For some reason I think a lot about that film Rosemary’s Baby which I saw at a very impressionable age. I can’t pass Central Park West and 72nd Street without thinking about it, even though I was there the night John Lennon was shot. Even though I had the good fortune to have had friends in the building and had actually seen the inside of the Lennon home. Still, I think about that fictional nymphy girl with the extreme short Sassoon haircut eating raw meat over her sink in what is now a $1600/per square foot kitchen.
I guess it was my first experience with a conspiracy theory, the paranoid concept that the world is evil, and if you try to resist or prove the contrary, you’ll be not only deemed insane but dangerous. Except for that one person whose name is an impossible anagram and lies unconscious in a hospital or fortress somewhere or buried underground.
Of course a major portion of TV series, movies and best-sellers deal with the same scenario. Kind of an Alfred Hitchcock thing. But somehow a poor waify pregnant girl with the baby voice lost in Manhattan represented a loss of innocence for me. At the time, I trusted no one. I spoke to no one. When I could sleep, I had bad dreams. I found myself day after day standing on Central Park West, staring up at the gargoyles and dark walls, as though some kind of rational experience could undo the Rosemary’s Baby spell.
I was up in Harlem today. I had to deposit a check at the bank and pay my Con Ed bill. The bank is kind of a new branch. Maybe a year old. On Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd. So which stop to make first? Con Ed was packed. Lines out the door. 4:30 PM. At the bank there was not a soul. Not a sound. Two nicely dressed investment counselor/bank managers in their brand new spacious cubicles, 3 well-dressed ladies behind the teller windows. All Afro-American. Everyone looked when I came in. Business? Just a small deposit. It was efficient and quick. And quiet. The quietest place I’ve experienced in Manhattan in years. Including my own now-childless apartment. Including the library. Dead quiet.
On to Con Ed. Fortunately there are machines here now…computers which take your checking account and routing number and receipt your payment. Not a soul at these 4 machines. The rest? A slowly snaking line of more than 200 fidgety non-white people waiting to use cash to pay their gas and electric because it costs $5 to use your debit card. And only Mastercard is accepted. With the same $5 fee. The same reason I came in to pay. Save a stamp. Avoid the penalty because like lucky Americans now I’m paying priority bills at the last possible second. It was as noisy as a rush-hour subway station. As packed with stressed-out people. Gone are the days of living a month in advance.
It pisses me off that Verizon bills a month in advance for phone service and if you’re late with the payment, they get $5 extra. Even though the service period has not begun. Even though the service sucks and it’s noisy and overpriced and absurd to pay $100 a month for something which with our technology should be near-free. If you complain, they’ll be happy to cancel service. For which you get another huge bill which if you don’t pay will ruin your credit and the rest of your life if it hasn’t already been ruined by one of the 49,000 Americans who each have more than 500 million of what used to be your money in their personal accounts.
But while you’re waiting on the Con Ed line, and the bread line, and the subway platforms waiting for less frequent trains in a broken system because all the money is in the battered portfolios of the MTA management who feel a little ‘stressed’ this Christmas season--- instead of all that Sudoku and word finding, why don’t people start anagramming Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns and Citibank and coming up with some Ira Levin-worthy solutions? How about that Henry Paulson? How come he’s so hoarse all the time? In fact the whole Federal Reserve stinks of a financial version of tannis-root and coven-meetings.
I just pray, to whatever God or anti-God I can summon here on the corner of 72nd and Central Park West, that my new President has Netflix and a taste for 60’s horror.