In the summer of 1995 my cousin flew from LA to dance at ShowWorld in Times Square. Her loyal following packed the legendary porno parlor to see Sherri's stage acrobatics and the veteran XXX actress earned good money selling underwear and signed posters. By week’s end my cousin had cleared over $3000, but the tips came at a cost.
“I wish I could dance in bare feet,” Sherri complained in her dressing room. "These stilettos feel like spikes."
“They make your legs look great.” I had attended two shows and each time had been amazed by Sherri's expertise on the steel pole. “Plus your crowd loves the look.
“So I’m stuck with the heels.”
Thankfully pleasing the audience required little more than taking off her clothes.
Saturday night the lithe brunette put on three extra shows and I picked her up at ShowWorld at midnight.
“That's it. I'm done.” Sherri packed her costumes and hurried from the theater through a crush of fans hoping to get lucky with their favorite actress. She blew them kisses and we jumped into a taxi.
Normally Sherri liked to chill after a show at a bar.
This evening she leaned forward and told the driver to take us to my apartment on East 10th Street.
“You don’t mind, if we call it a night.” She yanked off her heels and put on sneakers, sighing with relief. “I have a few days off before my shows in Philly. We’ve been invited to Fire Island. You want to go?”
“Of course.” I hadn’t been to the barrier island in more than ten years. The weatherman was predicting temperatures in the high 90s for the next three days and I could use a break from the city. "Where we staying?"
“We’re guests of Rachelle Fly.” Sherri rolled down the window. The night air was hot and the people on the sidewalks melted from the breathless heat, but after the long years in LA Sherri still loved the smell of Nw York in the summer. It reminded her of being young.
“I know her.” The overweight stripper was Cable TV’s famed XXX spokesperson. “Not really know her, but I watched her show. Your promos are on all the time.”
“That’s not what she says.” Sherri stared out the window.
"At least a couple of times a night."
“Rachelle says never and that she doesn’t owe me any residuals. Her husband does the books and Shelley went to jail for fraud.”
“So this is a business trip?”
"Always good to have a little muscle, but this will be pleasure too.” Sherri lived in LA. She loved the sea and sun. “Her husband’s a schmuck, but also very connected to the Mafia. I’ll deal with them in my own way. You're just insurance. Against Shelley, not anyone else."
“Good.” I had retired from working nightclubs the previous year and my last fight was a long time ago.
“So we have an early night and get going in the morning, because tomorrow is going to be a hot one.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Back at my place Sherri undressed and lay in bed.
“Aren’t you going to sleep with me?” She turned the big fan onto top power.
“No, it’s too hot.” There was another reason and she knew it. “I’ll sleep on the couch. See you in the morning.”
I lay on the sofa with a small fan blowing hot air over my body.
Her snoring was tolerable with wads of wet paper stuck in my ears, although one of my neighbors shouted to get the truck out of gear.
I woke with the dawn and showered off the night’s sweat.
My cousin got up and stood by the tub with a towel wrapped around her body.
“Hurry up. I feel like an overcooked pizza.”
“I’ll be a second.” I ducked under the lukewarm water and dreamed of swimming in the Atlantic.
“You ever think about getting AC?” Sherri dropped the towel. Her body was fit.
“The hot doesn’t bother me.” Heat waves in New York lasted a few days instead of the entire summer in North Hollywood. I stepped out of the bath and handed the spray nozzle to Sherri.
You want to soap my back."
"Okay." I got back into the bath.
"I love Splish-Splash."
Thirty minutes later we caught a taxi on 1st Avenue to Penn Station and boarded an ACed train to the farthest reaches of Long Island and points in between.
Two men eyed Sherri.
They probably had seen her on Robin Fly's promos for S & M.
At Patchogue a shuttle bus brought us to the ferry.
The ride across the tranquil bay lasted a half-hour.
A thin line of green grew on the horizon.
"Fire Island doesn't belong to New York or America." Sherri stood at the prow.
"This boat trip is magic."
"Like leaving the rest of the world behind."
"I hope that's still true."
We stepped off the ferry at Cherry Grave. Vacationeers greeted their guests. There was no sign of Rachelle.
“I know the way to her house.” Sherri slung a small bag over her shoulder. For once she was traveling light.
“It doesn’t look like it’s changed much since 1978,” I said, although many of the land-bound passengers seemed gay. "Well, maybe a little."
Back in the 70s Cherry Grove was synonymous with a decadent gay lifestyle; anonymous sex in the pine groves, one-hour stands in the hotels, and orgies in the beach houses.
“Fire Island hasn’t changed, but the people who come here have.” Sherri and I had lost scores of friends to AIDS and the seaside Sodom had been devastated by the epidemic.
“Same as the West Village.” The dying homosexuals had sold their beloved beach shacks to friends, family, and strangers, however the beach life remained free and open.
The island was devoid of 7/11s and fast food. Most people cooked at home.
There were no cars. Wooden walkways connected the communities. For longer trips residents hired a water taxi.
Rachelle’s cottage was on the beach.
Sherri told me to play nice, as we approached the two-story bungalow surrounded by a high wooden wall.
“Her husband is very jealous of men.”
“She was a porno actress.” Promiscuity was a virtue in the trade.
“That was back then and now she’s married to him, so she can only have affairs with women, because he likes to watch. If he caught her with a man, then she'd be out on the street. Everything she has belongs to him."
“I’ll play nice then.”
The ocean was a clear cool blue. Waves thundered on the shore. A few people lay on beach blankets protected from the blazing sun by umbrellas. I was glad to have a hat.
Sherri pushed open the door in the wall and called out, “Anyone home?”
“Only us naked people.”
Rachelle stepped out of the house stark naked. Flabby flesh overlapped her extended belly. The squat forty year-old was thirty pounds over her prime.
Two small dogs yapped at her heels.
“Excuse my state of undress, but I never wear anything on the island.” Rachelle bear-hugged my cousin.
“I might go naked myself.” I nodded to our hostess without really looking at her. She was a sore sight for my eyes.
“Be careful of the sun. It’s brutal this time of year.” Rachelle was tanned the color of a worn football. I returned to ignoring me and said, “Sherri, I'm so glad you could come out.”
“The city is hell.” Sharon dropped her bag on the deck and stripped off her tee-shirt and shorts.
"What do you think?"
She posed for Rachelle.
“Those hours in the gym," sighed the older woman, as she caressed Sherri’s body and then eyed me suspiciously. “So this is your cousin?”
“Yeah, on her father’s side.” Sherri and I have been calling ourselves family for years to save time about how we met playing pinball at an East Village after-hour bar. Even we got tired of our old stories, mostly because we were trying to outrun our pasts.
“I can’t see family resemblance.” Robin squinted to examine my face.
Depending on the light my face resembled either an Irish cop or Yankee sailor.
“We’re almost twins.” Sherri moved beside me. She had been adopted out of Napoli and her blood was my exact opposite.
Rachelle didn’t buy that excuse, but it was too late to disinvite me, so she said, “Come on inside.”
The house had been designed in the 70s. The gleaming mirrors of the white walls were a homage to that era of narcissism.
"Lovely place," complimented Sherri, who stripped off her shirt and shorts with skill.
“I bought the house from a man who found it too sad.” Rachelle led us through the living room. "Too many ghosts."
"But not for you."
I can live with them, if they can live with me. Same as my puppies."
The dogs nipped at my legs, as if they were under her command.
"So I noticed."
She showed us our rooms.
“Of course you could sleep in one bed, if you’re kissing cousins.”
“Two bedrooms will be fine.” I was the guest of a guest and sleep was impossible with Sherri's epic snoring three inches from my ears.
“Make yourselves a home,” Rachelle said to Sherri.
“When on Fire Island, do as the Fire Islanders do.”
"How's the beach?"
"Same as ever."
"Some things never change."
I stripped off my clothes and accompanied the two women to the beach.
We sat on folding chairs under umbrellas.
A naked man with a beaded necklaces, a long beard and a even longer penis waved to Rachelle with a gnarled wooden staff.
"That's Moishe. He lives in the pines and hasn't been to the mainland for years."
"Nice crank for an old guy," commented Sherri.
"You're only as old as the woman you're with," Rachelle caressed Sherri's arm.
They talked business. Rachelle’s husband was in the city. I didn’t need to hear this conversation and I swam in the ocean. Every minute in the cold Atlantic surf dropped my body temperature. I should have been paying more attention to the sun, but I loved the waves.
Emerging from the sea I picked up my towel.
Sherri and Rachelle had retreated to the beach house.
Moishe was walking back from his destination. I nodded to him.
He pointed his staff at my ass and said, "Ouch."
"Too much sun?"
He grunted yes and I hurried off the beach.
At the entrance to the deck I washed off the sand with a hose. Sherri and Rachelle were in the pool with a video camera recording their conversation.. I toweled dry in the shade.
"Oh, my," laughed Sherri.
Your ass is lobster red."
"Moishe said the same thing."
"He spoke? He never speaks." Rachelle seemed upset by my interaction with Moishe almsot as if the
"Not so much spoke a grumbled a few syllable."
I touched my bum. It hurt to the touch.
“Did you shower before coming into the house?” Rachelle demanded with a harsh sharpness.
“Yes, with soap too.”
“Just checking.” The ex-stripper was succeeding in making me feel unwanted and she continued her ungraciousness throughout the rest of the day.
I could do no right.
The sand on the floor came from me, not her dogs.
When I nearly shattered my kneecap on a low glass table sitting down for dinner, she screamed at my clumsiness.
"Be more careful."
She served me a small potion of salad, as if I should be on a diet.
When I told my cousin about how Fire Island had been formed by the Ice Age glaciers, Rachelle sat down with her arms folded across her flapjack breasts and her bulbous belly gracelessly hanging over her crotch.
Her eyes simmered with disdain.
I was her public enemy # 1.
That evening Sherri and I whispered in her bedroom.
The thin walls of the beach bungalow were not conducive to privacy.
“Rachelle’s not very nice.”
“She doesn’t like men.”
“I figured that from the constant inquisition. I’ll stay out of her way.”
"Not a bad idea."
The next day I looked in the fridge for food.
There was none.
Rachelle had hidden it somewhere.
Swearing under my breath I left the house and laid out my towel underneath the pines without taking off my clothes.
When Moishe passed, he shook his head.
"Clothing is optional. So is nakedness."
I hated the locals.
Sherri came looking for me.
“You shouldn't be out here.” Her body glowed with a LA golden tan.
“The pines should be protecting me.
“The sun is bouncing off the sand.” She scooped up a handful, "The remains of a glacier."
“They should a mile high here. Only 15,000 years ago."
I was estimating the numbers.
"You have breakfast?"
"How? Rachelle hid the food."
"I can’t go back to the house.”
“I know. It’ll only be another few days.”
“Where’s her husband?”
“So 'she' can't write a check?” I refrained from calling Rachelle a name.
“I’m getting my money one way or the other.” Sherri wasn’t returning empty-handed to New York.
"Let's built us a hut."
We erected a tent from driftwood and torn sails. It was my home for the day.
As the sun descend in the west, Moishe roamed the high tide mark.
Seeing Sherri his penis grew erect to an obscene size accompanied by a satyr's leer and Schmoses licked his lips before wandering down the beach.
“Did you see that?” Sherri exclaimed with horror.
“Not easy to miss it?” A horse would have been jealous of his manhood.
“He shouldn't be called Moishe, but Schmoses of the Greying Bush,” Sherri renamed the tramp.
“Carrying the staff of Schmoses.” I raised my forearm.
That evening we joked about Schmoses at the dinner table. Rachelle found no humor in our humor.
“The man has a name. It's Moishe."”
“I gave him a new one.” Sherri wasn’t taking any crap from the fat woman and raised her glass. "It fits his unearthly shank of flesh. Here's to the Staff of Schmoses."
Rachelle deserted the table.
Sherri and I drank another bottle of wine.
We swam in the pool.
There was no light from Rachelle's bedroom.
"She must be dreaming of Schmoses."
"And his staff."
We laughed quietly and later went to our separate rooms.
"You sure?" asked Sherri at her door.
"I'm almost tempted, but my skin is too tender."
Sherri slid into the opening.
"I won't be rough with you."
"And she wasn't.
We rose before the dawn.
I threw on a long sleeved white shirt and shorts.
I beachcombed for jetsam.
Moishe appeared in the distance and I abandoned the shells and whelps.
The beach debris belonged to him.
We nodded to each other in passing.
The old hermit wasn't talkative, but neither was I.
I opted against breakfast with Rachelle and walked over to the beach landing to have bacon and eggs.
Upon my return Rachelle emerged from her house and came to the edge of the water. Moishe joined her.She held Moishe's hand and the two vanished into the pines.
For a long time.
I sat in the shade of the beach hut.
Sherri came out of the house.
"No money. She said she never shows the ads."
"I told her my friends saw them."
"Friends meaning me?"
"Well, guess I should pack my bags."
"Have you seen Rachelle?"
"Yes, she went into the pines with Schmoses."
"Like to have sex?"
"Looked that way to me. Schmoses was in full bloom."
"The magic of video."
Sherri grabbed my hand and we ran to the house. She didn't bother to brush the sand off her feet. neither did I.
My cousin picked up the small video camera and said, "Follow me."
We tracked Rachelle's and Schmoses' footprint into the piney grove.
It was easier to follow their cries and we hid behind a bush from where Sherri shot them in coitus.
It was like watching a Neanderthal have sex with a walrus. After a few minutes Sherri nudged me and whispered, "I think I have enough."
Back at the house I drank a bottle of Rachelle’s best wine to obliterate the image.
An hour later Rachelle and Sherri had a fight about money.
My cousin held up a camera.
“I got it all on film. You and Schmoses. Your old man doesn’t mind you going with girls, but I know how he feels about you going with men. Your choice. Pay me or pay the price.”
“That’s blackmail.” Rachelle took out a checkbook.
“I like to think of it more as an early trick or treat.”
We caught the last boat to the mainland. The ferry ride was a relief from the hot dunes.
"Did you really give her the video of Rachelle and Schmoses?"
"Not one, but I sold her, didn't I?" Sherri smiled with feline pleasure.
"I guess even the naked have something to hide."
I never saw Rachelle again and I almost forgot about Schmoses until reading a BBC article how the Biblical Moses had received the 10 Commandments from Yahweh while high on psychedelic drugs, since the concoctions from bark of the acacia tree were an essential ingredient for religious rites in biblical times and I now understood the mysteries of Schmoses lay entirely on his staff.
His cock was really long and not only does Schmoses live, but his schlong grows longer with each telling of the tale.
Such was the power of the staff of Schmoses.
A woman walks past and says, snickering, "If you were a gentleman you'd lift your hat."
He raised an eyebrow and replied, "If you weren't so ugly it would lift itself."
Ha-Dee-Ha-Ha thanks to my leisurely brother-in-law.
The Village in New York had always attracted a kaleidoscope of radical, deviant, and perverse characters considered abhorrent by mainstream America. The Reds gave way to the beatniks. They evolved into the hippies, who surrendered the counterculture ghetto to the junkies, artists, punks and sexual revolutionaries of the 1970s.
In 1977 I lived on East 10th Street with Alice, my hillbilly girlfriend, and my faux-sister Pip rented an apartment off Bleecker Street. She called me Pud. We had met at CBGBs, which was our Lincoln Center. The owner couldn’t figure out how we got so drunk on one drink. It wasn’t magic. Pip and I smuggled bottles of vodka past Merv at the door.
One spring evening the Ghosts were opening for the Dictators. My girlfriend didn’t like either band, so I went alone. Pip was seated at a table near the stage. Our chairs were against the wall. She filled our glasses with vodka and coke. We had no ice. The Ghosts played a blistering set and closed out the show with RICHARD IS A FORKHEAD. There was no encore and the juvenile guitarist came over before heading to the dressing room.
“You mind.” Xcessive pointed to Pip’s glass. He had spotted our trick.
“Not at all.” My ‘sister’ was sweet on young punk rockers.
Xcessive drained the glass and coughed a little before wiping his mouth.
I watched the young guitarist thread through his admirers by the stage and said to Pip, “Isn’t he a little young for you?”
“He’s just a friend. Same as you.”
The cheery NYU coed had a crush on most of the men on the scene, but many of the girls at CBGBs suffered the same affliction. This was the 70s and not the 50s. None of us were going steady, although I struggled to be faithful to Alice. “Besides I have my eye on my new neighbor. He’s really cute. His name’s Marc Stevens.”
“You know him?”
“I don’t know him personally, but he’s known as Mr. 10 1/2.” The well-hung actor was John Holmes’ rival in the XXX film industry.
“Mr. 10 ½?”
“Yes, 10 ½ inches.” I had seen him dancing naked covered in silver body paint at Studio 54. His penis had looked a normal size that evening.
“He was the star of THE DEVIL AND MRS. JONES.”
“I don’t know that film.” Pip was studying literature at NYU. Her professors expected their students to read MADAME BOVARY and Camus’ THE PLAGUE, not stroke books.
“And I wouldn’t expect anything else.” The francophiles intellectuals had no use for pornography other than THE STORY OF O and I gave Pip a 10-minute course in XXX films from DEEP THROAT to BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR. Her eyes shined with joy. She loved celebrities.
“He’s living with this girl, Jill Monro.”
“Jill’s no girl. She had an operation to change her penis into a vagina. She’s the first tranny movie star."
“No.” Fame and weird was exciting to the young student from the suburbs of Greenwich. “I can’t believe I know a transvestite.”
“Transsexual.” They were two different creatures.
She kissed my cheek for explaining the birds and bees of a hidden sect.
“I love you, Pud.”
Not everyone held porno actors in esteem, but I haunted the Times Squares peepshows in search of arcane films. My hillbilly girlfriend had no idea about my research. It was a secret I kept close to my heart.
That May Pip decided to throw a party for several Geminis. An underground designer of nightclubs decorated her apartment. She had invited a hundred people. Over 200 crammed into the duplex. I knew many of them, since I was one of the birthday boys.
"I hear Mr. 10 ½ is coming," Klaus whispered in my ear. The German opera singer was a fiend of size and he shivered saying, "10 ½. Divine."
Klaus and I discussed gay prone films, as if we were voting for the Oscars. My hillbilly girlfriend didn’t drink and Alice wandered off to CBGBs. A minute later a curly-haired man came up to me and said, “I thought she would never leave. My name is Mark.”
“Pip talked about you.” I looked through the crowd. His better half wasn’t in the room.
“She talked about you too.” Marc was wearing a white jumpsuit. He was the thinnest person in the room. His hand touched my ass. “You want to do some blow?”
I was as used to gay guys hitting on me as they were accustomed to seducing straight guys.
“Not here. There are too many vultures.” His soft brown eyes darted over the crowd, as if he were looking for someone special. “Let’s go to my place.”
Two men leaving a party together was no scandal, although Pip leaned over to Klaus and pointed out my departure. The singer gave me the green light with a wink and shouted out,“Gluck.”
“I don’t need good luck.” I was straight or at least that’s what I told myself, but everyone in the Village was a little bent in one way or another.
"Your friend is cute in a strange way."
"He likes you."
"All size queens like Mr. 10 ½."
"I bet they do."
Marc lived down the hall.
“I don’t want any of the neighbors seeing me. My wife is very jealous.” He opened the door and pushed me inside.
"My girlfriend is the same way."
"Everyone is so hung up about sex. Sex is just sex. Nothing more."
Marc shut the door. The one-bedroom apartment was decorated with dark brown furniture favored by gays for hiding stains from sex.
The XXX actor went into the kitchen to fetch a Pond’s cream jar from the cabinet.
It was crammed with a white powder with a pinkish glow.
"What is that?"
“Bolivian flake from one of my admirers.”
We sat on the soft sofa. The cushion sank around me like a Venus Fly Trap. The music from Pip’s party thumped the wall. I recognized the song as UP BONDAGE UP YOURS.
“You like that music?” Marc spilled out a mound of blow. The lines were thick as rope.
“I’m a punk.” I had been since seeing the Ramones play CALIFORNIA SUN. Their speedy version of the Rivieras’ hit opened my eyes to a new world and CBGBs became my second home.
“I like leather, but not that music. I’m more into disco.”
He unzipped his jumpsuit to his bellybutton and handed me a straw.
I hit the first rail with an athletic gusto. This was not street gear and the coke burst into my nasal capillaries with the intensity of an Incan sunrise, then scorched my veins with a rush of euphoria. I fell back into the sofa with my bones sizzling on a Peruvian hot plate.
“Good, huh,” Marc whispered in my ear. His lips were tender on my neck. He spooned a small pile into my other nostril. “Breathe.”
I obeyed his order.
The coca renewed its assault on my senses and the universe shimmered out of focus.
I was in no condition to resist Marc’s advances. He was a veteran of porno movies. Millions of men and women fantasized about lying in bed with him. I gripped his thick member with the tenderness of a butcher preparing to cut a steak. Millions of XXX viewers had seen him in MICHAEL, ANGELO, AND DAVID. The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe had immortalized this penis in a black-and-white shit titled MARK STEVENS MR. 10½, 1976.
I gave it a squeeze.
“It’s not hard.”
“Rough trade gets me erect.” Marc’s admission was not a confession.
He pinched his nipple and his cock stiffened with a throb.
"I like being the queen," murmured Marc. "You wanna be king?"
Before I could answer, keys turned the lock of the front door.
The actor sat up straight and zipped up his jumpsuit.
“It’s my wife. Do some more blow.”
I snapped out of my trance and turned my head.
The statuesque brunette entering the apartment had a couple inches on us in her stiletto heels. She regarded the coke and then the two of us.
Her smile was marred by the awkward unease of seeing her man with another man.
"Marc introduced us.
“Please to meet you.” His wife held out her hand with a tilted wrist.
I offered mine, expecting a limp handshake.
Jill crunched my knuckles in a vise.
Marc was her man.
I winced with a pained grin and ripped my fingers loose.
"I met him at the party next door. It was fun."
"I can see that." Jill sat down with the surrender of accepting Marc for what he was.
“Nice meeting you too. Time for me to rejoin the party.”
“So soon.” Marc was in no position to pursue his desire.
“It’s getting late.”
“Thanks for coming.” Jill smirked with the pleasure of re-establishing her dominance over my host.
“Sure, just one more thing.”
“What?” Jill straightened her posture, as if she was ready for a fight.
“A good-bye gift.” I bent over and snorted the other two lines within two seconds.
Marc laughed and Jill joined him.
“Sure you want to leave?” She spread her legs to invite a touch.
“I already have a lover.”
“Lucky girl.” Jill kissed Marc on the cheek. "Same as me."
He spilled out more blow. She did the first line. They looked like such a nice couple.
I returned to the party.
Pip grabbed me and asked, “What happened?”
“His wife came home.”
I poured myself a vodka.
“And what were you doing?”
“Talking that’s all. I have a girlfriend.” Pip was a spy for my hillbilly girlfriend. They were good friends. “And I’m not gay.”
“And you’re not straight either.” Pip shrugged with disappointment. She had been all ears for some good dirt. I stayed for another hour. The coke ran its course. I left the party with Klaus. He lived in the East Village. We shared a taxi to St. Mark’s Place.
“So how big was it?” The German was all ears.
“Have you seen his movies?” I could tell Klaus anything. He loved secrets.
“Yes.” His eyes widened with delight.
“It was that big and thick." I didn't mentioned the softness of his penis. Some things were best left unsaid.
"He said you were cute."
"Maybe you'll get lucky one night."
"I can only wished and hope."
"Klaus dropped me on St. Mark's. I walked to 10th Street.
My hillbilly girlfriend was asleep in our bed. I took off my clothes and slid next to her.
"How was it?"
"Big and thick."
"Too big for me?"
"I was strictly there for a look-see. I came, I saw, I went."
"You're a good boy." Alice cuddled up to me with a childish tenderness.
I was surprised she believed me, but I didn't mentioned the temptation.
She was strictly GP-13 and I fell into a wired maze of dreams. None of them were XXX and that was probably better for Alice.
Better for me too, because 10½ inches was as a big penis in dreams as it was in real life.
Klaus and me at the party.
Road trips need a destination. Point A to B. The travel is important. Not A or B.
The summer of 1987 Greg Hunt, and I threw our bags in back of Paul Fullerton's pick-up. Our friends in Michigan had extended invitations to visit them in Onekema and the Upper Peninsula. We celebrated our departure at the Milk Bar. Drink and drugs. The city was losing the night, as the green F-150 left Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.
Our first stop was the Delaware River.
We were entering America.
Beer cans littered the front. Greg was holding low. I was carrying high. Paul had two guns under the seat. A shotgun and a 45. Traffic was light through the Allegheny Mountains. The temperature rose with every westward mile. The blue sky giving way to haze by the time we crossed the Ohio state line. More cars. Lots of trucks. Paul insisted on driving. Greg and I were in no condition to stay on the road.
I crashed in the flatbed past Cleveland. The wind ruffled my clothing without any relief from the heat. The air was heavy with the threat of tornado. An exit sign read AKRON. I sat up and leaned against the cabin window. Greg and Paul waved to indicate that we were on schedule. I wrapped a red bandanna around my head. Sunglasses weakened the harsh sunlight. We were a rolling version of MAD MAX, the prequel to the apocalypse.
A state trooper was cooping at the end of a copse of trees. His eyes met mine. The battered pick-up was maintaining 60. Most of the other cars were traveling faster. The cop saw us as three dirty longhairs.
His lights lit up and the cruiser roared onto the interstate.
The rest of the motorists parted a way for the statie. The cruiser fell in behind our pickup. Paul pulled over onto the breakdown lane. I thought, "Drugs, guns, drink. we're going to jail."
The trooper got out of his cruiser. He was young. Paul was in his 40s. Greg and I 30s. There was a big generation gap. The trooper was straight and we had been brought up on the Rolling Stones. 3 against 1. His hand flicked the safety strap from his holster. He was expecting trouble.
"You want me to get out of the truck?" I was good at taking orders in a situation like this.
"You stay where you are." His face was smooth. He might have shaved once a week. His hand went to his 9mm and the officer peered into the front seat. Paul was a professor of art. Greg a literary agent. The trooper only wanted one thing. "Can I see your license?"
"Sure thing." Paul fumbled with his wallet. He had been driving over 7 hours. His search was taking too long.
"Sir, please get out of the truck?" The trooper stepped back carefully avoiding the speeding traffic. The cars were only a foot away. His hand gripped the gun. The knuckles went white.
"Yes, officer." Paul opened the door. Several empty beer cans fell onto the pavement.
Passing drivers shook their heads. This was bad.
"You've been drinking." His words were a statement not a question.
"Last night. Not today." This was a lie. It was a little past noon. We had left the Milk Bar at 5am. "Those empties were were saving for the next trash stop. Didn't want to throw them out the window."
Paul sounded educated without an slur from the tequila shots that he had downed to take off the edge of cocaine. The trooper wasn't impressed by the erudite accent. Cops only needed a high school diploma.
"Please, come to the back of the truck." The officer was planning on a drunk driving test. A breathalyzer was an instant 'go to jail' card. The trooper wagged a pencil in front of Paul's face to test his eyesight. Paul's head wobbled on his neck like a spinning top losing speed. The officer put down his pencil.
"Walk in a straight line."
Paul put one foot in front of the other. His balance was sublime. The officer appeared disappointed by the results and looked ready to back up his hunch by getting out the Breathalyzer. The pencil dropped from his hand. Paul picked it up with the grace of a 13 year-old ballerina. The young officer pointed a finger at Paul.
"Where are you going?"
"The Upper Peninsula. See my family." More friends than family, but the way Paul said it rang true to the officer.
"There's a rest stop five miles ahead. I suggest you wash up there and empty the truck of those beer cans. Obey the speed limit too."
Our two vehicles parted ways. I sat in the front. Paul started the truck.
"How we get away with that?" Greg asked pulling out a joint.
"You really think we should do that?"
"We have a free pass." Paul pulled into the westward flow of traffic without explaining his thoughts on our reprieve. Sometimes it's a good idea never to question your luck. We made Detroit that night. We drank beer in a bar. It was a tough town. The night the Tigers won the World Series in 1984, three people were shot dead and scores of houses were burned to the ground. Greg and I finished off the drugs. We left the beer cans in the bar. We were good citizens given the chance.
In August of 1987 Pullie Fallen, Grieg Packer, and I left New York City for Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The art professor, literary agent, and I took turns driving Pullie's F-150 pickup truck through the sweltering heat of the Midwest. None of us broke the speed limit, since Pullie had two unlicensed guns under his seat. He used the .45 and .38 to blast his steel sculptures. The bullet-holed pieces sold well in the South.
We stopped at the Great Bear Dunes to visit mutual friends from Florida. Vonelli's sister had a beach shack overlooking Lake Michigan. The art dealer took us out on a ChrisCraft. The vast expanse of water rivaled Conan the Barbarian's Vilayet Sea. Three days passed riding dirt bikes off the dunes and drinking beer. Vonelli was heading back to Paris. The auctions at the Hotel Drouot opened in less than two weeks.
We said our goodbyes at noon. The Vonelli clan was heading south to Florida. Pullie pointed the pick-up north. I sat in the back of the truck. The midday heat zapped my strength and I passed out in the back of the truck short of Petrowsky.
The Ford's humming over the Straits of Mackinac Bridge disrupted my sleep. It was a little after sunset and the temperature had dropped into the 70s. The sky was filling with the cosmos illuminating the black waters on the two joining lakes. This was Hiawatha's shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water and I sat up in the back to breathe in the boreal night air.
Pullie drove for another 15 minutes and pulled off Route 2 somewhere north of St. Ignace. We slept in the back of the truck and rose with the misty dawn. Breakfast was a bag of warm pasties from a Epoulette diner. The delicious meat pies were a hang-over from the Welsh miners working mineral deposits in the mid-1800s.
The bearded sculptured had summered on the UP in the 50s. His deceased father had designed cars for Chrysler. His son had a photo of an black Imperial sedan parked on thick ice next to a fishing shack. His family wintered on the UP too.
"The UP was a paradise back then. Jobs, nature, and good people. Most of them gone since the mines closed. Now all you got are old Finns to stubborn to quit the land. "
The Upper Peninsula had a population density of 10 people per square mile in the late-80s. We hadn't count heads passing through dismal towns overlooking the Great Lake, but I hadn't seen more than 3 people in a clump the entire morning. The stocky men and woman looked the same in their jeans and flannel shirts topped by a baseball cap.
Three men, three women, or a menage a trois.
I couldn't tell the difference.
We pulled into Fire Lake around 3.
Pullie beeped the horn before an old farm house. The walls had been weathered by many winters and the two-story structure leaned away from the prevailing wind. A herd of cows grazed in a fenced field. One cow stood by itself. It was not the bull.
Our host limped into the afternoon sunlight. Uvo was in his 50s. He greeted us with a firm handshake and a yellow smile. He lit an unfiltered Camel.
"Where's everyone?" Pullie's scratched at his beard. It was more salt than pepper.
"Down at the lake fishing, but Jim left for Ann Arbor two days ago, eh."
"Sorry, I missed him." Pullie had attended U Michigan with Uvo's second son. Both were artists.
He tugged on the cigarette and exhaled a flume of smoke. "You boys fish?"
"Not much fishing in New York." Grieg regarded Uvo, as if he were a Norman Rockwell painting.
"No, guess they don't like to swim in concrete.
The afternoon sky that filled with high clouds from the north. The summer was almost gone. Uvo held a pair of axes in this hands.
"Going to get cold tonight, eh. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the work ethic. You work. You eat. No work. No eat."
Grieg and I looked at each other.
The Londoner was no farmer.
I had picked crops as a teenager at my local farm.
Neither of us was a farmer boy. We had blisters on our hands within minutes, but as an Englishman Grieg believed in doing a host's bidding and the both of us hacked logs into firewood, while Pullie and Uvo drank Schlitz beer. They were examining Pullie's 45 and the shotgun. Beer cans floated in a metal tub.
We finished our task in a sweat and joined the other two. Grieg slung the ax over his shoulder, as if he graduated from Paul Bunyan School. Uvo surveyed the woodpile.
"Not bad for trolls, eh."
"Trolls?" I had been called many things in my life, but never a troll.
"Trolls is the Yopper euphemism for people coming from unda the bridge," Pullie explained, as he handed us two cans of Schlitz. The beer that made Milwaukee famous was unavailable in New York. The gusto of the crisp cold beer brought back memories of my youth on the South Shore of Boston.
"Better than Bud." Grieg refrained from his usual assault on American beer. They tasted like water to the Brits.
A breeze whiffled through the trees bordering the pasture
Uvo sported a serious bruise on his forearm.
"Cow butted me, eh." The farmer glanced over to the single cow in the pasture. "You boys feel like a sauna."
Many of the inhabitants of the UP were descendants of Finnish immigrants. Uvo had build a traditional Scandinavian steam room next to the barn. He stripped off his clothing and waved for us to join him inside the sauna.
The gnarled farmer threw water on the hot stones. Steam furled from the rocks. Te temperature was close to the surface of Venus.
"Good to see new faces up here, eh. Fire Lake is a long way from anywhere. Most of the people in town are tired of seeing each other. Crabby as a bear coming out of hibernation and the winters are long up here. People just don’t like getting together too often. Too busy working, but nothing gets them together faster than talk of a barbecue, so if you want to see people, we’ll have a barbecue.”
“Fresh meat too.” Pullie's was a total carnivore. His blood pressure was that of a 300-pound man. The art professor weighed under 160. He ate steak four times a week. The Homestead Steak House on 9th Avenue knew him by name.
“Y-up.” Uvo spoke with tinges of Finnish clinging to his accent. He scratched his buzzcut then rubbed his unshaven face. “Go shot a cow after we’re done.”
“Shoot a cow?” I was a meat-eater, but my steaks came from a supermarket. I wiped the sweat from my face with an old towel.
“Would rather he kill it with an ax?” Grieg joked from under his wrap of towels. The English literary agent looked like a soggy mummy.
“I kill one cow every fall.” Uvo stated matter-of-fact. “Keeps me in meat until the spring. The way snow falls up here you never know when you might get supplies.”
Winters were hard this far north. 200 inches of snow were the norm. A few communities had recorded annual snowfalls nearing 13 feet.
“Killing a cow ain’t sport, eh. I known this cow all its life. Fed it as a calf.” Uvo seemed sad about the upcoming culling of his herd. “Strange but the other cows sense what's going to happen.”
“You think they tell each other?” Grieg came from London. The only cows in that city arrived dead at the Smithfield Market for slicing into steaks and grinding into hamburger.
“Dunno. Cows are funny, eh.” Uvo stripped the edge of an old straight-razor to the sharpness of an assassin’s blade. He stroked the grizzle from his face with an economy of motion. . After finishing Uvo stropped the edge. My beard was scrapped from my face without a nick. Paul had a beard, but Greg wasn’t so lucky. His skill with the blade suffered from his heroin intake. He exited the sauna patting his cuts with a towel.
"You boys religious?" Uvo didn't wait for an answer and said, "Because up here on the Upper Peninsula we take the Word of God for truth."
"Okay." I was a confirmed atheist, but kept my devout non-belief to myself.
"In da beginning dere was nuttin." Uvo's accent thickened to a nearly indecipherable patois, "Den on the first day God created da Upper Peninsula. On the second day He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, and the ducks. On da third day He said "Let dere be Yoopers to roam da Upper Peninsula". On the forth day He created da udder world down below. On the fifth day He said "Let there be trolls to live in the world down below". On the sixth day He created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven. God saw it was good and on da seventh day, He went Huntin and that works as the Word of God on the UP."
"Good for me." I toasted his version of Genesis with a cold Schlitz.
We raised our cans to the sky. The sunlight dried our naked flesh. The winwu lipped up the silver bottom of the leaves. Uvo looked over his shoulder to the large pasture. The herd of cows were standing against the fence. The one cow was in the distance.
“That’s the one.” Grieg lifted his head from a nod. He was handsome in a desperate way.
“Weird, eh?” Uvo reached into the bucket and pulled out four more beers. They were going fast. “They shun that one like killing might be contagious.”
Death awaited all creatures. We drank our beer. Uvo saved the empties for target shooting. The cows stared at us like we were holding a vote to change the sacrifice.
“Funny how they’ll protect themselves from other animals but not man.” Grieg aimed a finger at the distant cow. It moped in protest. “That’s because they trust us.”
“Trust?” Uvo laughed with a farmer’s certitude. “Cows ain’t no one’s friend and nuttins as dumb as a cow tied to a post, eh. How you think I got this black and blue on my arm.”
“The lone cow.” Pullie was sitting on a log. His legs were thin. The sculptor needed more exercise.
“Yup that’s the one.” Uvo walked over to the gate. He lifted his fingers to his mouth. A long whistle got the attention of the solitary cow. The others huddled closer to the fence. The cow shook his head.
Uvo whistled again and then banged the grain bin. Corn husk dust misted a halo around the farmer’s head. The cow meandered to the gate. Uvo slipped a noose over its head. Long scars crisscrossed the haunches. Something wild had had at it. Uvo led the beast to a trellis constructed of thick logs. A pulley hung from the beam. The naked farmer fed the lead line through the pulley and hauled the cow’s head upward.
Uvo returned to us. The other cows scattered over the pasture to munch the long summer grass. Grieg was sprawled against the sauna wall. The heat and the beer had taken its toll on the Englishman. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
“Something wrong with that troll. I don’t want no one dying on my farm, eh.”
“I’ll take care of him.”
“You a doctor?”
“No,but I know what to do, but my grandfather was a doctor in the First World War." I went into the sauna and came out with a bucket of icy water. I emptied the contents over Grieg. The Englishman sputtered to life. Uvo and Pullie laughed as only naked men can laugh.
Hands over their genitals.
Grieg wasn’t too happy with the sudden reveille but understood that he had violated his guest privileges.
“Thanks for the wake-up call."
“I have some calls to make and that cow has a date with a Winchester.” Uvo walked over to his house. He entered by the front door. The cow in the rear mooed our surrender. We followed Uvo’s path across the lawn. I went to my room. It was on the second-floor. the windows overlooked the cow. I stuck wet tissue in my ears waiting for the killing shot.
Uvo and Paul exited from the house. They were still naked. Uvo held a Winchester rifle. Paul had his 45. The cow mooed once and Uvo stuck the rifle muzzle in its ear. One bullet buckled its legs. Paul gave the coup de grace.
The killing took less than 10 seconds.
Uvo and Paul tugged on the rope around the dead cow’s neck. The creature was ready for slaughter. I lay on the bed. The mattress was old. The sheets smelled of the seasons. I fell asleep in a minute.
I woke to the sound of people talking and the smell of sizzling steak. I got out of bed and went to the window. Meat was burning on the grill. Ten people were drinking beer. Pullie, Uvo, Grieg, three women and four men. Everyone was wearing the UP uniforms. The only way I could identify Uvo was by his red cap.
I dressed in the uniform and joined the party.
Pullie's truck was parked next to the house. The tape deck was playing a tape of garage music. ? and the Mysterians. Grieg was entertaining the congregation with tales of Oxford. I had heard them before, but he was a good storyteller and I laughed along with the other guests. We drank beer and ate steak. Medium raw. Blood dripped from our lips. The meat went well with the potato sausage and cudighi, a spicy Italian meat.
One of the women had brought a nisu, a cardamom-flavored sweet bread. Another juustoa or spueaky cheese and sauna makkara, a Finnish bologna. It was good eating. The sun was going down.
Uvo gathered the empties and placed them on a shot-up fence post 50 feet from the grill. Pullie placed his 45 on the table. A box of ammo.
We shot the entire box in ten minutes. Only two of the beer cans survived the onslaught. Pullie put his pistol under the seat of his pick-up and I sat on the porch.
“Good steak, eh?” Uvo was aglow with beer. His smile was shared by his friends. They smiled broader when the stereo played DIRTY WATER.
“Delicious.” Better than anything from the Homestead. “But I meant to ask you. What were those scars on that cow.”
“Bear, eh.” The nisu woman answered my question. Pullie was flirting with the scrawny 40ish brunette. She was in her 40s. She wanted to dance to LOUIE LOUIE playing on the pick-up’s stereo. They did the two-step.
“Yup, a bear attack that cow last spring. I shot it dead.”
“Don’t say that too loud, eh.” The woman glanced around the guests. “Game warden hear that and Uvo has a big fine.”
“Maybe $2000 for out of season.” Uvo popped open another beer.
“But it was attacking your cow.”
Bears in Maine roamed the blueberry patches for a sweet treat. The police warned hikers to stay away from the patches. Last summer spotted two black bears. Smaller than a Grizzly, but big. They were scavenging a moose carcass across a river. Both studied me as if I were food.
“Bears won’t attack something big unless they’re hungry. Guess that bear was hungry. I shot him with that Winchester, eh.”
The same one with which he had killed the cow. It was almost like the scene in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA where Lawrence has to shot the man that he saved from the desert in order to seal the alliance of another tribe of Arabs.
“Uvo called me up and I came over with my backhoe.” A longhaired farmer nodded his head in remembrance of that day. “Big hole, eh.”
“Yup.” A chorus joined by the other locals.
“That cow was a little crazy after that. Always running around the pasture. Scaring the other cows. Sorry it had to go, but crazy cows are bad for milk.”
“Yup.” Another round of ‘yups’.
“Bear meat tastes like pork. Best are the legs and loin.”
“bears too strong for me. Too much grease.”
“Plus they get trichinosis.” Paul’s date made a face. “Bears are no good eating. Not like steak.
Grieg and I joined in the chant of yups, for after the fifth beer we all spoke the same language.
The land of beer.
And no bears.
At least not at a barbecue on the UP.
When I first arrived in New York, a gay jazz pianist friend of James Spicer, offered me a .38 on Christopher.
"No, thanks?" CT was small. He carried a piece for protection. New York in 1977 was very dangerous for man, woman, and in-between. "Someone like you needs a gun."
CT thought of me as rough trade, but I was planning on being a poet.
"If I had a gun, I would shoot every skell on the street." I lived in Park Slope. Thieves outnumbered citizens after dark. They were violent, but I came from the West of Ireland and every young thug in Boston was taught to fight. Running was never an option. "I've never broken the 5th Commandment and I don't plan on doing so in this city."
"Suit yourself." CT slipped the pistol into his leather jacket and walked off toward the river. The bars along West Street had a bad reputation. Sex was hard-core and a .38 wouldn't make anyone kiss and hug. I headed off to the Bowery. The Ramones were playing at CBGBs. Merv checked everyone for guns. The punk club was as safe a dive as you would get on the Lower East Side and no one shot anyone there.
And that was a good thing.
Yesterday my old-time drinking buddy Dave left for the South of France. The Dreamliner carried him from JFK to Casablanca to Nice, where he was met by his friends living in a villa above the Cote d'Azur. His plane had been delayed after the TSA found organic hair spray in an old wrinklie woman's purse and he called from the airport to kvetch about Homeland Security.
"I agreed, but imagine if they had found your Riviera Speedo."
"I don't have a Speedo." Dave had a good body for a 50 year-old man.
"No Speedo?" I wished I could wear one, except my body is better suited to a chador for the beach. "Brave man, you're going for the g-string."
During the Grand Vacannes every European man regardless of his figure goes to the beach in the skimpiest bathing suit possible, but Dave was being American.
"No g-string?" Dave managed the wardrobe for a very popular network TV show.
"Are you going au natural?"
"No, you idiot. I'm wearing trunks the same as everyone."
"Same as everyone?"
Dave was gay.
"We're not the same as everyone."
"You know gays, queers et al."
"You're not gay and don't start thinking about coming out. The last thing this world needs is another Bruch Jenner."
"Her name is Caitlin."
"Well, I'm sure he doesn't wear a Speedo anymore. Gotta go. The old lady has been cleared for the flight."
"Bon Voyage." I loved the South of France and shouted to a click, "Bring me back espadrilles."
I laid back in bed and googled 'ladyboy' porn. I might not be 'gay', but I ain't straight neither.
Happy Gay Pride Day.
After several drinks, one of the men had to use the rest room.
Those who remained talked about their kids.
The first guy said, 'My son is my pride and joy. He started working at a successful company at the bottom of the barrel. He studied Economics and Business Administration and soon began to climb the corporate ladder and now he's the president of the company. He became so rich that he gave his best friend a top of the line Mercedes for his birthday.'
The second guy said, 'Darn, that's terrific! My son is also my pride and joy. He started working for a big airline, then went to flight school to become a pilot. Eventually he became a partner in the company, where he owns the majority of its assets He's so rich that he gave his best friend a brand new jet for his birthday.'
The third man said: 'Well, that's terrific! My son studied in the best universities and became an engineer. Then he started his own construction company and is now a multimillionaire. He also gave away something very nice and expensive to his best friend for his birthday: A 30,000 square foot mansion.'
The three friends congratulated each other just as the fourth returned from the restroom and asked: 'What are all the congratulations for?'
One of the three said: 'We were talking about the pride we feel for the successes of our sons. ...What about your son?'
The fourth man replied: 'My son is gay and makes a living dancing as a stripper at a nightclub.'
The three friends said: 'What a shame... what a disappointment.'
The fourth man replied: 'No, I'm not ashamed. He's my son and I love him. And he hasn't done too bad either. His birthday was two weeks ago, and he received a beautiful 30,000 square foot mansion, a brand new jet and a top of the line Mercedes from his three boyfriends.'
My membership in Stormfront has yet to lapse and I'm counted as one of the over 200,000 members of the white supremacy website. My reason for joining during the 2008 election was to convince the racist members that a vote for Obama would hasten the Last Days.
I am not a racist or white supremacist, but its founder Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and 1981 coup leader in Dominica, has called for a crusade to save White America with its corruption of the Celtic cross inscribed with the motto "White Pride World Wide".
One of its more successful media strikes was taking over a Fox News poll asking about attendance at racially segregated proms. Bill Reilly refused to publish the skewed results.
Stormfront is the 338th largest membership site on the Web according to Wikipedia and over 40,000 people visit his site each day.
In contrast Mangozeen.com gets between 1000-1500 a day.
Stormfront's home base is West Palm Beach, Florida. Russ Limbaugh is reclused across Lake Worth in Palm Beach. David Black hosts a weekly forum at a popular restaurant off the Dixie Highway. One of my friend's brothers financially supported Stormfront until his new step-father cut all the natural children from their mother's trust.
His sister refused him entry to her house on Xmas.
No one in the family wanted to hear his racist rant.
Her brother joined his friends at Stormfront to celebrate to birth of a Jewish Messiah.
Somehow none of it makes sense to an atheist.
January 1983 was a good month to get out of New York. The NYPD wanted to interrogate me about a murder and police corruption at the Continental Club on West 25th Street. While the case was a year old and the killer’s trail had gone cold, Sgt.... Ferguson thought I knew more than I was saying. He was wrong, but the NYPD had their ways to get someone to say what they wanted them to say, so when a friend from Paris called my East Village apartment to offer a nightclub job, I booked an Air France flight that very day.
Benji gave me a ride to JFK. The Jamaican hulk and I had been partners at the door of the Continental. Internal Affairs weren’t interested in his testimony. His Trenchtown heritage excluded him from the ranks of ‘infamers’, but he knew that the NYPD loved a black fall guy.
"You not talk?"
"I held my sand."
“Them po-lice is seh evil.”
"You got that right." I got out of the Caddy, expecting Internal Affairs to arrest me, but only the cold winter wind touched by leather jacket.
"Good luck, mon, and don’t come back soon, maan.” New York wasn't my town for the moment.
An hour later I was on a 747.
Flight time to Paris was 6 hours.
I arrived at dawn. I handed the unshaven taxi driver the address. He glanced over his shoulder.
“Le Bains-Douches est fermee.”
"Je sais," I adopted Pepe Le Phew’s accent.
The driver shrugged and turned on the meter for the ride to Les Halles. A weak winter sun filled the Boulevard Sebastopol. Pedestrians wore light coats. Spring felt a few days away and I fought to keep from asking, “Ou est le bibliotechque?”
Thirty minutes after leaving the super-modern Charles De Gaulle Aeroport the taxi stopped on a small street close to the Musee Centre Pompidou.
BAINS-DOUCHES was carved into stone above the entrance of 7 Rue du Bourg l’Abbe. I grabbed my bag and tipped the driver 30 francs. He grunted out a 'merci' like a snake fart and drove around the corner. I climbed the stairs and pushed open the heavy glass and wood door.
The cleaning crew was preparing for the night. Tables set with forks, knives, spoons, and glasses atop paper sheets. In the kitchen a mustached cook chopped vegetables. The thin Italian’s name was Tony. He lifted his head in greeting, as if he had been expecting me, then returned to his task.
The boyishly young owner was counting money in the tiny office. Records were stacked on the floor and posters proclaimed upcoming concerts of punk, soul, funk, African, French, New Wave, and electronic bands. Fabrice noticed my admiration and smiled like he had found a long-lost toy boat.
“Ah, l’American.” He hadn’t used the pejorative ‘Amerlot.
“C’est moi.” The previous winter a counter-culture magazine had hired me to be the physionomiste of its eclectic boite de nuit on the Grand Boulevard. The publisher had introduced Fabrice and his rounder partner as VIP. I treated them like movie stars. I had been surprised and relieved by his telephone call. No one in Paris knew anything about the Continental.
“Do you speak French?”
“Un peu.” My French dated back to grammar school outside of Boston. My accent wasn’t going anywhere. “I learned from my girlfriend.”
“Le dictionaire couchant. No place better to learn a language than in bed, but we will speak English,” Fabrice swiftly explained the job. My schedule was Tuesday through Saturday. My shift started at 9. The doors closed at 4, but the bar shut when no one was buying a drink. The pay was 600 francs a night. A little better than $100. He said nothing about my difficulty with the NYPD.
“You get a meal a night, plus your drinks for free.”
“Even better.” As happy as I was to be out of New York, I was honor bound to tell Fabrice my shortcomings. “I am a total stranger to French culture.”
“Who are the best singers in France?” He asked without hesitation.
“Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy.” I loved the former’s concept LP BALLADE OF MELODIE NELSON and any man not in love with the original Yeh-Yeh Girl failed my cool test.
“Bien, very 60s. What about movies?”
“Gerard Depardieu.” The stocky actor had been riveting in Bertrand Blier’s GOING PLACES along with Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou, but stole the show in Barbet Schroder’s exploration of sadism MAITRESSE and that movie inspired my choice for an actress. “Catherine Denevue in BELLE DU JOUR.”
“Bunuel’s ode to humiliation. Cruelty is a good trait for a physionomiste," he tempered the term for someone who judges by appearance with mixture of wonder and derision. Friends considered us psychic. Our enemies i.e. those people refused entry used harsher expletives to describe our position. “It is not a problem that you don’t know anyone.”
“Is there a list?” Most clubs had regulars.
“Ouais.” Fabrice held up a sheet of paper with names scribbled in ink. He tore the list into shreds. “Now non. My friends, le clientele, have been treated like les petites princes et princesses. Time for to go to le re-education camp. Le Bains-Douches is the best club in Paris. I don’t count Le Palace. That is a disco. The people who come here want to come here. It is their home.”
“So I should ask the bouncers for help?”
“Pas de tout.” He shook his head, as he had a sudden fever. Owners had a low opinion of the muscle, until they were the only solution to a problem. “Les videurs let in their friends. Bums and clochards. Les voyos. This is a purge. You worked Studio 54, n’est pas?”
I had managed the faded glory of the velvet ropes for one month after it had been sold by the prison-bound founders. The reincarnation was dead from night one. The new owner had bought the legendary club, because he had been refused entry. Money was no guarantee of success in discos. I had nothing to gain by elaborating on the truth.”
“How shall I treat everyone?”
“Like shit.” Fabrice gave a good laugh like he was watching Jerry Lewis movie, however no Americans understood the froggies’ appreciation of Dean Martin’s ex-partner. My old girlfriend from Aix-En-Provence said it was because the subtitles in French were funnier than the American dialogue. I had tested her theory. THE NUTTY PROFESSOR was kooky, but unfunny in either language.
“Like shit?” I wasn’t sure if I heard him right and asked," Like le merde?"
“Are you sure?”
“The French like the rapport de force. You treat them like shit and they will love you.”
"Love or hate."
"Do you care?"
"Non." I was happy to be out of New York.
“Where are you staying?”
“There’s a hotel in the Marais.” The Hotel Des Ecouffes in the Jewish Quarter was a ten minute walk from the Bains-Douches. The top floor had a room with a view of Notre-Dame, which cost 500 francs a week with a petite dejeuner.
“Bien. Tout est regulee. Ce soir viens pour manger avec moi et mes amis.”
That evening I ate with Fabrice, Claudine, his impossibly beautiful girlfriend, models, musicians, and artists at the best table at the club and Keith Richard sat two away from me. Midway through dinner Jack Nicholson dragged the Rolling Stone to the downstairs dance floor.
After dessert I excused myself from the table and went to the entrance to introduce myself to the two videurs. Neither bouncer was a giant, but the warped knuckles and broken noses testified to their toughness. They refused no one entrance, but I stopped three men in sneakers.
“Pas ce soir.”
“Les tennis.” I pointed to their trainers. “Les Bains-Douches isn’t a gym.”
"We're friends of Fabrice."
"Pas de exception."
"Petit con," they snarled and the bouncers smiled with amusement. It hadn’t taken me long to make enemies.
Fabrice stood at the top of the restaurant steps, nodding with an approval.
I spent the rest of the night saying 'quais' or 'non'.
Scores of these Paris clubgoers were befuddled by an American at the door of Les Bains-Douches and they asked for my predecessor.
“Elle est en retrait.” Farida had gone to a better world of modeling for Azzedine Alaia.
"Pay at the cashier."
“Va te faire foutre.”
“Ras de Ped.” which was Verlain for pederast.
The French swears rolled off my skin. I had heard worse in New York.
I treated some people with deference. Beautiful women were granted immediate entry. Interesting faces were given carte blanche. Musicians were given a drink A little past 2am I call it a night and Fabrice slipped me 600 francs in red 100-franc notes.
“But one question."
"Why did you hire me?”
“You came recommended by the owner of that magazine. He said you had a good eye.”
“I never thought that." I was as blind as a stump.
“Now you know, have a good night’s sleep.”
I walked back to the Marais through narrow streets. Clochards slept on heating vents. I stuck a hundred-franc note into the gnarled mitt of a wine-drunk bum. Hand-outs were good luck.
I reached my hotel and climbed the stairs to the top floor. The apartments across the street seemed within arm’s reach.
With the windows open Paris spread west to a vague horizon speared by the Eiffel Tower. I laid on the bed with the covers pulled up to my neck and fell into a dreamless sleep, as the dawn extinguished the lights of Paris.
That first night had been a one-off. The bouncers turned against me after I refused their loutish friends entry. Later in the month I tossed a famous fashion designer out of the restaurant for insulting a waitress. His expulsion made the morning papers. The crowd of the refused grew before the door like they were the Vietnamese waiting a helicopter lift from the US embassy in Saigon in 1975.
The videurs spent most of the night playing billiards and said nothing to me throughout the night. I was on my own every minute of the night, except for whenever a young black or Arab man tried to enter the club. The two of them formed a wall. Their friends from the billiard hall provided back up.
“Pas ce soir.”
Les Bains-Douches had a color line as pronounced as the back of the bus in pre-1965 Mississippi. I came from Boston. Racism was that city’s second nature. Paris was not white. People of color were everywhere. The Rex prided itself in equality, but not the videurs at the Bains-Douches, who enforced the line with insults.
The last word was used on a tall handsome young black man.
He stepped away from the door and the videurs laughed with racial pride.
I coughed out loud.
The bouncers turned their heads with a dismissive smirk on their faces and I said, “Fuck you, you frog peckerwoods.”
They were too French to understand the insult and walked out through the crowd in front of Les Bains-Douches.
The young black man was leaning against the wall with several leather-jacketed friends. They looked like thugs and probably spent the day searching for an easy score. I pointed to the young man.
"Toi." The young man was as tall as an NFL linebacker and as handsome as Rock Hudson.
“T-t-t-tu v-v-v-veux moi.” His stutter was worse than mine.
“What’s your name?” I had a stutter too.
“J-a-a-a-Jacques.” His knuckles were scarred with calluses.
“You want a job?”
“Job?” he spoke better English than most French.
“Le boulot.” I doubted that he had ever been offered a job. "So?"
“One minute. Wait here.”
I returned to the door. The bouncers were outside. I pushed my way through them and went to office. Fabrice was in the office counting money.
“We have a small problem.” The previous doorperson had been from Algeria. She had been kind to her friends, but street thugs were not welcome.
“Ouais?” The word had many uses.
“Les videurs won’t let in any blacks. The DJ plays Michael Jackson.I see plenty of cool ones. I want to hire one to work with me.”
“Come with me.”
From the steps I pointed out Jacques.
“He’s big and good-looking. The girls will love him and you want the place to change. He knows the street.”
“How can you tell he isn’t a problem? He comes from Bidonville.” Fabrice’s accusation of slum origins was on the money. Every large city had their Harlems
“Because I will train him.”
“And he is your responsibility.” Fabrice stared me in the eyes. This was one of the changes he hadn’t mentioned in our talk, but we were of the same mind. “400 francs a night. Not a sou more.”
Fabrice entered the club. His girlfriend was waiting upstairs at their table. Claudine never looked my way. It was better that way.
“Jacques,” I called out to the young man and he shuffled nervously to the door. “You have a job.”
“Comme ca?” Doubt mixed with apprehension, as he looked over my shoulder.
“Ne quittez pas.” I wasn’t worried about the bouncers. Another body meant more time to play billiards. “You go to school?”
“La Sante.” The 19th century prison was a testament to the failure of incarceration. Two friends from the Rex were serving time there for drugs. They were not innocent.
Theft was the only crime to which he admitted to me.
“D’accord, but from now on there will be no stealing. You got a job. Some of your friends might get jobs. You want to work or go back to prison?” I was acting like the Great White Hope, but I was no Gerry Cooney.
“I don’t want to go to prison again.” He gave me a short life history. His family was been brought to Martinique as slaves, otherwise they were pure Africa.
"What happened to the stutter?”
“I only ‘begaye’ with white people.”
“And I’m not white.”
“No, you are very white, Mr. Johnson.”
“Mr. Johnson?” Johnson was slang for penis, but I didn’t explain to Jacques the meaning. “Thanks, I like the name. Keep your friends in line.”
“Les Buffaloes.” He waved for his friends to join him. We exchanged the French version of the black pride handshake.
It was obvious that they took each others’ backs. I liked that kind of loyalty.
“W-w-w-why are you doing this?” Jacques knew no white people other than the police. Les Flics were the enemy for a young mec from the project beyond the Champs-Elysees.
Jacques was 6-3.
I was making lots of enemies.
If anyone was going to shoot at me, I could duck behind him, plus I needed someone who owed me. Jacques was it.
“I don’t know white people.” His voice snitched out his fear of my race.
“Don’t worry about that. They’re no different from me or you. We all have to piss in the morning.”
It took him a long time to believe that lie, mostly because it wasn’t the truth.
“And what about mes pots?”
“They’re okay until they’re not okay.”
We were a good team.
Poivre et Sel.
Black and White.
The models loved him, but he He liked fat girls. The models never understood this and I never explained his preference for a woman with a big butt, because les amis ne jamais cafter ie friends never snitch
Not now. Not then. Not never.
Just the way it is entrez-vous.
Only one black man earned a spot with Sinatra's Rat Pack in Las Vegas.
Sammy Davis Junior.
Mister Show Business might have been the token black for the Silent Majority, but Mr. Show Business was well aware of his place in the white world after a stint in the Army.
"Overnight the world looked different. It wasn't one color any more. I could see the protection I'd gotten all my life from my father. I appreciated their loving hope that I'd never need to know about prejudice and hate, but they were wrong. It was as if I'd walked through a swinging door for eighteen years, a door which they had always secretly held open. My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight racism. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man's thinking."
While a headliner at The Frontier Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Davis lived on the other side of the tracks and club owners subjected him to the same Jim Crow treatment prevailing throughout the Deep South and most of America. As his popularity rose, Davis refused to play any casinos practicing racial segregation, which was a brave act considering most of the joints were owned by the Mafia.
Even worse was his kidnapping by a mobster to prevent his dating the actress Kim Novak. He got the message, but raised the ante by breaking a long-standing white-black taboo by kissing Nancy Sinatra.
After JFK refused to invite him to the inaugural party, Davis switched parties and his support of Richard Nixon tarnished his stature in the black community, but he was the first black man to sleep in the White House as a guest.
I don't have a bad word to say about him.
He was all Show Business.
To see his talent, please go to the following URL
He did what he had to do to do his best for himself and his people.
Several years ago Andy Griffith, star of stage and screen, passed away years after Marilyn Monroe with whom he shared the same birthdate. The North Carolina native debuted as a hick comedian from the wrong side of the tracks and Griffith parlayed this success into a film career with critical hits in A FACE IN THE CROWD and NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS. A 1960 cameo role as a southern sheriff in Danny Thomas' MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY led to creation of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, where his character of a rural Solomon in Mayberry NC played straight man to his friend Don Knotts' portrayal of the hapless deputy Barney Fife. Ronny Howard was cast as his son Opie and for many black Americans no white boy could be more white than Opie.
From 1961 to 1968 American sat in front of their TVs on Tuesday night to watch the rubes in action introduced by the song THE FISHIN' HOLE.
While THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW was filmed in black and white, not a single African-American character was shown in the series other than the rare background appearance of a passing Negro, for Mayberry was the South the way the South envisioned the South, if the South rose again and reinstated Dixie. There were no blacks on PETTICOAT JUNCTION, GREEN ACRES, or THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, since these shows were aired at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and offered the comfort of security to a White America.
One episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW had a vignette in which none of the townspeople could explain what The Emancipation Proclamation might be, then again segregation in the South meant that blacks and whites kept to their own areas thanks to such welcome signs as NIGGER DON'T LET THE SUN LET ON YOUR ASS IN MAYBERRY.
At least the producers never featured a KKK segment.
Unless a viewer reads between the lines.
No matter what THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW was a classic and spun off GOMER PYLE.
They were funny in their own way and the wrinklies loved Griffith in MATLOCK.
He continues to be missed by his people.
ps there were no blacks on THE JETSONS or THE FLINTSTONES either.
To view Barney Fife Explaining The Emancipation Proclamation please go to the following URL
On an June evening in 1939 my uncle and three of his teenage friends exited from Portland's State Theater’s western matinee of STAGECOACH and JESSE JAMES. The gunfights in the cowboy double bill had had a funny effect on their blood, for while America was still peace, War loomed across the Atlantic.
Europe was a long away from maine and weekend shoppers exited from Benoits with full bags. College boys from Bowdoin and Bates protectively escorted their bobbysocker girlfriends along the sidewalks, as drunken shipyard workers and men from the SD Warren paper mill careened from bar to bar.
“What now?” asked Russ’ best friend, Hugh, who played left field for the Deering High School team.
“We could get a pizza.” My uncle was hungry and an Italian restaurant on Congress Street served the best pizza this far north on the Eastern Seaboard.
“Pizza?” Hugh was more ambitious with his adventure. “We can have pizza anytime. What about a beer on Fore Street?”
“Only sailors, tramps, and fisherman go to those dives,” Russ protested knowing no good came from slumming on the docks.
“Are you chicken?” Hugh challenged and Russ said, "No."
The four friends walked down High Street to a bar offering dime beers and they drank ‘Gansetts, watching sea-toughened fisherman arm-wrestle with iron-hard East Yard ironmongers, until a Portugee fisherman picked a fight with the young boys. None of them were after mayhem and the teenagers fled the bar to catch a trolley to the quiet safety of their homes.
The long summer sun was down and a full moon lit the tops of trees.
“That’s that,” Russ said looking at the tree tops lit my a silvery moon. Less than a mile away loved a girl he liked and he wondered if she was awake.
“There has to be more to life than this.” Hugh kicked a can into the gutter. A light flashed on a second-floor bedroom. Their neighborhood was used to early nights.
“Not in Portland.”
“My cousin went to Boston once.” Hugh’s family came from Westbrook. They worked at the SD Warren paper mill. It was only a few blocks from that girl's house.
“He said Scollay Square was fun and no place was more fun than the Old Howard. Its motto’s “Always Somethin’ Doing’.”
“Not like here.” Randall, who played centerfield for Deering High, looked around the quiet neighborhood.
“Boston’s a long way away.” Russ had heard about the burlesque theater, where the dancers appeared on stage almost as naked as Eve.
“We need a car to get there,” Hugh said and the three friends looked at Russ.
“I don’t have a car.” Russ had gotten his driver’s license this winter.
“But your brother does and we’ll leave him a full tank of gas.” Topping off the tank cost about $2.
“He’ll never let us take his car to Boston.” Russ thought that this was starting to sound like a bad idea.
“No, but he will, if we’ll tell him we're going to Sebago.” The big lake was less than twenty miles from Portland and there was a popular hamburger stand in the pines off Route 25.
“I don’t like the idea of lying.” Russ’ older brother was a better friend than Hugh.
“And you like the idea of sitting around here and doing nothing?”
The silence answered that question.
“So are we in?” Hugh was the leader.
“When?” Russ had a date with a doctor’s daughter the following Saturday.
“Next Friday night.”
“That’s okay with me.” He had a date on Saturday with a doctor's daughter in Westbrook. Her name was Sal.
The following Friday night Russ borrowed his brother’s Studebaker Champion, telling everyone one, “I'll be back by 9.”
Russ started the car, picked up his friends, and pointed the car south. The ride to Boston took almost four hours. The teenagers spent the afternoon touring Scollay Square's various attractions. One boy hocked a gold ring at Simpson’s Loan to finance their adventures. They got their hair cut at Tony Ruggiere’s Barber Shop, ate lunch at Waldorf’s Cafeteria, played pinball at the Amusement Center, refilled on hot dogs at Joe and Nemos, and then they went up to the entrance of the Old Howard. They were sixteen, which was old enough to pay for the tickets. The usher sat them in the darkness of the back row. Only bald men sat in the front row to admire the sights and sounds and smells of the curvy showgirls.
Russ and his friends stayed through two shows enough and they came out of the bawdy theater into the evening's crowded street. Boston was also preparing for war. Men had money in their pockets and Scollay Square was the best place to spend it.
“What next?” asked Hugh. He wanted more.
“What time is it?” Russ asked hurrying to the Studebaker.
“Then we have to go.”
"But the night is young."
"And so are we and my brother said be back at 9." Russ jingled the keys in his hand.
Back to Portland in three hours."
"If I drive fast."
"Let's go." Speed was always an adventure. The boys jumped into the car and Russ stomped on the accelerator. The Studebaker passed every car on Route 1 and hit 80 mph through the hilly straight-aways of Topsfield.
He didn’t slow down until the Portsmouth rotary. It was 8PM. Curfew was one hour away and the Studebaker picked up speed approaching the steel bridge spanning the Piscataqua River.
“We have to stop to pay the toll,” Russ shouted over the roar of the engine and the whip of the wind. “Give me a dime.”
“Here.” Hugh handed him a coin and Russ flung the dime at the toll booth.
The booth collector ducked and the dime plunked into the wood with an audible thock.
Russ swore the sliver of silver was buried in a pine timber. His friends back him up. It was a good story.
The boys arrived in Portland at 9:30. Russ dropped off everyone before returning home. His brother felt the hood and checked the mileage. There was no sense in lying and Russ wasn’t allowed drive his brother’s car again until he returned from the War in 1946, but he went out with the doctor’s daughter the next night.
Sal became his wife and they live together in Marblehead.
As a young man I loved hearing my uncle’s stories over and over again.
Last year at the Barnacle on Marblehead’s inner harbor I asked Russ, “How fast were you going through the toll booth?”
“I don’t recall.” That night had been over sixty years ago.
“No, more like 90," Russ admitted without guilt. "Studebaker built a good car.”
“I know. I drove a Hawk across country in 1996.” Meg Grosswendt had been hot to be with her beau and had driven over a hundred across most of the Midwest. They married and had two kids. I understand that people drive fast for a reason.
“That was their last good car.”
“We blew a carburetor in Colorado. A mechanic had the part.”
“Probably the last one in America.” Russ held Sal's hand. She smiled at him and I said, "That was probably the last Studebaker carburetor in America."
“I guess you made them extinct.”
"For a good cause."
It had been a good trip.
Five days from coast to coast.
Meg drove the same as Russ from Scollay Square.
Fast with a destination, which was the only way to travel, when you had to be someplace.
The Stars and Bars of the Confederate nation was was raised over the South Carolina State House on April 11, 1961 to commemorate the centennial celebration of the War Between The States and a year later the state's all-white legislators enacted a law to continue flying the flag as a protest against the civil rights movement. The rebel battle flag from the Citadel was transferred from atop the capitol dome to its present station as a compromise to indignant calls for its removal, however the flag was not lowered to half-mast after the recent mass killing of black church goers by a right-wing racist in Charleston.
Lowering the flag requires a super majority vote by the state's legislature, although the CSA's flag was banned after the all-black 55th Massachusetts regiment occupied the birthplace of secession in February 1965.
Many southerners argue that the flag is a monument to the fallen dead of the South, however its true meaning is best surmised by William Tappan Thompson, a pro-slavery writer in 1863.
"As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race."
The Stars and Bars exists strictly as a symbol of institutional slavery and the continued repression of anyone who is not white.
ps William Tappan Thompson came from New York, which along with Rhode Island and Boston are the most racist regions of the Northeast.
pps the 55th Massachusetts regiment's first acts upon entering Charleston were to restore order and put out the fires set by looters.
The Catholic Church promoted procreation in hopes that those of the faith would demographically overwhelm the other religions. My mother was a devout Catholic. She gave birth to six children through the 1950s. Our family car was a Ford station wagon and my father child-proofed the spacious car by affixing aluminum tubes to the windows. Other motorists regarded the pale blue vehicle as undercover transport for the Maine reform school system.
I stared back at them with prison eyes, even if my parents were taking us to Old Orchard Beach, the Pine Tree's State playground by the sea. The other drivers' expressions shifted from pity to horror, as they wondered what heinous crime had been committed by the children incarcerated in the Ford station wagon.
"The youngest convicts in Maine," my grandmother joked every time we departed from her house in Westbrook and I sat in the back planning my escape. None of my attempts succeeded in gaining freedom. My father and mother were vigilant, but on one trip from Boston I wandered from the family car at a rest stop to go the bathroom. when I came out of the toilet, the Ford wasn't in the parking lot.
Free at last and within two seconds I was near tears. I was seven. Kids my age were told every day to not speak with strangers and now I was surrounded by only strangers. Luckily a toll booth operator spotted me before a band of gypsies kidnapped me for the carnival. They waved from their Cadillac carnival.
Ten minutes later my father returned to the rest area at 100 mph.
Top speed for the Ford.
I was glad to see him and sat back in the moving cell with relief.
Freedom would have to wait until I was ready for it.
At age 11.
By then I would be ready to run away and join the circus.
My father came around the world to see me and Angie in Thailand. Most of the time he had no idea where he was. It was the start of his decline. Frank A Smith II passed in 2010, but my father will always be in the here-now with the love I carry for him into the here-to-come.
Evil lurked everywhere in 1965 and our 7th Grade Catholic school teacher, Sister Mary Josef, warned her male students in a special assembly that masturbation not only condemned boys to hell, but repeated self-abuse led to hair sprouting from our palms and in the worst case scenario, blindness.
“Idle hands are the tools of the devil. Even the slightest touch can damn your soul. You can never let down your guard.”
“What about when we’re asleep?” a voice asked behind me. Mark Tully was a poor student. He had a problem concentrating on numbers and letters. He was good at getting into trouble and bullied me mercilessly every day.
“Say your prayers before bed and the guardian angels will protect you.” Sister Mary Josef was playing the straight man for Mark's joker.
“Then why do I get nocturnal emissions?” Mark's tone of innocence earned a few snickers.
“Nocturnal emissions?” Sister Mary Josef’s blank expression betrayed her ignorance of this male phenomena.
“Wet dreams.” Mark feared no nun. The monsignor was his uncle. He could do no wrong and said to our teacher, “It’s not like we can stop them, can we, sister?”
"You will go blind and then to hell." Sister Mary Josef ended our impromptu sex education and Mark was ordered to write “Pray at night. Pray in your dreams Pray during the day.” 1000 times.
Sex was a mystery. We thought girls couldn’t masturbate. but we knew from playing with our sisters' Barbie Dolls that girls had no penis, but something was up there, because the nuns had forbade the girls to polish their shoes to prevent us from seeing the reflection off their shoes. We tried anyway, answering the siren's lure to our pubescent lust.
Satan was everywhere and nowhere, however none of us mentioned sex in the confessional, since the priests swore Christ had come from a virgin birth. Our parents breached the wall of silence about sex with a brief and sketchy talk about the mysteries of the birds and bees without ever touching on masturbation other than to say that it was evil.
Islam has similar approach and five years ago the grand leader Khameini unforgivingly scolded the faithful how they should not masturbate during Ramadan, otherwise the fast would be considered invalid and Iran’s most influential religious personage was asked on his website, “If somebody masturbates during the month of Ramadan but without any discharge, is his fasting invalidated?”
“If he do not intend masturbation and discharging semen and nothing is discharged, his fasting is correct even though he has done a h’ar’m (forbidden) act. But, if he intends masturbation or he knows that he usually discharges semen by this process and semen really comes out, it is a h’aram intentional breaking fasting.” This was the posted reply.
This basically means that masturbation other than during Ramadan, which is certainly more advanced thought than the Catholic Church who consider any sex outside of marriage to be the gateway to Hell.
I checked the Mullah’s English website and discovered the holy men spend a lot of time discerning that which is okay and not okay. Check it out for any Sharia dilemmas.
The soul you save might be your own.
As for Ramadan 2015
Enjoy and be in good health.