This is a quote from a recent Times editorial:
"It is a frightening world, and New Yorkers now know to speak up if we see, hear, sense--or smell--something untoward."
On Monday, the whole city smelled like gas. Smell triggers memories. And this gas smell took our friend Riva Djinn back to the months in 1999 when she worked in an East Village real estate office. Tenants called her if they had problems. Back then she received so many phone calls from so many disgruntled tenants who were never afraid to speak out that all sorts of untoward things were going on, and why wasn't Mister Landlord doing something about it?
Ms. Djinn recalls one particular instance in which a building in Alphabet City was experiencing a gas leak, and the entire gas line throughout the building had to be replaced. The tenants called Ms. Djinn every single day. Ms. Djinn then called the plumber in charge of the project. The plumber complained that he couldn't do the job because Housing Authority wasn't issuing him the proper permit.
Well, Ms. Djinn got so fed up, she ordered the plumber to come pick her up in his red truck. "Take me downtown to the Housing Authority!" She screeched. "Boy, are they going to hear it from me!"
On the way downtown, the old plumber took a liking to our spirited Riva Djinn. And when older men take a liking to younger women, they always seem to love to give them good advice.
"Save money!" The plumber advised. "Invest in real estate." He went on. "You take your pay check, and I don't care if you're crying and screaming, you take that pay check to the bank. Save. Buy real estate."
Riva Djinn thanked him for his adviced while they waited at the Housing Authority office. She approached the haggard-looking bureaucrats and pleaded her case on behlaf of the unhappy tenants and busy landlord. They gave her the permit immediately. The plumber applauded Riva's aplomb.
On the ride back uptown, the plumber told Riva that she ought to bring a date to the Copacabana on 34th and 11th for a night of salsa. "The owner's an old buddy of mine." The plumber boasted. Riva nodded, "Sure." She didn't believe him.
"You don't believe me?" Riva tossed him a casual shrug. "Well, here." The plumber reached into his tool box and pulled out a fruit basket hair piece like the salsa queens wear. "My wife makes these and sells them at craft fairs. You can have this one for sweet talking the Housing Authority!"
"Wow, thanks." Riva smiled as she adjusted the hair piece on top of her head. The hair piece smelled of The Divine Fruit. "Smells good." Riva said to the plumber.
"Yeah. So, see you at the club?" Riva nodded. "Great. Now, I gotta be on my way to fix that stinking gas leak."
This is all to say that New Yorkers have always been able to open their mouths to complain about stench. That's nothing new. It has little to do with living in a "frightening world" as the Times editorial dictates. Really, who complains because they're afraid? Complaints are more often lodged because they can get a spirited city girl the free Goods!
But Riva doesn't pay much heed to editorials or old plumbers' advice. She still lives in that rundown tenemant and pays an exorbitant rent. But she loves the place. It's located above a lingerie boutique and soap shop. Her apartment always smells like lavender and nightlace.