There are some things that are quintessentially New York: Elaine’s, the (now defunct) CBGBs, Central Park, Washington Square Park and of course, the ubiquitous sounds of upstairs neighbors in your pre-war apartment. I used to joke that the woman above me had a pony running around up there. I heard her at all hours of the day and night, convinced she wore hooker heels to bed at night. There are also the occasional funky sounds of music scales being practiced and some DJ mixing. Nothing too overbearing, as there would be long stretches of silence in between the pony-clodding, but enough that anyone who comes over makes a joke about it.
Well, dear Uptown, I finally met my neighbor this evening when I noticed a sudden rainstorm had begun … coming from my bathroom ceiling. This has happened once before, luckily this time the water was (somewhat) clear. I heard water running from above me and quickly ran upstairs to find out what my neighbor was doing to cause such gushing.
I knocked. And a woman of an undetermined age (ranging widely from early 40s-early 50s) answered the door. She had a punk rock meets Rizzo and the Pink Ladies look, spandex leggings, a black fitted cotton polo shirt with a hand-stitched leopard fur collar that was offset by her wildly frizzy hair and olive skin. The first thing she said to me was, “you have water leaking into your apartment too, don’t you?” and opened her door wide enough for me to enter and follow her into the bathroom.
Forget the water for a minute, I know I did. I love looking in people’s apartments, but hers now tops my fascination list. I stepped into the Culture Club circa 1984. The living room walls were neon green, which contrasted nicely with two electric blue bookcases, dingy white shag rug and white Formica console table fashioned to hold her DJ turntables and vast record collection. The small glimpse I got of the kitchen revealed hot pink walls and framed music posters and album covers, all featuring a younger version of the woman standing before me. As we made our way into the bathroom, I saw a closet full of crazy neon colored outfits and a wardrobe of what can be best described as costumes — I don’t think a cross-dresser or a stripper would wear most of the stuff in that closet. The bathroom itself had red walls and black-painted cabinets. Oh, and her ceiling was gushing like a tropical storm that happened to be fixed in one spot. We inspected the damage, lamented on the state of the building and the super and then, I left to wait for someone to come and open up my ceiling to inspect the damage — not before noticing the name “Lady Miss Keir,” written on the various posters and records hanging on the apartment walls.
Immediately upon returning to my apartment, I did what any other human being would do, I Googled “Lady Miss Keir.” Here’s what I got from our friends at Wikipedia:
“Lady Miss Keir was the lead singer of pop band, Deee-Lite, a House and Club/Dance group formed in New York City. Their best known single is “Groove Is in the Heart“, from their 1990 debut album, World Clique. However, Deee-Lite achieved longer lasting success on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, where they scored six number-one hits. Lady Miss Keir still tours the world today as both a solo act and International DJ.”
Clearly the next thing that popped into my head was:
The chills that you/Spill up my back/Keep me filled with/Satisfaction when we’re done/Satisfaction of what’s to come/I couldn’t ask for another/No I couldn’t ask for another/Your groove I do deeply dig/No walls only the bridge/My supperdish, my succotash wish/(Sing it baby)/I couldn’t ask for another/No I couldn’t ask for another/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah-ah/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah-ah/Groove is in the heart/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah
I also found her website, where it occurred to me there was something I could do about all of the noise … I could click on her Tour page and see when she’d be out of town next to know, in advance, when I could expect silence. And what do you know, in two weeks she’ll be in Russia! Then, Helsinki and Vegas and on and on. It also occurred to me this is a great way to keep track of your neighbor’s schedule. I can now anticipate when I should expect the vocal exercises and DJ-ing to increase (before upcoming concerts) and when I can look forward to not being awakened at 3 am to sounds of high heels stamping in the bedroom above. I’ve now bookmarked the website to keep tabs on her. And, since I’m sure she has a Google alert set to any mentions of her name, a special shout out from your downstairs neighbor: Lady Miss Keir, I’ve downloaded “Groove is in the Heart,” and have just single-handedly increased your royalty check by 12 cents. After all, what are neighbors for?