By Amy Phillips Penn

My first apartment must miss me.

The last time I looked, the entire brownstone was deserted. A New York ghost town on Park Avenue. No one seemed to know why.

Google knows best.

“Around 1997 Walter Schick purchased the house with one single tenacious tenant hanging on: Elliot Spencer Turgen.”

I remember Elliot wearing a bowler and tails, dressed for the opening night of the National Horse Show. He appeared to be out of another era so I’m not exactly surprised that he has 890 Park virtually to himself. As long as he lingers, the new owner awaits renovations.

A first New York apartment is an event not to be missed or dismissed lightly.

The East Seventies have always been my favorite part of Manhattan.

I went to school on East 75th Street, worked at Sotheby’s when it was at 980 Madison, and watched the Whitney grow up.

I may not always remember what I did last week, but I do remember what I paid in rent for my first studio – $347.52. I kid you not.

In my search to find a new abode, there was another apartment that intrigued me. It was around the corner (no specifics, for the safety of the tenants) and it was also in a brownstone.

There was an apartment available on the roof. It had a stained glass window, and was two hundred and something a month. That was the good news.

The not-so-good news was that the front door of the brownstone was always unlocked. According to my realtor, this was because it was too expensive for the landlady to install an intercom system. What one lock had to do with a buzzer I still don’t know.

I met a few of the tenants. They all seemed unscathed by the insecurity of their domain.

An editor of a major fashion magazine was typing away on a manual when we peeked in to say hi; a role model in the making when I so intensely wanted to be a writer.

As enticing as that apartment was, the idea of a potential lunatic lurking behind me just for the fun of it killed it for me. Taking one for the team isn’t for everyone.

890 Park Avenue it was.

I moved into a first floor studio with a tiny alcove that barely fit a queen size bed, but “barely” worked.

I loved the windows that embraced Park Avenue, until a close friend mentioned that anyone from the street could skateboard on in.

Up went the locks.

My next door neighbor was a speech therapist.

There were cooing noises in my bathroom wall that sounded like a happily trapped pigeon, if an oxymoron ever cooed.

I wondered if it had anything to do with my neighbor but never asked. The pigeon cooed on.

Downstairs was a psychologist with “Freud” embedded in his last name. Had he paid extra for that endowment?

His group sessions looked like fun, but I was never summoned in. I could’ve told them about the pigeon, and invited them to listen for themselves; but, what if no one else heard it? You know how that goes…

There were all sorts of legends about the brownstone: it once was a bordello, a bootlegging stop, and eventually a poet’s society.

Still mesmerized with the idea of becoming a writer, I met a man named Morgan Entrekin, the future president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic Inc.

He had always been intrigued by my apartment and admitted that he would have liked to have lived there. I have a special affection for Morgan for this.

One of the stranger memories of living at 890 Park was a first date I had with a man I never dreamt I would go out with.

He was totally obnoxious and in my face every time I ran into him. He was New York balls meets New York chutzpah personified.

Then he had the cujones to call and ask me out.

I was so blown away that this metaphorical mosquito could actually be zzzzz-ing around me again, that I said “yes.”

He picked me up and had a cab waiting downstairs.

“I don’t want to worry you, but a man that looked like the Son of Sam just went into your building,” he announced.

Off to a good start.

Son of Sam was a serial killer still on the loose.

I didn’t believe him for a minute.

“I saw him too, he looked just like that Sam dude,” echoed the cabdriver.

Had he paid the driver off?

We went on to Studio 54, where he walked in like royalty. His closest friend was left behind in spite of being the darling of WWD and New York society.

What was with this guy?

I had no desire to go home alone and deal with a potential Son of Sam, but it seemed more appealing than letting my date stay over and guard me.

Then I got lucky and I don’t mean with my date.

The lights dimmed, the music took a break, and the DJ announced, “The Son of Sam has been caught!”

The crowd cheered and disco-crescendoed its “thank you.”

I came home to a front door with a lock on it, and no perching maniac.

When I walk by 890 Park, it calls to me and I coo back.

Perhaps it’s just waiting for me to close the sa-weet deal of a lifetime, and move back in.

You just never know.


Image courtesy of New York Times

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