The Chelsea Affect – Arthur Miller


“I decided to move to the Chelsea in 1960 for the privacy I was promised. It seemed a wonderfully out-of-the-way place, nearly a slum, where nobody would be likely to be looking for me. It was soon after Marilyn and I parted, and some of the press were still occasionally tracking me, looking for the dirt in a half-hearted way. A friend who I would later marry had done photos for a book on Venice by Mary McCarthy and Mary had recommended the Chelsea as a cheap but decent hotel. (Mary of course hated my work, but that’s neither here nor there.) My friend, Inge Morath, who normally lived in Paris, had stayed there for short periods of work in America, and found it shabby but, to say the least, informal. ‘Nobody will bother you there,’ she assured me. The owner, Mr Bard, showed me a newly redecorated sixth-floor apartment overlooking the parking lot (since covered by an apartment house) behind the hotel. The parking lot is important. I did not know quite what to make of Mr Bard. A blue-eyed Hungarian Jew, short and with a rather clear, delighted round face, full of energy, he waved a hand over the room saying, ‘Everything is perfect. All the furniture is brand new, new mattresses, drapes… Look in the bathroom.’ As we walked to the bathroom I noticed a worn path down the middle of the carpet and what felt like coal dust crunching under my shoes. ‘The carpet,’ I started to say, but he cut me off. ‘A new carpet is coming tomorrow,’ he said with raised index finger, and one knew he had not thought of replacing the carpet until that very minute. He turned on both sink faucets and pointed proudly to the water pouring out. ‘Brand new faucets, also in the shower. But be careful in the shower, the cold is hot and the hot is cold. Mr Katz,’ he said. We returned to the living room and stood there. … One almost knew what Mr Bard was talking about, but not quite. He began to remind me of a woman I knew in Coney Island who used go out at night and steal radiators from construction sites for a new upper storey she and her husband were illegally adding to her house. To her son’s objections she would reply, ‘But they have so many.’ The way she said it seemed reasonable. Mr Bard had a similar talent for overriding probability, an emotional fluency which sent his thoughts on swallow loops from subject to subject, a progressive, enthusiastic view of life. In a word, anarchy. …”
Granta
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