I ran into Carmine this evening, he's the super at the building where I lived for the better part of a decade. I hadn't seen him for a year or so. He confirmed that my old landlord, Mr Shammas, had passed away recently.
Mr Shammas was an old-school, first generation New Yorker from Syria who landed in the U.S. and immediately went into the jewelry business before moving into real estate. He would visit my building about twice a month, often on Sundays after mass with Mrs Shammas. They would make their rounds talking with tenants, checking on things. I'd see him at the bottom of the stairs. "Hey Cedric, how are you? What's the good word?", he'd say in his Syrian accent and then we'd talk make small talk. Together, like giddy teenagers, they'd tell me about their trips. He went to Kerala once and loved it there, they said the people were so kind and they had never experienced that kind of generosity of spirit before.
Mr Shammas was a good, considerate and fair landlord, which in New York is like finding gold. I tried my best to be a good tenant, and I think he appreciated that. He'd tell me, "Ok...Cedric, you are a good person, I can see this in you, ok I like you..." Often this would be said in the middle of a negotiation, perhaps to soften me, but that's ok. I think he liked that I didn't let any details slip, and that we could politely figure something out. He liked people with etiquette. He was 88 when he died.
This week's piece is about New York. Mr Shammas is part of the fabric and the attitude of it. I've been in a love affair with this city, and in particular my neighborhood, since the last century. The piece is about that, and also some ideas about it I've picked up along the way.
Anyway, that's it from me. If you want to follow me around, I'm going to start posting more things to Instagram this week.
I hope your week is off to a good start.