One of my favorite tenants is Kathie Lee, so named because like Kathie Lee she is my morning talk show, and also like Regis’ shriller half, consistently a day behind on the news.
See, Kathie lee engages in the most charming of Victorian flirtation with Jerry—a cantankerous older doorman–the sort of man who has hemorrhoids and ulcers that are constantly acting up. Jolly Jerry, as we call him, is a huge Red Sox fan. Having grown up three blocks from Yankee stadium, his love for the Red Sox is more his hatred for the Yankees. We dare not ask what childhood trauma informed this.
The one chink in his acrimonious armor is Kathie Lee. Every night, after he has finished the Daily News and the New York Post, he leaves them in the doormen desk for his love. It is a lovely little dance.
Ever the first one down, the first thing our charming Kathie Lee does in the morning is ask for her two papers. She leaves for a cup of coffee and her morning cigarette (a strict beauty regimen in order to keep up her bullfrog croak and heavily lined face). Her departure is often delayed by her need to coax her pooch out the door. The dog is eternally unwilling to leave the building, and from elevator to front door does anything possible to put nary a paw in the direction of the door. The marble floor leaves the pooch at a tractional disadvantage, and Kathie Lee simply drags the poor struggling canine at her will. Once on the pavement, the advantage is lost, and Ms. Lee is obliged to spend a few minutes begging her dog to move before finally picking the obstinate terrier up, its feet still waggling desperately for the door.
Upon her return, she sits to peruse her newspaper with great seriousness. It is obvious these two papers are her main source of news, for she—so much like her namesake!—excitedly reports on yesterday’s news as if she was reporting live.
I should not be too mocking, really. Sociologists often encourage us to think of buildings as small towns, and it is amazing how much the culture, and how the town’s citizens treat their doorman, vary from building to building. Kathie Lee stands pretty much alone in her willingness to actually have a conversation with me.
However, these conversations are somewhat absurd, owing to the fact that she is always a bit behind on the news (and by extension, the weather)—the usual fodder for doorman-tenant conversations. Thus we must rely on other platitudes. A recent conversation about a heat wave (already four days in, but news to her), led suddenly to a wholesale and somewhat paranoid indictment of “the white man”.
While complaining about the heat, I cited a Daily Beast article about how climate change may make this sort of weather the norm. She is of the generation for which abstract diatribes against the ephemeral “white man”—all the while ignoring one’s own whiteness or wealth—are a sort of reflex. Hopefully our awareness of the very real privileges afforded whiteness and wealth have grown a bit more nuanced, but nonetheless, the comment on climate change provided her the needed jumping off point: “The Indians [not Native Americans] warned us this would happen, they warned us, they said we would only realize that trees can’t be eaten once we destroyed them all”.
An inventive paraphrasing of the Cree Indian prophecy, “only after the last tree has been cut down…the last river has been poisoned…the last fish caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten”. I like her version, although I hope we have already realized that trees are inedible.
I look forward to her investigative report.