Recently I heard that Rico, my old Super, had died sometime in March. I’d see him sometimes during the pandemic time from my window, and he looked haggard and frail. The kind of frail where I was not shocked to learn that he’d passed away, but I felt very sad to find out that he had. It had been some time since I saw him up close, but for a long time I ran into him quite a lot, even after he left as the building super, because he still lived in the neighborhood. He’d been in Chelsea for forty years.

Rico in 2006 Photo by Romy

Rico was a big queen from Costa Rica, and when he lived in the ground floor super’s apartment downstairs, he would make big pots of food and he fed a lot of the neighborhood characters. He always kept his door open. People would call him Mama Rico. He could recognize the footsteps of the tenants coming down the stairs without seeing them. When it was me, he’d say, “Is that you, Jolanda?” He liked to give people little nicknames, sometimes more than one. For me it was, "Is that you Jolanda? Is that you, Carmen?" It was a very affectionate little habit that he kept, and he was a sweetheart. And he knew all the neighborhood gossip.

I went looking in some of my old diaries and found him there, and I’m glad I wrote these little lines down, because some of it I might not have remembered otherwise. 


There was a good AC in the hallway one flight down and Rico said I can have it and that it works fine but the girl living there is rich and wanted a new one. He said her parents pay her rent for a year at a time.




I went to put my first loaf of bread in the oven but the oven didn’t come on. So poor Super had to schlepp up and light it for me. He looked at my dough and told me I would have to let it rise for 12 hours or I would end up with very hard bread like the bread in Jamaica. But I put it in the oven anyway. It didn’t turn out too well, but tomorrow I’ll cut the top off and toast it. 




On my way to the post office I saw Super standing in the doorway of a rich building he does work in sometimes, so I asked him if they have rats too, and he said, “Of course!” 




Today when I came in Rico was standing at his stove cooking, as he usually is, and he said, “Hey, lady, it’s raining an’ I just made spaghetti!” And then he said that he also had a nice piece of ham in the oven. 




Sinclair, one of the drunks from down the block was passed out like dead on the stoop in front of the door today. Rico called the ambulance but they just moved him over to the corner and lay him out there with a cup of coffee. Rico said the ambulance drivers never want to put filthy Sinclair in their nice clean ambulance. He said he wondered how Sinclair didn’t die of e coli, being so dirty all the time. 




Rico had caught a little mouse in a plastic bag and was going to put it out with the trash. He put a hole in the bag and gave it to me. I tore a bigger hole so the little mouse could get out by the trash. They are very cute, those little mice.


Super called and said, "Romy, your brown cat is down here if you're wondering." I said, "What?" And sure enough, somehow Honey had managed to slip out as the door was closing and go down to lounge around Rico's."



For years after he moved to another building in the neighborhood I would still see Rico a lot, down at the hardware store on the corner, or carrying his tools to do some job or another; “Hey, Jolanda!" Once he gave me a pile of mass market thrillers he'd saved for me to give to an old lady I'd mentioned to him, who loved to sit and read thrillers and eat M&Ms. He was thoughtful, he helped a lot of people, I liked him very much. I hope he woke up the day after dying to find himself in a glamorous paradise, and I hope he'll find Honey there too, my wonderful brown cat, if he hasn't already.


Farewell, Rico. 

Rico walking Charlie, 2006 Photo by Romy


NYC April 2022






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