Tuesday, May 12, 2009


It was a beige canvas of regulars at the great table we all sat at in my corner bar restaurant, a klieg light of blondness drew my eye. He was 25, startlingly handsome, teeth so white your retnas narrow, the blond hair, the color you usually only see on 3 year old girls. I sat down at the table at the other end from him, everyone else burlap next to this kid. “Hey!” he called down to me. I couldn’t believe it took all of 15 seconds, “That’s Stephen Sprouse.” It took me a moment, I wanted to ride his comment slowly, it took a while to gel. “Your bag!” Oh, yeah, I paid a premium for my tiny Louis Vuitton bag, it was a special edition, The Graffiti Collection, by Stephen Sprouse. This kid had a tough street cadence, an awareness of fashion, apparently, with a voice packing a boom and surprising confidence for a kid his age. He popped up, and scraped his chair loudly across the floor, shoving it into mine. “Hi!” he said smiling, he was all teeth, I didn’t think he moved his lips. He knew he charged me, his face about an inch and a half away from mine. I jerlked my head back with the audacity of it, like he had pulled out his stiff cock. I ordered a glass of wine, he sucked down the rest of his Budweiser, and called out loudly for another. But what was up with the Stephen Sprouse comment, my gaydar wasn’t anywhere near even a low hum. Eddie was a renowned graffiti artist, a “tagger”, as they’re known. It’s an outlaw lifestyle that takes them into the streets, down into subway tunnels, and way up high on the sides of tall buildings. Cops hunt them but rarely catch them; Eddie had only been arrested twice. If it weren’t for my Louis Vuitton Graffiti bag, I’m not sure I would have had an entre into Eddie’s world.

The kid was intense. He had the laugh of a man much older and larger, it made me want to spend a lot of time around him. He asked me if I wanted to get out of there, the beers were too expensive. He grabbed his satchel, It was bulky and weighed down with what I didn’t know, perhaps a human head. I followed him out and down the sidewalk. He said, “wait right here,” like Peter Pan, and ducked into the bodega, and came out with a sixpack of Bud. “Your place is right here, right?” It was. The kid didn’t scare me, he was a good friend of the bar’s owner, I unlocked the door to my apartment. He strode out on to my terrace, uninvited, like the moon was calling. He threw down the six and his bag, paused Zen-fully, raised his arms, inhaled and cried, “FUCK YOU BROOKLYN!!!” It was stunning and scary. He had only been here for 4 minutes. He popped two beers, pounded one, and started the other. We sat cross-legged on the floor of my terrace, he pulled out some of the mystery bulk from his satchel: Kierkegaard, Proust, various notebooks. It seemed that Eddie was a scholar of sorts, and an author. He had written a novel, a book about himself, a more mystical rendition about his life of tagging, the under-worldliness of it, the bigotry against the art form, cops vs. black people (he fancied himself one), evil as good, he outlined the major themes as he downed the six pack. I wanted to read the book, I was damn curious, but he only had two copies to his name, and he made it clear that he never loaned them out. He said that I could have the next printing, I wasn’t sure where they were printed, in his abusive father’s basement, or if he would even live long enough to throw me one, he felt like he might have an expiration date. After his tumultuous confession, the dark blond child stretched out on his back on the pavement tiles, and fell into a deep snore.

I woke up in the morning, he was still out, empty beer cans, notebooks and Kierkegaard keeping watch. “Eddie,” I said after taking a minute to take in his raw beauty. His eyes opened first, his grin flashed a half second after, a virtual “good morning”. Then he spoke from his back: “Claudia. What should we do today.” Where do you take a kid that’s been arrested and taken to Rikers, fought rats for real estate in dark subway tunnels, fucked strippers in back rooms of seedy clubs in Queens? Westport, Connecticut, my hometown on The New England Sound. He’s never seen anything like that in his life.

We sped out in my car around 11, it was a perfect summer day. The car was wide open, windows and sunroof rolled down and back. Eddie was fucking with the radio between being ecstatic, but suddenly yelled, “Here! Turn here. Wanna show you something.” He said it almost as the exit was gone. I swerved, and made it, speeding on, all curious along this unfamiliar stretch of highway. I looked at him, he said, “keep going,” eyes straight ahead, “There! There! That’s me!!” To my right was a huge brick apartment building. The side that faced the road was completely overtaken by Eddie’s vengeful passionate scrawl. It was a Spiderman feat, this renegade installation. It was signed, NOV YORK. “That’s me,” he said seriously, “Nov York.”

Our car sauntered into the quaint beach area in my home town about an hour later. Couples from McMansions were strolling. Wall Street men in expensive sneakers were de-stressing. Dad’s were teaching their kids to ride bikes and rollerblade. Eddie and I emerged from my shiny silver vehicle, I had grown up on this planet, Eddie looked as though he was contemplating taking it over. Pulling his white BVD undershirt over his head, my breath was taken away; he had a huge crass black X tattoo over his heart. It had no finesse, it was stark and pained, it looked as though he had taken a black pen, and repeatedly scratched at his pristine young flesh, until the death X was complete. “This is for my girl. She fucked my friend, and destroyed me.” He looked at me gravely, then broke out into that blinding grin. He didn’t seem the type for prolonged strolls, or collecting seashells, so we reloaded the car, and headed to the local Mexican restaurant.

The nice guy waiter in a polo shirt and Dockers seated us out on the patio. Pink cascading flowers hung from pots over our picnic table. We ordered two margaritas, no salt, the waiter asked Eddie for his I.D. Eddie pulled out his wallet, a rubber band securing a huge wad of cards, none of them plastic. He pulled his I.D. out from the sticky collection, and showed it to the waiter. It was blood stained, a reddish brown amoeba covered the state document, Eddie’s grin on it, a further ‘fuck you’ to the waiter. “That’s OK,” the waiter said, not handling it. “I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

We headed back to the city, Lauren Hill filled the car, Eddie had the seat back all the way in the reclining position. Connecticut had treated us well. Eddie smoked a Philly Blunt, a cigar dismantled, and re-rolled with some of the tobacco and weed, more Marlboros in its wake. He let the CD play without interruption. It had been a great day.

He didn’t go home again that night. I didn’t know what he was avoiding. His drunk daddy, the smell of old frying, all reminders of his less epic days. He fell asleep on the couch, serene and two days un-showered. The intoxicating perfume of young boy filled my 38 year old head. I went to sleep in my room, exhausted and content from the whirlwind of my new friend.

I woke up early, walked out into my living room but Eddie was gone. There, on the coffee table was a book, a copy of Nov York. On the inside of the cover he had scrolled, “To the sexy lady that held me for a couple of days. NOV” His signature, identical to the one tagged on the side of the brick building we had sped by in the Bronx.


  1. Memories! About 1969 or so, I lived on Ridgefield road in a converted stable on a very old farm. Old man couldn't keep up with taxes, the realators and machines got it, bastards!!

    NOV sounds so much like one of my best friends there, Alexander B. ----. Looked the same, exactly the same elan.

  2. Jeff - sounds like you have quite a few stories to tell, all we need is a campfire and a flask.

  3. Now that sounds great! I have spent a lot of my life outdoors, living there for that matter. That kind of fire is welcome here anytime!
    Now, the flask...since I'm not a wine by the fire guy, it would be; mmmm, Bakers?, Booker?s, Knob Creek? Say how about some Absinte!? LOL

    And I can say without danger of aggrandizing, I have a slew of stories, well earned. :) J.

  4. NOV mentions you in his second book. Check it out.

  5. Holy cow!! Sure will!

  6. Such an amazing story, I love Nov and its amazing how you got the chance to spend a couple days with him. Thanks for the post.