The Beatles and the British invasion vanquished American music from the Top 40. April 1964 the Fab Four dominated the US charts with 5 #1 hits. I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND was the first. One smash after the other and the Liverpool band had long legs. A HARD’S DAY NIGHT gained a stranglehold on 1965. RUBBER SOUL was released in December 1965. Another year lost for the garage bands of the suburbs. Their potential hits blipped on the radar of pop music. The Rolling Stones confronted the Beatles on equal ground, but the adoration of teenage girls had transformed the English group into gods.
Even the drummer Ringo.
When John Lennon claimed that they were more popular than Christ, priests and preachers sought to burn their LPs in Nazi fashion, however the bonfires of the Bible Belt were shunned by virtuous teenage girls willing to sacrifice their maidenhood to Beatlemania.
This defloration fantasy was shared by the majority of New England girls. My next-door neighbor favored John Lennon. He was the Smart One. Addy Manzi had seen the group at Carneige Hall in December 2, 1964. Her father had played with big bands in the 40s. His old music contacts had scored the tickets. Addy was the envy of every girl in my hometown, yet even her beauty had not been enough to pierce the siege lines at the Plaza Hotel. She had attended the Boston Garden show a week later. Her luck was better for that concert.
“John played every song for me.”
Most girls pined for Paul McCartney. The Cute One. My younger sister wrote him a dozen letters. She was not alone. Kyla Rolla was the cutest girl in my 7th Grade class at Our Lady of the Foothills. I knew her since we were 8. Our first puppy love died with her parents’ divorce.
Kyla wore her blonde hair long like Paul’s girlfriend, the British actress Jane Asher. She had cried for days after seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Her older sisters had driven to the concert. They stood high in the standings of girls in my hometown. It didn’t take much, but going to that show was more than enough.
My band was the Rolling Stones. They were outlaws. I couldn’t tell Kyla that SATISFACTION was the greatest rock song of all time. I love the B-side of the 45. UNDER-ASSISTANT WEST COAST PROMO MAN. In order to gain her heart I had to commit treason to the best rock and roll band in the world.
I stopped going to the barbershop in Mattapan Square. My hair grew over my ears. Loafers were abandoned in favor of Beatles boots. I wore a Beatles jacket. No collar like Chairman Mao. It cost $15. Matching pants were another $10. I wore the suit to school. The nuns sent me home with a note for my parents. My streak of perfect attendance was shot, but Kyla noticed me for the first time in years.
“Who’s your favorite Beatle?” she asked on the way home from school. I sat in last seat of the yellow bus. Her uniform skirt was four inches over her knees. The nuns sent home any girl with a higher hemline. The seat next to me was empty. There was only one answer.
“Me too.” Kyla sat down close. Her skin smelled of Ivory soap and her hair emanated the scent of Johnson’s baby shampoo. Her green eyes were emeralds stolen by Murph the Surf from the Museum of Natural History in New York. Green as cut grass. I prayed that she didn’t notice my stealing her fragrance with near-silent inhales, as our conservations revolved around Paul McCartney trivia.
Paul was a Gemini like me. He was 22. I was 12. His favorite color was blue. Mine too. I told Kyla that she looked like Jane Asher. She let me hold her hands. I sang her songs off BEATLES 65. ‘YOU’VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY. Kyla closed her doe eyes dreaming that I was her Paul.
“Kiss me, Jane.”
Our lips met at the red light before the local church. Paul’s soul invaded my body and my hand touched Kyla’s sweater. It was cashmere. Her ribs felt like thick guitar strings. My fingertips inched higher. They grazed the bottom of her breast.
My hand glided over her nipple. I had practiced the movement on my own thousands of times. I had expected a moan, instead Kyla gasped with outrage. A slap to my cheek devastated my imitation of Paul.
“But I thought that____”
“You thought wrong. You’re no Paul.” Kyla pulled down her shirt and stormed down the aisle to the girls her age. My older brother had seen the entire episode. His eyes warned the other boys to not make fun of me. It didn’t stop their snickers.
Every day I begged Kyla for forgiveness. I had never imagined that her fantasies were rated PG. She ignored my every entreaty. I was no longer her Paul. She went steady with Jimmie Lally. His hair color was closer to Paul’s than mine. I didn’t hate him or her, because they were caricatures of the greater world beyond the confines of Boston’s South Shore. Rock and roll, fame, and fortune.
My parents bought SGT. PEPPER for my birthday. I listened to it once. Kyla had ruined the Beatles for me. The Rolling Stones regained my devotion. I played HIS SATANICAL MAJESTY’S REQUEST twice a day as if the Devil could restore Kyla to me. His power failed day after day. The Beatles seemed more powerful than Satan, then we came back together. I didn’t know why and didn’t ask why either. We were childhood sweethearts touched by the Devil.
Kisses were not kisses.
A caress was soul-deep.
Her family was living on the other side of town. Her older sisters had moved out of the house. Two of them were stewardesses. The other dated a biker from Wollaston Beach. His name was Chico.
Kyla and I were a thing. We were saving it for our wedding night. Herr mother was going a man from Chile. They spent nights out in Boston. We had the run of the house until midnight. I was almost a man.
Kyla introduced me to WBCN on her FM radio. “Mississippi Harold Wilson” was the first DJ to play Cream’s I FEEL FREE. She loved the Velvet Underground. I was a big fan of the Jefferson Airplane. We lay on the couch of her dark living room. Our nights were everything except have sex. My parents understood that we were in love. My mother was okay with our dating as long as I got home before midnight. I felt a little like Cinderella.
My hair got longer. Kyla and I talked about running away to San Francisco that summer. We got as far as Wollaston Beach.
At summer’s end I spent a long night on the couch. Her bra was on the floor. Her panties down at her knees. My Levis were unzippered. Our hands did the rest. Time disappeared from our universe, as WBCN’s night DJ played the Modern Lovers’ ROADRUNNER, the Velvets’ ROCK AND ROLL, and Quicksilver’s MONA. We were naked, when JJ Johnson announced over the air, “I have a special song to play this evening. A masterpiece. HEY JUDE by The Beatles.”
I stopped rubbing against Kyla’s thigh. WBCN never played The Beatles. Paul McCartney, my old rival, opens with vocals and piano. F, C and B-flat. The second verse added a guitar and tambourine. Simple. Pure Beatles.
“I love this.” Kyla pulled me closer and closed her eyes. The four minute coda of ‘Hey Jude’ went on forever. At the song’s end I was still a virgin, but only just. Kyla opened her eyes and sighed, “That was good.”
I read the love in her eyes.
I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 2:10. I kissed her lips and dressed fast, as if my speed could turn back the hands of time. Kyla waved from the door way. She was wearing a silk robe.
“Manana.” I had learned the word from her mother’s boyfriend. He let me drink wine.
The streets of my hometown were suburb quiet. No cars. All the houses dark. My home was three miles away. I began to run. I was on the track team. A car appeared around a curve. A VW. My father’s car. He must have been coming to get me. His mood had to be dark. He liked his sleep. The VW 180ed in the street with a screech. It had a short turning circle. The car braked to a halt and the passenger door shot open.
“Get in.” It was a command. I sat down expecting the worst. My father read the riot act. “All you had to do was call. Ten seconds and say you were all right. But you were only thinking about yourself.”
I never saw the punch coming. The VW never swerved. Blood dripped on my shirt. My father handed me a rag. I could tell that he was sorry for having lost his temper. I had never hit me before.
“You’re grounded for a week.”
“Yes, sir.” A month was punishment. A week was an apology.
He turned on the radio. WBZ. The disc jockey was playing HEY JUDE. Soon The Beatles song would be the only song on the radio. It stayed #1 on the American charts nine weeks. Kyla played the song at home. Her mother did too. My mother also. My father knew the words. I couldn’t get them out of my head.
Even to this day.
Always telling me, “I’m not Paul.”
Then again I never said I was.
And the next night I didn’t have to be anyone to Kyla, but me.
After that there was no manana.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I don't know how many people I've met in my life. I've never tried to count. The number has to be in the tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands since I worked 20 years in nightclubs and have circumnavigated the globe over twenty times. Some people I have forgotten. Some I've forgotten their names. Some I remember very little.
Others exist only as one story surrounded by shards of memories.
Mojo had been the doorman at the Berlin after-hours club. 1980 Broadway and Houston. Up four steep flights of stairs. Mojo was big, black, and a little mean to women. I warned him to calm down. He glared threateningly without a move. My temper was legendary back then. I hadn't seen him years, but I ran into him about two years ago.
Mojo greeted me as if I had risen from the grave. He was smiling. All that meanness was gone.
"I've been working as a chef." Mojo weighed near 300. He had gained some poundage. Heavy people like working in restaurants.
"Where?" I like eating.
"Out in the Hamptons." Mojo shrugged as if it wasn't his first choice. "Tough living out there without a car, but I live close to the restaurant. About a ten minute walk. Even quicker if I cut through a graveyard."
"Nothing scary about a graveyard?" I wouldn't walk through one at night.
"That's what I thought too, but a month ago I was drunk and decided to take the short cut. There was no moon, but I could see the lights of my house, so I knew where I was going. Problem was that I didn't know where I was and i fell into an open grave. Knocked the wind out of me."
"How you get out?"
"Get out? Man my size ain't getting out of no grave. I tried jumping, but it was a waste of breath, so I sat down and waited for someone to come along. I had cigarettes and it wasn't a cold night. I might have even fell asleep, except I heard someone coming. He was drunk. I was about to call out for help, when he fell into the grave. A white frat boy. He gets to his feet right away and starts trying to jump out of the grave."
"Not easy." Six feet is six feet.
"Not at all, but he could climb on me to get out, so I coughed and said, "You can't get out of here that way."
"And what he say?" I was laughing hard now.
"Say? The white boy squawked and practically flew out of the grave like I was Satan." Mojo laughed at the recollection of this moment. "Man, his eyes were bigger than dinner plates. The police come down to the cemetery in about 10 minutes. Nothing gets those lazy fucks working faster than a black devil in the grave. They were nice enough to help me out. Took three of them."
"No more short-cuts?"
"None at all."
Mojo and I bid each other 'health' and went our separate ways. Each happier for his tale from the grave.
ps 'Mojo' is a magical bag of charms used in Hoodoo, an ancient Afro magic.
My possessions are scattered across two houses in Thailand, a mountaintop cabin north of Santa Cruz, two farms in upstate New York, my apartment in Fort Greene, and my sister's house outside of Boston, however I was surprised this weekend to hear my host Billy O say at his Easthampton house, "I have several boxes of yours in my cellar."
"You do?" A vague recollection from 2002. The year I abandoned the USA for Thailand.
"You want to go check on them?" Both of us were recovering from LEAVING LAS VEGAS hangovers.
"No, let's go for a swim in the ocean." A distant hurricane was churning giant waves along the offshore sand bars. The water temperature was in the 70s. The salt air and danger of riptides had natural curative powers more important than a reunion with long-lost relics of the past.
"You boys be careful." Billy's wife shouted from the back porch. Two people had drowned the previous weekend.
"We'll do the buddy system." The ocean was unforgiving to fools.
Amagansett Beach was ten minutes from Billy's house via the back roads. His I-pod played John Lennon's WORKING CLASS HERO, as we broke through the barricade of slow-moving SUVs and Porsche Reich sedans on Route 27. Billy is a local. A parking space opened up next to the reserved handicapped spot. Billy grabbed it before a up-island vacationer could steer his Mecerdes GL 405 between the white lines.
"Nice, huh?" Billy had a healthy disdain for the summer people, while recognizing without them his high-end real estate job would disappear. He smiled to the irate driver of the luxury SUV and shrugged like he was sorry. It was a good act.
We walked onto the beach with towels over our shoulders. Two men in their 50s. The strand was crowded with weekenders dedicated to enjoying themselves in the sun. Their blankets were surrounded by coolers. The sea air was tainted by a miasma of melting sun lotion. This was not for us.
"Straight into the water." Billy was a good swimmer.
"The only thing to do." A single surfer was bobbing on the waves beyond the nasty shorebreak. Few people were venturing farther than their knees into the sucking froth. I ran into the sea. Billy followed close behind.
The water was cold at first and the current grabbed our bodies like the Atlantic wanted us to see Iceland. We ducked under the close-outs and stroked through the sets of double waves to the calm of the outer break. I couldn't touch the bottom. The lifeguard looked in our direction. I waved that we were fine. He nodded to say 'be careful'.
Billy and I rode a few waves. One crunched my body into the sandy bottom, then tumbled me in an eddy of foam. My head bobbed to the surface. Billy was a few feet from me. We shared a glance and let the turbulent surge carry us to safety.
"I think I'm ready to look at those boxes now." I was out of breath and exhilarated by the swim.
We returned to Billy's house, listening to John Lennon's IMAGINE. I was never much of a Beatles fan, but these two songs reveal the genius of John, although Billy and I had to both ask, "Why Yoko."
My boxes were downstairs. One was covered in mould. A small carpet had rotted in the damp. No damage to the art work. A cartoon series by Gaetano Liberatore, an oil painting from the Steaming Musselman Philippe Waty, two of Ellen Von Unwerth's first photos, plus a suede jacket in a plastic bag.
"It still fits after all those years."
"A little tight around the waist." Billy's wife was English. She said it in such a way that the truth didn't hurt. They are such a polite people.
The next box was loaded with slides and photos from my travels around the world. Bali, Tibet, Laos, Peru, France, Ireland, China, Thailand, plus love letters dating back to 1976. The first year I moved to New York. I read a few aloud.
"Sweet." Billy's wife was very sentiment.
The third box was a set of Wedgwood china from Bowdoin College. It had belonged to my Grandfather, who had graduated from the Maine College in 1912. I had served countless dinners on the plates at my old apartment on East 10th Street. The large serving bowl still bore the stains of a sauce. I guessed tomato.
The last box contained books; first editions of FRANNY AND ZOOEY, CATCHER IN THE RYE, MOONRAKER, and about twenty other classics. They would have been worth a fortune if signed or still in good condition. Thankfully I hadn't put them in the box with the carpet.
"Thanks, Billy." He could have thrown these out years ago.
"Well, we still have to discuss the storage fees."
"Oh, Billy." His wife was British. "You can't charge him anything."
"I was just kidding."
I knew that too, but his wife didn't.
She was British.
Nows if I could only find my lost teddy bear.
My life would be complete.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The weekend was long. A Friday night drive to Easthampton. Dinner and wine followed by drinks. Sleep till 9am. A swim in the ocean. Rough waves and vicious riptides. Saturday night was more of the same and Sunday was a repeat of the previous evening. 24 bottles of wine between 5 people accompanied by sundry rum Pinchas and beer over the course of the weekend.
I woke up Monday morning wishing that I had been kidnapped by the Taliban, instead we packed our bags and my friend AC drove into the city. I was an hour late for work at the diamond exchange. A cup of coffee failed to restore my energy levels above depletion. I nodded off at noon. My co-worker nudged me awake. A client was waiting for my attention. I gave them 5 minutes. The lawyer wanted to spend $7000 for a diamond that cost over $10,000.
"Your prices are well out of line with other dealers." He was holding a packet of information printed from the Internet. His fingers were jabbing out letters to research the wholesale pricing for diamonds. He was well prepared to be an asshole.
"That may be so." My diamond was triple-X. The best of the best. "Some stones are cheaper because they are of a lesser quality. Others cost more since they are gem. Your choice to buy what you want."
I put away the diamond and the client exited from the exchange.
Defeat sucked more energy from my core.
I counted the minutes to 6pm.
Those minutes couldn't past fast enough.
For me or anyone around me.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Recently The Nation reported on a growing castration (lopping off the testicles) or gaan dton trend amongst young wannabe ladyboys without funds to finance a complete sexual transformation. The castration operation costs $130US or 4400 baht and in most cases requires parental approval.
These young boys are convinced that ridding themselves of their testicles will soften their masculine features much like a eunuch of the royal courts of China, however a leading homosexual support group has called on the Medical Council of Thailand to curtail this selective surgery for under-18s, since the youths might be succumbing to peer pressure rather than acting with a true desire to join the 3rd sex.
Thailand is relatively ka-thoey friendly with gorgeous ladyboys competing on national television for beauty pageants, although the Thai TV way of life drives many ladyboys to work as streetwalkers on the sidewalks of Pattaya and Bangkok to support the constant need for drugs to maintain their female appearance. It’s a tough life and few 16 year-olds can foresee the future before they irreversibly remove their offending manhood to achieve a dream of beauty.
Castration is not only an Asian phenomena.
In the 17th century young boys were castrated by church choirs to insure the salvation of their angelic voices. Klaus Nomi strove to re-enact these castrati soprano songs in the late-70s without undergoing surgery. He was a hit with David Bowie and in the back rooms of the West Village.
Not all castrations were for beauty or art.
The Skopsi of Czarist Russia created a blasphemous sect under the belief that the road to heaven was achieved only through castration. Numbering in the hundreds of thousands the sect appealed to the common man with Utopian communities based on Christian redemption on Earth. Their leader asked the czar to castrate himself. Peter III was a little mad, but not that mad.
Neither are the young boys of Thailand.
The boys just want to be girls.
Of course this operation would not be covered by any insurance company in the USA.
But neither is the common cold.
Men like to think of Thailand as a Disneyland for one sex of the species. Truthfully not many farang women frequent Patpong or Nana Plaza other than those harridans testing the fidelity of their disgruntled boyfriends and husbands, yet the temptation of Thai hookers is sometimes too strong as was the case of Ava, my good friend in Palm Beach, when her husband and she were visiting Bangkok in 1977.
Back then Patpong was Patpong au natural. No CDs, copy hand bags, or backpackers. Sex and beer appealed to Ava’s husband’s weaknesses. The couple sat in a beer bar. The name is unimportant. Her husband said he wanted to go out for a pack of cigarettes. Ava understood that he wanted to be free and said she’d meet him back at the hotel. She hailed a tuk-tuk and the driver asked if she wanted to see a sex show.
“I saw a ping pong show on Patpong.”
“Not the same. This real show.” The driver promised a Sodomesque spectacle.
“Why not?” Ava figured her husband was MIA till dawn and gave the driver $5 to be her chauffeur. He drove into Klong Toey. A tough neighborhood. The streets narrowed and the lights dimmed. Finally the tuk-tuk driver stopped before a warehouse. It was without windows, but music faintly seeped through the walls.
“Inside.” He hooked his index finger. “Not many farang see this show.”
He pushed open the door and Ava followed not wanting to be left alone in the middle of Bangkok’s most notorious slum. A narrow hallway with red light bulbs led into a large room with mattresses on the floor. Couples were having sex. Menage a trois. Menage a quatre. Orgies. The driver bought a bottle of whiskey.
“You want have sex. Take off clothes. Give to lady.” The driver pointed to a coatcheck room. The lady behind the chicken wire was in her 70s. “Not worry. Everything safe.”
Hands beckoned to Ava. She was the only farang. Every man wanted her., Every woman too. She wai-ed them and retreated outside. After ten minutes she came to the conclusion the tuk-tuk driver had quit for the night. Ava walked for 10 minutes and found taxi.
“Very dangerous here for Thai farang. Bad people here. Crazy people.” The driver was as eager to leave Klong Toey as AR. It took them twenty minutes to get back to her hotel. “You lucky. Get back hotel before curfew.”
“What happens if you don’t.”
“Police arrest you. Stay in monkey house.”
Ava tipped him $2 and entered the hotel. The key wasn’t at the desk. Her husband had come back already and she climbed to the second floor. The door was locked. She knocked and her husband opened it with his shirt off. A stunning oriental woman sat on the sofa. She was in a mini-dress. Her hair was perfectly coiffed. Obviously AR had returned too soon.
“Nothing happened?” Her husband protested with a look of panic.
“Nothing.” Her husband brought her over to the side. “Well, not really nothing. I started kissing her. It felt a little weird, then I found out she wasn’t a she.”
“Not a she.” repressed a laugh.
“Yes, she’s a man. A she-man.”
“Not she-man.” The woman on the sofa said with a polite tone. “Ladyboy.”
“Yes, a ladyboy and she has a penis.”
“Not a big penis.” The ladyboy bowed gracefully.
“Bigger than mine.”
“Bigger.” Ava was curious and turned to the woman, who looked like Nancy Kwan from THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG. “My husband not have sex with you.”
“No, we no boom-boom. I no go. Have curfew.”
“Yes, I know.” Ava pulled the lady boy to her feet. They were the same height. “You ever go with lady?”
“You go with me?” Ava indicated the bedroom. Her husband started to say something and she quieted him with a hush. “I know this looks very innocent, but you did say she was bigger. Not that size matters, but I want to make sure. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Ava led the lady boy into the bedroom and locked the door. In the morning she paid the ladyboy $20. After the ka-toey left AR turned to her husband.
“And you expect me to believe that?”
“Darling, I believed you.” And Ava was telling the truth at least about one thing.
She did believe her husband, because ladyboys have no reason to lie.
Last June I was in Pattaya's Wat Chai market searching for fresh shrimp. Those sold at the big stores (BIG C, Carrefour, or Lotus) were tasteless. After purchasing a kilo of sea shrimp, I headed back to my bike, when a voice called my name.
It was Ort.
Neither Jamie Parker nor I had seen the lithe go-go dancer, since she hooked up with a farang at the Paris Go Go.
The Brit construction worker retired her from the bikini squad, bought a house in Prichit, gave her a brand new car and 10 baht of gold. “I thought you were going to England.” I glanced around the market for familiar faces. Mem was over in Jomtien, but she has spies or jah-rah-chon everywhere.
“No, my boyfriend leave me for a ka-toey.” Ort wasn’t wearing any gold. The odds were that she had hocked them to the jum-jam or pawn shop.
“Sure it wasn’t for seeing other men?” I had last seen Ort in the Marine disco. Her date wasn’t her muscle-building boyfriend. He had spies too.
“No, no, he leave me for lady-boy.” She seemed on the verge of tears and I led her into a t-shirt stall. I didn’t want people getting the wrong impression. “I not understand. I stop being pretty.”
“No, you’re still beautiful.” Ort was wearing pink hot pants and a startling skimpy top. Platform shoes added another three inches to her height. Deadly sexy.
“Then why he leave me?”
“Your boyfriend goes to the gym?” I didn’t have the answer, but could with the right questions.
“He use a needle?” I had seen him twice. Muscles like his didn’t come naturally in Pattaya. Ort nodded to admit he was a steroid juice junkie.
“He likes to have sex?” I felt like a palm reader divining the truth. “Many times.”
“And ate Viagra.” Most steroid muscle-builders can’t get it up without it, but also use ketamine to get a buzz. All too chemically ugly for an old stoner like me.
“Yes, and he want sex too much. He hurt me too much.”
“And that’s why he left you for a ka-toey.” Thailand unlike the States didn’t have a real hang-up about transvestites.
The Miss Tiffany World Show is televised live and the presenter is usually Miss World Thailand. The greeter at the biggest hospital in pattaya is a ka-toey and the most beautiful women on Walking Street are the lady-boys hanging out at the Jennie Star Bar.
“I not understand.” She wouldn’t because she’s a woman.
“Your boyfriend is a sex maniac. He wants sex all the time. But a woman can only have sex 3-5 times a week. Not so a ka-toey. A lady-boy can have sex all day long, because she’s a man and has man’s muscles and wants sex like a man.”
“How you know this?” All women are distrustful of a man wanting to tell them what he thinks of as the truth.
“Because I’m a man too.”
“And you’ve been with a ka-toey?“
“No.” I’ve drank with ka-toeys." I’ve never really had a problem with TVs. I understand the medicines they take make them crazy. The psychological shift from man to woman isn’t easy either and I told Ort, “I wouldn’t trust one though. Not with money or your life, because they are between sexes and work with a different set of rules involving survival, but they tell me they can have sex all day long. Just what your boyfriend wants.”
“I hate ka-toeys.” Her eyes narrowed to daggers.
“You shouldn’t be too unhappy. You got a house, car, gold and let’s face you didn’t love him, right?” She was beyond listening to reason or excuses.
“Love him for what? He stupid farang.” Thai girls say that about a lot of men. “I go back go-go. Meet new farang. Not love no one. Only my baby. You want mia noi?“
Ort was 22. Her body was a solace for a middle-aged man search for youth. A fool I am, but not enough to fall for a girl thinking all men stupid. I wished her luck. Whatever man fell for her next would need it.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Thailand is well-known for the beauty of its ka-toeys or ladyboys. Every year the country hosts the Miss Tiffany International Beauty Contest awarding a million baht to the most beautiful TV in the world. The show is televised throughout the nation and everyone cheers on their favorites.
Usually a Thai ka-toey wins, since Thai women of both kinds crave the caress of the mirror.
"Mirror mirror on the wall. who's the fairest of them all."
Thailand also boasts the best sex-change clinics in the world, however not all of them are licensed with the same stringency of the West.
The Bangkok Post regularly featured an ad for Pratunam Polyclinic headed by 'famous' Thai cosmetic surgeon.
In fact the doctor has only attended a two-month beauty seminar and his Chinatown clinic is quite substandard in sterility in accordance with its low low price for all medical procedures. A vaginoplasty cost about US$1600, about one-tenth of the US price.
The doctor undaunted by criticism explained to a Bangkok POst reporter, “The most common complaint is that the cavity is not big enough. In this case we can perform a colon vaginoplasty six months later using skin from the colon to extend the vagina.”
Nip and tuck for a penis.
I think I'll keep mine where it is.
Even if the Miss Tiffany offers 2 million baht.
But for 10 million who knows?
Every year international transvestites flock to Pattaya for Miss Tiffany World Beauty Contest. The event is televised on national TV and hosted by the reigning Miss Thailand representative to the Miss Universe contest, something like this would never happen in the States mostly because the TVs in the USA are so ghastly (twice the man I'll ever be) and Miss America is too much of a square to deal with a man more beautiful than she is.
"Dear, Jesus, there's a she-male on stage."
Actually Jesus had long hair and wore a dress.
Could the son of god be a she-im?
Here the katoeys or ladyboys are genuinely gorgeous. The spend thousands of dollars to sculpt their bodies with plastic surgery. Breasts, noses, throats, butts. My wife thinks many are more beautiful than women and says they are usually prettier than the Miss Thailand rep.
Many men first-timing to Pattaya find it hard to tell if they are real. Once they open their mouths and squeak like a crow sucking helium, "Hey, handsome come here.", then there can be no doubt about the gender of this gender-bender.
Some friends might pretend to ignore the obvious. You have a choice here. Do I tell him or not? In the end you have to realize that he's a big boy. He's seen Ru Paul on TV. he's heard the Kinks LOLA.
Walks like a woman but talks like a man.
There was the famous story about a French diplomat in China who lived with a TV for years. when their story became public, he said, "I didn't know."
The frog knew all right and so does your friend, so what's the sense of telling him the obvious.
What weirded me out was a friend who had a katoey mia noi or TV second wife and said, "You should see her on Viagra. What a sex devil."
"You actually want her to have an erection?"
"Yeah, and you know why?" His eyes gleamed with keen wickedness.
I fled before he could provide the answer, because some secrets are best left behind closed doors.
My friend Richard is teaching school in Saudi Arabia. He says it sucks, but he's coining good money. He asked if I want to join him.
If all else fails, "Why not?"
Saudi Arabia is closer to Thailand than New York.
He sent an old joke yesterday.
A man is in bed with his Thai girlfriend.
After great sex, she spends the next hour just stroking his dangly bit, something she had lovingly done on many other post-coital occasions.
Rather enjoying it, he turns and asks her: 'Why do you love doing that ?'
She replies: 'Because I really miss mine...'
Ladyboy slipped under the radar.
It's so easy to be fooled especially when your lust blinds the shrouds of deception.
Years ago I worked at a bar in New York. The name was the Milk Bar. The decor was an imitation of the Malchek Milk Bar in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. White Lucite and gelled light. The crowd cut across the layers of New York. The good, the bad, and the in-between. One of the customers was a narcotic detective. He led raids in Brooklyn. Whenever he walked into the bar, people walked out."
"Friends and colleagues." Rob would shrug off their departure. "I'm not here for work. I'm here to have a good time."
He was only 24.
Good times at the Milk Bar meant something else than Disney rides and one night I see Rob drinking with Dove, a lanky brunette in a slinky Azzadine sheath. An hour later they're holding hands and shortly thereafter both of them are kissing with an audience. I knew Dove as Dave. He was more beautiful as a woman than he had been as a man. Dove fooled most of her prey. She liked them straight. Rob deserved a head's up and when Dove went to the ladies room to powder her nose I sidled next to Rob.
"So what you think?" His face shined with an eager redness. Few women could match Dove's passion.
Normally I would have let Rob find out for himself about Dove's sexuality, but he had become more a friend and my job as a doorman necessitated a little violence from time to time. Having a cop in your pocket was a good card to hold.
"Dove's great, if you like guys."
"Guy?" Rob choked on his beer.
"Dove's been a girl for a couple of years. Beautiful and sexy, but a guy no less." I was worried about Dove's reaction to my snitching her out. She could be very mean.
"A guy?" Rob looked around the bar, as if he were trying to spot a familiar face. The crowd consisted of perps, dealers, politicians, models, musicians, diplomats, actors, and starlets. None of them were saints. He swigged his beer. "I can deal with that."
"You can?" I thought my warning would steer him to clearer water.
"Dove's the best looking woman I've seen in years. Man or woman. And she wants me."
"Then you have my blessing."
The two of them left within the hour. No one noticed their departure. Dove showed up the next day with a smile and Rob's watch.
"He gave it to me."
"Really?" I almost believe her. It was a cheap watch.
"Really." Dove waited that night for Rob to show up. He never did. Dove went home alone. Twice the woman I will ever be.
I thought Billy Wilder’s film SOME LIKE IT HOT was funny, until my next-door neighbor asked in his basement, “Who you think is prettier as a woman? Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis?"
“Neither.” This was 1964 and men in dresses weren’t supposed to be funny to 11 year-old boys on the South Shore of Boston.
“Yeah, but if you were on a deserted island and there were only you, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and they were wearing dresses, who would be your wife?” Chuckie sometimes wore his youngest sister’s underwear. He looked nothing like Addy, but more like Tony Curtis.
“I would kill myself before marrying either of them.” The Bible considered men dressing as woman as an abomination, however the priests wore long black cassocks. They called them robes. We knew better and kept our distance.
Chuckie and I remained best friends throughout the 1960s. Our knowledge of drag queens expanded with the Kinks’ hit song LOLA. “We walked like a woman and talked like a man.”
“You ever see a man walked like a woman and talk like a man?” Chuckie was a little hesitant about broaching this subject.
“Once at the Greyhound Bus Station.” I had been buying Levis at Walker’s Jeans on Boylston Street. “But he was obviously a man. Even had stubble like a man. And you could tell the high heels hurt his feet.”
“I tried walking in my sister’s shoes. They were murder.” Chuckie obviously had persevered with his closet cross-dressing.
“I only have trouble with new sneakers.” They burned blisters on my heels.
“Oh.” Chuckie sensed this was as far as we could go.
We grew apart after I went to university at Boston College. I drove taxi to pay for my apartment near campus. My last fares came out of the Combat Zone. Drag queens, go-go dancers, and drunks. They were all good tippers. None of the queens were attractive and I couldn’t understand why any man would take one home or to a hotel or a dark park.
Lou Reed’s WALK ON THE WILD SIDE had to be a lie.
“Candy came out from the Island, in the backroom she was everyone’s darling.”
I didn’t know what a back room. My move to New York in 1976 taught me the meaning. I became a punk. Sexual frontiers were blurred in a city where people changed their names to suit their desires. I went to gay bars to pick up fag hags. My gay friends told these girls I was queer. They wanted to convert me to being straight. I played hard to get, but they always had the cure.
One night I was at the Anvil, waiting for my friends to finish their excursion to the back room. No girls were allowed in the bar, so I was surprised when an attractive brunette sat next to me. She looked like a top fashion model, except skinnier in a pink tube top and hot pants. A long lacquered nail touched shoulder.
”Can you buy me a drink?”
The faux falsetto betrayed why the bouncer permitted her into the Anvil. She was not a woman, only the closest thing in this bar.
“Do I have to beg you?” She twirled a strand of long brown hair around her finger with a mockery of feminine guile. I almost laughed. She frowned and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, just thinking back to an old song.” I wouldn’t be able to get LOLA out of my head for days.
“Something you want to dance to. I’m a good dancer.” She wiggled her shoulders like a go-go girl. This move sold the mirage and I signaled the bartender to give my barmate a drink. “My name’s Dove. How you like to go in the back room with me? You can do anything you want.”
“Why you think I’m unattractive?” Her lips pouted with disappointment. “I know you’re straight. That’s why I sat here.”
“I thought it was to hustle me for a drink.”
“Fresh.” She slapped my hand. “I have my own money.”
A roll of twenties. Dove explained how a US senator was her sugar daddy. She wouldn’t say which one. Her story about going to the inaugural ball for Jimmy Carter was funny. “No one thought I was a man. At least none of the men seemed to care. especially the Republicans.”
After an hour my friends were still buried in the Anvil’s snake pit and I settled my bill to leave. I almost kissed Dove good-night, but shook her hands instead.
“So I guess this means you’re going home alone?”
“Don’t’ be sorry, one night you and I will get it together. I’m patient.” She waved good-bye and stood up to twitch a hip as a calling card for later.
Dove was not only patient. She was persistent, despite my continual refusals to push our relationship any further than friends. I told her no at the Mudd Club, Studio 54, CBGBs, Hurrahs, Xenon, the Kiev, Dave’s Luncheonette, but she kept asking and I kept saying no.
One evening in 1980 I was at a Paloma Picasso party. It was black tie. I was bored after the first hour and went to get my leather jacket from the coat check. A young man fell into me and I turned around quickly since he had stepped on my foot. The thin gay boy’s clumsiness was not from too many drinks. A brutish six-footer was shaking him by the lapels. The stitching was giving way and I slashed my arm down on his aggressor’s wrists. This broke his grasp and the gay boy ran away.
“Why you do that?” The thug demanded with red eyes. He was on something. My guess was speed.
“Because I didn’t feel like being bumped into, while you beat up on a fag.” My brother was gay. My friends were fags. I didn’t like bullies.
“And what are you going to do about it?” His hands clenched into fists.
Boys from Boston didn’t back down from fights and I wanted a right to his mouth. The punch seemed to stagger him, then he spit a tooth in my chest. This was going to be a fight and not a good one. I threw lefts and rights faster than his counters, but he outweighed me and I backed up to the wall. Luckily the security broke us up. They knew me and threw him out. Two ballerinas thought I was hero for standing up against this gaybasher. I felt like one too and accompanied them into the street, where I waved down a taxi. My hand never reached the air, because something hard struck the base of the skull.
I fell into the gutter and pulled my arms over my head. A second punch later my id was floating through a green emerald which pulsated with lightning every second. This was not a good sign. Finally someone asked with a Jersey accent, “Have you had enough?”
I had had enough after the first sucker punch. It was the thug. A chain was wrapped around his fist. I nodded yes and he strode away the victor. I got to my feet. My teeth were intact and my nose was unbroken. I looked at my face in a car mirror. Blood was dripping from a dozen cuts and for the next week I resembled a welcher on a bet to John Gotti’s gang.
New York’s a big city, but the night life then was a small scene. Maybe 3000 people. I would run into the thug again and carried a long stiletto for that moment. It wasn’t long in coming.
A transvestite trapeze bar opened in Times Square. GG Barnums. Dove was part-owner. Her senator the secret other half. We were sitting at the bar. She bought me drinks. Dove had heard about my beating. She thought I was a hero.
“Hero’s don’t get the snort beat out of them.”
“Well, you’re a hero to me and I’d love to show you how much.” The cut of her Chanel dress cut showed off Dove's Mia Farrow figure.
“Thanks, but I’m not really in a romantic mood.”
“I could change that in a second.” Her hand caressed my thigh. I knocked it away. She was hurt.
“That guy who beat me up just walked into the bar.” I grabbed the knife in my pocket.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Dove stopped me from standing and lit a cigarette. “I’ll take are of this.”
She moved through the crowded bar like a serpent seeking its prey. She puffed hard on the cigarette. The ember a bright red. She tapped the thug on the shoulder. He turned around and Dove stuck the cigarette in his eye. He dropped to his knees on the floor. Dove returned to me and said, “Will you go home with me now?”
“I don’t think I can refuse.”
Nothing really happened between us. We kissed a little. Nothing more and she said that it was our little secret. GG Barnums lasted a half-year. Trapeze transvestite shows went out of vogue. She started dressed like a Palm Beach divorcee. Her hair went nova blonde. She said she was moving south. The Senator had divorced his wife. I wished her luck. She said she had been born lucky.
I think about Dove everytime I hear WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Dove was everyone’s darling in the right mood and beat out Tony Curtis as choice #1, but I couldn’t have foreseen that in 1965. Not even in my wet dreams.
To hear WALKL ON THE WILD SIDE please go to this URl
I was born in 1952.
Doctors during that prehistoric period had no way of predicting an infant’s sex, yet my mother was so convinced that her second child would be a girl that a year’s worth of pretty pink baby clothing lay neatly stacked in a crib. I imagine she experienced a more than a little disappointment after 20 hours of labor to hear the attending doctor’s words, “Congratulations, you have a boy.”
Some women would have resigned themselves to this destiny, however my mother dressed me in pink dresses until I was 9 months old, when my father declared firmly, “He’s a boy. Boys aren’t supposed to wear pink.”
This infantile transvestite period inflicted little if no psychological scarring, but every November I fancy dressing up in the extravagant silk costume for the Thai festival honoring the water goddess, if only so I can say that I was a ka-toey for Loi Krathong.
This one-night transformation into that deeply-desired daughter probably would reward my late mother with an after-life smile. Unfortunately for my mother I have always resisted this urge, since no 55-year old man should wear a dress unless it’s to escape from prison, although I have occasionally wondered about my appearance as a woman and last year at the Plaza Hotel I tried on a long wig. Not too attractive, although a female friend said upon seeing the photo that I looked like Joni Mitchell on steroids.
I was thinking more on the lines of Brigitte Bardot.
The mirror is the best liar of all.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Earth has been traveling through the universe for billions of years. During these eternal eons the planet has been subjected to radiation from a myriad of sources, although none greater than the Earth itself and this intense contact with radioactivity is what turns diamonds into the second rarest of colors "green'. The process actually alters the crystal structure of the diamond to allow the absorption of color, mostly on the surface same as anger turns mild-mannered Bruce Banner into the Hulk.
In my 20 years of selling diamonds on 47th street I've never had a call for a green diamond.
Yellow, many times.
Green, red, or blue.
Never until a Japanese gentleman walked into our store at the Plaza. He was accompanied by a friend, who said Mr. K was looking for something unusual.
"White diamonds are too common." Mr. K was dressed in a fine cashmere suit. I figured him for 58, healthy, and wealthy. A good combination for a buyer of rare gems.
"White diamonds are as rare as light bulbs, except when you're talking about triple-X stones." I had a 5-carat D Internally Flawless round stone in the safe. Its price was the same as a same house in North Palm Beach.
"I know D color stones, but I'm more talking about something more rare. A green diamond. Red diamonds I buy in Singapore, but I want a green diamond now."
"I have access to several green diamonds." None in my safe. Several associates dealt in these precious goods. "Would you care to look at some?"
"Tomorrow." It was already 4 O'clock. Colored stone dealers go home early, because their stones have a special beauty best revealed in the afternoon light, so I bullshitted the customer with the partial truth. "I can get 5-7 diamonds for you. You have any idea about a shape or size?"
"One carat and shape is not important." Mr. K waved his hand in the air, as if he bought and sold diamonds on a daily basis. Customers like to bullshit too. We scheduled a rendezvous for 12:30 the next day for our Plaza store and after he left I got on the phone with Richie Boy.
"You think he's serious?" Richie Boy is suspicious of all tough calls.
"You have an idea of how much he wants to spend?" Richie Boy liked to qualify the customers so you don't waste your time.
"He didn't say, but I'd figure around $300-500,000." This was simply a hunch based on his attire. Tailored imported cashmere and Bally loafers.
"That's a guess, right?" Richie Boy was no stranger to my hunches.
"Then we'll show him what we got." Richie Boy hung up the phone. He would call every fancy color dealer in the city. I only knew two. Namash had a .50 pointer Vivid intense for $650,000 and the other had nothing.
"A half-carat for that much?" I knew that they were expensive but not that expensive.
"That's the price to sell it for. You want it or not?"
"Why the hell not?" Namash had probably been sitting on this stone for years. Waiting for a call just like this. No one knows what the dealers paid for these stones. It doesn't matter. They could have found it on the street. Such things do happen.
That evening I researched colored diamonds on the internet.
The Dresden Green diamond is the most famous.
41 carats bombarded by alpha, beta, and gamma rays. The original gem weighed nearly 100 carats and first surfaced in the capitol of Saxony in the early 1700s. I read the information about this stone several times until I had mangled the facts into a good spiel for tomorrow's meeting with Mr. K, then went to sleep early. A little short of midnight. Dealing with big stones required a sober mind. Not all the time, but I also only had $20 in my pocket. Hardly enough to get messed up on.
Monday was my off-day, so I took my time going to the Plaza. I arrived thirty minutes early. Richie Boy was already waiting. Mr. K was at Demel's Coffee Shop. they had the most excellent chocolate in Manhattan.
"Where you been?" Richie Boy was accompanied by two dealersm. I knew both. They hadn't seen me for 6 years. We traded our histories in less than 100 words and moved onto the stones.
There were 7.
The biggest a 1.11 ct. Vivid Fancy Intense Green and the smallest a .50 Vivid. In total the seven stones cost about $3 million. The better stones displayed strong fluorescence, which was noted on the GIA certificates.
"Why's that?" Richie Boy asked the dealers.
Neither knew, so I said, "They were irradiated by radioactivity during their voyage to the surface. Just like Hulk."
The three of them stared at me as if I were crazy. Namash came into the store and I asked him why the better stones were fluorescent.
"See." I liked being right.
"Go get your customer." Richie Boy hated not knowing more than me, but he would always be a better closer than me. The hammer was in his blood. I walked across the Plaza Retail Collection to Demel's Cafe. Mr. K was having a coffee.
"We're ready for you." I returned to the store and we waited. Mr. K. was on the phone and walking around the Retail Collection with purpose.
"What's his story?" Richie Boy was impatient. "We have $3,000,000 here and he acts as if it was important. Go get him and tell him either get his ass into the store or else we're leaving."
I returned to the cafe and Mr. K lifted his finger to indicate he was coming and then walked off to the men's room. Richie Boy wasn't happy.
"We don't have to put up with his shit. I'm out of here."
"He's playing a game. He wants to make you nervous. Once the Saudis had Namash fly to Paris. They gave him a VIP pass to their hotel and said they'd be with him later. Later was two days. So cool your jets, he'll be with us soon enough."
Richie Boy and I ordered expressos at Demel's.
As soon as we were served our coffees, Mr. K entered our store, tapping his watch to say he didn't have much time. Richie Boy put down his coffee in one gulp. I sipped at mine.
"Gimme two seconds and I'll be with you."
Richie Boy had little patience. I had a hang-over. I needed the coffee and finished it with pleasure. Mr. K saw the seven stones. He liked two. Not the one for $2.6 million.
"I like the two half-carat stones."
"They are the best on the face of the earth right now. The rest are either in vaults or still working their way to the surface." Richie Boy had a nice way with words.
We exchanged addresses, telephones, and emails and then discussed how to pay. This sale wouldn't be completed until late-January. I could have used the commission right now. I would have packed my bags and flown to Thailand for a week. Instead I have to stick around for a while. Pierre of the Plaza for 2009 too.
Nothin' for us in Belfast
The Pound so old it's a pity
OK, there's the Trident in Bangors
Then walk back to the city
We ain't got nothin' but they don't really care
They don't even know you know
They just want money
They can take it or leave it
What we need is
An Alternative Ulster
Grab it change it's yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores, their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter your native land
Take a look where you're livin'
You got the Army on the street
And the RUC dog of repression
Is barking at your feet
Is this the kind of place you wanna live?
Is this were you wanna be?
Is this the only life we're gonna have?
What we need is
They say they're a part of you
But that's not true you know
They say they've got control of you
And that's a lie you know
They say you will never be
Free free free
Pull it together now.
To hear this classic punk song go the to following URL
Afghanistan has three times been the cemetery of imperial pretensions. The British twice and the Russians once. Both powers understood intricacies of the Great Game, yet were thwarted by the tenacity of the ruthless tribesmen beyond the Khyber Pass. Balochs. Uzbeks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Turkmens, Tajiks, Arabs, Gujjars, Pamiris, Nuristanis, Brahuis, Qizilbash, Aimaqs, Pashais not to mention the Ghilzai who annihilated the 44th Regiment of Foot in 1842.
All because the British High Command decided to cut the stipends of these wild mountain warriors.
Money talks loud in the canyons of the Hindu Kush.
Louder than military force, although some senior military commanders for the US forces in that landlocked country are questioning the wisdom of President Obama's announced deadline for departure, warning that a date for disentanglement will encourage the Taliban.
More encouragement than civilian deaths, corruption, and an occupation army.
The only successful invasion of Afghanistan was by the Mongols and they left pyramids of skulls as a monument to their conquest the high plateau.
Nothing else will suffice, for as the words of the Afghani national anthem say
This land will shine for ever,
like the sun in the blue sky
In the chest of Asia,
it will remain our heart forever
Monday, August 23, 2010
"You know they're planning on tearing down Memorial Bridge."
"What for?" The through-truss lift bridge has been spanning the Piscataqua River for almost 100 years old.
"Cost about as much for a new bridge as repair this one."
"You know that is hooey." I had heard the same crap about the Big Dig in Boston. $17 billion to get 20,000 commuters to their jobs 5 minutes faster. Paying them a million dollars each would have been cheaper.
"New Hampshire seems willing to foot the whole bill. No federal funding either, since the Memorial Bridge is almost listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
"Probably put up a bridge without any style."
"That's what it looks like."
Another sad day for the past, but then there are too many of them to mention.
The NY Post, Daily News, and Fox News have wedge-geed a good segment of the American public's shorts and panties tight up the crack of their ass. I have to admit that putting a mosque several blocks from the 'hallowed' site of 9/11, but I've also felt that nothing should have been built of that ground, where so many Americans died on that fateful day.
No skyscrapers, no mosques, no nothing.
Only a flame.
Real estate prices in Lower Manhattan mandate the erection of new towers for commercial space. One Freedom Tower had been downgraded along with Freedom Fries to One World Trade. Rents will be exorbitant. Windows Of The World should have been the crowning glory, but the building's owners are still in negotiations to award the 105th floor to the right client.
It will no be a mosque or a church or a temple.
They don't pay taxes and New York City survives on taxes.
No income will be derived from the new mosque near the old WTC site. The strip clubs on the same street will pay more. This weekend pro and con groups demonstrated before the construction site. The NY Post acted as if this was the end of the world.
"It's an insult to the memory of the fallen."
And this morning in the diamond exchange the opinion was firmly against the mosque.
"Do you have any idea why we were attacked on 9/11?"
This was a question that I asked my older brother two weeks after the attack.
"It doesn't matter."
And this was everyone's answer today.
Nine years later no one is willing to ask this question, because it has too many answers.
"The Muslims want to dominate the world." Andy the security guard was blowing steam out of his ears. He had fought in Vietnam. We are friendly antagonists at the best of times, but this issue had him seeing red. "You're a traitor."
"And you're a fucking loser."
The lines have been drawn long in advance for this moment. He stormed off in anger and I shuddered in then horror that my countrymen can not view the attack with cold blood. I'm half-Irish. We believe in revenge. Usually against the nearest fuck. And that happened to be the Afghanis. Stupid Taliban had shelter the murdering Al-Quada.
But that had nothing to do with why we were attacked on 9/11.
That question can not be answered until people are willing to hear the question and ask why.
Maybe next year.
Until then go-go bars next to the mosque.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Punk died before Disco. The next alternative defender of rock and roll was the New Wave combining electronic and experimental music. bands such as The Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds, and Echo and The Bunnymen achieved critical and financial success during the early 80s, however American New Wave acts were shut out of the surge. TuxedoMoon, a San Francisco Post Punk group had attained a modicum of fame within the USA. Not enough to satisfy their egos or pockets and the band emigrated to Belgium hoping to break into the European market.
Sell-out concerts Paris, Berlin, and Milan did not translated into box office boffo in America and the group were forced to tour the States in abject poverty. Battered vans and second rate-hotels. Road trips to isolated college towns. Always in hope of a lucky break. Few came their way in the Lower 48.
They played the Bains-Douches in 1983. I was working the door at that fabled Paris nightclub. I saw two great SRO shows. After a tumultuous encore the band retired to dining room. I offered drinks to Steven Brown and Blaine L. Reininger. We knew each other through mutual friends.
"How was your last tour?" I was avoiding America. Reagan was in power and the NYPD Internal Affairs had a few questions to ask me about pay-offs to the 20th precinct. The Atlantic was a good buffer zone between me and them.
"College campuses loved us. New York and LA too. Only problem is that the record companies could figure out what to do with us."
"It's not like you're Top 40." I loved The Stranger, Scream With a View, and What Use?/Crash,. No Tears should have been a hit in 1978, although 'no tears for the creatures of the night' had no chance against Andy Gibbs SHADOW DANCING.
"We never said we wanted Top 40." Steven protested, starting an argument about band direction. Within a minute they agreed that they were not destined to replace the BeeGees.
"Strangest Top 40 experience on the trip was during our drive through Tennessee. Wintertime in those hills the roads get dangerous. Snow, ice, and fog." Steven sounded like he did most of the driving.
"Don't forget the mountains." Blaine held the horror of the suicide seat close to heart.
"One afternoon I'm driving from Knoxville to Johnston City."
"I know that highway." I had hitchhiked it in the summer of 1975. "Pretty country in August."
"Bare trees and blowing snow in January." Steven's words were granite.
"Fog too." Blaine was feeding lines to Steven. They were poets as well as musicians. "No one else on the road."
"Hit a stretch where I could see much. A glow in the mist. Then we spot an accident. Three cars torn to shreds. A man lying on the highway."
"We missed him by inches." Steven and Blaine had transported me to that interstate. The sound of the brakes. "We stopped and walked back. Everyone was dead. Four people. Couldn't tell what had happened, only something bad. We drove another mile to the exit, where we found a diner. Two waitresses, a cook, a few customers. I told them what we had seen and the waitress said accidents happen there all the time. She went over to the jukebox and dropped in a quarter."
"Played B-5." Blaine was the straight man.
"Queen's ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST."
"Biggest crossover hit in 1980.
"Number 1 in the USA and UK."
"You could always do it as a cover." I loved covers.
"We don't do covers."
And they never had a #1 hit like ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST, but I loved them still.
To hear NO TEARS go to this URL
My Uncle Russ grew in Portland, Maine. The Whitest State in the Union. The only excitement in that town was watching sailors fight East Yard workers in the harbor dives. This show grew old fast after a Portugee fisherman picked a brawl with these young lads and old salt wanted blood. The teenagers ran for their lives and caught the trolley to the quiet safety of their homes.
Sin in Portland was dangerous and the teenagers planned an excursion to Boston's Sculley Square. The Old Howard Theater offered a taste of the wicked unavailable to anyone living north of the Charles River.
"Always Somethin' Doing' was its motto.
Russ' friend borrowed his father's Studebaker Champion on the pretext of an excursion to Sebago Lake.
"Be back by 9."
Keys in hand the friend pointed the car south and drove the 100 miles to Boston. The teenagers spent the afternoon touring Scollay Square various attractions. One boy hocked a gold ring at Simpson's Loan to finance their adventures. Haircuts at Tony Ruggiere's Barber Shop, lunch at Waldorf's Cafeteria, pinball at the Amusement Center, Hot dogs at Joe and Nemos, and then they attempted to enter the Old Howard. They were 16. Old enough to pay for the tickets. The usher sat them in the darkness of the back row. Only bald men sat in the front row.
Uncle Russ had never spoken about the show, however the afternoon had become evening.
Portland was a four-hour ride. The boys jumped into the car. The driver stomped on the accelerator. Traffic over the Old Charles Bridge was light. This was a Saturday and the Studebaker passed every car on Route 1. This was a race against the clock.
80 mph through the hilly straight-aways of Topsfield.
No stopping until they hit the Portsmouth rotary. It was 8PM. Curfew was one hour away. Portland was even farther. $2 filled the tank and the Studebaker picked up speed along Congress Street approaching the bridge spanning the Piscataqua River.
"We have to stop to pay the toll." Russ shouted over the roar of the engine and the whip of the wind.
"Gimme one." The driver took a dime from Russ and flung the coin at the toll booth.
The booth collector ducked the toss. The dime plunked into the wood with force. Russ swore the sliver of silver was buried in a pine timber. The boys arrived in Portland around 10:30. The friend was cool. He dropped off everyone before returning home to face the music.
"How fast were you going through the toll booth?" I asked Russ this evening.
"I don't recall." It was over 70 years ago.
"No." His memory was keen.
"No, more like 70. Studebaker built a good car."
"I know. I drove a Studebaker Hawk across country in 1996." Meg Grossendt was hot to be with her beau. They married and had two kids. I understand speed for a reason.
"That was their last good car."
"We blew a carburetor in Colorado. A mechanic had the part."
"Probably the last one in America."
"We made them extinct."
It was a good trip. Same as Russ' ride from Scollay Square. Fast with a destination.
The only way.
Friday, August 20, 2010
1992 marked the last nuclear bomb test in the USA. The various atomic powers conducted nearly 2000 explosions. Only two were on populated targets. My Uncle Russ told his nieces and nephews that he had ready to parachute into Japan, when a flash appeared over a city. The assault troops watched the mushroom cloud consume Hiroshima. The pilot returned to base.
We believed the story until my uncle admitted that his tale was a fabrication based on a real event.
"I was stationed to Nagasaki after the Armistice. One day a B-29 bomber caught fire in flight. Nine parachutes appeared in the sky. The bomber lose altitude and crashed into a nearby mountain. We searched for the four officers left on the plane. The aluminum fuselage had been melted by the fire. The only human remains we found was a half a skull. One of the sergeants said that the B-29 normally carried a crew of 11. Two more survivors should have floated to safety. No one ever heard anymore of that story."
Uncle Russ said very little about his time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the armistice.
"I was 19."
Uncle Russ never said more about those wasted cities.
People from wars rarely tell stories.
At least ones that are true.
"Just a pinch more of plutonium." Iran's leader is asking for some whop.
Israel is hot to whack Iran.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has boasted to the global community is close to creating an Islamic nuclear capability. The clock is ticking and Israel is watching the passage of every second. Months versus years. The timeline depends on proximity and the technical skills of Iran's plutonium team. The CIA contends that Iran is no threat to its neighbors.
A different message than from the previous White House and I have to agree.
I'm not scare of Iran.
Or the atomic bomb.
Flash and we're gone.
Is that so bad?
US Troops in Iraq are down 50,000. President Obama has asked its commanders to ready the final brigades for complete withdrawal in 2011. General Petraus has questioned the timetable, but the American public has rejected the 'you broke it, you bought it' antique shop rule. The time to say 'Ada'tu tareeqi!' or I'm lost has been replaced by the urge to pack our bags and shout out 'Ma’a salama' or good-bye.
Hopefully no one in the Pentagon is thinking about issuing the departing soldiers the following phrases 'Araka fi ma ba'd' or 'see you later', just in case the USA decided to preemptively start Iraq War - The Triquel.
The old Fuck It Up Until You Get It Right Syndrome.
My British friend recently returned from Basra. She is liaising with the US Army in a diplomatic role for the Foreign Office. I asked her about the security situation and she honestly said, "I don't leave the base. But the insurgents sent their greetings with mortars and missiles. I go to sleep in full body armor."
The situation sounded dangerous and as our troop levels drop into the low thousands Pentagon strategists will be computer-testing various scenarios for a safe exit plan. No name impossible to avoid will be Xenophon.
This 5th Century BC Athenian solider/writer participated in an expedition organized by Cyrus the Younger to fight the Pisdians only to discover that the real purpose of the venture was to oust Cyrus' older brother from the Persian throne. The Greeks were angered by this betrayal, but far from home fought at the battle of Cunaxa.
Cyrus was killed in the slaughter.
The Greek commanders were murdered at a peace conference.
Stranded in Mesopotamia the remaining soldiers called the 10,000 banded together under the leadership of Xenophon and others fought their way north through modern-day Iraq to the Black Sea. Xenophon wrote ANABASIS, a seven part narrative of their struggle against all odds.
The troops cried "thálatta, thálatta", "the sea, the sea!" upon reaching Trabzon or the Turkish city of Trebizond.
I have told every soldier bound for Iraq that I have met, "Head north if the shit goes south."
Hopefully they won't have to take my advice.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
During the Viet-Nam war some bright minds decided to inject elephants with flatulence medicine in hopes of flushing the VC out of the jungle with the pachyderms’ farts. The strategy failed to take into consideration windage and several grunt mahouts were hospitalized with severe methane poisoning ala JACKASS 2.
The Pentagon attracted more schemers than dreamers and recently counter-intelligence pundits planned on distributing Viagra to the mountain soldiers in Afghanistan. Supposedly the penile hardener would ameliorate the heroes’ breathing ability in the high altitudes. Church leaders close to the White House forced teh Pentagon to abandon this tactic, fearing that men separated from the wives for years at a time would turn to homosexuality if constantly aroused by Viagra.
Better they chew coca leaves.
These two failures haven’t deterred the Pentagon think tanks from new follies.
Now it’s anti-terrorist dolphins and seals.
The US Navy has trained dozens of dolphins and sea lions to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers. The first test would send 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego to protect Kitsap-Bangor Naval base on the Puget Sound from crafty sea swimming Arab terrorists and anti-war activists.
Environmentalist complain that the US Navy is endangering the sea mammals by putting them in colder waters than their native California, however the Navy says that they have fabricated special wet suits for the seals and dolphins, enabling them to endure the frigid seas for hours.
“Another consideration is that the dolphins can’t racial profile, so they will check out anyone in the water, not just Arabs or Muslims.” A Navy spokesman said and then added, “We are also thinking about giving them Viagra to the dolphins to increase their blood flow to heat their body better.
A bad idea.
A man in the UK was arrested by the police for sexually abusing a harbor dolphin. He was cleared after marine biologists confirmed that male dolphins often extend their penises as a sign of greeting. The man was given probation and order to stay 20 feet from the shoreline.
Of course dolphins on Viagra would please female swimmers in the Bahamas who fornicate with the sea-going studs above a shallow shoal off a coral reef. This zoophilic practice was mentioned in Ted Mooney’s 1981 novel EASY TRAVEL TO SMALL PLANETS, in which Navy researchers have sexual liaisons with the dolphins they are trained for anti-terrorist protection.
The Pentagon once more.
In reality the Navy wants to replace its marine mammal program with machines. “But the technology just isn’t there yet. The value of the marine mammals is we’ve been doing this for 35 years and we’ve ironed out all the kinks.”
Tell that to the girls in the Bahamas.
The male dolphin’s penis is 10-14 inches in length and can come 14 feet.
Hello John Holmes Flipper.
Can a girl shake your hand?
The actress Jessica Alba told MTV that during the filming of FLIPPER that several of her aquatic co-stars hit on her. “I don’t know if anybody knows this but dolphins get excited, even when you are a human being – and they have long, long… (penises). I didn’t know this until I was being poked by a few of them, which was very rude. I think I learned my lesson. I sort of request female dolphins after that because those are horny little bastards.”
For more info go to:
Bring me the head of Osama Bin Laden!
The Pentagon's reward for OBL is $50,000,000 tax-free Dead or Alive.
No takers from 2001 to 2010
The al-Quada mastermind has responded to this offer via video inviting the West to embrace Islam or else. Faced with those two options I regretfully have to inform the world’s most wanted fugitive that I’ll have to take the ‘or else’.
I like bacon.
I like it in a BLT, spaghetti carbonara, and salads.
According to http://www.islamicinvitationcentre.com/FAQ/diet/FAQ_diet.html Islam banned pork for health reasons. Pig meat is a proven breeding ground for parasites such as Paragonimus, the sucking worm Clonnrchis Sinesis, and the deadly trichina worms reported to infect 25% of pig eaters. This may be true, however my belief for the strict prohibition of pork is that pork was so tasty that it proved a distracting temptation to true believer.
Back in the early 90s I traveled extensively through Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. My arrival of the mega-island, Sumatra, coincided with Ramadan, the yearly festival of fasting. From dawn to dusk no restaurant were open. While respecting the Muslim festival, I didn’t think that I was included in this celebration of no-eating until trying to snack on a bus to the Batak Highlands.
Angry glares from bearded faces forced a sweet roll back into my bag. Water couldn't pass your lips either and no one smoked kretek cigarettes. Hungry and thirsty the hours passed slowly, until the bus reached a small town 50 miles from Lake Toba.
The Muslim passengers were replaced by darker-skinned natives, who smoked like Pittsburgh steel mill before the Clean Air Act. The women stuffed their faces with a wide assortment of candies and the kids sucked on lollipops. The Muslims said nothing, for the Bataks are renowned as cannibal warriors.
As the bus climbed from the steamy tropical plain the weather grew cooler and the elation of the passengers increased with each meter gained in altitude. Soon they broke into song. The tune sounded familiar.
BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON.
Jimmy Cliff’s classic hit from THE HARDER THEY COME.
As first I thought they were reggae fans, then remember that the Batak people were Christian. This was Sunday and they were returning from church services. I sang the chorus. The people smiled broadly. A man offered me a cigarette. The clove-soaked tobacco was sweet. I stood at the open back door. The passing air felt good on my skin.
We were leaving behind the coastal plains.
Into the mountains.
Soon ornately carved wooden houses replaced the concrete bungalows of the Muslims. My travel guide said that the peaked thatched roof symbolized the horns of a cow. A seated man offered a strip of meat. Pork.
He spoke a little English. I had a good Indonesian phrase book. We laughed at my bad Bahasa. At Lake Toba Karo suggested that I stay at his guest house.
That evening his friends organized a party with a pig roasted over an open fire. We drank beer, smoked ganga, and ate sizzling pork. The stars above our heads numbered in the billions. I was too drunk to count more than five.
“Babi bagus?” Karo hacked a chunk of meat off the pig with a field machete.
“Bagus bagus.” Bahasa Indonesian had an easy rule about superlative. Repeat the word twice. The pig was good good, but I was curious about something and asked, “Why are you people Christian instead of Muslim?”
“Only make Christian for Dutch. We have other gods too.” Karo raised the machete. Fat dripped into the fire.
“But why didn’t you become Muslims?” The first wave of Islamic traders had converted millions to Allah because to the simplicity of the religion. Somehow the Batak had resisted conversion and Karo explained, “Because we like pig too much, because it tastes like babi besar.”
“Yes, man is big pig. Bagus bagus.”
I had heard many men profess to homosexual proclivities, but never one to admit his devotion to the hunger that dared not speak its name. Cannibalism. The Asmat people had dined on Michael Rockefeller. The Donner party had survived a winter in the Sierra Nevada by eating their dead. Cannibalism was an abomination and Karo sensed my horror.” Not worry. No eat big pig now. Pig good now. Bagus bagus.”
Their refraining from eating a man seemed dubious, since the Batak gathered around the flickering flames stared in my direction as if I were the ultimate course. This could have been marijuana-induced paranoia, but I slipped away into the shadows and locked my door before falling asleep in my bed to the dreams of painted men licking pig-fat lips.
This evening didn’t put me off pig and I remained firmly opposed to joining the Islamic faith or any religion.
So sorry Osama. No embraces of Islam. I’ll take ‘or else’ forever, but I could use that $50,000,000.
Osama, Osama where art thou?
On the opposite side of the road was a American soldier in a similar but less serious state.
The soldier was conscious and alert and as first aid was given to both men, the platoon leader asked the injured soldier what had happened.
The soldier reported, "I was moving north along the highway here, and coming south was a heavily armed insurgent. We saw each other and both took cover in the ditches along the road.
I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein was a miserable, lowlife scum bag who got what he deserved and he yelled back that GW Bush is a coke-sniffing, Israeli-loving Jesus freak and that Barack Obama takes it up the ass from his wife.
So I said that Osama Bin Laden dresses and acts like a frigid, mean-spirited lesbian.
He retaliated by yelling, "Oh yeah? Well, so does Hillary Clinton!"
"And, there we were, in the middle of the road, shaking hands, when a bus hit us."
This joke was thanks to Nik Reiter of Tottemham Hotspurs Infamy.
Go you yids.
March 20, 2003
The Forces of the Willing Coalition crossed the Iraqi border. 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers. The motherfucker of all battles swiftly became a rout. Saddam's troops for the most part disappeared into the scenery. The Bush administration's shock and awe tactics had prevailed over the pessimism of the naysayers.
Almost two months later GW Bush landed on the aircraft carrier ABRAHAM LINCOLN to declare 'mission accomplished'.
Those two words blewback with the bite of a crack whore's pitbull.
Trillions of dollars. Hundreds of thousands dead. Democracy a joke.
GW Bush left the White House in defeat no matter how he wanted to paint the 'surge'.
Not as bad as Vietnam, but he left the mess for the newly-elected Barack Obama like LBJ in reverse and today the soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last combat troops, pulled out of Iraq. Proud of its survival in the desert.
No more Najaf 2003
They wanted out. Their commanders volunteered half the brigade for the symbolic exit.
None of their officers were fragged or shot by their own soldiers during that extended period.
300 miles from Bagdhad to the border.
No one KIA, WIA, or MIA.
A job well done in the sweltering summer heat.
50 Centigrade in the shade and there is no shade, because it's all been blown to shit.
And with good reason.
Saddam planned 9/11.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The flight from Bangkok via Taipei and Anchorage to JFK lasted almost 36 hours. I wish the trip had taken even longer, however we landed on time ending the longest Sunday of my life. The immigration officer asked how long I had been out of the country.
"5 Years." All of it in Thailand.
"Welcome back." He stamped my passport and I entered the USA without any idea when I would see my wife and daughter again. The 12:05AM Skytrain to Brooklyn carried few passengers, mostly airport workers coming off the late-shift. They spoke my language. The air felt cold for late-April. This had been my city for 27 years. It should have felt like home.
My friend, Andrew, had promised a soft landing. His Ft. Greene brownstone was comfortable. His wife was willing to accept a guest for longer than 3 days. His daughter was the same age as my daughter. I went to sleep dreaming on rice paddies.
Over the next week I fought off the lingering effects of international jet lag and slowly connected with friends. They bought me lunch and dinner. Several lent money. They had heard about my arrest in Thailand. I visited several galleries with my Jean-Michel Basquiat sketch. Now was not the time to sell anything. Everyone was broke.
The weather was warmer with the sun and I wandered over to the East Village. I almost rang the bell of my old apartment. Someone else lived there now and I walked down to the basketball courts of Tompkins Square Park. No one was playing hoop. My friend JD said the games died several months after my departure. No one in the park knew my name and I headed down to the F train stop at 1st Avenue.
It was early evening. The sun still had another hour to set. The light glazed everyone with unearthly silver. Couples were kissing on the sidewalks. I thought about my wife. Singles were prowling the bars in search of a hook-up. They were young. Life had gone on without me. One person is nothing to a city of millions, especially a ghost of the past.
I was about to enter the subway, when I spotted a familiar face. Thomas was talking on a cellphone. I decided to wait for him to turn my way, thinking maybe he wouldn't recognize me. Five years is a long time, although we went back over 20.
We weren't really friends in the beginning. He was a neighborhood real estate developer and I was a pseudo-intellectual seeking to stop the gentrification of the Lower east Side. Our conversations were more arguments and we almost came to blows over the sale of a 2nd Avenue variety store, whose closure he viewed as progress. I bought my underwear there.
Several years later at a Christmas dinner for Ornette Coleman, we pigpiled on a TV News producer extolling the networks’ sense of truth. Thomas said that all TV News was lies. I called it propaganda. We saw we weren't that far apart and met for drinks occasionally. I even introduced him to his girlfriend. I was too poor for her tastes.
Thomas clicked off the cellphone and slipped the mobile into his well-tailored suit. Times were tough in the USA, but he appeared prosperous. For a second he seemed to look through me, then his eyes lit with recognition.
"Good to see you. When did you return from Thailand?" He took off the imported sunglasses to examine me better. "You have changed. How long has it been?"
"Five years. How's Cara?" I was wondering if they were still together. Her olive-skinned beauty was genetically designed to last a lifetime and she possessed an Iberian love of laughter.
“As lovely and difficult as ever. Up in the country right now." Thomas had purchased a farmhouse on 250 acres along the Walkill River. His property was the second largest in New Paltz after a New Age commune’s pig farm. "She'd love to see you. Anyway I bought a building on North Moore Street and redid the top three floors. 7200 square-feet. I'm having a house-warming this Thursday. You should come. Is your family with you?"
"No." I explained they were staying behind without mentioning about my deportation. The story was over for the moment. I was trying to start a new chapter. I showed Thomas a few photos. He casually excused himself by tapping his platinum Pate-Philippe. "I've got to run, but here's my card. Bring a friend if you like."
"You want me to bring anything?"
"No, just don't be late or else you'll miss the lobster." Thomas turned just in time to avoid a collision with a beautiful brunette. They knew each other. He didn’t introduce me. They walked away, speaking in whispers. After several steps she started crying and laid her head on Thomas’ shoulder.
It looked bad. I couldn’t tell Cara about Thomas having a mistress without proof. I tailed them for several blocks. They entered Balthazaar, where the maitre de greeted Thomas like he was the new owner. I could have been jealous of his new loft, high-paying job, house in the country, fiancée, and the tears of his mistress, except I had learned long ago the envy of other people's triumphs was best suited to those who had lost all hope of achieving their own dreams and planned on attending the housewarming with a Maine native's appetite for lobster.
My host Andrew accompanied me across the river from Brooklyn. He was an architect. Maybe Thomas could give him work. We arrived for the party with a 19th Century iron. It was out of place in the loft on North Moore Street. A Clifford Still hung over the river rock fireplace. Tropical flower bouquets sprouted from the corners of the enormous living room. A liveried bartender tended a well-stocked bar, while wild salmon and thin-shell lobster overwhelmed a long table. The display of wealth was well-mannered as the whisper of Cara’s silver sheath gliding across the teakwood floor.
I introduced her to Andrew. She kissed me on both cheeks and fingered the diamond solitaire hanging from the platinum chain around her elegant neck. Thomas had bought the D-Flawless diamond for an engagement ring and she sensed my concern. “Don’t worry, we’re still engaged and better yet I’ll persuade Thomas to buy me something extra special at Christmas. But enough about diamonds, I want you to meet someone."<
“A friend?” I had offended hundreds of people during my twenty-five years in New York and prayed this introduction wasn't an attempted reconciliation.
“Only time will tell.”
I excused myself from Andrew. He saw two friends. Manhattan's upper crust was a small world. Cara led me across the room and unexpectedly introduced the brunette from the other day. "This is Tatiana. She works in film and I've been telling her all about you."
"Like what?” I feared the worst.
“Diving off a cliff at Lake Minnewaska.” Tatiana’s accent bespoke good schools.
"I didn't dive, I jumped." The crystalline waters had been irresistible.
"From hundred feet." My friends tended to exaggerate my stories and I smiled guiltily. "More like fifty feet, but it was high."
"Cara says me you're a writer." Tatiana’s clothes were worth more than I earned last year. I spieled out my latest novel’s outline, after which she arched a plucked eyebrow accusingly. "You’ve pitched that story before."
Before I could plead my innocence, Thomas joined us. "So you two have met."
Tatiana glared in fear Cara and Thomas might expect a liaison to birth from this encounter and departed to a gaggle of admirers. Winking conspiratorially Cara left for the kitchen and Thomas asked, "What did you think of Tatiana?"
"She is a goddess, but the other day I thought she was your mistress."
“Mistress?” He sneaked a peep into the kitchen, where his fiancée was instructing the help. "Cara would kill me, if she ever caught me with another woman."
"Why was she crying?"
"She bought her loft at the top of the curve and lost nearly 20% of value with the sub-prime crash. She's fucked like a lot of people."
"Guess we all can't be as lucky as you."
"We make our own luck. Like maybe you and her?”
Tatiana stood in the gentle light of the billiard room. Her devotees were obviously rich. "She looks like she’s hunting for a millionaire.
"You underestimate what you have to offer."
"Those men drive BMWs to the Hamptons. I'm a penniless failed writer, who sells diamonds for a living." I didn't even mention Mem as an obstacle. She was half a world away.
"When we first met, you didn't care anything about money!"
"That crazy poet might have lost a little of his pride.” I refrained from confessing my setback in Thailand. Desperation didn't sell well in this city.
"I haven't seen any twenty-year olds dive off the cliff at Lake Minnewaska."
"Dive sounds better."
"But it isn't the truth."
"People want to hear the truth as much as they want to tell it.” Thomas lifted his finger, as if to signal time-out. "You think I got where I am, because I told the truth?"
I examined the luxurious loft. "Hard work maybe?"
"Shit, hard work is overrated! Maybe that's not true, because you can’t grab the ring, if you’re not in position, but the business, the loft, and the country house all hinged on a lie told in the right place at the right time.” Thomas eyed the distance of the nearest guest. None of them needed to hear what he had to say and I was good at keeping secrets as long as I didn’t drink too much. “Almost sounds like a deal with the Devil.”
“And I would have taken his offer. Ten years ago I got into a tight spot. I owed the bank $650,000.”
"Ouch!" I was losing sleep over a five-figure debt incurred in Thailand.
"My only asset was that loft on 16th Street worth maybe $450,000. I told the bank I would sell it. They agreed to this deal, because my bankruptcy got them nothing. Unfortunately the best offer was for $650,000."
"Unfortunately?" I earned barely $30,000 last year. Everyone thought that was a fortune in Thailand and it was, until the police turned off my website.
"$650,000 settled my debt, but left me with nothing." He grabbed two champagne glasses from a passing waiter. "I had grown comfortable with the good life, so I decided to not tell the bank about the extra $200,000.”
"The lie?" We clinked glasses and sipped at the champagne. It was vintage.
"Not the important one.” Thomas wagged his finger impatiently. “My beautiful plan fell apart, because the loft board somehow informed the bank about the sale.”
"They demanded why I was giving them $450,000, when the sale was for $650,000." His eyes narrowed, as if he were trying to remember his exact words. "I said that a sale for $450,000 would lower the value of the other lofts in the building and never be approved by the board, so I lied about the $650,000.”
"And they believed you?"
"Yes, I had never lied to them before.” Thomas had done what he had to do. “That $200,000 bought a small property, which I flipped and soon was back in the money. I haven’t told anyone this. Not even Cara."
"So why did you tell me?" Too many grand families in America had sanitized the origins of their wealth, whether it be smuggling of opium, running whiskey or insider trading, for me to regard Thomas as a criminal.
"Just so you understand the true reward of lying!" He excused himself saying, "I have to see to my other guests."
My opportunities for ill-gained money were petty. No millionairess was marrying a pauper. Career women in New York had little patience for common men and I walked into the billiard room, where Andrew was speaking with several agitated men on how to best exact revenge from the perpetrators of banking crisis. A balding man in his fifties ventured with a grim grin, "We should confiscate their yachts."
"Who? The government. They'll only waste it on propping up Wall Street," a tall man in an exquisitely black Italian suit countered with what I deemed to be the voice of reason, until he added, "Better to let everyone fend for themselves."
"We do that and we'll have anarchy within a year." A third man with a frail goatee entered the fray. They had all been watching too much business news and Andrew asked me, "Can you come up with a solution?"
"Yes, have international write-off day. All debts canceled. Nothing belongs to any other than what they hold in their hands." I had written a script about this. HEAVEN ABOVE. It had been rejected by several studios. Now might be a better time for such a tale.
"Anarchy a solution. Things will be better." The tall man in the black suit tsked, as if the White House had granted him the concession for selling foreclosed houses in Florida to the Chinese.
"But not this year." Gas would hit $5 this summer. The wars would go on without surrender or victory. I was broke. "So in the meanwhile let's drink champagne. Te moritum salutem."
"Those who are about to die, salute you." Andrew had studied Latin too, but the rest of the men's faces betrayed they thought I was mad and I wandered away onto the terrace and stared at the few stars dotting soft black sky. None would have been visible, if the Trade Towers were standing.
Someone put on U2's NEW YORK and a lump choked my throat. I had been born in Boston, yet loved this city and cried like a baby, until the paean-turned-dirge was replaced by Joni Mitchell's CARRIE. Something about her high-pitched soprano dispelled my sorrow, though not as much as the sight of Tatiana in the doorway with two champagne glasses.
"I just got something caught in my eyes."
She had the decency to buy my lie. "There's a lot of that going around."
"And will for quite some time." She was regarding me, almost as if someone had shed a revealing light about me to which I wasn't privy. "I just hope this crisis isn't forever."
"It's not the end of the world." I told my story of giving blood with a madman on 9/11. "If the insane can recover, then so can the sane. It only takes more time."
"How long you know Thomas?" Her eyes were steely sapphires.
"We go back," I answered, not wanting to reveal my age.
"He thinks a lot of you." She obviously valued his opinion.
"It wasn't always that way. One time we got into an argument."
"Over a girl?"
"No, intrinsic value."
"Intrinsic value?" She frowned with disappointment.
"This old variety store in the East Village sold every necessity. The landlord upped the rent and it was replaced by a tee-shirt shop, which Thomas considered the natural course of economic evolution. I argued that no one had taken into consideration the intrinsic value of what the store gave the neighborhood. It got a little heated and people had to hold us back."
"Over a shop selling tee-shirts?"
"Yeah." Neither the tee-shirt shop nor a Blockbusters had succeeded in the space.
"You are sure it wasn’t over a woman?"
"No." My soul-kissing his ex-girlfriend had been a joke.
"Men are stupid." She sneered, as if her half of the species was the only worthy cause for a fight.
"We were never friends, until I introduced him to Cara. They were meant for each other like Adam and Eve or Romeo and Juliet. I guess that's was my intrinsic value."
"Everyone has some." Her shadowed profile belonged in a museum and I almost reached out to make sure she was flesh, but she moved to the right like a sun-mirrored mirage vanishing from a desert road, only she stopped a pace away and said, "I can't stay here any longer. You mind escorting me to a cab? It’s just a cab ride. Nothing else."
"I can deal with nothing else." Her beauty canceled out her heartlessness.
Her suitors couldn’t hide their puzzlement of her departure with me. I had no intention of solving the mystery, for it was never good to question the unexpected, especially if the end result was simply a handshake. I waved good-bye to Andrew. I had keys and this was going nowhere. After all I was a married man.
After the elevator door closed, Cara lovingly embraced Thomas. “I didn't suspect that they would leave together.”
"I sort of cheated."
"You tell her he was the heir to a family fortune?"
"No, I said that he had the biggest____" Thomas whispered the rest of his confession into Cara's ear. She laughed raucously and several of the guests turned their heads with knitted brows of disapproval. Cara couldn't care less about what these gringos thought. "And does he?"
"Maybe." Thomas cocked his head to the side, as if it might be the truth.
"Why would you tell such a lie?"
"Because he looked so lonely without his family and I never repaid him for making me a happy man."
"Really?" Like every woman Cara had heard too many lies to believe a single word said by any man.
"Of course, but I still don't understand why he introduced us. It wasn't like he and I were good friends."
Cara pinched his cheek. "I told him to.”
"Why?" Thomas asked with all ignorance a man can possess about a woman's wiles. Cara could have hurt his feeling, but she really did love him. "Because you had big feet. Big feet, big shoes. Big shoes____”
"I get the picture.” Thomas stared down at his shoes. They didn't seem big.
"Would it have mattered, if they weren't big?"
"Of course not, my love.” They didn’t have to say another word on the subject. Both of them were happy with the way they were and no one could blame them. After all theirs was a perfect world and that was no lie.