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Hoarders, porn stashes, and apartments you can get lost in: Secrets of an on-call NYC tech guy

Brooklyn Tech Guy pedals to his house calls.

Brooklyn Tech Guy

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We recently rounded up five on-call tech services that will come to your aid when your computer and other electronics go on the fritz. One of those businesses is Brooklyn Tech Guy, run by Park Slope resident Peter Lopez. Lopez traverses the city by bike servicing startups, bakers, and craftspeople like some sort of modern-day country doctor.

His clients include the Red Hook Lobster Pound, Rule Breaker Snacks, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, in addition to architects, photographers, lawyers, artists, and even a few celebrities. Lopez's job takes him inside the homes of all kinds of New Yorkers, in all parts of the city, and we couldn't resist asking him about what he's seen and experienced in his travels.

Highlights include a hoarder, classic New York eccentrics, and an apartment so large he got lost in it. 

Installing a new network at STREB in Williamsburg.

Weirdest tech problem

"We could not get internet between two buildings on a multi-building campus. We did everything. We checked everything. It ended up being that a squirrel had chewed through the cable and fried himself. We found a chewed cable and a dead, jacked squirrel."

Nice place you got here

"I’ve been in lots of lovely homes. But I went to this one apartment on the Upper East Side that just blew me away. I was asked to wait in the east library—so I guess there are multiple libraries there—and then I got lost. 

"Then after the session, when I was trying to leave I went through some doors into a kitchen and there was a chef, like a full-on chef, making lunch. And the maid was walking around saying 'Chef is plating. Chef is plating.' 

"I was like, 'What?' When I got home I looked [the place] up and it’s been called one of the top five apartments in New York City. That was pretty amazing. By the way, she is a really lovely client.

"Another weird place was in Brooklyn Heights... It was kind of a boxy, odd space on the outside. But inside [the owner] had this enormous open area. You went up this side staircase and she had a garden on the second floor that was outside. It was almost like a greenhouse from the 1800s—it wasn’t modern—with all these little glass panes. When she made a salad for us, she walked outside and cut the lettuce from this garden. Inside her home. And when it rained a little bit—it was a rainy day—it rained in there. It was so cool. You felt like you were outside, but you were inside.

"I saw a kid's room. He was 15 and it had an in-the-wall fish tank that was like 30 feet long, and the other [side] was a view of New York City like you couldn’t believe. It was like the fanciest hotel room you’ve ever stayed in, and there was this kid hanging out, and he was like, 'Hi, can you help me with my Google Docs?'... It was crazy. It was like half my apartment in this kid’s bedroom."

Brooklyn Tech guy makes a stop in Bushwick.

In the artist's studio

"I do support for a few artist studios, and you get to see some amazing art that’s going to be either in a museum or sold to someone. I’ll never see it again. Dustin Yellin is working on this giant triptych. It must be 30 feet long. I get to see it every time I go there. That’s pretty cool.

"Sean Scully is a world-renowned abstract painter and he uses these five-inch brushes to make these paintings, but each one is worth like two million dollars. They had me re-cabling stuff so I was drilling holes in the wall. I was about to start drilling into a certain room and they said, 'Hey, you know that’s where he stores the paintings, right?' 

"I said, 'Yeah, yeah, I do.'

"I went in there, and thank god I wouldn’t have ruined a painting, in reality, but I could have easily  drilled a hole in a two million dollar painting. And my life would be over."

Different neighborhoods, different personalities, 

"When I go into these industrial spaces that have lots of little businesses, like the Pencil Factory in Williamsburg, it’s packed with hipsters who have cool little ideas for businesses. That’s a whole scene. Red Hook has a got a much more surly edge to it still even though it’s pretty much gentrified, it still has a lot of rough characters. Bushwick  is a pretty crazy place too, lots of interesting people out there. Big industrial spaces. It's surprising.  You go in there, you find this one guy and there's this giant pottery studio. He’s a potter but he makes these incredible two-story tall installations that go into hotels and really cool places in Paris. It's nuts." 

Getting tipped

"People very rarely tip me with money, [but] I got a great tip from someone... He did everything on his typewriter. He was this cool dude. He opened up his typewriter and [typed] this kind of tea I should get at a shop in Chinatown.

"He says, 'It gives you good health. It keeps away evil spirits and is really good with hangovers.'

"And so I immediately left this place—he lived on 10 West St. facing the ocean—and I go to this shop in Chinatown and this woman sold me this tea that’s aged for 10 years. And, it's good. It’s weird. It’s a sticky block it almost looks like hash. It feels like you're buying drugs, for sure."

Famous clients—they're just like us

"If I [have any insight], it’s only that they're really just like all of us. Maybe they have a little bit more budget to play with and little more free time, but it’s amazing how they're  doing the same thing: they’re like, 'How come I took a picture on my phone and it's not on my computer, and how do I back it up so I don't lose that picture of my daughter?' 

"It's the same problems we all have. That’s what interesting about Apple, is that a billionaire has the same iPhone as the guy who delivers my pizza. Everyone has the same technology so it's very equalizing. They have the same issues."

Most absurd hack

"There’s a guy on YouTube. He has a tie and he looks calm and smart, and he gives you advice about your computer that's completely insane and makes no sense. But people don't know [it’s a joke] and they follow his advice.

"I got [to a client] once and this woman had the internet cable and the computer cable going from the computer to the router, and she had taped two double AA batteries on it.

"I said, 'Why are these batteries here?'

"And she said, 'It makes my internet three times faster.'

"I said, 'What?' 

"She said, 'Look!' and she showed me this video."

Brooklyn Tech Guy  makes a stop at client Ad Lib Unlimited, a marketing firm. 

Small businesses come in all flavors

"[I've learned] that there's so many way to run your business. Some people are immaculate. Everything’s organized, everything's labeled. Some people have piles of stuff. They don’t know where anything is, they don’t know any passwords. And they both seem to be running businesses. They have employees and they’re moving forward. It’s incredible."

Not the coat!

"There was this older client who was driving me a little crazy. She kept having me come back for the same problem over and over again, where she would just click button and [change something with her email] and she’d say, 'My mail’s broken!' 

"And I’d say, 'Your mail’s not broken. Look, click here. Do you get it?'

"And she’d say, 'Of course I get it!'

"And I had to go back like twice a week for this. And then, she had all these cats running around. All of a sudden—I was kind of in a bad mood anyway—I hear this weird noise and I turn around this cat is squatting on my coat and ripping it up, pissing on it. And she said, 'Oh I feel so bad, let me give you an extra $6 for the dry cleaners.'"

Porn

"I had one guy who said, 'Can you help me hide my porn?' 

"I’m a no-judgment tech guy. One time I watched porn with a client because we didn’t know what was on a disc. We double-clicked the disc and it was like two dudes with big muscles going at each other. And we both just laughed and I said, 'Okay, I guess now we know what’s on that disc.'"

Claustrophobia strikes

"There was one hoarder who had every newspaper saved and there was junk everywhere, so much so that I couldn’t even fit through the door. The door didn’t open all the way. She said, 'Can you just squeeze through?' 

"I had to physically push my body through the crack in the door. And then once I got in it was like a channel through the hall and the stacks were six feet high with newspapers all the way down. I thought, 'Oh my God, I’m going to become part of her collection. I'm never gonna make it out of here.'

"But it was fine. She was okay."

New York's airwaves are crowded

"We are in such a beehive of radio waves, from wifi, gypsy cabs and everything else, it limits what wireless networks can do. I think out in the middle of America where there’s space between the homes you probably have a lot better wifi. Here, when you open up your wifi you see 16, 20 different networks, and they're all competing. It makes for a lot of noise."

A green company, Brooklyn Tech Guy's web host is powered by wind turbines, it disposes of old gear responsibly, and most of the time, travels to clients by bike. 

What every client has in common

"Every New Yorker in general, with very few exceptions, everything needs to happen quicker. There’s no quick enough speed that I can go. It needs to get fixed now. The tempo of New York is fast. I think that’s a pretty common thread. Even when people are chill, they're New Yorkers. You can't just poke around. You’ve got to get in there and go."

 

 

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