Things you'd prefer not to see upon looking out the window


One of the neat things about living in a back apartment in the midst of big buildings in New York (or any city, for that matter) is the ability to look out your window and casually spy on people in the back apartments of the building on the street behind you (The flip side, of course, being the ease with which these same people can spy on you, an embarrassing lesson I learned the hard way a few weeks ago). I never realized how true-to-life Rear Window was until I moved here.

A pair of guys just moved into the building across from us and one floor down. On casually glancing out the window, I saw one of them habitating their living room. He was (and, in fact, is still as of this posting) shirtless, somewhat pudgy, and wearing red sweatpants. He's lounging on the couch and reading. He's holding his book in his left hand, and has his right hand shoved down the front of his pants. The book's all text, nothing pornographic, unless it's erotica. There's no movement on the part of his right hand, he's just resting it there. I assume this is his normal relaxed reading position. Maybe he's a former sailor, a captain, perhaps, accustomed to keeping his hand on the rudder at all times. In any case, I believe the lesson here is clear: If you don't want people making voyeuristic blog posts about your unusual activities, close your blinds.


And, indeed, don't mention that you learned this lesson the hard way a few weeks ago unless you want people to ask you what, exactly, you were doing in front of those open windows. The hammer-on? The alternating thumb roll?

Nothing so conventional. This was, I believe, just prior to my starting the blog. I have a party going on in my head pretty much all of the time. It is a dinner party at which I am boring imaginary guests with extended conversations about esoteric subjects the minutiae of which I find fascinating.

Normally I only verbally engage in these imaginary conversations when I am by myself in my room, though I have been known to let slip and start talking to myself while walking down the street alone, which is a good way to keep people from accosting you, by the way. I've also been known to slip into Boring Know-it-All mode when drunk.

It should also be pointed out that I had grown accustomed to living alone in Berkeley on the top floor of a building that faced the street. The building across was a few stories shorter than my building, so there was no real risk of anyone seeing me in my room, short of my plastering myself against the window. This engendered a rather loose sense of propriety with respect to clothing.

It should also be pointed out that it is very hot and humid at this time of year in New York, and it was altogether moreso several weeks ago, when it was mid-to-late August.

I have three windows in my room, each with pull-down blinds. The windows themselves open from the bottom, sliding upward. Thus, when opened, the bottom half is a portal outside while the top half remains glass. In order to create a balance between privacy and coolness, I opened all the windows, left the blinds half-open so as to allow air to flow into and out of the room, and set up my fan to blow out the largest window.

So: I was in my room. The door was closed and locked. The blinds half-drawn. I had stripped to undershorts, in order to cool down. For whatever reason, I glanced at my bookshelf and spied my copy of Gregory of Tours's History of the Franks. This is a great book, and I proceeded to give an impromptu expository lecture to my invisible audience on why it was a great book. I stood up. I grabbed the book. I paced about the room excitedly. I thrust my finger in the air for emphasis. I waived the book about. It was a long ramble, explaining the history of France, European politics leading up to the time, the intriguing blend of ethnicities and allegiances that made Tours in the fifth century such a fascinating place, and the masterful way that Gregory weaved his story together. Recall that during all of this I was wearing naught but heart-print boxer shorts. I got very excited and decided to take a breather by having a seat on the bed. It is then that I discovered something: When your blinds are half-drawn, they prevent you seeing the windows across from you while standing. They do not, however, prevent the people across from you from seeing everything that you are doing while they are sitting. I looked over and saw the two girls who live across from me sitting and staring at me from the window, giggling. Within half a second I had dashed across the room and turned off the lights. I then crawled slowly to the windows and closed the blinds, before cautiously turning on the lights again and returning to work.

And that's partly why I started the weblog; now I can lecture imaginary internet people (and you!) and thereby cut down on my other rambling lectures.

That is almost certainly the absolute BEST thing you could possibly have been caught doing, enthusiastically, mostly naked, in front of the window, by your next-door neighbors. I have tears rolling down my face from the force of my suppressed laughter at this image. Striding the room purposefully, finger aloft, pausing to digress on a matter of particularly pressing political import (with supporting source material directly to hand), unencumbered by the social niceties of shirts and trousers... Zach, you are a fine picture of a human being.

It's almost a shame that I'm more discreet than that in my imaginary conversations (though I will say that a dinner party in my head at which I'm mercilessly boring the guests is an excellent description most of the time for me as well). One salient feature of my imaginary speech is that it's delivered, in all of its length and unnecessary exposition, on subjects which are framed in imaginary circumstances but may nonetheless be rooted in fact, by imaginary narrators, and those narrators have their own voices.

You can just imagine that, if I'd forgotten to be inaudible, this afternoon's treatise on the Norwegian heritage of the inhabitants of the Scottish Shetland Isles, which occurred while I was at work, would have been quite the spectator sport.

I should specify that when I say "their own voices", I am not speaking in terms of narrative analysis. I mean they have accents.

Really? Accents? Are they realistically rendered, or are they more sort of zany Monty Python-type caricatures of accents? That's very interesting. I'm not sure what it says about me that the first thing I thought when you mentioned different voices was the accent thing, then I said, "Ah, she must mean it in the sense of perspectives." Then I read your second post.

Usually my conversations definitely involve myself as narrator, and I'm speaking to some imagined actual person or persons, who may shift through the course of it. For example, my History of the Franks conversation started out directed at a friend from law school. This affects the monologue insofar as I'll be trying to explain whatever I'm talking about using examples that I know are familiar to them, or enliven it with details I think they'll find interesting. I don't think that one ever reached the point of shifting to another person, but, for example, I definitely had one conversation where I started out explaining the subway system to you, then shifted to explaining it to my sister.

I'm also particularly fond of my late-night as-I'm-falling-to-sleep conversations (for which I used to get yelled at by my first Berkeley roommate, Sam. I've since learned to supress actually talking during them, but am starting to get back into the habit now that I'm alone in a room that is well-insulated for sound). Usually as I'm drifting off I lose track of whatever the hell I'm talking about and drift back in to find I'm saying something just stupid. Like the other night I was talking about the history of the Mega Man series of Nintendo games and managed to bore myself to the point where I stopped paying attention. When I tuned back in I found myself saying, "In any case, my point is this: You can't eat pants." I sort of wish I'd been paying attention to see how I got there.

My fear is that this is the onset of schizophrenia. The more charitable theory I have is that when you cram too much information into one brain, bits of it have to be let out periodically to relieve the pressure.

Those dinner parties do not happen in your head, they happen while we're at dinner! You make us give you the bug eyed expression of shockwonder mockery! Also, you have gone back to talking to yourself before sleeping. You always do it when we're at Lake Tahoe. Like that one time when we were laying there, and you were mumbling under your breath and I couldn't make out any of what you were saying. Then you said, still whispering but slightly louder, "Yes, and then you all shall pay!"

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on September 16, 2005 8:41 PM.

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