Monday, November 29, 2010


I had been fighting with my boyfriend for the past couple of days. “Eat your own damned food off your own damned plate,” he snapped, I quickly withdrew my fork from his enchilada, he was an angry little fuck, I thought, I knew this when I met him. He had a lot of childhood trauma, had been mugged 3 times in the past decade, and had to go through life as a 5’4” man, but still you can’t let me taste your enchilada? After hitting his favorite Mexican restaurant, it was off to the comic book store, and then to the sneaker store, he explained that this trauma had robbed him of his childhood, I was along for the ride as he reclaimed his pre-teen years, we would be forty before we knew it.

Tomorrow was going to be dedicated to me, I had decided, Dave had come home with bags of comics, toys, and sneakers, he’d spent his paycheck like a kid blowing his allowance on stupid stuff. But in the morning, I would be getting a custom sound system installed in my new sports car. I had done all the research myself, had purchased all the best components I could afford, and now I was off to the sound system installers in Park Slope I’d heard were some of the best.

I was waiting in front of the place for about 45 minutes, the steel gate was down when I had arrived in time for my appointment. I was thinking I should leave already when the guy screeched into the slot next to me in front of the gate. My installer had arrived, he was hard-to-look-at hot. He introduced himself, pulled up the heavy metal gate with one hand as he explained that he was the preeminent sound system installer in all of Brooklyn, and told me to come back to pick up my wheels at five. When I returned that evening, he was sitting in my car admiring his work, it did sound fine, and he looked good there in the driver’s seat. We spent an oddly long time there in the driveway there in my car, but my boyfriend would be waiting outside my place any minute, so I wrote a check and asked Johnny for my car back.

I loved this car, and now that I had this primo system installed, there would be no stopping me. I roared back down Union Street, windows down, speakers loud, I wanted to see what it could do. I hit the dial that balanced the power between the front speakers and the back, and turned it all the way to the back speaker position, but the front speakers went full tilt. When I turned the dial to the front speaker position, the back speakers shook the house. The preeminent sound system installer had screwed up my installation, for a moment I was regretting not going with the stock sound system, but I reassured myself that everything would be made right. I parked the car and Dave was sitting on my stoop with his hoodie pulled up around his head, he thought he was a baller now. Sometimes out of nowhere he would start talking like a homie. He’d say “woot yoo saee” instead of “what did you say”? He’d been waiting for ten minutes, “where you been, woomone,” he said, snapping his head back, as I put the key in the front door to my lobby. It was a little hard not to laugh, he was a 5’4” white boy from Indiana, but alright. “I wanna get some chicken for dinner, you good with dat?” There wasn’t a Popeye’s in Carroll Gardens, a pro or con of the neighborhood depending on your tastes, but I ordered him some chicken wings and fried rice, and myself a steamed chicken a broccoli. He was glued to yet another basketball game on TV, yelling at the TV in ebonics, eating his chicken dinner. I went into the bathroom and gave myself a facial then went to bed while Dave was in the other room watching his double dip of Seinfeld reruns. I wondered if he would now morph from a black man into some other personae, his hood was now in the down position, he had changed into his sleep pants, eating Ben and Jerry’s with a big soup spoon. I was pretty certain he was now a seven-year old boy state. Either way, it was all good, I would go back to the sound system installer first thing when they opened and ask Johnny to make my back to front speaker snafu right.

Johnny was out in front when I got there, catching some rays like he was poolside at some Beverly Hill’s hotel. “Hey, babe – nice to see ya,” he said, his handsome face tilted upwards to soak up the skin-damaging rays.

“Look,” I told him, “you crossed some wires or something, the back is front and the front is back,” so went my diagnostic assessment. “Oh no. Did I?.” he was feeling all of his pockets for a pack of cigarettes. “Not a big deal, leave it, I’ll try and get to it by the end of the day,” he said reaching through the driver’s window to take the keys. I wasn’t sure what other business he had going, given he was sunbathing and smoking and there were no cars in the garage save for mine. But I hopped a cab to work, and got back to the garage at five on the dot.

“You’re good to go,” he grinned as he pulled the car out, “listen.” He turned the dial all the way to the back position, the back speakers went all out. He turned the dial to the front speakers, it was true, I was good to go.

As I pulled out the driveway, he pounded on the hood and stood with his fists at his waist like a super hero who had saved the day. What a stud, I thought, as I threw it into second gear down Union Street. Boy, this sound system sounded great, I was glad I hadn’t gone with that stock stuff they sell you with the car – too much money, and not enough power. Ha, I’d got it right. I moved the balance slider over to the left, both front and back left speakers went silent, I moved it to the right, the right went dead. Unbelievable. I hung a U-turn and gunned it back to the garage but the metal gate was already down and handsome was out of sight.

I drove home and parked the car, and Dave came over. I tried to tell him about my trials with my car stereo, but he was too busy pouring over comic books he was pulling out of his Jansport backpack. He didn’t like to be interrupted when he was sorting through new additions to his collection. I reached over and picked one up to show interest. “Hon. I ask you one more time not to touch my things,” he admonished me, “please respect that.” I couldn’t tell what personae he was in. Was he a ten-year old reading comic books? Was he a trauma survivor with serious control issues? Was he a middle-aged West Village Lesbian therapist? All I knew was my head hurt, I would go back to the sound installer in the morning, I went off to bed early so I could get up to be there right when they open.

It was 10 A.M. and the gate was down. 11 came and went, I called into work to say I would be more than my usual late. Johnny finally rolled in around around 11:45. “Hey, babe – how ya doin,” he said as he hopped out of his black car and threw up the gate. “No big deal,” he said, “we were so busy yesterday, I musta got distracted.” There were still no cars in the garage. “Let me make it up to you, whadya say we go out tonight and catch a bite.” The most inept sound system installer in all of Brooklyn, and possibly all of the tri-state area had asked me out on a date.

“I don’t think so,” I said, “just please get it right this time, OK?”

“Anything for you, Babe,” he said, snatching the keys from my hand and pulling me towards him. The guy was incompetent, but cute. Still, I had Dave, my loyal, loving when he wasn’t angry, twelve year old, trauma surviving, black militant, lesbian lawyer boyfriend.

When I finally got into the office there was a message from Dave. “Hon. How many times have I told you not to touch my stuff. I’m pretty sure you moved my action figures. I don’t remember moving them myself, and I have a pen mark where each of them should be. And they’re not on the pen mark. It’s Dave, call me back.”

Ugg. I had given Dave a corner of my apartment to keep some of his things. He had put up shelves to display his many action figures, comic books, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia. While I was doing some light cleaning I had, in fact, touched his action figures. I should have taken a Polaroid of them to put them back just so, but I had screwed up big time, I had removed them from their Bic pen marks on the wood, and all hell had broken loose. Dave would sometimes adopt a white-trash beer drinking personae, and he’d say it like, “All hill is broke loose,” no matter how you said it, there would be hell to pay.

I went back to the sound system garage, Johnny was in the driver’s seat cranking the thing to eleven, smoking a cigarette. “Hey, babe, check it,” he said proudly, “back… front…. Left… right…. loud…. soft… Perrrfect.” It was true. And although he completely screwed up my stereo the first couple of times, he was pretty perfect himself. Over six foot, jet black hair, muscles, face, psychologically simple. “You still wanna hang out tonight,” I said, jumping into the passenger seat. I had never called Dave back about the action figure debacle, I was in hot water already, I figured just go for the gold and go out with the guy that looks like he’s in the road tour of GREASE.

“Let’s just stop back at my place so I can change, K?,” he said, throwing my car into reverse, “I'm all hot 'n' sweaty, we were biz-eee,” he drove us out to some God forsaken no-wheres-land section of Brooklyn.

He unlocked the deadbolt to his basement apartment, and asked me to sit down on his leather couch while he took a shower. There was a giant birdcage with no bird, a huge TV, an orange shag carpet, the leather sofa and mirrored coffee table in front of it. The place was immaculate, Johnny was in the shower, my car was parked outside, I wanted to call Dave, but there was no phone. The place smelled of room deodorizer, or those car freshener trees you hung from rear view mirrors, it was turning my stomach, I suddenly wanted to go home but I didn’t see my car keys, Johnny had never handed them back. I waited for him to come out, he was now in his bedroom changing, I would tell him I had a change of heart.

Suddenly, the room went pitch black, some multi-colored lights came on from above my head that were flashing in time to the disco track that was suddenly pounding around my head from some mysterious source, I hadn’t seen any equipment. Johnny emerged from his bedroom dressed in skin tight briefs, dancing like it was a show. Hands clasped, moving his arms in a wave pattern, flexing his muscles, giving me the back view, then front view, then back again.

“DID I TELL YOU,” he yelled over the music, “BEFORE I WAS A SOUND SYSTEM INSTALLER, I WAS A DANCER AT CHIPPENDALES!” He was mid-routine, I was sure he had seen his fair share of five spots shoved in the top of his Speedos. His chest was waxed, his shoulders were huge, his penis was in the down position, but seemed to be hard, he was reliving his glory days there in the basement apartment in Bumfulk, Brooklyn. “OH YEAH, OH YEAH,” he whisper/screamed over the music, his choreography hardwired into his muscle memory. He was building towards something, some big crescendo, some grand finale, whatever it was, it would be happening inches from my face. He had me pressed against the back of the leather sofa, which upon closer inspection may have been Naugahyde – he had jumped up on the couch so I could get up close and personal with what appeared to be red nylon briefs, but it was hard to tell in the dark room with the multicolored flashing light show.

“I want to go home,” I choked under his gyrating girth, the evening had taken an unfortunate turn.

“YOU WANT WHAT, BABE? YOU WANT THIS?,” he yelled to top the music, which suddenly stopped, he was breathing heavily from the vigorous dance routine, straddling my lap, his huge thighs locking me in. “You want this,” he whispered in the silence before the next disco hit kicked in. I was hungry and scared and wanted to go home and call Dave.

I pushed Johnny off of me, he grabbed both of my hands to pull me up off the sofa, he thought I wanted to dance. “I WANT TO GO HOME,” I repeated, “WHERE’S MY KEYS??,” I yelled after him, he was doing some backwards come hither pony step move, then went into a spin. I felt around for a light switch, but gave up and grabbed my bag of the sofa, and started feeling around the coffee table for my keys. “WHERE YA GOIN BABE? THIS SHOW’S ALL FOR YOU,” The scent of his deodorant was taking over the room, creating a toxic hybrid perfume with the pine air freshener fragrance, I was feeling around the carpet for my keys. “YOU LEAVIN? YOU SURE?,” with that, he theatrically pulled the red nylon fabric away from his stomach and down with his thumbs, revealing a huge penis, two tiny bird’s egg testicles were hanging on for dear life under the wood.

“JOHNNY, WHERE ARE MY KEYS??,” I yelled trying to push past him, he grabbed my wrists.

“WHERE YA GOIN, I THOUGHT WE’D ORDER PIZZA. YOU LIKE PIZZA?,” he was in a slow improvised sway now. I broke free of his hold and felt around and found the light switch. He was standing there naked in the garish white light, music blasting, the red Speedo now taught around his calves. He waddled that way back into the bedroom and turned off the music, returned with the briefs pulled back up, holding my keys. “Do I at least get a kiss,” he said like a spurned boy on a first date, as he handed the keys back to me.

“Jeesh, where’s my purse,” I said, disoriented, my Coach bag was on the floor, I must have dropped it during our forced dance/scuffle. I unlocked the dead bolt, leaving him standing there in the middle of the room naked – he seemed perplexed how his first date strategy had gone so wrong.

I got into my car and just started driving until I found a familiar road that could take me home, I turned the stereo system off when I started the car, and left it off the entire ride home.

When I finally got home, there were two messages. Dave had called, “Hon, I’m sorry I got mad about the action figures. We’ve talked about this before, but I forgive you, and I love you, Hon. Call me back.” There was still 10 minutes before the double header of Seinfeld, he’d still be up, I wanted to hear his voice. Black Dave, white trash Dave, lesbian Dave, any Dave would do.

The other message was from Johnny. “Hey, got your number from your receipt – I wanted to say I had a real good time and if you’re free on Saturday,” I hit the erase button before he could finish, he sounded hopeful and sad and still a little out of breath. He called me the next three nights. That following Saturday night I told Dave I loved him back and asked him to move in the following week. He said yes as he pushed his plate of fried chicken and collard greens towards me, asking me if I might like to take a bite, “Yo, you want try some of dem collard greens,” black Dave inquired. But it sure beat Chippendale’s Johnny any day of the week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I was about to give Jonas a ride home, he’d left his bike back at his place because it had snowed the night before. He had The Office DVD boxed set I had loaned him in one hand, and a substantial black leather and chrome harness in the other. “Want a bag for that,” I asked what I hoped sounded casually, pointing at the more forbidding of the two items. “No. No I don’t,” I had anticipated his matter of fact, non-negotiable response.

I think maybe we can make it into the hall, into the elevator, out of the building without being detected, pressing the lit down button frantically like a mad predator was gaining on me, but it was just my weightlifter hulk of a boyfriend humming mindlessly next to me. The elevator door opened, we had company for the long ride down: the roly-poly gay man from the 5th floor, and my neighbor Paul, who had married Lauren, an almost friend of mine who had a penchant for babbling other people’s business. Jonas entered first, with the ‘clank, clank’ of The Ghost of Christmas Past. I entered after him, pretending that his BDSM ecoutrement was no more noticeable than if he’d been carrying the Arts And Leisure section from The Sunday Times. “Hey, Claud,” Paul said half impressed, half aroused. The meek gay man stood silent, eyes popping and fixed on The Terminator to my right. Introductions were in order, “Paul, this is Jonas,” I said with a lilt, like I was introducing the boy I'd met him at the country fair. They exchanged hellos, Jonas looking straight ahead, not extending a hand. I didn’t know if bikers did’t subscribe to the school of basic common courtesies, or if shaking Paul’s hand would have required him to place the confining leather and stainless accessory into his other hand, which was already occupied with the lighthearted English comedy DVD. Paul mumbled something about he and Lauren heading off to MOMA, never once taking his eyes off my mighty date. Jonas outweighed him almost 3 to 1, and seemed to have Paul considering a first time homosexual encounter. My roly-poly gay neighbor had stopped breathing, and appeared hurt by the fact that I hadn’t extended an introduction his way (I had never learned his name), but was nonetheless getting a good eyeful of Jonas who was winding up his intimidation stare for the 2 block walk to my car in my quaint Brooklyn neighborhood.

The elevator door opened, Jonas thudded out first as usual, giving no thought to me, Paul or Lauren, or the tiny, stout gay man who was clumsily fighting off the closing elevator doors in an effort to keep up. The whole motley bunch made its way up the long ramp to the building’s front door, following Jonas’ lead; his mammoth leather jacket implying the slaughter of at least 4 animals, their fates delivered by Jonas’ own bare hands. Once outside, Jonas shifted his harness to his boxed set hand, taking my small hand into his death grip paw with tenderness. “We should go to MOMA sometime,” he said, wistfully – a small girl on a tricycle had to swerve out of his Frankenstein path, her mother averting her eyes, guiding her child out of harm’s way. I suspected there would be no MOMA in our future, they didn't serve shots of Jack, but Jonas was good times all the same. We grabbed some croissants, a pack of Camels; breakfast of champions for the ride home. Jonas rode shot-gun, quietly staring out at the gray February morning chomping on his chocolate croissant with childlike abandon, the XXL sex shop harness a-tangle at his feet.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It never occurred to me that my boyfriend I’d been with for the last year and a half was homosexual. “The Streisand posters in his bedroom didn’t tip you off,” said my Dad after we broke up, one day later Jeff was engaging in butt play with another boy from the Theater department, the rumor mill had informed me. Apparently my parents knew my boyfriend was gay from the first day I brought him home, all my friends had a suspected it, but Jeff was about the best boyfriend I’d ever had, even to this day. He was very attentive, knew how to take a girl to dinner, insist she have dessert, and pick up the tab. When we were separated by school vacations, he would send me gift packages full of perfume, body and bath oil, and a cute warm scarf or jewelry, all nestled into tissue paper and sealed with a sweet note, the small envelope addressed with my pet name. Jeff was handsome, had a rockin’ body, and was charming as heck, the fact that he was gay fluttered over my head. I had somehow snagged an extra single room in my dorm at B.U., our “love shack”, that we would visit usually 3 times a day where me and my gay boyfriend would fuck like rabbits then stay up all night talking, we were madly in love.

I met him the very first day in the elevator at our dorm, he asked if he could carry a box I was bringing upstairs from my parent’s van. Two days later I broke up with my high school boyfriend I’d left back in Westport over the phone, Jeff was coming on strong and I was a goner. He had pictures in his room of Hanna, a gorgeous blond he had left back in high school, who he claimed was his girlfriend, she was so pretty, it never occurred to me that my real competition were dudes.

Jeff and I broke up after about 16 months, two days later he was having sex with Ron, a guy I had grown up with in the theater department back home, we had found our way to the same college where we both had voice lessons and yoga with Jeff. Soon, Jeff moved on into a cozy relationship with Seth, a good friend of mine, another theater student who had decided to pursue a career as a chef.

3 years later, Jeff and Seth became good couples friends with me and my boyfriend Phil, we spent holidays together, Seth would make the turkey, Phil would steal the wine from the fine restaurant he was working at, the four of us were very happy together, there was one rift between Jeff and Seth, Jeff had never come out to his parents.

Jeff’s parents had adored me, I was the only girl he had ever actually dated. They were the typical nice dysfunctional family from The Main Line outside Philly. Jeff’s mom went by the name, “June Bug,” she had everything ladybug, from pins, to mugs, to needlepoint pillows, Jeff’s dad looked like Ward Cleaver, but with Jeff’s ski jump nose – they were card carrying members of The Gin and Tonic Club. June Bug and Ward would take us to the overpriced 360 rotating bar in Boston where we’d order round after round of G n T’s, the potted plant at my right getting its buzz on due to me emptying drink after drink directly on its roots just to keep up with the party. I was soon invited to stay at their house on The Main Line, June Bug would make us lovely lunches of tuna salad sandwiches, chips, and iced tea, Jeff and I would escape to his tiny room, put on the Peter Frampton, and fuck like mad. The rest of the afternoon would be spent in the pool, or strolling around the neighborhood discussing what we were going to name our kids, or sneaking up to his sister’s room where the kid’s communal bong was kept. Around 3:30 the G n T’s would start flowing, although June Bug and Ward usually wreaked of booze shortly after breakfast was served. The grill would be fired up around 5, and Jeff’s closeted brother would show up with his wife and two kids. Jeff’s brother, Jack was quite flamboyant, owned a thriving florist’s business, Jeff and I would laugh at how he’d fooled everyone – June Bug, Ward, his wife. Jack, or "That Raging Queen,” as Jeff frequently referred to his older brother – had pulled the whole thing off.

That night, after everyone had passed out on too much gin and red meat, Jeff and I took advantage of the placid kidney shaped pool and the full moon and went skinny dipping. He had always been very attentive towards me sexually, but had always steered clear of my breasts. I had him up against the wall of the pool on the shallow end, by breasts floating above the water, I took Jeff’s arms from around my neck, and tried to coax his hands there. He said, “I think I’m going to throw up,” and ran from the pool and into the bushes. The vomiting when faced with my boobs, the Streisand posters, the love for musical comedy, it all started to add up.

I lost touch with Jeff for years, he and Seth had parted ways, Phil and I had done the same, I had heard Jeff had taken up with an older man, another theater enthusiast who was wealthy, they both resided in the rich man’s upper west side apartment, and hopped between that and this fellow’s place in Hawaii, and a little beach house they renovated together on the tip of Montauk. It was rumored that Jeff’s lover was HIV positive, and when Jeff finally got back in touch with me, his lover had passed, and Jeff told me he was HIV positive, and recently diagnosed with AIDS.

I took the long drive out to Montauk, Jeff looked much older, he was on a multiple of “cocktails” for AIDS. He had the companionship of two dacshunds, neither of which were potty trained, Jeff didn’t have to energy to train them, they willy-nilly pee’d throughout the house and in the beds but changing the sheets and following them around with paper towels required less energy than daily walks, he said as I handed my soaked bed sheet to him in the morning. Around noon, Jeff made me lunch, the same tuna salad sandwich and chips June Bug used to make us back at his childhood house on The Main Line. Halfway through my sandwich Jeff took my hand and proposed.

“Please, Claud. It would mean the world to my parents if we got married,” he had never told his parents who he is.

“Jeff, I really want you to be proud of who you are, I’m sure they know,” he put his cloth napkin to his mouth, then used it to wipe the potato chip dust from the table, shaking his head slowly, “no.”

“I don’t have a lot of time here,” he said looking down at his lap, the proposal continued,” if you do this one thing for me, I’ll leave you this place in my will. We can have the lawyers draw up something."

How I hated his parents for hating homosexuals. I hated them for shoving two sons into the closet. I hated them for denying their son his lifestyle, and the fact that they were calling his illness “cancer”. 4 months later, Jeff was gone. I received word that there would be a ceremony honoring his life back there on The Main Line, all of his parents friends would be there, his whole family, and some of Jeff’s friends would be invited as well.

All the friends that made it to Jeff’s lunch were mostly female, one or two if his gay friends were there, but no one too flamboyant – accept Jeff’s brother who of course did the flowers, they were stunning, the G n T’s were flowing, there were scrapbooks at tables that one of his sisters had put together filled with pictures of Jeff and his friends from back in high school, long before Jeff figured out who he really was.

June Bug rushed up to me right as the tea sandwiches were being passed, she pulled me by the arm over to a white cloth covered table where her friends were sitting in lovely Spring cardigans and strands of pearls. “Everyone! THIS is Claudia, Jeff’s girlfriend!” She introduced her friends to me one by one, I smiled, nodded, extended my manicured hand to each saying, “lovely, so nice to meet you,” June Bug’s face was swollen, but beaming.

June Bug, Ward, and Jeff’s next of kin had buried Jeff that morning in a quaint cemetery right outside The Main Line. Buried him in a closet, surrounded by lovely flowers supplied from his brother’s shop, everyone stoic and picture perfect – just the way Jeff would have wanted it.

Friday, November 5, 2010


“If you see him coming towards you at a biker rally, run the other way,” the warning felt familiar, this wasn’t the first biker I had pissed off in the course of penning “claudtalks” but I thought I was done with that chapter in my life.

I had taken a riding course and had written what I thought was a harmless little piece about the weekend called, “Jiggy”. A story about a classmate who I first thought was under the influence of crack cocaine, turned out his skeletal physique and shaky hands were the result of leukemia and its treatment. I had warm feelings towards this guy, he inspired me with his survival against all odds, and his drive to learn to ride and take himself on a ride to explore the rest of his years on the road. One of the side characters was one of my instructors – a surly, Captain Ahab looking character, who was referred to in the piece as “the bad cop”. Hardly an assault on his reputation or effectiveness, the piece was not about him, although his demeanor was worthy of a much more illustrative piece reserved especially for him, I put the experience behind me, took the lessons learned on the road, and wrote a heartwarming piece about one of the classmates who stuck with me long after the weekend was through.

I come to find out that my blogpost is forwarded to the head of the riding school, and that it was interpreted as a signed affidavit of this instructor’s poor bedside manner. It was hard to believe that she’d never experienced his gruff demeanor first hand, his reputation preceded him, I had heard of him through another rider who had told me, “if you get this guy, don’t cry or quit,” he assured me to “stay with it” if I did roll into class to find this notable character – that he was, in fact, a superb instructor; much better than some of the young pretty boys they had teaching at the competitor’s school.

Turns out the head of the school confronts Instructor Ahab, throws anonymity out the window by sending him the actual blogpost with the “bad cop” comments, he now knows exactly who is behind the “complaint” and has full access to records including my home address. This, from the head of the school who’s implied motto is “safety above all else”. Once off the bikes all bets are off, it now seemed.

Now I have a blogpost I am still proud of, an easily angered biker seeing red because of it, seems “Jiggy” has been informed that I called him a “crackhead” on the internet, and I find myself wondering was it all worth it.

I would have to say, “yes!” – until I see Instructor Ahab coming towards me at a biker rally with his lip curled back and his eyes popping out at me from under his bushy brows – at which point I’m left no other choice than to yell out to the heavens, “Please, God – give me the strength to throw a knee right where it counts, run like hell, then write a damned good blogpost when (and if) I make it home.”