Private Magazine

Category: Romance

Couch Surfin’ All Over the World

Halloween’s ghosts have risen from the ashes to walk the streets again, visiting friends, relatives – maybe even you.

Their old haunts may look a little different now – what was once a brothel, say, is now Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen – but ghosts have a knowing sense of direction. They can find their way around.

 I’m in the very last seat in the very last row of United Airlines flight number 509 to New Orleans, which is, from what I understand, a very mystical, spiritual and haunted enclave.  We are 30,000 feet in the air, Hotel Transylvania is streaming free and blood red tomato juice is free too.   Jason and Eddie are both with me in spirit, since Halloween is Eddie’s birthday.  October 31 is nowhere near Jason’s birthday, but it was his raison d’etre. 

While they never met on a mortal plane, Jason and Eddie, maybe, just maybe, they have now met in the afterlife. 

My cabbie speaks in a Louisiana drawl as we pass by roofs patched with bright blue tarps. 

“FEMA came and patched mine up,” he tells me, “Shingles are backordered, there’s a shortage right now.” 

I’m going to New Orleans for spiritual awakening, no, a cleansing, no….a vacation?  It’s Halloween 2021, with time slated to grow increasingly decrepit and absurd. I have some money to spend, albeit not much, but cash is worthless now anyway.  So spend it all baby, in the name of love, pour one out for your grandma, and Philip Seymour Hoffmann too. 

 Harpsichord melodies drift down an alleyway.  The haunted streetcar clangs towards the Quarta’ packed with costumed revelers, though it’s barely past noon. The sidewalks are precarious, as the stones rise up and jut out of the ground.  A jazz band leads a funeral procession towards the cemetery, playing a slow dirge that will morph into a celebratory jam upon departure. 

In the cemetery, one bony skeleton hand rises from a burial mound, reaching up towards the blue sky with a finger pointing upward…

Hurricane Ida blew through a few months ago, but right now, all appears to be calm. 

On St. Charles Avenue, on the haunted streetcar route ironically positioned alongside Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, is an old historic hotel-turned-hostel.    $35 a night has apparently afforded me some decent digs, in a room with two bunk beds, and roommates!  There is a 24-hour bar on the first floor and the location is pretty clutch.  I roll in my suitcase a little after 3:00 p.m. on a Friday, and ready to get this weekend off to a happening if not haunted start. 

“Check-in is not until four,” the emo-chic desk girl unenthusiastically informs me. She’s a petite gal rocking a bodycon turtleneck minidress that only someone emo-chic can pull off. 

“It’s alright, I’m very thirsty,” I say while dropping my bags and pointless coat on the floor and take a seat on a barstool.  “Water please!” Outside the sun is beginning to dim, but the temperature is warm and the air is still.   “And a wine too, I guess.” 

To my right sits a boy with a blond ponytail and one skinny blue stone dangling from his ear. He definitely resembles Ryan Dunn. 

“Another can of beer please Lydia,” he reaches across me to grab the brew, looking at me sideways to sum up the new arrival. We shoot the breeze and quench our thirsts until the clock strikes four and I wheel my stuff into a quaint rickety elevator. 

Until time travel is an option, at least we still can travel along the mortal coil, totally fleeting, c’est la vie.  Although, I am quite sure spirits from the other side walk among us. I have had signs from Jason, sure, but Eddie? 

Freshly showered and shaved, I head outside to potentially bum a cig. Also, I’m starving, and a French bistro by the name of Herbsaint is within walking distance.  Maybe I will try frog’s legs.  

“Do you have a cig?” I ask a girl smoking one who’s sitting on the curb.  She shakes her head – negative. 

“Do you know where I can nab some greenery? You know, like, pot?”

Again, she shakes her head no.  Damn. I always refrain from packing weed whenever I fly south. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

“Hey!” Shouts a boy with glasses in a trippy-looking psychedelic sweatshirt. Before I know it, Ryan Dunn from the bar (who told me his name is actually Colin) appears from out of nowhere. 

“My wife is asleep!”  the boy in the psychedelic sweatshirt rushes towards me. “I have an extra ticket to Widespread Panic!” He waves it in the air like an acid-tripper on Armistice Day, “Come with us!” 

A girl with really long, wavy hair and a pimply guy slowly chewing gum are waiting at the curb. They all await my response. 

“Um, I don’t know guys,  I was just heading out for something to eat. I just got here…”  I look around; the street right now is actually pretty deserted. What more could just randomly present itself?

“Drinks for dinner tonight, girl!” shouts psychedelic boy. “Come on – our Uber’s about to pull up!”

 I didn’t come to New Orleans to be a loner.  What’s the worst that could happen? I trust Ryan Dunn, even though we just met. I mean, he was drinking PBR. When the Uber arrives we all smush into the backseat, except for their gum-chewing friend, who has a scrappy goatee and looks like a billy goat. Apparently, the concert is in the levee district, near the breakwall, and in my head that song that song by Led Zepplin, “When the levee breaks…” starts to play while psychedelic boy rambles on about being from Alabama and how he has to visit the Navy Museum, because his grandfather was in the Navy and all, and…

“Do you want a hit?” Psychedelic Boy, whose name is Jerome, holds out a sheet of that familiar Fruit Stripe gum-wrapper-esque paper, divided into neat little squares.  

Outside, we pass tall concrete warehouses  covered in street art and get on the freeway, heading a bit outside of downtown, along Lake Pontchartrain; it’s cool and it’s dusk.

“Well sure,” I figure this will at least take my mind off my growling stomach for the time being.  A hit of acid for dinner seems reasonable, given the circumstances. Jerome hands me a ticket to the show.  I’m smushed up against Ryan Dunn, I mean, Colin, who has a hint of a Southern drawl. “I’m from Richmond,” he says, really close to my ear. “Virginia.” 

“That’s hot, that’s hot,” I say, and score a stick of gum and a cig from Billy Goat.  A tickle is in the back of my throat, and my palms feel a little itchy. We are being carried down to the breakwall but before the levee breaks.  There is a loosely assembled line of ragtag poncho and parachute pants-clad fans. The sky is bright magenta with big black clouds looming low. I hop in line behind some bros popping open cans of Busch Light and start to down a few with Colin. He’s definitely chill and mild-mannered – a polite Southern gentleman.  I’m wearing jeans painted with images of cigarettes from the goth store and a long sleeve leopard top; it’s kind of chilly along the breakwall.   But before long, the doors to the venue swing open into a big, hockey rink type of situation with various concession stands selling hot pretzels and cups of wine and beer. 

Colin buys us drinks and we settle into bleachers. I assume he came to New Orleans with the psychedelic posse.

“No, uh, I just met them at the hostel,” he says. “We were going to the same concert.” 

“No way,” I say.  This makes me like him more, for some reason. 

Jerome’s standing in the middle of the bleachers tossing back shots of whiskey from a flask stashed in his pants. The show hasn’t started yet but down on the floor (which really does seem to be a defrosted ice rink) hippies are already sitting crossed-legged on the ground and trancing out. I guess tonight is night one of a three-day long show.

“I’m surprised no one is blazing up a blunt,” I observe. “Maybe New Orleans just isn’t 420 friendly.” I look down at the ground, stunned, bemused. 

“No way girl, I can nab weed in two seconds,” Jerome says. “Easy. Come on!”

I tag along with psychedelic Jerome hightailing it outside to a designated smoking area overlooking the edge of the levee, where a distinctly cool wind swoops in.  The acid wasn’t enough to make me trip out fully, just feel silly, but the wine served in giant hurricane glasses makes my knees weak.  We wobble up to a serious-looking smoker, all alone, who has a distinctively Old World air, as if of Creole descent, in a jewel-tone velvet jacket and trilby hat with a feather on the side. 

“What’s your name?” He scopes me up and down. “I dig your style.” 

He has already pulled out a pipe of weed, and passes it to me. Before I know it Jerome fades into the background, and my legs grow weaker and weaker but still I manage to float through the concrete aisles with this smoky wanderer, until we wind up in a concrete doorway between the bathrooms and general concession area. 

“You know, I live right by the Quisby,” He looks super serious, staring into my eyes with determination. “Maybe I could show you around.”

“Yeah, maybe…”  From inside the atrium, jam band melodies play on and on, merging into an abstract jamboree, no beginning, no end. Just a melting blob. Speaking of melting blob, if I wasn’t leaning against the wall I would probably melt into the floor like radioactive ooze. 

“Do you do cocaine, Ann Marie?” He lights up a cigarette, right there inside the arena. 

Well, I would. Why the heck not? I need to perk up, we all know jam band shows last an eternity. 

“Yeah, I mean, sometimes.”  

The quirky stranger pats his lapel, at first casually, then frantically, looks in his cigarette case, in his leather Chelsea boot, then starts patting his lapels again.  Sheesh, I know what that means. I roll my eyes.

“Um…Actually wait a second… Where am I?” I just realized I lost Jereme, Colin, and the rest of my posse from the Quisby. It’s not like I don’t know how to take an Uber back to the Quiz but I’d rather hang out with them, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to get snatched by a shifty-eyed stranger, at least not on my first night and not at a jam band show. 

“Will you help me find everybody? I just rolled up with them from the Quiz, I mean I really don’t know them, I think they were someplace over here on the first level…” 

The befuddled hipster who has lost his cocaine walks with me and I point in the general direction of where I was sitting. As if pulled by a magnet, I do find them, Colin with his long blond wavy hair, and the tie-dye clad other kids. Whew. That was close. I snuggle up next to Colin and gradually the European hipster fades into the background. 

“So, like, what’s this song called?” 

I’m realizing Widespread Panic is pretty popular, at least with jam band people. To be honest, jam bands are the only type of bands I don’t listen to, but, we all know I heard my fair share of Phish emanating through my floorboards from my downstairs neighbors 10 years ago. 

“Isn’t this the same song as before?” I am seriously unsure. 

“Uh, yeah.”

I honestly have no idea how long I was gone.  10 minutes? An hour? Who knows. It felt like an eternity. 

“It’s probably been going on about 45 minutes,” Colin continues.

I choke on an ice cube.

“45 minutes?” All of a sudden that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, “The same song?”  I laugh so hard it’s like that time I smoked weed in college and saw a guy riding a bike and got the giggles so bad I almost peed my pants straight through.  “All the songs I listen to are, like, 30 seconds long.  You know, like, The Ramones…”

I get really close to his face when I say, “Monessssss.”

Colin looks down at his PBR can.  Up until now, we had been talking about our jobs and the struggle of survival. You know, being middle aged, thirtysomething. “We can go whenever,” he says. “Back to the Quisby.”

“Yeah for sure!” 

I’m not having a bad time, I’m down for whatever, there’s a party around every turn out here in New Orleans. Jerome, Billy Goat and Wavy Gurl disappeared long ago. Colin and I walk out of the arena and into a gust of wind. “Where are we?” I hold up my phone for a satellite signal, some kind of sign from the stars. “We’re lost! We’re stranded! We’re gonna die.”

We traipse across damp hills, into ditches, until we reach a low fence of some kind. Colin nonchalantly organizes a Lyft back to the hostel. Apparently, Colin is flying back to Richmond tomorrow at 6 AM, so what’s a girl to do? Lean in and give him a kiss! Our blonde manes blow dramatically in the wind, until “Bob,” our bro-y driver, pulls up. 

“Woo!” I flop onto the seat. “Boy is it windy out there.”

Bob, our bro-y driver, is undaunted. 

“Boy Harsher, yeah I love Boy Harsher,” Colin and I have been discussing music with a passion. 

“Me too,” Colin says.  He seems very eclectic in tastes. A trucker hat and dangly earring kind of guy. 

“I have a cord back there if you want,” Bob waves towards the back of the passenger seat.  I plug my phone in and stream Boy Harsher in the dark, through the starry streets, back to the Quiz. Bob drops us at the curb. There’s some guys sitting on the flowerbed and standing around idly smoking. The soft barroom lamp glows from inside, and as we pull our weary bodies through the door, Bob shouts at us, “You broke my cord!” And then he speeds away.  

Down in the cantina on the morning of my last day in New Orleans,  the coffee is hot and the bar has officially run out of just about everything.  The streetcar pauses  in front of the hostel, then starts its procession once again.  I’ve secured tickets to a cemetery crawl. Next to me sits a curly-headed dude with a nautical star neck tattoo. Wait, yes, we chatted here last night. Didn’t we? But about what? Hmmm. 

“Would you like some?” He opens a plastic bag; inside, loose blueberries.  

“Thanks,” I nibble a few in silence. What did I discuss with this man last night? I wonder. 

“So how long have you been here?” I say. 

“Since August,” he says. “I’m here working.” 

“What do you do again?”

“I’m an insurance adjustor,” he says. “Natural disasters.” 

Oh that’s right, the fly-on-the-wall insurance adjustor with the laptop handling hurricane-related property damage.   I’m sure he’s seen everything, this is such an interesting hostel. Just yesterday a sixty-something fresh off a train from Chicago was breathlessly telling me his story – I think he had COPD. I was having a Red Bull at the time with an artist guy named Pete who lives in a condo across the street. I met up with Pete at French Truck for coffee, and he gave me one of his dioramas, and then tried to make out with me, but I turned him down.  Also, there are not one, but two, men staying at the hostel with eye patch situations. Being Halloween weekend, I made a serious faux pas by mistaking one’s for a costume, and wound up crying and banging my fist on the bar and declaring that “I was an asshole” when he pulled up the eye patch to show me what was underneath. But the man totally forgave me and called me an empath. 

 “Want to come to a cemetery crawl?” 

The stranger looks pensive, then says,

 “Yes, actually, I would.”

He gives me his number.   I text him the “Haunted Tours” link to the tickets, so he can buy one. 

“I’m taking the bus to the cemetery,” I say. “I’m just trying to figure out the schedule.”

“Oh, I’ve got my truck,” says the mysterious adjustor. 

“Oh, ok. Cool.”  We nibble more blueberries in each other’s company. 

“I just have some work to finish up in my room, but let’s meet back down here – in 30 minutes and we’ll go?”

“Sure.”

And he moseys away in a very soft looking, very lived in navy polo and board shorts and is carried upstairs in the clanging elevator.  Hmmm. I don’t even know his name. I sip some juice, calmly admire the news on the TV, because I don’t have to deal with reality anymore, I’m free, on cloud nine actually, population: one.  

“This is Harold,” he answers the phone with a flat tone. 

“Oh, hey, it’s Ann Marie from downstairs,” I reply. We have an entire hour before the cemetery crawl and I am simply relieved at not having to stress about finding out his name anymore.

“I’m just finishing up some work up here, be down in a minute,” he says. 

“Oh, take your time.” I say. “I’m just having some coffee.”

I decide that I have time to take a fashion risk and head up to my room to get my vintage funeral veil with the spider web pin that I bought for this trip. I wore it out in the Quarter on Halloween night when I went out with my roommate, Clarissa from Alaska, flirted with a sousaphone player at an old mansion and did some dirty dancing at the club with a guy in a Saints jersey (I think I even kissed him). 

Down he clangs in the calamitous elevator. Harry’s a tall guy with large muscular calves and a lumberjack/surfer physique, plus curly/wavy hair that’s shaved underneath and long enough for a man bun. He’s a casual kind-of guy, a guy of few words.

Harry and I exit the Quisby and hit the block, strolling down a spray-painted back alley towards his towering silver truck. Walking next to Harry, I feel like a kitten slinking alongside a proud lion.  He has the kind of stature that makes a girl feel safe in alleys, or wherever. 

Cemetery Gates…” I sing Pantera, badly.  “Do you like Pantera?”

“Oh, yeah,” says Harry, and plugs in his phone and begins to stream “Cemetery Gates” and then “Tout la Monde” by Iron Maiden.  Phew, for a minute there I thought Harry might be a System of the Down kind of guy (which I WOULD be willing to overlook). 

“We can stop at that art store if you want,”  we have been driving around in circles and performing u-turns around various medians that seem to be a thing here in New Orleans and lend themselves to a certain traffic pattern. 

“Oh that’s back by the Quiz,” he is talking about the voodoo store on St. Charles I mentioned. I picked up a perfume called La Buena Suerte which contains pieces of a macaw’s nest and is supposed to be lucky. So far, it’s working. New Orleans is definitely a city for the horny and the lustful. 

“We can check out City Park, it’s supposed to be kind of cool,” he says. I’m looking out the window, chill as a clam and simply taking in the fresh sunny day with a fresh sunny guy. 

From the street, at first City Park looks ordinary. We park in a big empty lot and drift down a hill and over a curved bridge that connects a pond, no, a stream, no….it’s the bayou!  A legit bayou flows through City Park for miles, covered by picturesque slime.  Bubbles froth up, neon chartreuse, and huge willow trees drip feathery moss that ever-so-delicately touches the surface.  We are inside a painting, no mushrooms needed, and as I lean over the bridge rail to examine the slime, Harry and I both spot a cute little turtle baby paddling through!  Turtle baby swims towards a big turtle momma, and then a turtle poppa, and a ton of other little turtles show up, camouflaged at first by the bright green slime. 

“It’s a turtle party, ain’t nothin’ but a turtle party,” I dance downhill to get closer to the bog. No, the swamp.  The bayou! 

“Whoa,” I step into a hole hidden by grass and tumble downhill in my shiny black PVC goth pants and surely my g-string is exposed as well. “Whoops, I’m clumsy.”

Harry is unfazed by a clumsy girl in a black veil and PVC, and we continue our bayou exploration.  Frogs jump around, and the turtles swim, but other than them, nobody one else is around; we’re alone in swamp paradise. 

Sun beams off the tall swampgrass as we creep across rocks and closer to the edge of the bayou. My gossamer veil gets tangled up in branches. We balance on a log beneath the shade of a gigantic willow tree.  Harold leads the way across the log, then turns back and offers me his hand. I stop and look at it for a second, and then clasp it with my own. 

 “Oh my God,” Harold says. 

My eyes trail over to where Harold is looking.  There, basking in the sun on a log at the edge of the swamp, is a small alligator! A baby gator in repose, eyelids seemingly half-closed, a serene smile across its lips. 

“The City of New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, and if that name wasn’t intense enough, the man was covered head to toe – with tattoos – of snakes.” 

Our goth posse oohs and ahhs.  “Now, you’re going to want to stick to the sides, “ Drew, our modelesque punk rock guide, leads the way down the rising sidewalk slabs and across a busy intersection into Metairie Cemetery.   In New Orleans, you need a key and tour guide license to get into cemeteries. 

“Now,” he turns as we cross, lowering his small round shades dramatically. “We will see skeletal remains.”  

I look over at Harold and he doesn’t seem fazed.

 “And please, don’t take any,” Drew says. “Someone in the last group thought she could take somebody’s bones home with her.” 

Suddenly, Harold turns and runs away, back towards his truck.

“Hey, where are you going?” I shout after him as he yanks up his shorts. 

“Work emergency!” 

And so I turn back to the tour and we drift into the stony crypt.  In New Orleans most are buried above ground in family tombs, and until now I’ve come to understand this is because the city is below sea level and coffins were prone to rising up out of the ground. 

But Drew begins, “Now, you really want to know why in New Orleans the dead aren’t buried underground? Follow me…”

 We creep past rock-filled, or bone- filled squares, some with elaborate tombs with padlocked doors, others just open to the elements like a garden..of bones.   Drew points out a human vertebrae. Someone snaps of photo. 

“New Orleans began as a French colony, and we are all about the fleur de lis – But it was lost to the Spanish Empire in 1763 following France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War,” Drew says.  “And you think anyone here gave a hoot about listening to the Spanish king? But they brought with them nouveau European burial practices.  Now, the City of New Orleans is a proud city, and a stubborn city, and when these nouveau European burial practices became all the rage abroad, well, we were only too keen to want to join in. And we still carry on those burial practices today. ” 

We walk down a path that resembles a city street.  Tombs look like houses with little doors and little windows.  Ancient, rusty street signs mark our way. I get a text from Harold stating he is coming back so I give him our location. Soon enough, I see him trotting across the cemetery. 

“I forgot I had an appointment,” he says.

“When you die, you are placed into the tomb for a year and a day,” Drew says. “Due to the heat, basically you are cremated, but no one is exactly sure until you are removed. Then, your bones and whatever is left are smashed up by the local bonegrinder, and you are scattered on top of the bones of your family, meant to save space and also span generations.” 

“You’re going to have to fill me in,” Harold leans down and says in my ear in what I perceive to be a flirty tone.  Hmmm. 

After a little over an hour and with the sun beating down, Drew concludes that many tombs have fallen into disrepair, with some not having any living relatives to tend to them and others the victims of vandalism. “You can keep track of tombs that need repair though the local organization Save Our Cemeteries (www.saveourcemeteries.org).” 

With that, Harold and I embark on our own private excursion. 

We reach a giant obelisk-shaped monument, at least a few stories high. 

“Whoever is buried here must’ve been a big deal,” I say. “Or at least compensating for something.”

It turns out to be Jefferson Davis’ original resting place. He was exhumed and moved to Richmond, VA.

We roam up to a pyramid shaped tomb made of pristine marble.

 Harold pulls the steel trap-door aside.  “Eeek,” I say.  Inside the tomb are three rows of drawers and it looks like a dresser, just instead of underwear and socks, it contains …remains.  

Afterwards, we goto a Louisianian – Asian fusion place called Mofo that Drew recommended. We sit outside on a patio and it’s just the two of us here. 

“I”m from Alaska,” Harold tells me.  “But I have a place in Montana. Just a little cabin.”

“Really? That’s cool. Are there any bears?”

“My friend has a pet bear,” Harold says. “He raised him since he was a cub.”

“Cute!”

“But I haven’t been back home in years,” he continues, “I’ve been working 18 months straight.  California wildfires, floods in Texas… haven’t even taken a personal day.” 

“Wow,” I raise my chopsticks for another hit of spicy shrimp n’ rice.   “Does it ever get lonely, being on the road?”

“Yes, sometimes.” 

The sun is still insanely bright as Harold and I drive away.  We walk side-by-side down shady streets, Harold casting a tall shadow over me as we meander weatherbeaten avenues.  A garbage can is tipped over next to railroad tracks that we walk down until I discover a bunch of dried-up oyster shells.  I pick some up and dust them off for a souvenir. 

There is a black BMW totally smashed up parked at the curb, broken glass all over the sidewalk that we step around. 

“How’s the crime up in New York?” asks Harold.

“Um, interesting question,” I say, “I guess there are a lot of shootings, it’s grown exponentially.  Not really sure why. I think they let a lot of people out of jail during the pandemic.”

“Hm,” says Harold.  

We go back to City Park and snag beignets from Cafe du Monde and find a homeless kids’ hideaway to possibly tuck into for the night:

Herons chill on grassy dirt clods along the swamp perimeter. After casually strolling for a little while, Harold and I climb in his truck and head back to the Quiz. 

We sit in a booth at the first-floor cantina, each with a mezcal-and-pineapple, as Harold adds to some insurance spreadsheets on his laptop. It is my last night in New Orleans. My flight back to Buffalo departs at 7:00 a.m., so I figure I’ll have to go to bed soon in order to maximize my beauty sleep. I’m not really planning to hang out with Harold late, and haven’t been trying to impress him at all. Before long, I throw on my Planet Hollywood sweatshirt I scored at a trailer park yard sale, and we stroll down to a po’  boy shop called something like Fat n’ Po’ on lower Magazine; I’m not that hungry but I nibble Harold’s fries with Middle Eastern hot sauce, anyway.  

“Are you Eskimo, then, being from Alaska and all?”

“No, Tlingit,” he says. “I’m from the south side.”

Back at the Quiz the elevator clangs to a start and rises to the third floor. Slowly, ever so slowly. 

“I will walk you to your room,” I say.


“Give me a hug,” suddenly Harold has me wrapped up in a grizzly bear hug, “A real hug.”  So I hug him back. And then, he kisses me.  We keep pressing the button to the second floor, no, the third floor, then back down to the second floor, and on and on a few times until we finally land on the third floor and slowly walk to Harold’s room.

“Ya, ya, ya,” Harold’s German roommate with the goatee is jabbering on the phone, until he sees me getting cozy in Harold’s lower bunk. There’s a long pause.  “I will go downstairs and have a drink,” he declares, and leaves the room. 

Harold doesn’t seem to have much by way of possessions, for someone who’s been basically living here for months.   I have way more clothes scattered on my bed and all over my room from just a few days (which reminds me, I still have to pack up a few things…)

“I thought you were going to get frisky at the cemetery,” he says, and then Harold and I start making out on his bed! 

“Pull these down,” he motions towards the waistband of my black PVCs. 

No way, I’m thinking, Is this really about to go down – in the final hours of my trip? 

“I can’t,” I move his hand away. “Truth is, I have my period.  Sorry.”

But one thing leads to another, as they seem to do in New Orleans. What ensues next is a fully in-depth, erotic and steamy shower scene.  I creep back down to the second floor with my hair wet and tangled for a few hour’s sleep before I fly back home to reality. 

Five a.m. and it’s still dark outside. I whisper “goodbye” to Clarissa and Tabitha, my other roommate, a librarian from Omaha.  As I roll my suitcase past the cantina, the waxed n’ tanned up-and-coming lawyer kid is perched at the bar

“Are you waking up or did you not go to sleep yet?” I ask him. 

“Haven’t gone to sleep yet!” he says, all perked up on Adderall, maybe, and it sucks to have to leave this life behind. New Orleans – instead of poker chips, it’s friendships. You win some, you lose some.  And what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans.  Or does it? 

And with that, I say goodbye for now with a tip of the hat, a humble kiss on the hand, and Harold snoozing it up on the third floor.

TO BE CONTINUED

Please, Stand By

Christmas Eve 2020

It hasn’t been 24 hours yet so it’s still ok for me to be fuming because once midnight hits and the ghost of Jacob Marley arrives in my boudoir along with the ghosts of however many other ex fling-a-boo’s, I have to be ready.  Prepared.  Armed to the teeth. 

It’s been four months since Jason’s been, you know… In the ground.   I haven’t gone out on any dates.

(Going to the biker campground with Schmitty in his carbon-monoxide steeped pick-up does not count as a date, even though I drove that hunk of junk into the compound past county sheriffs desperately trying some artful and hilarious diversion tactics, because Schmitty was scared due to his expired registration, and the “HOGOROSA CANCELLED” sign flashing on the Thruway.  But then Schmitty abandoned me for biker crank, and I was left cold and alone in my freezing tent, which I dubbed “Camp X Ray,” and screamed into the soulless air: “I’m alone! I’m abandoned! I’m alone and abandoned!”  until an LL Bean-catalog older guy built me a campfire).

I’ve unplugged from Jason’s cronies.  I’ve found solace in solitude.  

That is, until Rusty, my ex-boyfriend from the grindcore band, reappeared back into my life. Again. 

It’s not what you think.  His bandmate diedOf Covid.  So of course I went to the memorial at Lombardo Funeral Home, stood around with Rusty and The Growler (swoon), and some other guy who happened to be there in a satanic/celestial printed mask and somewhat of a Tony Hawk: Pro Skater vibe about him that I couldn’t quite trace. 

The very next day, I already had a friend request from him, and why I actually clicked it and looked at his profile I really couldn’t tell you, other than I remembered him from the night before.  I never saw him with his mask off, reader.  But I was physically attracted… a modern phenomenon indeed. 

“Are you the same guy from [Redacted]’s Memorial last nite?” I send via Messenger. 

“Yes,” Dan says, a totally easy to remember name, thank God. “I was going to message you and say you looked familiar, like we had totally met before, maybe at the Mohawk…”

So of course I tell him about my DJ gig,  the “Mid-Life Crisis Happy Hour.” 

“I have, like, a page that you can, you know. Like.” 

“Oh that’s awesome, yeah, I would love to get together sometime,” Dan says. And he sends me his phone number.  Old Skool. 

And I go into detail about how I’m suffering corneal infiltration from the ill-fitting contact lens in my left eye, that I look like Quasimodo, but giddily declare that I just need a week with my Rx drops and then I’d love to. 

“Either on Friday, totally we can go to Canal Club 52,  I know the bartender, but might have something to attend to, but if not, on sunday we could do the ny beer project so I could get us a reservation on sunday,” Dan is texting me like a werewolf who hasn’t had sex in awhile. “After six.”

“Yes, dinner would be lovely,” I return the favor, electronically, vaguely, with a few romance-tinged emojis to punctuate the declaration, “I miss going out to dinner.” 

And then the sentence that was to be the nail in my coffin, dear reader. 

“Either night would be fine with me.”

So up until then, of course we do the usual texting all-the-time thing, and I engage in some harmless Facebook stalking.  Turns out, Dan’s street nickname is actually “Chopper” Dan since he builds custom motorcycles, and looks to have a pretty huge group of biker homies, and without his mask on he looks pretty good, although way older than me.  But I’m into his ‘look.’ I hate to admit this but he definitely looks like an older version of Billy. (Billy! Shout out to Billy, who’s probably reading this right now. How the hell are YOU holding up?)

So on that fateful Sunday night, a mild, star-filled night brewing with potential, I uncharacteristically allow Chopper Dan to pick me up.  But only because, in a strange twist, Dan lives in my neighborhood, across the street from Jason’s grave and on the next street over from Schmitty himself. And we are heading all the way out to Lockport.  

When Dan texts me that he’s “here,” I find him at my front door.  Yep, old skool. 

“Hey there,” I say.  His hair is slicked back and he’s definitely, sniff sniff, wearing cologne.  I climb into his giant truck clad in a leather minidress with vertical zipper, opaque stockings and my chunky platform boots with the grommets. 

“It’s so crazy how we were in the same movie,” I tell him.  Yes, not only did I get a hot date following the Metal Memorial of Rusty’s bandmate, I was cast in the role of “Lucifer’s Secretary” by the guy with the webzine!  Apparently I have the look they needed, not to mention a job at a law firm.  And last minute, Dan was asked to be an extra because his friend owns the bar where they filmed earlier that day! “A total coincidence to be sure.”

So we cruise up to Lockport, and I’m totally at ease. I mean, all of l these coincidences must mean Dan and I are meant to be. 

“So, what else did you do today?”  I remember Dan said he’d be free “after six,” so I figured he was with his son, who is a teen, and I figured they were out and about doing “manly things.”

“Oh, hm, nothing really.” 

We arrive at the restaurant, and finally Dan shuts off the Godsmack emanating from the speaker (wtf?) that I’ve chosen to ignore. And it turns out to be a pretty decent evening. Perhaps this was due to the 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants, making dates conveniently short these days, and infusing them with an easy vibe of having zero expectations whatsoever.   So far…Over our shared appetizer of boom boom shrimp, Dan admitted something shocking.  Something I reached out to my gal pal Robin, who just moved back to LA, about.

“He told me…Well, he told me he’s never read a book.”

“WTF DUDE.”

“I mean, he said the last book he finished was Dr. Seuss in childhood…”

“RUN.”

“He’s got to be fucking with me,” I’m staring up at the cracks on the ceiling of my room. 

“Don’t sell yourself short!”

And I knew right then and there, Dan would become the subject of an eventual blog.  Since he would never read it and all.  But in less than a week’s time…well, even I was surprised by the quick expiration date. 

The next day as I’m exiting the good old Main Court Building and trudging towards my car, Dan and I have fallen into a little texting tete-a-tete about you know, this and that.  Being Monday and the fact I’m fatigued from being out the previous night, I figure tonight will be a night for chillin’ solo, putting my room back together, which is in shambles…All the usual post-weekend stuff. 

“Hey, want to watch the CKY livestream with me next week?” I ask him, more to gauge his interest, and see whether or not I scared him. 

“CKY, I’m not familiar with them, i guess it would depend on what I had going on that day,” he says. “I was thinking of driving around Hamburg and checking out the light display at the Fairgrounds today or tomorrow, would you be interested?”

Shambles be damned! I guess Dan is smitten. 

“I’d love to,” I reply, “But I really need to track down a picture frame for my boss’s gift.  We are exchanging Wednesday.”

“well, I have some things to pick up for myself.  I’ll go with you. We can go to Hobby Lobby. I have a coupon.” 

“Hobby Lobby? Don’t they, like, have something against birth control?”

“Oh, geez, I don’t know anything about that.”

“Yeah pretty sure it was a scandal, uh, I swear I’m not a radical…Um, sure, I guess we can go there.” 

Yep, the old two-days-in a row means pretty soon I’ll be walking down the aisle like Stephanie Seymour towards Axl in the “November Rain” video, I mean…is there a better confirmation that he’s, like, totally into you than the infamous Two Days in a Row?

As we are about to enter The Dockside, conveniently located on the Erie/Niagara County borderline, post-Hobby Lobby, I link my arm around Dan’s.  We walk several steps… Then I take it away.  Just checking to see if we have…chemistry. 

We decide to split the poutine, and Dan orders me a pinot, along with his drink of choice…sweet n’ spicy sangria.  What?  He is comfortable with his masculinity, okay. And he has a reliable vehicle, so I will never have to be “DD” again! 

“Did you once have red hair?”  Dan shows me a picture of my Albright Knox ID from 2012 from my Facebook page.  “Is that your natural color?”

“No, definitely not.” 

“Also, you had curly hair in a picture that I liked.”

“Curly? Where?”

He shows me a selfie, a recent profile picture.

“Oh that, those are beach waves.”

Dan might be insinuating how he wants me to wear my hair…

Nah.

I don’t know if it was the wine, or the simple luxury of going out to eat, inside, with a guy who owns a reliable vehicle – but either way I wasn’t phased by much. I was willing to overlook anything. Anything.

“Have you seen Monster Garage, with that guy Jesse James? I think he’s cool but he must be a total dick. I mean, divorced like, five times? Marrying Sandra Bullock? I mean, why? She’s really not sexy…He is clearly some kind of gold digger…” I continue to carry on about Jesse James for like, five minutes.

“Jesse James yeah, we hung out,”  Dan shows me a picture of them together with Jesse’s most recent ex-wife, the Paul Mitchell heiress. “They were down in Daytona for Bike Week.”

“No WAY!” Dan looks pleased with himself.  “Sorry, I mean I never met the guy. I’m sure he’s very nice in person.” 

“His porn star ex went totally psycho,” he says.  “Smashed everything.”

“Well – he probably drove her to it, let’s be honest.” 

As the night grows dangerously close to 10 p.m., closing time, Dan picks up the check.  I offered to pay last night, and he looked insulted and said, “You really think I’d invite you to dinner and want you to pay?”

“Um, no.” 

So this time I don’t offer.  We head to Dan’s truck.  

“Joint?” I hold it up under the passenger seat overhead light. Dan didn’t even see me roll it, as I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for being able to roll joints in the blink of an eye.

“What? Oh, I’ve never smoked weed in my life.”

“What.”

“Plus it would stink up my whole truck.”

And so, I leaned in and gave him a little kiss instead.  No tongue. It was quite chaste. I have an oral fixation, what can I say.

And so – alas!  This blog won’t conclude with Happily Ever After.  I mean, does it ever?

On Christmas Eve Eve, I would not have been opposed to one of Dan’s random invitations, since finally I didn’t have to work the next day, or all weekend.  But reader,  that didn’t happen.  I got a super long text at 4 p.m., sure, but…

“Hey i have been super busy all day,  i tried to get us a reservation but couldn’t so i will have to get back to you after the holidays.”  And then a smile face.

At first I was like, “ok, cool, do you watch true blood?” 

“A little,” he says, before ghosting me the rest of the night. 

Wow, really.  I have been placed on standby.

So I said, “I really don’t know why you need to get back to me…For what?”  I mean, he didn’t even know what I had planned that night, or any other.  He will probably pop up and ask me to help organize his garage, or something.  So I said, “You can just leave me alone.”  Dramatic, yes. “Have fun at Hobby Lobby.” Ok, so a tad immature.  But I feel like he was taunting me with that Hobby Lobby business. If anyone has a Planned Parenthood connection, I know someone who needs as much educational literature mailed to his house as possible.

Yes, like Janis Joplin once said, “I am a wild airplane…And have been placed on standby.”  Actually she never said that.  But that’s me alright, a renegade airplane, crashing and burning, or at least lost somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle.  And that’s ok.  Because in the end I can’t date someone who’s never read a book, or Playboy or Hustler for the articles, and who isn’t 420 friendly, I mean…Seems like kind of a bland existence. 

READER SURVEY:  WHAT ARE UR DATING DEAL BREAKERS? Send your answers to: factorygirl1987@gmail.com

Enmeshed in Mess

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At the edge of my immediate neighborhood lies a hill upon which one district rolls into another.  On this hill are ramshackle duplexes of ill repute, washed in dirt and years of decay.  A revolving cast of probationers and ex-cons cloud its reputation.  Many vagabonds have trudged across this soil.  And it is here where I found my one true love.

At first, the beginning of Jack and I looked like an end.    We met at the Urn show, through our mutual gal pal Jenny from the Block and her on again/off again husband.  Our first dates could have been construed as morbid;  we hung out at the grave store and the haunted cemetery.   Actually, on our very first date, I had to leave him at the bowling alley.  He spent all his money on PBR and had none left for the shoe rental.  But Jack eventually became my happy hour roadie who put records back in their sleeves.  What’s wrong with having an ex-biker bodyguard for my DJ sets?  The Grateful Dead had the Hells Angels, after all.  But then one day last summer, I decided to open my heart.

Jack lives in a front, street-facing flophouse on the hill.  Although the front window is concealed by a Snoopy-print sheet. The other is cracked and broken, mended by a plastic tarp.  His living room is dark but bathed in the red glow of an old turn-of-the-century lamp.

In the back half of the house (which is sectioned down the middle) dwells Donna the Landlady, along with – rumor has it – two generations of cats and dogs.  Nearly 20 in all.  Although, we never see much of each other.  Donna’s life doesn’t follow a normal pattern.  She makes appearances like television commercial breaks.  Rather, she knocks on Jack’s door with the authority of a Sheriff.

“THUD THUD THUD,” emanates from the hall.  “BOOM BOOM BOOM”.

Then we’ll spy her bulky physique wedge itself between the screen door and the dark windy night.  I’ll move my car, and she will zip away on some mysterious errand.   One night, we swung open the door to head out to see Of Desolation, and right at that very second, Donna swung open her door to the hallway as well.   We came face-to-face theatrically, and all that was missing were guns to be drawn and a shootout to take place like the Wild Wild West, or a historical reenactment of one at Fantasy Island.

“Humph,” Donna the Landlady slammed the door, and we heard her bumbling around in there  as Jack and I continued towards the Uber idling curbside.

Another night, I opened the flimsy wooden door (which looks, on the outside, like someone attacked it with an axe), into the dark hallway.  I spied what I thought was Jack’s little cat, Saltine, sitting on the ground.

“Go on in,” I coaxed.  But behind me Jack said – “That’s not Salty.”

Sure enough, I turned and saw Salty – who is missing one front leg, she’s a rescue – perched on the kitchen table!

“Ahhh!” I recoiled back into the kitchen.  “Something’s out there!”

Jack stepped in front of me and I pushed him out into the hallway with me stuck to his back like a koala.  We peered around the edge of the door.

“It’s a badger,” Jack said, and shut the door behind him, leaving me in the kitchen.

“AHHH!” I ran into the living room and wrapped myself in the Harley Davidson duvet.  Jack returned after a minute, saying it must be one of Donna’s cats, but the creature in the hall didn’t have a tail. It turned out to be “Zeke’s mom,” the feline matriarch, but now we refer to her as Badger even though I sadly never saw her again.

In the backyard is a government-grade American flagpole with a gold eagle shining on top and jackhammered concrete encircling the base – a found object from Willie, Jack’s “roommate,” although not a roommate in any monetary sense.  He showed up shoeless in the snow and high on narcotics two years ago, and never left.  He’s been self-quarantining since before it was cool in a room with a padlock and hinge.

“Doesn’t he ever, like, go to the bathroom?” I asked Jack.

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There’s also Tim, who rides over on his bike more often than not, sometimes with leftover shrimp moo shu from the takeaway.  He lives behind Beaver’s Snow-Plowing with his elderly mother and a brother who frequently calls into radio stations with a monotone voice.

“Kevin was on WECK radio winning $100!” Jack exclaimed one day.

Up in Jack’s room, the walls are emerald green with “Country Girl” painted on in cursive, even though Jack is neither country, nor girl.  At first I scoffed and asked “Who’s country girl?”  But when you live in a flophouse on a hill, the origins of such epithets are not exactly known.

We are enmeshed in mess and in mess we are one – just me, Jack and Salty the Cat.  And Willie too, I guess.

“I’m going to go and buy you a toothbrush to keep here with your name on it,” Jack says.

“A…toothbrush?”  I read in Cosmo that 52% of men view keeping a toothbrush at their pad a sign of commitment.

“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your breath or anything  -”

Willie stomps down the steep stairway sounding like Herman Munster in a black Choppers jacket and Stan Smiths with a Seneca dangling from his mouth and labret piercing glinting amongst a scratchy grey goatee.  He mutters something in his mildewy tar-stained voice.

“I’m going next door to Pinky’s,” Willie says and scratches his balls, then treks out the door.  Pinky has many male suitors; in fact she told me at the Social Distortion show that she’s descended from Italian nobility.  But as for Willie, I think she just feeds him as well as their other friend Donald the Professional Plaintiff.  (Donald was once a driver for a Medicaid van service who blasted Dying Fetus to drown out his passengers and later sued the company for personal injury after tripping on his own two feet).

My friend Dan, who provides me with “herbal refreshment” on the regular,  warned me about dating a man whose mugshot was once splashed on the pages of the Cheektowaga Chronicle. 

“You’re too glamorous for that house,” Dan says as we catch up on his couch.  He knows the flophouse scene because his brother once dodged a warrant for violating an order of protection by “living” there at one point.  Cheektowaga Police eventually caught up with him; he tried to escape via the second story window.   “Run away…”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I say, and look down at Dan’s freshly-shampooed carpet.

“Are you supposed to see him again?” he asks.

“He’s waiting for me now,”  I stand to get my shoes.  “We just went to Mister Dee’s and saw a guy who looked exactly like David Crosby!”

From the couch, Dan says, “Be careful…” and his voice is laced with an ominous tone.

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“Willie met a super rich hottie on the Net!” Jack texts me as I’m mulling things over in the Airport Plaza Save-a-Lot.

“What?  He should stick with Jennifer!”

Every now and then, Jack and I will be chilling on the couch,  deeply immersed in a Sopranos marathon thanks to the library, when suddenly, Jennifer will stomp through the living room in her signature ski cap and size 11 boots.

“I’m going, I’m going,” she’ll mutter while staring straight ahead, the edges of her mouth sliding into her trademark benzocaine smile.

“Who’s that?”  I said.  Jack told me all about Jennifer and Willie’s decade-long, on-again, off-again situationship, how Jennifer was thrown from the back of Willie’s Harley, and how they found themselves in hot water when a traffic stop turned into a drug bust, and how Jennifer had twins with another man while they were supposedly together.

On Christmas Eve, we came into the living room after my aunt’s soiree and saw a lump on the couch beneath the afghan knitted by a past resident drug addict named “Bed Bunny.”   Jack crouched down to lump-level, and said, “Who are you?”

Jessica arose from her slumber, then went and sat in the dusty recliner across the room, which was once light tan but is clearly now saturated with dirt. Not long after, Willie stomped into the room with a bottle of booze and foil-wrapped food, threw them at Jennifer aggressively, and stomped up the dark stairway to his locked dungeon.  She followed him with these “gifts,” and before long, plenty more sketchy folks began to arrive – Tim; Petey, who is one of Pinky’s suiters and a Korea veteran; Donald; and even Skitchy the drug dealer slash reptile enthusiast rolled up in his pickup, with hay bales in the bed of the truck for some reason, and orange overalls on.  I thought Skitchy was pretty cute, and given how dark it is in the ‘flop, around my age.  (In the light of day it’s actually plain to see that Skitchy is, in fact, 50 years old).

“Donna’s gonna freak with all these cars in the driveway,” I said. But Jack and I are never invited into Willie’s dungeon.  I snuck a peek before while exiting the bathroom –  it resembles something out of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, with mythical silver and crystal dragon figurines everywhere, and a red couch that wraps around the room.  How or why Willie ended up with the “nicest” room, I’m not sure.  Then again, why Jack actually pays Donna to live in the ‘flop, I’m not so sure of either.

For now, I guess Jennifer and Willie are “off.”  He has fallen in love with his “super rich hottie from the Net.”  (Willie also busies himself on the ‘Net selling Pokemon cards, which I guess are fetching some coins with collectors these days).

enmeshed7

“He got five teeth pulled just because of her,” Jack continues.   I’m not sure which app Willie is on, but this “super rich hottie” apparently owns a junkyard in Chautauqua County.  He puts her on a pedestal.  Her photo is his phone background.  They talk for hours and hours.  ( But as of the date of this writing, they haven’t met in person).

Of course, the saga of Willie’s harem wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tabitha, Willie’s ad hoc boo thang he met downtown at the free clinic/needle depository.  Her boyfriend’s currently locked up for petty larceny.  He stole a stick of beef jerky; I guess that’s his calling card. Nowadays Tabitha lives a nocturnal lifestyle working as a prostitute.  She sometimes rolls up in her teal Cadillac deVille, which might have been left to her in an old sugar daddy’s Will.

But of course, this is the tale of Jack and I, not about all these other people – right?

enmeshed 2

“Just you, me and Salty, one big happy family,” Jack says and throws one of his burly arms around me, then slurps from his glass of Natural Light.  He is wearing a Motorhead tee shirt with his dark hair in a messy ponytail.

Today is an unseasonable 50 degrees, so we are chilling outside at the glass patio table playing Ratt cassettes and starting up a bonfire.  The fire pit at Jack’s is the metal drum from inside a dryer.  The delivery driver from the pizza joint next door is driving around like a madman and popping wheelies up and down Union, practically, and that’s not even to mention the souped-up BMW with a boat engine zipping by like clockwork.

“Tim’s heading over on his bike!”  I’m snapped out of my reverie; sure enough, Tim pedals his mountain bike up the driveway and over to the patio table.  He’s rocking a giant gash on the side of his shaved head, with a Band-Aid pathetically placed over it.

“My brother whacked me with a Swiffer!”  Tim’s clutching his side as if he’s returned back from war. “Yow-OW!”

Is there a name for the phenomenon of feeling like you’re watching a really funny show, but it is, in fact, your life?

“Do you have a cig?” I ask Tim.

“I had to go and get him some on Doat and Genesee!” Jack interjects.

“What about me, I want cigs from Doat and Genesee!” I say.

Next door, Pinky is saying goodbye to one of her suitors.  He is putting some things into a black Volvo with her hand on his lower back.  Once he is seated behind the wheel she leans into the front seat to give him a smooch.  I lower my all-black rectangular shades, which Jack bought for me at an Allen Street sip n’ shop.

“Did you bring the Temps?” Jack asks.

“Something better -” Tim reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out a packet of “Nine Lives.”

“What is this crap?”  Jack is alarmed. “She hates these – everyone knows that!”

Tim and I look at each other.  I shrug.  “Well jeez man fine, I’ll come back later, there was a coupon for these things -”   And Tim heads inside to say hello to Salty, and later emerges with a bag of “Ginger Loon” marshmallows that Jack procured at the Airport Plaza Save-a-Lot.  And so the night continues on like a peaceful fog drifting over the harbor.

Enmeshed6

Tonight, Jack and I are heading to Our Lady Help of Christians BINGO.  Pregaming at the corner shanty will begin promptly at 5.  There, we have blended into the familiar cast of Bloozies (aka, Bills Floozies) always there on Sundays – “Cuddles,” “The Ambassador,”  “Peanut Butter Whiskey,” the girl who always hollers that someone scratched her Cobalt, et al.  I’ve got my pack of Parliaments nearby, because Tabitha started bumming me her Newport 100’s.  Now I carry my own for when the mood strikes.  Bad habits die hard, what can I say?

Well, this is the Wild Wild West.    Revealed by The Buffalo News to have the most cancer due to lifestyle  in the country.  Harlem and Genesee.   Skid Row.  Drunkenness to rival that of Vegas, hence the name, “Cheektovegas.”  Or sometimes, “Cheektowarsaw.”  Jack and I are chilling at the corner shanty, me with a bucket of Barefoot chardonnay, and Jack with a bucket of Budweiser, with the Bills after party in full swing.  The Ambassador and the girl with the Cobalt’s mom are slow-dancing to Ed Sheeran. Floyd the Cook with the clubfoot is slouched against the end of the bar, and suddenly takes a sideways swing at the bartender’s husband’s head, but misses.  The exertion makes him almost fall over sideways.

“Get out!” The fire engine red-haired bartender shouts at Floyd.  Her tank top says “Wine-y Bitch.”  “Go outside!”

Floyd drags his weary, lopsided, liquored-up body out the door, and stands under the twinkling Christmas lights looped around the patio.  There’s a rowdy scene outside, too, with the Gen X’ers throwing a football around and plenty of smokers settling into patio furniture.  A curly-haired lady is leaning out the door of her red Mustang, talking on her cell.   I see a guy, out of the corner of my eye, walking in the middle of Harlem Road.  He’s got a bottle in hand and is weaving in and out of traffic, illuminated by the ceaseless glow of the corner 7-Eleven.

“Oh my God!” I point.  “He’s going to die!”

The Ambassador straightens up from  leaning against the brick wall..  He’s a freckly Millennial so named because he always shakes people’s hands, especially new patrons he’s never met.  He might have a future in politics.

“Oh, he works in the kitchen…”  The Ambassador doesn’t seem too concerned.  “Must’ve just drank a bottle…”

Jack and I settle into the last patio table next to Peanut Butter Whiskey.  He’s a snow-capped gentleman who once bought Jack a shot of peanut butter whiskey.  All of a sudden, Jack’s phone rings from an unsaved number – and he actually picks up!

“Oh, uh, what’s going on?”

I lean close to the speaker.  It’s clearly a tweaked-out female’s voice on the other end.

“Hey! How rude!”  I shriek.

“It’s been a while -” Jack says, clearly uncomfortable.

“Hang up on her!”   I turn away and cross my arms.  “Weird!” Jack finally hangs up the phone.

“Who was that?” I say.  It’s not that I’m a jealous toad, just that since Jack and I are “official” now, I should be able to articulate my curiosities.

“This ex-girlfriend from years ago,” Jack looks totally weirded out.  But honestly I get calls/texts/friend requests, etc. from exes all the time, and never respond to them, much less answer a call from a random number on BINGO night. Granted, the girl sounded messed up on drugs.  So I’ll let it slide.  And who cares?  Jack and I will probably win a fortune at BINGO.

Not long afterwards, Jack and I are cozy under fluorescent gymnasium lights surrounded by BINGO dabbers, golden Buddhist cats and a ladybug Beanie Baby belonging to the older ladies at our table. One has a sequined visor on, and many are munching on the 75 cent pizza slices. Up on stage, a dusty gentleman recites the numbers on the Ping Pong balls popping around inside a giant clear globe.

“O – 69,”  the guy says deadpan into his microphone, and O- 69 lights up on a scoreboard taking up the whole stage.  You would think with all of our boards, we would have won something. But no such luck; Jack and I are still penniless, but slightly tipsy.  However, not long after the game begins, Jack’s phone starts to light up again, with that same demented ex’s unsaved number.

“Hello,” I flatly answer Jack’s phone.  Because, since we are official and this girl is apparently annoying, she should not be allowed to interrupt BINGO.

Tell Jack to stop stalking my house,” the girl slurs.   I look at Jack and narrow my eyes.

“Look, you’re interrupting BINGO,” I tell her.  “GOOD bye.” And I hang up on her.

After BINGO, I drop Jack off at the corner of Union and Genesee, instead of taking him all the way to his house.  I’m pissed at him.  And why wouldn’t I be? Even if the ex is a drugged-out mess, he needs to block her number –  immediately.

Because upon reflection, how could Jack have just been stalking her house, when I’ve literally been at his house all day?   He doesn’t have a car, anyway.  Tim later confirms this insanity of the ex defense.  I guess this “Chrissy” once started a row while volunteering at a Save the Owls tent at the Taste of Buffalo.  Well, whatever.  I suppose I will let it go.  We briefly broke up at BINGO – but I’m not ready to completely run away yet.  I’m going to wait and see if Jack proves himself to be trustworthy.

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Willie enters the living room in a Sons of Anarchy tee shirt, saying he was chased by wild turkeys down by the churchyard.

“They followed me all the way home, dude,” Willie flops into the dusty recliner, lit cigarette dangling from his mouth, and wraps himself up in the stolen hospital blanket spotted with burn holes.

Tonight, Jack and I are snugged up with Salty to watch The Masked Singer.  I head to the fridge, and look inside; despite dropping multiple hints that I need snacks 24/7, there’s nothing inside but pomegranate seeds and coffee creamer.

“Random…what’s with the seeds?”

“They just showed up here,” Jack pours a Hemptails into the red and white plastic wine cup I always use.  “Cube?”

“Yes, please,” I say.  “Smoot.”

After a few more sips of Hemptails, of course I have to pee.  I wander into Jack and Willie’s bathroom.  A former inhabitant excavated all the copper pipes and scrapped them for cash, so the water from the sink drips into a bucket underneath.  I’m high maintenance when it comes to the bathroom, and so are Jennifer and Tabitha evidently, because we frequently overflow the bucket until water is running all over the floor.  But for real, Donna needs to do something about, well, everything here.  Sometimes the water even drips down into the mutual hallway.

I use up the last of the toilet paper and hope that there’s more, and turn the doorknob a full 360 degrees.  It appears there is also something wrong with the doorknob;  I am trapped in the bathroom.

“Help!” I shout. “I’m stuck!”

Willie appears on the other side of the door.

“I’ll get Jack,” I spy his scratchy goatee moving through the crack in the door. “He will know what to do.”

“Ok?”

“Grab the butter knife!” Jack yells from out in the hall. “On the shelf to the left!”

Sure enough, there is a butter knife, which I slide down the crack in the door and it eventually trips the lock.  The door opens.  Jack’s standing in the dark hallway.

“I love you, Jack,” I say.

“I love you, too,” Jack says.

Um, what was that about? I go back to watching The Masked Singer.

billy idol

There have of course been times when I questioned whether Jack was for real.  Like the time he picked all the onions out of Pinky’s potato salad for me, because he knows I do not like onions.

“What’s in it for him?”  I narrowed my eyes.  I have trust issues, what can I say.

We went on a cheesy overnight Valentine’s Day getaway at Salvatore’s Rose Garden Hotel. We were totally “those people”.  The girl at the table next to us was a total prude, and lactose intolerant to boot.  What’s wrong with a little PDA?

One morning, Jack let me wear his slippers instead of my heels when I had to do a “Walk of Shame” down to the NFTA stop. We rode the bus together back to my house, and when one of the nefarious local drunks climbed aboard, Jack shielded me from his gaze.

Jack buys me stuffed animals too, like, all the time.

Oh and who could forget our “couples costume” this past Halloween: young Avril Lavigne and Carnivore-era Peter Steele?

It’s not perfect – I did stomp a bag of Ruffles in combat boots when Jack wasn’t paying enough attention to me during The Masked Singer.  Jack gets moodier and more bitchy than I ever do over which Dollar General to go to.  But I just roll my eyes.

This might be the only one of my blogs not ending with me running away screaming from whatever male I’d been dealing with…  But I would miss Salty too much if I bailed.  We are enmeshed in mess all right, James and Salty and me, and on lockdown to boot. I only wish that this summer, Jack and I will find ourselves at the beach again, listening to the sound of the waves, doing photoshoots, drinking Hemptails, and just staring distantly at the clouds floating by.