Archive for July, 2012

Before I was a newspaper boy, I sold packetts of Burpee vegetable and flower seeds. I carried a small cardboard box full of fifty-cent merchandise from door- to- door and begged old ladies to consider new brands of marigold flowers for their beds. The seeds were not hard to sell—who can resist a a boy with chestnut-hair over his eyes and pretty pink lips that ask, “Would you like to buy some seeds?” 

Grace Hershey, an old lady that lived at the top of the hill in Three Springs told me that she would love to buy some seeds but she was too old to tend to a garden. Summer was her favorite time of the year, Grace explained—it was the only time when it was safe for her to walk without slipping on ice. Winters were always cold, she said, but something had changed in the air from when she was a little girl, and she could no longer tolerate those cold, dark nights. She did, however, inspect every last pack of seed and after a long explanation about how the space shuttle was causing another ice age, she settled upon several varieties of flowers that I did not know how to pronounce. I was so happy she bought them; I was afraid no one in Three Springs would be interested in simple white flowers. All of my cucumbers were gone, so were the raddishes. 

Tired of always wearing my brother’s clothes that were given to him by some kids we did not even know, I decided that I needed to do more than sell seeds every spring for just a few bucks. The town paper route was still controlled by the Bennett family. I was too little to work on one of the nearby farms, and my aunt Cathy paid me just $2 a week for feeding her dog Dusty at his dog box every morning and every night. 

In May, I asked Grace if she needed someone to mow her yard and do weeding for her. She took me up on the offer like I was a pack of morning glories—“Yes. I would like that very much. My son-in-law does it for me now, and I hate feeling like I owe someone something.” 

I was soon promoted from mowing the yard to spading Grace’s flower bed, to planting the very seeds that I sold to her. Every week Grace called me over, in need of some help in her little yard. “Your son is such a good little gardener,” she told my mother on the phone, “Everything he plants grows so well. I wonder if Charlie would be interested in digging up the ground over my septic tank; I have to have it emptied.” 

The job of unearthing that septic tank took all day, but I made $40 and it secured for me steady summer employment for the rest of my childhood, even after I started delivering newspapers every evening. 

As I got older, I slowly cut back my hours working for the old woman. I still opened Grace’s door evey evening without knocking, to hand her the paper—it was on these occassions that she guilted me into doing her spring planting— 

“My daughter sent me a tree that only grows in the south—Florida I think—that’s where she lives now. I was wondering if you would dig me a hole in my flower bed and plant it. 

I dug the hole with a canvas bag of heavy newspapers strapped over my shoulder. I had the tree in the ground in less than five minutes, and forgot I had ever planted it until years later, while home on leave from the army, while visiting Grace, she pointed it out to me— 

“Just look how big the tree you planted is. Have you ever seen anything like it? It’s not supposed to grow this far north, but somehow I knew that if you planted it, it would grow for me. 

Grace is gone, planted far under the ground, but her pink trailer is still at the top of the hill in Three Springs and that odd bush from Florida is still growing there, high above the tin roof of that place, a reminder to me when I drive by, that I once sold seeds from door-to-door. 

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Bone marrow stem cells have eradicated HIV and AIDS from a man who is known in the media as the Berlin Patient. Stem cells from a man who is thought to be immune to HIV were injected into the Berlin Patient to treat his Leukemia, and it appears a miracle was performed during the surgery, and all traces of the HIV virus have vanished from his system. 

Makers of powerful AIDS drugs must be dying a slow death in the wake of this news. For the first time in many, many years, an actual treatment for an illness is on the horizon, and not a pill that must be swallowed every day for the rest of eternity. 

If stem cells from individuals who are immune to HIV can cure a person with AIDS, shouldn’t stem cells from individuals who do not have depression put those with Bi Polar disorder in a better mood? 

Stem cells from unborn babies are potentially the cure for growing old. Imagine face lifts for the ugly and breast implants in transgendered men that look real. We must lift all bans on stem cell research immediately and begin establishing a clearing house where individuals who are immune to HIV can sell their bone marrow at AZT prices. 

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I kissed Leslie at a dinner party in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I have kissed several females in my life, most of them were girls I knew in high school, but Leslie, who I thought was a lesbian, caused me to get hard.

There is nothing better than fat lips drenched in wine for kissing. The kiss was a game of sorts, a lot like spin the bottle, but there was no bottle for spinning, only the wine bottles that guests at the dinner party had yet to suck down.

Leslie never hid her attraction for me. During weekend trips to the Hampton’s, in which my lover and I were always invited, Leslie insisted on being my partner during games of volley ball. There were many well-bred Jewish men for Leslie to choose from, but it was my lover Anthony and I whom she chose to share a bedroom with in a large summer home she had rented.

Leslie told my lover that she had always been attracted to shy, quiet men, and she found my personality perfect for her own. The corporate lawyer once asked Anthony if she could have a child with me– if ever we decided that it was important for me to have children, just as Anthony had three of his own.

“Screw off, crazy bitch,” was Anthony’s response. Leslie found Anthony’s reply terribly funny and she asked him if she was jealous of her.

“Why would I be jealous of a cunt?” He asked. Leslie just laughed, and I suppose, planned her revenge right there in the Hamptons that night, at a picnic table, over bug candles.

The kiss that caused an erection took place at John and Linda’s apartment in Park Slope. Anthony and John, who were best friends, were busy talking about Norma Ribbon and Trimming, the place where both of them worked.

Leslie asked me plain terms, just like a lawyer would do– “Can I kiss you?”

“Sure,” I said, considering everyone was in the kitchen drinking wine and not paying us much attention.

When she kissed me, she would not let go, neither would I.

I did not know I had an erection until she reached for my crotch, and even then, it did not subside.

“What the fuck?” Anthony screamed from the kitchen, “Did you just see what that bitch just did? Charles, what were you thinking?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, embarrassed, and feeling as if I had somehow cheated on my lover, “we were just playing around.”

“If you ever touch him again, I’ll fucking kill you, bitch,” was Anthony’s final words that evening at the dinner party.

I simply remained silent, which has always been my strength when it comes to making love.

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State College was the only town with a gay bar in Central Pennsylvania. I drove nearly an hour every Friday night in the summer of 1988 to go to that bar. With nothing but farmland to view from the window of my white Cutlass Supreme, I followed the winding road up and down several high mountains and listened to George Michael’s ‘Faith’ on my tape player because maintaining a clear signal from a radio station in Central, PA is like finding a top in bale of hay. 

Only a few college kids were at the gay bar. Chumley’s was filled with mostly middle- aged, white beer drinkers who all wore baseball caps advertising nearby farms and feed mills. They smiled at me with their toothless mouths, burping in delight as I strolled in with a high-top fade. They all seemed to have already had each other at one time or another—that is just the way it is in gay bars all over the world, and in small ones like the one in State College, a new piece of ‘trade’ is sometimes more important than a Penn State football game. 

I accepted an offer from a black college kid for sex. He did not have a car, so after leaving Chumley’s, we jumped in my Cutlass and we headed to his off-campus apartment. 

The sex was horrible. He had on way too much lady-like perfume and he turned into quite the girl when undressed. I kissed him and put my finger up his ass until he came. I quickly got dressed—hoping to get back to the bar before it closed. 

“Can I get your phone number?” he asked after showing me a few paintings he was working on for school. I gave him the number to my job. I was working at a newspaper in Huntingdon and had my own secretary to screen calls. 

He would not stop calling after that kiss. Weeks had passed and I still had the nasty taste of his beer breath on me. He was hooked and I regretted ever having given him the number to “The Daily News”. One Friday afternoon while I was working on an article relating to a boom in the water bottling business due to the long drought of ‘88, the State College artist called the job again— 

“I just can’t get you out of my head. Every time I paint or sketch, it comes out looking like you. I don’t know what’s going on with me. It’s hard to focus. Can I please see you again?” He asked. 

I lied and told him I was dating a girl. I told him not to call me again. 

Later that evening the art student walked into Chumley’s. I was chatting at the bar with a guy who claimed to play football for Penn State. I had just explained to him that I just got out of Army. He was really turned on. 

“Where’s your girlfriend,” the artist asked, blinking his eyes heavily at me. He appeared to be wearing mascara. 

“I don’t know,” I replied, turning away from him, not ever wanting him to touch me again—those cold sweaty, artist hands and his need to incessantly put his stinky ass in my face. 

I left the bar with the football player. The artist followed us down the sidewalk all the way to my car. He sucked his teeth as we got in. 

“He’s an artist,” I explained to the football player. 

“Yes, I know,” the football player confessed, “Aren’t we all?”

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Lucy sent Juan to the hospital last weekend. I fear I may never see my elderly, next door neighbor again. While he was still at home, I stopped in to check on him. His feet were swollen and he was bent over in a stupor.

“Hi Juan! Do you remember me?” I asked, bending down low so that he could see my face. He grabbed my hand and I squeezed his. Using what little strength he had, Juan squeezed my index finger. I nearly wanted to cry, remembering how painful the Zyprexa was after it was forced upon me in a psychiatric ward more than ten years ago.

Psychotropic drugs, in particular, those that “treat” Alzheimer’s do more harm than good. Juan was fine prior to the day, two weeks ago, when Lucy called the police. My lover B hogged the view through the peep hole as he watched the drama unfold–

“Juan was screaming, ‘But I don’t want to go’,” B explained, “And then, the moment they took him out of here on a stretcher, Lucy casually walked back inside their apartment. She didn’t even bother walking downstairs to see him off. Yes, she wants him gone. I swear I saw her smile the moment she shut the door.”

“I refuse to answer the door when she knocks,” I told my lover. “She knocked three times yesterday. She claimed she needed help reading her cable bill. She pointed out that there were charges on her bill that she did not make, as if somehow, our remote, here on the other side of the hallway was to blame. They were pay per view charges for porn. How much do you want to bet she’s the one renting that porn? Every time I’m over there, she insists on rubbing my chest—freaky whore! You should have seen her coming home after the Puerto Rican Day Parade—she had fish nets on and that big belly was sticking out under one of her tight shirts. She wasn’t thinking of Juan at all, as a matter of fact, she seems quite happy.”

“I told you,” B replied, “she called the cops on him to get rid of him. Women do that kind of thing all the time. Men do too.”

Late yesterday afternoon, just after we had finished eating fried chicken and were napping upon our bed, we heard the scream of fire alarms nearby. All the apartments in our building have fire alarms. Ours has gone off while I was making toast. They are quite sensitive and we pay little attention to them.

Moments later, we heard Lucy screaming—she was shouting something in Spanish and English. The only English she used was “Oh My God!” as she banged on our door.

“Don’t answer it,” I said to my lover.

“But I think it’s a real fire.”

“Oh, dear, it is,” I said, looking through the peep hole. Smoke was everywhere and I could see flames inside of Lucy and Juan’s apartment.

By the time I had my flip flops on, other neighbors had gathered outside of Lucy’s door, despite the heavy smoke that was coming out her door.

I immediately ran to the third floor and grabbed a fire extinguisher. I was prepared to work like a Colorado home owner keeping the wildfires at bay with a garden hose. By the time I had reached Lucy’s door, a teenage boy put the fire out by removing his shirt and beating the grease fire upon the stove with it.

The thought did occur to me to grab my Morton salt as I ran out the door, but the container is brand new and there was no way in hell I was stepping inside that witch’s apartment. Juan must be going into the light by now—his half ghost was what started that fire. I hate to think of what might happen to poor old Lucy when don Juan finally goes all the way into the light.

“Come and rub my back again,” my lover insisted, after finally leaving the peep hole and watching the fire men come and go.

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The Upper West Side of Manhattan is not the place to be on a hot day. Starbucks restaurants are few and far between along the stretch of Amsterdam Avenue from 59th to 99th Streets. 

A 10:45 am job interview at Creative Alternatives of New York had me on edge—it was another interview at another “non-profit” that serves the mentally ill—how crazy is that? The quack business is the only business that is booming in this recession. This interview was at St. Michael’s Church.

 I left the house early, deciding to walk all the way to 99th Street, thinking that before arriving at my interview, I’d have time to drop inside a Starbucks to cool off in the air conditioning, wash my face in the bathroom, and come down from a July 4th hangover with a “grande drip”. 

So much sadness exists in that old-money part of town. The feeling I get while walking through the Upper West Side is one of being haunted. It seemed as if my soul, now clear of the psychosis and terrible sadness, that I am now open to sensing things such as ghosts, and being there in that wealthy part of town, a certain clairvoyance erupted within me—almost as if I was picking up vibes from spirits or “guides” that grew up and dominated that neighborhood. They were trying to get me to understand something and convey it to the populace in general—a warning of sorts from them—before it’s too late so they all don’t come to where the slaves have become the masters. 

A small Spanish grocery store was the only place to use as a powder room, prior to my interview. I purchased a warm diet Pepsi and asked for a napkin; an old Spanish man smiled and handed me two, noticing my baby blue tie and the beads of sweat that were dripping, just dripping, like sadness from my forehead. 

I walked all the way back to Port Authority in the heat of yesterday. By the time the interview had ended, in under a half-hour, I decided I wanted to hear more, sense more of what those old rich Jew ghosts were trying to convey. 

But there was nothing that moved me in general, just empty stores that have been boarded up, a few major fashion chains here and there, and lots of fancy restaurants open still, where outside, one couple sat drinking fresh orange juice at a table with a spotless tablecloth. 

Finally, I stumbled upon a Starbucks on Broadway—never again will I walk up Amsterdam, thought I. I raced inside, took a pee, not bothering to lift the seat, and I washed my face and hands—an attempt to remove the filth of that ritzy neighborhood from my very soul. In reality, there is no way to cleanse the stench of hell from one who has already walked through it I realized, just as a prissy Jew girl knocked on the co-ed bathroom door the minute I flushed. 

As I waited for nearly 2 minutes for the hot hand dryer to automatically turn off, I recalled that awful sadness that came upon me, just as I passed 73rd Street, a stupor that lasted throughout my entire interview with Johnathan Hilton, while he tried to explain how effective Creative Alternatives of New York is at healing those suffering from trauma. 

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