Wednesday, April 1, 2009
South Beach: Not All Glamor
The elevators in our modest condo broke down at least once a week. Finally the Board decided to replace them. We were assessed for the cost. After months the first of the two new elevators was up and running. It gleamed, ascended and descended without a hitch. The day after it began operating someone took a screwdriver and pried out the buttons in the control panel. He was caught on the security video entering the elevator, caught mooning at the camera, his pants dropped to his knees. First he mooned; then he did damage. The security camera had not yet been installed inside the elevator; since he was not filmed in the act of vandalism, the police said he could not be charged. The film caught the person who entered the elevator before him. That person said there was no damage; the person who used the elevator after the perpetrator reported the damage. The vandal owns a unit in the building. It's his home. Why did he do it? My neighbor H. blamed it on AIDS and was sure AIDS had affected his mind. I don't believe it. He did it out of spite. Why he was spiteful doesn't matter. He is like those characters in Dostoevsky who vibrate, quivering with impossible irritation, a sense of having been wronged as they do wrong, hating, confessing--wasn't his mooning a confession? Here I am, he said, and you can stick the new elevator, the elevator you and I paid for. He's the anti-hero of the condo. I have more sympathy for the elderly woman notorious for feeding pigeons from her balcony, who comes down to get her mail late at night. She never wears shoes; her peds are stuck to her feet and are marked with tide lines, as if she's dipped her feet into dirty water. Most of the elderly pick up their mail soon after it arrives, using the occasion to gather in the lobby, which was remodeled with hard-edge chic: mirrors, everything in white and gray. They sit and talk; they soften the austere design.