Living in the House of Usher - Justin Boron

The future of my auspicious apartment building is deteriorating with the drop in the temperature.

It won't be long before it has degenerated into nothing more than a jumble of feuding apartment rooms like the tenement scene from "Gangs of New York."

The cold weather has snapped, and facing a weekend of freezing temperatures, nasty overtones have seeped into the residents coming and going with bitter faces.

Sneers and outright threats have been made. Floating through the air ducts are whispers of a surreptitious plan to syphon heat and water from other apartments.

The tenuous balance of peace is being held by an unraveling thread of decency.

The fan fomenting this potentially incendiary situation is our duplicitous landlord, who lurks in the shadows, only revealing himself to bring the hammer down on the late rent. Never mind the dozens of fire hazards and inhumane conditions to which we must submit to be a resident at this palace of crudities. He only appears at the beginning of the month with big promises of overhauling the building, then takes our money, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Our latest request was for him to seal up the leaky pipes and roofs, which cost me my archive of New Yorker magazines. Naturally, I was infuriated, but this man has been dealing with the ire of disgruntled tenants for two decades now. Hasty censure is not likely to topple him.

The past two months have brought the situation to a boil in my apartment. Two times now, our balding landlord has hit us up for extra money, claiming our water and heating bill has risen. This certainly is a lie since we never turn on the heat, and we would have to plug a fire engine hose to our kitchen sink to raise the bill as much as he says it has gone up.

Clearly, he needs some extra dough for hair re-growth treatment and repairs to his Segway , which stem from a freak drag racing collision with a Vespa.

We presented our case to him. But he brushed us off and, I think, leaked slanderous rumors about us to other apartments.

Now, the building must grapple with its own internal conflicts created by the landlord's divide and conquer strategy.

We need a rallying point to unite us. We need a martyr, a sacrificial lamb to send the rabble of our apartment into a tizzy.

Who knows when it will come. But I suspect dire circumstance will lead the way. I just hope it happens before the decline in inter-apartment relations dips so far that any return to normalcy will require more than our shabby apartment could muster.

Justin Boron is the government reporter for the News Daily. His column appears Monday. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 or jboron@news-daily.com .