May 30, 1993
When I hear Laura’s voice on the phone I feel it physically. In my gut. In my bones. We saw a horrible production of Romeo and Juliet in the basement of a church in Midtown. Juliet looked to be about 30 years old. We checked the playbill and she was the producer. It was a vanity production. It was particularly painful for Laura, a classically-trained actor who can’t find a gig. It made her sad so we left at intermission and drank in a Russian restaurant. She got kind of loud.
The next night I went to the brownstone she shares on the Upper East Side for a party. It was a big deal for me to be invited. I want to be accepted in her world. I hate walking into a party all alone where I don’t know anyone. I feel vulnerable. But Laura buzzed me in, met me in the stairwell and kissed me. I felt a lot better after that.
I was the first one there. In New York, nobody shows up to a party until 11:30. It’s obnoxious. I brought 12 bottles of Dos Equis to endear myself. Her friends were gracious and welcoming. Her roommate, Eleanor, is gorgeous. She’s dating an attorney who is also the landlord. He seems psychotic. I think he uses drugs for more than just recreational purposes. He gives off a bad vibe. How he landed a tomato like Eleanor is a mystery.
At 3:30 we grabbed a couple beers and went up to the roof. It was beautiful out. The city was quiet. I sat on a kitchen chair someone left up there and she straddled me. We kissed for a while. She was wearing a flowered dress with shoulder straps. She reached behind her, unzipped her dress and pulled the straps down. I asked her to come home with me and she said alright. “But,” she said, “I need to tell you something. There’s someone back home I care very much about. David. He may come here for a visit. If he does, I won’t be able to see you. I’m going to tell him about you, too, because I don’t like sneaking around.” She said she couldn’t promise me exclusivity. I was noble and said I understood and appreciated her honesty but I’m wrecked.
We came down off the roof. It was a little after 4:00 a.m. Eleanor and some of her friends were at the kitchen table. We chatted for a bit and left. The fact that Laura left with me in front of all her friends was tremendously gratifying. We got a cab to the Lower East Side.
She brought an atomizer in case she had a cat allergy attack. The previous day, I’d spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning the apartment and kept the cats out of my bedroom, which they did not like one bit. There was much complaining on the other side of the door.
It was both glorious and horrible. We fell into bed and intertwined but I was unable to deliver the goods. We’d been drinking for quite some time and she attributed it to alcohol but I can assure you it had nothing to do with Dos Equis and everything to do with David. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m not in this recreationally, like she is.
We laid in bed for hours alternately kissing and talking. At one point I was sitting in the director’s chair opposite the bed and the morning’s first light started to seep through the blinds. I could barely see her outline. The light was magic. It spilled across her body, a slow reveal as the sun rose. Her hair flowed across my pillow. It’s exactly the kind of thing that fills the Met with great art.
We fell asleep at 7:30. I woke up first around 11:00 and watched her sleep. She is as pretty in the morning as I am ugly. She woke up and I thought she’d leave straight away but we stayed in bed for a while. She pressed her body against mine. I made some coffee. We sat for a couple hours and talked. She commented how nice it was; just sitting and talking.
She left her atomizer and leather jacket here, so I think she’ll be back. But I’m worried. You can’t un-ring a bell.
She got a job at Baby Gap.
Margaret called. She wants to know why I haven’t called Samantha, the blind date she set me up with a couple weeks ago. Is she kidding?
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put me together again.
I came into work last week and saw this shadow on the blinds.
It’s a boy! Or a girl. Either way, it’ll peck your eyes out.
43rd Street Parking Garage
* * *
Chrysler Building; midday/evening
That little guy has some character!
Soulful eyes. Nice claws.
Laura. Thanks for sharing that, too.
You’re welcome. About as enjoyable to relive as a root canal without anaesthetic.
Drama. You know you could fictionalization your life readily…it’s already has strong form in the language….gripping narratives….changing the names to protect the guilty is almost all that’s required.
Peddle your life like a few of your literary heroes, make some dough and you won’t even have to go on Oprah admitting you lied like Mr. Frey had to. You may have to make up a different ending how ever. Getting the girl and settling in the NJ ‘burbs might be the finale you need. Although…come to think if it even Lou Reed had a NJ ‘burb period….
Last year I bundled a whole bunch of these together, paid and editor to comment and sent them off to about a half dozen or so literary agents and all I got back was crickets. I think these things are fine as stand-alone pieces. Amusing and all. But they lose their charm en masse. I didn’t send anything else out because I am the type that is easily discouraged and lacking in ambition, which is how I wound up behind a desk at a dull job. That’ll teach me.
All good wishes to you and your lovely bride.
I hear ya. Serialization is quite charming indeed. I still think there’s a larger outlet for your style and grace.
whoops. “…NJ ‘burbs might NOT be the finale…”. That makes the impending “Although” make more sense.
It wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t sold the place in Manhattan. That was the plan. The plan now lies in ashes at my feet.
Lou Reed, man…his mid-career (?) the Blue Face emerged out of NJ ‘burb living. Returning to NYC like a Phoenix (or a hawk?) is an option!
Hawk Falcon. Details details…
A fella can dream, can’t he? I’ve often told my bride if we had a pied-à-terre in town I’d finally have to stop complaining because my life would be perfect.
Oh…and why do keep giving us al the bird? 😉
A falcon a day keeps the rodents away. And the pigeons.
David. Was he English? I loathe him already.
David didn’t do anything wrong. Nobody did. It was just ONE OF THOSE THINGS. It’s not like she was creeping around behind everyone’s back. It made me respect her all the more.
Apologies, I am in a mood. Your piece is so beautifully written, and poignant…. I am in a mood where I want to find a villain to be mean to 🙂
Oooh! Thank you for saying that! Nicest thing I’ll hear all day. If this is you in a bad mood I’d like to buy you a cocktail when you’re in a good mood.
It’s a date!
Have a great day, my fellow Mark. Your September sights in the city are a joy up here in Syracuse, for sure. City birds have always enthralled you, I know from persistent reading here.
Thanks, pal. It’s just so freakish for me too look out my office window and see both the Empire State Building and this beautiful bird of prey. It never gets old.
Maybe I should have read this at night instead of in the morning. With a nightcap and soft lighting. 😄
And an old Chuck Mangione album on in there background. Great fun to reminisce now but wasn’t too fun at the time.
It’s 3 am here. I don’t think reading this will send me back to sleep…
Good Lord. I haven’t seen 3 a.m. in years. When do you sleep? Do you have an international internal clock?
I agree with Carrie — to be read in soft lighting, with a nice glass of wine. Chuck too. Beautiful.
And I love your little falcon. How perfect to picture a raptor when your heart is torn out on the page!
Is it too softcore? A little too early-days-of-cable? I’m sure that wasn’t my intent 20+ years ago. Just a damaged boy who couldn’t afford a therapist.
Those birds are endlessly fascinating. Probably the only thing that makes coming into work worthwhile. That and a paycheck.
Love this piece. You’re right, moments like those are what art is made of. And there’s a good bit of art in the way you tell it.
Thanks, pal. Really nice of you to say that. I was such a young romantic. So damaged. So full of hope. I doubt I could come up with something like that now. Too old. Too jaded. Heart of stone.
I agree, this one hit a bull’s eye for me. The scene looking at her asleep: there’s something “sparing” about the phrasing etc. that’s really special, that shows a lot with just a little bit of phrasing. It feels like we’re all trying to figure that out and have our sometimes success with it, and he just nailed it right here.
Thanks, tons. I go for sparsity. I bang out these posts and then go back to the top and cut, cut, cut. Even then, I feel there’s still a lot of fat to trim but I’m busy and I have things to do, like watch baseball or nap.
I was shaking my head in agreement at until you said it was about David. For me it definitely would have been the booze and also the hour. But then I probably would have left the party at 1:30am because I’d have known in advance that my body would let me down. I’d have been better off in those days making breakfast dates. – Marty
I don’t make up the news I just report it. Being told there was someone else wrecked everything. And for good. I wish I hadn’t cared as much or wish I could’ve taken a more cavalier approach but you can’t control these things. Love laughs at a king. Kings don’t mean a thing.
As Walt said, and I’d like to say I’m unbiased in saying it, that’s a piece of art you made right there, start to finish. And I was glad, for the purposes of what you wrote, you didn’t put too much of the ‘external’ art in the museum photos etc. into this one, but let it stand on its own…or aside those cool photos. Good combo. You really have something and I know you don’t need to hear me saying that, but I hate to see good shit like yours go sort of unused or unnoticed. That’s poor diction but hope the sentiment travels. And I suppose it was used and noticed in a sense, but there should be more so. Surely you must be touching up these journal entries because they seem to be improving.
Sometimes, I look at these journals and wonder if I could write anything like this today. These are the hashings of a young romantic. I don’t have this kind of material anymore so it’s beyond my ken. I kept the art out because it’s already pushing +/- 750 words and, really, enough is enough.
I’ve come to feel that my shit is not going unused or unnoticed. I post it here. People come and comment. They seem to enjoy it. I’ve found a kind-of satisfaction in that, although the pay is terrible!
I absolutely conduct a clean-up before I hit ‘post.’ The spelling is terrible. The punctuation is worse. I might throw in a flowery word or two but these are by and large as they appear on the printed page (see binders above).
Well good, I’ve thought similar on the idea of “unused or unnoticed,” suppose that’s not true if you have this kind of perspective, and that’s good. Hence the pay shouldn’t matter.
Oh, it matters. Springsteen said, “You have to learn to live with what you can’t rise above.”
It sounds like you’ve learned, so amen to that! I should follow suit, but I’m not there yet.
Sometime, I would just like to read your story. Your writing is very human, very relatable. Too bad you didn’t hear back from the editor types, but you have lots of appreciation here.
Wonderful falcon photo.
What do you mean sometime!? You ARE reading my story! Thanks for your kind words. A compliment at work is meaningless to me. I don’t care about what I produce there. A compliment here can improve my mood for days.
She flew away just moments after I opened the blinds. It’s a good thing I had my camera ready and she announced her arrival via the shadow.
Reblogged this on Rita Roland and commented:
loved to read this tale … maybe, because I woke up in Toronto and Montreal this summer … – found on exileonpainstreet.com
Thanks for the reblog. MUCH appreciated. I love Toronto. I spent some time there and in Kitchener. Do you know where that is?
that still Ontario I guess? this summer was my 3rd visit to Canada. Toronto and then up to Quebec …
“How he landed a tomato like Eleanor…” Is that supposed to be a compliment being referred to as a tomato? Heh!
Here- let me show you my tits but let me tell you about David at the same time… Clever girl.
Beautiful photos, my lovely.
Yes. Being a tomato is a good thing. You’re a tomato.
While I question her timing, I appreciate her honesty. She didn’t play games or string people along. You have to admire that. And she did have killer tits. You could tell she was proud.
Well thank you! Can I be an “on the vine, lucious tomato” or is that pushing it? If you have killer tits you can pretty much get away with anything.
Killer tits for a girl. A fat wallet for a guy. Each is the golden key to any door.
Did you ever meet David? I doubt Laura meant that much to him if was content to let her sleep around.
No. We never met, thank God. I’m not even sure he ever visited. And I seriously doubt he was happy about her dalliances. But she ran her own show, to her credit.
David the Boner Killer!!! You sure were a sensitive one, i’d have been giggling thinking how Davey ain’t here but i am so i’m gonna git while the gittin’s good… and oddly enough for the gigantic amounts of booze and drugs i imbibed i always produced the wood, sometimes it would have been better had i not but as they say, dog will hunt… another fine trip into the journals sir.
David wasn’t the boner killer. *I* was the bone killer. I had very little game with the ladies and not much in the self esteem department. All it took was the mere suggestion of a threat to shut me down. I read my journal further and one of my friends, Bonnie, slapped me aside my head and told me he was THERE while I was HERE. Didn’t matter.
“How he landed a tomato like Eleanor is a mystery.” Tomato? TOMATO?!?!?! Very film noir…
That’s how we talked back in ’93, angel.
This journal entry is your best writing ever. It was a roller coaster ride for me. UES party, rooftop kissing, then a depressing ride into the LES slum. What a bone killer. Then it’s up again, with early morning naked cuddling. The woman of your dreams, in your bed and not in a hurry to leave!
It took a lot of guts to post this one. Truly an EXILE ON PAIN STREET. Thanks for sharing. Yes, I would keep these journals away from the daughters.
That’s high praise so early in the morning. Thanks, Tom. Writing it was like reliving it. Not much fun. It sent me on an internet search that I had no business making. Things that happen so many years ago are best forgotten but our brains aren’t wired that way, are they? I wonder if she would even remember any of this? Probably not in such great detail.
“Tomato.” A regular Raymond Chandler, you are.
This stuff is like an open wound.
One of the great things about reading your posts a day or so later is reading all the comments. Your readers give good comment.
I think ‘tamata’ would’ve been more Chandler-esque.
I have a small but vocal readership. Many, MANY, of the conversations end up being more amusing than the actual post itself.
And not for nothing, it still feels like an open wound. Still.
Love the chrysler building one of my favs – used to be opposite often back in the day when I used to frequent 42nd street often. Sadly my company never took offices there. I’ve read that they are vacating the 42nd street offices too… when I was working there they were a celebration of the late 60s having seemingly never had any modernisation done to them… now that’s all too expensive so they up sticks and go elsewhere to rented accommodation, no doubt cleaning more profit on the real estate deal in mid town Manhattan than many weeks of real mission work can achieve.
It’s one of my favs, too. How can you not love it? Have you been inside? The lobby is spectacular. It’s festooned with art deco flourishes. The elevator interiors are decorated with a half dozen types of wood and are lovingly maintained. I hate to make comparisons but buildings today are cold.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that fills the Met with great art.” You have both a discerning eye and a discerning voice, my dear.
Wowza. Thanks! Only someone who’s out of their minds in love can come up with lines like that. It’s a young man’s game. Not sure I could pull it off now.
Oh God, that announcement about David would have ruined me too Exile. If someone was two-timing me, I’d rather not know.
Well, she was being honest. I certainly can’t fault her for that. Plus, we were in our 20s! Who’s exclusive then?
It must be so hard sometimes being a young man. I’m sure you dealt with it with grace and she clearly enjoyed the experience.
With regard to the ageing Juliet – back in my first life I saw Fonteyn and Nureyev dance Romeo and Juliet in New York. They soared and plummeted like a couple of birds and he looked the elder. She must have been 40 plus but he hauled her back to girl-hood and it was magical for both of them.
Being a young man is as difficult as it is fun. Being older isn’t as upsetting but it’s a lot less fun, too.
That’s why I thought being a writer would be the ultimate profession. You’re never too old. You can type right into your grave.
You have lived, loved, loved, lived, wept. Do you think the fun of young relationships is in the risk, or just the newness? I’m watching the dance of a newly minted couple at the moment, he’s 72, she’s 65, they live a hundred or so miles apart and are in a tiz about what to do about that distance. It looks half fun, half agony…
Fantastic shot of the chick, and it really is the cutest thing.