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Dancing Centaurs, Sleeping Guitarist: I Am So Sorry

March 30th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon



Robbie Guertin of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Originally uploaded by Staciaann Photography

It sounded like a bunch of centaurs were following an exercise video upstairs, right above my bed this morning. Interesting visual, but at 7 AM there ain’t a damn thing more fascinating and beautiful than the backs of my eyelids underneath the blankets.

The sound clarified, resolving itself in my ears the way blurry, doubled vision clears up. There was maybe only one centaur upstairs. It clarified a little further to where it sounded pretty much like what it was: a large woman — or slender man — doing a bunch of jumping jacks.

The apartment immediately above my bed belongs to a guy named Robbie (or Robert) Guertin. Those of you who are into your bigger indie bands will recognize that name as the guy who plays guitars and keyboards for the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

He’s a nice enough guy, as near as I can tell. We go about our business and say “hi” politely when we see one another. A couple years ago I interviewed him and photographed the band at the Virgin Fest and he was real nice then, too.

A few months ago, Robbie and/or a female friend were practicing some music in their apartment above me at about 1 AM on a school night. And the song wasn’t bad, either, as near as I could tell through the ceiling. It did go on, as songs do when you’re practicing them at home and you want to get them just right.

And after a while I had just had enough, but I felt awful about it. I like music, miss playing music, and I know what it’s like to have to work some music out in the apartment, where you feel so comfortable but sounds travel so far.

I never thought I’d be that dude, but here I was, banging on somebody’s door to stop the rock ‘n roll because I had a big meeting in the morning. Robbie was real nice and understanding about it, and everything was cool.

Then came the jumping jacks this morning. And even though it has been maybe six months since the band practice, I was like “oh for FUCK’s SAKE. NOW WHAT.” I am an ugly, short-tempered thing before noon, barely rational after eight hours’ sleep and 3 cups of coffee.

But getting woke up by your upstairs neighbor’s jumping jacks workout … that’s just the worst thing about New York right there.


So I went upstairs this morning and rang the bell. No answer. Came back downstairs. Clearly Robbie was having a jumping jacks workout with his fricking iPod in or something. So I went back upstairs and gave the door a good hard banging.

Robbie answered. His face wasn’t flushed from the exercise at all. His hair was all tousled from sleep, and his face was actually a little rumply from the pillow.

“You weren’t, uh, doing a bunch of jumping jacks or something up here by any chance, were you?” I asked.

“Uh, NO,” he said.

“No, uh, that’s cool, it’s just weird that there’s all this thumping down there, and” I trailed, my righteous outrage shrieking and shrinking like a vampire in daylight.

“They’re working on the floors in the apartment next door,” Robbie said. “They’re probably tearing it up or hammering something down or something.”

After I finished melting to the floor, I apologized like crazy until it made the moment weird.

Because as it turns out, waking up to your upstairs neighbor doing a bunch of jumping jacks is actually the second-worst thing about New York. The worst thing about living in New York is probably having your downstairs neighbor with the short fuse and the anger management issues come wake you up out of bed by banging on your door and falsely accusing you of doing a bunch of jumping jacks first thing in the morning.

Robbie Guertin, I’d like to say this again: I’m so sorry I woke you up in an outrage, man. Please accept my apologies. If I knew whether or not you were vegan I’d bake you some cookies as a gesture of apology. Being a good neighbor involves a lot more patience and benefit of the doubt than I showed this morning, and I’m really sorry for that.

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