Friday, September 30, 2011

RENDEZVOUS by Claude LeLouch

Back in 1984 a french friend bought a fiendishly fast KZ 1100 cc bike. We were sitting smack at an African transvestite after-hour bar in Les Halles, le Savanne. Dawn was an hour away. The streets of Paris were empty. Erik dangled the keys in from of my face. “How you like to take the monster for a ride?” My survival instinct had been rendered to zero and I took his keys. The pre-dawn streets were slick with winter rain. As high as I was my death wish was low and I drove the bike underneath Les Halles maze of parking garages. It’s been in plenty of films since then. I got the bike up to 120 kph on a straight-away. The RPMs coasted at 3000. A twist of the wrist redlined the dial. 160 in a second. I let up on the gas. This morning was not the time to die in a stupid crash. I returned to the bar at a conservative 40 kph. I had been gone five minutes. Erik with a junkie smile, “Fast?” “Very.” On an August morning in 1978, French filmmaker Claude Lelouch mounted a gyro-stabilized camera to the bumper of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9. A friend, a professional Formula 1 racer, drove at breakneck speed through the heart of Paris to meet a beautiful blonde. The film was limited for technical reasons to 10 minutes; the course was from Porte Dauphine, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. No streets were closed, for Lelouch was unable to obtain a permit. The driver completed the course in about 9 minutes, reaching nearly 140 MPH in some stretches. The Benz was an automatic. Lelouch added the sound from a Ferrari to pump up the adrenalin. The driver ran about 12 red lights, nearly hit a few delivery trucks and pedestrians, and drove the wrong way up one-way streets without any hesitation. Upon showing the film in public for the first time, Lelouch was supposedly arrested for speeding, although critics have calculated that the top speed never broke 160. The same as me underneath Les Halles. The director has never revealed the identity of the driver, and the film went underground until a DVD release a few years ago. The title of the film is RENDEZVOUS. To see this short film please go to the following URL and hold onto your hair.

WRONG SIZE SHOES by Peter Nolan Smith

Twenty-five minutes after the stroke of Twelve New Year’s Eve 1982 a masked assassin shot dead the main investor a block away from the Continental Club on West 25th Street. The FBI and NYPD’s Internal Affairs investigating Viktor Malenski’s murder quickly drew lines between the dots. My ex-girlfriend was living with the dead man’s partner. My boss had been wearing a wire. I had paid bribes to cops in patrol cars. The scandal hit the papers. My name had been mentioned twice. Everyone thought I knew something. They were more right than wrong.

I avoided turning state’s witness thanks to a phone call from a Paris nightclub owner. He offered me a position of ‘physionomiste’. My inability to speak French was considered a plus. A ticket was waiting at the airport and I left New York without leaving a forwarding address. 

Paris was a relief. The nightclub on the Grand Boulevard was popular. I got free food, drinks, and the right to treat the French as rudely as necessary. They loved me for this rude behavior. It was the perfect job for an American in Paris. Any time I thought about returning to New York, I would call my friends. They said the Internal Affairs investigation was in full swing. The FBI has asked several people my whereabouts. Paris was home and I made the best of it. Young models from foreign lands and svelte dancers from the Folies Bergeres dragged me to flats throughout the various arrondissements. My troubles seemed 3000 miles away and I had no intention on settling down. 1982 became 1983 and 1984 arrived without any commitment to a conventional life. All that changed when a mischievous teenager with a froth of golden brown hair accompanied me to my hotel room in the Marais. I attributed our having sex five times in one night to her half-Puerto Rican/half Jewish blood. Candia didn’t leave the next morning and two days later the long-legged model/actress asked me to live with her in La Ruche, an artist commune. Staking my heart on the whims of a girl fifteen years my junior was dangerous, however the atelier in the distant 15th arrondissement overlooking the Lost and Found bureau of the Paris Taxi Commission was a welcome change from the Marais Hotel. Famous artists had lived on its ground. I started writing a novel about pornography in LA.

My friends. Albert and Serge, opened a dance club in the Bastille. I was the doorman. Black Jacques the bouncer. We were a good team. The Nouvelle Eve was popular with the young rich. Candia modeled in Germany, Italy, and Paris. We laughed, fought, made up, and went on vacations. Life was bliss. The summer was spent in love. Our lust tapered off in the fall. After an October trip to Milano, the phone rang at odd hours. If I answered, the caller hung up. Candia slept far from my touch. The art dealer Vonelli said that the happiness of a relationship can be measured by the distance between a man and woman in bed. Ours was a meter. There was someone else. I said nothing. She would have resented my accusations. The well-bred girls frequenting La Reve offered solace, yet I remained true to Candia, hoping one day she would respond with the same dedication.

Two days into 1986 Candia left Paris for a photo shoot in the Alps. Three days later she phoned to say her boss had invited the fashion team for a ski trip to Isola 2000. Having heard her opinion that skiers were too poor to vacation in the tropics, I bit my tongue and spent the weekend drinking heavier than normal. Candia called on Sunday to say she was staying an extra day. I envisioned her naked in bed with another man.

She hung up and I told myself this was just a fling. Candia would come back and everything would be like it was before, otherwise she would have never bothered with the call. On the day of her return I cleaned the apartment, bought flowers, chilled a bottle of champagne, and sprayed a perfume on the bed for a night of coaxing her heart into my arms. She arrived late. The shimmering silver fur coat accented cinnamon skin untouched by the alpine sun and my heart crumpled like a cheap beer can. The telephone rang and she snatched the receiver out of my hand. After several whispers Candia announced, "I have to meet a client at the Hotel Crillion for dinner."

Stopping her was impossible. "Go ahead." She left without mentioning what time she'd arrive home. I went to my nightclub. By 3AM I had drunk myself partially deaf and dumb. My partner stopped my dancing on a stool to Chic’s LE FREAK. "What’s wrong?"

"Nothing another whiskey-coke wouldn't cure." I shouted for a refill and Serge annulled my order. "Why don't you go home and sleep this off?"

"Because a house is not a home." I staggered to the entrance. A runway model from Baltimore accosted me with an obscene proposition. The redhead was beautiful. My girlfriend was probably making love to another man. The hotel across the street charged 200 francs for a room. I opted for the high moral ground. "Another night." "Another night?" She blinked in disbelief. No male in their right mind had ever refused her favors.

Leaving the club I weaved through the errant snowflakes to the Seine. The water lay like between the two banks like an oil spill. Candia’s betrayal shielded me from the cold. Nearing the 15th arrondisement, I realized while I might not forget this trespass, I could forgive her sin. I just needed a chance. 

On the Impasse Dantzig I lifted my eyes. The lights in the atelier were off. She might have stayed at the hotel. I prayed she was asleep in bed. She had chosen another course. Inside the door lay a pair of shiny Gucci loafers. They were not my size or style. A man’s moaning answered any question about their ownership. I charged into the bedroom with a wounded roar. A balding man lifted his arms too late to deflect my fist. He tumbled unconscious off the mattress.

The venom geysering through my veins transported me 300,000 years to a fire-lit cave. I seized Candia by the hair and threw her on the floor. The girl nursing my cold, the lover cuddling me after sex, the dinner companion laughing at my jokes were gone. “Why?”

“If you have to ask why, then you will never know the answer,” she spat with an unrecognizable hostility.

I envisioned a deadly blow, police, and trial. Her infidelity wasn’t worth a life sentence in the La Sante prison. I chucked her Mickey Mouse telephone through the window into the street and I scourged the naked couple from the apartment with the frayed wire.

Once alone I packed my clothes, journals, tape deck, camera, and photos. The man’s suit and shoes went out the broken window. The pettiness of the act felt good. I imagined police sirens in the distance and hurried from the apartment. On the nearest boulevard I hailed a passing taxi. The hour and my bag explained the story. The unshaven driver shrugged knowingly, “Un hotel?” “Ouais, le Hotel Louisiana." The stuttering images of my girlfriend’s infidelity accelerated my breathing and the driver asked, "Mssr., vous etes okay?"

"Ouais." It was the one word I could managed betwen the gasps for air. I lowered the window. The cold air failed to pluck the splintered razors from my lungs. A bottle of sleeping pills was lumpy in my coat. Overhead the sky glowered with a miserly gray dawn. The driver stopped at Rue Du Seine. I paid with a 100-franc note and said to keep the change. He drove away without a merci.

Waking the old woman at the hotel desk was almost a sin, except I had almost broken the 5th Commandment. I rang the bell. She blinked several times before recognizing my face from a previous stay. "Ah, Mssr., je imagine que vous voulez une chambre." "Une chambre pour un nuit." A room with a bed and bath fulfilled my physical needs.

"Chambre 312." She passed over a brass key and pointed to the elevator.

The room was clean. The bed soft.  I dropped two sleeping pills and saved the rest for a more desperate occasion. Sleep collapsed on me as heavily as a tombstone. Five hours later I woke more from a coma than sleep. My first thought resurrected Candia’s infidelity.

She had brought back her lover on purpose. My hands mimicked the act of strangulation. Thin air was no replacement for a seventeen year-old’s neck. French court had never convicted a man of a crime de passion, but I was only a murderer in my most grievous thoughts.

I tore up the photos of Candia naked in the changing cabinets of the Piscine Deligny, singing in Clermont-Fernand, and visiting her grandmother in Vichy. The shreds built a pyre of dead love in the hotel ashtray. I set them on fire. The flames wrinkled her face and body. An acrid fume corkscrewed into my nose. Fearing Candia's soul had invaded my body, I flushed the flaming photos down the toilet, then left the hotel.

I needed a drink and the icy wind hurried me down the Blvd. St. Germain to the Cafe le Flore. No one was braving the sidewalk tables. I sat on a chair behind a glass wall. The waiter took my order of a cafe au lait, croissant, and a single shot of Calvados and disappeared inside. Waiting for my breakfast, I viewed each passing couple with a jealousy bordering on hatred. Three Calvados numbed my disapproval, the wet wind, and my girlfriend’s betrayal.

After the fifth Calva I barely noticed my partner sit beside me.

Serge looked like he had just woke up. "I've been looking for you."

"Why?" Rubbing my face was an ineffective method of erasing the effects of the alcohol.

"I called your house this morning and spoke with Candia." Serge lit a cigarette and signaled to the waiter to bring us another round.

"More like my girlfiend." Dropping an 'r' from friend was lost on the Frenchman. "What the bitch say for herself?"

"She is very worried about you." My partner’s eyes pursued two schoolgirls.

I blew into my hands. "If she cared about me, why she bring home that man?"

"You Americans treat women as men. They are not. They are women and we have to protect the double standard, otherwise the battle between man and woman will be lost." Serge waved to a model on her way to a casting call. "You allowed her to have affairs and she concluded you did not care about her."

"Not care? I almost killed her." My fists clenched white.

"C'est vrai, and now she appreciates you care about her. A woman is a horse. You hold the reins tight and the horse will throw you. Too loose and she will runaway.” His eyes beamed with macho pride. "You showed her that you are a real man."

"That's insane." My parents had reared me to not hit a woman.

Serge inhaled deeply on his cigarette. "The caveman drags a woman by the hair to the cave. They have a little corps-a-corps. She stays with him. Not the man who lets her have an affair with another caveman."

The only examples of a caveman dragging a woman by her hair had not painted in Neolithic caves, but stretched in TV cartoons, however man's dominance over woman needed no historical anchor for its machismo in France. "This is the almost the 21st Century.”

“Eh, alors, even more reason you must establish a ‘rapport de force’." Serge stubbed out his cigarette. “Yell at her, hit her, and make love. She expects you to act like a man, not a mouse. If you let this wound bleed, you will be no good for the next woman you meet and believe me you will always have another woman. A plus tard."

To prove his point Serge stalked a fashionably attired woman in her thirties. Within a few paces she rewarded his boldness with a smile.
He was right and I shambled to the boulevard, foreseeing my kicking in the door, only every taxi was occupied by other couples. The chances of winning back Candia smoldered in the icy drizzle and I returned to the hotel room.

I was alone. I would never love again. I sat on the bed. Twenty sleeping pills would provide an eternal blanket. My head fell into my hands and I spotted a photo on the floor. It had been taken almost twenty years ago.

My grandmother sat on the porch of her house in Westbrook, Maine. A simple string of pearl circled her neck. A cameo was pinned to her black dress. The stacks of the SD Warren paper mill rose over the neighbor's roof. I could smell the sulfurous stench from the mill with my eyes closed.

Maine was calling. People there spoke with my accent. My grandmother made the world’s best beef stew. I’d sleep in a four-poster bed under warm covers. My bank account was full of francs. I’d skate on Watchic Pond and sled down Blackstrap Hill.

I called the nightclub and told Serge I was leaving town for a few days, then bought a one-way ticket to America from a travel agency on the Boulevard St. Germain. A taxi got me to Charles de Gaulle Aeroport with an hour to spare. The change in my pocket weighed a ton and I fought the urge to phone Candia. We had nothing to say. Finally the ground staff called for the passengers to board and I left Paris, knowing I was headed for the USA. The 747 fought the winter headwinds across the Atlantic and made landfall over the coastline of Maine. I peered through the plane's porthole. Watchic Pond was an icy white dot beneath the wing and I followed the white snake of the Presumpscot River to the SD Warren Mill in Westbrook. I took out the picture of my grandmother and turned over the yellowing photo to check the date.

The picture had been taken on the 4th of July of 1965.

I remembered the day minute for minute.

My brother and I were vacationing with my grandmother. We went to the lake for the weekend and came back to Westbrook on the 4th. I went into the drugstore to buy a comic book. The counter girl asked me to walk her home. I almost lost my virginity along the Presumpscot River. The girl laughed at my fear and i ran back to my grandmother's house. She had explained the birds and bees as she might to a grown man and we watched THE SEVEN SAMURAI that night. Neither of us said anything to my older brother.

I landed at JFK and stepped out of the terminal. People wore snow parkas, hats, and scarves for survival. I hadn't crossed the Atlantic to appreciate the Tri-State weather and boarded the A-train to Penn Station, where I rode the Northeast Unlimited to Boston, arriving at Route 128 near Eleven O'clock. A taxi drove to my parents' house. They both asked if everything was all right. I lied about Candia and said I wanted to see my grandmother. They exchanged a secretive glance and my father announced, "Your grandmother is in a nursing home on the North Shore near your aunt."

"Why didn't anyone tell me?"

“Your grandmother didn't want you to worry being so far away." My father was clearly worried about his mother. This was more than a cold or flu.

"Can I visit her?" I planned to free her from this old age prison.

"We'll go tomorrow. She's weak, so we can only stay for a short time."

"That's all right. I still want to see her." I spoke with my parents for a few minutes. We were tired and bid each other goodnight. I went upstairs to my bedroom. The airplane models, books, pictures, and trophies belonged to a stranger. I slept in the musty cellar. In the morning my father and I went to breakfast. He had divined the state of affairs in Paris. "You should come back to Boston and settle down with a nice Catholic girl."

It was easy for him to say. My father had married the woman he loved, raised six children, and worked for the same company thirty years. "I'll keep that in mind."

"How many more years you intend on messing around?"

"I don't know." I verged closer to tears.

"I'd expect 'I don't know' from a kid, not a thirty-two year-old man. Life goes fast. I’d hate for you to find yourself ten years from now, thinking it was a waste." My father wasn't the type of man to witness his son’s breakdown and paid the bill at the cash register. As we walked to his car, I asked, "How's grandmother?"

"She has cancer."

"How bad?"

"Terminal. She had a lump and let it go."

“She must have known it would kill her.” My grandmother had been a nurse.

“Probably.” He didn’t understand her neglect either.

The full extent of my grandmother’s condition had to wait until the nursing home. She was resting on a bed facing a window. Her breathing was pained. A morphine tube was attached to her vein. While she had lost weight, her face was a mirror of the woman in the photo sitting on the porch. She smiled with a drugged gentleness. "There’s a sight for sore eyes."

My father bent to kiss his mother and I held her frail hand. They spoke for several minutes and he said, "I have to speak with the nurses."

Once he left the room, my grandmother patted my face. "How's Paris?"

Her time was measured in days, not months. "Paris is Paris."

"You forget I met your grandfather in Paris during the Great War. We were young and in love, so don’t tell me Paris is Paris." Her opiated eyes delved deeper into me. “You can tell me your problem. It might be one of your last chances for my help.

"Don't say that."

"It's the truth, of course the doctors say I'll live to ninety.”

“They do?” I remembered my mother lying the night of her mother’s death. She had said it was to soothe my Irish grandmother and Nana had accepted the lie to alleviate my mother’s sorrow.

“They lied to me. The end is closer than anyone says." She brushed her hand against my face, the skin smelling of lavender. "Let me guess. Your romance in Paris has ended."

“Romeo has no Juliette.” I blurted out the entire story. At the end my grandmother said, "Hitting a woman is wrong no matter if she did something wrong."

"I didn’t hit her.”

“You came close.”

“It’s not the same thing.” The madness in my blood was only defensible in a French court and my grandmother frowned through a mask of pain.

"What did you expect from such a young girl anyway?"

"She said she loved me."

"Maybe she did in her own way." My grandmother coughed and I stood to fetch the nurse. She said, "Not yet. Please give me a glass of water."

I gave her a few sips and she closed her eyes. I worried she might not wake up, but after several seconds the agate green orbs flashed with life. "It's been thirty years, since your grandfather passed away, but I can remember the first days we met and our years together as man and wife.”

“Maybe I’ll never have that.”

“Let me tell you a story. You remember my friend, Marie."

“She’s still alive?" Marie chain-smoked and drank two bottle of rose wine daily. She was hard to forget.

“Marie will outlive me. Guess her drinking was her fountain of youth.”

"You're not gone yet." I wished my caresses might cure her.

"It's only a matter of time, anyway Marie had been a beautiful woman. She married young, acceding to her father’s wishes. Her husband wasn't capable of giving her romantic love, but people stayed together those days because it was the thing to do. After the Great War Marie accompanied her husband to Germany. One trip she met a sea captain and fell in love. This time for real. Of course it was unrealistic. She was married and the war came. He served as a U-boat commander. When Marie heard he was missing in the Atlantic, she went to pieces and began drinking. Her husband tolerated her behavior. Guess he loved her in his own way. Anyway he passed away a year ago, making Marie a free woman."

Fearing she was ranting from the drugs, I fidgeted on the chair and she admonished me, "That is the problem with you young people. Always in a hurry for the ending, so you miss the good parts."

"Sorry, grandmother."

"You should be. Anyway Marie was sitting in her house and the doorbell rang. She opened the door to this old gentleman. Marie mistook him for a friend of her husband. He had a German accent. Only one man in her life did. It was her sea captain. He hadn't died during the war. He had married his childhood sweetheart. After her death he sought out Marie to tell her that his only desire was to spend the rest of his life with her. And they are living happily ever after. So as sad as you are, one day you’ll love again. Now give me a kiss and fetch that nurse."

I kissed her forehead and brought a nurse to the room. My father said it was time to go and in the parking lot he read the sadness piled atop whatever had happened in Paris. He had to say something. “Your grandmother wouldn’t like you hurt.”

“I know.” She would want me to live in order for her to exist in the future.

"She loves you very much."

Marblehead Harbor was mirror flat. I had sailed it with my grandmother in my uncle’s little Sunfish. Soon she would only exist in memories of Maine.

“She loved you too.”

"How about a plate of fried clams?" He opened his door.

"Sounds good to me." Winter wasn't the best season for fried clams and my father's offer wasn't a soothing hand on my brow, however fried clams were a good remedy to the sight of another man’s shoes, especially if the Barnacle in Marblehead was open for lunch.

My grandmother was right.

One day I was going to love again and until that day I would have to live like that moment might be the next or else it would pass me by and I was too young to wait as long as Marie to find love again. When was only a question of time.

I Still Like Ike

Eisenhower speaks from the grave with grace. A great American president. He ended the Korean War, reduce federal deficits, opposed Israel in the Suez Canal, rejected helping the French suppress the Vietnamese, secretly stopped the proto-fascist Joe McCarthy, built the Interstate system, enforce desegregation of schools, and had a decent golf game. He was Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, despite never having commanded more than a battalion prior to Pearl Harbor. From Wikipedia On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised Address to the Nation from the Oval Office.[80] In his farewell speech to the nation, Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold War and role of the U.S. armed forces. He described the Cold War saying: "We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "...we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex." No one ever mentioned his affairs. Like Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ, Ike hailed from Kansas. He never had to click his heels to get home.

FEATHERS by Bryan Le Boeuf

The Louisiana artist Bryan LeBoeuf has completed a new series of paintings. I've appreciated his realist style since walking into his Williamsburg studio in 2002. HIs painting of THE MOSH PIT captured my admiration and his unswerving dedication to this representative genre has attained new heights with his new offerings. I never say to myself, as I do about an abstract painting. "I could do that." And his paintings speak a narrative, although sometimes not the one he had intended. FEATHERS reminded me of a bloody tale of love between two men. Back in the last century new heights a gay friend of mine was having a late-night fight with his lover. Something to do with who was on top and who was the bottom. Gerald was a little queenie and his boyfriend was rough trade. Gerald got the worst of punishment. A broken nose and blood streaming down his chest. A pillow had been shredded and the feathers stuck to his body. The boyfriend threw him out of the apartment and Gerald ran outside to shout expletives from the sidewalk. A police car rolled up to the curb and the window of the cruiser rolled down. Gerald turned to the cops and said, "What? You've never seen a naked man in a pillow fight before?" The neighborhood was the West Village. It had been gay forever. The cops looked at each other and drove off to the docks. Tranny hookers were easier to deal with than a naked queer covering in feathers. I know I'm not supposed to say 'queer'. But I'm old school and so is Gerald, even if he does lie about his age. To see more of Bryan's work please go to the following URL

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ENTREZ NOUS by Peter Nolan Smith

January 1983 was a good month to get out of New York. The NYPD wanted to interrogate me about a murder and police corruption at the Continental Club on West 25th Street. The case was a year old. The killer’s trail had gone cold. A friend from Paris called to offer a nightclub job. I booked an Air France flight that very day. Benji gave me a ride to JFK. The Jamaican hulk and I had been partners at the door of the Continental. Internal Affairs weren’t interested in his testimony. His Trenchtown heritage excluded him from the ranks of ‘infamers’. “Them seh evil.” Benji wished me luck. “Don’t come back soon, maan.” New York wasn't my town for the moment. “Thanks for the warning.” I had seen a dead man in the snow. An hour later I was on a 747. Flight time to Paris 6 hours. I arrived at dawn. I handed the unshaven taxi driver the address. He glanced over his shoulder. “Le Bains-Douches est ferme.” “No problem.” I adopted Pepe Le Phew’s accent. The driver shrugged and turned on the meter. Paris was like the postcards. The ride to Les Halles cost around 250 francs. The winer sun filled the Boulevard Sebastopol. Pedestrians wore light coats. Spring felt a few weeks away. I fought to keep from asking, “Ou est le bibliotechque?” My grammar school French had been improved by a six-month stay in 1982. This was my second time to the City of Light. The driver took the point A to B route to the Bains-Douches and 30 minutes after leaving the super-modern Charles De Gaulle Aeroport the taxi stopped on a small street close to the Centre Pompidou. BAINS-DOUCHES was carved into stone above the entrance of 7 Rue du Bourg l’Abbe. I grabbed my bag and tipped the driver 10 francs. He made a noise like a snake fart and drove around the corner. I climbed the stairs and pushed open the heavy glass and wood door. The restaurant was ready for the night. Tables set with forks, knives, spoons, and glasses atop paper sheets. The mustached cook was chopping vegetables. The thin Italian’s name was Tony. He lifted his head in greeting, as if he had been expecting me, then returned to his task. The boyishly young owner was counting money in the tiny office. Records were stacked on the floor and posters proclaimed concerts. The bands were punk, soul, funk, African, French, New Wave, and electronic. Fabrice noticed my admiration and smiled like he had found a long-lost toy boat. “Ah, l’American.” He hadn’t used the pejorative ‘Amerlot. I had never heard worse at the door of Le Rex. “C’est moi.” The previous winter a counter-culture magazine had hired me to be the physionomiste of its eclectic boite de nuit on the Grand Boulevard. The publisher had introduced Fabrice and his rounder partner as VIP. I treated them like movie stars. I had been surprised and relieved by his telephone call. No one in Paris knew anything about the Continental. “Do you speak French?” “Un peu.” My French dated back to grammar school outside of Boston. My accent wasn’t going anywhere. “I learned from my girlfriend.” “Le dictionaire couchant. No place better to learn a language than in bed.” We will speak English.” Fabrice swiftly explained the job. My schedule was Tuesday through Saturday. The club opened early. My shift started at 9. The doors closed at 4. The bar shut when no one was buying a drink. The pay was 600 francs a night. A little better than $100. He said nothing about my difficulty with the NYPD. “Sounds good.” “You get a meal a night, plus your drinks for free.” “Even better.” As happy as I was to be out of New York, I was honor bound to tell Fabrice my shortcomings. “I am a total stranger to French culture.” “Who are the best singers in France?” He asked without hesitation. “Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy.” I loved the former’s concept LP BALLADE OF MELODIE NELSON and any man not in love with the original Yeh-Yeh Girl failed my cool test. “Bien, very 60s. What about movies?” “Gerard Depardieu.” The stocky actor had been riveting in Bertrand Blier’s GOING PLACES along with Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou, but stole the show in Barbet Schroder’s exploration of sadism MAITRESSE. That movie inspired my choice for an actress. “Catherine Denevue in BELLE DU JOUR.” “Bunuel’s ode to humiliation. Cruelty is a good trait for a physionomiste.” He said the term for someone who judges by appearance with mixture of wonder and derision. Friends considered us psychic. Our enemies i.e. those people refused entry used harsh expletives to describe our position. “It is not a problem that you don’t know anyone.” “Is there a list?” Most clubs had regulars. “Ouais.” Fabrice held up a sheet of paper with names scribbled in ink. He tore the list into shreds. “Now non. My friends, le clientele have been treated like le petite princes et princesses. Time for to go to le re-education camp. Le Bains-Douches is the best club in Paris. I don’t count Le Palace. That is a nightclub. The people who come here want to come here. It is their home.” “So I should ask the bouncers for help?” “Pas de tout.” He shook his head, as he had a sudden fever. Owners had a low opinion of the muscle, until they were the only solution to a problem. “Les videurs let in their friends. Bums and clouchards. Les voyos. This is a purge. You worked Studio 54, n’est pas?” “Yes.” I had managed the faded glory of the velvet ropes for one month after it had been sold by the founders. They had been sent to prison for tax evasion. The reincarnation was dead from night one. The new owner had bought the legendary club, because he had been refused entry. Money was no guarantee of success in discos. I had nothing to gain by elaborating on the truth.” “How shall I treat everyone?” “Like shit.” Fabrice gave a good laugh like he was watching Jerry Lewis movie. No Americans understood the froggies’ appreciation of Dean Martin’s ex-partner. My old girlfriend rom Aix-En-Provence said it was because the subtitles in French were funnier than the American dialogue. I had tested her theory. THE NUTTY PROFESSOR was kooky, but unfunny in either language. “Like shit?” I wasn’t sure if I heard him right. Treating the French like shit was a dream job for most Americans. We hated the garlic-eaters for some reason. Probably because they had suckered us into two wars and Charles De Gaulle had demanded for our troops to leave the country. President LBJ had responded to this insult by asking if that meant the 60,000 GIs buried on French soil. Things got worse with Vietnam. There was no need to mentioned Franco-American politics this early in the morning. It was best to stick to basics.” “Are you sure?” Somehow the word ‘merde’ stuck in my mind. The scatological term certainly hadn’t come from the nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills. They never went to the bathroom. “Ouais, the French like the rapport de force. You treat them like shit and they will love you.” Fabrice was tired of his crowd. His friends expected everything for free. Drinks, entry, everything. A stranger would tax ‘ses amis’ to the bone. ‘Sounds a little sadistic to me.” My cousin Sherri had been a dominatrix in New York. I had gone to her show at the Belle Du Jour. Bunuel’s film crossed oceans. “Le Marquis was French. The Masochism comes from the Ukraine.” “I always thought Sacher-Masoch was German.” “Spanish and Ukrainian, but enough history. You start tomorrow night?” It was a combined question and order. “Ouais.” I mimicked the elongated ‘qui’. “Where are you staying?” “There’s a hotel in the Marais.” The Hotel Des Ecouffes in the Jewish Quarter. It was a ten minute walk from the Bains-Douches. The top floor had a room with a view of Notre-Dame. 500 francs a week with a petite dejeuner. “Bien. Tout est regulee. Ce soir viens pour manger avec moi et mes amis.” It was an invitation to the best table at the club. That evening I sat with models, musicians, and artists. Keith Richard sat two away from me. He looked straight. Jack Nicholson dragged the Rolling Stone to the downstairs dance floor. Fabrice was equally unimpressed with their fame and the covergirls’ look. Everyone wanted to fuck Claudine. Male and female. Her beauty acted as a magnet for my eyes. I excused myself from the table and introduced myself to the two videurs. Neither was a giant, but the warped knuckles and broken noses testified to their toughness. They refused no one entrance. I stopped three men in sneakers. “Pas ce soir.” “Pour quoi?” “Les tennis.” I pointed to their trainers. “Les Bains-Douches isn’t a gym.” They snarled under their breath and the bouncers smiled with amusement. It hadn’t taken me long to make enemies. Fabrice stood at the entrance to the restaurant, nodding with an approval. I spent the rest of the night acting like I had come from the stars to stand watch over the door to heaven. My friends from the Rex smiled with the pleasure of free admission. Scores of people were befuddled by an American at the door of Les Bains-Douches. They asked for my predecessor. 

“Elle est en retrait.” Farida had gone to a better world. Modeling for Azzedine Alaia. My French was improving with every encounter. “Va te faire foutre.” “Vieux cochon!” “Ras de Ped.” That was Verlain for pederast. The Francoswears rolled off my skin. I had better things to do. Beautiful women were granted immediate entry. Interesting faces were given carte blanche. I call it a night early and Fabrice hugged me with genuine affection and slipped me 600 francs in 100-franc notes. They were red. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” That expression escaped my French. “One question. Why did you hire me?” “You came recommended by the owner of that magazine.” “Even though I was American.” “Ouais, have a good night’s sleep.” I walked back to the Marais through narrow streets. Few people were awake at his hour. Clouchards slept on heating vents. The night air was chilly. I stuck a hundred-franc note into the gnarled mitt of a wine-drunk bum. Hand-outs were good luck. I reached my hotel and climbed the stairs to the top floor. The apartments across the street seemed within arm’s reach. This was not the East Village. With the windows open Paris spread west to a vague horizon speared by the Eiffel Tower. I laid on the bed with the covers pulled up to my neck. I fell into a dreamless sleep. The lights of Paris were extinguished by dawn. That first night had been a one-off. The bouncers turned against me. Their friends shouted threats. I tossed a famous fashion designer out of the restaurant for insulting a waitress. His expulsion made the morning papers. The crowd of the refused grew before the door in imitation of the hordes awaiting a helicopter lift from the US embassy in Saigon 1975. The anger was simmering to a boil. The videurs abdicated their responsibility and spent most of the night playing billiards. They said nothing to me throughout the night. My presence was an aberration and their every effort was aimed at hastening my departure. I was on my own every minute of the night, except for whenever a young black or Arab man tried to enter the club. The two of them formed a wall. Their friends from the billiard hall provided back up. “Pas ce soir.” Les Bains-Douches had a color line as pronounced as the back of the bus in Mississippi pre-1965. I came from Boston. Racism was that city’s second nature. Paris was not white. People of color were everywhere. The Rex prided itself in equality, but not the videurs at the Bains-Douches. Every night a small group of young blacks tried the door. Every night the videurs enforced the line. “Kaffir.” “Noir.” “Negre.” The last word was used on a tall handsome young black man. His face trembled with repressed violence. Negre sounded to close to nigger to be polite language. He stepped away from the door and the videurs laughed with racial pride. I coughed out loud. They turned their heads with a dismissive smirk on their faces. I lifted a finger and said, “Fuck you, you peckerwoods.” They were too French to understand a Delta insult and I gave them the finger. I had not left New York to join the KKK a la Francaise and walked out through the crowd in front of Les Bains-Douches. The young black man was leaning against the wall with several friends. They looked like thugs and probably spent the day searching for an easy score. Each of them stood erect at my approach. “Tu.” I pointed to the young man. He was tall as an NFL linebacker and handsome as Rock Hudson. His friends regarded him as their leader. His election meant he had brains. “T-t-t-tu v-v-v-veux moi.” His stutter was worse than mine. “What’s your name?” The word for stutter in French was ‘begayer’. In Latin it was ‘alalia syllabaris’. I had studied the dead language in high school. “J-a-a-a-cques.” His knuckles were scarred with calluses. “You want a job?” “Job?” He spoke more English than most French. “Le boulot.” I doubted that he had ever been offered a job. Every city had its Bed-Stuy. “Ouais.” “One minute. Wait here.” I returned to the door. The bouncers were outside. I pushed my way through them and went up to office. Fabrice was in the office counting money. “Ouais.” “We have a small problem.” The previous doorperson had been from Algeria. She had been kind to Arabs. It was time to push the door open for others. “Ouais.” “Les videurs won’t let in any blacks. The DJ plays Michael Jackson.I see plenty of cool ones. I want to hire one to work with me.” “Who?” “Come with me.” From the steps I pointed out Jacques. “He’s big and good-looking. The girls will love him and you want the place to change. He knows the street.” “How can you tell he isn’t a problem? He comes from Bidonville.” Fabrice’s accusation of slum origins was on the money. “Because I will train him.” “This is your responsibility.” Fabrice stared me in the eyes. This was one of the changes he hadn’t mentioned in our talk. We were of the same mind. “400 francs a night. Not a sou more.” Fabrice entered the club. His girlfriend was waiting upstairs at their table. She never looked my way. It was better that way. “Jacques.” I called out to the young man. He shuffled nervously to the door. “You have a job.” “Comme ca?” Doubt mixed with apprehension, as he looked over my shoulder. “Ne quittez pas.” I wasn’t worried about the bouncers. Another body meant more time to play billiards. “You go to school?” “La Sante.” The 19th century prison was a testament to the failure of incarceration. Two friends from the Rex were serving time there for drugs. They were not innocent. “What for?” Theft was the only crime to which he admitted to me. “D’accord, but from now on there will be no stealing. You got a job. Some of your friends might get jobs. You want to work or go back to prison?” I was acting like the Great White Hope, but I was no Gerry Cooney. “I don’t want to go to prison again.” He gave me a short life history. His family was from Martinique. They were pure Africa. Jacques was black as the Ace of Spades. “I don’t want to work either. What happened to the stutter?” “I only ‘begaye’ with white people.” “And I’m not white.” “No, you are very white, Mr. Johnson.” “Mr. Johnson?” Johnson was slang. I didn’t explain to Jacques the meaning. “Thanks, I like the name. Keep your friends in line.” “Les Buffaloes.” He waved for his friends to join him. We exchanged the French version of the black pride handshake. It was obvious that they took each others’ backs. I liked that kind of loyalty. “W-w-w-why are you doing this?” Jacques knew no white people other than the police. Les Flics were the enemy for a young mec from the project beyond the Champs-Elysees. “Because.” Jacques was 6-3. If anyone was going to shoot at me, I could duck behind him. Paris was a lot more dangerous than New York. I needed someone who owed me. Jacques was it. “I don’t know white people.” His voice snitched out his fear of my race. “Don’t worry about that.” I was probably the only white person who had spoken to Jacques other than his teachers or the police. “They’re no different from me or you. “We all have to piss in the morning.” It took him a long time to believe that lie, mostly because it wasn’t the truth. “And what about mes pots?” His friends were thieves, villains, and fighters. A welcome addition to the nightlife of Paris. “They’re okay until they’re not okay.” We were a good team. Poivre et Sel. Black and White. I was no Abraham Lincoln and he was no Uncle Tom. The model girls loved him. I got all the actresses. He liked fat not skinny. The models never understood this. I never explained his preference for a woman with a big butt. It was a black thing. Les Amis ne jamais cafter. I think that means ‘friends never snitch’. Not now. Not then. Not never. Just the way it is.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do Svidaniya AK47

The AK-47 or Kalash was the assault rifle of choice for insurgents, rebels, revolutionaries, and armed forces since its introduction by the Soviet Army in 1946 to maximize close combat firepower. It was light, easy to operate in wide variety of conditions, and packed a punch. A silhouette graced the flag of the Red Army Faction. It was that popular, although considered the first choice of terrorists, because of its accessibility. "Remember one man's terrorists is another man's freedom fighter, so we all sort of think, oh boy, we've got a little bit of Che Guevara in us. And this accounts for the popularity of the (AK 47) weapon. Plus I think that in the United States it's considered counterculture, which is always something that citizens in this country kind of like ... It's kind of sticking a finger in the eye of the man, if you will." Larry Kahaner, author of AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War Not any more.  Yesterday Russian army has announced the cessation of orders for the AK47, while awaiting a better weapon. An end of an era. Only for the Russkis, because there are enough AK-47s around to last till 2012. We'll need them for the apocalypse.

SEX MACHINE / Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone launched funky soul in the late 60s with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and Parliament-Funkadelic. The group hit mega-gold with their 4th LP, STAND and its # 1 hit everyday people. Success was no a friend to Sly. His cocaine habit infected the other band members. He was a no-show at many concerts and passed out at others. Audiences rioted in response and Sly and the Stone had earned a reputation for trouble, but on July 7, 1974 the group headlined an outdoor show at Boston’s Franklin Park. 
Richard Pryor opened the day to be followed by Donald Byrd and the Blackbirds, The Hues Corporation, and Tower of Power. 20,000 fans had paid $5.50 to benefit the Elma Lewis School of Arts. Few expected Sly to perform that evening. He had missed a third of his concerts in 1971. My friend AK attended the concert and to this day says that Sly’s performance was unforgettable. I missed the show, because I was working in Cape Ann as a waiter in a gay restaurant over the town line from Gloucester. It was a dry bar. Customers had to bring their own bottles. The owner fed the staff liver and left-overs. I was fired later in the month for eating a an off-limit dessert. I can still taste that pecan pie. Sly’s musical effort dropped down the Billboard charts, although songs from STAND were a mainstay of 60s rock revival radio stations. By the 80s he had vanished from the scene. In 2006 Sly appeared at the Grammy Awards to play I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER. At the end of the song, the once-time superstar walked off the stage and drove off on his motorcycle. Future outings across the world amplified the singer’s embrace of failure. Gone were the money, the mansions, the cars, and the acclaim. Sly was back in the news with the media excoriating his fall from grace. Sly Stone lives in a van. His neighborhood is Crenshaw in LA. Friends support this life style. He maintains that he is happy. 
Straight too. The newspapers reported his present state with joy. Those that can't love nothing better than to see a high-flyer descend from heaven, but only if they come from the masses. CBS and Fox News aren't waiting for the collapse of the banks. They love the rich. But not the nigger rich. They get what they deserve. Da money come and da money go. Sly was no exception, but I'm sure he had a good time. All I wanted now is for him to have a happy ending, because listening to SEX MACHINE is a gas. To hear Sly and the Family Stone's SEX MACHINE Please go to the following URL

Yee-Hah Texas

Last year Texas executed 18 men. Their punishment was ordered by the state for the crimes of murder. 2011 is on track to beat that number. The 11th man to lay his body on the injection cross had heinously murdered a black man in 1998 by dragging their victim behind his Ford pick-up truck. A rope had tied the black man's feet together and the killers slung a chain through the knot, so they could drag their catch to the nearest black church.This lynching had been carried out by Lawrence Russell Brewer and two friends to inform their community that the KKK was back in town. Jasper, Texas was founded in 1824. The main industry in the Deep East town has been lumber. In 1998 the population was split between black and white. It was not a rich town, but Jasper not Philadelphia, Mississippi and 1998 was not 1964 when the Klan killed 3 civil rights workers. Brewer and his partners were arrested for hate crime and murder. Brewer rightfully received the death sentence, as one of his partner's in crime. The third man got life. He must have gone state's witness. Brewer received his punishment this week. His last meal was a big one. Two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream, and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. He declared that he wasn't hungry and went to his death without taking a single bite. His loss of appetite was not uncommon. The state prison chaplain said many men decline to eat their last meal. "Very few - I'd say less then 10% - ate all that we brought to them." A state senator was appalled by this murderer getting such a feast and called for the abolition of the an ancient tradition dating back to the Greeks and Romans. The director of Texas prisons was in the same mind. Classics be damned. The last meal will now be the same as any other inmate on death row at Livingston. Last year the condemned went on strike, because of bad food in their unit. One way or the other Texas will kill the dead men walking. It's the law and Rick Perry is governor. His favorite food is popcorn. Yee-Hah Texas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The World on East 2nd Street hosted a screening of the Tyson-Spinks fight on June 27, 1988. The nightclubs's door was handled by the tough guy mooks hired by the Bensonhurst fat boys hosting the event. The fee for televising the fight was $20,000. The Brooklyn boys wanted $25 a head. The NYFD occupancy limit for the old Polish meeting hall was 800. The gate had clicked 1200 entries. Another couple of hundred had been cuffed for free by the owner, Arthur Weinstein. He was my friend.

"Arthur, that's freebies 351 and 352." A fat boy whined as Scottie Taylor and I entered the club. His muscles looked ready for murder.

"Good thing you don't have to count on your toes." Arthur had faced down tougher mugs than these. The Russian Zeks from Brighton Beach never whined like the fat boys. They were stone-cold killers and we walked past the pseudo-wise boys into the downstairs lounge with a smirk on our faces.

"Three Vodka-OJs." Arthur ordered from the cute bartender, who resembled Little Red Riding Hood freed from two years of hard time at Bedford Hills. She only shared smiles with Arthur and bull dykes. The native New Yorker had a way with girls who played for the other team.

"Nothing for me." Scottie was not a drinker.

"I'll drink his." It was a hot night. My first sip downed half the drink. I threw away the plastic cup by the time that we stood before the big-screen TV. "Big fight."

Three years earlier Michael Spinks had won the heavyweight title from Larry Holmes in a 15-round decision. He had lost the crown after fighting Gerry Cooney rather than fight Tony Tucker.

"Spinks is nothing." Scottie loved boxing.

"He beat Cooney." A drug dealer barked over the roar of the crowd. The fighters were entering the ring. Blood fled through all our hearts.

"Cooney was a bum." Arthur said out of the corner of his mouth. He didn't like strangers hearing him. Sometimes I thought he should have been a ventriloquist.

"You got that right."

Scottie and I had seen 'the great white hope' huff cocaine a month before that bout. We had bet every dollar on the fight. 7-5. The outcome was never in doubt and in the 5th round Spinks countered Cooney's lumbering left hook with a overhead right to his opponent's glass jaw. The rest of the fight teetered heavily in favor of Spinks, who pummeled Cooney with a blinding succession of combinations. The referee called it with 9 seconds left in the round.

"Spinks ain't no bum." He had been ringside at the fight in Atlantic City. "But like everyone else he thinks Tyson is a rightie. Iron Mike is a southpaw. His left is his strength. His jab a killing blow. Watch."

"This is going to be Spinks night." A Columbian dealer pulled out a C-note. "Tyson is a punk from Bed-Stuy. He speaks like a girl."

"Bed-Stuy, do or die, but he grew up in Brownsville." It was famed for its hard guys. "Their motto is never ran, never will."

"Tyson runs like rabbit tonight."

I bet the yea-ho dealer straight up on the result. The big screen filled with the two fighters. Tyson versus Spinks. It was time to rumble. The robes came off and the two heavyweights stood in the middle of the ring. Instructions by the referee lasted about a minute. The bell rang for the first round.

Tyson landed a hard left hook quick. Spinks backed up into the ropes. He would have been better off jumping into the front row. The crowd on the dance floor sensed the kill. I grabbed the dealer's arm, as Tyson smashed the champion with a left uppercut and a right hand to the body. Spinks' knee touched the mat. Back on his feet he suffered a vicious left-right set-up and Spinks flopped on his back.

Down for the count after 91 seconds.

Tyson the victor.

The dealer paid the c-note on the spot.

I tried to buy a round of drinks, except Arthur said, "Fugedaboutit. Your money is no good here." A few customers complained about the brevity of the fight. "I wasn't in the ring, but tonight was long fight." "Long?" I couldn't think of a shorter fight, although most of my brawls lasted less than 10 seconds. Tow or three punches and someone was saying 'enough'. I was good at knowing when to quit. "Shortest fight was 10.5 seconds. Al Couture KO'd Ralph Walton. 1946." Arthur was too young to have seen that match. "Welter-weight." Scottie added to the fray. "That's short." Arthur snapped his finger. "But tonight was short, so drinks on me."

The Prince of the Night was generous to a fault. His friends loved him, as did his family and fiends, because Arthur was enough of an artist to see beauty in someone's faults.

"No one's perfect."

Later that winter Arthur and I are walking up 8th Avenue from the West Village. We're headed to the Tunnel on West 27th Street. A Saturday night fete hosted by Curfew. Crazy people. Free drinks.

"I gotta get warm." Arthur pulled me into a local bar at West 13th and 8th Avenue. "I don't like my teeth chattering."

"Are you sure?" I asked inside the bar, for our entrance is greeted by glares from the clientele. Short people. Midgets. Only the bartender is big people.

"Fuggetaboutit." Arthur knew the bartender and dropped a $20 on the bar. "Drinks for all my friends." We loved Mickey Rourke's line from the movie BARFLY.

"Drinks here are $5." A midget with buck teeth snarled from his stool.

"That's why I'm only buying this big man a drink. Two Vodka-OJs." Arthur headed to the bathroom. The odds of short versus tall went from 20 to 2 to 20 to 1. The bartender was out of the equation. I heard the crackling of knuckles over the music on the jukebox. I REMEMBER YOU by Skid Row.

"What you think of muchkins?" The snarled-toothed shortie asked with a smile, but before I could answer the front door opened and a dwarf entered the bar.

His head was as large as a small Easter Island statue and his hands twice the size of mine. He swaggered into the bar like he possessed an over-sized penis.

The midgets said in unison.

"No dwarves in here."

"No, well, go fuck yourself." The taller midget expanded his chest. All I could think was Munchkins brawl.

That comment sparked a little person riot. The dwarf fought off each midget with the skill of a wrestler. They flew against the wall. His big-handed punches knocked out three of them in rapid succession. The tide of battle turned with a swift right to the mouthy midget's nose.

The fight ended with a TKO.

12 seconds.

The midgets were thrown into the street and the dwarf at the bar asked, "You got a problem?"

"Not with you."

Arthur exited from the bathroom and drank his vodka and OJ.

"Let's go." He nodded to the dwarf, who said, "Good seeing you, Arthur."

"How was the fight?" Arthur pulled up the collar of his jacket.

"Shorter than Spinks-Tyson."


"No, just the truth." It was over in 5 seconds.

"Dwarves are tough on midgets. Go figure." He handed a handkerchief to the midget with the bloody nose.

"Thanks, Arthur."

"My pleasure. Next time keep up the right."

The Prince of the Night knew everyone.

The tall, the small, and the in-between.

SKATING ON THIN ICE by peter nolan smith

The monsoons coincide with low season in Pattaya. Hotels offer special rates and the bargirls call everyone ‘sexy’. The fat, the bald, and the old. This season was shaping to be lower than a snake’s belly. The government’s repression of the ‘red-shirts’ and the global economic downswing had rewritten the Thai Tourist Board’s projection. “Thailand not have farang.” Mam was happy. I was here with her. Fenway was happy too. My son had his father to carry him around SriRacha. He was a busy boy. We lived up the coast from Pattaya, but the news of the empty bars and guesthouses filled the air. Bar girls were fleeing the Last Babylon for the Issan Plateau, thinking it was better to work in the family rice paddy than to then settle down with an 80 year-old retiree on a limited pension. None of them were ready for this year’s flood. Cities and villages throughout Thailand were underwater. Food was scarce. Drinking water was difficult to find. The weather wasn’t expected to change until October. More than a month away and nby that time I’d be working in Luxembourg as writer in residence. I had a family to feed and so did everyone else. The desperation on the go-go girls’ faces was a cruel mirror of hard times. I stayed close to home, for any venture to Pattaya was like running a gauntlet of lust. Every girl sang the same chorus “Take me home.” My good friend Sam Royalle was recovering from a long ailment. I couldn’t follow the treatment. It seemed like one step forward and another two back. Anytime I mentioned diet, the English art director protested, “What you expect me to eat? Thai food?” It was good enough for 60 million Thais. Few of them were overweight. Mam weighed only 49 kilos. When we first met, she had been 41. Her family thought she looked healthy. To me she was more than cute. “Let’s go out on Saturday. “Sam Royalle liked go-gos. We drank shots of tequila. He conversed with people despite 110 dB levels. His Bedford accent worked well in loudness. “The usual places.” I hated go-go bars. The naked girls danced listlessly on the poles. Listening to pop disco was an ordeal, but Sam deserved the company. We had been friends almost 20 years and a long-standing friend is expected to accompany his mate to go-go bars. Mam gave her blessing. “Sam take care you. You take care Sam.” Her spies covered Walking Street. Their network posted agents on every soi. I was a good boy and good boys never get caught doing bad. I met Sam at What’s Up a Go Go. He looked healthy for the first time in years. His new business venture was off the ground. Sam was looking at a million dollars in two years time. It all sounded good in a go-go bar. Sam suggested moving over to Heaven A Go-Go. The upstairs bar was the best in Pattaya. I hadn’t been there in months, but several girls knew my name. We drank beer. Two bottles. The owner of Heaven bought several rounds of tequila. He had run a pimp bar in East St. Louis. Paddy was most men’s hero. 65 and running a go-go bar. He was my hero too. East St. Louis was tougher than Brownsville back in the early 70s. “Any girl you want. No bar fine.” He offered as my birthday present. I had turned 59 in May. I thanked Paddy for his generosity, but refused about twenty nubile dancers before midnight. I told them the same story. “Mai mii keng leng.” “I can give you power.” Their bare bodies smelled of youth and a promise of a trip to heaven or hell. I wasn’t interested in either destination after ten beers and deserted my bar stool at Heaven Above a Go Go, telling Sam Royalle that I was going to the bathroom. Three naked girls were on his lap. He wouldn’t notice my absence. The night air on Soi Diamond was strangely cool. The moist wind carried the threat of rain and I walked to 2nd Road rather than be tempted by another drink on Walking Street. Two transvestites grabbed my arms at the top of the alley. The pair were armored in black shiny leather. Masochists would have licked the their feet. They towered over me in their spiked heels. One hand slithered into my pocket. Her fingernails raked my thigh for plunder. The Shim found my wallet. It only had 500 baht, but all my ATM and credit cards. My struggle to break free was futile, until the pickpocket yelped with pain. “Pai loi.” The voice belonged to Jamie Parker. We were friends from the Lower East Side. He could never go back to New York. His crimes against the state had a long statute of limitation. Almost 60 he carried the menace of the killer. Eleven years hard time was no act. “Get fucking lost.” “We go. Come back too.” The taller TV sneered with a helium alto. Her manhood throbbed in a leather bikini. I felt inadequate. “Good luck then.” Jamie stood his ground and the she-boys strode off to find easier prey. Handing back my wallet, he coughed like a backfire from an out-of-tune harley. His hack hadn't come from smoking cigarettes. “Thought you could use a little help.” “Those ka-toeys were tough.” Bruises would color my arms tomorrow. The indentation from their nails would fade faster. Mam’s suspicious mind wouldn’t clear for months. “What happened to you?” Jamie’s body was perennially thin. Drugs and diet, but his face was gaunt and Panda black circles masked his eyes. “I look that bad?” He stared at his reflection in the 7/11 window. He wasn't the type to lie to himself about his looks. “You look that bad.” Ja-bah bad. The cheap speed was addictive and I went to the ATM. “You need some money?” “A thousand wouldn’t hurt, but it isn’t for what you think.” “Jamie, you can do what you want with it.” I was no angel. After dark any money you give a friend had to be consider a gift. I pulled out a purple note. “You’re an adult.” Mam had no rival other than a lingering hint of want. “I don’t feel like it.” He stuck the bill in his jeans pocket. “Mind if I walk with you a bit?” “I’m just going to get a taxi.” The eyes of a passing policeman convicted Jamie of several crimes. “Let me give you a ride somewhere.” “Yeah, there’s too much light here.” He lowered his head like someone might be following him. I fought the temptation to look over my shoulder. A taxi took us to 3rd Road for 200 baht. It was safer than a motorsai taxi. At the Buffalo Bar I ordered him a beer and waved for the girls to leave us alone. “Man, it’s been a hard month.” He sat on the stool as if he had been on his feet for days. “But you don’t want to hear about it.” My mother had prayed for God to send her second son an avocation to join the cloth. I refused the priesthood after hearing Led Zeppelin’s first LP in 1969, but she had been right. I would have made a good priest or at least a confessor. Everyone liked to tell me their secrets. Even more so after two beers. Jamie drank both in less than a minute. “I’m all ears.” I downed my first in 65 seconds. “You ever hear of Ice?” He whispered the word with guilt-ridden worship. “Crystal Meth.” The drug had hit the fly-over of America hard. The cops had cracked down on traditional drugs and the dealers synthesized a smokeable speed from ephedrine, the basic ingredient for over-the-counter cough medicines. The substance was equally available in Thailand. “That’s the one. The Nazis used to give chocolate bars laced with the stuff to Luftwaffe pilots.” Jamie was a vast abyss of useless knowledge. “Kept them flying for days.” “And you started smoking it here?” Drugs are readily available in Thailand, although opium, heroin, grass have been supplanted by ja bah and ice thanks to the repressive interdiction of the Thai Police and DEA. “With Ort.” He shrugged to indicate his complete surrender. “Ort?” I knew Ort from Soi 6. I hadn’t seen her since her boyfriend left her for a transvestite. The little vixen wanted to be my geek. I had refused with deep regret. Ort was very sexy. 25 and looked 16. She was every man's vice. ”How you run into Ort?” She was a girl around town. I stayed out of her path. “She was dancing at Paris A Go-Go. Told me to meet her after work. We went back to her place. A little furnished studio. Bed, TV, AC. She asked if I minded if she smoked some ice. You know me. Anyone can do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.” Jamie’s heroin addiction had stolen his youth. Cocaine took away his edge as a comedian. His taking up with speed in his 50s could be a show-stopper. “Don’t look at me like you were a Parole Officer who discovered a bad blood test. You’re no angel.” “You’re right.” I had disappointed Nancy Reagan too many times by saying ‘yes’, instead of no’ to throw any rocks without hearing the sound of breaking windows in my own house of glass, but I tried my best to avoid drugs in Thailand. “And you’re right too.” Prison here was worse than any of Jamie’s stateside time. “I knew it was dangerous, but did it anyway.” “And how was it?” Jamie didn’t need a lecture and I was curious about ice and Ort. “Ice is nothing. No rush. Shooting speedballs is a thousand times better for a high.” “So what the attraction?” “Sex.” Jamie spoke low, which was a little strange in a bar where every girl was looking for a date. “I thought she wanted me only to buy some ice. 1000 baht. But once we had a few pipes, she said she was hot and asked if I minded if she took off her clothes. Another bowl and mine was off. A day later and we were still at it.” A binge. “How many days?” “3-4. I took Cialis to keep up my strength.” Speed and Cialis were tough on the heart, however Jamie was hardy enough to survive hardcore XXX games. “And then another 4 days and we had sex the entire time. I had to stop because the skin on my penis wore off. Ort wasn’t happy and started screaming for it. It was like being with a nymphomaniac. A tyranny of sex. I told her I was going to the ATM. I didn’t go back.” “How much money you spend?” “About 15000 baht and lost about 5 kilos.” “Cheaper than Jenny Craig’s or Weight-Watchers.” “I don’t have the weight to lose like you.” A loss of five kilos would put me close to the fighting weight of my early 40s. “And you didn’t go back?” “Don’t trust myself. It’s not the Ice. It’s the sex, the ice, the lying in bed with nowhere to go.” He drank his beer with a thirst to quench another demon. “Sawan.” “Heaven.” I was impressed Jamie knew the Thai word for paradise. Nah-Lok meant 'hell'. “A little hell too, which we both like.” “Without sin, there is no pleasure.” I loosely quoted Luis Bunuel, the Spanish surrealistic film director. “So now what?” “I changed my SIM card # and started clean again.” He ordered another beer. They were going down smooth. “Not 100%, but close enough. Another few days and I’ll be back on top of the world.” “More like top of the slag heap in this town.” “As long as it’s a foot higher than anyone else, you can see the stars.” Jamie had a way with words, which slurred after our fifth beer. I invited him up to SriRacha. He made Mam laugh. Fenway liked playing with him. On the third day he left for Pattaya. I drove him to the bus stop on Sukhumvit. “Take care.” “I know how to do that.” “And how not to too.” “Something else we have in common.” At the end of the week I was packing my bags for New York. My flight left in the morning. Mam hated being alone. Fenway is a very busy boy. The phone rang in my pocket. It was Jamie. “Are you okay?” “Excellent.” He was running promo events for bars and restaurants during the low season. The next is an erotic hot dog eating contest at TiggleBitties Tavern. “What about Ort?” I whispered the name. Mam has good ears and a jealous soul. Some people question her love. I know better. “Haven’t seen her or been to anywhere she goes.” “Smart move.” Ort was a girl to avoid, which is why I don’t answer her calls anymore. Like Jamie I’m too weak to skate on thin ice. “I’ll see you next time around.” “Send my love to Mam and little Fenway.” “They will like that.”
I went into the living room. Fenway was trying to load two discs at the same time into the DVD player. I told him, ‘No.” He didn’t like hearing that word in either Thai or English, but just saying ‘no’ can save your time these days, especially when you’re skating on thin ice.

Viva Tony Montana

The USA is my homeland.

I care about apple pie especially since no one can make it like my late mother.

I also believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is why I live in Thailand most of the year.

The life is good under the mango tree in my front yard. I'm free to say whatever I want, because no one understands what I say. And I can pursue happiness without anyone saying, "No."

With the exception of my loving Mam.

I'm presently living in Luxembourg. Far from Thailand. Far from the USA. Both countries are suffering from economic down swings, but the USA has dug itself a gigantic hole with a trade deficit to China. Billions and billions. And the Chinese don't want to buy anything from us. The situation reminds me of the British before the Opium Wars. The Celestial Kingdom had no use for anything from Manchester or London, while the teabags couldn't live without a 'cuppa'. Some bright Limey tai-pans decided to deal opium to the Chinese. Its popularity was instantaneous. End of trade problems and China was thrown into the gutter. The more things change the more they stay the same. The Commie wanted to hear nothing about buying baseball bats, since they are made in China, but I have a proposal to save the US economy. Legalize of cocaine everywhere in the world but white suburbs. That way we can declare the 'war on drugs' won and start dealing blow to the Chinese. A nation of a billion. Maybe 100 million would become users. At $5 a day that’s $15 billion a month.

I know it's a radical idea, but if I get the contract, then I'm franchising Carlos Blow Emporiums.


If MacDonalds can sell crap, I don't see why I can't deal zoot. The only other option is to sell fat American girls to Chinese men, who outnumber females by 100 million thanks to China’s one-child policy. Even better sell cocaine and fat girls. Think of it as one big fat farm for American females. Fat Farm China Jocko Weyland thought this was a good idea, but expressed reservation. “Though I disagree with your premise– ‘We’ do have something the Chinese want. They’re called ‘Ideas’. They don’t have those here.” Jocko’s not half wrong, but I’ve been in the USA four months and the only good idea I’ve heard in that time was Midget Golf. Last evening Joey I visited the Kit Kat Club on Belvedere. The strip club has a 2-4-1 Happy Hour. “You want a lap dance.” Vera asked waggling her flapjack breasts. “No thanks.” My back couldn’t handle Vera. She weighs about 260 and smelled of big woman sweat. “You know Vera’s a good candidate for Fat Farm China.” “What’s that?” Vera had failed Jenny Craig 12 times. I explained about shipping cocaine to China along with fat girls to save the American economy. “You we get to do blow?” “Why not?” I hadn’t thought about that aspect. “Then where do I sign up?” Vera recruited three other strippers from the Kit Kat. They’re big girls there. Watch out China, here we come. Fat girls and cocaine. Viva Tony Montana

Yee-Ho Coke

Corporations complain constantly about paying taxes to the federal government and the head of Coca-Cola has accused the White House and Congress of setting up a less than friendly atmosphere to sell their product in the USA. Coca-Cola was invented in Georgia in the late 1880s as an elixir. Five ounces of coca leaves were distilled for each gallon of syrup. It packed quite a kick. Cocaine was removed from the process in 1903, although ‘spent leaves’ remain part of the secret recipe for Coca Cola. Its New Jersey plant is the only factory in America authorized produce cocaine flavoring. The popular soda earned $7.2 billion selling their narcotic mixture. The corporation paid 6.5% on that profit. Company executives disputed those numbers, however according to the Financial Times Coca-Cola has rarely paid more than 2 percent of its yearly U.S. income since 2000. In contrast Home Depot shelled out 30% of its income to the Feds. This break isn’t enough for CEO Muhtar Kent. “In the west, we’re forgetting what really worked 20 years ago. In China and other markets around the world, you see the kind of attention to detail about how business works and how business creates employment.” Coke’s head is more interested in China as the ultimate buyer of America’s iconic tonic. Wait until they break the code of the secret recipe. Good-Bye Coca-Cola, hello China Cola. It will have cocaine in it too. This time straight from Medellin. Yee-Ho for the masses. Not an opiate, but an up.

Payback of the Geeks

Nerds and geeks have been targeted by bullies throughout history. Sand was kicked in Socrates’ face by a nameless. Galilleo was given a wedgee by a callous bastard son of a Vatican cardinal, and Einstein was forced to do the homework of a Viennese strong-arm thug. Bullying the weak or different has been a feature of childhood in almost every culture and there’s nothing a bully disliked more than a smarty pants. Bullies got the girls. Nerds got cooties. Ivy League jocks succeeded on Wall Street, despite their peanut-sized minds. Their cerebral shortcomings caught up with America this last decade, as the masters of the universe put a bullet into the American Dream. The entire financial system has been ruined by these idiots and now like a bully turning to a geek at the day before the final exams for help in a test, Wall Street and the other investment centers around the world have enlisted the aid of PhD mathematicians to rescue the global economy before the masses reject capitalism for another -ism starting with a C. Investment institutions are increasingly interested by algorithmic formulae to supplant the guessing and hunch technique of the glory boys of derivative trading and leveraged buy-outs. The high-frequency program tracks trends in the rise and fall of stocks based on statistics. Massive computers generate decisions within nano-seconds as Wall Street switches over to cruise control, allowing bankers and traders to blame a computer for an error in the system rather than their son-in-law, while they all vacation in the Hamptons. On May 6, 2010 the Dow Jones tanked 700 points or $800 billion in 15 minutes thanks to these QUANT programs. The losses were recovered by other mathematicians creating zombie accounting packages to obscure the depth of the disaster. Wall Street refused to reject the robot traders. They don’t get sick. They don’t want bonuses. They don’t sleep with their bosses’ daughters. 20% of trading is in the hands of computers controlled by geeks and nerds. The big bosses reward the boy geniuses, but none of them seem worried about the effects of bullying on a childhood mind. Geeks hate jocks and the best payback is the wallet. Beware of the Revenge of the Nerds. It could break the bank.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chek Bin Carpe Diem

Three weeks ago Fabo and I were sitting at the garden bar of the Welkom Inn on Soi 3. I hadn't seen the Belgian oil explorer in a year. Both of us had suffered exile from Pattaya. His place of banishment was the North Sea. I was stuck in New York. We were equally glad to be away from either. He greeted me with a kiss on the lips. The girls on the patio regarded the gesture with disgust. They only liked straight men. Preferably newcomers to Thailand. They spent money like bankers on a cocaine binge.

"Papa." Fabo thought that we resembled each other.

"My son." I didn't see the likeness, but I drink San Miquel. It's made in the Philippines. Heineken is my pseudo-fils' beverage of preference. He was 31. I had been in Brussels at the age of 36 in 1988. A Walloon girl had taken me home to her parents. They had made breakfast for us in the morning. Her mother was glad that I was white.

"Welcome back home." His skin was tanned from the sun's reflection off the sea. Fabo looked healthy. He had been a month without a drink. We ordered beers. The time was noon. Loso was playing on the radio. He told me about his months of the oil rig in three seconds, "No fun. No beer. No girls."

"New York. Cold beer. No girls." Six syllables to his seven. The economy of age.

"One plus. Two negatives." Fabo had once shown a photo of his mother. The skinny punk girl with wide eyes looked familiar.

"Now we're here." His nose had been mashed by too many accidents, but his eyes were arctic blue. Mine were high Nordic steel.

"Paradise." Saying that I felt like Adam waking on the day after his maker created 'woman', except the almighty hadn't the heart to destroy his previous failures. The line-up at the Welkom Inn's entrance had a woman for every man's desire.

"You can say that again." I was blind to their allure. Mam dominated my libido. She was too cute for words. Fenway's mother knew that I was here. Trust. I had no choice, but to he true. I ordered another beer. The first bottle died after 47 seconds. The heat of May gave any human a thirst."

"Paradise, and I blame it on our position." He didn't speak about his wife or the German. It was better to not say SS Tommy's name.

"The equator?" I had heard his hypothesis on more than one occasion. My one attempt to explain it to Mam had met with her contempt. She had little patience for 'tawh-lay' or bullshit. All women say the same about men.

"Only 1200 miles south of here."

"I know." I had crossed the equator in the jungles of Sumatra. The relative speed of the earth's rotation is meant to send more blood to your head. "Speed."

"Not speed. The reformulazation of the theory of gravity." These words were spoken in French. Fabo loved the idea, but recognized his conjecture was full-on mad or 'bah mak' as say the Thais.

We argued about acceleration measured in m/s2, air resistance, and the downward weight force. The 3rd beer cured the affliction of banality. We were happy to sit at a bar. Happy the phone wasn't ringing. Happy heading toward drunk. The afternoon stretched east. We watched the men run the gauntlet before the entrance of the Welkom Inn's bar. The interior was night. The mama-san played any song from any year. The male clientele liked 1977. No matter what the nationality everyone knew the words.

We had been surprised by the arrival of four Mideastern men. Jeans. White shirts. No robes. They normally frequented the smoking bars at the end of Walking Street.

"Egyptian." Fabo sniffed the air. Strong tobacco.

"Turkish." They weren't speaking Arabic. Neither did I, but I had heard enough Arabic in Paris to know the difference. I bet Fabo 500 baht on their country. They sounded too Roman.

An hour later they exited from the bar to the warm wishes of several girls. They had barfined eight of the hostesses. One produced a bottle of Sky Whiskey. Half-done. Another flourished a handful of banknotes. The colors were strange.

Not dollar green or the green, blue, red, and purple of Thai currency.

One girl looked over her shoulder. Prueng. A shortcake angel with soft hair and small breast. The tomboy was almost 24. 6 years older than the first day she worked the Welkom. Her girlfriend worked at a big hotel. Preung saved money to pay for her girlfriend's penis operation. 200,000 baht. She lifted a thick fist of money in the air. Her co-workers cheered her order for more whiskey.

Five minutes later she brought two glasses of whiskey-coke to the bar. We were too polite to say no. Preung slapped the foreign money on the bar. It was a big pile. Many zeros. Zaire Francs. Value almost zero. Fabo was frozen on his seat. Someone had to pop her balloon. A bottle of Spy Whiskey was close to 500 baht at the Welkom. I was down to 300. Preung reached for the free drink bell. There were about 33 people with the range of its peal.

Drinks for everyone.


She didn't ask why. I read the finance section of the Herald Tribune, studied currencies, and scanned Karl Marx. An exchange rate came to my head.

“62 baht per million.”

Preung was holding ten million.

The buffalo herd for her father was kidnapped by disappointment. Her daughter was banished in the hicks or ban-nok. Her girlfriend stayed a woman. 600 baht for a short-time trip to heaven was the asking price at the Welkom. Her math was good.

"I not win. I not lose." Preung dropped her hand from the rope hanging off the bell. "It was nice rich one minute. You want go short-time?"

Preung was asking me, but Fabo seized the gauntlet. He had been at sea three months. No fun, no beer, no women. I was one hour late for Mam.

"Another step closer to a million." His arm encircled Preung's waist. She was no longer an heiress. A common girl. One with a good heart and smooth skin. Fabo paid the bill. 300 baht was tomorrow's breakfast or five beers tonight.


I was heading home. Fabo and Preung strolled to room 101. It was the closest. He did look like me only me from six years ago. I had been only 51.

Not young, but younger and therefore rich, because youth was always worth billions in both dollars and baht.

But never Zaire Francs.

Brooklyn Tony ON MATH 101

Teacher asks her class: "If there are 5 birds sitting on a fence and you shoot one of them, how many will be left?" She calls on Brooklyn Tony.

He replies, "None, they will all fly away with the first gunshot."

The teacher replies, "The correct answer is 4, but I like your thinking."

Then Brooklyn Tony says, "I have a question for YOU. There are 3 women sitting on a bench having ice cream: One is delicately licking the sides of the triple scoop of ice cream. The second is gobbling down the top and sucking the cone. The third is biting off the top of the ice cream. Which one is married?"

The teacher, blushing a great deal, replied, "Well, I suppose the one that's gobbled down the top and sucked the cone."

To which Brooklyn Tony replied, "The correct answer is ' the one with the wedding ring on,' but I like your thinking."

Simple Math

Simple Math is a strictly mathematical viewpoint. What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life? Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions: If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26. Then: H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98% and K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E 11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96% But, A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100% And, B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T 2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103% AND, look how far ass kissing will take you. A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G 1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+ 14+7 = 118% So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that while Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it’s the Bullshit and Ass Kissing that will put you over the top. “REMEMBER SOME PEOPLE ARE ALIVE SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS ILLEGAL TO SHOOT THEM.” This wisdowm was emailed from Big Al Harlow of Pattaya fame. At best he's tough as nails.

1 + 1 1971

The simple addition of 1 + 1 is the first math learned by children. Addition is followed by subtraction, division, and multiplication. The nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills believed in the power of rote education and each student was expected to memorize the math tables from 1 to 12. Fingers and toes aided the learning process. They were the only calculator available to students in the early 60s.

Progress was measured by perfection in reciting the math tables. Mistakes were rectified by a slap rap of the knuckles to the boys. The girls were threatened with harsh words. Kyla Rolla and I competed for top honors from 6th to 8th grades. I won a scholarship to an all-boys high school run by brothers. My score in the diocesan math contest was 2nd best. Kyla was # 1, but she refused her reward.

8 years of nuns were enough for her and she opted for the town high school. My request to attend the same school was rejected by my mother. She had hopes that I might be a priest. My father didn’t care either way as long as I received a good education. He was an electrical engineer for New England Tel & Tel and agreed with the United Negro College fund commercial that a mind was a terrible thing to waste.

My prowess in math seemed a fluke throughout high school. My grades in Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus were mediocre, but I surprised my teachers and parents with a high math mark in the SATs for college entrance. A Boston Catholic college granted me early acceptance as a math major. My classmates wore thick glasses. None of them played sports. I was cursed as a geek. Kyla Rolla knew better. She was the best cheerleader at the town school. We were going steady. To her I was never a geek.

Four years on top of six grammar school years had exhausted my tolerance for religious education. I had been an atheist since age 8. It was time to quit pretending to believe in God.

I didn’t feel ready for college and asked my mother to sign papers to join the Marines. I was a 17 year-old senior in April of 1970. She tore up my enlistment papers. Without her consent I was stuck in my hometown, which was even a worse fate than having to study math for the rest of my life.

If I wasn’t going to be a priest, she was determined that I would be Isaac Newton. He had discovered gravity under an apple tree and she baked a great apple pie. Everything in the universe was linked by synchronicity.

“You’re going to college.” Her edict was final. She chose the school. Kyla and I broke up after she heard about my next step into Catholic education. Her last words to me were ‘momma’s boy’. Who was I to deny my mother?

Not having a scholarship I supported myself as a taxi driver. My early Calculus classes started at 9. I finished driving at 2. There weren’t enough hours from the time I fell asleep till the alarm clock rang at 8am for a proper night’s rest. My grades suffered from the exhaustion and pot smoking. I scrapped through freshman year with Cs. I wasn’t so lucky in 1971.

My professor in Multivariable Algebra was a genius. The bald 45 year-old in a soiled suit calculated missile trajectories in his head. He had a permanent slouch from drawing formulae on a chalkboard. His shirt cuffs were covered with ink integers.

Air Force officers sat in his class. The young men in uniform were acolytes from Missile Command. They dreamed of nuclear war. I was a hippie peacenik. We had nothing in common other than a desire for the professor’s daughter. The skinny brunette was cute for an egghead. We smoked pot together. The soldiers had no chance, but neither did I. Renee was in love with the abstract. Her parents expected her to transfer to MIT. Both colleges were close to home.

That autumn I devoted more time to driving taxi and demonstrating against the war than classes. My grades suffered across the board. After mid-terms I attended one math class. It was a recipe for failure and I showed up at the final with no knowledge of Multi-Variable Algebra.

“Where have you been?” The professor was surprised to see me.

“I’ve been busy.” The soldiers snickered at my appearance. I had put in a double shift behind the wheel. My eyes were as red as deviled ham. “I thought you withdrew from the class.”

“Withdrew?” This was a new concept.

“Yes, when you feel to challenge by a course, you withdraw, but it’s a little too late for that. Have you even read the book?”

It had a blue cover.

“A few times this week.”

The professor motioned for me to to approach him.

“And you still want to take the test?” His voice was low. “I’ve seen your record. You’re failing German.”

“Ich weiss.” My stutter had trouble with umlauts.

“Why do you take such hard courses?”

“Ich weiss nichts.” I mostly did what people wanted me to do.

“I don’t know isn’t an answer.”

“I still want to take the test.”

“Why?” “To see if my reading the book three times was enough to score a passing grade.”

“That would be a miracle, because no one reads the book.”

“Why not?” It had a plot about the mist of mathematical mystery. The ending was meant to be clarity. I still saw the fog.

“Because it’s unreadable. Math is poetry. If you don’t hear a poet, you don’t hear the music.”

“Oh.” Bob Dylan was my first poet. GATES OF EDEN was on the flip side of LIKE A ROLLING STONE. Neither song had anything to do with math. “Let me take the test. I bet I can score a 50.”

“That’s still a failing grade.”

“But a miracle for someone who never came to class.”

“If you get a 50, I’ll give you a C+.”

“It’s a deal.” I took a test and blue book from the professor. His daughter smiled at me. The Air Force officers sneered at me, as if they had inside information on my draft status. My SSS # was 96. If I failed this course and German, I would get kicked out of school. Without a college exemption, the draft board had the right to induct me into the military.

Destination – Vietnam.

The exam lasted two hours. I answered every question from the shreds of my memory. I fabricated a formula proving the speed of light wasn’t an absolute in a universe of infinite possibilities. The bell rang to terminate the test and I handed my paper to the professor. His daughter and I walked into the corridor. Hundreds of students were filing from other classrooms.

“How you think you did?” Renee had a sweet voice. We had never kissed other than to shotgun a joint. She smelled of patchouli.

“As good as anyone who never attended class.” I hoped my formula would save me from expulsion. Christmas was around the corner and while I didn’t believe in God, I always maintained a place in my heart for Santa Claus. “What about smoking some weed.”

“All my tests are done.” Renee shrugged with satisfaction. She was a straight A student.

“Mine too.”

We left the college and boarded the trolly at Chestnut Hill. We got off in front of Concannon and Sennett. The bar had pinball, Mexican food, quarter beers, and a painting of a naked woman riding a pink elephant. Most of my friends were celebrating the end of exams. I drank with Renee. She didn’t comment about my expression. I felt like I had buried my puppy.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”

“Yes, tomorrow is another day.” I ordered two more beers.

After seven there was no more tomorrow, until I woke up in Renee’s bed. The covers were soft. Snow was falling outside the window. A cold draft was seeping through a gap. We were two warm bodies, but neither of us shouldn’t have been naked.

I remembered her saying something about living with her parents. Teddy bears were lined against the wall. Posters of the Jefferson Airplane were nailed to the wall. This was no dorm. It was the professor’s house. I poked Renee’s arm.

“What?” She snuggled into me with a feline purr.

“Are we at your parents’ house?”

“Yes, but they’re cool with me having friends over.” Her breasts were soft as marshmallow.

“Are they downstairs?”

“My mother will make you breakfast if you want.”

“That’s very cool, but I’m not that cool.” I slipped out of bed and picked up my clothing. “Would you mind if I left by the window.”

“It’s the second floor.”

“I was a long-jumper in high school.” 19 feet 3 inches was my personal best, but that leap was horizontal and not a dead drop from 15 feet. “I’ll call you later. We can meet at Concannon’s. This time we go to my place.”

“Do what you want?” She was happy either way and I jumped from the window into the branches of a pine. They slowed my descent and I stuck the ground with my feet. I tasted copper in my teeth like someone had bastinadoed my toes.

“Nice landing.”

“They are all are if you can walk away from them.” I struggled to not limp through the snow. I ducked under the kitchen window. The professor was speaking with his wife. He yelled for Renee. I ran into the woods and caught a taxi to my cold-water apartment in Bug Village. There was no passing that exam or German. I was heading to boot camp.

Results for the exam were posted a week before Christmas. Somehow I had passed German with a C+. The professor like my cosmic take on Kafka’s DAS URTEIL. Cockroaches was a secret word for Nazi.

Renee and I approached the professor’s office. The test results of Multivariable Algebra were tacked to a corkboard. Renee squeezed my hand. Her score was at the top of the list. Mine was at the bottom.

15 was a long way from 50.

“Oh, oh.”

“Talk to my father.” She knocked on the door. “I never said anything about us. I’ll see you at your place.”

She kissed me on the cheek. I was getting used to patchouli. The professor said, “Enter.”

I pushed open the door and he looked up from a pile of official papers. Each was marked TOP-SECRET. Renee’s father covered them with a book on Experimental Dimensionalsm. I would not be reading it in Vietnam.


“I just wanted to thank you for letting me take that test.”

“Why so?”

“Proved that I don’t belong in Math or college.”

“You’re right about the first, but not the second. Your treatise of Einstein not taking into account hod rod speeders was very amusing as well as the premise that the speed of light only pertains to the speed of light.”

“Infinity opens up the highway.”

“If I gave you a passing grade in this course, would you drop your Math major?”

“In a heartbeat.” I shook his hand with elation pounding through my heart. Vietnam was on the other side of the world. Renee was waiting at my apartment. We wouldn’t last the Christmas break. She was into me for the holidays. Next semester she transferred to MIT. I majored in economics and minored in history. My grades improved, but not enough to graduate with honors.

1972 was the end of my math career and I haven’t opened a math book since then, although I have learned that western man didn’t come up with the concept of zero until well into the Second Millennium, while the Mayans always had zero or Pohp for their 20-based numeral system.

Still I don’t have to use my fingers for long math and neither does man’s best friend.

“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.” Phil Pastoret.

Arf Arf Arf equals three, especially when 1 + 1 = 2.

it’s just simple math.