The guy who lives upstairs is so fat that you can’t just hear the stairs and floor beams buckling and groaning under his weight — you can feel the whole building doing this. It’s very unsettling. Imagine a Vietnamese water buffalo walking around on its hind legs, and sensing the tonnage as it trudges up and down a sagging staircase.

Truth be told, the building I’m staying in (which is probably 60 or 70 years old) was built from second-rate materials. It’s not the age of it. I’ve stayed in apartment buildings in Paris and Rome that are 150 or 200 years old, if not older, and their winding, steel-fortified staircases are as solid as trees.