July 20, 2018

They Put The Wood Up On Y’all

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Around 11 am on Thursday morning—about an hour before it closed—two purple suitcases sat toppled in the lobby of the Fox Manor Hotel, maybe the most notorious of the many notorious boarding houses on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City. A dismal parade of tired and vulnerable guests milled around the bags. A few of the guests had been staying at the hotel for months—a few for years.

On the steps of the boarding house, a youngish man named Eric, who would not say his last name but would show me his big ring of keys (room keys), said there had been thirty or forty people in the Fox, a number that comports with official figures.

He was helping people carrying out their belongings—friends and family, he said, who had to be out by noon.

On Wednesday, the city licensing and inspections director had announced at a city council meeting that his office was closing down the Fox. On Tuesday, he said, he’d made the decision, giving guests of the Fox two days to decamp.

On a nearby mattress, a Virgil’s BBQ takeout bag sat next to a pile of clothes and a bottle of peroxide.

In the hallway, Eric introduced another man, 51, who was one of the longest-tenured boarders at the boarding house.

“Want some real shit? Want some real shit? It’s fucked up how they just put people out like that. Know what I’m saying? You got people been here four, five years?”

“How long have you been staying here?”

Since there was a bar out front—four or five years, he estimated.

“What are you going to do?”

“What am I going to do? Make it happen. Gonna live. Gonna survive. Gonna survive everywhere I go. We’re survivors.

“I’m 51-years old, I’m gonna survive. I’ve been in prison half my life, I’m gonna survive out this motherfucker.”

A younger man walked in, announced he was the only light-skinned (male) permitted in the Fox and that his name was New Jack.

“New Jack like New Jack City.”

He said he was 27, meaning he would have been born around 1991, when New Jack City came out.

I felt old.

The manager walked by.

“It’s motherfuckers like him that we gotta watch out for,” the 51-year-old said. “For real. He alright but he’s a fucking bipolar for real. Manager’s bipolar than a motherfucker.”

I asked to take a picture. They posed. I told them not to pose (they disregarded.) I took the picture and was promptly kicked out of the Fox Manor for loitering, or something.

On the steps outside there was a man (African-American) with a polar bear on his teeshirt, two-tone. “BI POLAR,” it said.

Across the street, a neighbor, smoking a cigarette, wondered out loud why the vacancy sign was still out if they were closing in an hour. A Boardwalk Ambassador walked by and wondered, independently, the same thing.

A silver Volkswagen rolled down Pacific Avenue, window depressed.

“Sober up, all you fuckers,” the driver said.

“Sober up. All. you. fuckers,” Eric repeated. “People like that would not take a step over here.

“I’m from all over if you want to get technical. All my life, I just moved, moved, moved.

“But this bomb, bro. This is the Fox. The FOX, the Fox House. Fuck the hotel.”

It’s going to be sad not seeing people every day, he said. Anyway, he wasn’t really a resident.

Eric phoned a friend. “What’s your input on them, about shutting the building down? Your face ain’t on here.”

He held the phone up to my voice-recorder.

Friend-of-Eric commenced a rant, unprintable unless we want the FBI to come down on Route 40.

“Them [comrades] just mad,” he said (in one of the more printable parts).

“Now they wanta make motherfuckers homeless. Them motherfuckers can suck a dick—all 2018.”

A woman with purple hair walked out, carrying bags.

Where are you going to go?

“Oh…That’s none of the people’s business,” she said.

“Well, wherever you go, be safe,” a neighbor said.

“Yeah. It’ll be local, very local.”

Eric raised the subject of service calls, quoting from local news accounts that there had been 375 of them. Apparently he reads Lynda Cohen. But management called the police on themselves, he noted. Then the officers came and simply did their jobs.

“Now it’s a problem that they called? How can you blame them for something that you asked them to do? I don’t understand that. That’s backwards.”

A woman (White) in an Eagles hat walked onto the steps.

“Two days is not really enough time at all, because people actually live here,” she said.

She doesn’t live here.

“I have a house. But a lot of people I know hang out here. I know everybody.”

The Bipolar Bear man said he would get another room, probably down the block somewhere.

When did he find out they were closing?

“Oh man, they told us yesterday. Like, it was an inconvenience. They could have let us know a week in advance, or something, but: It ain’t nothing.”

What’s your real name?

“My name’s Poo Diamonds Put a Z on It. From Harlem. Free my guys. I ain’t seen em in a long time.”

“Look at that, man. It’s over man. This building…

“Man, I’m on miss the Fox, man.”

Around the back a woman (White) was standing beside her collection of bags with her two pit bulls, Jax (sp?) and Champ. She needed a place that would accommodate her large animals.

“I’ve been here I guess on and off for like four months, five months,” she said.

And they were good about the dogs?

“Not so much, but there’s a back entrance. Ha ha!”

Out front, Eric was still on the line with his friend, or maybe it was another friend. Only snippets were audible.

“Tell that motherfucker…”

Eric considered, then relayed the message.

“Somebody from the phone wanted me to tell you to add this to the news report…” [redacted] “…when people start getting robbed and stabbed and shot and stuff like that” it’s because, the [nation state] “took people out of homes and shit like that.”

By late afternoon they’d boarded up the door. A few of the guests could be seen in the parking lots of other motels.

A few hours later, around midnight, a long-term guest named Megan came back to pick up stuff she’d left. She could see it, through the window, but couldn’t get in, she said. She’d lived there four years.

Two people from earlier walked by.

Have you found a place to stay yet?

Nope. We’re homeless, they said.

Then somebody else who recognized Megan:

“What’s up with the what’s up?”

“Four years and two-day notice, they push me out. I still got hella shit in that room,” she said.

He was sympathetic.

“They put the wood up on y’all.”

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