXACTLY how I feel about The Flusher. His endless hostility (and since his death fellow tenants have told me more stories of his nasty antics) seems so pointless. How his life ended, alone and terribly ill, must have been such misery. But he brought all of this on himself. I find it both pathetic and sad.

      I’ve been around much less, too. I’ll be back later in the month. It’s always great to hear from you.

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  25. Very nice piece of writing. The ‘forehead that looked like a slab of melting Monterey Jack’ is the best description I’ve read all week!

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  26. Sorry to hear the flusher kicked the bucket. Wonder what his apartment will rent for now. And sorry to have been absent from the blogosphere recently. We were without internet for two weeks, and then I was in the US for nearly another two. Hope you are well, dear V!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    Like

    • The Flusher’s apartment remains under NYPD seal, Kathy. When my building’s management is given the all clear to enter the premises, they’ll thoroughly clean it out and subject it to a gut renovation. I have no idea what it will rent for, but you can bet your bippy that I will be all over it like a cheap suit. I would like one of my buds to snag it.

      I recently returned from a vacation on the West Coast. Even though I’ve had Internet, I have not been around much. It was a real vacation.

      Hugs back from the Apple,
      V

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  27. Holy Crap. What a sad story. It’s a trip about people who live alone like that. I always wonder about them being found that way … you know like days later and dying all alone. Kind of sad … maybe that’s why he was so hostile. You know ’cause you were the badass lame adventurer living the life in the Big Apple. Dude. At least his last act toward you (holding the door open) was nice.

    Like

    • Yep, Guat, he was found days after he shed his mortal coil. When I think of that, I feel very lucky to have the job I’ve got labeling tile. He was hostile the entirety of the 30 years I saw him, except when I encountered that small act of uncharacteristic civility. It blows my mind that his politics were so progressive. I think he could have been a really decent guy if only something, what, I do not know, had not happened to him long ago that made him recoil from ever being courteous or kind.

      Like

  28. I hope the flusher’s ghost did not flush your blog – it’s been awhile since you published a new one. Hopefully you are traveling or doing something fun like that and not being haunted into a major writer’s block or something.

    Like

    • Ha! No, Lois, The Flusher did not take LA with him to the toilet in the sky. I have indeed been on vacation. I just returned at 6 am yesterday via the red eye. I hope to post something new by next week and I know I’m way behind reading and commenting. I am suffering some jet lag, but not any writer’s block. Thanks for noticing, buddy!

      Liked by 1 person

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