PROBABLY NEVER AGAIN
Instagram - JFK International Airport: 6 p.m. 04/12/2012
It looked like a fairly straight-shot from JFK to the Lower East Side on the map that Paul perused while sitting on the floor at the airport Hudson News before discarding it in favor of a $6 shot glass traced with a crude outline of the skyline that must have been captured from the Hoboken waterfront some time after the Towers fell and before the Bank of America Tower went up.
The shotglass, two Red Bulls and a bottle of Patron came to just under $80.
The cab would be another $60 (flat fare: $45, plus toll and tip)… that is, unless you flipped off the first cabbie to offer a quote and walked the passenger pick-up line like Paul’s friend, Chris, bartering with Gypsy cab drivers and soccer moms there to pick up their husbands from business trips, before flipping them off too (Chris to the moms, not moms to the husbands).
“Anyone going into Manhattan? $30. Cash,” he coughed and turned his head when a transit cop passed, then repeated it, pointing directly into the face of a middle-aged woman in a maroon van. “$40 cash.
Going downtown? No? Say something, lady!”
It was the type of thing Chris did – and this was the reason Paul told his girlfriend he was going to New York alone. The term “soli-cation” was used – a portmanteau of “solitude” and “vacation.” He pitched it as a peaceful adventure to allow for the casual studying of architecture, the consumption of soggy kinishes in the August haze and the clearing of heads before grad school began at Berkley in September.
The actual plan was, shall we say, a little wilier.
“I just got in… Gonna hop in a cab. I’ll call you from the hotel,” Paul watched across the pickup median as Chris banged his palms excitedly on the roof of a faded Yugo and wrapped both hands around the right of a leathery-faced Korean man. “No. I promise. I’ll be safe… I know… I won’t drink… I promise… I love you too, Jenny.”
playing Scrabble shotgun in a Yugo #triplewordscore #Patron
Twitter – Midtown Tunnel - 8:15 p.m. 04/12/2012
The “straight-shot” to LES proved a difficult one in Friday rush-hour traffic, but Patron shots sipped from an empty Advil bottle lessened the stress and made a garrulous host of the once-tight, confused driver.
“I’ll give you a tour – free of charge because you look like a cute couple.”
Chris tried to interrupt, but they were three shots deep already and the driver was laughing too hard to be corrected – convulsing his shoulders without moving his head, looking straight ahead, laughing, laughing, laughing.
Over the next three hours they’d slowly inch their way toward the hostel while talking politics, Southern hip-hop and BPA content in plastics, which the driver called, “a magical baloney-factory meant to make persons like me buy new plastic thingers to keep fresh my deli-meat sandwich.”
They took shots mid-way on the Van Wyk as it careened north; one as the rattly Yugo hooked a left on 495 and clunked through the tunnel as the driver explained his views on polygamy; and then what was left of the bottle as they ghosted down the FDR, through perpetual traffic in the shadows of high-rises and hospitals, until they twisted out onto Houston via a four-way stop that the driver, well-drunk, treated as a green light.
He dropped them off on Houston across from Katz’s, because “he didn’t want to go any farther,” and forgot to ask for payment in the midst of all the hugging, snort-laughing and hooting about “best friends,” “deli-meat,” and what he called his “wild tequila boner.”
As they walked south toward Bowery, they could still hear the weird Korean man hooting, blocks away, in the night; Lil Jon bumping from his tiny tinny speakers, the words “Deli meat” and “tequila boner” dancing in the late-summer air like tickertape in a crosswind.
“You guys like hip-hop?”
Chris didn’t even pause as they passed the heavyset black man extending a home-burnt CD. He kept walking for a few yards, quickly spun on his heels and slurred an affirmative response, followed by another three-handed handshake.
“I loves Hip-Hop!”
Drinkin sake, waiting for the F, while our new friend freestyles:
“Don’t front though, ya know my tracks be the purest/ get skin, stuff bitches like a taxidermist”
FACEBOOK – Houston and Forsyth 10:30 p.m. 04/12/2012
After a long conversation with the rapper and a trip to the Westside buffered by a complicated CD purchase which required Chris to break a $20 at a 24-hour convenience store by buying sake and an apple (the later of which he later tried to return for being “too acidic and mealy”), Paul and Chris found themselves in the cramped, top-floor apartment of Dizzy-Jizzy J.
"What goes on in here?” Paul pointed to the lumpy half of the studio that hid below a series of towels and sheets.
“Puppet show, son.”
“What about a –”
“What you think?” Dizzy-Jizzy interrupted, pulled back a robin’s egg blue sheet to reveal a variety of highly-stylized puppets depicting Asian twenty-somethings, elders, children. “Me and my cuz are tryin’ to put on a puppet-adaptation of that new Murakami book up at the 96th Street Y. So this is where I’m getting my practice on… I got smart puppets” he held up a puppet in wire-rim glasses, “I got autistic puppets,” he held up a puppet with diverted eyes and an upturned nose, “I got moon puppets,” he held up a volleyball.
“Diversifying, you know… a man can’t live on rap alone. So, motherfuckin’ puppets, right?”
Jizzy parachuted the sheet back over the puppets and invited the boys into the kitchen.
“Help yourself to anything in the fridge. Jizzy’s gotta get his shower on.”
Paul and Chris split a six of Leffe Blonde and sat on the fire escape that would have had a river-view had it not been for everything between it and the river.
“You and Jenny are good to stay together while you’re getting school?”
“I think so… I mean,” Paul watched a cat wrap a paw against a line of garbage cans behind a car dealership and finally stop at the can with the deepest tone, the fullest. “I mean, I know I love her, she’s just younger and not ready for any of the guaranteed things that are, um, you know – guaranteed.”
“That’s what’s crazy – kkkkp.” (Chris had had the hiccups since they transferred uptown… an hour probably).
“It’s that way – where if like kkkkkkp - if you didn’t show that commitment, she’d be where you are. You know? It’s like karate, where you trade belts at the end of the fights.”
“I don’t think that’s how karate works.”
Paul smiled and thought about throwing his empty bottle into a dumpster across the alley, but decided against it. Didn’t want to scare the dining cat…
“I don’t know, man… I didn’t tell her about you coming with me because I was afraid she’d bug out and everything… all I need to do is slip like this and then she’s really out. And what the fuck then?”
“But she wants you to slipkkkkp- I think you might back it halfwards.”
Footsteps sounded. Paul and Chris turned to see Jizzy in a pink Power Rangers towel that barely covered his protruding stomach.
He had a tattoo of a Swiss Army knife on his bicep.
“You bitches are drunk isn’t you?”
Chris Tetrone: @ Lace Club
5 minutes ago
FourSquare – Eighth Ave. and 43rd St - 12:30 a.m. 04/13/2012
They were certainly drunk.
So drunk that J had to drop some names and make some promises to get them past the bouncer at the strip club.
“This the joint right here, son… People sleep on the holes in the wall. But I sleep with them hoes in the holes in the walls, you know?” His Leviathan laugh sounded through the small club like a subwoofer. “But for real - this is where your get the best value – girls that wanna talk and that, not just take your bills and fart in your face.”
The laughter again. Drinks. More drinks. Lap dances and more drinks.
“I’ve never had a strip club before,” Paul said. “My girlfriend doesn’t like strippers.”
Jizzy shook his head, walked over to a girl who seemed to recognize him, whispered something in her ear and handed her an undisclosed amount of money. The woman - the stripper – tucked the small fold of bills into her bra and led Paul into an unmarked door.
“You tell her to kkkkkkp – bang him?” Chris asked when the pair were out of earshot.
“Nah, son – motherfucker has a girly at home. I told her to take him in the back, give him a cup of tea and talk about buildings and shit. Get him mind off his meat.”
“Like Ponce de Leon?”
“Sure, if that helps.”
She threw a robe over her shoulders and handed Paul a cup of green tea with too much honey. He sipped it gently, placing it down on a lid of a printer/fax/scanner-combo to let it cool.
“So, J-tastic tells me you’re an architect.”
“I mean, I want to be – starting grad school next month.”
“Congrats,” Ponce said.
“I don’t know – don’t congrats me yet – still got a lotta tests and readings before I touch a building.”
“You don’t have to tell me about that. I know that shit.”
“You’re stripping your way through school?”
Ponce laughed and opened her robe…
“Do these look like the tits of a girl who’s stripping her way through school?” Paul diverted his eyes, brought the tea to his mouth, thought of the autistic puppet, the volleyballs, maybe Jenny – her “one missed call” that became three. “Nah, you watch too much TV, kid… So tell me about buildings?”
“I mean… you know. It’s just that same thing.”
“You grow up on erector sets?”
“Gotcha. You’re smelling tomatoes in the garden and thinking about scaffolding…”
Paul’s phone rang, but he quickly silenced it – Four. He shrugged, blew on his tea and looked at the poster over Ponce’s left shoulder: a skyline of New York over which someone had sketched-in famous landmarks with a silver Sharpie – the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, an erect penis… Ponce slipped into a pair of jeans and looked at Paul, expecting more conversation.
"Yeah… you know. Buildings are like trees that you can live in, I guess.”
“You can live in a tree,” she said.
“There’s people who do…”
“Yeah…” Paul paused and looked at the Eiffel Tower. “So, are we going to bang or what?”
“Do you want to?”
“I don’t know. I guess so.”
“Well I don’t… tuck it in your waistband. I’m driving you back downtown…”
When Paul and Ponce walked out of the room, Chris was learning firsthand why they called J “The Dizzy Jizzy.”
He was holding Chris by the wrists and spinning him around in circles as a parent would a small child. After a dozen rotations, Dizzy stumbled backward and knocked over a 25-gallon fish tank, sending pike cichlids and Oscars sliding across the black tile floors.
As the four hurried out the back exit, Paul saw a tall blonde stripper in sequined panties and stilettos trying to shuttle a pair of Oscars to another tank, clutching them against her exposed breasts as they flopped and gasped in the smoky pink light of the gentleman’s club.
Instagram – Whitehouse Hostel - Bowery: 3 a.m. 04/13/2012
Paul laid on his bed’s plaid comforter, the smell of which he described as “mothball-ish” and Chris likened to “someone’s grandfather riding a wet dog through an attic.”
He had his eyes closed and a phone to his ear, buzzing along with the ringtone through closed, dry lips.
“Where have you been?”
“You said you’d call when you got to the hotel.”
“I just got to the hostel then – now.”
“Right. So, how are the kinishes, Paul?”
Chris hiccupped in the background and Paul drunkenly shushed him.
“Soggy, soggy, soggy!”
“Right – and the buildings?”
“Dramtical. Wish you had someone to share them with… I mean, I wish that… now.”
“You know I follow Chris on Twitter, right? … And I’m friends with him on Instagram? ... And Facebook?... and I get his FourSquare updates.”
“You’re like a social-media Jesus-woman…”
“You lied to me…”
“You lied to yourself. I’m just Paul.”
“I want the guaranteeeees.”
Paul scuttled below the grandpa/wet dog/attic smell and Chris immediately pulled back the comforter with a hiccup.
“Yo. Get up. Yugi-Yugo just texted me. There’s an afterhours spot on MacDougal that’s giving out free salami by the fistful! Fistfuls of the salamz!”
He whacked Paul about the face with an open palm and repeated “salami,” until Paul sat up. He sat on the floor and tied his Chucks while drunkenly muttering paraphrased lyrics to that Deep Blue Something song:
“And I said what about breakfast and Legos and she said, I follow your friend Twitter…”
They eventually fell out into the street, with Chris literally hitting the sidewalk and Paul hanging onto the door for support. A tall man in capris passed walking a Great Dane that seemed, to Paul, to be wiser than anyone he’d ever met or seen on TV. The dog gave a gentle nod in his direction before peeing on the tire of a parked Audi.
“Hold up. I forgot my phone.”
“Fuck your phone,” Chris said as he flagged down a taxi by kicking at it when it slowed for a light.
“We’re getting that deli meat! Kkkkkkp.”
Chris hung between the open hostel door and the door of the waiting taxi for a full minute, thinking and sighing and almost puking. Finally, the cross-eyed girl at the front desk pushed his decision:
“Yo, buttfuck! You’re letting out the AC, man… You gotta decide: in or out.”
Paul looked back at the dog, but it was gone. Only its urine remained, dripping from the A4’s wheelwell and disappearing into the warm street. He sighed, and gave Chris a three-handed handshake and patted him on the back…
“Think I’m actually gonna stay in, man.”
“Yeah man… Smack Yugo in his tequila boner for me.”
“Will do, sir.”
Paul watched the cab turn on E. 2nd and imagined what it would be like to live in a live oak like Spanish moss.
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