#6 Craig Ruby

As I write this review of my former Bushwick Brooklyn roommate Craig Ruby I wonder how many young Americans are out there who are going about their daily lives wishing that they could instantly become French. How many of them would love to shed their American skin, their American culture and way of life to be magically transported 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to the Champs Elysees, the Riviera or even for one moment to be hovering above a bidet in a Lyon cafe rather than be in the stuffy old U.S.

I’m pretty sure that if Craig Ruby, who came to fill the spot vacated by Louiselle Moreau, had his way we would have had one of those strange private parts cleaning contraptions installed into our closet-sized bathroom. After all, if you can’t wash your ass like Gerard Depardieu, then you really aren’t ready to be French. Nevertheless, I’m sure that during his life changing six months playing his guitar at the outdoor cafes along the Seine, Craig had some occasion to use a bidet and by the time he moved in with us in Brooklyn was sorely missing it.
Like my Boston roommate Jake Funterbick, Ruby had an affinity for the French but took it ten steps further. Whereas Funterbick signed up for and then dropped out of French classes, Ruby spoke the language quite well, with an accent that could fool most Americans. After his visa in France had expired, Ruby, a Connecticut native, returned to the states in the hope of perfecting his language and jazz guitar skills to the point that he could return to the land of wine and cheese to join and ensemble and make a living for himself there. Though worn out, I thought it was an admirable goal. My mother speaks French and lived in Nice for a while. People really seem to love that country and I know I would like to visit there at some point. The problem is, France has this weird power over some Americans that turns them into not simply Francophiles but also complete assholes.

Craig waited tables at a restaurant in midtown and took jazz lessons from someone. He seemed to have a good degree of talent and I often noticed that he’d come in from work, make himself some coffee (in a French press, of course) and head straight to his room to work on scales. The music he played sounded soft and peaceful, like something you’d imagine played at a smoky jazz bar late at night. He certainly had ability.

Problem was, the longer he perfected his craft, the more he wanted to go back to France. The more he longed for the home of the Enlightenment, the more he became a stuck up snob. Craig only smoked European cigarettes. There was a French brand he enjoyed, but when he couldn’t get his hands on those, he’d smoke Dunhills (from a medal case, of course). It wasn’t only the French press that spoke of his pretentious attitude, but the fact that he bought French cheese and talked about how much better wine was across the pond.

Ruby and I got along pretty well, but I knew he had his head jammed far up France’s ass when I came home one day and found him pretending to poor over a beaten up vintage copy of something Sartre had written.

“It’s good stuff,” he told me.

When I asked him what it was about however, he had trouble explaining it to me.

Ruby lived with us when we had a pretty packed apartment–at one point eight souls living there–so when myself and two other roommates decided we would move to a spot in Bay Ridge, we asked if he wanted to take over our lease. Despite it being a shithole neighborhood far from even the quality of suburban Parisian ghetto that Algerians and West Africans now occupy, Craig jumped at the chance. He went straight to the computer and posted an add that went something like this:

Wanted: Roommates to share four bedroom apartment in Bushwick. Preferably European.

He found his first roommate in a young French Algerian girl named Delinda with gigantic breasts who came over to the states to work as an Au Pair and make money teaching suckers French. She told me once that she made most of her students pay up front as they rarely bothered to continue going to class.

Though Delinda wanted to learn better English, as part of her agreement to live in our apartment (we were there for about a month before while he found new roommates) she had to speak to him in French, which unbeknownst to Craig actually bothered her quite a bit. My roommate Hakeem, who I went to high school with, stayed on in the apartment for a few months and ended up fooling around with Delinda, much to Ruby’s displeasure. Apparently, he’d wanted to screw the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity out of her.

Shortly before we moved out of our apartment (which by the way was 805 Broadway. Google it), Ruby invited in a long line of potential roommates, mostly European who would look at one of the rooms.

I’ll never forget Claus, a thirtysomething German drummer with leather pants who came in a demanded that whatever room he rented, he had to be able to play his drums at night (which probably shouldn’t have mattered as we were living above and below two gutter punk bands). Still, even Claus was too European for Craig. I suspect had they lived together, old blood feuds between the two embittered nations would have been rekindled like the War of 1876, the Great War and the Big One.

I hustled my belongings out of 805 Broadway quickly, happy to be moving to a new, much nicer place. Meanwhile, Seamus O’Halloran, who I was moving from the slum with, left a bunch of his belongings behind, including a bag of Cosby sweaters and various 1997 Old Navy cargo pants and shirts. Craig called him several times in the early winter of 2003 to remind him that his bag of clothes needed removing but for some reason Seamus kept putting it off, extracting a promise from Hakeem that he’d hold on to the clothes so that Craig wouldn’t chuck them out.

One night Ruby threw a dinner party at 805 Broadway, inviting his guests, mostly mimes, impressionist painters and existentialist poets, to feast on brie and baguettes with him. Apparently Hakeem forgot to move Seamus’ clothes out of the hallway and Ruby chucked them in the dumpster. When Seamus went to collect his clothes (which he valued at $300, though it was probably more like $40), he saw they weren’t there and as a solution chose to steal Craig’s jazz guitar and hold it hostage at our new apartment.

Craig threatened to sic his lawyer father on O’Halloran, who eventually capitulated, bringing back the guitar and getting nothing for his clothing. Seamus did pen a strong, vitriolic letter to Craig to voice his irritation, telling him in no uncertain terms, “Your faggot”, which, although grammatically incorrect, was kinda funny.

I never heard from Craig Ruby again. I’m assuming he’s somewhere under the Eiffel Tower, engaged in a manage et trios with some French babes. Awesome.

FACTOID: Craig named a dog he found, Django after Django Reinhardt, the famous French guitar player, which was really cheesy. He also got sick of the dog for crapping and pissing everywhere and sent him to live with his parents in Connecticut.

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