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Doris, a recipient of direct deposit, was fit to be tied Friday morning. Upon calling into her bank in the wee hours of the morning, just after having finished what must have been less than a shot or two of rum in a big bottle that was supposed to last all week, my friend appeared haggard, angry and ready to “bust some ass”. I said good morning to her and that’s when it all came flying out at me, as if I were some kind of therapist, just because I’m white.

“That son of a bitch!” was all she said. I didn’t even have to ask. I feared what the amount of my own paycheck might be. Following the loss of a major contract for one of our paycheck companies, the general manager “had to” cut the rate of pay for on-demand jobs. On Demand is a side of the business that Doris works like a hooker on 42nd Street. It is a service of the delivery industry that offers the picking up a package from one New York City address and delivering it to another, all within a time frame of an hour or so. Before there was e-mail, the city was filled with thousands upon thousands of messengers on bikes who did this type of service. Following September 11th, and new screenings that were put into effect along with mankind’s obsession with digital media, the job became harder and harder. One cannot chain up a bike as easily and these screenings often take upwards of twenty minutes or so. Unlike with paychecks, where couriers deliver to a certain NYC neighborhood, to the same customers on the same day of every week, on demand is a whole new game—there is always two new faces that need ass kissings, unlike with paychecks where our customers already know us. On Demand is a bitch, but Doris, being a veteran of the place, has clout. She worked closely with the dispatcher and weeded out on demand jobs that were within walking distance of the warehouse, and those jobs that tended to pay more, for whatever reason. Some on demand jobs offer just $3.00 a delivery, while others pay upwards of $20. It seemed the only logical explanation was some clients had to pay more than others. No one ever understood the reasoning behind these rates, but in any case, couriers were no longer going to receive those big jobs that Doris once hogged all for herself. 

In addition to her monopoly on On- Demand, Doris has a paycheck route—an area within a ten block radius of the warehouse. Having done this job for so long, she knows how to sneak inside of NYC buildings, often using freight entrances, long before the massive 9 am rush. The black woman with bleached blonde hair has been a foot messenger for nearly a decade now. Every doorman along her route knows her well. Prior to yesterday, she was often back at the warehouse by 11:00 am, when most couriers are just getting started on their routes, further away from the area that Doris has on lock down. She was ready to take on more on-demand jobs by 11:00, which at one time, paid upwards of $15 a pop. Now Steve cut the rate and Doris was fit to be tied.

“The mother fucker put me deeper and deeper down in the hole, chop, chop, cut, cut, here and there, saving every damned dime for himself just so he can lose it on those fucking horses. I don’t know what this Walmart world is coming to. I think one day, man is going to be gone and the fucking dinosaurs are going to make a comeback” she said to me on her way out of the job at 8 am, sharply.

Often I leave with her and we smoke cigarettes together on our way to Seventh Avenue. My paycheck route is that way, just East of Doris’s. I was running late Friday morning. I had a delivery due at 7:30 am at a charity that pays a premium rate to have their check delivered by 7:30 am, but the company I work for, a non-charity, does not pay me the on demand rate for it. A mere dollar fifty is all I make. It typically comes every other Thursday, but a correction came in yesterday, or perhaps it was a bonus check that came, so I had to skip my ass on over to 11th Avenue and 26th Street just after I had seen that terrible look upon Doris’s face that I know all so well.

I still hadn’t seen Steve to get my own check. I didn’t have time to walk with Doris, knowing she likes to get a head start on the snooty people who hog elevator space along her route. I could tell she needed to get out of there before she went off on Steve’s ass.

“I don’t know how you do what you do, Doris,” I said, as she headed out the door with a Newport hanging from her lips, that despite the years and all that bad weather are still as pretty as a rose. I noticed her hair has already started to grow back in; those black roots are in demand of another bleaching. She bleached and shaved it just last week. She gave herself another make-over after suffering from a terrible cold and missing a few days of work due to a slight chill she caught back in February.

“My daughter cut my hair and cut out that cold right out of me. It feels so good,” she said the day before she bleached it again. I guess summer is coming. I wondered why she hadn’t bleached or cut it all winter, but there they were, those black roots on that blonde head again. Her hair is so short, shaved almost, yet she keeps it blonde, constantly.

“I pray a lot,” Doris remarked after I noted that I did not know how she does what she does. She held her much younger looking face and head slightly higher and smiled at me with her bad teeth. She had at least thirty pounds of paychecks hanging from her back in a backpack, and other white envelopes were stuffed in a plastic bag that she held in the hand that wasn’t going to hold the Newport Doris was just about to smoke.

Already, I knew, she had a plan to make more money somehow in the highly competitive messenger industry.

James rents a room near Times Square. He shares space with what James describes as “A pretty Black girl with a slamin’ body. She sits with me on my bed in her nightgown, my God! I don’t know what to say to her, so I sent her a text thanking her. She responded, ‘You’re welcome’ and she came and sat back down on my bed and we watched a movie together.”

“What about your girlfriend?” I asked. I already knew James, my co-worker, has a girlfriend who he loves dearly, but had to move out from. “I couldn’t sand all her kids,” he explained. I laughed, realizing there is little difference between gay and straight people. I’m not out at work, but who needs to be? Especially since we all live the same dramas with different characters.

I love chatting with James at work. We share the same space in the morning. James once told African Americans at work not to work next to him because the place to his right was mine, and only Mike Day, a former heroin addict could work on his left. “We have a nice little mixed community over here. We even got white people. Don’t bring your shit over here. You’ve been sorting your paychecks in that same spot for five years now.” That was when I wanted to be friends with James. I make little conversation with others in the morning before I head out on my route. I’m not sure if it’s safe to be out at work and who really wants to be known as the fag anyway?

James is a little older that I am and has hit fifty already. His teeth are not the best but he has not a single gray hair on his head. We often laugh at our own bad teeth and how they got that way. The pretty black guys with perfect teeth don’t get our humor and must wonder why we hit it off so well. “I was eating a peanut one time and it went down a hole I have in my tooth. It hurt like hell. Thought I’d die for a minute, but I popped it out with my tongue and chewed it on the other side. The shit was good.” James told me as he imitated chomping on a peanut in his mouth. I laughed like hell.

Not knowing what advice to give to my friend James in regards to his lust for his roommate, I simply shared a story:

“When I was in the Army, I had a Black section chief,” I said to James. Mike Day looked up from a stack of checks he was sorting and peered at me over a pair of glasses from the Dollar Store and waited to hear what I had to say about my Black boss. “You’ve done everything,” James reminded me. “You was in the Army…”

“We were on a field training exercise in the woods of Germany. I hadn’t had a bath in weeks. Sgt. Grier somehow met this German chick who lived near to where we were camping. He asked me if I wanted to come with him over to her house. Hell, I needed a bath and agreed. When we got there, it turned out, they wanted me in a threesome.”

Mike Day, the old seventy-something ex-junkie blinked and pondered the meaning of why I told James that story.

“Oh, hell. I’ve had orgies,” James insisted. “Two men with one women, three woman two men; whole gangs of us just fuckin’.”

“I’ve never done anything like that,” Mike Day said.

“I couldn’t do it with them,” I explained. “I was still a virgin and didn’t want my first time to be like that. But I’ve certainly made up for lost time. It’s not the same when you are old. It’s like you’ve done everything and nothing is a thrill. It’s sometimes best to just sit next to someone on a bed.”

 “I don’t know,” James said, breaking into my story, “She gets along with my girlfriend. They are real close and stuff…”

“They’ll set you up,” I insisted. “Bitches are like that, they’ll set you up, be careful, James.”

Mike Day shook his head.

An obese man driving an electric wheelchair in eight inches of melting snow got stuck on Delancey Street last Friday. Two girls were trying to push the man over the icy curb, but the wheelchair seemed more designed for zipping down polished aisles of Walmart, not for joyriding along slick city sidewalks.

I was carrying a rather light load of paychecks and was headed for a bar called The Delancey located at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. I knew the bar was closed. I typically slide the business’s checks under a steel door as I head East on the busy stretch of sidewalk. I felt obligated to lend the girls a hand pushing the man. Cars turn at the busy intersection, exiting the bridge and it seemed inevitable the man in the wheelchair would be struck by a vehicle, or worse yet, the girls would be crippled as well.

The fat man jiggled a joystick on the arm of the wheelchair and seemed to enjoy having such pretty princesses fuss over him. I shoved the check I was carrying in a newspaper boy bag strapped over my right shoulder. As I bent over to lift the foot of the chair, the man insisted that he no longer needed help and instead, jiggled the little black control knob and backed further onto the Street. He spun slowly to a corner where he insisted he could make it alone.

The girls seemed somewhat upset that the man would not allow me to help and must have wondered if he really needed assistance. The three of us watched in delight as his wheels spun in a pile of melting slush in the heart of oncoming traffic. Before I could shout, “I hope your fat ass sits there all day”, he got up, walked behind his chair, and pushed it up the embankment. His fat ass and that chair moved as quickly as the cold breeze blowing off the East River and across our cold little fingers. He didn’t glance back to thank any of us skinny bitches who should have done the New York thing and not what we thought was the right thing.

There are so many perverts in this town. Even men in wheelchairs don’t want queens carrying bags bending over at their crotch, even if it is to lift them a little. I felt bad for cock blocking the seedy bastard.

Walking away from the rising sun beaming down 29th Street, I glanced to where my eyesight is best—far away. On a hillside across the Hudson River, I noticed, clear as crystal, the huge stone monastery located just blocks away from my apartment in Union City, NJ.

It was another Friday morning on the job as a messenger. I was on my way to 11th Avenue and 44th Street. It is a long walk, especially on cold mornings when the sun is at my back. I carried two heavy leather bags stuffed with union member paychecks. They hardly fit inside my black backpack.

Public transportation is available if I shell out the $2.50, but waiting for a subway and a bus would take more than an hour and I get paid just $1.50 for the single delivery. The silence along the Westside highway, free from pedestrians chatting on their phones, gives me time to say prayers if I wish, or simply look off into the distance and wonder why those men spent so much time praying and if it really did any good.

I prefer to walk in New York as a messenger, anyway. I don’t like others rubbing up against me on mass transit. These solitary walks bring the world into perspective and still my mind in bliss. I understand how it was Jesus sensed a bleeding woman touch his garment. Ever since working as a messenger, I have developed what I believe is sight from what others call a Third Eye, but what I see as simply heaven. When I walk I see what I would never have noticed underground. When I spotted the monastery, I caught a chill, as if some ancient prayer given by some chanting monk found its way across the Hudson nearly a century later.

I pass Saint Patrick’s Cathedral every other Tuesday morning when I deliver to Donald Trump’s business on 56th Street. Never to I “feel” anything there. Often I choose to spit on the sidewalk just to prove I’m still human and not yet a saint, delivering these fucking envelopes for mere pennies!

The monastery, named in honor of the Archangel, Michael, stood empty in the distance, I felt something, like the sun had somehow warmed my back through the heavy backpack.

It was then I remembered I stood on the stone steps of the church the day my unemployment benefits had ended and I asked that if the soul of any of the monks were still around to help me.

And he did. I felt that and saw it through my third eye on Friday.

Several customers along my paycheck route have tried to compliment me, stating that I look like John Malkovich.”

“That dude is bald,” I replied to Dolly, a woman who works at a real estate management company that receives more than 60 thick envelopes every week. The firm gave me another $50 check made out to “cash” again this Christmas. I’d rather be called Cash than John. Dolly was the first to tell me I look like Malkovich—several years ago when I started this gig, back when I made Dolly sign every line on my paper manifest that belonged to New Bedford. It was only after I received my second $50 tip from New Bedford last Christmas that I decided Dolly had only to sign once, and not twenty or so times each week. I now make a hand-written notation in one of the fifty or so New Bedford spreadsheet boxes, indicating exactly how many paychecks I delivered on a specific day and tell her, just sign there and stop reading the names of my famous clients on the other pages of the manifest where New Bedford appeared. I once put little ‘x’s next to where she needed to sign, a task that took up too much time each morning when I went through my batches of several hundred checks. “Oh look, the Spanish Theater on 27th Street. I’ve been there,” she claimed, “and oh, there is Russell Simmons and Donald Trump. Geeze!” Dolly exclaimed handing me back my papers.

I’m up in New Bedford almost every day, delivering three or so more paychecks that Dolly did not submit with her big batch that comes on Wednesday. Although I was first taken back by Dolly’s John Malkovich reference, I realized she was a big fan, perhaps of me as well. The short Latina woman is simply adorable, and despite our almost daily interaction, she maintains a certain professionalism between us that enables me to subliminally say to her, “Hurry up and sign my paper missy. I got a million more stops to make today.”

Both Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Thursday in 2014. Checks normally delivered on Thursday went out on Wednesday. Dolly’s big batch came on Tuesday; thank heavenly angels that sing! I carried nearly 200 paper checks on New Year’s Eve and had more than 80 individual stops to make. If it were a Dolly/ John Malkovich day, I never would have finished on time.

One of the last stops on my thick paper manifest that windy Christmas Eve was on Madison Street. Having never been on Madison Street, and having made the mistake of attempting to deliver this new package in my batch to 176 Madison Avenue earlier that morning and wasting nearly a half hour to do so, I found myself walking up to the door of 176 Madison Street at 4:30 pm. I had just delivered to my playwright friend, Karimah on Henry Street and had to ask her where Madison Street was. She pointed over her shoulder through a window next to her desk where I could see massive housing complexes. “I can take you up through the church and let you out that door– a short cut,” she promised.” I knew that if I took Karimah up on her offer, we’d spend a half hour discussing her most recent work “Accept the Except” which I saw a few weeks ago.

Feeling like Santa in a rush, but with no Rudolph, I was glad that everyone who needed their paycheck to go Christmas shopping had what they needed at least one hour before Macy’s closed. I took a deep breath of pride, relieved to have made it to most of my customers before 5:00. Despite my desperate need to be discovered by an actor or by someone of importance like Karimah, I ran from the New Federal Theatre and made my way to Madison Street where my last delivery of the day was. The envelope was addressed to a tax firm.

Although a window on the second floor of 176 Madison Street promised Rapid Refunds, the place appeared dark and there was no door leading to the tax office window on the second floor. The place reminded me of an East Village clairvoyant storefront that promises everything from crystal healings to chackra kahn adjusting. One Seventy Six is a residential building. I asked two Latin men how one would gain access to that tax office.

“Oh, ya have ta go through the barber shop, papi. It’s in the back, but they are closed.”

“Do you think someone at the barber shop will sign for this package?”

I quickly entered the shop where a short, but big dick swinging rican was busy doing line-ups and such on the head of some fat chino who looked like he thought he was friends with Jay Z. How did I know such things about people I’ve never spoken to? I don’t know, I just do. It’s like that when you look famous.

“Hello. I have a delivery for the tax firm. Would it be possible to leave it with you?” I asked, never again wanting to come to this little hidden ghetto of the Lower East Side, having to carry my little dolly down a flight of cement stairs.

The sexy motha fucka grabbed the check in the same hand that was holding clippers. “Oh, sure. It’s addressed to Freddie. Hey do you want a haircut? We really do a good job here, and your shit is all jacked up. He looks like that dude from the Fifth Element.” Everyone in the shop laughed. So did the fat guy with his double chin buried in a hairy chest that I should not have had to look at on Christmas Eve. It was so cold and why wasn’t he wearing one of those plastic bibs? The barber was right, though. My hair must have been all matted down at that point and not sticking up like Bart Simpson’s like it does in the morning before I put up the hood on my hoodie.

“I cut it myself.” I bragged. “I just cut off the greys every week. I really don’t care what I look like anymore. When I was your age, it was important. Now it’s not.” I stated while turning to leave the place. I wanted to show him the North Face tag on my ghetto looking coat.

“Hey, wait a minute. You look just like that actor dude..”

“John Malkovich?” I asked.

“Fuck, yes.”

“Now that’s one ugly mother fucker,” I said. “Maybe I could get a job as his stunt double or something.”

“That’d work. Do car crashes and shit.”

Inner Silence

So much has changed with my writing style since my incarceration in a psychiatric ward. Wearing a little white gown with no underwear beneath, I carried a black notebook and filled it with many deciphered words that today, I can no longer interpret. I walked the hallways of the hospital all night long with pens stuck behind each ear, trying to ease an unbearable pain that seemed to be crushing me from within. Writing helped to stop what psychiatrists call “racing thoughts”. It was a tool I used to control my mind’s inability to stop thinking about everything.

One cannot imagine how fearful the state of racing thoughts is. It is terrible not to be able to shut worry down. Writing saved me from “intrusive thoughts” too—imaginings of the mind that seem placed there by an outside force, that I remain convinced was the CIA trying to steal my gift for gab on paper.

The power of the pen put an end to the horror of not harnessing my mind’s never ending run-on sentence, although a constant sadness has plagued me since the day of that great missing period. I came to an understanding with myself that I would have that pain of crushing sadness until I died, but found a strange happiness within, thanks mainly to the fact that all those worries had eased when I wrote.

Medication was not an option. While on anti-psychotics, I lost all desire to write, and sensed my soul had died. Perhaps it had and what brought it back was this gift.

Physical labor has killed my unending need to write, though. Writing had become like a racing thought too, only thoughts were somehow captured and not permitted run amuck. I work as a messenger and walk more than 10 miles a day, now. How the hell could I possibly write? I work on the weekends, cleaning multiple buildings. The Mexicans that live here look at me like I am crazy—if they only knew! None of them want the job of taking out the trash and cleaning up after others. It takes as certain character to be a porter and a writer.

Perhaps I have reached some level of enlightenment as an artist and don’t suffer from schizophrenia, like was once written of me. There is no longer a need to think, or even write like I have done constantly for the past ten years. There is a state of tranquility that comes over me as I walk all day, or sweep on the weekends. It’s a miracle of sorts, like a well written peace.

Gay Pie Crust

Frozen pie crusts are not flaky and should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. Although considerably less messy than hand-rolled pastry dough, these frozen, unleavened – motzah meals- on- wheels are more suited for preparing Mexican food than The Traditional Thanksgiving Dessert.

Cookbooks will lead readers to lengthy instructional manuals instructing once a year chefs to “chill shortening”, “use a cheesecloth”, and “cut shortening into flour using a pastry blender”.

My Aunt Mildred Brown taught me the real secret for making the perfect pie crust–

Measure 2 2/3 Cups of Flour in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix.

Add ½ Cup of Crisco shortening. Using  two fingers of just one hand, squeeze the shortening one pinch at a time and incorporate the flour. After the mixture resembles small peas, add 5 tablespoons of ice water, one at a time, with a fork.

Roll on a lightly floured surface using a wine bottle hand-dusted with flour.

Makes top and bottom crust– the perfect gay pastry.

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