Friday, August 24, 2012


I went to meet my honey out at a pub in Stroudsburg, NY. I decided to leave my bike at home and drive, we planned to grab a cozy booth, have a big lunch, a beer, and ride on his bike along some back roads down to the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon out on his boat.I waited for him on the front porch of the pub, we kissed hello, went in, and the hostess led us to a remote booth in a back corner of the wood and brass restaurant. As the waitress brought our first round of cold draft beers, the hostess seated a man and a woman behind us. She was a seen-better-days blond. Hard to pinpoint her age, but her ravaged white blond hair was thin and desperately trying to reach her waist. Her too-tight blouse was straining across her missile tit bra, circa 1963. He was an unfortunate looking lackluster man, probably early 60’s in an unflattering shade of grey/blue, revealing a sad pair of deflated man-boobs. It was hard to tell if it was a date, an interview, or possibly a hybrid of the the two. I only noticed these details after we had paid our check, I had to get a visual on the conversation I had just overheard.Jim, my man, had just finished telling me yet another hard-to-conceive story from his childhood. His Dad was a retired Marine who had decided to raise his family in about the worst area of Brooklyn imaginable. Even as the drug dealers, addicts, and prostitutes had taken over the streets, he held fast to his territory like it was Custer’s Last Stand. His brother had left the block many years ago and bought a house upstate, by a lake, he had told Jim’s dad about an inexpensive house that had become available right up the dirt road, but Custer wouldn’t hear of it. Although they would have to sweep the sidewalk of needles and condoms before the grandkids would come down to play, Jim’s dad held his ground. Cops used to question Jimmy as he walked down his block, yelling at the young boy from the car window, “hey, kid!! watcha doin’ over here, it’s dangerous, go the heck home!!” But he was home. The local news had come to interview the last of the holdouts on the block, after a couple of the homes were burned to the ground by pimps or dealers in some payback deal. Jimmy described coming home from school and turning on the TV. He told me how excited he was, his Dad yelling at the reporter, “I’m nevah leavin’, WE was here first, this is OURS (probably referring to his Irish heritage), this is OUR neighborhood,” he was now talking to the camera, and the Puerto Ricans and Cubans who had taken over, his arm outstretched, and pointing down towards the sidewalk, violently delivering the last few rounds of bullets into the imagined scum bag’s body with an invisible firearm. Jimmy sat across from me, mirroring his father’s murderous mime from the 5 o’clock news, with a mixture of pride and disbelief, although it had occurred almost 40 years before.Jim had a million stories like these, and they just kept coming. Charming, horrifying vignettes from his boyhood from the west side of Sunset Park. He was a great storyteller, a fine mimic, I loved to hear Jim talk in a car, or in a bar, I especially loved hearing his tales echo from deep inside him as he would recount another episode with my head pressed against his chest in the wee hours of the morning. These stories explained a lot about his deeply embedded anger and hurt, and I loved how he fluctuated from being “stuck” in all that emotion, and the next minute being full of joie de vivre as he narrated his recipes as he chef-ed around my kitchen, or as he would playfully look back at me with a wink, as he captained us out into the middle of the lake, or led me onto more and more beautiful adventures on our bikes in Upstate New York.“I love complicated men,” I told him, and it was true. I had a fascination and passion for men who had survived problematic childhoods. Maybe it was because I had grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth on the pristine wooded streets of Westport, Connecticut and never had to work too hard for anything; maybe it was a simple case of bad boy complex; or simply because I was just plain fucked up - but I had accepted a long time ago that this was who I am, and what I love, and I had settled on Jim. And as I told him, “I love complicated men,” Jim looked into my eyes suspiciously, like was this a compliment, or an insult, but he quickly resigned himself that it was what it was and took another gulp from his sweaty mug of brew. It was then in that gulp of silence between us, that I heard the woman in the shiny polyester date/interview blouse chatter to her man friend, “I just LOOOVE complicated men!!” I couldn’t quite believe my ears. I looked behind me, her “complicated” man looked dully towards her, he wasn’t trying to decipher her comment, he simply waited for her noise to stop as he went on talking about some sign that a neighbor had put up on his street corner, and was trying to have removed by attending a city council meeting. She went on, “I could listen to your stories all day,” she cood, the plagiarist continued. I had said this to Jimmy just moments before, saying it in all sincerity - little did I know that I had been acting as Cyrano to the unfortunate woman sitting within earshot just on the other side of the pine back of the booth that we shared.I told Jimmy what I had just overheard, he shook his head and closed his eyes like he was recalling being molested as a child. I stopped providing the woman material at this point, now that I was aware that she had one ear on me and one eye on her date/prospective employer. But now she was on her own. “I LOOVE intelligent men,” she told him. He didn’t respond, so she just kept saying it, “I just LOOOVE intelligent men,” a second, then a third time, until she got the response she wanted as he dully told her, “and I like intelligent women.” “Why THANK you,” she said with an insipid giggle, “I ‘ppreciate that,” she snapped back. Jim still had his rape recollection face on and said, “let’s get the hell out of here, it’s a beautiful day out there. She’s gonna suck his dick in the parking lot, and it’s not going to get her the job or a second date.” The man sure had a way with words, I could listen to him talk all day. We got the check, hopped on the bike and rode down to the lake where we spent the rest of that beautiful late August afternoon. I wondered how the lunch ended between the interview/couple. Had she swallowed the man’s penis for dessert in the parking lot, as Jim had predicted; her charms beyond that seemed limited. But enough of that, I thought, as I rubbed Jimmy’s back as he steered us into the welcome silence of the vast placid lake.