Gather ’round the campfire, readers, and let me share with you a little taste of Bed-Stuy living that many of you may be able to relate to. Normally, I – and many of the other Bed Stuy Blog scribes – tend to focus on the positive when writing about the people, places, and issues in our neighborhood, but sometimes there are just certain aspects about the ‘hood that deserve a little negative publicity. In this “True Tale of Tenancy” I would like to introduce you to a guy my neighbors christened “Tent Boy,” and see what you have to say about the following (cue up the spooky music):
“Tent Boy” abruptly entered my life and began to haunt it shortly after my husband and I moved in to our current apartment a couple of years ago. The apartment featured use of the backyard, so we were looking forward to being able to sit outside and BBQ once the warmer months arrived. But soon after we dragged a couple of lawn chairs out to our patch of concrete, we heard the singing. When I say “singing” I’m being generous, because the sound that emanates from the yard two buildings over from ours straddles the line between flat out yelling and a failed attempt at rapping. In those early days, Tent Boy had some sort of boom box set up in the back yard, and he would blast the music of various artists – ranging from Jay Z and BeyoncÃ©, to 50 Cent and even more Jay Z. The music was loud enough that it drowned out any conversation in my own backyard, and even worst, Tent Boy’s voice was… how should I say…GOD AWFUL. If Tent Boy were to get an audition for “American Idol” he would have had rotten fruit thrown at him by Simon and a burly bouncer escorting him to the back alley before he could even get through the refrain of “Got me lookin so crazy right now/ Your love’s got me lookin so crazy right now…”
We tried to get a gander at the person who was violating our headspace with his highly untalented karaoke stylings, but strangely, we couldn’t see who was making all the racket; the only thing that tipped us off that the noise was coming from the backyard two doors down was the visible waft of pot smoke that was being blown out toward the horizon. As the weeks passed, we noted that Tent Boy typically went outside in his backyard at oh, say….around 10AM on Saturdays and Sundays, and would often stay out there, non-stop, until at least 7PM, and he was often out there every day during the week, for the bulk of the afternoon. It seemed a cruel joke that no sooner did the weather get warm enough to open up our windows, then Tent Boy was out there singing along to his picks of the day. If he chose Jay Z, he stuck with the same song, for hours on end, often rewinding back to individual lines so he could practice his delivery along with Jay Z. The day he worked on a Mariah Carey song, and attempted to carry a tune with the octave-blasting songstress, I lost it and started yelling across our chain link fence to “turn that shit off!” My husband, ever the pragmatist, counseled me to not take the aggressive route, and instead see if there was a way we could “rationally deal with this.”
That opportunity seemed to come along when we attended our first block association meeting. It turned out that we were seated next to the people who lived next store to Tent Boy, and who had been dealing with his “singing” for the two years prior. That was when we first heard him referred to as “Tent Boy,” and here’s where he got the nickname: apparently, Tent Boy had actually lived in a tent in the yard behind his building – even during the winter – for over a year and a half. It was only recently, a few months before we moved to the block, that Tent Boy had collapsed his outdoor bedroom and moved inside. “Where’s he sleeping now?” we asked our neighbors. The wife of the duo looked at us as if she were about to burst from the pressure of having kept a dirty secret for so long. “Well, it’s got to be with Reginald, the preacher, cause that’s who lives in the garden level apartment!”
Her exclamation was overheard by some of the older block association members, who started talking in a low murmur about Reginald. There was some talk that Tent Boy was supposedly a nephew of Reginald, but that was squashed by one of the block association board members. Apparently, Tent Boy was a man in his late 20′s who Reginald had allegedly “taken in” to help get his life back on track as he had some sort of drug problem and/or emotional issues, but it was clear from the hushed whispers circulating the room that the consensus was that there was some sort of advanced relationship going on between Tent Boy and the preacher. This was clearly hot news, since Reginald was affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventists, who refer to homosexuality as a “sin,” and expect anyone harboring gay tendencies to remain celibate in order to be welcomed by the church. After the din died down, our block association president said she’d talk to Reginald and see what she could do to get Tent Boy to tone down on the number of hours he spent in the backyard blasting his vocal chords and boom box.
In the meantime, we spoke with the couple we met at the meeting, and agreed a course of action to contact Reginald ourselves – in the recommended rational manner – and let him know that Tent Boy’s performances were driving all of us nuts. Having lived in cities for the past 20 years of my adult life, I was certainly no stranger to the kinds of noises one needs to accept as a part of city life; in fact, I had once had a neighbor who was so irrational about the noise I made (by merely walking up the stairs of the building with my shoes on) that I was always conscious of not being one of those uptight neighbors who complain about parties, loud music, or noise all the time. But Tent Boy’s singing, and his blasting of music almost 7 days a week, for hours on end, went beyond what even I thought was acceptable city neighbor behavior. And the neighbor couple that lived next door to him had to deal with it at an even higher volume, as early as 6AM one morning. Plus, the wife said “I’m trying to sleep in on a Sunday, and not only is he out there yelling and playing his music, but my entire bedroom is filled with pot smoke – at 6AM!” We discussed the irony of Tent Boy’s bedroom buddy, Reginald – who spent his Sundays preaching the sin-free good life to his parishioners – letting Tent Boy loose on the rest of us on a day that even the non-religious folks like to think of as a day of rest.
Flash forward two years, and many conversations, emails, and letters to Reginald – and lately phone calls to 311 – later, and Tent Boy is still at it. He is so dedicated to his craft that today – a cold, rainy winter day – he was out in the yard singing along to music turned up so loud I could hear it two doors down, with my windows closed. I am baffled at the arrogance of Tent Boy’s keeper, who preaches clean living, godly behavior, and loving thy neighbor to his flock, yet who reacted in a confrontational, threatening manner when my neighbors approached him about Tent Boy’s obsessive noisemaking. It’s not clear why Tent Boy was living in a tent in Reginald’s yard, nor why he doesn’t do his singing indoors, and it’s even less clear why a man of the cloth would be perfectly fine with four houses worth of his next-door neighbors being fed up with having to listen to someone sing badly, at top volume, almost every day of the week – for some, going on 4 years now.
So, as this tale of tenancy concludes with a lack of a happy ending, I ask you, readers, if you lived in the vicinity of the garden lair of the preacher and his boarder Tent Boy, what might you do in order to quiet the tortured crooner living in our midst?