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Do Not Go, Gentile, Into the Night

“The man was standing at the buzzers, copying the names of all the shareholders. One of the residents had just come home from work and there he was writing all of the names from the buzzer onto the back of an envelope. I asked him if I could help him, and he said ‘no,’” recalls the resident-owner, who was also on the board. “So I asked him what he was doing and he said, ‘Writing the names down,’ and I asked him why and he said because ‘I’m going to sue you all.’ He then left.”

That could be an illo by Marcellus.

“One of our shareholders has two dogs that don’t look all that terrifying, but when our handyman went to make a repair in the bathroom, the two dogs attacked him and did some serious damage around his knees requiring tetanus shots and hospitalization.”

Maybe I can find stock of a dog on the internet. Let me poke around.

I say to them, “You’re all just lucky the elevator only goes up and down. Because if it went sideways as well, nobody would ever get home at night. The staff would never be able to figure it out.”

That’s a tough one. We don’t want to insult the staff more than we need to.

The man looked at me, his eyes blazing with anger. “Is this you?” he said loudly, waving the certified envelope in which I had sent him a letter advising him that he was late. “Is this you?” he shouted. “If you ever send me one of these motherf—-ing notes again I will kill you!” he screamed, lunging at me. I quickly slammed the door, forcing it shut as he pushed on it. “I’ll kill you!” he cried, banging on the door.

Definitely need an illustration. Danny would be good for it. We can have the screaming guy’s eyes bulging out of his head.

“Well,” the manager said, with some exasperation, “I didn’t get to it. If you were so concerned, you could have called the contractor yourself.” I was flabbergasted. “If you want us to do that,” I asked, “then what are we paying you for?”

I don’t know about this one. Let me see what I can come up with.

“Let me see what I can come up with.” When you heard those nine words, you could rest easy. It was no longer a problem. Gentile had it.

In his 13 years as art director at Habitat, Michael Gentile never encountered a challenge he couldn’t meet. Indeed, he would read my column (from which the above excerpts are lifted) and could always find the perfect illustration, something unexpected or quirky but appropriate. And he was as fast as he was creative. It always seemed like he could do it all: Photoshop a dozen photos, “multi-platform” a quartet of stories, and replace the tank in the office’s water cooler – all before lunch.

Michael is leaving Habitat next month for the greener pastures of Vermont. He’s been a force for enormous change here, and his presence has always been felt, be it manically anxious (“We have only five days to put out a 96-page book. Do you realize that?”), or calm and courtly (“No problem. Gentile is on the case”). Whatever his mood, he was at all times an engaging personality whose talent knows no limits. He will be missed.

Thanks for the ride, Michael!

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