#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.


Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that a good percentage of Europeans who make their way across the pond to live and work are in a strange and delusional mode. So many of them profess to hate America and what she stands for and yet they benefit from what this country has to offer. Europeans have it easy in some ways because unless they are fleeing the nightmare conditions of a post-Soviet country like Romania, Lithuania or the Ukraine, their lives back at home are pretty good. Still, they can make better money over here for a few years and then go back home having taken full advantage of their time here and still get away with telling their fellow countrymen or American backpackers just how shitty the States are.

A lot of Americans worship Europe and Europeans and act as if life is much better there and if only we applied a European way of thinking. we’d be a lot better. They inadvertently treat the whole continent as one homogeneous society in which everyone gets along, is tolerant, appreciates good film, wine and eats delicious baguettes. Therefore, they are more than happy to have a visitor from France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Spain, etc. living in their apartment, if even for only a few months. It’s as if their visitor will bring peace and stability and rational thought to their living situation.

I strongly advise against a European roommate unless they are thoroughly vetted first. I say this because I’ve had a few and once you invite one in the door, you’re opening yourself up to constant criticisms of your culture, language, family and anything else only loosely associated to your life.

My first European roommate certainly wasn’t my last, but I will always remember her as the most enduring image of what it is like to live with someone from the old continent.


# 3 Marco Smirnovsky

For those of you who are familiar with Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, you’ll recognize the photo. Although I initially felt I was going a little bit over-the-top in choosing as the image for my former roommate Marco Smirnovsky the picture of a man known for abducting women and children and eating their organs in the woods, I now actually think it’s a pretty good image. Even kinda looks like him, too.

I’ll start off by saying that Marco is not Russian. He could could easily be mistaken however for a Eastern European immigrant, in particular, one of those awkward ones from the old Soviet Block who wear tourist skintight tourist t-shirts and ask for directions to the bathroom from random strangers by calling it a toilet (as in, “can tell me you where I can find toilet?”.

Marco was actually from somewhere much, much, much warmer than the Ural Mountains, Caucuses or Siberia. He was a Brazilian who just seemed really Russian. Perhaps it was his pale complexion and and high cheekbones. Or maybe it was that my roommates and I weren’t familiar with the sound of a Brazilian-Portuguese accent. Then again, he could have actually been a security services secret agent. I’ll never know, because I think he was deported. Either way, we had trouble accepting that this kid wasn’t from the land of vodka, gulags and babushka-wearing women. After all, he did end up in Brooklyn, home of many Iron Curtain immigrants.

Marco came to us as a friend of my roommate Patrick. He showed up one night in December of 2001 with two girls from his native Sao Paolo. They needed somewhere to stay and were willing to share this tiny room with no windows. it was desperate and kind of cute, really.