Sunday, March 28, 2010


I was riding this weekend and found myself on a road that led directly into an entrance on to The Belt Parkway. I had not intended to enter, wasn’t prepared for what I came upon. I was speeding through a curve of this onramp, and I suddenly panicked. I had crashed once on my first scooter, you know when it’s going to happen. It’s like they describe a near death experience. Everything is in slow motion – your mind goes through a lot of different scenarios. “I hit this too fast, am I going to make it.” “I’m not supposed to break on a curve, do I goose the throttle and power through it?” “Can I go straight into the side of the exit and stop, can I break in time and pull it off safely? Shit, there’s a car coming up behind me, will it hit me if I do?” “Why is this called ‘Shore Rd. Drive’ when it’s an onramp onto a parkway, what a gyp, I thought this would take me to Shore Road, the scenic route and now it’s an accident.” This near death stream of consciousness option shuffle stretched out in the period of a half a second. I fixated on my target – the point of impact. I quickly pulsed the breaks, and managed to regain control at the outside of the turn, and accelerate out of it and made my way onto the Parkway. After cooling my flushed face with the icy winds along the water on The Belt I took the next possible exit at Fort Hamilton, another sharp turn that I was more familiar with, I took it gingerly, remembering to look through the turn as I went.

I made my way home as the crow flies, had a stiff hot cocoa, and took a moment to review what I knew to be true about riding through curves, but had forgotten mid act. I hadn’t realized I was going so fast, if I had looked ahead, I would have slowed down. Once I was in trouble I panicked, looked at my point of impact; the crash point – I fixated on it. I was looking just one step ahead, zooming in on the impending doom, visualizing that crash. Anticipating the embarrassment it will bring, the inevitability of failure. Erase that, integrate this: always look through the turn. This is the start point of flow from mind, to machinery, to destiny: look through the turn, keep your eye on the horizon – the place you want to go, the bike will naturally follow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My mind loves absolutes. He's perfect. She's a bitch. I'm sure of it, depending on the day, the hour, the second, then it turns on a dime. Total 180. No baby steps, grand sweeping gestures, no questions asked. This is it!! Plan accordingly. Bags packed for the honeymoon, or to flee out the back door.

I know what he's thinking. She's out to get me. Fact, Jack. Stand your position. Stake your territory. Piss on their lawn.

Turns out I'm usually wrong.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


There was another letter in my private mailbox on the social networking site from this freakish guy I didn’t even know that friended me awhile back. I accepted the connection, because I saw that we had a friend in common, turned out she didn’t really know him either. They had met for two minutes at some writer’s party, the very next day he found her on the site. He was contributing short novellas to her comment threads, two things came through in his writings: a deep sense of artistic self-pity, and an inordinate desire to make someone, anyone his girlfriend. After a couple of months of pounce-responding to every one of her status updates within seconds of posting, Randy hit the delete button on my friend. She had done what any sane woman would do in response to a stranger leaving paragraphs of deep thoughts where only pithy clever ones belong – she ignored him. Then one day while enjoying the calm and balance of her social networking page, she realized Randy was gone. But he resurfaced on my page.

I had taken the same ignoring tact with the guy. Randy had been pounce-responding on my status updates. If I posted, “Boy, this is one beautiful day!” He would respond, “Y’know, Claudia, I too think this is a beautiful day, isn’t it strange how we were thinking the exact thing at almost the same moment?” He was really attached to “isn’t that uncanny” responses. “We’re on the same page” paragraphs, although we’d never met. It was annoying and kind of scary. He was implying that he knew me, his responses had a certain – I’m watching you through one of your windows and I may not be able to tell you the exact color of your nightie but you sure as hell can tell I want to rifle through your panty drawer and write poetry about it – quality. After ignoring days and days of pounce-responding he ratcheted it up a bit and sent me a private letter.

The heading read: Do you know Kati Johnson? “What the fuck is this,” I thought. I didn’t know Randy Margiotti, I sure as fuck didn’t know who the fuck he was talking about. On the social networking site, people often knew friends of friends, but I knew that Randy’s friends were not really his friends. They were women that he had randomly “picked up” on the social networking site. On one of his posts he wrote: “I’d really really like to meet Janet, Barbara, Gwyneth, Jocelyn, Claudia, Rebecca, and Joan.” It was almost a third of the women on his friends list. I wondered if he actually really KNEW knew any of them.

His note read, “Do you know Kati Johnson. If so, do you know if she’s OK??” I had had it with this guy. Apparently, Kati Johnson was one of his social networking site girl”friends”. One day, she had disappeared from his list. She had no doubt been the object of his pounce-responding affections and taken the appropriate course of action. I only knew this because Randy had posted an All Caps Bulletin asking all of his girl”friends” if they knew her, and what had become of her – and of course no one did, as he had randomly picked up all these strange women that had no connection to him or to one another. Although everyone offered words of comfort, “I’m sure she’s OK, maybe she just needed a break,” stuff like that – no one had the heart to say, “Kati no doubt suspected that you are a class A stalker, and now your ‘Do you know Kati Johnson?? all caps status update elevates it to felony status.” He never got his answer, but like all good stalkers could not let it go ¬– he took his investigation underground, questioning all of us privately in our mailboxes one by one.

I wanted him to go away. But I didn’t want to de-friend him, look what had become of Kati Johnson, she was now the object of an All Caps Bulletin! Besides, if he ever figured it out that women were de-friending him in droves, it could possibly drive him to taking his life, another popular status update of his that alternated between postings of Morrissey lyrics, and other popular sad sack themes made famous by pop musicians, American playwrights, and Russian novelists. He would also sprinkle in his own personal writings designed to convince all of us ladies what great boyfriend material he would make, such as, “Love is the only thing I am good at!” It struck the perfect balance of self-congratulatory and self-pitying – it became Randy’s trademark. His “things I will never do” top hits harkened the same notes, “I will never have a one night stand, I will never have sex with anyone on the same day we meet, I will never have sexual passion without saying I love you,” this was classic Randy. His status updates, or his “desperate cries for attention” as my friend Melissa called them, always begged the response in the comment thread, “Oh, Randy, you make all other men seem like common animals,” or, “Randy, you’re so sensitive, why can’t all men be more like you!” To which he would respond with some poignant, sad sack response in a last stitch effort to keep the thread going or else he would have to hit the typewriter again, or Edith Piaf’s Saddest Hits in order to come up with more provocative status update fodder in the next 20 minutes.

Randy had become a problem, this wasn’t the first private letter I had received from the little known poet who I literally didn’t know. I wrote a blogpost about a girlfriend of an ex of mine who I had pissed off by writing a lighthearted piece around her questionable character and spelling abilities, she had told my ex that she was hell bent on dragging me into court. I joked about her threat in a status update – which caught Randy’s eye. He pounce-commented that he too had gone through the same exact experience. I was wondering if it was a trick, he was given to those “isn’t it uncanny how we’re exactly alike” comments. But he soon clarified via private mail. There had been a lawsuit over a “libelous” blogpost. “Wow,” he had me going for a second, thinking I had underestimated him, the guy had it in him to write content that went before judges. Turns out, he was the one that filed the suit towards an ex GF that was writing about him. The blogger girlfriend said that he was unbalanced, dangerous, and should be avoided. She was so clear on that point that he was provably unbalanced and to be avoided that she felt confident and within the law to use his real name! But the judge ruled otherwise and Randy won. He won one dollar. And she had to take her blogpost down. He had actually never received the dollar from her and was still holding a grudge about it. That’s the thing about unbalanced dangerous people – they hold grudges and sometimes quote Morrissey on their social networking pages.

I’ve had a gun held to my head in college, had to crazy man chase me into the woods as a teen, and never felt an ounce of fear, yet the thought of de-friending Randy Margiotti scared the crap out of me.

So I let time take it’s course, I ignored his pounce-commenting and it finally ceased. I ignored his “Do you know Kati Johnson??” email, and he finally let it and her go. I still would get his – suicide threat – depressing melting snow photography – I have never made love with a girl who’s middle name I didn’t know – status updates with great regularity, until today. Randy was nowhere in sight, and nowhere on the site. I did a search, his name did not come up on my friend’s list. I did a general search – his name had disappeared completely. He had pulled a Kati Johnson. The ultimate cry for help status update: a sudden social networking site disappearance, my friend Melissa was right. “Do you know Randy Margiotti?” “I wonder if he’s OK!” “He was such a great man, he made all men seem like dirt, I wonder if he died or killed himself.”

Now his page is gone or we’d all comment in effigy; To know Randy is to love him, too bad none of us have actually ever met him.


This is the email that declares "Doom’s Day!!"
You go months and months on good behavior, heeding every bit of romantic advice culled from magazines, self help books, and life coaches. Then that thing inside me won’t be kept down; the stuff about me contained in the jar with the skull and crossbones embossed in the dark brown glass, all spilling on to paper. Let it fly, no holds barred, correctness, politeness aside, this is the cathartic finely-honed spew that changes a relationship or ends it forever. Herald the truth, or the version you’re feeling post last night’s cocktails and impending menstrual cycle, months of frustrations times I don’t give a fuck. In vino veritas, this is the email that churns and bubbles out of that place triumphantly, no wine on your breath just toast and coffee. Me at wit’s end – fed up with him but it’s really me I’m sick and tired of around all the stuff I’m "OK" with. According to this email, clearly it ain't OK today, and there you’ve said it, you’ve hit “send.” Truth-Bomb zooming through cyberspace, half a second, completing its mission to targeted Inbox, KABLOOEY!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It was pretty much love at first site when I first saw Mel. She was in account management at the ad agency where I worked, and she showed up in my doorway to brief me on the creative assignment, all tall, thick blond streaked hair, pretty, brainiac glasses. Most of the young guys in account management had a certain earnest seriousness about them during briefs – I was one of the “creatives”, the ones that came up with the work that were considered the wild monkeys that had to be tamed. The account managers were there to rein us in, but not Mel. She was fun, had a let’s “get away with hell” glee; let’s give the creatives a ridiculously long time table in which to come up with brilliant work, wrench the money from the client’s hands, let’s do the edgy creative that wins awards and gets noticed and makes most account people piss their pants. And, heck, let’s drink in the car ride over on the way to the client meeting. Short of the car ride drinking, Mel was serious on all those fronts and I immediately liked her for it.

We were working on a campaign for The Mayor’s Commission for Domestic Violence ¬– it was an opportunity to do some award winning work and Mel was just as excited as my creative partner and I. She was our biggest fan and didn’t blink when we showed her dangerous work. One ad we proposed featured a hard-core street gang, scars, gold teeth, prison tats, the works. Mel didn’t flinch. “Will these be actual gang members, or will we cast actors,” she was already going over the logistics in her head, going on the assumption that we would push this through with Rudy Giuliani, our client. “Oh, real gang members, definitely,” I nodded. We had a range of great work to present down at City Hall. My partner and I had a great chemistry, and this kind of assignment was a dream come true. You could do great work, make a difference in people’s lives, and maybe even present work directly to The Mayor of New York City.

Presentation day came, Mel called us a big black car, she never fooled around like other account drones who would make you run around midtown in the rain in hopes of hailing a yellow cab just to save the agency a couple of bucks. She insisted on hauling the large black portfolio that was filled with huge blow-ups of the day’s work. I got tingles seeing her handle it like it was nothing, in spite of her full-on femininity, she had a chemistry of strength and capability that was verging on masculine which I found to be incredibly enticing.

Off we headed downtown to City Hall. We entered one of the impressive buildings down there, it turn out not to be the actual City Hall building, but it had marble floors, 300 foot ceilings, and a vast wide staircase with carved wooden railings on either side. We climbed and climbed until we arrived at the room where the meeting would take place. A small, youngish blond woman/serf escorted us into a small anti-chamber, the area couldn’t have been more than 12 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. She gestured towards the only piece of furniture in a room, a small office store conference room table, there was also a lonely easel to prop things up on should you require it. Before us were immense, aged, dark oak sliding doors shut tight. Together, if you laid them flat they were larger than the room where the four of us were gathered. My creative partner and I started to pull the ads from our black portfolio, as the blond serf whispered instructions to Mel, the only one of us that looked business legit. She explained that The Mayor was sitting on the other side of the massive wooden doors. We would not speak directly or present to The Mayor, or have discussions about the work after he made his decision; it would be immediate and final. We would present only to the young woman, she would then go behind the curtain to The Great Oz and relay our presentation, and we should wait for his ruling. It was different from any client meeting I had ever attended. I had chit-chatted with CEO’s of major corporations, presented to them, made funny jokes. There would be none of that down here at Giuliani’s City Hall.

So Mel did her introduction of the work, reviewing the creative brief, and handed the presentation over to us so that we could present to the unsmiling late 20-something. We had three options, all were compelling, possibly award winning; including the ad with the gang members, the insight behind it was based on research we had read: if you’re raising your child in a violent family, they might end up seeking another family: the violent street gangs of greater New York. The Mayor’s Commission For Domestic Violence was a task force that upped the city’s response to Domestic Violence complaints, enforced strict laws against offenders, and provided shelters to women and families transitioning out of violent homes. It was a great initiative, Giuliani was notoriously tough on crime, some people argued he was a fascist, but who could argue being tough on wife beaters and child abusers. Our ads would appear in subway cars and bus shelters across the city. We took the unblinking serf through the 3 ads we had – she took no notes, apparently committing our sell jobs to memory.

We stacked the three foam core mounted ads and slid them across the table to her, she took them without comment or expression, slid open one of the heavy wooden doors and slipped through the slight opening to the other side where Giuliani waited.

Not two minutes later, the heavy doors opened a crack, the woman/serf slid back through to relay The Mayor’s reaction. “Mayor Giuliani would like you to know that he thinks the work is excellent. We will move forward with these two, and although he likes it, the gang advertisement might be offensive to certain parties.” Fair enough, I thought. I wasn’t surprised about The Mayor killing the gang ad. I think I partially game up with it so I could hob-nob with fringe characters. We still had two great ads that we would be producing. Promptly excused, we made our way silently down the cold marble staircases, out into the rain, and in to the waiting black car service that miraculously was waiting for us right on time. Mel was always seamless in her execution of everything.

One week later my art director, Mel, and I were downtown, in a Chelsea photographer’s studio shooting the work. Mel and I took the opportunity to get to know each other better while I let my art director partner bond with the photographer. She had just broken up with her English finance guy boyfriend. Rather, she had caught him fucking a stripper that he now claimed was his soul mate. She emptied the apartment of her toothbrush, change of clothes, novels (for Mel was an avid reader), and left the keys on the kitchen table, but not before she trashed the place, smashing some electronic equipment to bits against the parquet floors. God, I loved this shit. I never knew a woman that pulled stuff like that, I always walked away quietly post break up, never having the balls to destroy property. Besides, I thought that only white-trash chicks pulled that crap, but Mel, in spite of the fact that she was worldly, had gone to the best private schools, didn’t hesitate to leave a trail of broken glass picture frames, food processors, and VCRs upon exiting. That same afternoon, she confided in me that her brother had been found dead by a river somewhere in Ohio, where she was raised. It was near a small bridge that he and his high school friends frequented. The details around his death were unclear. Was it suicide? Had someone pushed him? Had he stumbled and fell? Mel didn’t know. A mysterious letter had arrived at the family home, addressed to her parents, the contents of the letter kept a secret to her to this day. She was an emotionally layered female, brilliant, funny, and apparently sometimes violent. I wanted her to be my bestie.

I invited her out to my place in Brooklyn. We took the F train out from our office in midtown, I could feel a strong attraction growing on my end, it was undenaibly sexual. I remember gazing over to her in the crowded train, we were grinning at some observation only the two of us would have found funny, I was horrified that she would see my yearnings and be scared off. When you start to feel love for someone it shows on your face. I had seen that transition in the faces of boyfriends when they go from liking you to loving you deeply. I could feel that change in myself, God, I prayed, she wouldn’t notice.

We started to hang out weeknight evenings in my top floor apartment that was sparsely furnished. It was much larger than my studio apartment I left downstairs. We would set up two chairs, line candles up along the window, and gaze out on the Verrazano Bridge view before us. Mel was passionate about everything, particularly white wine, cigarettes, and blocks of cheese. She wasn’t picky – a cheap bottle of Pinot Grigio would do it, and any block of orange cheese would do. We would sit there drinking until the wine was gone, sometimes starting a second bottle, even on a school night. It was like a teenage slumber party, only with wine and a lot more cigarettes. I was really falling for her. Her deadpan sense of humor, delivering the statement that you’re not quite sure how she meant it, then punctuating it with a huge grin. Mel was awesome. When I finally saw her tiny apartment it was littered with thick dusty novels, more clothes on the floor than in the closet. She made the best roast chicken ever, and served it with a side of Stove Top Stuffing, perfectly timed to be served hot at the same time. I was a goner.
So I immediately decided to set her up with one of my male friends.

She started dating Michael, a guy from the agency I had worked with who was smart, read books, and was funny as heck. He was going through a painful divorce, and I had a feeling they would hit it off, which they did. They started spending weekends together at his house in Connecticut, which was just down the hill from the house I grew up in. The romance was in full bloom, my matchmaking skills validated once again, they made each other laugh, found each other intellectually stimulating, and were having great sex. It was all very painful to hear. Mel was now coming over to my place only one night a week, with her carry bag of cheap wine, half a block of cheese, and stories of her great weekends with Michael. Did I think it would last? What did I think of his ex-wife? Had she gone away for good? His house was so cute, they had taken a lovely ride up into the woods, they had sex on Sunday afternoons before he would take her to the train station.
Uhggg, this stuff made me jealous and sad, but like my “in love” face on the subway, she didn’t seem to notice.

We lost touch. Mel had some nutter friends that I didn’t take to. One was sort of in and out of a bad coke habit and an abusive marriage, I didn’t really roll with those sort of chicks. She and Michael had split up, she eventually left the agency, moved to California, we had lost touch.

Just last year I got a call from Mel, I was surprised that she still had my number, people change cell phones so often these days, and old friends often get edited out in the transition. We didn’t skip a beat, the chemistry was still rock solid, but my crush miraculously gone. And now we speak on the phone almost everyday, peeing ourselves with laughter as we did back in the days of wine and cheddar. We play therapist to each other, take turns listening to the quandaries du jour. We both have a penchant for diagnosing the mental health illnesses of men we’ve dated according to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)’s website: Narcissist, Sociopath, Borderline Personality, Bipolar Personality 1 or 2, Abusive, or just plain selfish. We muse on where we might one day retire, me sometimes longing that it will be in the same place. Michael, the man I set her up with said we had the same exact voice on the phone, I found that interesting, like kind of a fated soul mate thing. I love Mel, I sometimes get mad at her in ways that I usually reserve only for men. It’s hard to define my feelings, it’s nowhere to be found on the NIMH website or any other. It’s not sexual, it’s more than BFF, it’s ineffable and wondrous, and I imagine it’s forever.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


It turned out to be a great Friday morning. My car had to be moved for alternate side of the street parking at 9 AM so I had some time to kill with the vehicle before 10:30. I called up Cal to see if he wanted to come over and take the stylishly cool metal cabinet and hybrid VHS/VCR he had trash-picked on his way over to our dinner date last weekend. Oh, how the man loved to trash pick, it was in his blood and he had a gift for it. I questioned the VHS/CD hybrid he had under his other arm, but the cabinet was the fashizzle. I had been sort of looking for a spot for it in my place, I knew if he came over and saw it well placed, I could probably wrench it away from him. But the heavy metal piece was still standing in the middle of my front hall with the relic tape player from The Wiz circa 80’s adding to it’s height, bulk, and presence.

Anyway, I offered to come pick up Cal at his house a few blocks away, bring him over here to fetch his prizes, load them into the car and take them back to his home filled of his worldly possessions. The man had enough to fill 3 upstate antique shops, and enough brick-a-brack to keep the old ladies who ran the church sales pricing stuff for months.

But Cal had a better plan for the morning, and it did sound like a lot more fun to me. He wanted us to go to this place on 23rd street I had heard him talk about before like a kid on Christmas morning. It was called –something- Housing Works. I guess they had all sorts of antique finds among the crap that some people call antiques, but are actually stuff from dead people’s apartments that they should have thrown out long before they were dead. Anyway, Cal had always spoken of it with much affection and was inviting me to join in the adventure. He would makes us some coffee, put it in his jumbo to-go cups, we would head in to 23rd Street, crab a space, go antiquing, and he would drop me at work downtown and bring my wheels back to Brooklyn all before 11. I always jumped at any opportunity to have an adventure with Cal. He was fun to hang out with. I loved his man-energy, he was a big man, a retired cop, and pretty much my best friend at this point. Whatever we did, it felt like some Huck Fin adventure. Cal had a certain turn of the century vibe but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was. He was a great storyteller, had a laid back energy of days gone by, he rarely used profanity of any kind – other than when he was quoting cops or perps – pulling another great tale from his vast vault of stories from his NYPD days.

We headed over the Brooklyn Bridge and off into the city, Cal riding shotgun, navigating our route to 23rd st, looking over his shoulder at every lane change or turn I would make en route. No harm could come to me when Cal was by my side, he made sure of it. He had called out a waiter who gave me ‘tude when I sent back my cheeseburger just last week. It was scary, protective, and provocative and made me want to jump him right there in the booth.

We grabbed a spot around 2nd Ave and 23rd. Cal picked up the Muni Meter charge, he always paid. It was just one more chivalrous quality that topped off my love for the guy. We had some time to kill before this place opened, so we meandered up the sidewalk along the wide open two way street. It was a pretty day, Cal reminded me that Spring was just 17 days away.

But soon our Spring musings were interrupted by a sketchy element near the corner of 23rd and 3rd. Right by a coffee and donut cart stood a group of colorful characters/youths. It was hard to tell if they were 16 or 25. One black kid was kind of hopping and bobbing in place, his dental health seriously in question, he was having a convo with a freshly showered girl in a baseball jacket and pajama pants. Her freshly washed hair pulled back tightly from her clean scrubbed lily-white face. They were hub-bubbing and looking around from side to side. The boy with the intermittent teeth was speaking in rushed whispered tones, she was more audible, “Yo, y’know if he’s got the Mac??” There were a cluster of other kids around them, in various states of cleanliness and aptitude. The man inside the coffee cart looked like he was crowded with business, yet no legitimate folks could dare approach him through the sketchy amoeba that blocked their way.

We crossed 3rd Avenue, Cal was looking back at them over his shoulder, “God, that pisses me off.” “What,” I said, “…they were pretty funny.” “You didn’t see that?” He said to me now standing on the opposite curb next to me, still looking towards the other corner. “We just saw two drug buys, you didn’t see that?” He went on to explain that he had seen money and drugs change hands. Twice. And it was barely 9:30, I thought to myself. It really irked him, I said, “Well, do something.” “What should I do, make a citizen’s arrest?” he said, still annoyed. It had to be a little tough, being retired and seeing stuff like this go down with such disrespect in broad daylight. He explained to me that even if you did call the cops, years ago they had changed the rules, these complaints were now logged and forwarded to the Narcotics Unit.

We crossed back over to the opposite side of street from the activity and Cal explained the ins and outs of what was probably going on across the way. There was a methadone treatment center near by. The junkies would get their meds and “sell” them usually not for cash, but for other drugs. But it was complicated. The junkies had to return their vials the following week to get more methadone, so they would have to transfer the stuff to other packaging to keep their scam going. They also had to take a blood test at the treatment center to make sure they were actually using the methadone, so they would do about a 3rd of it so they would have traces of it in their system, and sell/trade the remainder. It always amazed me how crafty drug addicts could be, if only they used their cunning for good, all of the world’s problems would be solved, that sort of thing.

No matter what we encountered in our travels, Cal knew the real story behind it. It was really remarkable. He knew everything there was to know about the Gowanus Canal, the history of The Wild West, he had a broad based knowledge of minerals, mining, and all the underpinnings of every form of crime ever committed. He couldn’t cook to save his life, but that was the only hole I could poke in what he knew. As far as I could tell he knew all there was to know about the topic. And the topic was “Everything”.

After we watched one of the young men hop in and out of a Sleepy’s mattress store that he was apparently using to stash his goods, we got tired of our civilian stake out and slipped into a Salvation Army. An authoritative employee admonished us with a startling intercom quality to her voice – “No Beverages In The Store!” busting us with our jumbo coffees that Cal had brought for us for our morning adventure. I nodded agreeably and placed my cup on the counter and waited quietly like I was in a “time out” corner. Cal ignored the woman’s warning and disappeared into the color coded racks of polyester clothing probably heading to the back of the store to where they kept the furniture. You never knew what you could find, what some antique dealer had missed, that once in a lifetime find that every thrift store aficionado hoped he would one day find, and against all odds maybe today would be that day.

We left the store and saw that the nefarious crowd had dispersed, like cockroaches skittering off when the lights come on – at least that’s what I imagined cops on the job would say in instances such as this. But Cal explained that they had actual hours of business. It seemed the 9:30 to 10 window was over, and all interested parties knew the rules, everyone was gone. Only the showered girl in the pajama bottoms and baseball jacket was still there, looking from side to side, delivering an seemingly important message to someone on the other end of her cell phone. Another girl joined her, and they moved along down the street. Cal said, “they’re probably SVA students going to class.” I had found a hole in Cal’s knowledge base. SVA was expensive, it was hard to get in to, it trained fairly well-to-do kids in all matters of taste and high design, and they would never allow a girl in plaid pajama bottoms and a Mets jacket to walk through the front doors.

Finally, our whole reason for coming to 23rd Street was opening its doors up the block. We did a quick walk around, I was hoping to find a terrific round dining table, but knew the odds were against me, gauging the other stuff that lined the linoleum floors. Cal had admitted on the way in that he was actually picking up something he had purchased on their online auction. He prepared me for what would turn out to be a very ugly lamp. Even the woman in the store who went to fetch it from the basement said, “I know just the one, it’s quite unusual”. That was code for butt ugly. When she finally brought it up I could see how he could think it would be interesting in a good way. From a distance, it looked like it was made of forged wrought iron, but it turned out to look like it had come from some Pier One impersonator store, or another store with a generic name that was big in the 90’s, like “The Lamp Store” or “All Things Lamps”. Still, he seemed mildly please, he could take it apart, put it back together, make another lesson out of it and add it to his vast knowledge base of All Things Everything.

Mission accomplished, another adventure with Cal was coming to an end. But as we left the second hand home store, 23rd Street did not disappoint. Our ears were met by the shrill tones of what sounded like a overly dramatic drag queen from “the projects.” He was wailing, lying there in the middle of the street. He had his hands cuffed behind his back, with a white cloth wrapped tightly around them. He was banging the side of his head against 23rd street, surrounded by several officers who had barricaded themselves in with 3 NYPD cruisers. They were just standing around, chuckling, taking in the spectacle, just another day at work. It was pretty funny, this guy was “sobbing” with no apparent tears. He had the bravado of bad acting – like a silent movie actress making the switch to talkies and not knowing you needed to tone it down for the new medium.
“I’z just wanna DIE!!!” “Please, juz lemme DIE-eeee (sob-sob)” Bang bang went his head, he was making sure it hit softly against the pavement. The cops standing by, apparently waiting for the cop with the super thick pair of rubber gloves. I thought they should feign some concern, a woman approached me, saying, “this is so sad”, shaking her head regretfully, apparently the man’s over-the-top performance had moved her. “I’z just wanna DIE-EEEEEE” he wailed between dry sobs.

Cal had gone across the street to empty his bladder at the Starbucks. He was crossing back over towards me, shaking his head cracking up. “You go over to this guy and offer him some Ho-Ho’s and he’ll be, “I’z wanna DIE---EEEE—gee thanks (gobble-gobble-gobble)!!” God, I loved Cal. So fucking funny, so true, the retro Ho-Ho’s reference and everything.

We left the scene and strolled back towards the car. Cal said “we better pick up the tempo if we want to miss a ticket.” I tried to keep up with him in spite of the fact that his legs were a third longer than mine, plus I was in no rush to leave him and go in to work.

He dropped me at the front door of my office, a block away from The Hudson, near the West Village. A wave of disappointment came over me. I was headed in for a day of legitimate goings on in the ad biz. The politics and drama had died down with the recession. It was pretty much heads down, do your work, keep your job. Cal leaned over and gave me a kiss, and sent me off like a kid at the school bus. I still held on to the coffee he had given me at the start of our morning adventure. I glanced over at it at various points through my tedious day – copy revisions, inner office emails, and meetings with account guys. The cardboard coffee cup was a reminder of my great morning on 23rd Street, our morning, me and Cal; the great narrator, protector, and finder of rare treasures among the trash.