Monday, March 28, 2005


Young James and I sat in the pair of highbacked, upholstered lounge chairs in the window of X and O. I ate a tandoori chicken pita while james devoured some arcane historical text. The world hustled by us on 12th St. beyond the plate glass. Over my steaming cocoa, I saw our friend TJ step into the bustling scene. He stood on the opposite corner by the lamp post, more neatly presented than his usual grad student thrift store scruffiness, and rummaged in the pockets of a new lambskin blazer. We hadn't spoken in several weeks. I flipped open my phone and selected his number, watching him sternly scan the oncoming traffic while I waited for the call to connect.

" Hello candy pants." he answered, his fluid and usually optomistic tennor oddly flat. "How are you?"

"The reviews have been good", I replied, catching YJ's eye over the top of his glasses and winking, "Jimmy and I are taking up valuable space in 'Zandoh'. "

"Where are you? I'm not wearing my glasses."

"The center of the long side, the honeymoon table, I'm waving now."

He squinted and waved back, then raised an ankle to his knee and fiddled with the lace of his shoe. The soles were tan, smooth and polished from the box.

"Come watch us ignore each other."

"Uh... no. I can't. I'm meeting someone."

"Is that so! Gotta date, fancy guy?"

"No. I've got a client."

TJ was raised in spare circumstances by a single mom upstate in coal country.
Intellect and drive had landed him in a U of P graduate program with a hefty scholarship, right out of State College.
Unlike the majority of his Penn classmates( we called them "the over privledged children") he was on his own financially.
Even with the various temp jobs he juggled, and the late night coffee house shifts he spent perched on a stool at the counter reading dry and weighty tomes between lattes and decaf espressos, it was a constant exhausting strugle to make ends meet.
Often as not, I bought the rounds as we trolled the bars of the Locust Street corridor. (Drinks are cyclical draw. When you have it, you throw money in the pot. When you don't, your buddies carry you, knowing that it'll be your turn eventually. )
He could but the drinks after he got that Ivy League paper. Lots of 'em.

One Sunday morning he called me is crisis. The handsome silver beard he'd spent the night with had learned of his plight during the previous evenings conversation. The man insisted on giving TJ a hundred dollars. A 'gesture'. Because he could.
TJ needed the money.
TJ took the money.
"Look," I counseled, "any time we take compensation in exchange for services ,it's a form of prostitution. I've been whoring my body and soul out to the Philly art establishment for almost ten years now. At least you got a kiss afterwards. You do what you need to do. You do what you need." And so he started his apprenticeship in a noble and ancient trade, an even exchange with all parties satisfied. Besides, TJ would be slinging his prize piece around Washington Square West anyway,'gestures' notwithstanding. We didn't see him much for awhile.

"So what's the deal?"

"An hour. For $150."

" One fifty? You know you're giving it away, dont you?
Aw rite, gimme a call when you get off. Uh, I mean AFTER you get off.
I mean when you're free."

"Nothing is ever REALLY free, is it?" He questioned, flatly, almost stating it.
"OK handsome. I'll buy drinks later, OK? Here he is! Gottago! Gottagobye!"

A silver Jetta glided up to the corner, the dark tinted window lowered half way. TJ smiled his familiar, boy-next-door dimpled smile and ran his fingers through his auburn hair. He unbuttoned the jacket, hopped in , and the car sped away.

James had closed his book on the table top, his page marked by the paper straw wrapper I'd blown at his forehead when we'd sat down earlier ("bullseye!").

"Who was that?'

"It was TJ, I saw him on the corner."

"What? TJ! Where the hell has he been? I havn't seen him in forever."
He picked up the last brownie fragment from my plate while looking out at the now vacant spot by the light. " Is he gonna join us?" He Popped it in his mouth.

I dabbed some crumbs off the plate and licked them from my finger,
"He doesn't have the time tonight."
"He's working."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Went to NYC yesterday to watch my Blog Daddy read at PS 122.

His "cruel tiny angular eyewear" kept sliding down his nose, and he barely paused to breathe as he raced through the virgin text, but he's a natural performer, and the material was strong. A big chunk of the bit was strung around our Big Apple walking adventures. A good 7 1/2 minutes of my 15 of fame got used up.
He killed 'em. I'm so proud.

I got to meet bloggers Aaron, Chris,Chris H, Andy and Davis, and saw Erik and Sparky again. Good folks all, and a fine looking bunch( 'specially the tall furry one). Today I see that a great out pouring of linky love has ensued. I'll eagerly participate, but it'll have to wait. The spirit is willing, but the technological acumen is weak. Jocko wrote to say he'd show me how to set links up, says it's easy (helluva guy that one), so I'll return the props later this week.

This trip, I didn't take the Chinese Bus.

I've tired of the cramped chaos and unreliability of the once lauded Orient Express. Two weeks ago was the last straw.
The 6 o'clock bus hadn't boarded by 7:15, and I wanted to know when, if ever, the next one would depart.
I fought my way through the shoving, jabbering crowd of tiny Asians gripping huge red white and blue woven satchels, dissafected hipsters slung with messanger bags, cell phones open, and bewildered european budget tourists with wheeled luggage and sensible shoes. I reached the plexiglass Great Wall of the office and expressed my dissatisfaction through the drilled holes above the money slot. I wanted answers.

"Bus come when bus come!" the station manager spat at her ledger without looking at me.
"Ten minute!"

She'd said that an hour ago. The ticket girl at her elbow laughed, and the manager joined her. So THIS time I took the Grey Dog. They're having a $24.00 round trip internet special. Ordering was an ordeal, but forgotten by Tuesday when I boarded a spacious, well maintained canine bound for 42nd street. Eighteen hours of bloggy fun later, I took a Peter Pan back to Philly. Peter Pan coaches are each individually named, like race horses (and greyhounds!). The 10 AM I boarded was christened "The Reliable Colonel". We left exactly on the hour, and the first "Harry Potter" movie flickered on the video screens right after the driver's thank you for riding/safety speech( in heavily Jamaican accented ENGLISH). We hit the Turnpike. This past week I'd seen photo's of a recent motor coach conflagration. A Fung Wa on the Boston run had had a mechanical malfunction resulting in fire. The Bus Central Comittee had radioed back to the frantic driver that he continue (perhaps hoping to outrun the flames?). Incredibly, he obeyed. As the smoge dissipated from the charred aluminum shell, the survivors hitch-hiked into Bean Town. I doubt they got refunds. Our trip was initially incident free. But alas, the Colonel wasn't up to his stated reputation and the transmission expired dramatically as we coasted into a rest stop somewhere in the badlands of Central NJ. At least there were no flames. The crippled bus idled, "The Prisoner of Ashtrakan"(or whatever) continued, and our replacement coach "First Laugh" arrived a half hour later, just as the driver had told us it would. With the Jamaican at the helm, First Laugh sped us back to Philly only 20 minutes behind schedule. We even got to see the end of the movie. The driver thanked us for riding, apologized again as we pulled up under the awning at Filbert Steet Station, and opened the door to release us into the cold Philly drizzel. It was speedy, comfortable and civil, not at all like the dramas of white trash desperation you hear about from people who take the Acela. I can't wait to tell everybody.

I hailed a cab, and it took me past the dingy DragonCoach depot on it's way to my studio. Through the rain streaked window I could see the manager and ticket girl inside the florescent lit cage. The cab was well heated, but the warmth I felt was the satisfaction that I wouldn't have to take the chinese bus again(as long as the Greyhound special lasted anyway) and that my new friends The Colonel, and First Laugh had given me the last laugh after all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Johnny Brenda's still has rusty pipe frame holding a cracked and yellowed glowing plastic sign over the corner entrance out front. Inside the old tin ceiling has been revealed but otherwise it's the same fake paneling, red and white linoleum stripes, and plywood topped bar, scrubbed and rewired for safety. The old neon budwiser sign remains, if somewhat altered. Mostly painted over, it's also scraped free of some of the original black enamel in spots, now reading 'dive" in gently humming ruby red script. "Divey" is a higly desirable aesthetic in the transitional Fish Town neighborhood of Philadelphia. The arriving hipsters want edgy urban grit , the realness of shabby kitsch and unintended irony. They also want to drink something more challenging than "The King of Beers". So do I. That's why we've all gathed here, to enjoy 14 taps of regional craft brews, pabsts blue ribbon (official beer of ironic detatchment) and a reasonably priced tapas menu, grilled in the open kitchen behind the second bar.

I've lately ordered a pork medalions sandwich, with sauted spinach and gruyere on a kaiser, each time I sit at Micah's bar. Just out of school, I'd hired Micah to paint the inside of the tiny rowhouse I'd bought down the street. Thoughtful and meticulous, he'd done a great job for a low hourly rate. He was pleasant company to toil alongside, and played great music on the paint spattered Sony boom box he'd brought along. Though all those hours probably ended up costing as much as a professional, it was worth it. Now that he's here at the back bar pulling the taps, he's just as dilligent at making sure that the pint glass here at my elbow is never empty. I start with several Yards ESA's, segway into Fying fish Extra Special Bitter, and attempt to dilute it all with multiple lime fortified club sodas. Yards Extra Special Ale forms a thick creamy head out of the hand pump, dense like the froth left by a receeding tide. Nearly flat and served close to room temperature, it's compex, bitter and aromatic, lingering long on the palette. Flying Fish is less aggressive, crisper, with a shorter finish; a good choice for weening post-fratboy acquaintances off Coors, Corona, and Miller Light. I 'll sit there quite a while happily sipping, and scratching in my little black Molskine, 'till nature signals a trip back back past the 1970 dinette lamps and fiberglass ham shank to the men's room.

The upper part of the men's room wall is entirely covered with grafitti so dense it forms an overall Silly String like pattern, interrupted ocasionally with band stickers, and cartoonish figures rendered in fat strokes of opaque paint pen. Tonight someone has added a label reading: "Please write the nickname you gave yourself, and which no one calls you, on the surface to which this sticker is attatched. Thank You" Below, the two unmatched urinals are set 5'' apart without intervening partitions on a pale yellow tile wall. The sink to the left is even closer and hung at at waist level. I prefer the look of the older pisser on the right, a curvacious white uterine form, much like an oversized inverted porcelain athletic cup. It's jammed up against the plywood toilet stall at the end of the room, so instead of it, I usually use the uninteresting angular 1980's one to the left, adjacent the sink. Because of the tightness of the room, the pee shy head for the stall in the back, and then hesitate to wash their hands if someone is standing before the urinals. On a busy night, volume dictates closer proximity. Three men will usually be shoulder to shoulder abreast, two cocks spaced 16" on center and the slick soapy wet hands of the guy at the basin even closer than that. Forced into a situation much like the premise of a Falcon Video, they work fiercely at avoiding eye contact. The discomforted make themselves as narrow as posible, hoping not to graze the next guy while performing their uncomfortably collective act. It doesn't bother me a bit. I grew up with two brothers, a shared bedroom and bath. There is nothing that can be secreted, excreted, expelled or emitted from a mans body that I havn't witnessed first hand under the least erotic of circumstances.

I'm delighted when I catch a straight guy checking out my dick. It's always the most homophobic who are the most interested. I love to amplify any erotic overtones. I lean back slightly, one thumb hooked in my button fly and the other in my waistband. Furtive glances quickly avert, eyes snap back to concentration on their own yellow stream. In some other watering holes I frequent, this sort of thing can lead to drinking interrupting behaviors, but I'm not here for such shenanigans. They finish quickly, barely shaking off and moving wide around me to approach the sink. Then, they feint away from washing their hands when they realiz it would bring them even CLOSER to what their eyes had just been considering. I smile while buttoning up, wash my hands with warm water and the pearly pink dispenser soap, and dry them with the folded brown sheets pulled from the rusty galvinized dispenser. Back at my stool Micah has again filled my pint glass the brim. Cheerfully I resume, men shoulder to shoulder again, all of us focused on our beery task.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Danger Zone

Am I too fat to wear this shirt?

Is there spillage?

Uh, no.
But, oh.
Not if I dont eat anything.

How bout the back?

I can't tell.
Look, you look.

Okay, it's fine.

"Its fine" wear it?
Or "Its fine" try something else?

I'd tell you not to if you shouldn't.

You're sure.

Yes yes.
There's NO room for error.
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