Thursday, July 31, 2014

Great Wall Of China From Space

I've flown over the Great Wall of China on numerous occasions without ever seeing it from the air.

I've never stopped in Beijing to travel north to view the lengthy fortifications at Jinshanling.

Friends of mine say they have walked the steep walls.

Photos exist of the Great Wall, so I guess it really is there.

In name.

萬里長城 or Wanli Changcheng

And in Spirit.

Hitchhiker Chicks

Hippie chicks hitchhiking are cool.

Ax murderers are uncool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

70s Versus Now

Where be my Time machine, Mister Wizard.

Fuck now.

Cyclone In Revere

Two days ago an early morning tornado stuck Revere Beach.

Thankfully tree were no serious injuries from the EF-2 outburst, but winds gusted to 120 mph in a 3/8ths of a mile swarth, leaving residents without power for several hours. While tornadoes are extremely rare along the Massachusetts coast, Revere Beach was once home to the Cyclone Roller Coaster, which was the highest ride in the world until 1964.

A fire burned it to stumps in 1969.

It was a wicked ride.


I've been working with Mexicans at the metal shop for the last year and a half. As always I try to improve my language skills and I help them with English. The other week I gave Oscar, who has prevented my fingers from getting ripped off my lathes or pierced by drill presses, the movie EL TOPO by Alejandro Jodorowsky. I explained the surrealistic story line of a mad gunfighter or pistelero loco. Oscar had walked across the Sonoran Desert for three days. He finished his water within 24 hours. "On the third day I thought I was going to die, but I said, "I am not going to die here." I walked another day to the pick-up. Everyone was happy, because they figured me for dead. So I know surrealism, but you know what an el topi is." "A gopher." "Si, pero tam bien caca." "Shit." "Yes, because when you take a shit in Mexico, we say, "Se me sale le topi." Because the shit is like a gopher sticking his head out of a hole." "No way." "Si." We had a good laugh and Oscar took the film home. He never watched it, but we still laugh about 'el topo'. Mexicans have a good sense of humor.

SNOW-WHIGGITY by Gianni Rage

Gianni Rage posted this poesie. It tells of a time of the back then before the rich ruled Manhattan. It was our city and for a good reason. People like hookers, pimps, and dope fiends. They protected us from the rich. enjoy SNOW-WHIGGITY by Gianni Rage It doesn't have a title ironically, that was not really a poem…I was going to write it as poesies but opted for something more linear and prosaic…I will definitely have a look at this!!I am almost like a changed man with this weather…I feel like writing tonight… A fairytale. About a hooker. A hooker named Snow-Whiggity… This is back in the day when NYC was actually still a city, not a giant terrarium… The whole thing takes place on 23rd St. Snow-Whiggity has a mean, gay pimp named Evil Queen… She wants to get away from him but it is hard because she is a dope fiend. Then she is hired for a party by "seven little men"---seven very small Puerto Ricans…. They are so impressed with her that they let her live in their social club on 9th Ave. Snow-Whiggity has it made…she can now turn all of her tricks in comfort…and keep her own damn money 'cuz the little men don't ask her for nothin' She even does a porno flick with them as a laugh. But Evil Queen finds her and manages to slip her a hot shot… She turns blue and goes unconscious, and the seven little men think she is dead. So they do the only thing you could do with a dead junkie hooker in those days, which is drag her dead ass down to the West Side Highway and make it look like a hit-and-run… But the little men like her too much to be that cold. So they lay her in an old refrigerator box and pin a note to it. But of course she is not actually dead, the dope was just REAL GOOD… And she wakes up to find a brand new, handsome, young, straight pimp named Prince Charming leaning over her… And the seven little men take out Evil Queen. And everybody lives happily ever after

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HANG UP Tagline

The other afternoon at a 8th Street bar I was drinking with several friends discussing the reasons for my movie script not having found a home.

"BET ON CRAZY has it all, a diamond heist, love, violence."

"Yes, but that doesn't says anything." Jason came from Malibu. He had movie star friends. He had helped me with BET ON CRAZY. "When you pitch a script, you have to think on one line."

"The tag line." I knew the process.

"Yes, producers are besieged by countless ideas every minute of the day. You have to think of a better tagline."

"Diamonds are forever and a crime takes a minute."

"A little cliche."

"A diamond belongs to one man until someone else takes it."

"But it's not telling the story." Jason typed out something on his cellphone and showed me the poster for a black exploitation film from the 70s.


His job was busting junkies. His mistake was loving one.

"That's what I'm talking about."

Jason was right. Those two lines told it all.

"His job was selling diamonds. Stealing one was much easier. Getting away with it was the hard part."

"Better, but that has nothing to do with your story."

"And I'm sure that neither does the tagline for HANG UP.

"Work on it." Jason ordered another vodka. I had a gin tonic. They brought out my mean streak. I left at the end of happy hour and kept my mouth shut on the train. No one wanted to hear mean.

Monday, July 28, 2014

She Got Me There - Six Degrees West

Here's a great tune by Six Degrees West out of Kansas City.

My old friend Ray Santos is on drums.

To hear SHE GOT ME THERE by Six Degrees West, please go to the following URL

Meir Kahane Is Dead

This weekend I petitioned passers-by at the General Fowler Triangle in Fort Greene. Blacks were eager to sign. White people shook their head, when asked to sign a petition asking Congress and President Obama to support a ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas' resumption of its missile attacks reminds too many New Yorkers of 9/11 and the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. Their statements about Hamas using human shields and accusations of anti-Semitism came straight from the Western Media without any consideration for the injustice caused by the foundation of Israel.

Hamas is evil.

Israel is defending itself.

A Russian Jewish friend walked by the triangle.

"I can't believe you're supporting terrorists."

"No, I'm supporting an end to the fighting." I quoted Michael Jackson's line from BEAT IT. "I don't care who's wrong or right. All I want is peace."

"Meir Kahane said we can never be at peace with the Arabs." Mike was a young man. We knew each other from 47th Street. He bought gold. I sold diamonds.

"Meir Kahane?" I hadn't heard the name of the JDL's assassinated leader in ages.

"Yes, Kahane argued against the two-state solution, since the Arabs could outbreed the Jews."

"I recollect his saying that the Arabs should be forcibly deported from Biblical Israel."

"It's the only solution."

"You mean like a Final Solution?" This adoption of the Nazi policy against the Palestinians was too ironic for my tastes.

"It's us or them."

"But not the two."

"Never two."

"I don't think the USA will support that measure."

"That's naive. The Arabs don't care what happens to the Palestinians and neither does the USA. Only Israelis care about them and the only way to end the war is to end Palestine."

"A pogram?"

"They threw us out of North Africa by the hundreds of thousands."

"After letting the Jew live amongst them for centuries."

"Everything comes to an end. Good and bad." Mike walked away toward Atlantic Terminal.

"Sie gesund."

"Ed, the head of Brooklyn Peace Intiative came over to me and asked, "What was that about?"

"Meir Kahane."

"Meir Kahane. He was a friend of Bob Dylan and he instructed Arlo Guthrie on the Torah."

"He did?"

"Yes, but he's dead since the 90s. He was shot at a hotel. Supposedly the first al-Qaada attack, but the killer wasn't convicted of murder."

"Why not?"

"CIA?" Ed shrugged and we returned to petitioning the pedestrians.

None of them were Meir Kahane. He was dead.

Only people on their way home or Frank's Lounge or Mullane's or Mo's or la Habana.

Life was good in Brooklyn.

It wasn't Gaza.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

And The Old Is The New

Jonas Bendiksen, GEORGIA, Abkhazia, Sukhum, 2005

The Great Mosque of Mali.

GET TOGETHER by the Youngbloods

In a time of unending war there is only one path to freedom.

Get Together.

To hear this song by the Youngbloods, please go to the following URL

And while we're at it

PEACE TRAIN by Cat Stevens

And not to mention IMAGINE by John Lennon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Beauty Of The Female Breast


Unwholesome use.

Screw it.

Who needs a breast when you have a spoon.

Free The World

In 2011 gold soared to record levels and every day a steady flow of customers entered our diamond exchange on West 47th Street to sell their precious jewelry and family heirlooms. They were of all ages, nationalities, and races. Most of them were honest, but buying stolen merchandise or swag was a crime. Richie Boy, his father Manny, and I didn't care who they are as long as they possess a valid ID for our police records. None of us were young men and we had too little to gain from doing the wrong thing, when we could churn out a 5% profit on a steady flow of buys.

Our first question to these sellers was, “Who much do you want?” Most of them said that they don’t know, but they all had a final price. "Let me check it out." I ignored their feigned ignorance and tested the gold for karat and weight.

We calculated everything in pennyweights or 1/20th of an ounce. The Middle Age measurement confused the buyer, but we always handed them a slip of paper from a adding machine. Everything was in black and white. The final price was determined by the market value of an ounce of gold, which fluctuated day to day.

In 2011 the price fluctuated up.

Those weight and market value determined the scrap worth of gold.

We paid nothing for sentimental value.

Our firm had a good reputation for paying the most on the street. "We only make 5% on this."

It was the truth, but some pieces could be flipped for more, especially diamond rings.

Late in the summer a young man of Semitic descent approached my counter. He had a few diamond ring in a bag. They were relics of a ruined romance.

After settling on a price of $1500, I advised the young man to buy something for himself.

“Paying off bills does not soothe a broken heart.”

“Yes, but for $1500 you can buy a good used motorcycle. Let me see your ID.” I took his driver’s license.

His name was Arab. I entered it in the police book.

“Are you from Iraq?”

“No, Palestine.” Mohammed spoke flawless English. His father had grocery stores in Queens. He was running three of them.

“Palestine is a forbidden name on this street.” 47th Street was predominantly Jewish.

They backed Israel right or wrong and Israel could do no wrong in their eyes. I was a goy. I had my own beliefs.

"It's my country"

"I'm half-Irish. My people lived under the British for four hundred years. “I can only say one thing.”

“Which is?” He was used to America’s prejudice against Palestine.

The movie EXODUS had blue-eyed Paul Newman as a member of the Zionist terrorist gang and a young blonde Jill Haworth as a kibbutz farmer. There were no Hassidim in the film.

Only tough white-skinned fighters.

“Free Palestine.” I had a tee-shirt in my closet stating the same slogan.

I raised my fist, the accepted sign of world revolution.

“Good, but it is better to free the world.” Mohammed smiled and accepted his money.

“I’ll think about that bike and you think about the world.”

“I’ll do that.” I leaned away from the counter slightly stunned.

I had been taught an important lesson by this young man.

A simple lesson.

All politics that are local are also global.

They effect everyone.


Free Palestine.

Free the World.

Memories Of Palestine

Several years ago I was getting gold chains on 47th Street to show a customer at the Plaza Hotel store opened by Richie Boy. Business was slow at the exchange and the older gold dealer asked with a Levantine accent, "Where are you from?"

"Boston." No one in the Diamond District had ever asked my origins. I am a goy. Gentiles don't really count except on the Shabbath, when the Hassidim need us to turn on the lights.

"Are you Jewish?" He picked out several heavy necklaces.

"No, I'm the Shabbath Goy."

"I'm not Jewish either. I'm an Armenian born in Israel." Armenians are scattered through the jewelry business. "I left in 1957."

"That's a while ago." I had been five when he arrived in the USA

"I've spent my entire working life on this street."

"And have you ever seen times like this?" I signed the memo.


"Not even in Palestine." I put the gold necklaces into a packet and slipped it into my jacket.

"That's the first time I've ever heard anyone on this street call it that." He smiled with a lost sadness. "Palestine. It wasn't like they said. It was beautiful. More natural. Like Utah. And the fruit. It wasn't fake like now. But what can you do?"

"Just remember I guess." Like I remember so many good things in New York like the Second Avenue Deli, the St. Mark's Movie Theater, and CBGBs.

"Well, have a good day."

I thanked him for his best wishes and headed back to the Plaza Hotel. It was a little after 10.

My cellphone rang. It was Richie Boy.

"Why aren't you at the Plaza?"

"I had to pick up some pieces to show a customer." The Plaza store had nothing like them in our inventory

"Hurry up."

"Yeah, sure." I hung up and slowed my pace.

In the past no one was in such a hurry as the 21st Century.

Certainly not in Boston and not Palestine.

I was going to open late.

It happened every day when business was slow.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

DOSED IN GOA by Peter Nolan Smith

In 1995 I ended up in Goa after a long trip through Tibet.

I rented a cheap bungalow on Anjuna Beach and hired a Royal Enfield 500 to ride.

The coast abounded with ravers, but maintained my distance.

The bungalow's owner had warned me that they were many thefts.

"They are not good people. Not same hippies. Baba cool very good."

"I like hippies too."

I handed Tony my passport for safekeeping and hid my travelers' checks in my manuscript.

I also kept the motorcycle at his house every night,

I met an English girl: young, blonde, tattooed.

Mancy took my photo naked on the beach.

She was naked too.

I felt young.

She was only 21.

Mancy was into trance music.

She offered me a pill.

I refused.

Old school punk rockers weren't into ecstasy.

One night I was at a bar and we smoked some weed with two Kenyans.

I dropped Mancy at the rave and returned to the bungalow, where I fell asleep.


The next morning I awoke to too much light.

There was a hole in the tiled roof. I had been drugged by the Africans. The two had robbed me in the night. Gone were about $50 in rupees, my cheap camera and a broken watch. My checks were still in the manuscript. No one wanted to steal it or my typewriter.

I couldn't find the keys to the motorcycle.

They cost $2000.

I exited the bungalow into the hot sun. The keys glinted on the sand. The bike was still at the house of the bungalow owner.

"Acha, you are a very lucky man." Tony shook his head from side to side.

"That I am. Should I call the police?"

"The police work with thieves. Buy what they steal."

That night I spotted the Kenyans with Mancy.

They were sitting with a cop.

I pointed to them.

The four of them pointed back.

Mancy didn't smile.

The next morning I left Goa on a fast ferry to Bombay.

I drank beer from a bottle. I stayed in a good hotel. I didn't speak with any Africans or ravers.

Like Tony said, "They are not good people."

But most people are, especially hippies.

The Arrows Of St. Sebastian

The martyrdom of St. Sebastian was portrayed in numerous religious paintings due to his popularity as patron saint of the Plague. Emperor Diocletian punished Sebastian for betraying his military oath to obey his emperor. The Divine Caesar sentenced him to be taken bound to a field supposed betrayal and killed by a squad of archers. According to Legenda Aurea "There the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin." His executioners left him for dead. The widow of Castulus, Irene of Rome, discovered Sebastian had survived the sentence. Once back in health Sebastian devoted himself to verbally attacking Diocletian, who finally ordered his bodyguard to beat the future saint to death. There was no saving him that time, although the Faithful retrieved his body from a sewer. His relics are scattered throughout Christendom, since Apollo the spreader of pestilence was also an archer. Early Christians prayed to Sebastian for relief from the plague. There was none. Oh, St. Sebastian, you died twice. Holy you are in the eyes of your Lord. And queers love you strapped to a tree as a gay icon.

EVERGREEN by Jocko Weyland

Jocko Weyland moved to Tuscon. He works as the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The veteran skateboarder loves the West. It is his home.

And he loves trains.

My son Fenway does too.

The other day I spotted an Evergreen container on a truck in Greenpoint.

They get around.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Flags O'er Brooklyn Bridge

Earlier in the morning five people climbed the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge and hauled up a dyed white American flag.

The NYPD have no suspects and called the act a 'stunt' rather than an act of terrorism.

The Freaked Fearful expressed their consternation to the Daily News with one construction worker stating, "This is where you land the plane. X marks the spot. It was really scary."

The flags were identified as stolen.

Outrage was another reaction.

The flag hanger of the bridge said, “I’m so angry I can’t tell you what I want to say. It’s senseless. Whoever did this should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Police found no bombs or messages, however Daly News readers responded with attacks on the NYPD's lackadaisical security for the major bridge, claiming that the cops are more interested in writing tickets against the citizens of New York that they haven't the time to insure the public safety.

I agree with this consensus having been fined for riding my bike down a subway platform at 12am.


To pay for the taxes of the rich.

Fuck ex-mayor Bloomberg who had the PIGS arrest over 400,000 low-level pot offenders.

Over 80% were black or Latino.

All of those arrests should be expunged from the court records.

ps a white flag means surrender, which is what the police should do about the enforcement of the marijuana laws.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CASSE-TOI BRIGITTE by Peter Nolan Smith

Working at a nightclubs I met a lot of people; famous, infamous, and nobodies. Sometimes I had no idea who was who. One night at Hurrah I stopped a skinny bearded man from entering the club for free. His massive bodyguard steered me right.

"It's Mick Jagger."

"That's him." The rock star was with a blonde model. She knew who he was.

"My bad."

A year later at the Mudd Club Steve Mass called down from his apartment, as Meryl Streep approached the ropes. The quirky owner had seen the actress on his CCTV and shouted over the intercom, “Don’t let her in?”

“Why not?” The blonde actress had won an Oscar for KRAMER VS. KRAMER in 1979.


“Me too.” Especially her scene where she turns her head on the quai and I said to the Hollywood star, “Sorry, but you can’t come in.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” Her voice threatened me with contempt.

“Yes, but tonight’s not your night.” I didn’t have to explained why, for in the 1970s doormen ruled the night and that privilege followed me to Paris in 1982.

“Here you are not a doorman, but a physionomiste.” The manager of the Rex was a socialist. He wanted an eclectic crowd based on fun.

“No, problem, but I don’t know how to speak French.” Two years of grammar school French from a nun with a lisp had taught me how to ask, “Ou est le Bibliotechque?”

“Pas de problem,” Olivier shrugged with ease and said, “You only have to say two words. ‘Ouais’ or ‘Non.'”

“Okay” I had learned that trick at CBGBs, Hurrah, and Studio 54. “But I don’t know anyone in Paris. Not the famous people. Not the people who go to nightclubs.”

“Pas de problem.” His partner and he were tired of everyone getting in for free. “Make everyone pay and I don’t care if it’s Brigitte Bardot.”

“But how shall I treat them?”

“Comme le merde.”

“Like shit?” I didn’t think that I had heard him right.


“I’ll do my best.”

Treating Parisians like shit was a dream job for an American and I obeyed Olivier to a tee and favored my friends with glory. I built a new clientele of rockers, punks, models, gangsters, pop stars, and normal people for the basement club under the famed movie theater on the Grand Boulevard.

For the most part the owners liked the mix and rejectees called me ‘le ras-de-ped’ or ‘homo’, which was Verlaine or slang for pederast.

My French was getting good and the owners of Les Bains-Douches hired me to replace Farida. The Algerian Amazon was leaving her post to pursue a career in modeling with Claude Montana. She was that beautiful.

The owners of the club off Rue Sebastopol were a little more deferential about their upscale clientele, but also concurred with treating their regulars 'comme le merde'. I liked to throw them a curve ball and one night a decrepit clouchard approached the entrance.

The bouncers prevented the derelict’s climbing the stairs.

“Leave him alone.”

"Pour quoi?" My security were off-duty Legionnaires and shouldn't have been questioning my orders.

"Because I said so."

They shrugged and resumed smoking Gitanes.

“Why do you want to enter the club?” I asked the grizzled drunk in Boston-accented French.

“Because I’m a good friend of Moses. He told me to meet him here.”

“Come on in.”

“Are you serious?”

“Mais ouais.” I had heard plenty of excuses from people seeking to enter the Bains-Douches. None of them were as good as that offered by this ‘friend of Moses’.

“I have no money.” The clouchard patted his pockets.

“A friend of Moses doesn’t need money. Here are two drink tickets. Have a good time.”

His raison d'être granted him entry to the elite boite de nuit. I went inside from time to time to check, if he was having a good time and the snobby clientele of the Bains-Douches opened their hearts to the Friend of Moses.

My boss was not amused by Moses' friend and stormed up to the front door.

“Are you fou?” Americans were crazy estrangers to the French.

“What’s wrong?” I didn’t have an idea about what was amiss, but I was sure about the ‘who’.

“That clouchard drank a bottle of wine from Thierry Mugler’s table.” My boss had a sweet spot for the fashion czars of Paris.

“Really?” I laughed at the audacity of 'le Ami de Moises'.

“You think it’s funny?”

“Just a little, but if you want him to leave, then I’ll show him out.”

“Why did you let him in?”

“Because he’s a friend of Moses.” The excuse meant nothing to the patron. "I guess you never saw Charlton Heston part the Red Sea in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS."

"I know 'the Parting of the Red Sea'. It was special effects, but the God of the Israelis killed their enemies with unforgettable style. Get Moses' friend out of here."

I signaled the bouncers or ‘videurs’ to escort out my guest and the clouchard cried out, “You can’t treat the friend of Moses like this. Just wait until I speak to Moses. He has more plagues up his sleeves than I have fleas.”

Nothing as evil as the killing of the first-born ever visited the Bains-Douches.

Several weeks later I spotted the friend of Moses in Les Halles. He cursed everyone with damnation at the very popular Cafe Pere Tranquille. The junkie and drunks laughed at his predictions of doom. I looked to the sky. The madman pointed a finger at me.

“That Amerlot loves God.”

And I wished it were true, but I had been a non-believer since 1960>

I gave him 20 francs.

My girlfriend Candia asked, "Why?"

"Because it’s not a bad idea to have the friend of Moses saying good for you to the Grand Seigneur."

"Il est fou."

Crazy, ouais, but the believer's God moves in strange ways, so do the mad."

Everyone was amused by this story, except for my boss and I was let go from the Bains-Douches.

I wasn’t unemployed for long.

Albert and Serge opened a dance club near the Paris Opera 1984. I was hired to be the doorman. Le Reve’s plush décor harkened to the glorious 50s. The young rich loved to dance to the soul and classic French hits stitched together Albert's skill on the turntables.

They hired a young black bouncer to handle the voyous or thugs.

Jacques had run with several gangs from the outer suburbs. A two-year stint in prison had not ruined his smile. The young girls from the good neighborhoods found the muscular Martiniquean handsome and flocked in droves to try their luck with the ex-con.

These beauties in turn attracted men who brought them drinks.

A glass of champagne cost $20 and Le Reve coined money.

My job was to filter out the uncool.

A week after the opening an older man entered with two dowdy women in fluffy down coats.

One of the blondes might have been attractive in her youth, but she had let her blonde hair gather streaks of gray and no make-up masked her age. Her unfashionable clothing dated back to the early 70s and her feet were clad in tennis shoes.

I figured the old man for a boxer.

His nose was splayed across his upper lip like a wet sox.

An argument ensued with the cashier about the cover charge.

"What's the problem?" I asked the cashier. She was very strict with the guest list.

"They don't want to pay."

"We never pay." The fighter scowled at the cashier without acknowledging me. His damaged pride revealed that he had been someone once.

“Excusez-moi, mssr. Give one reason you don’t have to pay and you can come in for free.” Any excuse would work, even that he was a cousin of Moses.

“We never pay,” the ex-middleweight rasped in a punished voice. He had won more fight than he had lost, but not by much.

"That's not a reason."

"I do not have to give a reason to un putain Amerlot.”

“Fucking American?”

His insult was rewarded with an immediate response.

“Jacques, chuck this 'vieux' out of the club and have him take the two old pallisons with him.”

""Pallisons' was the French word for doormat. My French was getting better every year, but puzzlement muddied Jacques’ face and the fiftyish blonde woman glared with dazzling blue sapphire eyes. They had belonged to a younger woman once. One who would have considered me beneath her.

"Salud." She had said that to more than one man, but I wasn't not a bastard and countered, “Casse-toi, puts.”

The three of them left without further argument and my boss approached to the door.

"Is there a problem?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle."

“Then explain why you threw out Brigitte Bardot,” Serge demanded with blasé curiosity.

“Brigitte Bardot?”

"Yes, Brigitte Bardot."

The boxer’s companion re-assembled into the legendary sex symbol as would any woman who was Brigitte Bardot.

AND GOD CREATE WOMAN and CONTEMPT were two of my favorite films of all time.

I had dreamed about the blonde sex goddess as a boy.

“That’s wasn’t her?”

“Ouais, c’est elle.”

“Merde.” I ran out to apologize for my faux-pas, except they had reached the boulevard and a taxi stopped for the trio. I returned to nightclub expecting a reprimand, instead Serge suggested that I act with more tact in the future.

“We will be old one day too.”

"I know."

The story of Bardot's rejection from the Nouvelle Eve hit the morning papers and I expected the Paris Police to institute deportation proceedings against me for having insulted a national treasure, however the passage of time had rendered the animal lover’s beauty passé to today’s youth and our business doubled with their appreciation of my indiscretion.

A week later Mickey Rourke showed up at the club with ten friends, who were mostly young junkies from the Bains-Douches. We never let them in for free. I made an exception this time and Serge came up to me.

“No Brigitte Bardot, but hello to Mssr. Rourke.” He never let me forget this error in judgment and it remained a joke between us till this day, even more so now that the American actor slipped down the ranks from his heyday, although we both agreed on his best line.

“Drinks for my friends.” Mickey Rourke had called out in the same voice from Barbet Schroeder’s BARFLY.

It seemed to be a line he must have said in real life more than once.

“A guy like me changes hard, I didn’t want to change, but I had to change.”

Same as the rest of us.

We all get old some day.

Et resole Brigitte, because je suis un con, and 'con' is not a nice word in French.

Dead As Hunter S Thompson

Hunter S Thompson.

Forever a man lived life to the fullest, because oblivion is easier to achieve than enlightenment.

No Se Olvide L'Alamo

On March 6, 1836 thousands of Mexican troops under General Santa Ana stormed the Texas stronghold of the Alamo. None of the defenders were shown mercy and to this day Texans rally to the cry 'Remember the Alamo'.

On Monday Governor Rick Perry announced the mobilization of the National Guard to conduct air and ground operations to help the police and border guards stem the tens of thousands of illegal aliens swarming over the border.

“Drug cartels, human traffickers and individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities,” Mr. Perry said, adding, “I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault, and little children from Central America are detained in squalor.”

I work construction in New York. The large percentage of workers are Mexican or Irish or European. There are few Americans, because once the labor unions were smashed by the GOP, jobs were given to anyone other than Americans to prevent the re-establishment of organized labor.

My friend Oscar crossed the Mojave Desert for three days.

He had two bottles of water.

They were gone the first day.

"I thought I was going to die."

Oscar is not a criminal, simply a man looking for work, but I'm not living on the Rio Grande, so I understand the Texas governor's need to control the border, however the Texas border is 1200 miles long. He is deploying 1000 National Guardsmen. If they work 8 hour shifts, that means 1 National Guardsman for three miles of border, where the temperature runs in the high 90s, but the Guard is used to deserts, having spent almost ten years in Iraq. At least there won't be any IEDs.

But wait a second.

100,000 US troops tried to stem the insurgents from crossing the Iraqi border, which has a length of 1500 miles. Result = failure, because idiots like Rick Perry and George W Bush don't understand math.

My friend Al Harlow took acceptance to my comment, "Perry is an idiot...because he wants to defend our border?? At least he's attempting to do something..

No, he's an idiot to pretend that 1000 national guard troops who spent 10 years going back and forth to Iraq will fix this situation. The numbers do not add up to anything other than a window dressing. Most effective would be changing the name of Dallas to Tijuana and Houston to Guatemala City.

Plus the ratio of frontline troops to support i.e. tooth to tail is 1 to 3 or 1 soldier for every ten miles of border.

So Rick Rerry is still dumber than a stump in those glasses.

Al Harlow argued, "I'm sure he doesn't mean the guardsmen will be holding hands to span the border....they will use more troops to beef up patrols in between outposts...Mr. Obummer needs to send a Division of troops, (10 to 30,000) and take the border security seriously."

The Mexicans take the border seriously.

I know, because Oscar almost died there.

Y Oscar es me amigo.

THE ONLY YEH YEH GIRL By Peter Nolan Smith

The stars of the 1960s were transported by TV and radio to my three red-light suburb south of Boston. The teenagers of the 50s worshipped Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Buddy Holly as dead gods, but my generation’s focus was dedicated to the living.

Bob Dylan’s BLOWING IN THE WIND knocked Elvis off his throne and the Beatles enthralled girls with I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND. The Ronettes defined hot with BE MY BABY, but young boys worshipped movie actresses as wingless angels fallen to Earth, even though their visits to Boston were plastered on the silver screen.

Julie Christie won our hearts in DARLING in 1965 and a year later my older brother chose fur-bikinied Raquel Welch as his muse after her debut in 1,000,000 BC. The seductive virtues of various starlets were debated by the boys in my high school. I held my sand, because I was searching for a goddess to call my own.

One cold January night my hand slipped on the radio dial and the antenna caught a signal from Quebec transmitting a wavering female singing ‘La maison où j’ai grandi”.

This song had nothing to do with DOMINIQUE by the Singing Nun.

This singer was telling a story of love.

I cursed myself for not paying attention in French classes and looked over to my brother’s bed. He was asleep on his side. I turned up the volume and rode the magic radio waves to the last fading notes of the guitar. The Montreal DJ announced with breathless admiration, “C’etait une autre tube par Francoise Hardy.”

I didn’t understand a word, but understood that Francoise Hardy couldn’t be anything other than beautiful.

For the next two hours I remained glued to the distant station and the DJ rewarded my patience with LE PREMIER BONHEUR DU JOUR, QUI PEUT DIRE, and L’AMITIE.

“Bonne anniversaire, Francoise.”

Somehow my brain translated those words into ‘happy birthday, Francoise’.

The DJ said Francoise was twenty-three. I was fifteen. She lived somewhere French. Paris was three thousand miles away.

“Turn off that Frog crap.” My older brother mumbled from his pillows.

“Okay.” I shut the radio and went to sleep confused by conflicting images of Francoise Hardy.

I saw her as a blonde. I fantasized about her as a redhead. I woke early to a dream of her as a brunette.

I dressed and wandered down to the kitchen.

“You’re awfully quiet,” my father said at the breakfast table.

“Thinking about changing my language from German to French.”

“I thought you liked German.” My father had studied French at college.

“I did.” I spoke it with a Boston accent much to the chagrin of Bruder Karl. My best grade had been a D+. I had no feeling for Marlene Dietrich.

“Any reason for the change?”

“Maybe I’ll have more use for French.”

“Like for when you’re ordering French Fries.” My older brother joked and my younger brothers and sisters laughed along with my father.

I didn’t mention my restless night to my car pool friends, as we drove on 128. My daydreams of Francoise Hardy consumed the morning math and biology classes. I had a study hall for the third period and went the library to search through the record collection.

Brother Jerome, the librarian, was in his office. A freshman was sitting on his lap.

I wandered over to the record trays and flipped through the LPs without finding a single French record. A few music stores in downtown Boston sold foreign records and I planned on heading to Washington Street after school.

“I’m not going home today?” I told my car pool.

“Where you going?” My best friend, Chuckie Manzi, wanted to join me.

“To see the dentist.” No one liked the sound of the drill.

“You’re on your own.”

My friends dropped me at the Forest Hills T station and got off at Washington Street. None of the big department stores had any French 45s or LPs. On the way to the Park Street Station I chanced upon the Commons. The owner was an old man with a beard. The forty year-old looked like a beatnik. I was dressed as a mod.

“Can I help you?” The walls were stacked with records according to genres.

“Do you have any Francoise Hardy?”

“How do you know about Francoise Hardy?” The old man was mystified by my request.

“I heard her on a Canadian station.”

“Must have been a strong signal.” He went to the French section and pulled out a plastic sealed LP.

“Francoise Hardy dropped out of the Sorbonne to record OH OH CHERI with Johnny Halliday. He’s the French Elvis. She became one of the biggest stars of Ye-Ye music and her hit TOUS LES GARCONS ET LES FILLES made the charts in the UK. I think it was 1964. Here’s that LP. It came out in 1962.”

He handed me the album.

I held the cover in both hands.

The name had a face and that face belonged to an angel. A cinnamon strands of hair streamed across feline eyes. An ivory hand held an umbrella with a detached interest. Francoise was a woman made for a rainy afternoon.

“Can I hear a little?”

“Sure.” The old man r slipped the LP onto a Garrard 401 turntable. “This is LE TEMPS D’AMOUR.”

A patter of drums opened the song. A twangy guitar and solid bass joined on the next bar. The singer wasted no time getting to the lyrics. They must have been about love. 2:27 passed in a second.

“What you think?”

“I’ll take it.” Her pose sold youthful innocence. I gave him $5. “Is that the only one you have?”

“Of that LP, yes, but I can get some of her other records, if you’d like.”

I nodded my answer and promised to return on the weekend.

“My name’s Osberg.” He handed me a business card. “Call to find out when to come in.”

“Thanks.” I left his shop and caught the T to Ashmont.

That evening after finishing dinner and my homework, I went down to the basement and put the LP on my father’s record player. My brother had a better one in our bedroom, but I wasn’t sharing Francoise Hardy with someone in love with a woman in a fake fur bikini, even if Frunk was my older brother.

One play of her record and I became her biggest fan south of the USA-Canada border.

I listened to the Quebec stations in secrecy.

At school I hid my secret. My friends regarded our northern neighbors as Canucks and I didn’t want to risk their attacking Francoise. I bought several LPs from Mr. Osberg and he introduced me to the other Ye-Ye girls; Frances Gall, Sylvie Vartan, and Jacqueline Taïeb as well as the Sultans from Quebec and Serge Gainsbourg.

None of them were Francoise Hardy.

I dreamed about flying to Paris.

An airline ticket cost hundreds of dollars.

I settled for listening to her music with my eyers closed.

In 1968 Francoise Hardy released COMMENT TE DIRE ADIEU written by Serge Gainsbourg. Mr. Osburg said that he was the wicked man in France and played his hit with Jane Birkin JE T’AIME…MOI NON PLUS.

Sex dripped off the record. Mr. Osburg was right about this Gainsbourg man. He was as ugly as sin. I had to save Francoise and as soon as I arrived home, I asked my father, if we could vacation in France.

“They’re having troubles there.” My father was very conservative. He tolerated the length of my hair, but thought I looked like a girl. “Students in the streets. Worse than the hippies. We’re going to the Cape.”

Our family rented three motel rooms in Harwichport. The pool overlooked the small harbor. The beach boasted the warmest water on Cape Cod. The sea was 65 Fahrenheit by the 4th of July.

Every morning I read the Boston Globe. The newspaper covered the War in Vietnam with little mention of the student riots, but I was certain that Francoise Hardy wasn’t the type of girl to get mixed up in trouble on the Left Bank. Not unless she fell into the hands of the evil Serge Gainsbourg and I plotted a trip to France. A rumor was whispered across Boston about a jet plane leaving Boston every morning for Paris.

Its cargo of Maine lobsters was traded for eclairs, creme brûlées, and pomme tartes.

Two weeks before the start of school I emptied my bank account and took the T to Logan Airport. None of the terminals listed the ‘lobster’ flight and I spent the greater part of Saturday hunting for the mythic plane to Paris.

“Ha.” A Boston cop laughed upon hearing my query. “Once a week some kid comes up looking for the ‘lobster’ plane. There ain’t none. Some bullshit story someone invented for who knows why, but the weird thing is that all these kids want to meet the same girl. Francoise Hardy. You ever heard of her?”

“No.” These ‘others’ feelings for Francoise Hardy could never rival my love.

“Me too. Must be some kind of film star. Like Brigitte Bardot.”

I fought back an explanation, not needing any more converts to the faith, and returned home in defeat.

That summer America was deep mourning after the murder of RFK in LA.

MRS. ROBINSON replaced Archie Bell and the Drells’ TIGHTEN UP as # 1, while Simon and Garfinkel sang about an older woman from the movie THE GRADUATE. Francoise Hardy was eight years older than me. I changed the words from Mrs. Robinson to Francoise Hardy. I never sang it in front of my girlfriend. Kyla was the same age as me.

COMMENT TE DIRE ADIEU was not a hit and the radio station in Quebec played less and less of her songs.

Kyla and I went steady. I liked to think that Francoise would have approved of my selection, but I was stupid and left Kyla for no good reason in 1969.

That year Francoise released Françoise Hardy en Anglais. Like the Catholic Mass in English her songs lost their magic in my language.

My travels in the late-60s and 70s were confined to hitchhiking across America. None of the drivers played TOUS LES GARCONS ET LES FILLES, but I defended French music to hundreds of hippies, rednecks, and disco fanatics by saying, "You've never heard Francoise Hardy."

In 1973 she appeared in the film SAVE THE TIGER. The director failed to break the 29 year-old singer to America. She remained a creature of France.

The Atlantic Ocean separated America from the Old World. My opportunity to cross the waters came in 1982, when I was hired to work as a doorman at the Bains-Douches, a popular Paris nightclub. At first I was unfamiliar with the French pop stars, but over the course of the next year I met Johnny Halliday, Yves Montand, Catherine Denevue, Yves St. Laurent, Coluche, countless Vogue models, arms dealers, and other lightbulbs of the night, but never Francoise Hardy and I asked the owner about her absence.

“She doesn’t go out at night. Her husband, Jacques Dutronc, is very jealous.”

“Of what?” Dutronc was a rock star for the French. Nobody in the USA knew his name, but ET MOI ET MOI ET MOI was a great song. I had it on tape.

“Of other men.

“A boyfriend is a man’s best enemy.”

“Not Jacques Dutronc.” My boss warned that her husband was capable of almost anything against any man seeking intimacy with his wife. “He is very much in love with her.”

“Who wouldn’t be?”

My boss shrugged with mutual understanding, He was a Francoise Hardy fan too.

The nightlife was a small world in Paris and I didn’t mention Francoise’s name again. People had big mouths.

Jacques Dutronc visited the club on several occasions. A thick cigar hung out of his mouth. I hated the smell. He never came with Francoise. The rumor was that she was terribly shy after having been the Ye-Ye Girl for so many years. I made her husband wait to get in more than once.

Jacques complained to my boss, who laughed behind the singer’s back.

My job was to make French stars feel like getting into the Bains-Douches was a privilege, however my friends were granted an easy entry, especially Suzi Wyss, the mistress of a Getty Oil heir. On my days off I smoked opium at her oriental pad in the 13th arrondisement. The Swiss courtesan was superb cook and traveled through many cliques. One night she invited me to a dinner.

“Don’t tell anyone, but Francoise Hardy will be coming.”

“I thought she didn’t go out.” This was a miracle.

“She doesn’t, but she loves my cooking and I am always discreet. So not a word.”

“Silence will be my vow” I wanted her to myself. “Will her husband be there?”

“Not for dinner, but he might come for dessert. He has a thing for my Swiss chocolate torte.”

Suzi’s piece de resistance was a culinary delight and I prepared like a nameless suitor for this rendezvous with Francoise Hardy.

I bought a white shirt from Agnes B and a gray suit from Cerruti. No tie was better than pretending to be a business man and I purchased Cuban heels from the flea market. They dated back to the time of her greatest success. I cut my hair short and didn’t bathe for two days to emulate French men, who avoided bathing in fear of losing their masculinity.

That evening I showed up on time with a bouquet of roses. Suzi loved flowers. We smoked hash. Opium was for after the dinner. The door bell rang at 9.

Francoise arrived at the apartment with a young gay man. We opened a bottle of wine. She wasn’t a drinker, but was amused by my stories of New York nightclubs awash with beautiful women and crooked cops.

“It would make a good movie.”

“Only if you played the lead.” I envisioned us on the podium of the Academy Awards receiving Oscars.

“I’m too old to play that role.”

“You’re never too old to be a star.”

Suzi lit another joint. We smoked it before dinner.

I was falling in love again.

In fact I had never stopped loving Francoise.

She spoke about her music and picked up a guitar from the corner. The Ye-Ye girl sang two new tunes. I was in paradise and was about to tell her about hearing her music on a little radio twenty years ago.

A knock on the door trashed my moment.

The guest was Jacques Dutronc.

Francoise’s face said that she loved him and no one else.

Any man would have been a fool to not love her the same.

“I know you.” He pointed his cigar. “Bains-Douches. Doorman.”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“A writer too.” Suzi was on my side.

“Pouoff.” Dutronc had witnessed thousands of writers attempt to seduce his wife. “Women only love directors and producers. They prefer chauffeurs before a writer.”

Francoise laughed at her husband’s joke. Suzi thought it funny too. I might have joined them, if the riposte hadn’t struck deep. We rejoined to the living room, where Jacques Dutronc picked up the guitar.

“Francoise and I did a song in 1978. BROULLIARD DANS LA RUE CORVISART.”

He put down his cigar and sang the song’s opening lines. Francoise accompanied him on the song. I applauded their duet as well as their shared love. I didn’t stand a chance. The odds were stacked higher against me than the records in Mr. Osburg’s music store.

An hour later the famed couple left with the gay friend.

Francoise didn’t even said good-bye.

Jacques winked to me. I wouldn’t make him wait at the door any more.

“Poor Boy.” Suzi patted my cheek. “Everyone loves her.”

“Yes, I suppose we do.”

“And I know how to make you forget, if only for a few minutes.” Suzi handed me a pipe. Opium was a good doctor for a broken heart.

The three of us met several more times at Suzi’s apartment.

The same routine as always, dinner, wine, and a joint or two.

Jacques came late and they departed ensemble.

I imagined myself being him, but I didn't like cigars and my French was even worse than my German. Francoise loved Jacques and that was good enough for me, because all men at one time in their lives need a goddess to teach them about love.

Even if they were another man’s woman

To Hear Francoise Hardy's LE PREMIERE BONHEUR DU JOUR please go to the following URL

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Steely Dan recorded AJA from January to July in 1976.

THE MAKING OF AJA is a 1999 film of the studio sessions in LA and New York.

The interviews with Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, and the score of studio musicians are priceless insights into one of the best produced LPs of all time.

This evening I passed my landlord AP's office and my good friend was watching THE MAKING OF AJA. I was hooked within a few minutes and sat through the entire film, enthralled by the magic of creation as well as the multi-tracked texture of music.

To see THE MAKING OF AJA, please go to the following URL

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


There are no more Ramones on Earth.

Tommy Ramones joined his three brothers.

I was lucky enough to catch them in 1976.

On a winter night I was walking up the Bowery. I heard CALIFORNIA SUN from a bar. I walked inside. My life was changed forever.

They were our band.

Here is an excerpt from my punk novel THE END OF MAYBE about that evening.

Gabba Gabba Hey.

Johnny nodded across the avenue to the leather-jacketed crowd underneath a white awning emblazoned with the letters CBGBs. The Palace Hotel next door was a close relative to the Terminal Hotel and Sean glared at his new acquaintance with a twinge of disappointment.

“This is it?”

“What’s outside had nothing to do with what’s inside. This is punk’s opera house.”

The hippie’s disapproval intensified Johnny’s impatience to rip him off and he leapt off the curb to dart through a surge of speeding cars and taxis.

“Last one across the street buys the first round.”

A rattling Checker bore down on Johnny and Sean braced for the soft crunch of steel into a body, except the thin blonde gracefully vaulted across the hood onto the traffic island and dodged two newspaper trucks to safely reach the opposite sidewalk, where he shouted, “I’ll take a Wild Turkey.”

Johnny had challenged death twice in two seconds, but Sean’s mother had cautioned him to walk the other way from any menace to life and limb. He would still be living in the suburbs, if he had followed her instructions, so crossed the Bowery to find Johnny arguing with two men carrying guitars.

“You use the drugs, you have to pay.”

“I owe you nuttin’,” sniveled a crow-haired guitarist, resembling Keith Richard, if the lead guitarist had died instead of Brian Jones.

His pointy rat boots, straight-legged black Levi’s, a stained tuxedo jacket, and a skinny tie knotted loosely on the collar of a rumpled shirt were the fashionable antithesis to Sean’s Frye boots and plaid shirt. The loiterers on the sidewalk were similarly attired in leather jackets or narrow lapel jackets. Sean felt out of place and even more so after Johnny seized the zombie’s guitar.

“Where’s my $50.”

“Hey, I gotta be at Max’s in thirty minutes.” The rocker feebly wrestled for the guitar and Johnny shoved him into a pile of garbage.

“Give me the money and I’ll give you the guitar.”

The onlookers hooted, as if this was a long-running sit-com, and the rocker offered shrilly, “I’ll give you the fifty at Max’s.”

“Wait in line with the other twenty junkies you stiffed today? Fifty or no guitar.”

“Okay, okay.” The skeletal musician forfeited a crumble of bills. “Now gimme my guitar.”

“Been a pleasure doing business.” Johnny released the guitar and the junkie rocker rambled up the Bowery. The thin blonde pocketed the cash and turned to Sean. “This ain’t Kansas or the Emerald City. Trusting no one’s the first rule of this city and the second is always obey the first.”

A taxi halted at the curb and the back door opened for a bleached blonde in a miniskirt, ripped fishnet stockings, and gleaming black high heels straight out of fetish stroke book.

Glowering on the sidewalk the milk-white dominatrix sneered with crooked teeth, “You have a problem with your eyes, caveman?”

Sean stammered, “I haven’t seen anyone dress like you before.”
”You sayin’ I’m a whore?” She flashed sharp fingernails at Sean’s face.

“Sheila, this is my country bumpkin cousin, so cut him some slack.” Johnny stepped between them.

“This is related to you?” The blonde’s laugh sounded like her first of the night.

“Can’t you see the resemblance, Sheila?” Johnny leaned over to Sean’s face.

“I get it. You’re country cousins.” The blonde dominatrix blew the bewildered hippie a kiss and entered the club with a sadistic swagger. When the door shut, Sean asked, “Why she dress so slutty, if she isn’t asking me to look?”

“The girls at CBGBs wear trampy clothing, because they are whores or strippers, who might break your teeth or ask you home for a fuck. I’ll let find out for yourself which is worse.” Johnny opened the thick door and Sean’s eardrums buckled under a subsonic boom. The last band he had heard this loud was Blue Cheer and his guide shouted, “Now hold onto your wig. No more Abba. No more Bread. No more Boz Scaggs. This is the world of tomorrow today.”

The pure power on the stage drew Sean forward and a stringy-haired giant in a yellow construction helmet halted his progress with a meaty hand. “Five dollars.”

Sean dropped $5 before the bearded man at a desk and beelined for the front of the club, where four men in black leather jackets, torn blue jeans, sneakers, and scraggly hair performed a blindingly fast version of CALIFORNIA SUN.

The singer resembling a wigged mantis yelled indecipherable lyrics to the frenzied audience. Each song raced to its end in less than two minutes and Sean unconditionally joined the crowd’s bopping worship of the hard-driving quartet. When the band had exhausted the audience’s energy, the longhaired gnome announced their encore, “PT boat on the way to Havana.”

The heaving mob surged forward and he asked a mulatto teenager with a safety pin stuck in his cheek,

“What’s the name of this band?”

“The Ramones.” The pimply kid rolled his eyes at Sean’s ignorance.

He had never heard of them, but judging from the number of people emulating the band’s get-up, this band had existed for several years.

A minute later the Ramones finished their encore and the jukebox blared a song about Chinese Rocks. Most of the audience surged to a narrow hallway behind the stage and Sean fought his way to the bar, where Johnny handed him a long-necked Bud. He drained the bottle in three gulps and ordered a Wild Turkey from a redheaded bartender wearing a skimpy tube top. After downing the shot he called for another round.

“So how great is this place?” Johnny was pleased by the wad of bills in the hippie’s hand.


ROUGH ROAD by Peter Nolan Smith

Peru sucked in 1995.

The country was under siege.

The War of Drugs had replaced the War against the Shining Path.

The capitol city Lima was cool, but I had unsuccessfully spent the better part of two days trying to score a bag of cocaine. The airport police had fingered me as a user. They weren't wrong. An undercover squad had tailed my ventures into the slums. Their obvious presence had scared off any steerers. To the dealers I was either DEA or a fool.

Ms. Carolina didn't understand my mounting frustration. The golfer pro had been reared in a convent. People like me didn't frequent the 19th hole at country clubs.

The blonde southern beauty and I had been seeing each other for over five years. her husband was in his late-60s. They had an understanding. Donnie gave his wife space to take trips on her own, so she didn’t feel trapped after twenty years of marriage. Ms. Carolina came back with a smile and the small town doctor had a monthly week of peace and quiet. The arrangement had worked for years, except Ms. Carolina had violated an unspoken tenet of her pact.

She had fallen desperately in love that winter on a ski trip.

While the Ten Commandments had no influence over my soul, I had met the old doctor at a party in New York. Donnie was a good old boy from the tar forests. He helped people black or white and my rule about never sleeping with the wife or girlfriend of someone I respected was stronger than any law from the Bible.

Donnie and his wife were meant for each other and Ms. Carolina deserved better than a nightclub bouncer.

Nothing said an affair was over faster than a coke binge in Peru.

The Lima police refused to cooperate.

On our last night in our seaside hotel I pretended to be asleep. Ms. Carolina cuddled up to me and I mewed with pleasure, as she stroked my skin. Convent girls were tough to refuse in the dark, even in their 40s.

On the third morning I left the hotel and there were no police on the sidewalk. A heavy fog was rolling off the Pacific and I headed over to a plaza in Miraflores, where I noticed several nasty pieces of work hanging on the sidewalk. I approached the one with the best clothing and explained my proposition. I gave him $20 and promised another $80, if he came back.

"Non problema." The dealer shifted his eyes left and right. "Trente minudos."

I sat at a cafe and ordered an expresso. The bastard hadn't shown up by my third. I swore under my breath, thinking I had been ripped off, then spotted the dealer across the plaza. He walked, as if he was carrying the mother lode. We exchanged smiles. My hand went into my pocket. A car screeched to the curb. An undercover squad of 'tomba' hit the pavement and threw us against the wall.

"I am screwed." I muttered several times, but the cops cut us loose.

"Bamba." The lead detective hefted the bag of powder.

"Bamba?" This word didn't register in my lexicon of Peruvian slang.

"Fake." The detective spoke English like he had spent time at a police academy in LA. "You got ripped off. Via con dios."

I returned to the hotel in a black mood. I was dreaming of snow.

Ms. Carolina and I had been together long enough for her not to question my mood.

A black rental Nissan Sentra was waiting outside. The odometer read 70,000 miles. The steering wheel betrayed the real wear and tear. Lima's potholes had taken their bite from the suspension, but the coastal highway was smooth as the surface of a frozen Maine lake.

We drove north along the Pacific, taking turns at the wheel. I acted 'nice' and put CDs in the stereo. Ms. Carolina liked my music.

The land north of Lima was a desert without houses or vegetation no trees. A few giant chicken farms with millions of chickens pooping out eggs into basket for consumption in the capitol dotted the sand expanse and towns huddled next to streams flowing with water from the glacial melt to the east. According the guide book the Sechuran Desert received close to no rain each year.

The ocean was a dark blue mystery. The Humboldt Current surged south from the Arctic. Balboa had named it 'Pacific' as a joke. The waves crushed ships on desolate shores, doldrums starved men to death, and storms sucked armadas to the depths.

I went for a swim at a nameless beach. The cold water stun my skin. Seals surfed the waves. Ms. Carolina took pictures. She was happy. It would have been easy to make her sad, so I kept my mouth shut, as she handed me a towel.

Back on the road Ms. Carolina handed me a Pilsen Callao. The bottle was icy cold and I thanked my passenger.

"You're a good traveler companion."

"Is that all, precious?" She only said the words precious to dogs, children, and people who annoyed her.

"Why?" It was a question a man is never supposed to ask of a woman.

"Because there's also this." She held up a bag of green leaves and explained with a southern accent. "Coca. I know it's not what you want, but it's the best I could do with my limited habla espanol."

"Okay, you're a saint too." I stuck a wad of dried leaves in my cheek. Breaking up was hard to do with a woman this nice.

"That's what I thought too." She smiled and joined my predilection for epiphany.

The coca and the beer loosened my tongue. I told her about Pizarro's conquest of the Incan Empire. His march in 1532 had traversed the coastal wasteland. "His troops numbered less that 200. They headed into the mountains and found the Royal Incan at a place now known as Baños del Inca. For some reason Atahualpa and his army of 80,000 were defeated by a sneak attack on the king. They later garroted the Incan when he didn't give them more gold."

"Nice people." Ms. Carolina loved hearing my shortening versions of history. She was smart enough to absorb the parts that sounded almost true. 'You know that coca makes you real talky, precious."

Like Pizarro we left the coast and drove into the mountains. Our destination was Huaraz. The road wound through an arid valley walled by ever-steeper cliffs. We entered the high plain with the eastern horizon blocked by snow-covered mountains. This was the first sight of the Andes for both of us. Ms. Carolina lowered the window of the rented car to admire the sun gleaming off impressive range of peaks.

"How are you feeling?" Traveling in rural Peru was more dangerous than Lima, since the local motorists drove as if they were used to empty roads. They passed on blind corners and sped through switchbacks with deadly intent. Being a defensive driver I anticipated their every stupid move with an almost ESP alacrity.

"Fine." She sounded a little dreamy.

"Good, the coca makes it easier to breath at this altitude." We were 3000 meters above sea level, which was higher than most of the Rockies.

"You want me to drive?" She had been behind the wheel most of the way from Lima to Casma.

"No, I'm good." The surface of the valley road was impeccable, however the uncertainty of the indigenous motorists' way with the wheel was a test of bravery as much as skill. "You enjoy the view."

She loved the mountains and we arrived in Huaraz in the late afternoon. Our hotel was cheap, but cheerful and we sat on the roof drinking wine and examining the map for the next day's travels. Ms. Carolina held THE ROUGH GUIDE TO PERU. She loved reading about where she was to learn the history and geography. The temperature dropped with the setting sun, but we were warm in our alpaca sweaters purchased at the farmers' market.

"Those mountains are the Cordillera Blanca. About fifty miles north of here a road crosses the Andes and descends into the jungle. The road cuts south. It's probably dirt and none of it good. I bet fewer than ten westerners travel it." A couple of years before the trip would have been too dangerous. The Shining Path had ruled the Andean highlands. Their president had been captured by the military and there was no number two to take over the role of leader for the Maoists.

"What are you thinking?" She fluttered through the guide book without finding any references to the region. It was terra incognito.

"Maybe it might take two days from here and back to Lima." I spit out a gigantic chaw of coca. It hit the tiled roof below us with a splat.

"Then I'm all for it." Ms. Carolina tried to imitate by projectile gobbing. The green goop rolled down her chin onto her new sweater. Girls from convent schools were terrible at spitting.

"Good thing your sweater is green." I brushed the dregs from the alpaca with my sleeve. She laughed at the absurdity of this gesture and we clinked glasses to honor the possibilities of tomorrow's trip.

The Olluquito con charqui accompanied our excellent dinner of lake trout. The waiter hailed from Matibamba. He pointed it on the map. His hometown town was on the other side of the Andes.

"No one goes there. Only people leave." His eyes clouded with disbelief and then suspicion, as if we might be DEA.

"We're not the police." Ms. Carolina had changed into a lovely traditional dress. Her smile reconverted him to our side. She knew how to treat men and bought him a beer. "How's the road?"

"Road? Malo. Muy malo e mucho peligroso." He begged us to only visit the twin glacial lakes east of Yungay. "Very beautiful same."

"Muchos gracias." She toasted him for braving his fears as well as his compliment. Gringos are never good luck in Latin America.

As we retired to our room, Ms. Carolina hooked her arm with mine. Several piscos reserves had affected my equilibrium. High altitudes played havoc with hard drinking. Now was not the time to say that we were over. I kissed her with the tenderness of a sailor about to sail away from his port and fell into bed as soon as we reached our room. I didn't have to fake going to sleep.

The dawn sun rose behind the eastern horizon shark teeth rising from marshmallow glaciers. Some of the mountains rose to 6000 meters plus. Their names came from Quechuan. Stone fireplace, hummingbird beak of ice, and the butcher were just a few. Climbing those monster were for experts. Driving was strictly for fools.

Ms. Carolina put on her explorer outfit. The pants and shirt had an excess of pockets. I wore jeans and a leather jacket. This was a road trip and not a safari, then again she was a woman and women like looking good in case they have to get dirty. I put her wide-brimmed hat in the trunk.

"I like that hat."

"Tough. I'm not traveling with Indiana Jones."

"Sore sport." She threw my Red Sox cap in the trunk. "And I'm not traveling with a jock."

It was a good way to start the morning and we went our separate ways.

I filled the gas tank and had a mechanic check the engine and tires. I hoped that we didn't need a spare, if we drove slow enough on the rough roads. When I told the mechanic my destination, he wished me luck.

"Mucho Gracias." His comment reinforced my opinion that crossing the Andes in a rented car was plain old stupid.

Ms. Carolina got provisions for the journey. She had been born in the Adirondacks. Camping in the north woods required planning. The weather killed fools.

"You know I've been thinking about this trip." We had another fifteen days in Peru. This drive might eat two or five.

"Listen you always play that Steppenwolf song for me." She got in the car and motioned for me to get behind the wheel. AS I snapped on my seatbelt, Ms. Carolina said, "That singer sings 'looking for adventure and whatever comes our way. I didn't come here with you to stay at the Holiday Inn and drink chardonnay. Let's see whatever comes our way. What the worst thing that can happen?"

"We get stuck in a remote town and kidnapped by banditos."

"I was thinking about something less worst."

"We get stuck in the remote town and have to tow the car back to Lima."

"Now that's not a bad worst."

We supplemented the coca in our cheeks and I started the car. There is nothing like false courage to make something stupid sound like a good idea.

The road to Yungay was well maintained by work crews. They were happy for the work and good at it. Ms. Carolina had the map on her lap and the guide book in her hands.

"Yungay was destroyed by a glacier avalanche in 1970. Over 70,000 people were killed. The town was buried under ten meters of debris." She read the facts and I spotted the slide. Twenty-four years later a mile-wide scar marked the slope under Mount Huascarán.

"Looks safe today." I turned right and the dirt road weaved through the fertile farmlands into a pine forest and then a series of switchbacks. I kept the speed under 25 to give time to avoid potholes and roads. Several battered cars came from the other direction. They were covered with dust. A relic of a bus appeared at a corner. The passengers waved to us. There were no towns at the lakes, so they had to be coming from the other side of the Andes.

"That's a good sign."

"What?" Ms. Carolina was studying the valley floor for car wrecks. She suffered slightly from vertigo. Coca was working a miracle to calm her fear of heights. The Sentra squeaked around a hairpin curve and it was my turn to feel the fears.

We rose into the chasm with the sensation of sinking, as the twin giants topped with millennia of snow and ice loomed over the road with a fury restrained by gravity. They were close enough to shiver from the cold trembling off their unattainable summits.

"That cars are coming from where we want to go."

"Good." Her lungs were wheezing from the lack of oxygen.

"Are you okay?" I played three hours of streetball every day back in New York. My chest rivaled the width of Henry VIII and he was a fat man. Aided my the coca leaves I was fine.

"A little migraine that's all." Ms. Carolina was a sport, but high altitude sickness was no joke.

"If it gets worst let me know."

The road leveled out for two lakes glistening azure under the high Andean sun. We parked the Nissan by the side of a creek spilling into Laguna Llaganuco. Shredded clouds fingered the cliffs and the sun blistered the lake surface with mirrored flashes of light. I stripped off my clothes and told Ms. Carolina, "I'm going for a swim."

"It has to be cold." The water was straight off a glacier.

"Purification rite." My anti-Catholicism didn't interfere with my spirituality. I wore my shoes into the water. The beach was water-smoothed stone. I leapt from the shore. The cold was deeper than a plunge into a Bar Harbor beach in March. Ice crackled my capillaries and I stroked back to earth. Ms. Carolina spread a huge towel on the stones. I shuddered for several minutes before regaining the power of speech. She was sitting on a storm-wizened stump of a tree.

"Cold?" She handed me a glass of pisco. Ms. Carolina knew how to treat a man.

Stupid ones too.

"Fucking cold." I lay on my back.

Ms. Carolina lay next to me. She was warm. We were close to the sun. Ten minutes later I was on my feet. I pointed to the top of the pass.

"Beyond that the unknown." I dressed quickly in my dry clothes and sat behind the steering wheel. I turned up the heat.

"You want me to drive?" Ms. Carolina was genuinely concerned about my condition.

"No, I'm good." My hands were shaking from the effects of exposure and I chewed more coca leaves. They weren't helping. I put the car in drive. "I'll take it slow."

I did for the first mile. Several cars passed us. They knew the road and I increased the speed to 30 mph to keep up with them. I looked out the window. The valley of lakes was disappearing under a cloud bank. We were at flight altitude.

"Precious, keep your eye on the road."

"Yes, boss." I turned my head to scowl at her. The car scrapped over a rock with a screech of metal. The stench of gas filled the car. Ms. Carolina smelled it too. Something was wrong.


I got out of the car and lay on the dirt. Gas was spewing from a gash in the tank. My attempts to staunch the flow with electrical tape were failures. I stood up and looked up the road. The pass was obscured by a thick fog. It might be snow.

"We have to turn back. We have a full tank and it should get us back to Yungay. At worst we can roll down the mountain."

"On the road, I hope." She lifted her hand. "Just trying to be funny."

"Ha, ha." My humor was diminished by the prospect of having the rental car towed back to Lima. I gave up trying to estimate how much that would cost in my head. "That was my bad. I'll pay whatever it cost."

"This is not a 'me' world, but a 'we' world. 50/50." Ms. Carolina had her moments. "Let's get going before I have to push us."

I drove down past the lakes. They were as beautiful the second time as the first. We didn't stop for photographs. The Nissan rocked through the potholes and shivered across the ruts. The gas meter read half-full. We made Yungay with a quarter tank to spare.

I asked a local about a mechanic. She pointed around the corner. The building was surrounded by wrecks and scavenged hulks. There was no way that I was leaving the Nissan here. The three men in the garage lifted their heads from a V8 block. The oldest man was sealing a crack in between two cylinders with an acetylene torch. He sniffed the air with a knowledgeable nose. It was long and crooked. He turned off the torch.

I stepped out of the car. The boss signed for his young helpers to take a break. They lit up cigarettes and the older man shouted at them in rapid Spanish. Admonished by his tirade they put out the cigarettes.

The older man shook his head and wiped his grimy hands on grimier overalls. His eyes squinted in the bright sunlight like his mind was calculating the price of his solution to my problem. The passenger door opened behind me and his shifted over my shoulder.

“Senora.” The boss bowed his head with a polite deference. Blonde hair the color of the sun was an abnormality in the high Andes. Ms. Carolina was basically an extraterrestrial slumming on Earth and the boss offered her a chair, then explained in passable English, “This not big problema. Road bad. Rock cut tank. I fix. Take out tank. Empty petrol. Seal hole with solder. Turn tank back upside down. Car OK. Good idea.”

“What is plan numero two?” I asked to re-establish my standing as the man here, not Ms. Carolina. It was a futile effort.

“Plan two?” The mechanic smirked at my question. “Plan numero two I go to Lima. Get new tank.”

“Sounds expensive.”

“Si mucho caro. Plan numero uno est better.”

“Very good idea. How much?” Carolina got to the point.

The man held up two fingers. I thought $200 was a rip-off, but he smiled and said, “$20.”

“Very good idea.” Ms. Carolina shook his hand. None of his grime came off on her hand. Goddesses were above dirt. The man introduced himself as Chocho. “I like Chocolate.”

“Who doesn’t.” Ms. Carolina told our host that I was her husband. The lie was easier than explaining the truth.

“Bueno.” Chocho ordered beers. The two young man jacked up the Nissan and yanked off the tank, as Ms. Carolina took photos of the mechanic and his children. He laughed hearing about our wanting to see the other side of the mountain.

“Nothing there. No hotels. No beer. Nada. Everyone leave there. Come here or go to Lima.” He clapped his hands and ordered his children to leave the garage, as the young men poured out the gasoline into a plastic bucket. They hauled the empty tank into the courtyard and our new friend advised that we get something to eat.

“Senora, better you not here, if tank go boom.” His fingers flicked up to aid our visualizing his plan # 1 going bad. “Not worry. If go boom. We do plan two.” Te two young men didn’t join his laughter. I didn’t think it was funny, but Ms. Carolina laughed so hard that she swallowed her cud of coca leaves. The wad stuck in her throat. Chocho slapped his palm on her back. She expelled the block across the street. It struck the wall with the intensity of a bazooka shell hitting the side of a Panzer tank.

“I guess I went boom boom.” He joke got a rib-ripping chortle from Chocho and we had a classically Peruvian lunch of cuy chactado and olluco, roasted pig and Andean tubers. along with roasted peppers. After several glasses of pisco Chocho looked at his watch.

“Car finish. You can go now. You go to other side of mountain?”

“No, I think we’ve gone far enough.” A gas tank can only be flipped one time.

Ms. Carolina paid Chocho and tipped the two young boys. $5 was a good day’s pay in this part of Peru. I thanked them for their help with two baseball caps. The three of them waved good-bye, as I pulled out of the garage. Ms. Carlo checked the air with a quick sniff.

“No gas.”

“And they put what they took out back in the tank.” The Nissan had a quarter tank. “So what the plan?”
“Head north to the coast and then back to Lima. Chilbote is a city with two bays. I’m sure they have good fish.”

“Me too, you know I came down here for a reason and it wasn’t a coke binge.” I had to tell her my feelings. The word love was dead on my lips.

“Honey.” Ms. Carolina lifted her hand. “We’ve been together five years. I think I know what goes on in that little head of yours. Not everything, but sometimes you’re easier to read than a comic book.”

“I am.”

“You’re a man. I’m a woman. You’re a comic book. I’m a mystery.” Her sunglasses hid her eyes, but there were no tears, despite the hurt warbling in her voice. “We had a good time. We can still have good times, but only on two conditions.”

“Which are?” My mind shuffled through the possibility of conditions like a card shark.

“No explanations. They don’t change anything and seconds as long as you never introduce me as a ‘friend’, I can live with being an ex-lover.” She caressed my hand. “Can you live with that?”

“I only want to make you happy.”

“You want to make me happy, then give me that bag of coca leaves.”

She stuck a clump of coca in her cheek. I put Tim Hardin’s YANKEE LADY on the stereo. I sang the words and Ms. Carolina joined me on the chorus. The insurmountable mountains paraded down the valley to the sea and the sun dazzled off their peaks. It was a good day to be on the road.