The last time I posted this true story, about an event that happened in ’81, I was accused by some of having lacked scruples. That wasn’t the thing. I’m going to try it again with extra wording — maybe this time it’ll be understood. The original title was “My Own Llewyn Davis Moment“:
For a good portion of ’81 I was living in a sublet on Bank Street west of Hudson, almost exactly opposite HB Studios. The rent was around $350 per month. (Or so I recall.) The sublessor was a 40something guy who lived in Boca Raton, Florida. The landlord, who knew nothing of this arrangement, was one of those tough old New York buzzards in his ’70s.
Anyway the landlord got wind and told me to vacate as I was illegally subletting. He naturally wanted a new fully-approved tenant who would pay a bigger rent, but he wouldn’t consider my own application as I was a shiftless scumbag in his eyes. I hemmed and hawed and basically refused to leave until I could find something else. And then one day I came home to find my stuff (clothes, IBM Selectric typewriter, small color TV, throw rug, framed American Friend poster) lying in a big pile in the hallway with the locks on my apartment door changed. The buzzard was playing rough.
When you’re looking at sleeping on the sidewalk, you man up and do what you have to do to avoid that by any reasonable means necessary. Which is what I did. There was no point in paying any rent at that point as I was a marked man who would have to leave the place fairly soon. The sublessor’s actual rent was $185 or something like that so he’d been making a monthly $165 profit from me. I figured once the buzzard started playing rough by (a) refusing to consider my application for a legit lease and (b) changing the locks and moving my stuff into the hallway that all bets were off and it was a game of habitat survival at all costs until an alternative presented itself.
My place was on the top floor of the building (i.e., the third or fourth floor). I went up to the roof and looked down the air shaft, which was smack dab in the middle of the building and about eight or ten feet square. I noticed a piece of lumber — not a four-by-four beam but an old pinewood board of some kind — bridging the air shaft with one end lying on a metal ladder or mini-platform of some kind and the other end on a brick ledge outside my bathroom window. I lowered myself down the ladder and slowly crawled along the air shaft board and opened my bathroom window and let myself in. (I said a prayer as I did this and God decided to cut me a break.)
I immediately moved my stuff back inside and then called a locksmith and changed the doorknob and bolt locks. The buzzard or one of his flunkies came by two or three days later and tried to open the door and couldn’t — hah! I knew I’d have to leave before long but the air-shaft derring-do bought me an extra three or four weeks rent-free. Soon after I found another sublet (the bottom floor of a duplex on West 76th between Amsterdam and Columbus) and all was well.
How was this a Llewyn Davis moment? This was a tale of dark, lowball, no-direction-home desperation with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel. That’s Inside Llewyn Davis in a nutshell. The only difference is that God is indifferent if not mocking in the Coen brothers universe and yet He allowed me to cross the air shaft on that piece of lumber and not fall to the basement level.