Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do Not Pass Go

The scion of the Murdoch Media Empire announced his departure as News International chairman. Both the corporation and James Murdoch have been plagued by accusations of criminal hacking by reporters and the payment of bribes to British policemen for assistance in squashing any investigations into wrongdoings. His 81 year-old father has resumed total control of the media giant. At this time neither Murdoch is wanted for questioning by the police. It's only a question of time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Call It A Day, Greece

Greece joined the EEU with hopes of modernizing its economy and reaping the benefits of one currency, however the banks loaned money to both the public and private sectors of the Greek economy like they were financing a crack binge. Since 2008 the EEU has struggled to lessening the Euro's risk from the Greek debt. Last week the parliament in Athens voted to accept another austerity plan in order to write of 107 billion Euros on the books, effectively halving the nation's exposure to the banks and financial funds owning Greek bonds and debts. At present Greece is banned by the European Central Bank from monetarizing its debt through new loans and the ultra-conservative 'Standard & Poor's has downgraded Greece below junk to pariah status. The banks are eager to accept this deal, since Greece's nuclear option is a 100% default and a return to the drachma. Bankruptcy is not the end of the world as Argentina discovered during its debt crisis at the turn of the century. The state was saddled with an impossible debt from the military dictatorship. Unemployment was close to 20%. Inflation ran 10-20% per month. Incomes were halved by the devaluation of the austral and the new government fixed the currency to the dollar with disastrous results. Stagnation decreased the GDP by 4% in 1999 and the IMF imposed strict controls on the economy. Government came and went in rapid succession, until the IMF refused to provide any loans to the stricken country. Fearful of losing their money Argentines pulled their money from the banks. The government froze accounts to prevent chaos, but soon violent demonstrations vented their anger at the banks and multi-nationals. A bas con Coca Cola. December 2001 Argentine defaulted on its responsibility to loans of $132 billion. Chaos came to town to stay, however the cheap peso created a good atmosphere for renewed investment and the government of Nestor Kitchener strived to rectify the income disparity plaguing Argentina. Workers' co-cops and self-management increased productivity. Wages relieved the pressure on poverty and the gap between the rich and poor shrank with improved conditions, earning the Kitchener government the loyalty of its people. The IMF got all its money back in the end with interest. Greece is fucked no matter what they do, but better to be the master of your own fuckedess rather than being fucked eternally by the the fucking banks. Crap out, Greece. It's cool with me and everyone else with the International Write-Off Day movement.

Angry Naked Broad

I'm really glad I don't have a car.

Go Neanderthals Go

The Neanderthal dominated Europe and Asia for almost a half-million years. This species of Man vanished from the Earth 24,000 years ago. Anthropologists once blamed the fall of the Neanderthals on their stupidity, while recent studies have revealed that the ancient men had large brains than their homo sapiens descendants and were stronger and taller than our present manifestation of humanity as well as better adapted to the colder climates of the Great Ice Age. The mystery of their disappearance has troubled scientists, although a report in the BBC suggested that Neaderthals were already on the verge of extinction and the final shove came from drastic changes in the weather. I beg to differ for I have theorized that Neanderthals did not vanish, but their DNA fused with homo sapiens at the end of the Ice Age. I actually feel Neanderthalic after a couple of beers. My brows are thickly padded by bone. My arms and legs are shorter than most men my size. My torso is long. Thankfully I'm not hairy. I detest hirsuteness in a man and avoid bearded women. I guess that makes me a race traitor. Go Neanderthals Go.

Monday, February 27, 2012

50 Yard Dash With A Potential Mercenary

One month ago I was standing on Hempstead Heath with a Action Man from Greenpeace. We admired the Henry Moore sculpture at the top of a meadow. His wife was playing with the dog. Their son was meandering with his teenage cousin. The sky was gray. It was good to be in London with friends. In June Frank had been arrested in Greenland for trespassing on an oil platform to protest the exploitation of the Arctic Sea. The police had thrown Frank in Nuuk jail. "The coppers are Danish and the other prisoners were Inuits. They treated us alright, although the food was wretched and it was the time of 24-hours days, so the cells were never dark. When they transported us to stand trial in Denmark, the coppers put us in chains, but sat us in 1st Class and upon arrival in Copenhagen we were the first people off the plane. That really got on the nerve of the 1st Classers." Frank has been arrested in many countries. His name is listed under eco-terrorists by US Homeland Security. He is the father of my friend's two children. The shed in their backyard serves as the HQ for the local Ping-Pong club. According to the UK Guardian 'Greenland has condemned as illegal a protest by Greenpeace activists who scaled an oil rig in a bid to prevent a British company from drilling in Arctic waters off the North Atlantic island.' To me Frank is a hero. I praise his actions on every occasion and while I am a Greenpeace donor I also recognized that the man has altered the planet to the tipping point and in Hampstead Heath I said to Frank, "The Earth is doomed." I told him about the rising seas in Thailand. "We've passed the threshold." I'm almost 60. I lived during the 50s and 60s. The world had half the population that it does today, but as The Grassroots sang, "Sha na na na na live for today and don't worry about tomorrow.", so I challenge Frank to a footrace. 50 yards on the wet grass. He's 48 and lean. "On the count of three," shouted his wife Nina. "Go." We ran our hardest. I had a lead for most of the distance, but Frank pulled into the lead and beat me by a half-stride. It was good fun and I told him that Greenpeace could count on a $50 donation. This gift was long overdue. Once I got back to the USA I googled Frank's name and discovered that he had been offered a job by the notorious security firm, Blackwater, with a starting salary of $150,000 plus health benefits. Frank told the Guardian, "When I opened their email I didn't know whether to feel flattered or offended. Even if I was interested, the CIA would probably have taken one look at my CV and thrown me into an Iraqi prison. We flew over Fairford dropping anti-war leaflets on the US military just hours before the B-52s took off to bomb Bagdhad. I never imagined the Americans would be contacting me a year later to see if I would help defend them in Iraq." If only I could be Frank. Good money and a chance to strike the beast from within.

LONG GONE LONG by Peter Nolan Smith

Paris suffered through a horrendous bombing campaign in 1986. Explosions rocked the French capitol with unexpected frequency. The attacks killed and maimed innocent people throughout the winter and spring, while the Gaullist government played tough guy with the terrorists demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. Chirac announced on the radio that France would not submit to blackmail, although everyone in the city understood that a few more victims were destined to join the casualty lists before the two parties agreed on a final price to end hostilities.

The summer passed without any detonations rocking the city, but that lull was broken by four deadly blasts in September. One Sunday night explosion on Rue Faux had destroyed the lobby of the Israeli bank on the corner of the Grand Boulevard. No one had been injured in the blast, however the fiery shock wave had shattered every window on the block, torched a dozen cars, and ripped apart our nightclub’s ornate entrance.

On Monday morning the owner and I surveyed the wreckage.

“On a la chance.” Serge ran his finger over the heat-blistered interior.

“Yes, we were damn lucky.” If Le Reve had been open for business, the casualty list would have run into the hundreds.

A mustached man in a rumpled suit clambered over the damaged interior. The comptoir had withstood the shock wave, but scores of bottles had been concussed to shards and the smell of alcohol overwhelmed the odor of charred wood. The man moved with a callous deliberation. This was not his first time at a crime scene.

Serge introduced me to the police inspector. I was more a doorman than a bouncer. The French titled my position 'physionomiste'.

"L’Amercain." The police investigator pronounced my nationality with an accusatory tone. Ronald Reagan had tested the bonds of 'Lafayette we are here' with the April bombing raid on Libya. The French government had refused the F-16s access to French air space. 1917 was a long way in the past from 1986.

"With an Irish passport and working papers." I presented my documents. Everything was in order.

"Irelandais." Irish translated to IRA and bombs to the cop’s dog brain. "I have a few questions."

“Only a few.” We sat at a charred table. Serge poured cognac from a salvaged bottle. The nightclub impresario was elegant even with his paratrooper overalls covered in dust.

“It is merely a formality.” The possibility of a thirty-two year-old American heading the ‘dead’ list didn’t deter a police inspector from interrogating un estranger as the primary suspect. He asked the same set of questions a dozen times. I repeated my answers without deviation. The truth was easier to remember than a lie.

"Thank you for your assistance.” The chain-smoking investigator had not interviewed anyone else on our staff. They were French.

"Do I need a lawyer?” The French justice system considered everyone guilty until proven innocent and the policeman shook his head with a nicotine laugh. “Not unless you are guilty.”

"I'm not." I had been in bed with my girlfriend on Sunday.

"We will check out your alibi." The 'flic' folded his notebook and exited from the club.

I hated talking to cops and downed my cognac.

"You try to be so cool, but you run around like a chicken without feet after a few questions by the police." Serge had a knack for messing up American axioms.

"It's 'chicken with its head off'."

"I like my way better." The French were as infallible as the Pope, but his blasé demeanor evaporated with the contractor’s estimate that the repairs would take at least a two weeks.

“This is impossible. I have a business to run." Le Reve was extremely popular with the BCBG of Paris. The young rich from the 16th arrondissement spent their parents' money with an abandonment missing from their bourgeois lives. A bottle of cheap champagne cost 600 francs and a whiskey-coke 120 francs. Le Reve was a cash cow for all concerned parties.

"Today is Monday. Tomorrow I get supplies, Wednesday we take out the wreckage." The wine-nosed contractor recited the litany of this reconstruction to the centime.

"Enough, enough." Serge waved away the contractor, who shrugged with inbred Gallic nonchalance. After his departure he ranted against the sloth of French workers. A few cognacs redirected his rancor to the real culprits.

“C’est le guerre.”

He was right. It was a war. I bid Serge good-bye and returned home on the Metro. Every passengers was nervous. They warily studied unattended bags. Bombs didn't have to be big.

Getting off on my stop in the 15th arrondissement deflated my anxiety. The only potential target on Rue du Basfroi was the Bureau des Objets-Trouves across the street from Candia's atelier and I doubted if anyone was turning in a bomb to Paris' lost and found.

Candia greeted me with a kiss. Her nose wrinkled with a twitch and the thin teenager pushed me away with both hands, as if the odor might have clung to her clothing.

"You smell like a pig barbecued in brandy."

"The bar was destroyed by the blast and the front was burnt by the blast." Her description of my scent sounded delicious. I took off my jacket and hung it on a hook. Candia hated a messy apartment. "It'll be at least a month before we open."

"And you get 'chomage'?" Candia clapped her hands in eager anticipation of my answer.

"I guess I do." We had been together for a year. Sometimes I forgot that the half-French/half-Puerto Rican girl was young, especially in bed with the lights out.

"Then we can go on vacation." The eighteen year-old and I had never gone on holiday. Our schedules were in constant conflict. She was days and I was nights.

"What about your work?" Her modeling agency had been fighting fashion editors to get her a magazine cover. An innocent face surrounded by blondish curls should have been an easy sell, yet race was an unspoken issue in her profession.

"Work is slow." The bombing campaign hurt every aspect of life in Paris. They had blown up everywhere in the last ten days. "We could go to America for a week."

"Let me think about it." I hadn't been to my East Village apartment in three years. My subleasee said that Internal Affairs hadn't called for me in six months.

"You never want to go anywhere." Candia stormed upstairs and slammed shut the bedroom door. Teenage tantrums were her specialty. At thirty-three I was old enough to be her younger uncle. She didn't let me into the bedroom until 11. Our bodies didn’t touch that night and in the morning I dressed as soon as I woke. Candia didn’t want me around the atelier and I got dressed in heavy boots, jeans, and a leather jacket.

“Where are you going?” Candia asked from under the covers. Her agency had called to say it was closed for the duration of the bombing campaign.

“To check on flights to the USA.” I bought my tickets from an agency in Les Halles.

“As if we are going anywhere.” She pulled the blankets over her head.

I didn’t bother to reply and left the atelier for the Metro.

While we made love with regularity and I told her that I loved her once a day, I couldn't remember the last time the words 'je t'aime' crossed her lips. Something was broken between us. It felt like something neither of us could fix.

The train into Les Halles was empty. The randomness of the attacks frightened people. My travel agency was shut and its closing was not for lunch. I tried to call Candia from a cafe. The phone rang without an answer. She was playing a game and I slammed the receiver into the cradle.

Distant bells tolled the hour and I strolled over to the Marais to light a candle at Eglise St. Gervais. Old habits died hard, even for non-believers.

The sky was dotted with scattering clouds and the September sun warmed the streets. The few girls on the sidewalks were sporting short dresses. I decided to take a steam at the Hamman on rue Des Rosiers. I fell asleep on a bench for several hours and then ate a pastrami sandwich at the deli.

I tried Candia’s atelier again with the same result.

No answer.

It was getting late, but crossing the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville, I took off my jacket. The weather reminded me of Indian Summer in New England. I didn’t have time to reflect on the similarity.

A powerful detonation knocked me off my feet before a subsonic thud rattled my body. I remained on my knees for at least a half-minute, then checked my limbs. There was no blood. I was untouched by the shrapnel.

As I stood slowly, the loud ringing in my ears was replaced by the screams. Several men and I ran to the nearby post office to wrestle the wounded from the debris. The firemen arrived within minutes. The police ordered us to leave. This was a job for professionals and Paris was a city for the French.

I arrived home and said to Candia, "We should go to America.”

“What changed your mind?” She seemed hesitant, as if she didn’t want to go anywhere with me.

“There was a bomb attack at Hotel de Ville.” I didn’t say that I had been there. “We can go to New York.

“You think I can work there?” Her career was in a state of stagnation. The better-paying commercials and editorial work in France were reserved for girls with Caucasian roots. Candia was only a little white.

“They love girls like you there.” A mulatto stood a better chance in America, plus a friend was the photo editor for Details and another comrade shot photos for Elle and New York has to be safer than Paris.”

"Fantastique. I want to see Disneyworld.” She squealed with breathless delight. The French loved Mickey Mouse as much as Jerry Lewis.

"Yes, we can go see Mickey.” I didn’t have the heart to explain that Orlando was over 1200 miles from New York and reaped the benefits of that deceit in bed.

In the morning I opened the atelier windows. A soft breeze carried the traces of Africa. An hour passed without an explosion. At noon Radio Nova announced that the Chirac government had freed the Lebanese prisoners. Hearing the news, Candia hugged a Mickey Mouse doll.

“What about Disneyworld?” Her voice was tinged by the realization of betrayal.

"Let me see what Serge says."

“You promise we see Mickey.” Her feet stamped on the floor. This was not just about Mickey Mouse.

“I have to check on the nightclub.” Dishes flying at my head was a favorite reaction to not getting her way and I dressed quickly in the same clothes as yesterday. They almost smelled clean.

“You can sleep at the club tonight, if you love that place so much.” Candia folded her arms across her chest.

“I’ll be back.” Flowers and a nice dinner worked wonders.

“Why bother?” Her cold green eyes revealed that we never had been more than two people sharing a bed.

“Why bother?” We were no longer a we. I blinked in disbelief. I hadn’t seen this coming, but I wasn’t the type to give up without a fight. “I’ll be back later.”

“Suit yourself.” She turned her back on me. I was no longer there even before I left the atelier.

I arrived at Rue Faux, expecting no progress on the club, however a new wall had been erected in my absence. The entrance had been restored to its gaudy glory, liquor bottles had been stacked over the bar, and the dance floor had been shined to the brilliance of a lacquered mirror. Serge stood at the newly refurbished disc jockey booth. Several milk crates filled with records lay at his feet.

“Surprised?” Serge was dressed in a 40s Zoot suit and dropped Willie Bobo’s SPANISH GREASE on the new turntable. The new speakers favored Latino Swing.

“Shocked.” When a French worker says, "Two weeks", he usually meant six weeks.

"A phone call here. A phone call there." His brother held office in the government, the club’s liquor came tax-free from a military base, two of our bouncers were off-duty marines. None of these favors were deemed ’ inappropriate'. Serge’s head bopped to the flute hitting a high note. “Opening date is in five days.”

“Damn, I promised Candia a trip to Disneyworld.” I rolled my eyes. “Now we’re opening I’ll have to cancel.”

“Ah, quais, Mssr. Mickey et les filles.” Having known Candia since she was 14, the suave Parisian was surprised that I had lasted longer than her other boyfriends and cued up Maurice Chevalier’s THANK HEAVEN FOR LITTLE GIRLS. “If you want to go, go. The workers will take another week at least.”

“Thanks.” I went to the bar to telephone Candia. She hung up a dozen times. Finally she answered and I blurted out, “I have a surprise for you. We’re going to Disneyworld.”

“I can’t. I have a job in Milan.”

“Then we can go to dinner at La Coupole tonight."

”My plane leaves this evening.” ADDICTED TO LOVE was playing in the background. She hated Robert Palmer’s hit, since she hadn’t been chosen as an android model for the video. Something must have changed her mind.

“Oh.” I suspected that he was in the apartment and told Serge that I would see him tomorrow.

“Embrace your chouchette for me.”

I exited from the nightclub. The carless street resembled a scene out of the 1870s. A tent had been erected under a balcony and a young clochard was cutting vegetables into a pot. The thin bum was better dressed than the derelicts sleeping under the Seine bridges, yet a tremor sizzled in my spine, as he lit his stove. It didn’t explode and I flagged a taxi, elated to have survived my fears.

At the atelier Candia was alone. A stubbed cigarette lay in the ashtray. The filter was unstained by lipstick. Candia threw it in the trash and packed her bag for Italy. Her good-bye kiss was a peck on the cheek.

Serge and I worked twenty-hour days. The countdown to opening shrunk to a handful of fingers. I called the hotel in Milan every evening. The desk clerk explained in bad English that she wasn't in her room. I left a message about the opening with the number of Le Reve. The phone never rang for me.

The contractor had performed a miracle inspired by money, but five minutes before the doors opened, an electrical surge blew the fuses. Serge found the breakers and switched on the lights. We were ready for business.

Fun-loving Parisians swarmed before Le Reve. Jacques and the two marines held back the horde. I picked and chose old faces to mingle with the young. The crowd at bar piled up three-deep. Serge’s DJing drove the teenagers onto the dance floor and Paris' elite drank with a thirst spurred by surviving the bomb campaign.

Candia showed up unexpectedly with her Puerto Rican father, who ran a small boite de nuit in St. Germain. She looked like an angel on the run in her tight white dress. I offered them a bottle of champagne. Candia's kiss was warm, but before I could hold her in my arms, Jacques tapped my shoulder.

“I need you at the door.” The handsome Martiniquan was quiet-spoken for his size. The young ex-con avoided trouble. He had already spent too much of his youth behind the walls of La Sante Prison.

"Someone?" I hated mysteries and accompanied Jacques to the door. The black giant pulled apart the curtains. The young clouchard was struggling with a lighter.

"He wants to see with you."

“He say why?”

“No,” Jacques had worked breaking and entering before my hiring him. All I had to do was say the word for him to prove his gratitude. “You want I make him go away?”

“No.” Twenty francs would buy the bum a bottle of wine and good luck for Le Reve. “I’ll see what he wants.”

Jacques unlatched the ropes for the quartet of golden youths from the 16th Arrondisement and I pulled out a few spare coins. The bum raised a smiling face and said in English "Hey, you don’t recognize me?"

Squinting I scrapped away the filth. I hadn't seen Danny Wall since leaving New York three years ago. I hugged the lanky DJ. Our embrace was a short-lived.

“When was the last time you bathed?” He smelled of zombie dirt.

“I didn’t think the French cared about personal hygiene.”

“Hey, I’m an American.” Parisian men’s one bar of soap per annum didn’t excuse his smelling like week-old garbage and I opened the ropes to the amazement of several waiting customers. “We have a shower in the basement. I’ll cuff you a couple of drinks afterwards.”

“That’s an offer I can’t refuse,” Danny broke out of his slouch. “I ran into your cousin in New York last year. She said you were here. Didn’t you leave right after Viktor Malenski got killed at the Continental?”

“A week later.” The passage of almost four years hadn’t erased the memory of my involvement in that deadly night. “I’ve been working in Paris since. I get paid to act rude to the French. Can it get better than that, can it?”

“You’re my new hero.” He nodded to the buxom cashier, who held her nose, as I led the ex-trumpeter to the basement changing room.

“So how about a shower?” I opened the taps of the washing room.

“Be a new man after that.” Danny stripped off his clothes and climbed into the steam-filled shower stall.

I left the washroom with his tattered clothes. They had outlived their usefulness several people ago. I dumped them in the trash bin and rummaged through a backstage closet. I hung a musty suit from the 1950s on the door and went upstairs with two cases of champagne. Serge was waiting at the bar.

“So who is your guest?”

“A friend from New York.” I ordered a whiskey.

“So the Americans are exporting bums to France.” My partner scoffed with the immense pleasure of hearing that an Amerlot had plunged to the bottom of the barrel. His happiness was short-lived, for a twenty-minute shower and a suit transformed Danny into a modern-day Casanova for Le Reve’s haughty female clientele.

“A new man.” I led him to the bar.

“Same old me, just cleaner.” We toasted the East Village. Candia danced with him twice. Her father knew Danny’s dad. I had another drink. It wasn’t my last.

Candia announced her departure and I gave her a sloppy goodnight kiss.

“You are not so handsome as a drunk.”

“Everyone else is pretty.”

“Fool.”

“I Love you.”

“You say those words so easy.” She spoke with an even sharpness.

“I mean it.” I escorted her to a taxi.

“Then what is love?” She shut the door before I could think of a good reply. The answer should have been on my lips.

I drank the rest of the night with Danny. As the night drew to a close, I asked the New Yorker. “You have anything in your ‘room’ you want to keep here?”

“No, ain’t nothing worth stealing.”

“What about your trumpet?” His band’s deconstructed version of SONGS FOR MY FATHER with Danny’s neophyte trumpet stubbornly orbiting the free-style band’s chaotic non-melody had been a show-stopper at the Mudd Club in the late-70s.

“I hocked it in Spain.”

“Pawn it? You lived for your music.” If he wasn’t playing his horn than he was spinning records.

“Like you used to live for your poetry.” Danny chugged his whiskey.

“I couldn’t write in meter.” My grammar school nuns had beaten a respect for classical cadence and proper grammar into our knuckles and editors came from the same school. I had rebelled against the teachings and stopped writing to prove them wrong.

“Your stopping partially inspired my dumping the horn.”

“Please don’t follow my failures.” My blame plate was full. “You could have been another Chet Baker.”

“I’d rather be Horace Silver, but who was I kidding? We sucked and no one cared if we sucked. We were young and pretty. I don’t regret quitting music and DJing and I bet you don’t regret stopping writing either. “All that ‘art’ shit was a monkey on our back. Now we can live as real men are supposed to live.”

Danny spoke with the coolness of a man who had abandoned a woman he didn’t love after seeing her with another man.

“Better than pretending to be Hemingway.” Ghosts of stories lurked in my skull as half-built ships in dry docks.

"Or Chet Baker." The lean New Yorker pushed back his wavy hair.

"But why are you living on the street. You belong to a cult giving away their possessions?”

“I’m waiting for my ship to come in.” The ex-trumpeter nearly swooned off the stool. “The whiskey kinda went to my head. I’ll be fine once I’m out at sea.”

“Your parents bought you a boat?” His family had money. A 50-foot catamaran was not beyond their means.

“I’m not taking their money anymore.”

“Yeah, fuck money.” I said, while wishing that his parents adopted me.

“I’m talking about fishing and not the rod-and-reel shit either. Nets and trawlers and thousands of hooks capable of tearing the flesh off your bones. And tons of fish on the wild sea.” His voice climbed an octave with an imagined voyage to the North Atlantic. “Fishing ala Captain Courageous for cod on the deep. Hacking fish from a line, as the ship plows into the sea and resurfaces streaming foam. Fishing in the black of night, the wind___”

“Stop already, I’m seasick.”

“Mal de mer has two cures. Land or drowning.” Danny was possessed by a convert’s devotion for his new profession.

“If you love fishing so much, what are you doing in Paris?”

“A long-line boat from Gloucester is supposed to dock in Brest and I’ll fish the Georges Bank.” Danny picked at a front tooth. It looked a little brown with decay.

“When is that?” I had lived in Gloucester. Fishing was a tough both on and off shore.

“Maybe a week. The wait is unimportant, if I’m on a boat in the end.”

“I wish I could offer you a place to stay.” A week was a long time on the street. Even longer at my place.

“Thanks, I’m fine in my humble hovel.” Danny lifted a hand to forestall any extra excuses. “You remember what your cousin said about men wanting a virgin or a whore. Well, I have my girl coming from Madrid. Crazy girl. Young like your girlfriend. Her mother was a flamenco dancer. Likes having sex. Her body is insatiable____” Limb by limb Danny reincarnated an ancient sex cult’s goddess, finally accusing her of nymphomania. “It’s no Roman orgy. It’s hard work. You’ll see. Believe me, you’ll see.”

His prediction was almost a curse and that night a super 8mm porno movie flickered in the shadows of my mind. The teenager noticed my distraction and asked, “What are you thinking?”

“About how much I want you.” It was a lie.

"Ouais?" She rolled out of bed to vainly examine my clothes for the telltale signs of infidelity, however the only traces of another woman were in my mind. She lay on the bed, fiercely clutching her Mickey doll. I reached over to Candia. She wasn’t having any of me and I fell asleep on my side of the bed.

Danny’s girl sounded too good to be true, but whenever models, dancers from the Paris Ballet, French actresses, artistes, and svelte students from the Sorbonne tried to seduce Danny, he told them, “I’m saving myself for Elana.”

One night Danny didn’t appear at his usual hour and I checked his shack. The canvas sea bag was gone. Paris was as tough a town as New York and two days later I reported his disappearance to the prefecture on the third night. The gendarme at the desk joked that people frequently disappeared in Paris.

“Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes by mistake.”

I didn’t laugh, but should have, for the next night Danny approached Le Reve, newly shaven with his hair cut. When he hugged me, I smelled a woman’s perfume.

“Let me guess. Your girl came into town.”

“I told you she would." He beamed the joy of a sailor on leave.

“I was beginning to believe she was a fragment of your imagination.”

“No, Elana’s the real thing.” danny looked over his shoulder.

A slender female in a cotton shift was crossing Rue Faux. Her black hair was disheveled by the rough touch of a man; several buttons had been popped from her dress and her cheeks were flushed from exertion. She personified the wraith from my dreams and even more so when Danny whispered, “We had sex on top of the Opera house.”

“Good view.” Two bodies atop the art-deco palace.

“We didn’t go there for the view.” Danny introduced us.

“He talks about you.” A serpentine arm encircled his waist.

“What he say?” I led them inside Le Reve.

“That you’re a genius for not wanting to be a genius.” The two clung to each other to form one body.

“I specialize at failurology.” I ordered three glasses of champagne at the bar and fended off my jealousy. “Here’s to making Danny happy.”

“To everyone’s happiness." Elana stopped my raising the glass. "Yours, mine, and Danny’s.”

“Watch out, my friend.” Danny slapped my back. “Elana has you in her sights.”

“I have a strict rule about sleeping with friend’s girlfriends or wives.”

“I like a man of principle.” Her body melted into his and I feebly excused myself to count cash in the office.

When I returned, the staff and customers had vanished from the bar. Plastic Bertrand’s JET BOY JET GIRL was playing underneath my feet. I descended the spiral staircase and pushed my way through the bustling crowd to the dance floor.

Danny was in the DJ booth and Elana was writhing against a shining steel pole, then the song segued to The Kingsmen’s raucous MONEY and she stripped off the cotton shift and flung it to a wide-mouthed Serge. She deftly popped a flimsy bra to bare cupcake breasts and her fingers salaciously beckoned the men to join her in a dance.

My attempt to break through the mob came too late, for Danny leapt into the circle and yanked Elana by the hair. The club-goers were delighted by the impromptu Apache dance. Danny seized the girl like a Roman taking a Sabine woman. I advanced one step to cut in, then the song stopped and the crowd applauded the two dancers.

Serge put of Gainsbourg’s LOVE ON THE BEAT and Elana bowed her head, so a string of black hair bisected her face. This apparition of a lost Mayan princess paralyzed nearly every man in the room and Danny held up an empty glass.

“Hey, man. You’ll break your eyes that way.”

“I liked her dancing.” It had emptied my soul.

“Only liked?” Elana stepped into her dress and stuffed the bra into Danny’s pocket.

‘He loved it.” Danny laughed hard. “And you owe us a drink for the show.”

“More than one.” I ordered the bartender to give Danny and Elana whatever they wanted before leaving the nightclub to clear my head. The late September night air was cold and I prayed against any more temptations. I hadn’t prayed to God in a long time and He averted his gaze, for a voice said with a Castilian lisp, “I saw your look.”

”What look was that?”

“Like devil was trying to buy your soul.”

“What’s the temptation?”

“You and me naked in warm weather so sweat will form on my belly and___”

“You’re Danny’s girl.” She was his.

“Relationships don’t stop the work of the Devil.” Her hand grasped mine. “I tell you a story. I was born in Madrid. My mother she worked as a flamenco dancer and also took men home too. Una puta. One night she didn’t come back. Where she went, I never found out. My aunt took care of me. We moved to Barcelona and she worked the Ramblas. Men came to her room and I hid in the closet. At first I shut my eyes, thinking they were killing her. After a while I watched. It was better than TV. Sometimes I had to wait in the corridor with the other children. We played the same games as our parents; only it was a joke, then when I’m twelve a man comes to my aunt. He is handsome. He wants me to watch. Nothing more. My aunt tells me to leave. I say I have already seen her do everything. The man gives us both money. I think one day he will take me too. He never does he touches me. Not when I was thirteen fourteen or even fifteen. I watch and he wouldn’t let me touch myself either. Watch. Nothing else and then one day he stopped coming to see my aunt. Maybe she was too old or I was too old. You know what?”

”What?” I was helpless.

“You look a little like him?”

“I've had never been to Spain."

“That shouldn’t stop you from making my dream come true.” She rubbed her body against mine like a stray cat seeking a home and then slinked into the club, murmuring, “Moi et toi.”

I bit my lip and followed her into Le Reve.

Elana pushed a handsome boy off a stool. His frustration was almost audible, as my hand trailed up her thigh hiking the short dress higher.

“You touching me while other men watch thrills every atom in my body." She arched her neck back with eyes searing the ceiling. "They want to be you and I want you in me. Can we go someplace?”

A cheap hotel was across the street. No one would miss me for an hour, however my answer died with Candia’s entrance. She stormed out of the club and I leaped off the barstool in pursuit.

“What about us?” Elana caught me at the door.

“I’ll have to take a rain check.”

“Rain check?” I didn’t waste any time on translations and chased Candia to the corner. Our fight continued on the cab ride and in front of our atelier she tried to hit me with her high heels. I grabbed her arms and begged her forgiveness.

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve never been with another woman since I met you and you’re more to me than a warm bed.”

These words granted a temporary absolution and we went upstairs to make love so frantically that our ardor massacred every woman in my life to a first kiss in kindergarten, however in my sleep Elana danced out of the mist, wearing a sheet of sweat. My tongue must have been licking my lips, for Candia punched my arm, “If you dream about other women, sleep in another bed.”

I wandered into the living room. I was trapped by a ghost. One from the future.

The next night I constructed a bed of pillows in the nightclub office. My preparations were wasted. Jacques handed a note from Danny. The New Yorker was going down to his ship in Brest. Elana was accompanying him to the sea.

At the end of September Candia left for a photo shoot in the Alps. She phoned the first night to say her boss had invited the fashion team for a weekend hiking trip. I bit my tongue and drank heavier than normal that weekend.

Candia called on Sunday to say they were stranded by a snowstorm. When she hung up, I convinced myself this was a fling 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 an evening of coaxing her into my arms.

Candia arrived late. A silver fur coat adorned 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.”

“Go ahead.”

She left without mentioning what time to expect her home. It wouldn’t be early.

I had dinner at La Coupole and took a taxi to the club. It was an off night and I ordered a whiskey-coke. By 3AM I drank myself partially deaf and dumb.

“What’s wrong?” Serge stopped my dancing on a stool to Arthur Lee’s HEY JOE.

“Nothing another whiskey-coke wouldn’t cure.” I shouted for a refill and Serge annulled my order. “Go home and sleep this off?”

“A house is not a home.” I staggered to the entrance and a runway model from Baltimore waylaid my departure. “Care to join me for a nightcap.”

“Where?” I had champagne waiting in a bucket of melted ice.

“Where is unimportant.” And she whispered an obscene proposal. Her idea of a nightcap differed from mine. “So?”

My girlfriend was probably making love to another man, however I held the high moral ground. “Another night.”

“Another night?” The beautiful redhead graced the cover of Elle. No male in their right mind had refused her favors. “You’re making a big mistake.”

“It won’t be the first or the biggest.” I weaved out of the club and trudged toward the Seine. The river lay between the two banks like octopus ink and I lifted my leg onto the parapet.

“Eh, vous.” A fat policeman appeared out of the gloom and I ran off the bridge, as the flic yelled, “Arrête, arrête.”

I outran the fat cop and marched relentlessly to the 15th arrondisement, realizing while I might not forget this trespass, I could forgive Candia’s sin. I just needed the chance.

Reaching the Impasse Dantzig I lifted my eyes. The lights in the atelier were off. My key turned in the lock. The door opened with a creak. An empty champagne bottle was on the floor between shiny Gucci loafers. They were neither my size nor style. A man moaned behind the nearest closed door and I charged into the bedroom with a roar. A balding man lifted his arms too late to deflect my fist and he tumbled semi-conscious onto the floor. I threw Candia on the floor. The girl nursing my cold, the lover cuddling me after sex, and the dinner companion laughing at my jokes were gone.

“Why?”

“You know why,” she spat with an unrecognizable hostility. “You never loved me. You loved a ghost. A ghost of a woman that does not exist.”

I envisioned a deadly blow, police, and trial. No French court had convicted a man of a crime de passion, but my blow would have been revenge for her speaking the truth. I chucked the Mickey Mouse telephone through the window into the street, after which I scourged the couple from the apartment with the frayed wire. The man’s suit and shoes followed it out the broken window as a petty act of vengeance.

I packed my clothes, journals, tape deck, camera, and photos. Five minutes later I fled the apartment fearing the arrival of the gendarmes, and hailed a taxi on the nearest boulevard. The hour and my bag explained the story and the unshaven driver shrugged knowingly, “Un hotel?”

“Ouais, le Hotel Marais.” My accelerated breathing worried the driver, who asked, “Mssr., vous etes okay?”

“Ouais.” I lowered the window. The cold air failed to pluck the splintered razors from my lungs. A bottle of tranquilizers rested in my coat. Three or four were on the menu. It took the driver 20 minutes to reach Rue Des Ecouffes. I paid with a 100-franc note.

“Keep the change.” The sky was fettered by glowering gray clouds. The morning offered no dawn.

“Merci.” He drove away to pick up a couple holding hands.

I entered the hotel lobby with my hand gripping the bottle of tranks. The old woman was asleep at the desk. Waking her seemed a sin, except I had nearly broken the 5th Commandment twenty minutes before. I rang the bell and she blinked several times before recognizing my face from the previous stay.

“Ah, Mssr., je imagine que vous voulez une chambre.”

“Une chambre pour un nuit.” A room with a bath fulfilled my physical needs.

“Chambre 312.” She passed over a brass key and indicated the stairs.

It was the room from before. Nothing had changed. I sat on the soft bed and weighed my options. The pill bottle was only one route. The window was another. Neither would save my soul and I dropped three pills. The rest would have to wait for a more desperate occasion.

I woke to the shouts of the little gangsters on Rue des Ecouffes. The bells from a nearby church toned out the noon hour. The throbbing of my hangover was replaced by the resurrection of Candia’s infidelity. She had brought her lover on purpose. Jack Lemmon must have felt the same way in THE APARTMENT when he realized Shirley MacLaine was having an affair with his boss, Fred MacMurray.
My hands mimicked the act of strangulation. I choked her dead. Thin air was no replacement for a seventeen year-old’s neck, except 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 in the hotel ashtray and burned with a chemical speed. The flames wrinkled her face and an acrid fume corkscrewed into my nose. Fearing Candia might invade my body, I flushed the flaming photos down the toilet, then left the hotel for a drink.

The October wind hurried me to the Tartine on Rue Du Rivoli and I sat on the terrace sheltered by a glass wall. The waitress wrote down my order of a cafe au lait, croissant, and two shots of Calvados before disappearing inside.

Waiting for my breakfast I regarded the passing couples with hatred. Two more Calvados numbed my senses to the grisly weather and diminished the bite of Candia’s words. After a fifth applejack I failed to register someone sitting beside me, until he lit a cigarette.

“I’ve been looking for you.” Judging from the stubble Serge had not woken at his apartment.

“Why?” My face was numb from the alcohol.

“I called your house this morning and spoke with your girlfriend.” Serge signaled to the waiter for another round.

“More like my girlfiend.” Dropping an ‘r’ from friend was lost on the Frenchman.

“What the bitch say for herself?”

“She is worried about you.” Serge’s eyes pursued two schoolgirls.

“If she cared about me, why she bring home that man?” I blew into my hands, envying his freedom.

“You Americans treat women as men. 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 heading to a casting call. “You allowed her to have affairs and she concluded you did not care about her.”

“I almost killed her.”

“C’est vrai, and now she appreciates you.”

“Appreciates me?”

“Yes, a woman is a horse. You hold the reins tight and the horse will throw you. Too loose and she will run away.” He slapped his hands together. “Yeei.”

“You’ve been watching too many cowboy movies.” My parents had reared me to not hit a woman. It was their one rule that I obeyed without question. I was sadly learning that there should have been more.

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

The only drawings of a Neanderthals dragging a woman by her hair existed as TV cartoons, however man’s dominance over woman needed no historical proof in France. “This is the almost the 21st Century.”

“Eh, alors, the collapse of classic family structures reinforces the need to 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 Mickey Mouse.”

“Couldn’t I be another animal?”

“No, you are not a dog, you are not an ape. You are man.” My passivity ignited his machismo for my own good. “I have seen you throw Brigitte Bardot out of a nightclub. Your friend Danny talked about your fights with the Russian mafia. Are you going to let a teenager push you around?”

“Sometimes you have to know when to do nothing.”

“If you let this wound bleed, you will be no good for the next woman you meet.”

”I’m done with women.”

“Ha, there is always another woman. A plus tard.”

To prove his thesis Serge stalked a fashionably-attired woman in her thirties.

Within a few paces she rewarded his boldness with a smile and they linked arms.

Serge was right. I had sung I’M A MAN a hundred times.

Restrengthened by the Yardbirds song, I shambled to the boulevard, foreseeing my kicking in the door, except every taxi was occupied and the urge to reclaim Candia was humbled by the wait. My problem with Candia had nothing to do with her infidelity and I returned to the hotel not wanting to leave my room.

The owner brought me tea and a baguette every morning. Candia came to the club and asked for a second chance. It was more like the fifth. We slept together three nights and I got a venereal disease. She said it came from a toilet seat. Our final good-bye was at the VD clinic.

I bought a typewriter and wrote a novella about a nightclub owner being offered fame and fortune by Satan. A French production company invested money in a script of GO-GO GIRLS FROM HELL. Serge hired three models to cut a record TAKE ME HIGHER. The three models got pregnant from their boyfriends and blamed me for the miracle of Immaculate Conception. The hundred sample records of TAKE ME HIGHER arrived warped as potato chips and the film company lost interest without the girls. I had nothing keeping me in Paris and bought a one-way ticket to America from a travel agency on the Boulevard St. Paul.

A taxi got me to Charles de Gaulle Aeroport with an hour to spare. I dumped my spare change into the charity bowl for children. There were no good-byes.

My parents didn’t question my return and I celebrated a family Christmas with the usual trimmings. My brothers and sisters sensed my smiles were superficial and asked me to stay, except Boston was too small after Paris and New York.
The Amtrak train took 5 hours to reach Penn Station. A taxi drove me to East 10th street. My apartment was small after living in Candia’s atelier, but the pizza at Stromboli’s was good and TV was in English. My friends initially greeted me with suspicion, since any absence from the city was regarded an act of treason to New Yorkers.

At the end of January I instructed Serge to sell my share of the club. He warned this was an imprudent business move. I needed the cash. The money arrived the end of January.

An albino producer hired me to write a screenplay. We spent the winter in the Berkshire Hills, fleshing out a tale about a young mistress inheriting an offshore island in the Keys. He had me sign over the rights to WHERE THE HIGHWAY ENDS for $10,000 and a 1964 Triumph Tiger. The movie was made it to film.

“You should come out to LA,” My cousin Sherri said XXX companies were paying good money for porno scripts.

“You said that before.”

“And you said ‘no’.”

“Give me a good reason to come out.”
“Maybe you can meet a nice girl.”

“Are there any?”

“Well, maybe not nice, but sexy.” She never lied to me.

“I’ll be there.”

I flew out to the valley and wrote several screenplays, however the industry was switching from film to video for the fast-forward action crowd. Starlets would rather fuck a car valet than a writer. North Hollywood was hell for writers.
Without Che’s star quality my cousin’s films had degenerated to sloppy free-for-alls. Her name dropped from star to supporting roles and Sherri’s condition worsened with an arrest for indecent exposure. After I bailed her out, she drove her battered Skylark directly to the dealer in Sunland.

“Maybe you should cool out. We could go to the desert.”

“So you can fuck me like everyone else?” This was the drugs speaking.

“No, so you don’t die.” Her arms and legs were stitched with tracks. She was nodding behind the wheel and we narrowly missed a semi-trailer on the Ventura Freeway.

"Let me drive."

"No."

"You're going to kill us." I was desperate, but not that desperate.

“I survived being deserted by my mother. I survived adoption. I survived these films. I survived Che leaving me.” She cried for an hour by the side of the road. I held her in my arms. Worst was sure to come.

“You can’t die on me. You promised you would push me down the stairs.”

“I’ll live that long.” Sherri sniffed away the tears. “Even if it kills me.”

Several days later Sherri dropped me at LAX and I wondered whether I would see her again. Our friends and enemies died from AIDS, ODs, suicides, and stupid accidents. Natural causes were for the rest of the world and so were normal relationships.

New York women were looking for millionaires. I didn’t stand a chance against bald-headed bankers or loud stockbrokers. On a visit to Boston my mother suggested visiting Ireland to find a woman like herself or my sisters.

“I’ll even pay the ticket. I know you want to marry and have kids."

"I do.” It was the first time I admitted this goal.

“You’ll never meet a girl like that in New York.”

“Other people do. Maybe I’ll be lucky.”

“Lucky is for horse races.” She believed more in prayers than casinos. “What about Ireland?”

“I’ll save it for a rainy day.” Every Irish woman leaves the Emerald Isle once she’s old enough to breed or else she’ll have a brood of five before she’s 20.

I returned to Manhattan even more committed to finding solace as a bachelor.

Life was comfortable. A doorman job at a nightclub paid my rent. I worked five days a week. My days and nights were a habit of routine. I saw them lasting forever.

In late April I was rolling on the Triumph along 3rd Avenue after a rainstorm. Not many people were on the streets; a trio of addicts on 14th Street, two junkie whores working the car traffic of 13th Street, and at 12th Street a raven-haired girl in a long leather trench coat struggling with a bald man in denim.

When he slapped her, I jammed on the brakes and the bike skidded on the wet pavement to halt a foot from the couple. Her assailant unbuttoned his jacket. A gun was tucked into his waistband. Any sane man would have roared away like an A-4 jet slingshot off an aircraft carrier deck, instead I warned, “Don’t touch the girl again.”

“You want a piece?” He wrenched apart her coat. She wasn’t wearing any clothes underneath. A vee of pubic hair fluffed below the pouting belly. The pimp forced her forward by a shank of hair. “Sometimes we have force them into what they like?”

The streetlight hit the face.
“Elana.”
“You’ve met before?” The bald man relaxed his grip.

"In Paris."

"You really do get around."

"Fuck you." Elana dug a high heel into his foot and she jumped on my bike. “Go, go, go.”

We burned a red light at St. Mark’s and she snuggled against my spine.

“You happy to see me?”

“Yeah.”

"Take me someplace."

I drove to a bar far from 3rd Avenue. The three old drunks on the stools straightened their postures for Elana. I ordered two beers from the bartender and led her into a dark corner. Lifting the tail of her coat, Elana sat on my lap and her rounded ass settled into my crotch.

“I liked your lips in Paris.”

“I haven’t forgotten yours.”

“We weren’t so lucky that night.”

“Where’s Danny?” I had to ask. He was a friend.

“Danny and me go to Brest. His boat comes in. He says to meet him in two months. I wave good-bye and cry. I work in a dance bar in Amsterdam.” The intonation on ‘dance bar’ meant a strip club. “I make money. You like my dancing?”

“Who can I forget?” Her dance at the Reve was acid-etched in my retinas.

“Never I hope.” Elana wriggled sinuously, as her reptile tongue slithered into my mouth and I fell without any safety ropes to haul me from the chasm. Finally she released her hold. “Many men love me in Amsterdam. I meet this bald man and he buys me a ticket to New York, so I can find Danny. We arrive this afternoon and this night two friends visit his place. They want a ménage a quatre. I refuse and he beats me.”

Elana pressed my fingers to the raised welts on her belly. The story was simple and they always are, if the worst parts are left out. My muscles tensed into knots. She opened my fingers and guided my hand underneath her coat.

“That doesn’t matter any more. I need you. You tell me where first.”

No man can retain his sanity after hearing such an offer, but I only had time to lose half my mind, for the bald man shouted from three feet away, “You bitch.”

How he found us was unimportant and I shoved Elana at him. She scratched his face. Her attack opened his defenses for a hard-swung beer bottle. Blood spurted from a gash in his forehead and he fell to his knees, pistol in hand. One kick to the skull and he flopped to the floor. The bald man had paid more for the sins of others as well as his own.

Elana deftly rifled the man’s pockets. The bartender shouted he was calling the police. Brandishing a wallet and keys, she jumped to her feet and grabbed my hand. We ran to my Triumph.

The bike started with a backfire and we roared away from the bar. My temples pounded faster than the pistons of the 650cc engine and I wondered if the entire episode had been a cheap thrill. A glimpse over my shoulder revealed the bald man wasn’t a joke.

“We go to his place, get my clothes, and then you can have me any way you desire.” Elana directed me to a decrepit three-story building in Chinatown. The streets were empty and she slipped off the bike.

“I’ll be a minute.”

The door slammed shut and my hand revved the gas. Leaving was the smartest thing to do. I waited. Two minutes later Elana emerged with one bag.

"I half-expected you to be gone."

"I'm not going anywhere this time."

"So this is a raincheck?"

"Yes."

"Good.” Her arms curled around my chest and she nipped at my ear. “Let’s go to your place. Fast.”

We reached East 10th Street in less than two minutes and climbed three flights to my apartment in thirty seconds. I opened the door and she scampered into the unlit bedroom. Shucking her leather coat she fell on the mattress to become a carbon-black shadow on the white sheets.

“Come to me.”

I knelt between her legs and she locked her ankles around my hips to guide me deep inside her, saying, “Oh, yeah.”

With each orgasm Elana shape-shifted from vivid temple whore to virginal lover to hardened streetwalker to an aging courtesan, and finally an old lover telling a dirty bedtime story. There was no bald man, no Danny, no New York, no Paris, no anything. When I tried to roll off, she held on. “Stay in me longer.”

She aroused me once more with a stroke of my thigh. Her fingernails feathered the tight flesh behind my testicles and her teeth scrapped my foreskin. She hadn’t learned this technique at dance school.

“You bitch.” I grabbed a length of hair.

“I’m whoever you want me to be.” Her hands peeled her ass cheeks and I followed her darkest wish, this time for an hour and the next time to dawn and sleep.

I woke in bed alone, but Elana was no Cinderella. The water was running in the bathroom. Elana rested under a steaming surface with her black hair fanned on the curved edge, so she resembled a fairy-tale princess in slumber. With closed eyes Elana asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

“It matter, if I did?”

“Not this time.” She lolled her head and I pressed my thumbs into the taut muscles of her neck. Her sibilant moan verified if I didn’t have a girlfriend, I did now and she stood up in the bath.

“Are you scared?” Elana was five foot-four and weighed a hundred pounds.

“I can deal with you.” I wrapped her in a towel.

“You know that story I tell you about that man. I go look for him everywhere last year. In the end I find is you.” She let the towel fall to the floor. I will kiss your skin and kiss your heart. I will kiss your body.”

I could have asked why. There had to be more than one reason. Maybe more than two, instead I let her fulfill this promise during the next three days in bed. The number of times we spoke could be counted on one hand. Truthfully words would have rotted the bonds of flesh. On the fourth evening Elana dressed in a black plastic dress and a matching coat.

“We’re going for a ride. I’ll tell you where, when we get there.”

The night air was warm and the trees were budding bright green leaves. My bike sped us downtown to under the Brooklyn Bridge. Elana tapped my shoulder and pointed to the concrete bumper encircling the Manhattan support tower. Upon reaching the concrete causeway to the bridge tower, she ordered me to stop.
“I have a special place to show you. It was in this movie WOLFEN.

“WOLFEN had a scene on top of the bridge.” I had seen the urban tale of werewolves several times. “There’s nothing here.”

“Only you and me.” She crawled through a breach in the chain link fence and walked out on the corroding concrete bumper. A tug hauling a barge blew its horn and its wake lapped at the pier. Traffic hummed overhead on the bridge’s steel gratings.

“I saw this pier in the background of the movie.” Elana placed her hands against the tower’s base. “You can feel the power of the city in the stones. Vibrating with a hum. Feel it through me now.”

“Here?” No one was in sight.

“Now.” Now had one meaning and afterwards she said breathlessly, “I have some more places to visit too.”

Elana was wild and I had no intention of taming her.

Out on a fire-twisted Hudson pier we coupled with total rejection of self-preservation. Inside an elevator stopped between floors with the alarm blaring I brought her to orgasm with my tongue. During a downpour we fucked against a post office wall, her skirt pushed above her hips and shirt opened to the waist. Neither of us noticed the passers-by. Once we were joined together, nothing and nobody was pulling us part. After a handful of such episodes I understood that Elana’s insatiability was destined to break me and I was beyond caring whether the wreckage was my body or soul.

I took her to see my favorite film, Billy Wilder's THE APARTMENT with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacClaine. She was Warren Beatty's brother.

"Why do you like that film? The man gets hurt by the woman. He gets hurt by everyone. Is that what you want?"

"I liked it as a boy." I liked it as a man too.

"You're not a boy anymore

The word ‘love’ was forming on my lips and other people loved Elana too. The homeless people on Avenue A called out her name. She always had a spare change. The police cars whooped in passing. She flashed her ass. The kids in the park loved to see her dance. She befriended the old Puerto Rican lady across the hall. They would sit in her kitchen and laugh at the Latin DJ’s jokes. Whenever I asked what was so funny, they laughed harder.

Elana attended the dance classes at the community center opposite my apartment. From my fire escape I watched her lewd spinning around a pole. This move offended the modernists, until a lascivious gesture dissipated their resistance and they gathered around the heretic like moths in a maelstrom for a reward of raw abandonment to which I was no stranger.

Elana returned from these classes to perform Salome to the music from the movie, VAMPYROS LESBOS, an earth nymph to Joni Mitchell or a jazzy waif to John Coltrane. Sapped of her reserves, she would collapse on the sofa and softly beckoned to take her.

One night as we lazed in the sexual afterglow, she said, “You not love me for me.”

“It’s not that I don’t love you.”

“You are scared I can hurt you.”

“Sorry.”

“Not be sorry. You wanting my body is fine. I want you the same way. One girl in the dance class has seen you spying us. I told her you were my boyfriend. She wants to meet you. Can you handle two women at one time?”

“I can satisfy you, can’t I?” I dragged her into the bedroom and my heart nearly burst through my ribcage to prove my ardor.

She was ready for more and said, “I win.”

The proposition was forgotten, although I remembered her questioning my involvement. I wanted more from her. Walks in the rain and fireside chats were becoming more appealing than sex.

I returned to the apartment with flowers and found Elana was underneath a heavy-bodied female. She reached out with a rehearsed lethargy.

Powerless I dropped the flowers on the floor and days elapsed with the decreasing need for what she was more than willing to give without my telling her that I wanted something else. We were locked in the language of sex. My fingers entered secret passages, my tongue explored caves, and my penis was swallowed to the root, then the phone rang at dawn.

It continued throughout her free-fall of orgasms and I tried to knock the phone off the hook. She blocked my hand and held the receiver to her ear. Hearing the voice on the other end she squealed with an unbridled joy. “I’ll come to you.”

The caller was Danny and I smiled to hide my heart crumbling to dust.

“Where is he?”

“Gloucester.” She stroked my side. “Is it far?”

“Far enough? When are you leaving?”

“Today, if you give me the money for a bus.”

I swallowed hard. “Not tomorrow?”

“No, I have to leave today.”

“Get packed and I’ll drive you to the Bus Terminal.”

She collected her few belongings and informed my neighbor about her departure. The old bruja kissed her forehead. “Buena Suerta.”

Driving to Port Authority I contemplated leaving her on the street, except too many women had vanished from the bus station and I bought a round-trip ticket to Gloucester, thinking one day she might use the return half. At the gate for Boston, she said, “You knew one day he will call.”

“But not this soon.” I got no explanation how Danny knew she was at my place.

“I had fun.” Elana motioned for the driver to wait a second.

“Laughs too.” I was deaf to my heart begging her to stay. “You better hurry.”

She kissed my cheek and boarded the bus. It pulled away in a choking cloud of exhaust. I panicked and ran to my bike. The bus route was straight up 8th Avenue. I arrived outside to find a Midtown cop writing a parking ticket and he wasn’t buying any love story. Back on East 10th Street I purged my apartment of scent-saturated sheets, soiled panties, stray stockings, lipstick tubes, make-up, nail polish remover, combs, brushes, and hairpins.

Within two hours my place was as devoid of female accoutrements as a Trappist monk’s cell. Not the way I liked it, simply the way it was.

The spring rains washed the dirt from the streets. Thunder echoed across the city and lightning slashed jagged bolts through the sky like a celestial film crew was remaking THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. Every song was written about Elana and I was tossed out of several bars for punching out the jukebox.
Other women had lips too thin and their eyes dead from too many boyfriends. I begged the old Puerto Rican lady to exorcise Elana from my soul.
“You tell her stay?” she asked in broken English.

“No, she wanted to go, so she went.”

“Stupido, you no say no go, she go. You say stay, she stay.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I am a witch.” The old lady slammed her door. “Not your mother.”

May plowed relentlessly into June. Couples strolled hand in hand and I woke day after day alone in my bed. Summer promised much more of the same, then one morning someone jiggled my front door. The East Village was overrun by thieves. I grabbed my baseball bat and ripped open the door.

”Don’t hit me.” Elana cringed in the hallway.

“I won’t hit you.” It took a couple of seconds to lower the bat.

“You mad?” She leaned against the door.

“No, surprised.” She had a black eye and wore a thin cotton shift.

Everything else was in a paper bag. “And Danny?”

Heart-rending sobs racked her body and the old senora leaned out her door, her left eye armed for a hex. Elana rattled off an explanation in English and added, “He’s not bad man.”

“You take care of her or else.” The wizened witch warned with a wavering finger.
“I will.” As a superstitious Irish-American I feared her ‘or else’ worse than any hell promised by the nuns and priests.

Elana was sitting on my living room couch. I joined her and she laid her head on my lap. Her tears dried on my jeans and she regained her breath. The window was open and music played from the dance studio. It was Isaac Hayes' version of BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX.

“I get to Gloucester and Danny is very happy." Elana wiped her nose with the back of her hand and then continued, "We move to an old boat in the harbor and make love for many days. After two months I ask him to marry me.” Her confession chipped at my heart. “Danny goes crazy. He throws me out of the boat. He beats me, telling me I am trying to steal his freedom. I stay on his boat and cry myself to sleep. I wake up, Danny is gone to sea. I wait one week. He stays at sea. Where can I go? Not home. I come here. You are my only friend. Can I stay with you?”

“As long as you want.” Maybe forever.

“It has been so long.” She stripped off her clothes to reveal the fading belt marks and bruises, but she sighed, “They will leave. I will not.”

The door remained shut for days. She was my slave and I hers. Somehow the sex was different and I put my finger on this change one afternoon, as we lay naked on my bed.

Elana’s lips were moving in what I thought was a slattern incantation, but then I deciphered two syllables. With her eyes closed I was Danny. This substituted identity sobered my lust and I rolled off her.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m tired.” Like that the end began.

Each time she tried to seduce me with her hands or mouth or body, I said I wasn’t in the mood. Frustrated she would storm off to the old senora. I quelled my discontent with drink and drugs, a deadly combination on a motorcycle. One night I fell through the door in a near-stupor.

“You should not drive in that condition.” Elana helped me to bed.

“Why not?”

“I was waiting for you.”

“Why? Couldn’t you find one of your little dancers or another version of Danny?”

Her face went white and she ran into the bedroom.

Comforting her was a small price to pay. Perhaps one day she might have called my name. My pride argued I didn’t need her. It didn’t take long to discover the penalty of my self-deceit.

When I crawled into bed around dawn, ready to repent, she showed her back.

That afternoon I told her, “Elana, my sister is coming to the city.”

“I have to leave?” Her feet slowed across the floor.

“Do you have anyplace to go?”

“Yes, I will stay with friends.” She stood without mentioning who those friends might be and I left before I regretted my lie.

When I returned, she was gone. A quick check of my apartment revealed that she had stolen a couple hundred dollars. It seemed a small price to pay for her leaving, only I was hiding the real cost.

The old lady across the hall asked about Elana.

“No se.” There was no note.

Wicked Spanish hissed from her lips and I fled inside my apartment too late. Chicken bones were scattered on my door step and her cackling filled the hallway. Her curse sentenced me to another desert.

Some women sought to be friends and others thought I was gay. Mrs. Adorno seemed to shrink every week of this penance. I searched the streets of the East Village for Elana. No one would say where she was, even though I could tell they knew.

My cousin Sherri flew into town for a dance session at Show World. She patiently listened to my story and then said, “I used to think that sex was the answer, but I’ve learned that the sex is sex. Nothing more and people make too much of it. To sell movies. To sell TV time. To sell cars. It’s not about the sex. It’s about the way you feel when you have sex with someone you love. Everything else you can get from jerking off.”

“Everything?” I had my doubts.

“Well, only if you don’t think masturbation is a sin.”

“I was brought up Catholic.”

“Then you’re doomed to damnation.”

“And wouldn’t have it any other way.” Sherri and I were destined to survive our tribulations if only to tell people about them, since most of what we would have to say was unbelievable. We weren’t the only people with stories.

In early autumn I ran into Danny at a gallery opening for his friend, Jean-Michel. His face was weathered by the sea. I lunged at him and people had to hold us apart, but finally I calmed down and he asked, “What did Elana say to you?”

“That you had beaten her.”

“I never touched her.” Danny grabbed at a passing glass of wine. I took another. Like me he wasn’t a woman-beater. “I wasn’t pissed at you for taking care of Elana. When she came up to Gloucester I could tell it was different between us. We only had sex that first night and the rest of the time she would look out the window at the harbor.”

“You lived in a house?”

“On a wharf really.”

I knew Gloucester and bet the wharf was on Rocky Neck. “She lied about that?”

“She tell you a story about her mother abandoning her?” Danny’s eyes went sad. “I met her mother and father in Madrid. Had a dance school. Nice people. The other story was what you needed to hear. What men wanted to hear, because she thought she wasn’t enough to be who she wanted to be?”

“I didn’t see her that way.”

”Neither did I, but she did.”

“So now what?” The belt marks and bruises had come from somewhere, but that somewhere was not Danny.

“Let’s get drunk.” We drank whiskey at the Odeon. He slept over my apartment and in the morning left for Gloucester. I wished him luck.

Leaves fell from the trees. The air grew cold. I saw my friends, drank at bars, and told stories about Paris. Their laughter proved that tragedies could become comedies with time.

The night before Halloween I was sitting on my Triumph before Madame Rosa's near the Holland Tunnel. A yellow taxi pulled into the alley and stopped a foot from my bike. A blonde in a black leather cuirass and steel-strapped girdle emerged from the Checker. The Devil would have been proud how this sadistic apparition paralyzed every man on the street. Her unworldly eyes trawled for prey and settled on me.

“Elana.” I revved the engine.

“I’m happy you have not forgotten me.” She threw a leg over my bike. “Let’s go. Anywhere.”

My heart thumped through five gears. Within minutes we were on 10th Street. Twenty seconds after my apartment slammed shut, we were naked. It was like our first night. Neither of us held anything in reserve and the pleasure became a pain, which I quelled with a stuttered ejaculation.

As I strained to regain my breath, Elana explained, “You throw me out. These punks from the park live in a squat. We live as animals and are animals with each other. Not washing and eating food we find in the trash, fucking like savages. Soon the men only want me. The other women hate me. One day I meet this woman. She and I perform dominatrix shows for businessmen. They love us. We are the best. This girl and I start a business. I have a loft and a beautiful girlfriend. I thank you for throwing me out.”

“You didn’t come to tell me that.”

“No, the old senorita told me she had placed a curse on you and the only way for it to come off was for me to make love to you.”

“Thank you.”

"You fucked with me, but didn't deserve that."

“Why the stories? About Danny? About the man in Madrid. About everything? Did you really love Danny?”

“Yes, and you too. You both only wanted me for sex and I gave myself freely, but not anymore. Men pay me $500 for an hour. There is no way even a thousand free orgasms can add up to an hour, but life is way too long not to fall in love and I have that with this woman. The sex is good. Everything else is so much better. Maybe you helped me to understand that. Maybe you didn’t, but I’m almost happy now. Happy to be me and not a fairy tale for someone else like your stupid movie THE APARTMENT. Your friend Sherri told me to watch it, but it was just a movie. Nothing else and you’re not either man in the movie. You’re not bad and you’re not good. You’re just you and no one else.” She attached the leather and buckles and clips with the care of a samurai suiting for battle and slowly counted out $400.

“I owe you that.”

“Where are you going?” I felt more like me than I had in a long time.

“Uptown. A priest needs a succubus to a ritual crucifixion.” She offered a full view of her body, as her gloved hand reached for the door. “Do I look like a goddess ready to die for her sins?”

“You’ll have a million worshippers.” I was one of them. Saying I love her might change everything. I said nothing instead. She already had someone to love.

“I’ll be seeing you.” She went to the door.

“I hope so.” This was a good an ending as I could hope for the both of us, although for weeks afterwards I searched the Daily News’ police reports without reading about the discovery of a crucified woman matching her description.

No one saw her again. Not me. Not Danny. Not the old lady across the hallway. At least the chicken bones vanished from my doorstep and this said Elana was fine.

I started looking for a woman. I had been a fool to love a woman who didn’t love me. A greater fool to not love someone who loved me. Six years was a long time to learn this lesson, but I was happy to know in the future I would be a fool again. Any sinner will be as long as they’re willing forget the past, forgive the present, and live for the future.

Eleven Years After

Two week after 9/11 the wind shifted direction from a westerly to a southerly. The plume of smoke swung north to cloak the streets below Union Square with the BBQ fragrance of the massive funeral pyre. My apartment on East 10th Street filled with particles of dead people, asbestos, cindered paper, pulverized steel and ashes from known and unknown sources. It was time to flee New York and I caught the Fung Wah bus for Boston that afternoon. My younger sister was glad to see me. "It's good to be here." My sister lived three hundred yards from 128, but the September air of her South Shore neighborhood was a welcome change from charnel house clouds blanketing Manhattan. "Tomorrow we're thinking about going down to the Newport Boast Show." Life was resuming normalcy faster farther from Ground Zero. "Sounds good." I hadn't been to Newport since the 1969 Jazz Festival. Led Zeppelin had closed out the Sunday line-up of James Brown, Johnny Winter, Willie Bobo, and BB King with HOW MANY MORE TIMES. The weather report for the next day was for clear skies, the same conditions as on 9/11 and ever since I have remarked on cloudless days as 9/11 weather. American presidents, politicians, media, and citizens had said that 9/11 was a day that changed this country forever, but we still drive SUVs, eat potato chips, and worry about the Oscars more than our troops overseas. Worse the Pentagon and its commanders in the field seemingly have a collective amnesia on the Islamic sensibility, for this month contract workers sifting through burning trash discovered the fire-damaged Korans. The NATO general in charge of the Bagram Prison had ordered their confiscation and destruction on the grounds that prisoners were using them to communicate between cells. Reaction was swift from the Afghans. The Bagram base was under siege by protestors hurling stones and gas bombs. Rubber bullets struck countless demonstrators. Four Afghanis were killed during the outburst and then two US soldiers were fatally attacked within the secure confines of the Interior Ministry in Kabul. The military commander of the occupation called for the withdrawal of all non-essential foreign personnel throughout the country and apologized for the error by the NATO troops. Eleven years into this conflict and the struggle to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan remains a challenge to the military, but strengthens the truth of the old adage, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How Wicked It Is

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The nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills daily instructed our class on the dangers of Satan. Our souls were under constant threat from the seduction of Lucifer. The 60s were no time to be young for the pure of heart and GOP candidate Rick Santorum has introduced the suppression of the Devil as a major plank in his political platform thanks to the release of a 2008 speech by Drudge Report in which he stated, "Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition." Many politicians would have retreated from such rhetoric, however the ex-senator from Pennsylvania responded to the attack with renewed vigor at a Phoenix rally. "I‘m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil. I think if somehow or another because you’re a person of faith you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president." One-time Republican favorite Sarah Palin was quick to defend the Tea Party favorite on Fox News. "The lame-stream media will attack any conservatives who boldly proclaims their faith and talks about there is good in the world and there's evil in the world and that's what Rick Santorum was talking about," she said. "And this was a speech that he gave back in 2008, where he named evil as Satan. And for these lame-stream media characters to get all wee-weed up about that, first you have to ask yourself, 'Have they ever attended a Sunday school class even? Have they never heard of this terminology before?' And that's why they got so, you know, just whacked out about the speech." Whacked out on Satan. And the ex-governor from Alaska was right about her assessment of the Media. Satanism sells, maybe not as well as sex and blood, but it is a wicked world out there and knowing how wicked happifies the people of faith. 666 ps photo is constructed ala Chuck Close of miniscule images of gay porno. No one is more wicked than 'them'. s

The Brains Behind A Man

"I denounce the power of the economy over people, a system that turns individuals into elements in an economic equation, does not respect the poor and excludes everyone that does not live up to the principle of profitability." ‎"I denounce the power of the economy over people, a system that turns individuals into elements in an economic equation, does not respect the poor and excludes everyone that does not live up to the principle of profitability." Danielle Mitterand

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sleeping With The redwoods

NAKED IN THE REDWOODS by Peter Nolan Smith The noon sun shimmered off Monterey harbor. The moored sailing boats bobbed with the light breeze and hundreds of pleasure craft wavered on the wake of a departing fishing boat. A middle-aged man took a photo of his wife before a large trawler tied up to a forlorn dock, while I walked toward Cannery Row. This waterfront had been immortalized by two of John Steinbeck’s Great Depression novels. Overfishing of the sardines had wiped out the jobs and the doors along Ocean View Avenue had been nailed shut by their owners. The hotels and bars catering to the fishing fleet had been razed to provide parking for the tourist trade and the only sign of life on Cannery Row were two cats fighting over a mangled fish carcass. I wandered away from the forlorn harbor toward the Presideo. Two young soldiers guarded the entrance to the old fort. The Viet-Nam War was coming to a close and the hippie era had ended in the Haight. We nodded to each other in acknowledgement of the new era of peace. 1974 was not 1967. I adjusted my sleeping and canvas bags on my shoulder and crossed the wooded peninsula in the direction of the sea. Upon reaching the dunes of Del Monte Beach I stood transfixed by the perfection of the tubed waves rising from the deep. A dozen surfers in wet suits rode the thick green swells to shore like gods from Atlantis. California was Beach Boy country. The broad slope of sand was dotted by sunbathers and mothers surveilling their children in the shallows. I stuffed my leather jacket in the canvas bag and kicked off my heavy Fyre boots. A little over a week ago I had swam in the Atlantic and today I walked barefoot to the Pacific Ocean. Clear ripples eddied around my feet. The cold sand swirled over my toes. My arms stretched wide to catch the wind and the June sun tasted my skin. I fought the urge to strip off my clothes. Becoming one with the four elements was better saved for a more secluded spot down the coast and I retreated to the dunes. Sitting on a charred log I brushed off the sand and tugged on my boots. My good friend AK and I had split in Lodi four days ago. The piano player was waiting for me down in Encinitas. At the speed I was traveling, San Diego was more than a month away. I picked up my bags and resumed my trek around the Monterey Peninsula. Every winter until 1966 ABC Wide World Of Sports had aired the Bing Crosby Golf tournament at Pebble Beach and I stopped for a few minutes to observe a foursome of golfers approaching a tee. The first three landed their shots on the fairway. The last one sliced his drive right and the ball pocked a tree not far from me. The brightly-attired duffer shouted out an apology and I waved to indicate that he hadn’t come close. 17 Mile Drive wasn’t a good place to hitchhike and I trudged into Carmel a little past 1. A rustic Mexican cantina was selling tacos and I ate two at the bar. I could have easily put down a third. I paid the bill with the $20 that Maya had given me this morning and tipped the waitress a dollar. The dark-skinned girl couldn’t have been happier and wished, “Via con dios.” “Muchos gracias.” That and ‘une otra cereza’ were the extant of my Spanish. Reaching the Pacific Coast Highway I dropped my bags on the ground. The Frye boots had taken their toll on my feet. I was done with walking and stuck out my thumb. The shoulder offered little shade and the sun toasted my pale eastern skin. Most of the passing cars were big gas guzzlers from Detroit. The women behind the wheel fearfully avoided any eye contact and the men scowled a threat. Something bad was happening on this stretch of the coast and it wasn’t simply the recession. I toyed with heading north to Santa Cruz and Maya. Returning to her house in the redwoods was not really an option. Boyfriends hated weekend lovers. Ten minutes later a VW bug braked to a stop. The driver was a long-haired hippie. I threw my bags in the back and sat inside. “Thanks for the ride.” The radio was tuned to a station playing Quicksilver’s SHADY GROVE. “How long were you there?” The driver pushed red sunglasses back on his nose and then shifted through the gears to fourth. “About an hour. People looked at me funny.” I stared out the window and the Pacific Coast Highway grew in legend with the passing of each curve. “They have to be careful who they give a ride.” The VW cruised at 50. The van reeked of weed. Any stop by a cop was a ‘go straight to jail’ card. “You won’t read about it in the newspaper, but a killer is working the PCH. People go missing all the time.”

“You don’t mean the Zodiac Killer?” This maniac had murdered at least five young people in Bay Area. The police had no leads. “No, he stopped in 1970. This killer is targeting women. The police don’t tell anyone, because they don’t want us to panic.” “Or hurt business.” Panic was a bad thing in a recession. “Aren’t you scared about picking up hitchhikers?” “No, but I’m careful about who I pick up.” His sunglasses slid down his nose, as he glanced at me. “You look harmless, plus the biggest danger to you are thieves robbing hitchhikers.” “A gang tried to rob me in Frisco. I was lucky to get away.” I said nothing about knocking out one of the gang. Violence wasn’t a good selling point to someone giving you a ride. “San Francisco isn’t the City of Love anymore, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop the love.” The driver flashed me the ‘power to the people’ fist and turned up the radio. KSAN segued to the Airplane’s VOLUNTEERS we sang the chorus in harmony. The revolution was not over, then again neither were the days of helter skelter. The hippie left Route 1 at a dirt road leading into the coastal highlands. He didn’t say where he was going and I didn’t ask. The next ride was from a well-dressed man in a Chrystler Imperial. His dark suit was crisply pressed for business. Every fifteen seconds he glanced at my crotch. The wedding ring on his left finger didn’t mean much. He was cruising the PCH for adventure. “I’m heading inland at Notley’s Landing. You should come see my cabin. It’s surrounded by redwoods, plus my wife could use the company, if you know what I mean.” Even straight America had succumbed to the siren call of the Sexual Revolution. “I get the picture.” The driver looked too much like my father and I feared that his wife was a dead ringer for my mother. Swinging wasn’t my scene. “Tough going from here to Big Sur. Not many cars and there’s a killer on the loose.” “So I heard.” America was awash with murder from coast to coast. The violence of a decade-long war had come to the home front. “I could drive you to San Simeon tomorrow.” He wasn’t giving up so easy and tapped his pocket. “I could make it worth your while.” “No thanks.” I didn’t need his money that bad. “But if you see me tomorrow, I’ll be grateful for that ride.” Ten minutes later he dropped me at Notley’s Landing. It wasn’t even a town and the banker hadn’t been kidding about the traffic on the PCH. Salesmen and businessmen sped past me without braking. Grim cowboys glared from dented pick-ups and battered hippie vans rolled past one after the other. A killer was on the loose and paranoia swam in the drivers’ eyes. I walked several miles down the road. The scenery was worth the blisters on my feet. I crossed the Bixby Creek Bridge. Arid pastures ended at sheer cliffs tumbling to a desolate beach below the concrete span. Waves thundered on the sand. I searched for a foot path. There was none and I stopped on the other side of the bridge, content to be part of the scenery for the rest of time. Several minutes later a small truck loaded with hay stopped before a curve. The local farmer offered a short ride to Los Burros Road. His cheek was filled with tobacco chaw and rusty brown splotches stained his flannel shirt. “Thanks for stopping. Everyone else seems to think I was a murderer.” I sat down in the passenger seat with my hands in sight. “You don’t seem the type.” He examined me with a squint. “Thanks, another driver said the same thing.” I didn’t feel the type either. “But people have a right to be scared. Last year a madman killed a bunch of co-eds up around Santa Cruz and scattered their remains in Big Sur. The cops arrested him, but then another maniac is killing men around LA. The cops haven’t got him yet.” 
 “Not to mention the remnants of the Manson Family.” Charlie and his girls had been sentenced to life. The rest of them were on the run. They were no angels. “There are some fucked-up people out there, but while Big Sur has a lot of weirdos, none of them are dangerous, except to themselves.” The farmer spewed tobacco juice out the window. “Sounds like you know the area pretty well.” I figured him for 60. He sounded local. “My family has been here since the birth of dirt. Back in the 20s only two families had electricity. Ours wasn’t one of them. This road wouldn’t have been built if it wasn’t for the chain gangs. My mother told me about hearing them convicts thumping the road. Took them 25 years to complete it.” “They did a good job.” The two-lane masterpiece hugged the bluffs above the Pacific. “Like to see them try it now.” The farmer spit out the window to emphasis his disapproval. “All the damn fools know how to build are those freeways.” “That’s why I traveled south this way.” Out my open window the sun paved a golden highway to the horizon. Somewhere to the west dawn was breaking in Asia. “You made a good choice. I’ve been driving on this road since they finished it in 1937. I’ve seen hoboes, tramps, sailors, beatniks, poets, writers, artists, runaways, hippies. If this road could talk, no one would believe its story.” “You ever pick up anyone famous?” Big Sur had been a refuge for writers and artists since the 30s. “You mean like Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac?” “Yes.” Kerouac had written BIG SUR at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin. “They were too crazy for my tastes, but I saw them all at the Post Office. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton too when they filmed THE SANDPIPER. I got her autograph for my wife. Still plenty of artists hiding out here. Most of them don’t look like you think. Look mostly like anyone. You ever seen anyone famous?” “I once shook hands with Robert Kennedy and I played basketball at a mental hospital against Albert DeSalvo.” “The Boston Strangler. Bullshit.” The police had wrapped up the case after the ex-con had confessed to the murders under hypnosis. “No, back in January of 1967 my school’s track team played at hospitals around Boston and DeValvo was sitting in the stands of Bridgewater State Hospital.” I had forgotten about this incident. “He didn’t look like a killer.” “Same as you. Did you get his autograph?” “No, I didn’t go close to him.” He had been murdered in Walpole Prison by a member of the Winter Hill Gang. “Probably better, that killing craze could be infectious.” The farmer dropped me a mile south of Point Sur and I walked the rest of the way to Big Sur. The famous destination for writers and artists wasn’t a town. A simple wooden store served as a post office and grocery store office for the remote coastal region. A few cars were parked in the dirt lot. A bearded man in his 50s exited from the store and got into his Volvo. He drove by me pointing to the left, meaning he wasn’t going far. Neither was I. The setting sun was seeping through the gauntlet of redwood groves. The air was scented by the ancient pines and I was thinking about finding a safe place to camp for the night, when a red Ford pick-up skidded to a halt twenty feet from me. Two long-haired men scrambled from the flatbed and fled into the woods, as if they were wanted by the police. I hadn’t seen a Highway patrol car the entire day. Their hurried departure unsettled me and I readied to join their bolt into the trees, as the battered pick-up inched up to me. Scraps and dents had recorded a history of accidents on the steel body and I expected a mass murderer was driving the wreck. Nothing else could explained the hippies’ fearful flight. The passenger window rolled down and a young girl with curly hair asked, “You have any weed?” “This joint or two in my bag.” I glanced behind the truck. The previous passengers had vanished into the forest. There were no other vehicles on the road. “Cool.” The chubby driver wallowed behind the wheel like a walrus stuck between two rocks. Her dark hair shorn short like a Marine. I knew her type. “We’re going to crash in the redwoods for the night. You want to join us?” The smaller girl’s olive complexion betrayed her Spanish blood. She was all skin and bones. “It will be fun.” The masculine driver was about twenty pounds short of Mama Cass’ mass. Dykes liked heavy. They thought that the weight made them tough. The old childhood rhyme. “Fat and skinny had a race.” echoed in my ears with ‘up and down the pillow case’ playing on a XXX drive-in screen in my head. “Are you heading south?” A ride was a ride. “All the way to San Diego.” The younger girl looked at my crotch and her brown eyes danced with mischief. “But tomorrow. Tonight we’re camping in the woods. That all right with you?” “I guess so.” Hitchhiking in the dark with a killer on the loose was a bad idea. “My name is Jill. My friend is Ricki.” Her smile suggested an open invitation. Both women were in loose denim overalls. Nothing else. No bras. No shoes. Their skin was bronzed without tan lines. They were obviously sun-worshippers. “We can get some food at the store and a big jug of red.” Jill motioned for me to climb in back and I climbed into the flatbed. The two women were lesbians and probably lovers. As long as tonight was strictly weed and wine I was good with camping in the woods. There was safety in numbers. We hit the Big Sur Outpost for provisions. “Don’t worry about your stuff.” Rickie motioned for me to leave my bags in the truck. “This isn’t the Haight.” “You sure?” My sleeping bag and canvas carry-all were the sum total of my worldly possessions. “This is about getting back to Nature.” Rickie pulled me away from the truck. She was my height with a fifty pound edge. The big woman was used to getting her way. “It’s cool. Trust us. Trust the world and Mother Gaia will shine on you.” “If you insist.” I came from the East. Car thieves had ripped off my brother’s VW. He was lucky. It ran out of gas three blocks away his apartment in Chestnut Hill. This morning a gang had tried to rob me in Golden Gate Park. I had knocked out the toughest junkie with a rock hidden in my hand. There wasn’t another car in the lot. I pointed to a pay phone. “I’ll be a few seconds.” “We won’t be long, so keep it short.” Rickie guided her consort into the store. I emptied my pocket of quarters and took out a piece of paper from my wallet. I dialed the number in Encinitas. The operator came on the line to demand $2.15 for three minutes. It was the price of an LP. I slotted the coins into the phone. A woman answered on the second ring and I asked for AK. “Where are you?” my friend sounded high on weed. AK loved his reefer. “Big Sur.” Lodi was about two-hundred miles from here. “Big Sur? You haven’t made much progress.” “It’s tough going.” Three days and nights with Maya had stalled my progress. Our bodies had locked time in chains. AK wouldn’t understand my sleeping with a Peggy Lipton lookalike. He was straight. “How about you?” “I’m going to the beach every day. It’s great. My friend Vincent is coming on the weekend. He’s working as a dancer in Hollywood. Maybe he can get us jobs. Hop on a bus and get down here.” “I’m trying, but tonight I’m camping with two women in the redwoods. Don’t get excited, they’re lesbians. The only reason they want me to camp with them is that I have two joints and they’re scared of a man cutting up women on the PCH.” I explained about the murderer. He hadn’t heard of the killer or the one slaughtering men in LA. The police were experts at keeping a lid on their investigations. “I should be down there tomorrow or maybe the day after that. Hitchhiking isn’t that easy on the PCH, but it is beautiful.” “I have some good news. You remember Pam?” “Who could forget her?” The blonde nursing co-ed had shared the driving across country with us. My ex-girlfriend’s roommate had headed north to meet her boyfriend interning in Mendocino. Everyone thought that she looked like Patti Hearst. AK was in love with her. 
“She called to say that her boyfriend was seeing another nurse and there was no job, so she’s coming down to Encinitas next week.” The line was cut by an avalanche of quarters into the collection box and I slammed the receiver in its cradle. The call had lasted less than three minutes. AT&T was a monopoly. They could do anything they wanted to their customers. I went to the truck and got out my black leather coat. My mother had bought it for me. I entered the store. The floor creaked under my boots. The interior smelled of dust and stale food. The canned food appeared safe and I grabbed tuna, beans, and peaches off the shelves. The two women picked out sagging vegetables, Uncle Ben’s rice, and two bottles of Zapple wine. It was sweet as cough syrup and I opted for a large jug of Gallo White. Big was good. I peeked out the front window. The pick-up was the only vehicle in the parking lot. At the cash register Rickie put her arm around the smaller girl to confirm their relationship. The teenage girl behind the counter ignored the gesture. Big Sur was a magnet for all kinds. I offered them a $10 and looked out the door. We might have been the only four people on Earth. My bags were safe. “We don’t need your money.” Rickie waved her hand at the crumpled bill. She was the pants of the couple. “I’ll pay for my own.” The bill came to less than $10. The way things were going I could stay in California for entire summer. The three of us exited from the store, The girls walked barefoot across the pebbly lot with the grace of ballerinas crossing a polished wooden stage. Their soles had to be tough as leather. I climbed back into the back of the truck and Rickie unscrewed the Zapple to drink from the bottle. Jill took the next tug and her face shone with an imp’s delight. She was no lady. The young girl handed me the Zapple. The wine was sweeter than I remembered it. “We going far?” I wiped my mouth and returned the bottle to Jill. The sun had dropped lower between the redwoods and the ancient forest donned a fairy tale cloak of moss. “I know a place.” Rickie signaled Jill to get in the truck and she drove short distance to the south. The outpost disappeared behind a wall of trees and the pickup veered off the PCH onto a logging road. Whatever they had planned for the evening was better executed beyond prying eyes. The F-150 sped down the dirt trail and the tires lost contact with ground several times. I was rocked from side to side and banged on the roof for her to slow down before I was thrown from the truck. The two of them laughed with a wickedness emboldened by the V8. The truck lifted into the air and crashed onto the rough road. Jill screamed out a warning too late and the chassis ground to a halt. The sudden stop threw me against the cab. The fat driver cursed behind the wheel, as the dented Ford F-150 rocked back and forth without success. The pick-up wasn’t going anywhere and I jumped out to look underneath the truck. I got to my feet and went to the passenger side. “You’re stuck on the stump.” It was about two feet wide. “Stuck?” Rickie shut off the engine and got out of the truck. Driving fast wasn’t funny anymore. Jill got out on my side. She knew to keep her distance from her lover. The bigger woman slammed her palm against the steel. “Damn.” “It’s not that bad. I didn’t see anything broken and don’t smell any fuel or oil. You have a jack?” She had been lucky not to shattered the transmission. “Yes.” The driver surveyed the situation on her knees and stood up, brushing the pine needles off her overalls. “Why?” “We jack up the rear of the truck and once it clears the stump, we push it forward.” “Then what?” Women were distrustful of men on the best of circumstances. Dykes even more so. “If the truck isn’t fucked up, then we camp out for the night. Same as before.” Rickie got the rusty jack from behind the seat. I positioned it under the rear bumper and pumped the lever until the chassis cleared the stump by a good six inches. “Is this going to work?” Rickie bent over to examine the situation. “We could go back to the outpost and see if there was a tow truck around Big Sur. They could haul us off the stump in two minutes.” I had stranded my brother’s VW on Horseneck Beach at low tide. By the time the tow truck reached me, the waves were lapping at rear tires. The tow truck freed the Bug with ease. “It’s not like we’re in a hurry.” “We might as well give this a try. This truck takes a good beating.” Rickie was not interested in having another man around Jill. “Which way are we pushing it?” “Away from the transmission, so to the right. You ready?” I placed my hands on the back of the pick-up. “On the count of three. One-two-three.” Rickie shoved at the same time as me and the truck lurched to the right and fell six inches to clang on the stump. There was a new dent in the body, but the chassis had cleared the stump. Jill clapped her hands and kissed Rickie on the lips, then danced across the pine needles to peck my cheek. “Thanks.” “Glad it worked out.” My face burned red with embarrassment. “Let me get the truck off this road.” Rickie wasn’t exhibiting any signs of jealousy and pointed to a circle of redwoods. “That will be home for tonight. Start gathering wood.” She drove the truck to the trees and unloaded camping gear. Jill gathered kindling and I picked up dried wood for the fire. A red glow was fading from the chinks in the forest to the West. The sun was setting in the Pacific and darkness was creeping over Big Sur. The kindling took to fire and Jill spun around the flames like a Sufi mystic. The overalls fell to her belly. Her breasts were capped by puffy nipples. Ricki noticed my staring. “Pretty?” “More beautiful than pretty.” I was describing the redwoods more than her breasts. The king pines in Maine were half their size. “She’s a free spirit.” Rickie chopped the wood with a small ax. She was good at it. A overalls strap fell off her shoulder. Her breast was almost as big as my head. “We both are.” “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I pulled out the joint that Maya had given me this morning. I lit it from the embered kindling. The first puff filled my lungs with smoke destined to bliss my mind. I passed it to Jill, still dancing to the music in her head. “This is the real freedom. Away from the cities. Away from the roads. Away from TV and churches and hang-ups.” Rickie cleaved the ax into the nearest redwood and undid the other strap. Her eyes sparkled with a missionary zeal. “Free as nature. Jill and I live on the beaches and in the woods. We have no house. Only the truck and us.” She made it sound like the TV show ROUTE 66, where two men drove a Corvette around America, except Rickie and Jill weren’t men and the Ford pick-up truck wasn’t a Vette. “Jack Kerouac said “ Live, travel, adventure, and don’t be sorry.” He had put us all on this road. “And Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” so here we are.” Rickie pulled Jill onto her lap and took the joint. The two of them kissed without inhibition. I felt like a third wheel. I knew gay men in Boston. They were my friends. Lesbians existed in a parallel universe separate from us. My only knowledge of their behavior was based on dirty books and I was jealous of their ability to sustain an endless chain of orgasms. Jill glanced at me and said, “Take off those boots, we’re not going anywhere fast.” “Sure.” I hadn’t meant to stare. They cooked a vegetarian meal over a fire of redwood branches. The smoke curled up the columns of ancient trees. A starry evening completed the roof of evergreen. We drank the wine from the jug and set up a comfortable seating area with our sleeping bags. The flames cast sly shadows on the girls’ faces. Owls hooted overhead. They pretended to be scared and wrestled me to the ground. Rickie pulled off my shirt and Jill stripped off my jeans. I was naked and within a second they were too, but instead of kissing me they embraced each other with a fervor I had only seen on the silver screen at porno theaters in Boston’s Combat Zone. “Join us.” Rickie guided my erection inside her. We had sex for several minutes. Her vagina was too big for me and her girlfriend pushed me off to insert her fist. “Fuck me now.” I finished within the smaller girl within a minute. They would not accept a flaccid penis in their presence and devoted their attention to getting me hard again. If I wasn’t fucking one of them, then the two girls were at each other like cats mad for milk. Their tongues were loud on each other’s flesh. The second I recovered, they would enlist me back into service. The only times I slept was when Rickie drove to the outpost for more wine. Jill never left me alone. I was their rented mule. We formed daisy chains of three. They worked me to the bone. I was losing weight and recalled the two hippies fleeing the pick-up truck. Now I knew the reason. These women were sexual predators. The redwood grove had become a stalag. I was Charlotte Rampling in THE NIGHT PORTER. Ricki was Dirk Bogarde. Jill was from another movie. LSA OF THE SS SHE WOLVES. They wouldn’t stop until I was dead. Scared for my life I waited until they fell asleep and then sneaked from the redwood grove. I heard them calling my name and imagined Rickie chasing me with her ax. A farmer picked me up around sunrise. “Whew, smells like you been rutting with hogs.” I was a little ripe and bathed in a river farther down the coast. I reached LA that night and took the bus to San Diego, where my friend Andy was shacked up with some acidheads. They all laughed at my tale. “You had these two women to yourself and you let them go.” “No, I escaped and I was glad to escape.” Two days later I was walking naked on Black’s Beach north of La Jolla. Andy was checking out the naked girls. He pointed to a pair sunning underneath the cliff. “Let’s go talk to them.” “Not a chance.” It was the two women from the redwoods. Man-eaters. I dropped my head and jumped into the ocean. I swam with the current and came ashore some two hundred feet from them. Andy shook his head. “I can’t believe it.” The only electrified fences were attached to my frayed lust. I escaped from them at dawn of the second day. I imagined dogs barking in the distance. SS on my trail. I hit the PCH out of breath. A car heaved into sight. A Chrysler Imperial. The banker. His wife was in the front seat. Jack was happy to see me. Aline was in her early 30s. Her perfume Chanel No 5. A beautiful woman scared of her 40s. They were driving to Santa Barbara for the weekend. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Aline drank margaritas. Three more than me. In the motel room Jack photographed us for his private collection. Aline told me that I was # 53. Jack told me not to worry about ever seeing the photos. $50 for my troubles. A bus to LA. A train to La Jolla. A dime phone call. Andy’s friend picked me up at the station. Vince was a dancer. He was studying choreography for film. We went to a disco in San Diego. Marines and queens. Andy was after a fag hag. Inca skated from his grasp. Vince and I danced to ROCK THE BOAT and JUNGLE BOOGIE. We arrived home to Encinitas late. The dawn lingered on the dying fragrance of jasmine. I recounted the story about the two women in Big Sur to Andy and Vince. |They laughed at my flight through the redwoods. I laughed too and fell asleep on the floor. It felt good to sleep on the floor. The next morning Vince dropped Andy and me at Black’s Beach. It was a nudist beach. Au natural. Andy was jealous. Inca had yet to kiss him. “I should have gone with you.” “It wouldn’t have happened if you were with me.” I said nothing about Lance or the banker’s wife. My wallet held more than before. Wine was back on my menu. “I don’t know why you ran away.” “Because I got the feeling she was sucking the life out of me and they’d be nothing left, if i stayed another day.” There was such a thing as too much sex. Even in 1974. “How bad could it be?” At that moment I glanced to the right. A huddle of naked men surrounded a pair of bare-skinned women. The two were in their twenties. One thin. One a little heavy “Shit.” It was the bull dyke and her girl friend. Ricki and Jill. She was checking me out like I was a piece of meat. I cupped my hands over my privates and waddled away to safety. Later that afternoon I told Andy about seeing them. He didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day. Inca was into a transvestite. Vince laughed again upon hearing about my encounter. “You’ll regret that at the end of your life. You’ll be lying in bed and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I have sex with them again.” He was more talking about him and me. Everyone in California was into sex. More a plague than a disease. That night I relieved the tension with a fantasy of Ricki and Jill. Another time about Lance and Star. The last furious release was with the banker’s wife. Morning came and I was cured by my own hand. In three weeks I would be back in Boston. And in that city there had never been a Summer of Love. But nothing could stop the seasons of lust. Not in the summer of 1974. The bull dyke had her way with me like a rented mule for several days and I escaped one evening while her rested her libido. I hitchhiked down to LA and said nothing of this story to my gay friends. Those beauty hounds would have been horrified. two weeks later I’m walking on Black’s Beach in SD. It’s a naked beach. My straight friend heard the story and said, “I don’t know why you ran away.” “Because I got the feeling she was sucking the life out of me and they’d be nothing left.” “How bad could it be?” At that moment I looked to the right. “Shit.” It was the bull dyke and her girl friend. She was checking me out like I was a piece of meat. I cupped my hands over my privates and waddled away to safety. Later that evening I relieved the tension with a fantasy of her. I went down to the beach the rest of the summer without ever running into her. But I had lived in a world of women. Not forever, only long enough to know it’s not natural. at least not for men. A stream ran through a gauntlet of redwood groves and I strolled a few yards into the forest to sit on a flat rock. I lit up a joint of Acapulco gold and pulled out my journal to write about the last days. After a half-hour I returned to the road. The sun was seeping through the trees. The parking lot was empty and my sleeping bag on the ground and fell asleep with my jackknife in hand. There were killers on the roam. The hefty dyke I’m hitchhiking in Big Sur on the way to LA. A pick-up stops for me. Two women in the front. One bull dyke and her fem GF. They ask if i want to camp with them. I said why not and splurged on a jeroboam of Gallo White. We set up camp in a grove of redwoods and drank wine around a fire. The bull dyke said she hadn’t had a man in years. She looked like a sumo wrestler. The younger one was in the mood too. She was thin and cute. I thought this would be interesting but it developed that sex with the bull dyke was more pleasurable than the fem.