A Trip to the Hamptons. Real n’ Weird

New York City was covered in august sweat, drunk and stinky from the summer heat. The subway rats could barely move, unimpressed with gluten-free organic pizza crusts from Whole Foods. The rats reluctantly relocated their sly long tales from heated tracks into conditioned subway cars, leaving their cool tales hanging next to smelly feet of their grumpy humanoids — the New Yorkers, tired and cranky and so utterly unimpressed with the state of the world. The infamous Pizza Rat got on the A- express train heading to Howard Beach and dropped itself into the Broad Channel.

My frenemy Nikki found a summer sublet in East Hampton. She generously extended her invitation to me — to spend a few days with her for a frenemy price — $50 a night. What the Hell? I pondered. It’s either I will go to the Hamptons in my new shades and show off my new bikini top and most importantly bottom, or I will melt in our Bed-Stuy apartment, cluttered with beer cans, shedding cat, and two roommates married to an Xbox.

I packed all the necessary items and sunblock into my North Face backpack. I put on Levi’s jeans shorts, white tank, leather sandals and headed to Midtown East to take Hamptons Jitney. Nikki was hiding under an exaggerated black hat reminiscent of the Italian cinematography in the 60’s, La Dolce Vita. Her hands had a tight grip on a large travel bag, half her size. Inside was a summer collection of designer dresses and heels and bags. All this was part of the Mission Possible — Finding Prince Hamptons. We got on half empty Hampton Jitney, taking different seats, far from each other.

At dusk the bus dropped us off at the East Hampton Village. We took a nice walk past old historic colonial houses, charming mills and inns, turning into a peaceful suburban lane, surrounded by tall majestic oaks. The star-lit sky made it easy to find our house, hidden under a canopy of trees. A dog barked friendly behind the door which was left unlocked. The owner of the house, a widowed senile granny greeted us coldly from the couch in the living room, waving her stick at us. She looked like a huge stale donut morphed into the couch.

“Hello, Nikki. Did you bring the all the money for rent? I want all the money today.” she said. Despite being weak and being unable to get up without a stick, she put all the force to accentuate the urgency to pay the full rent immediately. Nikki handed her crispy bills and we went upstairs to our designated space — two tiny rooms painted in blue and pink colors and a tiny bathroom designed for a small person or perhaps even a midget. Despite its size, the rooms were almost charming, filled with handmade quilts and pillows and Christian theme miniature statues. It had that Dr. Leo Marvin’s home country feel from the movie What About Bob? But the most precious thing it could offer was an uninterrupted silent night.

I woke up to dog barking. At 9am Nikki appeared in front of me fully geared up, decked out — from head to toe. She was wearing floral dress, jewelry and pink lipstick. Her baby blode hair was impeccably styled. I showed her my thumbs-up. I got up, rinsed my face in a barbie-size doll bathroom, put on 7 For All Mankind denim shorts and a white tank. “Let’s go, find cawfee, breakfast and then hit the beach?” I asked.

The Maidstone Inn, a boutique hotel located in a 19th century colonial style house was only a few streets away, on the way to the beach. We walked in casually, projecting confidence. It was an upscale inn, scandinavian inspired design. Impressive. The rocking chairs on the patio were covered with Arctic reindeer fur rugs. The servers — white men dressed in black tuxedos were standing behind the tables of breakfast buffet. Nikki and I reached for the large fancy plates and moved towards the food nonchalantly.

“Good morning”, said the young pleasant server. “Would you like quail eggs with duck confit?” “I certainly do,” I said all smiles. Nikki followed me giggling. If there was a quality that we both shared — it was certainly — that — an almost childish, restless urge of getting ourselves into adventures. Impersonation was a skill we’d been mastering relentlessly thanks to our paying-the bills-side-gig of being a dancer. But impersonating a wannabe at clubs — that artificial plastic money-making chick wearing a fake blonde straight hair wig was annoying and boring. I could never get why so many men preferred ‘Blancas’. But the truth was that the real me rarely made the real money versus the other me — a mediocre actress with fake blonde hair, striking a pose…

“I hope you are enjoying a stay with us.” The waiter said.

“I most certainly do,” I said. “We are making a new episode with Anthony Bourdain next week, so I am enjoying a short get-a-away with my girlfriend.” I said pointing at Nikki. Nikki approached me with her plate, nodding approvingly and adding two cents with her heavy russian accent, “Es-ss, Es-ss, vi a-a-a here on va-kei.” We took our plates outside on a patio and plunged our booties into rocking chairs covered with decadent animal fur. It was a nice comfy bourgeois setting with green trees on the side. It would have been an idyllic scenery, had it not faced an old cemetery across the street. It was an ironic reminder, that after all, you can’t f — -k money or your social status. There was a couple next to us. Her — a young blonde, dressed in designer silk dress, holding a long-haired dachshund in her arms. Him — a substantially older man, holding a cup of coffee, wearing a white crisp shirt, a dark jacket, blue jeans and polished shoes.

“Ricky, don’t forget that we’re going to a party tonight,” the blonde said anxiously.

“Oh what, another party, again? He produced a long sigh, barely moving his lips.

“Babe, it’s the big one, remember? It’s Barbara’s and Steve’s, the Ibiza party on 201 Pantigo Rd! At 9pm.” the blonde said, dropping her daschund. You could hear a tremor in her voice. “We must go! Besides, it’s only thirteen hundred feet from the house.”

Nikki and I, longing for yet another mischief exchanged long glances. Rise by Herb Alpert was playing in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day — a good day to crash an Ibiza party at 20 Pantigo Rd.

When our feet touched the pristine warm sand at East Hampton Main beach, we split, Nikki going for a walk North, and me going for a run South. We got back together to eat clam chowder soup and bathe in the sun. At 5 o’clock in selfie time, after hundreds of selfies and photo sessions, I requested a recess again. We walked at least three miles back to Main street, to Citarella — the only place we could eat at without breaking our wallets.

“So, any idea about the Ibiza party tonight?” Nikki asked, chewing a big piece of roasted chicken.

“Not a biggie. It’s gonna be fun!” I said, winking my left eye, pinching a chickpea from grilled Tilapia. “We are a force of nature. All we need to do is deck out. Red lipstick. Heels and a little bit of luck… ”

Back at the house Nikki was throwing an impromptu fashion show, trying on all the dresses and heels she’d brought with her. She finally picked her outfit — Marc Jacob’s little white dress and uncomfortably high silver Gucci stilettos. Myself, I put on the only dress I had — a long multicolored zig-zag dress with a sharp V-neckline, which I’d bought at Beacon’s Closet — New York hipsters favorite thrift store. My dress was missing a label, so I proclaimed that it was a Missoni dress. I didn’t bring any fancy heels either. But I had a pair of Crocs, which I’d proudly worn in South Carolina swamps and on Bourbon Street. Crocs, the most ridiculed, anti-glamorous shoes in the country. Surprisingly, these were not the ugliest. They were wedges with red leather ankle strap, and looked alright..

They say that in order to Crash a Party Like a Pro you need to show up when the party is in full swing, looking your best and being ready to improvise. At 10 pm we took a cab to 201 Pantigo Rd. There was a private road leading to a two-storey modern mansion standing on the small hill overlooking the Atlantic. We could hear an upbeat roaring in the distance. “Try not to talk, I’ll do the tawking.” I said turning to Nikki. “Maybe, we should get in from the beach?” Nikki asked. “No”, I said, “it’s going to be too suspicious.” We walked into a half open gate, walking down the wide spacious lawn past neatly trimmed shrubs shaped like champagne glasses. At the front of the house, in the white tent the DJ was starting to spin, a few men were setting up the buffet and bar. brought large trays with food. We were finally spotted by a small party of well dressed folks. A tall man in his thirties wearing a tuxedo approached us. “Hello, who are you?” he asked.

“Hi, you must be Steve?” I said, “I am Alexa, an associate editor of Town and Country.” And this is Nikita, an intern from our Swedish office. There was a long pause.

“I thought Barbara mentioning someone coming from Porter,” he said, scrutinizing us from head to toe.

“Alright,” he said, “where is your camera or professional photographer?”

“He was double-booked,” I said , “he is wrapping up a charity event in West Hampton, he should be here shortly.”

“Barbara,” he shouted. “Barb, come here, you have two ladies from Town and Country for the interview.

Barbara, however, was nowhere to be found. “Help yourself with drinks and food, I’ll come and get her.” he said walking away. Nikki and I exchanged long cheerful glances followed by an exuberant high five.

In the tent the DJ was spinning, the champagne was pouring out. The party was made of dolled up young women (predominantly blondes) and three types of men: Wall Street bros with gelled hair, Man Buns trying to looks like Jared Leto and wealthy offsprings looking like they came off the pages of GQ. I went to explore with a glass of champagne. “Who’s this blonde?” I overheard a Man Bun asking another Man Bun about Nikki. Before I walked I away, I heard the familiar Russian accent saying, “Ai em Nikki, Nikita.”

I walked into a big living room reminiscent of the Martha Stewart Living. Huge modern art paintings covering brick exposed walls. Suzuki Grand Digital Piano was standing in the middle of the living room. I went thru the living room and into the back of the house facing the Ocean. A pleasant voice behind me whispered, “Would you like an old fashioned?” Behind me was a good-looking stud. He wasn’t a Man-Bun, his hair was medium length, dark brown. He was wearing a casual orange button down shirt and blue jeans. “I could use one,” I said eyeing him up and down. “I am James.” he said looking straight into my eyes. An awkward and intriguing silence followed before I introduced myself. I was anticipating those social questions aimed at establishing my social status, job status and I lived in a prime location in Brooklyn. Instead, we talked about marine life and overfishing of the ocean and upcoming presidential election. His voice,like smooth jazz was resonating with me. Just as things were about to turn interesting with James and I, a party of Ralph Lauren suits and financial bros showed up and started Q&A and all that social status crap which Holden Caulfield labeled as “phony”.

A tall voluptuous blonde talking in exaggerated Kim Kardashian with self-righteous haute, introduced herself as the reporter from Porter started grilling me about my job. I excused myself saying that I was not interested in discussing anything with her and that I needed a refill. I turned around to locate James the Charming. Too weak to fight back and too distracted to resist, James was swallowed by a collective perfumed cloud of “phonies”. I walked away looking at him with great sorrow. It was that familiar scene, another deja vu — when I am standing at the middle of the platform in Union Square waiting for the Q train to arrive. The R train stops, the door opens and I see a guy, our eyes meet. There’s something about him, I feel radio waves, a warm undertow waking up winter fish. My life may change forever if he gets off. But he doesn’t. Maybe because it’s February in NYC and you can hardly see me because I am bundled up. The train departs, the moment fades forever. (although one time there was a guy named Kennedy who got off at the wrong stop to follow me but that’s another story.) Unlike Nikki, I didn’t have any plans chasing an ephemeral Prince Hamptons because I am way too jaded to buy into that, soap opera, Danielle Steel nonsense.

I had another drink and another drink which didn’t seem too many because fresh ocean breeze and light dainty food were making it too easy. Nikki was nowhere to be found. Occasionally, I’d hear her russian accent. I went back into the huge living room and opened Suzuki Royale. Being well beyond tipsy, I was experiencing an elevated sense of adventure and self-confidence. In those tipsy moments, my forgotten Italian was coming back full force. I’d played music most of my childhood but I’d only minored in piano. And for the last ten years or so Beethoven’s Fur Elise, the most overplayed classic standard was the only thing I remembered. My drunk mind resolved to improvise. I hit the first few chords quietly without drawing any attention. After a minute of warming up, I banged on the piano, starting with Girl From Ipanema and continuing with random improvisation from my head which sounded like it could be dysfunctional attempt of playing Miles Davis or Rochmaninoff — cacophony and jazz at the same time. I was slowly drawing attention. A cute couple came closer. I winked at him flirtatiously, he smiled, she puffed and walked away. More studs with their amicas moved closer forming a circle. That gave me even more edge and momentum, my left hand was convulsing, but my right hand, high on adrenaline and booze kept rolling and running, composing a sketch from my head. I was pretending I was a female version Herbie Hancock or Lyle Mays or Diana Krall who lost her sexy crispy voice. I don’t know how long I was jamming for but when I finished there was a dramatic pause followed by a brief applaud, mostly from studs. I thought I saw James’s face but he kept fleeting. I found myself flirting with a bunch of studs, morphed into one generic reformed Wall Street Man Bun type. Someone poured me another glass of champagne. My eyes were searching for James. Gradually the surroundings turn hazy. I seem to step outside of myself, watching the whole thing. I am self-conscious that I am liquored up.

The camera watches as I go up to that blonde from Porter.

“Guess, what,” I say, “my insider source just told me that Porter has been acquired by AM New York, due to a hostile acquisition, which means Y’all from Porter will be covering the Pizza Rat story and spending mucho time on the A train, running local. No mor Hamptons, Capisci?” She pops her eyes at me, looking terrified. The camera watches as I come up to James.

“Want to get real and weird?” I ask. The camera watches as Barb the host comes to James and whispers something to his ear, looking at me suspiciously. “Nope, says, James, “she’s actually with me, my babe and I, we just like to keep things interesting.” he says, taking my hand. The camera watches as I burst into laughter, waving goodbye to Barb. I am holding James’ hand tight as we come down the hill to the ocean. We take our shoes off. The sand under our feet feels cool and soft. We want to talk but words are escaping us. It’s not the moment. Hypnotized by the universal power of the Ocean, we stare at each other, we gaze into the dark ocean. I take the bottom of my dress, roll it up, take it off, throw it on the sand and step into the ocean. I don’t look back but I feel the intriguing presence behind me. The wave is coming towards me. An ole familiar jazz rock fusion tune stuck in my head, makes me want to write my own tune. Acoustic guitar, electric violin, bass and Esperanza Spalding’s voice. Ideally a viral tune, of course. I keep going deeper into the ocean and then BAM, the big wave comes crushing me, sucking me in. Silence. Nautical silence followed by the drum solo played by waves. I stay inside the armpit of the wave, lingering on the moment, opening my eyes to examine maroon colors of the sand and wave. It’s okay. I am in my element, a strong swimmer, Padi certified diver. BAM and Then It Hits You. I come outta wave like a fish hiccupping. Someone’s hands envelope me sensually. I am stoked to see it’s Him, like a mysterious lego part clicking with me. We go back into the warm Ocean, two octopi wrapping their parts around each other, exchanging salty kisses, riding the moment. Maybe I’ll write a book. No I shall write one. Maybe I’ll see James again. But that’s Manãna. Everything is Manyana. For now I am just a drunk octopus…

Nuclear Frenemy

 

breakfast in AC

I thought that an oxymoron frenemy was fiction until I met Nikki at Penthouse. She was one of the few real natural blonds, a vanilla leaf in bitches brew of hot Puerto Ricans, Brazilians and other exotic blends. Nikki and I had things in common — a law degree, past experience of corporate jobs and reckless adventurous spirit. We bonded over expensive and pretentious cocktails we didn’t pay for – Kayle in Comparison and Devil’s Playground at Apotheke in China Town. When a Mardi Gras band broke into the chattering and merry buzz of the bar, Nikki unleashed her long blonde pony tail and trotted to the center stage. Her petite but strong frame dressed in a designer overalls started undulating to the upbeat loud sounds of trumpets. She moved her hands in the air, looking at me, beckoning me with her index finger and luring me into the center stage. We danced with gusto and confidence of popular high school girls in anticipation of the prom night, drawing attention of twenty one year old kids. I was getting used to the idea that I was not on the market of accomplished and ambitious bachelorettes in their late twenties or early thirties, hunting for successful bachelors of NYC. It didn’t bother me that I could never click with jaded bros bragging about their successful start-ups or their advertising careers. I couldn’t care less what they were making of me or my unconventional career-less path because I was jaded. I was as jaded as a bodega cat in yet another gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, perpetually unimpressed with hipsters, airbnb  renters and skyrocketing rents. I was jaded as the subway pizza rat. I was as jaded as New York City was, neurotic, grumpy and cray.

It was a hot late afternoon in July. We were comfortably seated in a Greyhound bus speeding to Atlantic City. Air conditioner was blasting to the max. The sky was New Jersey blue, touched by the maroon clouds of pollution raising up from Newark industrial sites. Nikki and I had finally run out of conversation about men, sex and frivolous chit-chatting about nothing. Suddenly the air turned tense. Something heavy dropped out, like a cannon ball. A slip you couldn’t take back. An explosion. Nikki’s neatly groomed ponytail went flying around the aisle. My face turned tomato red. Her big natural boobs started shaking venomously. It was a cat fight between Miss Russia and Miss Ukraine supported by the heavy artillery of Russian cursory language. Nikki was PRPPPT – Pro-Russian, Pro-Putin, Pro-Trump. I was UAAPAT, Ukrainian, Anti-Putin, Anti-Trump.

“Yo, Bitches, you cray. if you don’t stop fighting, I swear to Sweet Lord Jesus I will toss you out of your seats. I will throw you outta the bus.” A black voluptuous woman, yelled at us, swinging her arms, showing off her long painted nails encrusted with swaroski diamonds and pearls.

Curious passengers turned off their iPads, iPhones, Androids, jumped off their seats to watch the commotion, chewing popcorn and snacks.

“You are a crazy KGB bitch, go and live in Russia, ruled by a psycho tyrant Putin.” A voice coming from me hissed like a viper while my hand kept clutching her ponytail.

“You go back to Ukraine. Trump will be the next President of the United States.  “It’s gonna be the United States of Russia.” Nikki yelled back.

Someone went to snitch to the driver because he slowed down and said angrily thru the mic “This is my first and last warning. If you don’t cut it out, I’ll pull over, and the two of you will be ordered to leave the bus.”

“Yea, cut it out, I want it play the casino. The casino waiting, but you keep fighting. No good.” A Chinese woman said holding tight to her Louis Vuitton bag. Her young chubby teenage son awkwardly pulled out a hand from the pocket and stuck his middle finger at us and mumbled in his perfect american accent. “Bitches be gross.”

We retreated, apologizing to the Greyhound bus feeling utterly embarrassed of ourselves. Who knew that the two of us would  become symbols of everything ratchet about stinky Greyhound rides.

“Look, let’s it treat as a business transaction. We don’t have to be friends. We’ll work, make money, share the hotel and we’ll try not to kill each other during sleep. And then we’ll split.” Nikki said apologetically.

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s never talk politics ever again, including the elections, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, geopolitics, Fox News, RT...  Peace?” I asked, folding my three fingers down while holding out my thumb and my pinky as the weird symbol of reconciliation in Soviet Union.We got off at Bally’s Casino, got our $25 dollar casino coupons for slot machines and walked down the boardwalk.

Scores Atlantic City located in Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino was undeniably the most beautiful, upscale and expensive club I’d ever worked at. It was a mistakenly Vegas club in an infamous spot at Steel Pier that once forced horses to leap off a high platform, nearly 40 feet high into a small pool below, in an infamous and stupid show called the Diving Horse.  A thirty million dollar investment, it had a comedy club, a spacious dance section with a huge podium, reminiscent of a fashion catwalk, stretching all the way to the bar. On the sides were semi-private VIP areas with leather couches. There was an ocean bar, draft beer, grilled salmon on the menu. But the main attraction was a huge outdoor deck facing the Boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. For a girl obsessed with swimming in the ocean and everything nautical it was a dream come true. Who doesn’t like a fresh ocean breeze? Everything inside the club smelled good and fresh. Even the locker room was huge, well-lit. The house moms were pleasantly smiling at us. Make-up artists were giving make-up for free of, encouraging only tips. There were chefs, bartenders, accountants, IT support and floor managers. Good vibes were everywhere. And it was atypical for a strip club industry.

Girls. Girls Girls. There was an abundance of girls, all and sundry, young and mature, slim and curvy, classy and grungy, multiracial, white and black, latino, and eastern-european. Going up on a new stage was a sheer thrill, a toxic cocktail of adrenaline, sweat, gamble and suspense. It was brand new and old new. It was deja vu. A deja vu – from when I was seven and eight and ten and eleven and twelve and thirteen and fourteen, a deja vu -from when I was in music school full time, 5 days a week. A very vivid flashback from going on stage and performing live on a violin and only rarely overcoming anxiety. Anxiety about forgetting the notes, the score. Performing Ave Maria with pride, impressing the jury. A thrill from nailing a bend on a violin. An utter embarrassment during a concert, a duet-performance of Mozart’s minuet with my childhood friend, when I forgot my score. Playing classic duets was scary because there was a precision and math involved in everything Mozart, Bach and Chopin. Playing in music ensembles was frivolous and fun because I could always disguise a slip as an improvisation. Music school ended a long time ago but music was circulating inside me, pumping blood around my body like heart.

I watched Nikki hovering above her prey in high stilettos and topless . She must have done at least 60 lap dances. She had her ways with men, she was a real pro. Professional. I was doing just okay and it wasn’t enough.”You need to hustle”. Nikki sad. “You need to try every single one here. Ask for a lap dance, ask for a dance in a private room And don’t act too smart or too intellectual. Nobody cares for your master’s degree here.  Don’t take rejections personal. I’ve been doing for ten years, after all. I know the deal.”

Nikki was right. I was getting frustrated about not doing enough lap dances. Each rejection was conveniently used as an excuse to go and chill at the deck with a glass of Menage a Trois and ponder on life of the Diving Horse to the warm ocean breeze and neon lights of Steel Pier.

We’d checked into a small motel, run by a middle-aged Indian man on Pacific Avenue, only a short walk from the club. It was a real dump, maybe even worse than just the dump. Remnants of heavy cigarette smoke saturated every inch of the room, lingering to our bodies and clothes. It felt like there was an odor of a dead coon or dead skunk. The carpet floor had red clotted stains on it which could be wine or blood. Everything about the room reminded me an episode from the Misbehaves by Q. Tarantino and Rodriguez. When the little girl trying to locate the source of bad odor, uncovers the mattress, she finds the corpse of the ‘lady of the night’ under their mattress. At the sight of the corpse in leopard g-strings, her little brother screams and calls her a dead hoe. But the little girl feels sympathetic about the ‘lady of the night’ punches her lil brother and screams at him, “Don’t call her that!”  At 5-30 am it got even more Tarantino when Nikki went to take a shower. I was alone in the room, half asleep, half naked. The curtain was half open. Suddenly, someone knocked on the window. I shuddered at the sight of the intruder, a middle aged thug with bruised eyes. “Can you please let me in? I just need to wash my face.” I sprang from the bed and pushed the curtain all the way down and put the chain on the door. “Nikki, I can’t believe we paid only $160 for this shit hole.” I exasperated.

The salty ocean breeze enveloped my tired body. It took a dip in the ocean to resuscitate my disposition and replenish my strength after 5 hour sleep. At noon we’d checked out from the Tarantino motel and went to have breakfast at the diner next door. The sign said Constantino’s Restaurant. A hole in the wall, it was a quaint and charming old school small diner. We picked a spot in the boot by the window. I ordered Greek omelet with feta cheese and broccoli that came with home fries and whole wheat toast with butter and jam. Nikki ordered scrambled eggs with bacon and a homemade muffin. Grandma Nani, a vivacious old Greek owner sat down to chat with us after we finished eating. Good breakfast and watery coffee put us in an upbeat adventurous spirit. It was Saturday and I knew I had to get lucky and hit the jackpot.

 

Breakfast in America

At the locker room I put my long shiny blue gown on, a gift from a retired dancer who gave it to me as as the good omen, “I made so much money in this dress. It will bring you luck.” she said. I said a few mantras and closed my eyes before leaving the locker room visualizing a better night. When I got on the stage, on that grandeur stage I thought I was in a famous burlesque show somewhere in Vegas or Gramercy Theatre. But was what my special talent? I could only do a few tricks on the pole. In fact I lost all ambitions to better my pole techniques. Thanks to Queens finest, a few black girls from Queens, I could twerk my badonkadonk like Shakira, Rihanna. Stripping had only little to do with great pole dancing. It all came down to mastering the craft of hustling. But what is Ditta Von Tesse’s talent? And why is she so famous? Why is she paid so much money to get into a silly champagne glass? All she had was her big natural breasts and her badonkadonk. I didn’t even have big breasts. How did I end up here? Being a dancer? Right. PussyCat Lounge, my friend, an  immigration lawyer… I put a halt on biting myself. After all I was grateful to be on this Vegas stage. My body covered in diamond sweat, strong and toned danced to the rhythm of freedom. It was raw and real. Alternativeness existed. It was a sharp contrast to my past life of corporate jobs, perpetually hibernating or half asleep. I was finally awake and enrolled in a real life anthropology class. Dr. Carl Jung and Erich Fromm would approve of me.

“The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price he pays, however is high; it is the loss of his self. ” Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm.

At the eleventh hour I finally hit the jackpot, an hour at the VIP room, dancing and chit-chatting for a nice executive from J.P. Morgan Chase. I took a shot of whiskey to stay awake. It was my silly Dita Von Tesse moment. I hustled and danced and talked and worked my magic. When I walked out of the club it was almost about 5 am. Dawn was breaking. I was the last girl to leave the club. Nikki had already got on the bus. I walked down the empty hall of Taj Mahal pleasantly exhausted. The seagulls were soaring high in the sky ranting persistently in their seagull language. I was slightly drunk and tipsy from whiskey and from the fresh atlantic air and from dancing all night. The Greyhound bus was speeding quietly and peacefully. It was a good night, I made over 1K. I knew that once I was back in Brooklyn I would sleep all day. I would pay my bills. And the next day I would go to Far Rockaway beach to meditate on the I AM. I AM, Beyond My Body and Thoughts. I would meditate on friends and frenemies. After all had it not been for Nikki, I would not have won the jackpot. Who knew, maybe it was the beginning of frenemship.

 

AC

Queens

 

AC

 

Deeper Down the Adventure Hole

Days went by, time flew, I kept descending, descending deeper down the adventure hole, entangling myself in an intricate seaweed of NYC life. Descending, free falling. When a scuba diver descends, he enters a peace land, mute kingdom of meditative tranquility. Peace forces its way upon thee in the land of sea. Everything becomes tranquil and serene. Even the most tragic events above the surface weaken their strength when you are deep below the surface. The slow movement, the slow breathing, like the yogi breathing, the Ujjayi breathing almost lullabies you to sleep as you observe the sea life next to you in a witnessing state…The mysterious sea lures an adventurous soul into descending deeper. Down the blue hole is a trap. The deeper you descend, the harder it will be to ascend from a deep hole. It will seem like an eternity, a slow ascend with vital decompression stops. Who knows what can happen. Anything can happen.

I could sense acutely that from where I was there was no easy ascend. A detour to ol’ normal conventional life was not insight. I was lost for the conventional world with LinkedIn and PDF resumes.

Things didn’t go well at Penthouse Gentlemen’s club. The business was slow in September and October – too many angry-hangry chicks, predators, like loud quarrelsome seagulls, kept waiting for customers to come in.  I was let go. It didn’t feel like a catastrophe. I didn’t have to go too far to apply for another alternative job. It took me ten blocks down 10th avenue to reach yet another club – Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, located next to the Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was a hideous building which looked like a warehouse. Inside was a dark circus or hippodrome with a giant pole in the middle, going all the way up to the top of the high ceiling. Everything felt dark and twisted. But what am I, a stranger to darkness? I thought. The Darkness and I, we been friends for a while. The red carpet stairs led me upstairs into the dressing room. The house ma was a young Ukrainian woman, Daryna. Daryna had pale skin, dark hair and dark eyes. I got really excited about speaking to her in Russian or Ukrainian. She threw at me an icy cold glance and told me in her perfect american accent that she had stopped speaking Ukrainian since she moved here at the age of sixteen. She could only understand the languages. Her speech was refined, educated, she uttered words like a headmistress of a private school. She was sitting by the desk surrounded by a pile of weird esoteric books. Mystery surrounded her essence, her looks, her spirit. She was of unidentifiable age, slim and fit and mysterious. Like many house mas she’d danced before moving on with her life and going to a graduate school. She told me that she didn’t have any family anywhere. I’d concluded that she must have been brought to the US by Count Dracula, straight down from Bukovina or Transylvania and dropped off at Hustler club to shake off deep pockets. It made perfect sense her skin was so pale, it was almost translucent in contrast with her brown eyes.

I did the same ritual, putting on my g-string and appearing topless in front of a middle-aged, Italian looking manager Vito. “Okay, okay,”  he scanned me from head to toe. “Are you russian?” Nah, I am not Russian. I am UKRAINIAN.  “Ah, it’s all the same,” he said. “No, it’s not! There’s a huge difference.” I said keeping my chill together.

“You are hired” said Daryna, “But on a condition that you will lose a few pounds and tone up your belly.”

“Mission will be accomplished.” I replied contracting my belly. I knew it was coming. I’d been treating my blues with homemade desserts and a large amount of chocolate. My appetite was healthy and insatiable even when the world was dark and heavy.

She handed me a plastic ticket for a free drink and I stepped out. The bartender wasn’t a busty chick. He was a good looking man, looking like a modern version of Jesus. Jesus from Gowanus, Brooklyn, playing bass in an indie band. He was wearing a man bun, expensive watch and a crispy white shirt buttoned out, sleeves up. He gave me a glass of Moet et Chandon and smiled at me. Money must be good here I thought. It was a slow Thursday night, I walked around the club sipping champagne slowly, curiously examining the surroundings, Halloween decorations, large portraits of Larry Flynt hanging on the walls. Larry Flynt as a young man. Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt. Cinematic stills from The People v. Larry Flynt. Larry Flynt in a wheelchair. Larry Flynt with his fourth wife Althea. Courtney Love as Althea. Larry Flynt, an ardent fighter for the First Amendment rights… A sudden surge of pride ran thru me. I made it to Hustler. I watched The People v Larry Flynt when I was a teenager, mom and pap girl. Who knew I’d be part of it too, indirectly. I can put it on my damn LinkedIn profile: PricewaterhouseCoopers, CMS Cameron McKenna, Dime Investment Management and Larry Flynt’s Hustler. A truly well-rounded experience. Eat it LinkedIn. Go to hell, evil tech invention, curbing positive freedom, subordinating creativity, spontaneity. LinkedIn, another tool to promote and produce homogenous society of white collar class, myopic employers and recruiters repeating the standard sick catchphrases, We provide, we deliver, excellence… It would be a real privilege working for Larry Flynt… I said it almost out loud as I looked across the room at a huge poster of a shaved pussy. My face expressed a complete disgust and my mind was about to make a U-turn but I put a stop on my thoughts. It was time to hustle. To hustle for my future. To give food and nutrients ALEXONTHEROCKS. To hustle for better life. Hitting a new stage was kinda thrilling, a thrilling moment evaporating like a champagne bubble.

I returned to the bar again and stared at Jesus, then at girls. A lot of ’em were mature women, well in their forties, MILFS, Cougars.

“Hey, I turned to a bored stripper sitting by the bar, drinking her third glass of dirty martini,  playing with her iPhone, “Don’t you think the bartender is hot?”

“Ew! She exclaimed surprisingly. “Ewww! I only like millionaires.”

It was midnight. I made a hundred by hanging with a tipsy business man, then $60 by giving a few lap dances to a kid who just turned twenty one. There were regulars, white-collar wall street casta coming into the club and going straight down the red carpet into small rooms without looking sideways. I wasn’t part of it. I never had regulars.

“Hey, what’s your name? You are a new girl. Come join us!” A young sexy dancer stared at me. All you could see was her large sultry lips painted in deep burgundy. She had brown vixen eyes, scanning and scheming everyone and everything in the club. The only simple thing about her was her simple smooth bob. Her stage name was Pasha, she said it with a charming Colombian accent and pointed to a small table occupied by a man with a shaved head and a woman with monstrous boobs. She looked like a real version of Jessica Rabbit, everything about her was ridiculously exaggerated, her boobs, her lips, her Amy Winehouse hair. The customer was a Turkish business developer. The woman was a masseuse and who apparently could masseuse customers hands-free, using only her boobs.

“Tell me, honey, how do you work? What’s your specialty, what your thing? What are you selling?” The Turkish customer asked me making two lines of blow on the masseuse’s knee.

I rolled my eyes and looked around. It looked like the Bourbon street was coming back full force. The untamed charm of the South meets the evil ferocity of New York City.

“Huh? I don’t do anything. I just give lap dances and chit chat a little and shake my booty. And that’s all. I said.

“That’s all?” They looked at me in astonishment. Pasha turned sideways, busty masseuse shrieked in disgust. The Turk snorted two lines off the masseuse’s knee. “Well, if you need anything you can always ask Pasha. She’s very reliable, very professional. “I swear on my drink.” He said and gave me a twenty dollar bill.

“Thanks, can I give you a lap dance?”

“No, I don’t do lap dances. Just keep it.”

The waitress brought another round of champagne.

“Let’s toast to the never ending game of hustle.” Pasha said playfully.

The champagne tasted bitter, acidic as if it had red bull or something. I made a few sips, put it down and walked away. My eye caught a giant poster of shaved pussy again. It was a typical young Pamela Anderson look alike sweetheart with straight blonde hair, thinly plucked eyebrows, slutty full lips. But all you could see was her baby like hairless pussy. There was nothing sexual about it, if anything it was a turn-off. I found it disgusting, new modern trends of waxing it all down there. I would never do it. I could never be with a man who was waxing and shaving all his pubic hair and chest hair. Suddenly everything felt weird. The giant hairless pussy was coming towards me, to get me, it seemed like it kept growing out of its poster proportions, as if it would come off the poster, detach itself from the lifeless blonde chick, grow two tiny skinny legs and run amok singing Adelle’s songs. It would do well at Hustler, collect buckets of money without ever uttering a single word and fall asleep peacefully. It will never have qualms, anxiety, opinions because it’s just a shaved pussy on two legs with no brains, no soul, no personality, no weltanschauung. A lot of men like her just like that, waxed and lifeless. I couldn’t compete with her. My thoughts were racing, galloping in all different directions. The halloween posters of Larry Flynt stained with blood  started moving around to the beats of music. Or was it the beats of my heart? Everything felt wicked. I was tripping. The drink. I thought. It tasted funny for a reason  Those motherfuckers must have put something into my drink. Acid. Bad Trip. The thought of it made me even more paranoid. I had to leave. I wanted to leave.

“Whatza matter?” a girl asked me

“I feel funky. Like I had something in my drink.”

“You’ll be all right. Just drink some water.” A girl told me. It happens here sometimes, especially to new girls.”

I went upstairs, drank a gallon of water and told the house mom that I was ready to leave.

“You can leave whenever you want.” Daryna said. Just pay the DJ and myself and check out and you are good to go.” I looked at her pale face, dark brown eyes. I knew when her shift ended she was going to fly a broom.

I woke up at noon already exhausted and restless. I was going to get up and make some breakfast but the memory of the night, the hard core nuances of Hustler club made me want to pull sheets over my head and stay in bed all day. So I stayed in bed, covered by pink cotton bed sheet which had printed sheep on it, like in a cocoon. Inside was safe. There was Netflix, and green tea and dark chocolate and my music, Jaco Pastorius, John Coltrane, Rochmaninoff and Simon & Garfunkel… I was fine as long as I didn’t have to go outside, face the world, dwell on my problems, reflect on my weltanschauung, think about tomorrow. Think about the giant waxed pussy. My roommates’ cat came in and jumped on my bed. He had a few names. American Curtis, and Russian Kotya. Kotya curled up next to me and purred delightfully.  

Staying in bed for hours made me think about my weltanschauung again. I was too grown up to be perpetually frustrated or sad. I was old enough to believe that things will work themselves out and that everything will be fine.  At least it was my own decision to become that crazy, reckless, restless chick which was still better than working for years at PricewaterhouseCoopers or Shearman, Sterling & Wolosky LLP and or at my last disastrous wall street job and having a nervous meltdown. According to Sasha’s weltanschauung, the crazy sinful strip club scene, infused with booze, drugs, naked tits and booties in g-strings is still better than the rotten corporate world, institutional conformity subordinating human spirit and freedom, killing the sacred SELF. Rage against the Machine.

Soon I stopped going to bakeries, I cut off bread and pasta. I downloaded Runkeeper to run daily to Aphex Twin, Led Zeppelin. Squats. Sit-ups. Pushups, handstands, downward dogs. I got off my soap box, cutting down on sentimental music and dreaming of Love to come, save me, resolve my impasse. I started meditating a little, repeating ancient sacred mantras I learnt at the ashram. Hustler club was not for the faint-hearted. I knew I had to grow mental and physical stamina from scratch. Maybe I’d become a which, a hybrid which, an exotic which deriving from Nikolai Gogol’s characters and Bed-Stuy. Bed-Stuy Fly. Bed-Stuy, Do or Die.

 

Larry Flynt

 

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Fourth of July in Gotham City

I had a few year tradition of celebrating the Independence Day with a twist. It would start as the traditional celebration, watering hot dogs, BBQ meat skewers and corn with cheap lager and wine at a friend’s backyard or rooftop, discussing how many Netflix shows I’d watched, reflecting on how Americanized I was becoming. Then it would be an impromptu – a call from a stranger, a knock on the door, a surprising invite to the unknown. July 2015 was no exception. After a chill mid-afternoon backyard BBQ party in Crown Heights, I was on a mission to find a club to work at. A pile up of outstanding rent, credit cards, bills was biting me like bayou mosquitos. I owed money to banks, friends, strip clubs, DJs, ex-boyfriends and the landlord.

Penthouse was closed so I had to find an alternative club for one night. Private Eyes was a dark seedy sad club, known for exploiting Eastern European girls, mostly Russians and Central Asians, obedient, underprivileged, who had recently touched the US soil and could barely speak English. Except a few Latina women, you couldn’t find any american women working there because nobody in their right mind would tolerate the humiliation, the abuse, the extortion, the penalties for coming to work late, the penalties for taking a sick day. Where was the Department of Labor? It was a stark contrast between Penthouse and Private Eyes. In Penthouse, girls were called ladies and were a given a free ticket to a glass of fine red or sparkling. I had to be stoic. My rent was overdue. I came in to audition, lying to the club manager, who looked like the villain Penguin on Gotham about wanting to work in the club. He was short, dark, combing the remains of his receding hairline to the one side in an attempt to conceal his barren field.  Everything about his demeanor was unpleasant. The successful audition was taken for granted.

“The rules,” he said.  “You must work four times a week. No less. Or you pay a fine. The house fee is $120 plus $20 to the DJ, ten to a house mom. The shift starts at 8pm and ends at 4am. You are not allowed to leave earlier. If you miss a day, you must pay a fee. If you are sick, you must bring a prove. If you are late, you must pay a fine. Enjoy your free house fee today! Happy Fourth of July.”

By 2-30 am I made only two hundred. Girls were scattered around the club, tired from dancing and walking in high stilettos. My head was bumping into a ceiling as I was dancing to not exactly a strip club music, Steely Dan, on a stage designed for midgets. The DJ felt nostalgic for the 70’s. It was the only good thing about the club. After three songs ended I got off the stage and gave the DJ his tip. In the locker room I saw a familiar face sitting on a couch in a long white shiny gown. She was a gorgeous puerto-rican or something else and rican or cuban talking with a distinct Bronx accent, sounding like an SNL’s comedy sketch, Bronx Beat. But looking seriously good looking, like a Viking princess, a younger version of Cameron Diaz, with her natural baby blonde hair, matching her pale young fresh skin and blue eyes.

“Hiya, I remember you,” Elsa said smiling

“Hey, I can’t believe you work here.” I said. You deserve better places.

“I know. I’ve been here for a month. Nothing here compares to Vegas. I moved my whole family down there for a few months, kids and husband. He thought I was working as a waitress. I was making so much money I had to open another account. I am the breadwinner in the family. He has no idea how much money I am making.”

“Hey, you better move your ass and work.” The Penguin popped up in the dressing room, yelling at Elsa for no reason.

“I don’t feel well today. Can I just go home please? I got kids at home with a babysitter. It’s a slow night, anyway.”

“You owe the club two house fees. If you leave, you fired.” said the Penguin, walking away.

I was boiling inside. The injustice was intolerable. That was the price of not working nine to five, the price for playing this game.

“Hey you, Alex? Go and talk to that customer over there. He is our regular customer. He tips girls well and you speak English. Go, go!” The Penguin commanded.

It was a black young stud with silky smooth skin and long braids. He was wearing white jeans, a black shirt, and had plenty of wrist bracelets, and neck chains. He smelled good, a weird combination of vanilla and spice. He introduced himself as Malibu. Chill as Malibu.

The conversation flowed naturally. I turned on my mediocre acting skills alright.

“Can I get you a drink. What are you drinking?” Malibu asked me

“A shot of whiskey, please. Black label.” I said. He rolled his eyes in surprise.

“Alex on stage, Alex on stage now, the DJ said thru the Mic

“Hey Malibu, will you be my cheerleader while I am dancing on that tiny clumsy stage?”

“I’ll see what I can do.” he said.

First song, dress on. Second – dress off. Random stuff comes to mind. Geometry, chemistry, physics – all the classes I resented in school. A strict and uptight school principal in her tight awkward skirt covering her knees. A small stiff office cubicle, stale air on John street. A compliance manual of written nonsense, polygraph testing. Crazy eyeballs of my vicious boss, popping out, while he is talking about Ayn Rand. Second song. My dress comes off – an act of liberation. A strange electric sensation runs thru me. I don’t rent my head and my soul to Corporate Machine any more. I am free, free falling, thriving on chaos, and my own adventures.  Malibu appeared in front of a stage in the middle of the second song. I started undulating and twerking harder and better. It was a weird feat, remix of Steely’s Black Cow

Down to Green street, there ya go

Lookin’ so outrageous, and they tell you so

you should know how all the pros change the name

you change your name, like a gangster, on the run

Malibu came closer to the stage, holding a stack of bills and suddenly made it rain on me. He made it rain like a pro, like Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G. Fresh, brand new, virgin crispy singles started falling on me. He came closer again and with a stash of singles and popped it up and made it rain on me again.  Suspended action. The singles are hovering above my head, like seagulls, dancing, and twirling and flirting with me and then gently landing on me. This is it! I thought, this is my Woody Allen moment in Gotham City, ironic, iconic and stupid. Malibu repeated the trick and the money rained on me again and again. The trick stirred up a small commotion,  heads were turning, the customers, the dancers, the tourists, the managers scrutinizing me from head to toe. The barback showed up with a broom and empty stainless steel champagne bucket and started sweeping the singles from the floor and into the bucket. It took us a some time to put all the singles into the bucket. I returned to the table, holding the champagne bucket full of singles as if it was a treasure box.

“Well, Malibu, you made my night! Thank you lots! I said smiling in all my dimples and freckles.”

“Come sit with me, your drink is waiting for you. Tell me about yourself girl.” He said

Malibu hated lap dances so we kept talking to whiskey on the rocks and leftovers of the night. Malibu had a pleasant sassy voice, he was articulate and well rounded. He told me he went to UCLA, majoring in production and music management. His present crib was a spacious house somewhere in Long Island, steps away from the ocean. He lived alone with his seven pit bulls. He avoided going to the beach, gusts of wind and water, sand and sun  to avoid hair drama.  The night was coming to an end. The DJ made a final call for alcohol.

“Hey, are you hungry?” Malibu asked

“I am starving.” I said

“Great, I know a nice diner. And I can drive you home after that. I’ll be waiting in a car. Don’t make me wait too long.”

I rushed into the locker room, changed quickly, never leaving the sight of my trophy. I came to the Penguin and asked him to change the singles. He rolled and squinted his tiny eyes at me. “What? We are not a bank here. It’s your business.” I took the bucket and went outside. I spotted a brand new shiny Mustang, black with yellow stripes, GT-H. A familiar face nodded at me and I got in.

“Are you out of your mind, Jesus? Carrying the bucket of money like that? What’s wrong with you?”

The car speeded like a torpedo down the empty streets of midtown west, crossing the Qeensborough bridge and into Long Island City and slowing down and finally halting near the Court Street Diner. The subtle dots and spots of the sunrise were staining the dark sky. We were greeted warmly. The waiter, the waitress, the chef himself came out to greet Malibu. Everyone knew him and treated him with reverence as if he were a celebrity. Picking up the table in an empty diner was a ritual too. He picked a table in the far-end corner of the diner and pulled down the window shades. I looked at the pulled window shades and exploded into a loud laughter.

“Cut it out,” he said, casting a cautious glance at me.

“Alright,” I said. I am sorry. Are you a celebrity or somethin’?”

“Somethin.” Let’s order. I am starving. He ordered a french toast with bacon and grits. I ordered mushroom feta broccoli omelette.

“Do you know who I am? Can you guess?”

“I don’t know what you are. I am dying to know. C’mon!”

” I am a BMF, darlin’ “

” I don’t know what it is. Should I google it?”

” I’ll google it for you, here ya go, BMF, Black Mafia Family.” he said.

After a long pause I tried to collect my thoughts and say something.  At five thirty am thoughts and words were escaping me. The persistent sunlight, like a restless detective was breaking in thru the closed shades.

“I shrugged. I’m not judging you. I vowed not to judge anyone except….”

“Let’s roll. It’s getting early. The sun will rise soon. We need to rest.” he said

He left a generous tip.  The waitress came running after him and blocked the door to hug him.

“Sasha, wake up, we are in Brooklyn, do you know how to get to your place? His pleasant voice jolted me gently.

“I think we are close, but can you please turn on the GPS? 224 Stuyvesant.”

“You can’t rely on technology. What if turns off, breaks down. Google maps can kill you. You need to rely on yourself. Nothing else. Nobody else. It’s the golden rule.”

I opened my eyes wide and stared at him. The daylight exposed the details of his handsome face. There was something ambiguous and mysterious about him.

“I am so tired. When I don’t sleep I lose my ability to think straight. Please, have a mercy on me. Remember I am still new to Bed-Stuy. I just returned from New Orleans, Jesus,  how can you stay so fresh and focused and good looking?”

He finally pulled over by the brownstone on Stuyvesant street. “Take my number and save it as MalibuSoSexy.” he said. I saved his number, kissed him on the cheek and got out, like a dark royalty of the hip-hop mafia with the champagne bucket full of money. I cast a glance at him before closing the door. For a moment I imagined what our date would be like as I walked up the stairs to the top floor. I was imagining his bullet proof house, his seven pitbulls wiggling their sharp tales, running up to greet me. His tainted windows overlooking the ocean. His body. A few scars on his smooth body and strong abs. His body playing with mine like a pro. His, tongue, lips and fingers playing me so skillfully like a jazz musician improvising on sax. He would keep improvising on my body with all his instruments until I found myself detached from the reality, full of love fluids filling my body and pouring out of me and then I screamed… I turned the key, opened the door, closed the door behind me, leaving the night, the details of the night behind me. I knew I wouldn’t call him.

alexontherocks

 

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Hope of Deliverance

alangreenspanisass

Dimmed lights. Fancy dinnerware, large dinner plates with a printed logo of Robert’s Steakhouse. I sit on the second floor of Robert’s Steakhouse at Penthouse, dressed in a long shiny blue gown, working on a huge portion of medium-rare steak, slowly chewing small juicy meat bites, sipping a glass of fine red. It’s only eight pm and there’s plenty of time to make money. The fine dinner, lavish ambient give me a false sense of tranquility. As if the state of my affairs is just fine. As if I am over-dramitizing my perpetual impasse and problems, my immigration status, the missing elements – the vital things. Evanescent, amorphous melancholy is sitting down there inside me, enjoying grass fed beef to the Dark Side of the Moon.  Melancholia.  I can see myself being a female lead, a character of Lars Von Triers movies – troubled, impulsive, blunt and neurotic and twisted, like two sisters, Claire and Justine from Melancholia. Reckless, like my favorite character Nancy Botwin from Weeds. Me-la-ncho-li-a. A large asteroid is moving towards the planet, each day getting closer and closer. It will inevitably crush everyone, everything. And just like Claire and Justine from Melancholia, I will be worrying about what to eat for dinner, moments before asteroid will land on planet earth. My despondent state can’t beat my healthy appetite.

Penthouse was not like the previous clubs I’d worked at. It was expensive, well maintained and well managed. The dancers were called ‘ladies’. Walk into the club and you time travel back to the 90s – long classy ballroom gowns, long hair, straight or slightly curled with an iron, wall street customers in their stiff suits and shiny shoes, the remains of ole money, the remnants of gradually disappearing wealth. The club employed bouncers, security, cooks, hosts, bartenders, managers, go-go dancers, massage therapists, accountants, legal staff and human resource. Hispanics ruled Penthouse. The absence of ole Italian capos was refreshing.  It was a quintessential New York melting pot happy paradigm. Jose, the Mexican manager who hired me, had started his way as the dishwasher and making his way to the Boss of the girls, Boss of the hosts and bartenders and cooks. Of course on top of  him were ole jewish owners, not without class and sympathy for the ladies.

“See that, girl,” said Claire, all natural blonde bombshell, pointing to a tall tan brunette with silicon  boobs, “Nadia owns a million dollar apartment on the Upper East Side. The only reason she keeps woking here is to pay her $2000 maintenance fee and because she is bored. She wrote and self-published a book last year. Those two girls own a building in Queens just as an investment. I bought a house in Miami and apartment in Brooklyn. I’m making at least three grand this week to finish renovating my Miami condo.”

“But, she said giving me a pitiful look, “You missed the boat. You missed the money boat.” Most of these girls including me have been working for ten years. The money ended shortly after the credit crunch, the recession. If you started doing this recently, you aint gonna make much.”

“Well, I am here to survive, while I am figuring things out. I quit law a few years ago so… ”

“It’s okay said Claire. I have a law degree too. I worked for a big law firm for 2 years. Crazy cubicle lifestyle. I became claustrophobic too soon. Cubicle lifestyle means death, slow death, as if someone chokes you slowly every day for 8 hours.”

“It’s all rotten. Wall Street is rotten.” I said,  “Maybe my legal career would have been meaningful, had I studied criminal law or human rights, and worked on the Innocence Project. Maybe. Or maybe my dad, my mom and my babushka shouldn’t have pushed me to become a lawyer in the first place. Maybe when I was seventeen I should have rebelled to pursue my own path… I didn’t stand my ground. And for that I am paying now and will be paying for a long long long time. I f’d up things big time. My Master’s in Law turned out to be a cover up to get away from my family and a promising stagnant career as the junior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers. So promising, I was dosing off with my eyes open, half awake, perpetually bored. I once printed the entire script of Inglorious Bastards on a corporate printer at PWC. But I was so proud of my resume. I was only 23 and I’d already flown on a private jet, representing the filthy rich client in a hostile acquisition project. During my law school summer break, I bought the Foundations of Screenwriting, by Syd Field. When I landed my first NYC job in a hedge fund, I was only excited for a couple of weeks. It was thrilling to press the button to the top floor of the office penthouse located at the landmark building, 767 third avenue and say, “”I work in a mid-cap hedge fund in a legal and compliance department. I reconcile financial statements, long and short selling and conflict of interests and guess what? I will be eligible for a bonus. And I will be sponsored for a work visa.  Duh…””  There was something particular, a superior feeling, being so high up, watching the city from the 47th floor, stretched out, zoomed out, watching its shimmering, simmering, flickering lights and dots connected to each other and changing its patterns and lights like in kaleidoscope. But after a few months, the euphoria ended, and the roach crawled in and settled in, the nagging feeling of familiar restlessness, emptiness knocked on the door and I let it in. I’d enrolled into an HB acting studio to improve my american accent. My manager only approved of it because everybody was aware of my heavy eastern european accent. He would even let me leave earlier. Soon I was attending HB studio three times a week, taking acting classes and speaking monologues classes under pretense of improving my public speaking skills. But Atonement was approaching. I was only two jobs away from job-apocalypse, from Deliverance.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Holdens Caulfields grow up?

My heart is pounding, a stranger is knocking on the door, a woodpecker is hammering on the tree, the beats of my heart are intertwined with the spontaneous and neurotic sounds of the city. The sounds of sirens, ascending and fading, crazy loud neighbors from downstairs, the invisible couple behind the wall producing loud sex sounds, moaning, squealing until hitting an ear-piercing crescendo. Dogs, cats, endless action and drama, schizophrenic weather, overcaffeinated people, yoga devotees, jaded musicians, grumpy financial bros, tired artists, bums, cunning scammers, lunatics, stinky subway cars, fat raccoons and oversized rats. I am back in New York, back in a historical neighborhood in Brooklyn, Bedford Stuyvesant, or Bed-Stuy or simply Bed-Stuy – where to bullets fly. I am back to the grind. I brew coffee in a newly bought, made-in-italy coffee pot while listening to NPR’s Snap Judgment. There’s no pleasant scent than the scent of a freshly ground coffee. I love coffee.  My daily life and productivity depends on how much caffeine I consume.

“Girl you sound as if you’d been blowing coke all morning.” My Brooklyn friend Jenny tells me as I rant and curse on the phone like an angry black woman, a mother of five, who frequently gets stuck on the A train, running local. I like my new neighborhood and those vocal rants about gentrification. Fresh, and blunt they sound better than the muted voices of obedient  Hassidic wives from Kensington and Ditmas Park. I like Bed-Stuy Fly.

“I don’t do blow. I don’t measure coffee beans. I probably make a triple espresso instead of a single shot,” I say, catching my breath, remembering that I’d skipped my morning routine of coconut oil pulling, lemon water drinking, followed by yoga or running – all this is necessary to keep my chill together, until I will be able to afford seeing a shrink, like most of my fellow New Yorkers.

***

I thought I’d take a break from dancing when I returned to Brooklyn from New Orleans. But the reality was biting hard. I did not save anything partially because I’d been paying two rents the entire stay in New Orleans and whatever was left went to alligator swamp tours and bloody marrys. I was used to being perpetually broke.

The pieces of meat were stuck under my manicured nails and between teeth. I was bitting into fatty and juicy barbecue ribs, the apple pie was looking at me impatiently, a cup of coffee reflecting a toy-like statue of liberty outside the window. It was my favorite part, shopping in the IKEA Brooklyn. Ikea food is better than the Ikea furniture. I’d just spent my last money buying basic furniture for my empty room. Not everything was Ikea, I managed to buy a high wooden convertible fancy West Elm table which I’d found on craigslist.

What’s next? I thought. No client work. No freelance web design gigs. No copywriting gigs. Fucking resumes, recruiters, cold calls – all the things I hated in the over saturated job market scene of NYC. I am unemployable, I thought. The business woman in me was either deep asleep or idling or both. I guess I’ll have to keep renting my body for lap dances to pay my rent and bills, until I finally figure it all out, a way out of my impasse. One song for twenty. Just like a physical therapist delivering urgent care and attention to financial bros from Wall Street or corporate lawyers. There isn’t much diversity in NYC strip club scene. New York city strip club scene had been dying for years, there was only a few decent clubs left, one of them was Penthouse.

“Bring your ID, social security card, a long gown, bikini bottom and heels.” a woman said on the phone.”

I got off at 59 street Columbus circle and walked 15 blocks down Hell’s Kitchen just to avoid walking thru Time Square, which was giving me rash. After New Orleans I became particularly sensitive to the crowds of people queuing up to get into Shake Shack. I bet Holden Caulfield would do the same. What would Holden Caulfield be at thirty-one? Would he ever grow up? Or perhaps, like my ex-boyfiend, he would refuse to grow up and would join the Nihilist movement and would be a perpetually broke artist/musician, aimlessly ranting about politics, government spending and global warming. Or maybe like his old brother D.B. he would end up in Hollywood, riding convertible, writing for Arrested Development and surfing in his free time... And because Holden Caulfield had had a permanent place in my heart since the delicate age of sixteen I needed that comfort that eventually all Holden Caulfields grow up and grow out of seeing the world in black and white and become sarcastic and develop a good sense of humor and grow a thick skin. I needed that comfort to deal with my own weaknesses and being too sensitive and recognizing the fact that I was behind my adolescence. I could see myself being another character of Arrested Development where my character is perpetually late on everything. Mary-An shows no signs of remorse when she misses dates, deadlines, and events. She feels alright about it especially when her mom tells her she wasn’t even born on time…

“Show me, your SS!”  A big bouncer said, looking stern.

I felt heavy. The dark grey sky seemed lower than usual. I could reach my hand into the sky for that mid-summer moister and humidity and wash my face with it.  Why would he make me show it to him on the street? I took it out from my backpack. He let me in.

As I was led into the dressing room I sneaked peaked into the main floor of the club. Boobs. Huge Boobs. Boobs were all over, real and fake and hard to say. There’s no way I’m gonna make it here with my cute pigeon tits, I thought. Besides my boobs I was concerned with even a more serious matter, my SS card. My SS would have been standard, had it not been for a medium size print, Valid with a Work Permit Only. I changed quickly. I felt reluctant putting on a lot of make up. I never liked too much make up. I put on a nylon leopard dress, which I’d bought on Bourbon street, five inch clear heel stripper shoes and red lipstick. The surroundings were new but it was also a dejavu. Flack back to when I was fourteen, I used to spend summer weekends at my grandparents’s dacha. On the attic there were piles of old magazines and old soveit newspapers saved for fire pits. Anyway, among those newspapers was a big pile of magazines with ripped covers. These were european editions of Playboy, Penthouse, rusty, greasy but well preserved prints of nude female bodies. Each nude was spreading on two page sheet. Face and boobs on one sheet and bootie and ’80s bikini wild, untrimmed, untamed bush on the other. I was jealous of those boobs. Like many other slavic girls I was led to believe that if I ate cabbage and oatmeal, my boobs would grow big. But after years of eating cabbage and ‘porridge’ my boobs seemed hesitant to grow. And then I realized it was all lies, stupid tricks to make girls eat oatmeal. My frustration was mitigated by the fact that my behind grew just the right size and looked like in those magazines and was receiving plenty of attention. Apparently I’ve had round cheeks since I was a baby because my Siberian great grandma called me Siberian Shanishka (big buns).

“Go on stage and dance one song,” A house mom told me. I wasn’t trying hard, moving my hips reluctantly and twerking a little, impatient to get down and get out.

“Go down, put your dress on and meet me in the dressing,” the house mom of some exotic descent told me before the song ended.

“Let’s do your paperwork. You are hired.”

I rolled my eyes in disbelief. She took took a copy of my SS my without examining it. “Let’s do an orientation next time, and bring a long gown. We are an upscale and classy club. You can start any day next week.”

It was the beginning of a new chapter – of my new accidental career as an exotic dancer. And while most of my classmates were climbing up the corporate ladder and starting families, I was achieving yet another milestone – being hired by Penthouse Executive club. I couldn’t be more excited.

alexontherocks IMG_2841 IMG_1868

 

Adventures in Southlandia

The afternoon sun is baking drunk pies on Bourbon street. Neon signs are always on. The street is swarming with curious tourists, easy going couples, cheerful bachelorettes and bachelors sipping their tall Hurricanes. In the dressing room of Scores on Bourbon street I meet the most thrilling girls in the world. Dancers. Hustlers. Artists. MamaWolves. Predators. Rockers. Adventurers. The kind of girls they won’t write about in New York Times, section Weddings. There’s Charlotte, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde, tall and strong, and defiant as Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill. She enters the club in her knee-lenght stylish floral southern belle dress, wearing cute bob, short bangs. This girl is a gun. Only a few weeks ago Charlotte had spent 48 hours in prison for knocking out her baby daddy. “What a pussy, that mother fucker, called a police on me for just a bruise on his face. I’m fighting a restraining order, a custody battle. By the end of next week I need to make $4000 to pay that damn family lawyer. Whatever, I’ll do everything to get my 15-month baby boy back.”

Then there’s Mona, a twenty-four year old brunette with pale skin, curvy body, full sensual lips, hazelnut eyes, pure, natural, eloquent and smart. Mona had given me a real introduction of New Orleans and explained that those vicious, high and stinky kids, aimlessly hanging all over the French Quarter with their sad, malnourished dogs are not hippies but gutter punk kids. Mona never works night shifts. “I am afraid of the club at night. After ten pm the club is gradually becoming wicked and by midnight it’s a haunted house. I don’t care for making lots of money here. The other day I only made $50. I have two years of college degree and I am trying to figure out what’s next. I didn’t have enough money to finish the degree. The job market is kinda shitty here. Next week I’ll be working in a movie theatre. I’ll get benefits and all and maybe Ill be doing this once a week until I have enough money to move somewhere else.” The other day Mona came down the red carpet stairs, wearing a mini dress and white socks. A wealthy regular came in. A regular who only blows and drinks. He’d booked a VIP room and took a few girls with him. Mona was in, playing pool for five hours for which she got paid $1500. She was really worried about getting the check. After the club cut her a check, I could sense I won’t see her at Scores again.

Mona’s friend, Julie, a petite dancer, looking no more than 18 is a professional gymnast. Her bright blue eyes are childish and naive. But don’t be fooled by her innocent appearance. Julie is a real hustler, making a few thousand a night.  She puts only a little of make up to look older. She is both, a Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara from Baton Rouge and Eliza Dolittle from Pygmalion. She is Eliza Doolittle because when she spoke to me for the first time I must have fallen into a linguistic coma after that swirl of words dropped from her red hot mouth. Her strong Southern emanated so much music and rhythm that it just struck and mesmerized me once and for all. Everything about her, from her blonde ponytail, to her strong skinny legs, elegant ways and the ability to work on the pole with agility of a toad is intriguing. Perhaps Charles Bukowski was right when he said that the few natural American women left were mostly in Texas and Louisiana. You just don’t meet these kind of girls on the East Coast.

Then there’s Nellie –  my favorite girl. Mysterious, melancholic, skim milk color skin. When she takes off her lather jacket and jeans, her pale body covered by a few tattoos  reveals imperfections, a few bruises, and tiny stretch marks. You could tell by looking at her that she is special. It’s probably her face. Her face, her big bright blue eyes, pretty cheekbones, and dark circles just like mine are ambiguously lit up. In the dressing room filled with booze and scents, fluids and cajun spice, with no underwear on, Nellie and I had an unexpected conversation about Rachmaninoff, our favorite classic composer. It was probably the deepest conversation I’ve had with a dancer in my entire dancing career. She told me she was a composer,  writing scores for movies, commercials and all. She took out one of her earbuds and inserted into my ear. “Here, this is my music I wrote for a movie.” It was good, lyrical and sad.

bourobonnola

“Hey Mr, would you like to go upstairs for three special? Bump n’ grind, three for a hundred?” I  ask. Upstairs where the remnants of ol’ past still reside, the Nobel Prize book collection looking down from a dusty shelf, looking down forgotten and neglected and yet in an weird twist of fate continuing its existence in bedlam on Bourbon street. Upstairs on red rotten velvet and leather couches I put off my little nylon dress and press my topless body in a G-string against a stranger. There are other girls out there who stick their tities n bottoms into strangers’ face. No shame. Just a game. Scores on Bourbon, a touristic attraction… I meet some interesting customers, like a good looking  guy in a traditional Scottish kilt and a leather sporran. I come up to him and start a conversation. His name is Dave, a handyman from Lafayette, LA. He is not wearing kilt because it’s a Scottish holiday, he is just chillen because it’s his day off and he feels good and he’s half Scottish and all. I can’t imagine a chill New Yorker like that. I flirtatiously lift his skirt and immediately pull it back. I flush.  Dave has no undies.

Almost every day at five o’clock a midget comes into the club under pretense of selling bags. Everyone knows what he really sells. In the club everyone is in the business of selling or re-selling something, uppers and downers, pills, weed and powder and God knows what.

“Hey Sista, we like you,” Sugar walks up to me. “Come hang with us in the courtyard. It’s too early to hustle, there’s no one at the club yet. You wanna smoke? Swallow? Blow? We share everything. Sharing is caring.”

I slowly sip a shot of Jack Daniel’s and they giggle and laugh at me and say incomprehensible things in their strong Southern. Everything about this place makes me high. Later, when it gets busy, a white collar, well-dressed tourist from London takes me by the hand

“Do you party? We want to party? Do you sell?”

“Jeez, what am I? Your local drug-dealer? Call eight-hundred number or something.” I rant.

I get upbeat texts from Victoria about meeting her for lunch, dinner. We complain to each other about how slow the club is. When we start a day in the club she shows off her fresh face, hot body and kind spirit, her entire essence emanates genuine warmth. “Hey, honey, so my dad will be in town, he doesn’t know what I do. He thinks I work in a bar. Can you please join us for dinner? He’ll take us some place nice.”

In a few hours her fresh good looking face disappears, her speech slurs. “Aleeex, dear, I made $500 but I hate that customer, I went upstairs and he touched me everywhere, he abused me. Come with me let’s have a, let’s have drinks at the…” She doses off at the end of the sentences. It takes her great efforts make a sentence. It’s painful to see her like that, losing control of her body, losing control of her self. Anti-depressants and booze. Days ago when the club was sober and quiet, when we shared a huge po boy sandwich with cajun shrimp she opened up about her life. When she was growing up her grandfather had molested her. He was a prominent dignified and wealthy judge. Somehow it all led to disastrous events because her parents never believed her and thought she was just making things up. So they made her see a shrink who also thought she was just a teenager making things up and the best way to deal with it was just to prescribe Xanax. She was outta parents’ house as soon as she finished high school. A year ago her grandfather finally died. She’d inherited only a fraction his wealth.

“But it’s going to be okay.” Victoria says. “I moved to a new apartment. It’s nice. Soon, I’ll quit this after I get a real-estate license…”

My landlord Smoky reminds me that I only have 10 days left until his friend, a musician from  Cali will take over my studio in the French Quarter for JazzFest. We go out on a balcony and share a joint. I look up. White clouds are racing on the blue sky, touching up the sunlit roofs. “I don’t want to leave to NYC yet.” I say. What’s the rush to come back to cold, jaded New York City? I can stay for another month or two until it gets unbearably hot here.”

My friend from New York had introduced me to his friend Arielle, a freelance artist and illustrator focusing on bunnies, bunnies comic books and bunnies movement. I met Ari in a coffee shop in the French Quarter to discuss subletting a room in her shotgun house in Irish Channel. Ari was 27, a redhead, shy, hippy-ish. Like most progressive women artists in New Orleans, Ari didn’t shave her armpits and legs, didn’t use deodorant and was into everything queer. We both we agreed that we had some things in common. We both resented conformity and everything corporate, nine to five jobs, and we both liked reclusion and could spend a day or two without talking to anyone. In a few days Ari invited me over to meet her bunny named Saddie and boyfriend named Jared. Her house was just a few blocks from Magazine street. It was a hundred year old creole house, with lots of character, old vintage furniture and plenty of her own art work. Saddie had her own room at the rear end of a shotgun  stretched house. A true New Yorker would have done bunny justice, a true New Yorker would have brought the bunny to an animal shelter or roasted it in the oven with prunes and vegetables. A true New Yorker would have converted that rabbit room into Airbnb for $100 a night. But here in New Orleans, my faith in humanity was restored. People didn’t seem to be obsessed with money or success or real estate or rent. I didn’t like Saddie, the furry little dumb thing shitting pigeon poop all over the wooden floor. Anyway, Ari and I had gone to a grocery and I bought mushrooms, kale,  onion and blue cheese. I cooked it all on coconut oil and we sat and ate it sadly in complete silence. Outside was dark and motionless. On the stove a huge pot lentils cooking slowly and sadly. I was craving music and wine. The silence was interrupted when Arielle’s boyfriend came in. Her pale face transformed from sullen to luscious. He was a young dude, stiff and bitter, afraid to make an eye contact with me. I said goodbye and took off back to music and life.

irishchannel

The next day I was with my laptop walking around the Marigny and Bywater. I wasn’t looking forward to moving in into Arielle’s house. Deep inside I fantasized about finding a place in Bywater which came with a cool boyfriend artist. A place where I could fall in love and stay after years of being restless, a chill place where you don’t talk about fucking rent all the time. For a moment I was imagining my life in a creole house with two adopted pit-bulls and a humble chill artist or rocker. I’d go back to playing violin and learn harmonica and I’d eventually gig some place on Frenchmen street. And I’d make money busking on Royal street. Music is the kick inside.

I got back to reality. I looked around, the streets were deserted. The French Quarter is always swarming with tourists, weddings, bachelors parties, events, concerts, conventions. But it’s not real, it’s all staged staged, it’s a museum. Outside was the real New Orleans – unpopulated, stretched, warm in spring, filled with evanescent melancholy, well-preserved remnants of the past and old money in old mansions next to cottages and shacks and oak trees with their deep centennial roots breaking thru the pavement. The warmth in the air made me sad and hungry. I went to the Madigras Zone and had homemade pork chops with pickled cabbage and crab soup. And then I walked back to the Orange Couch, my favorite coffee shop in NOLA and probably on planet earth. I got affogato and picked the table outside, under a palm tree. I worked for a few hours and noticed a guy sitting across from me. I’d seen him here the day before. Ginger hair, pale skin, blue eyes, blue jeans, he was about five-feet-seven, stout and speaking with a slight distinct accent. It was the day before Easter and the band dressed in Bunny costumes passed past us. Our eyes met.

“Don’t you find this enthusiasm about celebrating holidays charming? I’m in love with this town.” I said out loud and smiled at him.

“Yea, this town is crazy. He said. “But I love it too. he said and smiled back at me.

“I prefer it crazy to normal, anyway. I dig NOLA. I’d love to attend a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral. They say they dance and crack jokes to celebrate the live of a corpse. I said.

We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet later in the evening on Frenchmen street. His name was Ronan. Ronan was from Ireland but he spoke with an american accent except for that one crazy interjection “eh” which he was using before and after and in-between words which made his European roots come out. Ronan had Ph.D in Philosophy and had spent a few years living Canada and a few months in New Orleans and now he was based in Germany. His was doing post-doctoral research in Social Cognition and was visiting NOLA for a conference. I took him to Bamboulas to see my landlord’s Smoky’s band perform live on stage. I couldn’t tell if he liked blues. He seemed reserved and shy. We didn’t wait until the end and left half way thru the show. Somehow we ended up in the seediest bar on Decatur street, small, empty, half-lit but not without charm and humor. The bartender was drunk to pieces and so was the waiter. But Ronan, a true Irishman who had once bartendered in the French Quarter was delighted to handle the situation. He came up to the bartender and started chatting with him and pointing to the ingredients for making two white russians. The bartender despite being drunk maneuvered opening liquids and bottles and jiggled glasses skillfully. The cocktails tasted real good. We discussed everything, Russian aggression in Ukraine, religion, abortion situation in Ireland, music, philosophy. We repeated the cocktails and shared a warm apple pie pudding and laughed. Outside was a starry night. I pointed out to the moon and stars and I slightly leaned on him. Ronan pulled me closer to him, our heads bumped into each other and he quickly moved his lips towards mine. It felt good, it wasn’t enough. We went to my place, settled in on a balcony. I set on his lap, his sweaty palms travelled from my neck, shoulders, down to my cups, spiraling and circling around my rounds and then slowly sliding down my belly, hip, knee and then making a U-turn and resting his hand on my pelvis. His heart pounded louder and his breath shortened. An electric stream ran thru my body.

“So, when are you leaving?” I asked

“Tomorrow it is.” he said

“So soon! Dam, murphy’s law. I pouted.

“Well, eh, it’s been good, don’t ruin it. I am so happy I met you.”

“Tell me something’ funny.”

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“Why?”

“To avert an existential crisis.”

 Okay, Let’s go.”

We took a cab to his place deep in the Marigny. It was a quiet and overpriced bed and breakfast in an old creole house with a stale odor. Before I could even utter a sound Ronan put his palm across my mouth. “Tshh,  I am not even allowed to bring people here.” he whispered. “What? Are you renting it from a nun or something?”

His room was hot, half-lit, with a huge king size canopy bed. It was 2 am, we both were tired and tipsy but the appetite for lust was coming back full force. Ronan was lying on top of the quilt cover in plain cotton boxers and white shirt. I went to take a shower and came out all fresh, wrapped in a white towel which I slipped in front of him. We kissed and rolled and made a sandwich. I removed his shirt, traveled down his body and made a contact with a fish-like slippery, sticky skin. I let his warm and heavy artillery out to roam free. He turned me over and plunged his head between my legs exploring me with his lips and fingertips. Then he was ready to sail his ship through me. At first the ship was entering the desert which was slowly turning to bayou, until bayou was becoming the sea and the ship sunk deep into my sinkhole and it was about the ship exploring the sinkhole in the sea. The life above the surface ceased to exist.

The rest of the night I slept restlessly. I found myself clinging to Ronan, nestling down on his chest, holding his hand – the things I do when I have feelings. He didn’t push me away. We woke up late hungry for love, lust, hungry for each other. So we did it again feverishly, thrusting each other, riding, biting, galloping  until we both spasmed. We took some time to disentangle, our bodies still glued to each other. My fingers ran thru his salty shiny sweat drops and then I pressed my lips and tasted ’em. Slowly our hearts rates returned to normal. We talked and joked lingering on the moment, trying to delay the looming separation. Then it was time to leave. He quickly showered, packed, put on his European cologne and we went outside. Outside was a strong afternoon sun beating down on us mercilessly. We went for brunch to Who Dat Cafe and ordered eggs with beacon and pancakes. The sun revealed his pale freckles and little fine lines. Handsome wasn’t the word to describe him. He was alright. His brains, his kind philosophies and a few other manly assets made him look real good. It felt good being around him. He was easy to confide to, heavy stuff and secrets. It’s always easier to confide to someone who you might never ever see again. Then we finished eating and Ronan walked with me towards the end of the Marigny. There near the cross street of Royal and Elysian Fields we kissed each other goodbye. “Damn, I am so glad I met you” he said. We parted ways and as I waited for the light I looked backed to see if he looked back. He did. I have this kinda silly theory that when you part and you both look back, it means something… It was a bitter sweet feeling. My skin was glowing but my heart ached a little. I felt like too many things in my life went according to Murphy’s laws. I really liked him. Not that it meant that we could actually work and make a couple together. I felt like I had revealed myself too much and too fast. He was too right, a little uptight and academic. But you never know how those things work anyway. Truly clicking and falling in love with someone is always a mystery. Hell with matchdotcom, eharmony.

magazinestreet

The following week after Easter I moved to Arielle’s bunny-theme shotgun. She gave me a place in the attic. To get there I had to climb really steep sketchy stairs. The kind of stairs if you miss a step you’ll break your neck. Despite some serious life-threatening concerns it was a romantic attic which came with a wooden vintage desk and chair and it was  filled with natural light, and a lovely view to the abandoned wild garden which had not been touched in years.

alexonbourbon

 

Victoria texted me that she had gotten two tickets to NOLA Jazz Fest. I was stoked. And so on Sunday morning I was there waiting for Victoria near the main entrance. I waited and waited and waited and waited. And I called her, called her. She didn’t show up. And so around noon I approached a security man. I first showed him my puppy eyes, then a flirty smile, then a pouty half-smile. “Sir, I am here visiting from Ukraine just for a few days and my friend has stood me up…” It worked on him alright. He let me into the festival grounds. I doubt I could pull it off in NYC. There’s no place like NOLA, there’s no place like the Big Easy. I was having a quality time by myself dancing to Elton John’s old hits. Being alone, living an adventurous life in the Big Easy was one of the few enlightening things that ever happened to me. After the Jazz Fest was over I walked around the street blocks of the Mid-City. There were small bands playing and after-parties, and open doors and jambalayas and po-boys. My phone rang, it showed Victoria’s number.  I picked up it was her boyfriend Vince. “Hey, Alex, I am so sorry Victoria couldn’t make it, she didn’t feel well. But I can pick you up. I am near you.” I almost felt like making a lie and keep hanging by myself but getting back to the Irish Channel was a drag. Vince pulled over his Range Rover van and yelled at me, “Come on baby, get in. I got in reluctantly. I hadn’t yet located a seatbelt when the car took off like a torpedo, making screeching sound from hitting the gas. I nearly puked my jambalaya. Vince was driving with his left hand, the same hand also holding a cigarette, the right hand had a tight grip on a small bottle of Jameson. I felt like I couldn’t swallow anymore. Something was familiar. Quentin Tarantino. The Death Proof . I was trapped in the scene from the Death Proof.  Will I make it one piece to Magazine Street?”

“Aren’t you afraid of being pulled over by cops?” I asked as we were speeding down the highway,

“Nah, don’t worry, babe, I am the best driver in the world. We don’t have enough cops here. Nobody wants to be a cop here. There’s a lot of corruption here.”

Vince was thirty-five. He looked much older, scruffy, hungover, jaded by life but never jaded by music or love. His dark hair was short, thick and oily. He was a poet and a musician.

“Hey, Alex babe, wanna hear me singing? My band singing?” He emptied half bottle of whiskey. For a moment his left hand let go off the wheel, while reaching towards his smartphone, while his right hand kept holding the whiskey bottle. The car was on auto-pilot.  “Here, I found it, the Parish Prison Band.

He definitely had some talent and voice but I wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it. Besides, it was hard to appreciate that kind of music after Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road. I could only think of getting outta the damn car.  “Jeez, Vince, you text, drink and smoke while driving. This is fucking badass. I am really scared now. Won’t you please put your hands on the wheel?”

“Nah, y’all be fine. Tell me darling, is Victoria just giving lap dances, she doesn’t do anything else? Does she?”

“Of course she doesn’t. She is a very sweet girl and she’s in love with you. She keeps talking about you all the time.”

I was surprised he asked me that. Didn’t he know that she was pretty much on downers and booze all the time she worked? Didn’t he know that she was losing herself? Or maybe addicts are all illusional. Not just addicts. Most people are illusional about many things. Vince was delusional about Victoria. Victoria was delusional about treating her anxiety and depression with xanax and booze. I was delusional about myself. I’d been delusional about my life, about being a lawyer, working on wall street, going with the flow, being normal. I’d been delusional about my last employer not revoking my fucking work visa. Normal man is a fiction. Fiction. Fiction.

But you. You. Don’t you make judgements? You young and mature, self-righteous, squeamish and condescending. Don’t ever judge this crazy, salacious, dysfunctional, dirty, and twisted world because this world is alive and real than that “normal”, nine to five, disguised by sterile conformity, 401(K), compliance and dental plan. The impure, dysfunctional world wrapped in  pain, agony and perpetual dilemma is a lot more interesting and enlightening than the world of academia, grad schools and just books and things they write about in the New Yorker.

I never saw Victoria or Vince again. I took a break from dancing. Summer was approaching, the business was slowing down. Ari and her boyfriend left for Texas for a week, so I had a house to myself. I fed and watched over the bunny imagining her in a fancy dish. I cooked and ate plenty of good meal dishes with meat and fish. I sucked Saint Louis BBQ ribs to  House of Cards, I ate almost 2 pounds of crawfish with andoville sausage all by myself. I ate fresh oysters and drank cold draft beer and watermelon margarita on Magazine street. I walked around the Irish Channel, befriending neighbors and their friendly dogs. I went out to a few hipster parties and art galleries. I took Ari’s bike and biked to Audubon park, falling asleep under live oak trees. Long spanish moss, hanging from an oak tree is touching my head. I open my eyes and fall asleep again. Soon it all will be over. Soon Ari will come back from her trip. Soon the Bourbon street will be deserted for summer. Soon I’ll go and work at Visions just two more times until the manager will yell at me and some girls will get mad at me for doing too well and staying too sober. Soon tropical mosquitos will get too comfortable sucking my blood. Soon crawfish will be out of season. Soon the streets will be empty. Soon I will have the last best bloody marry with my friend bartender Flip in the french quarter. The merciless sun will beat down on unapologetically. But Flip will remind me to smile, to smile regardless of life’s circumstances… Soon I will be back in Brooklyn, New York, soon I will miss NOLA and soon I will be hoping to go back there again…

spanishmoss

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme dat raw crude New Orleans

frenchquarter

When I wake up on Decatur steet first thing I do is open large french windows and get into the balcony in my panties and tank top with a cup of luke warm water with lemon. I don’t know what is it about the South air but it smells different. It smells Big Easy, moist and carefree, moisturizing human scars, perpetual small and big headaches of every day life. I watch the sun lit streets and people and a young dude who lives across from me. The dude and I wake up at the same time. He often shows up at in the balcony in his undies with a cup of coffee and a cigarette, showing off his lean torso. We play games staring at each other continuously. My nearsighted impression makes a good picture of him, his looks. The upside of being nearsighted is that you appreciate and fall for things that aren’t even real.

I couldn’t stop thinking about a Bill Murray Man. He had my number. Looking back at Pussy Cat Cabaret, when I was trying dancing for the first time, I went out with a few guys from the club. It rarely happened. I remember I had a crush on this guy Cliff. The only reason, it came thru was pure convenience. We’d lived a few blocks from each other. Cliff lived on Cliff street which was a few short blocks from Fulton street. He’d take his dog out and text me right before bed time and we’d walk around South Sea Port, smoke a joint and talk. I even went to his birthday party. We never clicked tho. He was a typical thirty-something successful New Yorker with good looks, good steady income in the medical field and a shit ton of vanity.

“Look hun, I’ve got bad news and good news. I know it’s last minute, but we’ll have to cancel the Gala event at the Plaza Hotel. I know you were looking forward to it but I’m just too tired tonite. The good news is that you can still come over to my place later and we can watch the movie and stuff. Right hun?”

I concealed my frustration that I couldn’t put on that hot dress and show off my dancer legs and mingle in circles they write about in Porter Magazine. I wasn’t that into him to come over to his place and give him a head or let him go into my pants. Instead, I’d preferred foodmaking and lovemaking with  my young  on-and-off young boyfriend artist.

****

“Hey, Alex, go tawk to dat Customer over dere. He says he likes white girls.” Says Kiera, taking out a skinny joint from her shiny purse. I roll my eyes and find her face at the mirror.

“Did he say that straight into your face? Dam, I’m sorry, he’d be a toast on the East Coast and kicked out from the club.” I say

“Yea, he did, but it’s okay. I held my breath. I exhaled deeply and walked away.” She said sipping slowly from her fifth glass of wine.

Kiera’s body looks like a perfectly rolled skinny joint. Not a single, wrinkle,  stretch mark, or fat muscle. You can almost see her delicate see-thru ribs covered by smooth hazelnut skin. She says she’s 31. A black mama wolf wearing an 18-year old body. When she goes on stage she gives a Cirque du Soleil Performance, working the pole so adeptly like it’s an extension of her body. Just a few easy push ups and she lifts her entire body up in the air like an acrobat and does her magic.

“Kiera, teach me a few tricks”.

“No girl, don’t even bother asking Kiera to teach you a few tricks.” Sugar, puts her arm around my neck.

‘Last time a white gal asked Kiera to show her pole tricks, she wound up going to the hospital with muscles strained and ligament sprain, twisted wrists. Kiera is crazy. She’s lightweight so pole tricks come easy. Plus she drinks so much that when she climbs pole she thinks she’s in space. She doesn’t give a shit for safety.” Sugar is another black mama with tight body, with big and tight beautiful milk boobs, friendly and real and upbeat.

“Look gal, I’ll teach you a few tricks, slowly, get up on stage now!” I follow her and repeat her moves awkwardly and sheepishly and bruise my ankles and legs and finally make a small progress. Gals put on a great show here even if a customer throws a dollar or two. I can’t believe what tricks real dancers do, going upside down and all, risking their lives, after consuming a couple drinks and then still hustling to get table dances and champagne rooms.

At the end of the shift we all go to the dressing room. I barely make a hundred.

“What’s up with that sour puss face?” Kiera turns her tipsy eyes to me

” I made too little.”

“Kiera opens up her shiny purse, gets a twenty dollar bill and hands it to me.”

“What for? Why?” I roll my eyes at her

“It’s okay. I made enough. I like you. You can actually listen to me. Besides, I don’t have to hustle too much. I got a rich boyfriend at home. I come here because I am bored.

“Are you sure?”

“Yea, dam, take it please!”

When I walk out I can barely hold back my tears. Such a generosity from a stripper is raw and  genuine and touching. I turn to Royal Street again and see the Old Monk Guy wrapping off, taking off his ugly old man’s face mask. Intrigued I come closer. A short moment of suspense.  I feel sorry for the old man. But in a surprising twist, the old man turns out to me a young handsome guy.

“Whoa!” I say in excitement and give him a five dollar bill.

“Thank you, haha, you are not the first one. I get this all the time…” His voice is pleasant and soft.  “I work in Vegas, but NOLA is my favorite town. Vegas has no soul, no character, no personality.”

The next morning I open up huge french windows, heavy grey fog is hovering above the Crescent city skyline. I finish my lemon water swiftly, put on sneakers, yoga pants and hoody and walk outside. I walk fast past Frenchmen street, still sleeping after pulling another all-nighter, I walk thru Washington Square Park, cross the street and turn into cozy green tree-lined streets of the Marigny. I stop to get my long shot of espresso at Orange Couch, and start running slowly towards Bywater, passing  by the old magnificent and mysterious Marigny Opera House and old rail road. I increase my pace once I get closer to the arched bridge which leads into the Crescent City park with a unique panorama, spreading out like peanut- butter-jelly on whole wheat toast. I am in love and hungry.

 

 

 

A Bill Murray from Bourbon Street

 

I was pushing a year as the stripper when I walked in to Scores, The Mansion on Bourbon Street. I had danced at small strip joints like Pussy Cat Cabaret and Pumps a transient place for spoiled rebellious trust fund kids and hipster chicks from Bushwick, dressed in American Apparel sexyonesies, educated, articulate, well-read. And a month in Flashdancers, Private Eye and New York Dolls, inundated with uneducated but friendly Latino women and Russian bitches, hungry and angry, ready to be abused and treated like slaves by rigid watch-dogs managers, supervising the floor every minute, hired by A Father and A Son, theGodfather and the Godfather Junior.  But it was rarely exciting or interesting.

Walking into Scores was like traveling to Columbia during Pablo Escobar Times. Walking into Scores was like discovering Wild West. Walking into Scores was like opening a  new chapter of Huckleberry Finn.

“Hey, I am new to the city and new to the club.  How’s it working out for you here? I ask a tall white girl with marble color skin tone and aristocratic features.

Not bad. Up and down of course. But not bad. I work mid shifts, from 4 till 11, after midnite it gets too intense here. I am Carey, by the way. Victoria in the club. She smiles and kisses me on the cheek. “You are pretty. I love your accent”.

We sit together by the bar. It’s still early. Unlike neurotic East Coast, NOLA gals must have at least a couple martinis or tequilas or 5 glasses of champagne before they can utter a word, hit the podium and approach a customer.  “Alright, Alex, I actually think I might quit this and go back to my other job, real estate job. And I will do sex cams from my home when I move into my new place with my boyfriend. I am getting tired of this – drinking, waiting for customers. And once I move in to my new place, I want you to come over. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, we also have a balcony, we’ll chill, have a glass of wine, chat about nothing.

I get excited about the idea of making friends with Victoria. I already imagine a chill  Louisiana day in a tastefully decorated apartment.

The Club gets busier and I focus on hustling and approaching customers and making benjamins. The busty woman who has been around since the Declaration of Independence is working on 2 men. I approach ’em and start a conversation with a nicely dressed man in his forties, wearing a crispy white shirt, nice fit jeans, shoes and a rolex on his wrist. He doesn’t see me, his eyes are fixed on her bust/vintage bosom. I can see I am not his type. Until I open my mouth.

“Excuse me, Sir, You look familiar. You look like a younger and handsomer version of Bill Murray from the Groundhog Day.”

He turns to me and smiles. He likes the comparison. He does looks like a young Bill Murray. A forty something, rosy checks, looking all suave.  After treating my winter blues with Groundhog Day, watching it just over two hundred times I developed a crush for all men slightly resembling Bill Murray. Bill Murray is a God. After a small talk we go for a few lap dances.

“Look honey, you will be the perfect woman for me if we add her boobs to yours, he said, jerking a thumb at the Declaration of Inependence Woman. “I can even pay for your boob job.”

I cringe but produce a staged laugh. “No thank you, I support everything organic and natural.”

” It’s fine. Look honey with a perfect hiney, I need a gal like you. I’ve been married a few times. I’m getting separated. My last one is beautiful but cuckoo. I need a break. Let’s go to Miami! I’ll treat you nicely, whatever you want, shopping, things…”

I flush. I’ve heard stories like dat. Maybe it can be me too. I toy with the idea of getting laid by a wealthy Bill Murray Man.

I pout, “Dunno, maybe. But we should go out first.”

” Of course, let’s go out tonite.  Now? “.

“I am getting off from the club at 9pm.” I say.

“No, worries, we’ll do it another day, soon.” He hugs me, and kisses me on the lips.

He leaves and I get a little sad. I give a few more lap dances, make $300 towards the end of my shift. The club gets empty at 10pm on Sunday and I am ready to live. My eyes are looking for Victoria. I spot her sitting in the corner with a shady customer.  Her eyes are hazy, her head is nodding. Her speech is blurry. “Alex, dear, how did ya do gal? I made $400 with this customer upstairs. I’ve had too many drinks. I shouldn’t drink more. You see, I take medication, anti-depressants so I shouldn’t drink but I drink anyway…”

I leave the club turn right on Roayal street, throw a few bucks to a musician and a performer  doing a real stunt – a bold ugly monk defying gravity. I never see things like that in New York. It’s better than a freak show on Coney Island. I go back to my Decatur studio, soak myself under hot shower, go to the kitchen and get cold crawdaddies, which taste even better than the day before. I suck their salty spicy juices and think about a Bill Murray.

 

The Ole Monk

 

What dat Stripclub in the Swamp?

IMG_1226NOLA

“Where are you going Ma’am? the driver almost yells at me?”

“4000 Downman Road, East N’Yoleans,” I yell back.

He turns to the mirror and stares at me pensively and gives me a judgmental smirk. 

Miss, are you out of your mind? He says noticing my backpack, “What’s there?”

“There’s a bar, down there, girls tell me they make good money…”

He rolls his eyes again, “Miss, do you know that a white gal like you should not go there. Do you know that after Katrina most people vacated their homes, it’s very deserted there except thugs and criminals. There’s shootings there every other week…”

It’s okay, it’s everywhere, it’s modern pandemic. I used to live in the South Bronx for 9 months. I’ll be fine.” I say, trying to sound confident but my voice is cracking.

“There are so many  service jobs in the French Quarter the driver continues to patronize me.

“I’ve done that. Too much of Bourbon street. Tourists and Tourists. Plus the tourist season is almost over.” I say.

I pause and hold my breath. “Plus the only service job I can tolerate is exotic dancing. I have a strong attitude,  a shitty attitude and I simply can’t smile all the time.”  I look outside as we are speeding on Claiborne Expressway passing by naked broken houses, houses without roofs and shattered remnants of infrastructure. The view is dull,  unpromising.  Maybe he is right. Maybe I should turn around before I get into…  No!  Cut it off. It’s too late, I convince myself. I always want to turn around. I remember how I once almost turned around on the ski slope.  It was high. I hadn’t skied in years. I was right on the edge and there was no turning back … Too late now too.  The cab meter showing $20 dollar fare. 

When he pulls over, next to the club, chills run all over my skin. The surroundings look sketchy, sketchier than on the Fordham Road area. I ask the driver to wait for me in case I’m turned away. A friendly bouncer with a manly bun greets me by the entrance.

“The manager is not auditioning today. It’s Tuesday. It’s going to be slow.”

“Can I at least talk to him? I came all the way down here from the city.” I beg

“He is cranky today but if you you have a friend who works here you’d better off coming in with her.”

“I know Candy with fucked up teeth but we are not friends. A stripper has no friends, don’t you know that?”

He shrugs in silence. I walk back towards the cab. Frustration is my nation.  But as soon as I get into the cab and close the door, a man with salt-and-pepper hair runs outta the club and runs toward the cab, “Hay, you?”

I jump outta the car again. He looks at me from head to toe. “You have a nice body?”

“I do” I reply swiftly, smiling at him.

“Wanna start working today?”

“I do!” I nod.

Do you have tattoos?  stretch marks?

“Nada, not a single tattoo, and I’ve never been prego.” I lift my white shirt and turn around.

He leads me through the back door,  an entrance for staff, and girls only.  Deja vu. Half-lit locker room,  a line of rusty lockers, plastic glasses scattered around, a bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol. Half naked girls. Booties. Sweaty juicy pussies, young and mature. Drunk eyes. Sober eyes. Tired eyes. Makeup bags, eye concealers. Victoria Secrets pants and shorts. Boobs. Fake boobs, natural boobs, saggy boobs, all kinds of boobs. Cheap body sprays. I face my reflection and my hallmark, dark circles. I half-smile in disbelief – huh, I made it that far, New Orleans East.

Southern girls are friendly just like in Scores on Bourbon. They find my accent exotic. “Where are you from?” Wow, UK?

“No, Ukraine!” I say politely.

“Is the Ukraine part of the United Nations or is it part of the UK, one girl inquires?”

Another girl rolls her eyes at her and almost wants to slap her in the face. “Bitch, what’s up with your geography? The Ukraine is in Yugoslavia.  Or near it.” she concludes.

I smile, and explain that Ukraine is the country which borders with Count Dracula’s home country. Whoa, I must be the first Eastern European chick to ever step a foot in the Louisiana strip club. I am so accomplished. I put on red bikini top, black g-string bottom and a short poly dress and walk outside. Rick is there, looking out for me paternally,

“Walk around the club, have some coffee. Do you drink tea, green tea? Do you smoke? I’ll show you around.” he replies.

Rick is half Sicilian, half Spanish, big brown eyes, prominent forehead. Most strip club managers are blunt and cold and harsh, talking tawkin’ like Joe Pesci. But Rick emanates fatherly warmth and charisma and wit.

“I’ve been in this industry since after Katrina. The other day I ran into a pshyciatrist’s office all naked and screaming. He said I was crazy. Capisci? Hey Bella! “, he turns to a stripper with a big stitch on her forehead. “Bella has been in a fight with another gal. So she’s on probation. She’s behaving, right?”  He slaps her butt gently and takes her hand.  “Don’t you know that gel nail polish is not good for ya?”

I smile. I nod. It’s refreshing to meet such a simpatico manager, really.

I walk in the main floor which seems darker than the usual strip club joint. It’s almost empty, but it’s still very early, right before lunch time.

“Hi, my name is Big Freddy.” A big guy, another man-bun comes up to me.  “I am a floor manager and I also cook for da girls. Are you hungry? I made pork chops. It’s there in the corner, all hot n’ fresh, and there’s some macaroni and bread and gravy.

I roll my eyes in disbelief. “Thank you, Big Freddy, I am almost always hungry. And when I am really hungry I get so hAngry that my shitty attitude gets out of my control and I start spitting on customers. So, you can’t do this kind of job on an empty stomach.” I say. I get myself a nice portion of pork chops with rice and gravy. It’s salty, it tastes good and special. You can’t survive on nuts and veggies if you are a dancer. Being a vegetarian is suicidal. I don’t think I’ve ever met a vegetarian stripper. Every bite of pork tenderloin is replenishing my vital energy and healing my frazzled nerves.

When I pour myself a cup of coffee, I notice a thick black door. I push it – streams of sunlight hit my eyes, blinding me for a moment. Whoa, they even have a terrace for smoking and chilln’. There’s a few palm trees and plants in big heavy pots. Girls are sitting on the bench drinking and smoking and chatting so nonchalantly, as if they are on vacation or something. Their Baton Rouge accents, a southern  twang, lilts and drawl are making me high  “Hey Y’all, I am using my vagina for recreational purposes only. Iddenit right?” A blonde chick with D size asks her mates. I look up, the sky, that sky, the Southern sky, dressed up in colors so luminescent, like a stranger in town. Everything feels so different than the East Coast.

The day is going alright. When I get outta the club at seven pm I have almost $450 on me.

 

Slow Death of a Corporate Chick. Part I

 

Mojitos. Nice expensive cars. Nice shoes, nice bags. Delicious lunch menus. A badass 26-year-old boyfriend who is already a partner in a law firm. Travels. Tennis on the weekend. I moan like Maria Sharapova when serving a ball. Fat corporate parties with local celebrities. Scuba diving in the Red Sea.

“Guess, what? I am a junior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers,” I say and smile cunningly.

“Congratulations! That’s a very competitive position to land!” My classmate friend replies, I can sense a touch of jealousy in his voice.”

Indeed, everybody in my family was content. My older brother upgraded me from Bimba to an up-and-coming corporate chick. I brag about my hot corporate burgeoning career every day for a month over mojitos and martinis.  I reflect on getting the job. It wasn’t even that difficult to get. Yea I had at least three interviews but when it comes to the buttom of it it wasn’t even my English language fluency or legal expertise which I didn’t have at that time at all. It was because the person who was making a decision was Jorge Sanchez, an ex-pat from Peru. Jorge had been working at PwC since like 16 and had been transferred to PwC Central and Eastern Europe, working in Budapest and Prague. Eventually he was offered a fat position at PwC Kiev which he accepted in a heartbeat. For Jorge it wasn’t just accepting a lucrative position, he was moving in to a paradise to be surrounded by daisies, roses, tulips, while orchids, country poppies and plain dandelions. It was too easy to forget that he was bringing a young and hot Brazilian wife with him because he was surrounded by the army of beautiful women. Jorge made sure that only beautiful women worked for him. Each day he was in a pleasant anticipation of a dinner, which always came with a surprise desert in the end.  Each day there was a new woman for a desert. Jorge’s appetite for deserts was insatiable.

“So do you like your job?” The same friend askes me 6 months later,

” I don’t know yet. I guess, I reply after a long pause chewing crusty Kiev cutlet.

I don’t know if it really matters if I like my job. What really matters? Parties matters, fun outings matter, shopping matters, summer in Italy matters, night club matters, fun times with girlfriends matter. I think I want simple things – I want a well-off husband, a senior associate position at PwC, financial security which comes with it and maybe a little Porsche or something.

porche or somethin'

The truth is there’s nothing exciting in being a junior associate at PwC. Jorge was the head of Legal and Tax department but there were at least two other ‘underbosses’ or managers  and senior associates who where in charge of me. I spent weeks and months doing tedious administrative tasks, research for senior lawyers, translation for translators. “You work in Pwc and you are doing registration of businesses, LLCs? What?”  my classmate raised his brow.  “We outsource this kind of job to third parties…” If registering a business takes a business day in any state in the US, in post-soveit Kiev it took a month after visiting a number of corrupt administrative offices.  Of course I was one of Jorge girls. If he called my name, it meant that I had to be there at his office at 8am sharp for an important client meeting – to take notes and write memoranda of understanding. “So when will I start working on a real case,  a big deal  project?” I ask Jorge and my manager Boris. “Soon”. I kept hearing for a while. Soon.  Sometimes I had to be there in an upscale restaurant to accompany Jorge for a client meeting. That felt important for a month or two but soon I started having spontaneous existential attacks. I’d stare at the window, absent-mindedly, continuously, looking at birds, staring at rooftops, stating into nothing. “Sasha!”  Saaaaasha! Stop daydreaming!” Boris, a senior associate and my manager would startle me.   Dejavu. It was a diabolically familiar, unpleasant feeling from a kindergarden. “Oh yea sorry I took a break from doing another retarded assignment.” I almost said it out loud. It felt as if an empty

One day during a lunch time at a restaurant I’d met a guy Louis Franck who was sorta a famous local musician in a sorta hot band, called Esthetic EducationWe played the Guessing game and he thought I’d worked in advertising. He rolled his eyes after I told him about my hot PwC position. It’s all blurry now. I remember going out with him to a nice fancy restaurant and I guess he thought I was a one boring corporate chick and he needed to do something about it, like he was disgusted about how ‘corporate’ I was or something. So he took me to a small dark strip club on Podol. The club looked like a small theater with a center stage and a pole in the center. Those strippers did not look anything like most american strippers look. There was no blonde wigs or tattoos, or barbie glam make up. They looked like medieval witches from fairy tales, they could easily pass for Gabriel Marquez characters, dark and raw and salacious and natural and mysterious. One of the girls with long dark wavy hair came off the stage with a whip, sat on a guy in front of the stage, enveloped his neck and moved his head towards her big loose tities. The way men looked at her, full of earning and fascination made feel jealous.  I knew I probably didn’t have the guts to undress in front of so many men, put my assets on display, work the pole so masterfully and play the men so cunningly.   “Don’t you dare to judge these women.” Louis said pressing his lips to my ear.  Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s came to mind, because her date Paul also took her to a strip club.  “Do you think she is talented? Deeply and importantly talented?” Holy asks Paul as she peers at a dancer behind her fashion sunglass frames. “No, Paul shakes his head, “Musically and superficially talented. But deeply and importantly – No.” he says as the girl slowly undresses. “Do you think she is handsomely paid?” Holly asks in astonishment as the dancer takes off her bra…

But I am not Holly. I am pricewaterhouse. I almost say out loud, making big gulps of red wine. Cooper. I do law. International.

“Yes, she is coming with us” Louis yells to the security man from the VIP section, pointing to me as he and his band dismantle the instruments.  Behind the stage a loud uproar of young female fan club is exploding, “Lous! Louis!”

“You guys were pretty good. A really nice show” I say getting into the van with the entire band.

His bandmates examine me with little interest. “Is she your fan or a journalist,” A bass player inquires while a female fan club is chasing the van.

“Nah, she is not our fan.” Lois grins without looking at me. Surprised they look at me again. It feels uncomfortable to explain myself. I wanna say that I actually find their music okay but it feels uncomfortable. I feel misunderstood.  What am I? supposed to reveal my weird music preferences, that I’m into jazz and fusion and different kind of rock and shit since I turned 16. We drive to one of his bandmates apartment and smoke weed and drink. When it gets really dark we get outside to the children’s playground and smoke weed again. Lois is swinging on a swingset, drinking wine from the bottle.  I remember 10 years ago I snuck a bottle of expensive cognac from my parent’s house bar and put it in a backpack. My girlfriends and I were on our way to an ice ring but when I mentioned the bottle they all got so excited. There’s no way we could procrastinate the pleasure of tasting something so prohibited so we decided to get into a kindergarden’s playground. We got into a hideout cubby house, which smelled pee and damp wood. We giggled and laughed so hard, we must have finished half of the bottle. We never made it to the ice ring. But now I am twenty-three year old lady working at PwC and I have a serious career and serious goals, I don’t have time for this bullshit. I yawn, it’s getting boring.

“Hey guys, I think I’ll bounce, I gotta wake up early in the morning to go to work.” I say

“Why so early?” Louis grins again. Oh, right you are that kind of little corporate chick who lives from 9-5. 9 to 5, dinner at 8, bed at midnite. Right, there’s no room to be spontaneous, to be real, to creative. “Good riddance, Sashenka!”

“No!”, I protested,  I play tennis tomorrow morning and it’s actually occurred to you that I ain’t your fan and I am bored…”

Our friendship ended for ever that night.

“Sasha!  Did you see that email? You are in.” Jorge said curling his tan mouth, exposing latin dimples all over his face and making such an expression as if he just got off from the Security Council meeting. He was a Master of those expressions, a  character of Commedia dell’Arte. He was all of them –  Balanzone and Brighella by day; Arlecchino at night. That night I was rolling in my bed like a cat who sniffed valium.  It finally happened I I’ll be on a team of the biggest privatization deal in the corporate history. I’ll be doing due diligence of the biggest steel plant in Ukraine. The big fat target wanted by two major global players – Mital Steel and Arcelor. It will be a hostile acquisition. Hey you, Louis Franck, you little musician, keep chillin’ on a children’s playground while I’ll be playing mergers and acquisitions.

It was almost 2 am when my boyfriend called me. Our few month relationship consisted of long miles of texts which I was wrapping myself with like a cold blanket. We’d only seen each other maybe 5 times because unlike me he was already a partner in his own law firm. He drove a really expensive car, Jaguar XJ, on the backseat he kept a loaded gun. “Yea, baby, I have lots of enemies,” he said. He stashed money in a safe box at a train station.  The time we spent together was short and neurotic. We’d eat at a restaurant rarely talking about anything beyond law and politics. Sometimes we’d skip a restaurant and go straight to his apartment which was the top floor of a four walk up old historic building. He’d start undressing me on the second floor, unzipping my skirt, sliding his hands under my shirt and bra and panties. On the third floor he’d suddenly stop.

“Do you prefer a friendly merger or a hostile acquisition?”

“I want both” I reply. A rare spark of smile illuminates his dark face. Our naked entangled limbs making/paving the way to his empty apartment and bed. The bed cringes to our own Dubstep. This is the only time when he allows me to be a DJ. I start slowly, trotting his slim body, moving forward and backward and gradually increasing the pace into galloping util his small skinny kneecaps start to quiver. It happens too fast. He gets up and I follow him into the kitchen. He opens the fridge and takes a few eggs, salami and pickles. He pokes a raw egg shell with a knife and drinks the liquid in a second. I shrug. He then puts two slices of salami and a small pickle into his mouth. The date is over.

On a hot August morning our small Tax & Legal team boarded a small private jet to fly to a small industrial town Kriviy Rih to conduct a thorough due diligence of the biggest steel plant in Ukraine. My first business trip. I was stoked. All I remember from the trip is chicken meatballs, baked apple pirogi, the sun heat, small humble hotel room, monstrous pipes  and unfamiliar terminology of iron ore and heavy-metall industry. In a nutshell, the due diligence didn’t really happen because it was a hostile takeover and when twenty-year old kids with their thirty year old managers showed up at the plant to interview a dozen key employees and request financial and legal statements from their salt n’ pepper bosses they showed us resilience and tightly sealed lips. All I got was a few paragraphs of notes insufficient and useless for any report. No one was talking when we were on a small private shuttle bus, taking us back to the private jet, paid by a fat PwC client, watching the sun fading into clouds dissolving to twilight, just like our young excitement disappearing behind the curtain of clouds.

I was disappointed to realize that I played no role in the vitally important world of Mergers & Acquisitions. M&A clearly didn’t care for my fate and ambitions and I got back to doing bullshit assignments and small projects. And just like that a small unidentified bug creeped into my stomach and started nesting deep inside me causing recurrent existential cramps. Perhaps, after all,  damn Louis was probably right about the whole corporate chick thing and all…

 

 

 

Holly Golightly

Dat Bourbon street. Enter Scores

The Mississippi river was mysterious, dressed in white, all misty under layers of clouds. After walking miles and miles, exploring the town, working up and appetite for jambalayas and po-boys and gumbos and pralines I sat down on the bench at the River Front Park. A small party of stinky gutter punk kids with a sad pit bull settled in on the grass behind me. Their nameless bully walked up to me slowly, his tail and pink balls hanging down hopelessly. A hand-made sign was attached to his collar Gimme a dollar or a bone. I took out a dollar bill from my purse, and passed it out to the party. A guy with dreadlocks rolled it up and hid it in his dreadlocks. He then shook his head and a single dollar bills rained on the grass.   “Hahaha, pick you stripper singles, baby”, a guy told his sweaty hairy girl.

“Ew, said the girl, baring her grey teeth, “Those clubs on Bourbon street are so dirty…”

Southern hospitality was pouring out on me like fine red wine.  It was a culture shock because nothing felt like cranky East Coast. Very soon I moved out from my Airbnb  cemetery lodging – right into the action quarter, the French Quarter, a famous Decatur street thanks to a new friend. There’s no better way to win a stranger’s heart than to rub his stomach with a delicious breakfast cooked with golden crusty Andouille sausage,  finger potatoes fried on kerrygold butter. My new place was in eighteen-hundred something’ year-old creole building with a huge balcony outlooking  Decatur street, swarming with young couples, curious tourists, musicians and art shops. I made friends with my landlord Smoky, a middle-aged blues-harmonica player. He gave me a good deal on rent in exchange for promoting his band on social media.

Bourbon street felt and smelled like a drunk’s man armpit, covered with intoxicating moss. Yet, penetrated by vibrant rich history,  it radiated some wicked authentic charm, unlike hollow vibes of Time Square.

I walked in Scores a Mansion on Bourbon street, the sign read. A very young manager Mark sent me upstairs to change to audition. At 5pm the locker room was empty except a very young anorexic looking girl, named Candy and a tan busty MILF who looked like she’d been around since the Declaration of Independence and yet managed to maintain her youthful vitality.

I put on black thong, tight short red polyester dress, white clear stripper shoes and came downstairs.

“You can just start working any time you like,” said Mark, examining me from head to toe as I appeared in front of him.

I returned to Scores a few days later after checking out a few other big clubs on Bourbon street which all asked for social security card which I’d left back in NYC.
I was struck by a strange odor when I pushed an old heavy knob and opened the door. It was a mix of dead rats, stale liquor, and remnants of sex.  “It smelled like old factory blues…” Someone with a pleasant voice once said. Bites and pieces of obscure past coming back spontaneously, bitting me like mosquitos. The scent of Old Spice, the scent of Him, filling me with inarticulate, nagging feeling of lost love. It was late in the afternoon, The locker room was empty again, except a young tall half-asian, half-caucasian, half-naked girl, sitting on a cold granite counter, tediously working on a large box of hot n juicy Crawfish boil. She was twisting their necks, sucking their heads and squeezing the meat from the tail as if nothing else mattered. As if it didn’t matter – that she still had a scent of mudbuggers on her skin when she would be on stage splitting her legs, baring a tiny string covering her pussy and sticking all her assets into a man’s face. A hungry stranger, like a hungry wolf waiting to be fed. Mud-buggers, or also knows as Craw Daddy’s are cooked with Cajun spice mix. Hot, spicy, a spice so unique – it can cling to your skin once and for all. It can heal you and burn you at the same time.

It smelled Louisiana – raw, authentic, fresh, and simply real.  In New York, the air in cramped locker rooms of Flasdancers or New York Dolls is filled with cheap and expensive perfumes, dorritos, cheese puffs and chinese take-outs.

“Did ya pay your house fee already? You need to pei me naw. You didn’t pay me, I hope the bus will run ove’ you. Your hair needa be straight, or else they wont let you work like dat. You need to put two more lipsticks over your lipstick, you needa look like a doll. Marcia won’t let you work like dis. You must buy dis lingerie piece from me. It’s only sixty dollars…”  An old  Italian House Mom from FlashDancers hissed at me like a viper.

The pole was sticky, shinny and it was rotating on a small wooden elevated stage. The Mansion on Bourbon street. It was a grandiose mansion with chandeliers, long wide mirrors in curly wooden frames, heavy marble tables, centennial velvet sofas soaked in sinful liquids of liquor, cigars and other humane juices. Glass cabinets with fancy vintage liquor and cigars. Upstairs was even more impressive. One of the VIP rooms had a Nobel Prize Book library from the early last century. There was a winding wooden stair covered with red carpets leading upstairs into locked secret room, a courtyard where a roman statue of a lonely naked woman was immortalized in a fountain of cigarette buds. But the real treat for customers was a balcony on a second floor outlooking Bourbon street. They say the Mansion on Bourbon street had once belonged to a Judge.  I wonder if the Judge was rolling in his grave knowing that a library room is reserved for salacious acts. Or maybe he was a fan of debauchery. Everything about the place was wicked. Even the ole statue in the open courtyard was intoxicated and perpetually high on coke and weed. Once I walked in Scores , I never walked out the same ole squeamish gal.

rain deer on bourbon

crawfishboil
crawfishboil

IMG_2054

 

Bourbon gals

 

 

dam Groundhog, goodbye!

“Normal Man is a fiction” Carl Jung.

I briefly pause before saying my name, lingering on an awkward moment of silence, reflection and stranger’s bewilderment.

“Alex,”  it’s Alex, my character’s name. She is stepping up full force. She is my medicine, my dream pill, my chill pill – she is behind the wheel. I let her overtake me, overshadow me, and maybe save me from me.  She is responsible for taking me on a ride, dragging me to take a ride on Cony Island’s Cyclone…

And then it’s Me, another me, self-conscious, self-doubting, self-loathing, sensitive,  indecisive, squeamish. I ate a giant Uniformity pie and choked on it. Digestion failed. So she came to rescue me. I let my character take over me with delight. I let her take my hand and lead me to half-lit corners, to strange places where darkness is married to light, making it alright. She speaks to me in undertones and I scream her messages out loud sometimes. Slowly slowly she’s un-plastering  ole house’s holes, “don’t try to stop it from leaking. Gloomy deterioration is worse than old cheesy lyrics. Let’s dismantle it and efface the ground beneath it…”

I was standing on the corner of Cony Island avenue and Cortelyou Road, near Junior’s Pizza, waiting for the street light when I saw a pigeon slipping on a thick layer of ice, competing with a seagull for a naked leftover pizza crust. The seagull won the pizza battle, taking off swiftly and disappearing in grey skies. The Punshutawny Phill had just predicted another six weeks of winter. But New Yorkers suspected that six weeks wasn’t the worst prognostication and it could be another 2 months of endless cold Groundhog days until Spring finally arrived. Alex and I were both getting fed up commuting to Grand street to Pumps three or four times a week, slipping on ice, growing restless, getting tired of reading books on iPhone, tucking our feet under knees, waiting for customers to come in.

A sweet and lucrative phase at Pumps ended quickly after the holiday season. One cold and slow February evening a small fire caught up while I was leading the competition in a get-a-customer challenge with a Hello-Kitty Asian chick. A young customer was a regular at Piggytail thanks to working hard and multiplying his income by putting a divider in his uber hipster Bushwick apartment and renting all available space. He even removed a washing machine and a dryer from the utility room and proudly turned into an $800- a-month-room-for-rent. My eloquent small chats were working on him, smoothering hard liquor and easing my way into a number of lap dances. A young silly asian girl with Hello Kitty tattoos all over her hips jumped on him trying to win him over by awkwardly kissing his face and nibbling his lips. Who does it in a strip club? I thought. That’s a huge no-no, a violation of Stripper Bible. Her fellow stripper from Flashdancers would cunningly and slowly work her eyes on a Target, seduce him with a carefully crafted half-smile first and then air drop her hand on his knee and slowly work her fingers down his waist and thigh… She thought I was stealing her customer because the customer had gifted her a plastic ring with swarovski crystals, made in china. She pouted her lips and took her hello-kitty hips downstairs to the manager.  She was joined by Naomi Campbel who once blamed me for ‘cut-throating her’ when I sat down with the customer who’d bought her a glass of champagne, who she had invisibly marked before going on stage. I almost took it as a compliment if long-legged Naomi thought I was her competition it, I must have been good. I told her she was wrong and that it was a free market and not a high school and I was just hustling to make money. Manager Eric came out from his cave which was equipped with a safe and 5 surveillance cameras. Each day and 6 days a week he was driving to work from Long Island to Bushwick. Each day he was wearing the same Yankee-fan t-shirt, outlying his prominent broad shoulders, and a hat with a Piggytail logo on it hiding his bold head. He was middle-aged, good looking, easy-irritable, and extremely grumpy. Eric had a weird denial about women, he said women were giving him a big headache. If there was a bachelor at the bar, he would come up to shake his hand and pat him on a shoulder, What’s up, buddy? Gettin’ married? “Marriage is a deathbed, buddy.”  There were plenty of gals in the club who wanted to fuck Eric but he was unapproachable and unavailable, a lone wolf who showed no signs of anima. I thought maybe he was impotent, maybe something terrible happened to him like to that character Jake in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Anyway, Eric was always harsh on me, he was particularly angry that day.

“Alex,”  he yelled at me right in front of that Bushwick customer, “Get dressed, you are done for the day, you are going home!”

“What’s the problem?” I objected, standing up, excusing myself, leaving the customer and going to the other side of the bar to talk to robot-Eric privately.

“That customer is not your customer, he came here to see Hello Kitty chick.”

“I asked him about it, he wants me to stay, he’s already paid for a couple lap dances.” I replied.

“I said I want you to leave, go downstairs, go change. Girls ask me  upfront if they want to stay later.”

“But you there’s no money earlier, you know it, I said,”  my frustration was growing…

“We are getting out here, this is BS,” Alex gently whispered into my ear. “Let’s show a middle finger to PiggyTail. We’ve got a lot of work to do, let’s hurry!”

I concurred with Alex, Pumps was not even worth it. The whole thing was ridiculous. Piggytail was not real a strip club, it was a booty joint run by a sexually frustrated man, college gals, a few angry black and puerto rican gals, and white hipster chicks who made their way to the top by working nightshifts and dealing with the owner rather than with Eric. I knew I’d miss a few gals, like Ruby, who used to come in Babyshka’s wrinkly high-knee socks, ugly Crocs clogs, second-hand fedora and a simple tote bag. She looked like a barista gal from a quintessential hipster coffee shop, who quit her barista job once she realized she had a great booty. Up on the stage Ruby was not Ruby she was stript-a-licious Sugar shaking and tweaking and doing tricks on the pole like a pro. I knew I would miss Taylor, a young puerto-rican gal who had quit a month before because she was 5 months pregnant, and because after finishing a beauty school she was going to pursue a real career – a mortician.

                                                                                               .  .  .

“I am going to 1630 St Roch avenue,” I said to the cab driver as I exhaled a warm moist air filled with the scent of oak trees.

“I know where it is”, said the driver, “its right across from the St. Roch cemetery, be careful around that area! It’s dangerous down there.”

“I’d spent 9 months living in the South Bronx, on Walton Avenue, you think I’ll be alright?”

The Pakistani driver chuckled at me, winking in the mirror and pulling over by an elevated creole cottage with long steep stairs. I dragged my luggage up the dark stairs and pressed the buzzer. Behind the door live music was roaring. The driver was still there, waiting, looking out for me until a tall guy opened the door. This kind gesture was unorthodox on the East Coast in NYC. I delightfully thought that it must be first sign of southern hospitality.

Wayne, a tall half eskimo, half American Chinese let me in the long hallway. He showed me the room I was staying, the Blue Room, a simple dark room with a twin size Ikea bed which had another convertible twin size mattress hidden in the drawer for just $25 extra. Oh, God Bless AirbnB!  He then led me into the kitchen where a bunch of colorfully dressed hippies were playing some folk music.

“Come sit with us, have some tea, smoke some weed! Sorry, I couldn’t pick you up from the French Quarter, I’m too stoned and too tired after the Madi Gras. It was so intense and exhausting. We’ve had too many people coming and going and coming, too much logistics. Too much partying. I did acid. I’m so exhausted. But I’m going to Mexico for a week to relax and see a shaman, take ayahuasca..” Wayne moved to NOLA to retire at the age of 30. He used the money he made working in corporate finance on Wall Street to buy a creole cottage on St.Roch. He said it cost him less than his annual rent in Manhattan.  “After all, I got tired from working like a dog on Wall Street and talking about rent all the time. Now, my small investment is paying me off. I love it here, I fiddle, I smoke, I chill. But I feel like I need to utilize a lot of downtime, especially summer time. It’s a dead season for at least 3 months. Business stops. And it’s too hot to move around. So maybe ayhuasca will help me to figure  out my life.”

In the Blue Room overlooking St Roch cemetery I fell asleep soundly like a child who didn’t have to go to school in the morning.

saintrochneworleans

Down the Blue Hole

On the coast of the Sinai peninsula, in a small town of Dahab hides a mysterious azure hole, a submarine sinkhole, enveloped by a few cliffs and a desert. Welcome to Blue Hole, a scuba diver’s favorite diving spot. What a nice way to spend a short vacation, a spring break, a real exotic escape!   Easy Entry, a handmade sign swings in the wind.  Sunny salty breeze blowing from the Red Sea uplifts your entire existence. It’s probably mild Zephyr gently rubs the sunlight on your body and soul. Adventure time with a happy company by your side. The depths of the Read Sea is calling upon you.  If you look past the Blue Hole, past the sunny horizon you see infinite vistas opening in front your eyes. It can be anything, just anything, whatever you imagine, all the sunny promises, like young buds waiting to be open just for you.  But if you look aside and up to the cliffs, all vistas end up abruptly. An eerie feeling creeps in. There up on the cliffs you’ll find hand-made signs, embedded into lifeless rocks,  reminders of what happens to young adventurous divers diving to locate that Blue Hole Arch, that mysterious hole.  Welcome to Blue Hole,  Easy Entry
Breaching the surface with scuba feels magic because you leave the mundane world above you and you let go of everything carnal, and existential and trivial. It’s like going to cosmos only upside down. You descend slowly slowly, producing an ujjayi breathing, a yogi-like breathing and enter the gates of coral kingdom. There you are lullabied by sea creatures, their colors are so bright, almost too bright and acidic, the colors  you could only imagine when listening to Pink Floyd and getting really high. You can digress from the known course, allowed by Padi manuals, and descend even deeper , by gently clinging to a giant turtle which will drag you down, outraged by your nonchalant behavior…
I don’t know how long I’d been descending down the hole. I could feel the hole stretching and growing and adjusting to me so that I could keep navigating it and exploring its infinite  depth, its space… In a way I needed the whole and the whole needed me.
 After a hurricane of dramatic events of my NYC life, after the explosive end of my last corporate job and other sour things in the department of heart and love, I found myself in a quiet place in Scarsdale, wanting to crawl outta my skin, wanting to not wanting to be me any more.
You may wonder how on earth I’d ended up in Scarsdale! It was almost accidental that my young friend’s mom kindly offered a free stay at their spacious half-empty house in exchange for taking care of their standard poodle. That act of kindness was coming from the fact that I’d bonded with Mitch, a young kid interested in learning Russian language. How on earth I pulled it off,  giving private lessons for over a year is still a mystery. I guess I attribute it to Mitchel’s being super smart and all.
 Living rent-free, I had to assume new responsibilities, like cooking for the family and taking care of a four-year old standard poodle named Roxie. I’d learned making blintz from scratch – thin and crusty on the sides; I’d improvised with various soup recipies, and grilling and marinating meats, and making seductive medium-rare steaks and chicken with gold crusty skin, and baking salmon and adding and mixing spice ardently. Good food is always comforting.
Up on the top floor where my suburban silent room was I’d hear that loud bang coming out from my lungs in full force, choking me, paralyzing me with fear : Yea, it sucks to be you. I heard that voice. Your problems scare the shit out of people. It sucks to face and deal with your impasse and myriad problems looming like tall skyscrapers, obstructing clear bright open views and the horizon. Shut up, I’d scream out of my lungs, trying to subdue to curb that dam voice. To prevent that voice from attacking me I’d cover myself with pink sheets and and go completely Netflix with my iPad. There I’d spend hours with Pam and Dwight and Michael Scott from the Office.
Outdoors, I felt much butter with the dog and bike running and biking miles and miles away from the suburban home. Roxie started loving me more after quality runs and walks outdoor.  She loved running long distance and we bonded alright. She was the only creature who understood me, the creature I could confide with and allow my weakness and tears to  pour out of me.
Back in the house my problems seemed unrelatable, unnecessary and heavy. Mitchell’s dad was particularly squeamish about my problems.
“Alex, you where’s my New Yorker?” he used to articulate and stress every syllable with particular annoyance. And where’s my Weekender?”
It was understandable, New Yorka didn’t write about that kind of stuff – about legal aliens’ work visa being revoked and legal aliens becoming out of status and different implications and all… I was restricted from attending various Mitzvah celebrations and family events, not that it bothered me. Even the town of Scarsdale had held me in contempt. From the family cleaning lady, to a cab driver.And very soon I was getting off at friendly Larchmont to get into a schizophrenic Scarsdale.

  Once I was held responsible for nearly breaking the marriage when Roxie was invited to play with another dog on an empty soccer field. Perhaps Roxie shared my sentiments about Scarsdale,  because she started playing rough with lil white doggy and soon it was hard to tell whether she was playing with her or whether she was ripping that doggy. I pulled her away just in time when I heard screaming sounds all over me. The daughter was crying her eyes out. The mom was threatening to kill me and call police on me, while the dad was playing with his iPhone and examining my shorts. I tried to calm them but they wouldn’t listen.  “Look, your doggy will be fine. These are just scratches. It’s not a pitbull bites, it’s just a poodle…” Roxie was the happiest, wiggling her tale. A day later the dad showed up at the family’s house: “Look,” he started talking feverishly, “our Bella spent the entire night at the emergency room. You are lucky she made it. My wife was going to divorce me. Let’s settle it amicably. I’m asking for a grand to cover the ER expenses but I can go for just $500.”
Once again, I was hiding from my reality, finding escapism, going Netflix, this time with Nancy Botwin from Weeds.
 I moved out from Scarsdale on a high note, right in the middle of season two when Nancy Botwin had set her house on fire, leaving Little Houses, Little Boxes on the Hillside behind once and for all…
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same
I    
alexontherocks

Wiggle wiggle at Pumps

“You look like dat gal from the movie with al Pacino, the gal who falls in love with the mafia guy.  Calrlito’s way!” Roberto says.

“Sounds like me, ” I say laughing, getting off the stage, rolling down my little poly pink dress, a couple of Benjamins are strapped around my thighs. The shift is going alright. I join Roberto by the bar and order Mimosa.

Coming back to Pumps  felt like coming back to high school after walking barefoot on shatters, heated coal, after strong quakes of adulthood.

Walking down Grand street, past long, graffiti-painted blocks of car shops and structural miscellaneous felt better than an anxious walk of shame to Dolls or Fierce Dancers or Private Eyes or VIP or HQs or Lace.  An occasional burst of light coming out from a new bar is an indication of up and coming development. Bushwick is poppin’.  Make your dream come true – find your hipster apartment on Morgan avenue, across from Boar’s Head factory. Breathe pieces of clay and cement for free. Enjoy your hipster neighborhood just minutes away from Williamsburg, Metropolitan Avenue. Bushwick is the New Williamsburg  – where everyone wants to be.  Forget about quintessential boring, touristy Upper East Side. East Village has been dead for decades. Had Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac lived today, they would have moved to Bushwick, dismayed by corporate and commercial look and feel of the EV.  The world is dying to be in Williamsburg. The new young white collar class is vacating their classy apartments for the new state-of- the- art development overlooking the East River. Can’t afford Williamsburg? No worries. Bushwick is poppin’ … Contact your local broker Fritz J today.

But it doesn’t only smell clay, cement and structural miscellaneous. A pleasant sweet scent of corn breaks in my nostrils. It smells tortilla from Tortilla Factory. I enjoy the walk.

Black n’ white poster sign hangs on a two-story brick building near the gas station in the middle of an industrial hole. But there’s a promise of fun time  – boobies, hineys, a variety of affordable liquor,  no cover fee on the first floor; on the second – a rehearsal music studio.  Feel thirsty? Get a bottle of water  which is  Filtered Through the Finest G-strings in Brooklyn. Welcome to Pumps.

 

Habanero, Da’Bomb, The Final Answer on 111 John Street

Green jalapeño is a good kind of pepper that makes you sweat – a  necessary ingredient for chili turkey, chili beans, guacamole. Just like red hot chili pepper it makes you sweat, it produces a good sweat, killing bacteria, purifying your mind and body, taking off your vices, exterminating a sore throat. Habanero, though is a different kind of pepper – it’s furiously spicy, evil spicy – it can kill you.

When you get off at Fulton street subway station and turn on Williams street and then on John, the shape of many brick buildings resemble decks of ships – that’s how you know you’re just steps away from the South Sea Street Port. It’s 14 minutes past nine. I am running late. Again. I enter the building and greet Freddy, a black middle-aged receptionist in a red uniform. Freddy smiles at me, his mocha dimples project coolness, his head rocks to the torn beats and sounds of Dazed and Confused. I get in the elevator and press 19. The light on the panel goes up slowly until the elevator hovers and the bell rings. I close my eyes, catch my breath and step out reluctantly. The hallways are inundated with the smell of Abercrombie & Fitch, cologne Fierce, signaling the arrival of Andrew Evilini, the Boss. I look at the slightly crooked company’s name and logo. One letter is missing but the big sign looms ferociously, DIMES ROUP INTERNATIONAL

“Morning” I say to Josh and Alison. It’s been a while since I stopped adding an adjective ‘Good’ before Morning, as if mornings have been simply Bad by default. They nod reluctantly without looking at me.  Andrew Evilini is not only there, he’s everywhere thanks to his unique and almost super natural ability to multiply and spread his presence, filling in every inch and gap of the office space. I turn on the computer and log in to our corporate  email, going thru my assignment list, following up on emails with clients. I check BBC, CNN, world news, login my twitter account, check the weather. It’s a really hot humid september and I still have sand under my manicured nails and jacket pockets from the Sunday at FarRockaway.
The office air is stuffy, heavy, like in an airplane, I gasp for fresh air, which is only a block away. I stand up to get myself a shot of Nespresso. It doesn’t taste fresh, it doesn’t taste coffee, I can taste fakeness, wrapped around plastic cover of an expensive marketing campaign.  I slip out of the office and walk really fast to Jack’s coffee on Front street. Every inch of the South Street Port is diabolically familiar, the boats, the deck, the smell, the sounds, the screeching sound Pier 17 makes. I can’t explain why this place pulses thru my body. I linger at Jack’s, sipping double shot espresso as if it’s scotch.  I can’t wait to come back to Pier 17 for for lunch with Voltaire’s Candide. I’ll order baby ribs with baked plantains and rice from Chicken Blues and put on Nick Drake and watch Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn heights and the River and Governor’s Island and dream about things. But until then I’ll have to comply with compliance and count down to lunch. What is this that I’m doing? Research and Compliance. Compliance with labor laws, 1099 compliance. Termination agreements. at-will employment agreement and general law. So much compliance. Dammit.    
   “Alexandra, so when do you plan re-takind the Bar exam?” Josh hovers above me like a dark heavy cloud, his face wears no expression. His mouth barely moves, when he utters his words and drops vowels and consonants his lips don’t dissolve into a smile or even grin, they freeze into a straight line. Josh is my manager. Despite being a year older, and having worked just a few months more than me at Dimes International, Josh was made the Manager of Me. The position he carries on with an utmost air of importance. His big padded suit exaggerates his muscles built on weight-lifting and protein shakes. His skin is smooth and silky dark, yet his fine features portray big nothingness, exude no appeal, no sexuality.
A high pitched shriek comes out from the kitchen, interrupts the airplane like silence.
“Ba, we have rats in here,” Andrew Evilini shouts! My biscotti, cereal, chocolate is gone! Come in here, everybody!”
I almost want to shout back casually, “Yea a pretty rat came in and finished all your fancy european chocolate.” But I’m holding off.
We all assemble in the kitchen obediently like a herd of sheep. All of us, a company of 8 people. Josh, Caroline, Kevin Hu, Alison, Joey, and Khalid and me. Caroline is Andrews right hand. She just turned 27 and looks even younger thanks to her unique ethnical mix of mexican, chinese and native american. Caroline is the HR, CFO, the Head of the Office, the Consultant Specialist and all other top positions secured by becoming Andrews secret lover.  Andrew’s eyeballs are moving around eye sockets ferociously. The Boss, Evilini, still young, pushing late thirties, is wearing a custom tailored european designer suit, designer socks and a baseball hat to conceal his balding sparse hair.  We all feel that he is up to something and that someone is about to receive a blow. Kevin Wu, a young accountant shuffles his feet sadly, his head is bending down like a dropping leaf. “Now, Kevin Hu, I know you want to try this cookie. It’s the last one but you will certainly enjoy it!”  His hand  opens the refrigerator and takes out a small bottle of the da’Bombe, The Final Answer, the  world’s hottest sauce and spreads and covers a cookie with the sauce, a fine thin layer.  The herd is cheering up for Kevin. “Go Kevin, go! You can do it!”  Kevin does have a choice but he is a part of the herd and he shall partake in it because Evilini the Boss promised  to promote him from just the Accountant – to the Head Accountant or Accountant Manager of 2 people. Kevin takes a piece of cookie and takes it in in slow motion. The red agony starts to cover Kevin’s face, each pore turning flammable. The herd is in ecstasy. The Boss is horsing around. He gives Kevin a glass of milk. ‘Yeah, that’s my boy”,  Evilini beams with satisfaction. Kevin empties a glass of milk in a split second. Words  abandon him completely.  Everyone has nothing to say. The show is over and everyone is back at their cubicles.  I catch the Sun reflecting in a skyscraper, and then it comes – the tip of Brooklyn Bridge reflecting on top of the building across the street magnificently. It’s lunch time. I am getting out of this corporate freak show.
 Mash 114 Front row

Oy Vey. Brooklynification

Cortelyou Road. I wait for the train.  A pleasant cloud of oriental scent rises above the train station from the cafe Tibet. Oriental & Middle Eastern theme is strongly present, its around the corner.  Long black skirts, black pumps, black hassidic hats are intertwined with black burqas and blended by colorful hijabs embroidered with stones and Salwar Kameez, beautiful dresses and airy pants worn by vibrant muslim women. Ditmas Park/Kensington – is your ultimate Middle Eastern experience/express, a place of yeshivas and muslim centers/small mosques – where jews and muslims live peacefully side by side. One dollar chai from a friendly Pakistani woman on newkwirk avenue tastes like Istanbul. Biryani, the art of chicken and rice enveloped in bouquet of spice on Coney Island avenue. Uzbek food, Georgian and oriental baked delights on Ditmas avenue. Bar Chord on Cortelyou. Coffee mob on newkrirk, Quathra coffeeshop, a southern taste at Brooklyn Belly – everything is diverse, friendly and vibrant and upbeat.

I’m in  love with  this secluded part of Brooklyn so much, mellow and tranquil  and peaceful, young and old, raw and authentic, radiant with its cultural diversity, untouched by the evil grip of gentrification spreading like roaches and rats all over the city.

This is my ultimate zone of alternativeness, my Zef zone, chilaxesness and cheap rent and peace of mind, discarding  a railroad room on the border of Bushwick and Wiliamsburg for just $900 with three other roommates. Instead, i settled for a cheap decent size zen attic room in an Uzbek jew household between Ditmas and Cortelyou with no roommates on the top floor. How luxurious I thought, no roommates, no roommates, no roommates.  I decided to tolerate minor discomfort, like a twin size bed, old dressers, old stove, old everything and find poetry in crooked floors and thin roof with heavy overfed squirrels pounding hard above me. Across from my room is a small guest room with two king size beds, reserved for a many family members. For 3 months I used to sneak in, bring my sheets and crash there soundly like a restless traveler, until i got busted.

“Sasha, I specifically told you that I’m only rrrenting you one room. Oy vey, just vawn room and allowing you to use kitchen and bathroom. Oy vey, just vaun room. I trusted you and what did  you do, oy vey? You occupied, the entire floor, oy vey. Vai? How could ya? Dats it, I’m putting a lock.” My landlord exasperated.

But even that didn’t stop me from liking the place, even though my landlord started to come up more often with regular weekly check- ins to see if the floor was intact.

“Oy vey, Sasha, your shoes are too sexy, hide ’em somewhere. Oy vey, Sasha, what’s that hanging in the bathrooms, hide em (G-strings) immediately, oy vey, oy vey. Sash sash, are you jewish at all? You need to get married asap, a good husband is what you need.”

Summer ended, fall dissolved into early first winter. I still like the place but it’s getting more difficult to tolerate cold attic with heat turning on only once per weak I rely on oil heater and many sweaters and a hoody which i wear even in bed. I’m afraid, the nomad will have to find a new place and move out again before a 90-year old roof will act up and I’ll have raccoons and squirrels in my bed.

Of course, this is not what I was imagining or expecting my life to be like. 10 years ago I thought that at this point in my life I’d find myself in a luxurious modern household in a la-la land, cooking a dainty dinner for my amorphous imaginary good looking, well-off successful husband in a European lingerie and serving my booty for desert.  Of course, i wouldn’t be just a glamorous hot housewife but I’d be working in PWC (pricewaterhousecooper) or some other big deal Co and driving Porche… I’m trying to go back in time and recall those things I dreamed about. And I really can’t because they didn’t  stick in my head for a long time, like dust blown away by strong winds, they were gone by the time I got to NYC, by the time I completed my one year master’s in law program.  I can still  feel how my Old Me, dismayed by my New Me is beating the new me. My Old Me keeps beating and judging and criticizing and scrutinizing every reckless decision i made.

“Look where you drove both of us! Look how deep you fell. Oh how’s your impasse doing? You’re  sure thing enjoying your abyss?” The Old Me exasperates.

“Shut your holes”, the New Me says. Blame it all on Erich Fromm, on philosophy books I’ve read on how a man escapes himself and divorces from freedom… And that american man I met on the airplane during my summer break  in Turkey a long time ago. “Is law really your thing?” a stranger inquired, sitting next to my dad and me. “Or you are studying it because that’s what your father, your parents want?”  he inquired as I looked at carefree clouds hovering above the airplane flying high towards Mediterranean sea and all inclusive resort located in sunny Tekirova, near Antalya. Summer Time and the living is Easy… 

“You are too open with strangers” My dad tells me later when we get off the plane. “Oh why I just practice my English…” I never saw the stranger again. He was a forty-somethig American man, promoting his book in Turkey, a book on transcendental, life-changing experiences. I didn’t take note of his words, I wrapped em in a candy cover, dropped em somewhere in my bag and I could never really let go of ’em.

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Alex Who? Freshly Edited

 

 

Alright. I’ve created this fictional character, Alex over 5 years ago because I was so bored at the then corporate job. I needed a character to entertain myself. I felt like breaking away from myself – a corporate, self-righteous, shy chick who always listened to mommy and daddy. I wanted to spice up my life with something real and fun, bold and adventurous – something I couldn’t articulate. An elusive feeling was eating me at all my corporate jobs. The feeling of not belonging to or not fitting into a corporate environment was gradually creeping in. I’d secretly admired frivolous, free-spirited go-go dancers, wearing tiny bikini tops and dresses at night clubs in Kiev. Even whores and prostitutes evoked some weird admiration. They didn’t have boring corporate life-styles, you know… There was something odd about all my corporate jobs. The whole idea of making a difference in the field of corporate law sounded dubious. Employers would always reassured me of shit load of work, mentorship, professional growth, workshops and business trips. I did go to London a few times and mingled with well-dressed solicitors, attending high-profile events at the Barbican. Of course there always were a few important cases or projects I worked on followed by nothing. A complete nothing. A downtime. It was like a corporate curse holding up my development as a bad-ass corporate lawyer. At some point  I’d always  find myself staring out the window, hit by Existentialism, secretly printing out Tarantino scripts on law firm printers, and dreaming of looking promiscuous. I read a bit of philosophy books and took weird pointless improvisation classes and driven by boredom. It wasn’t my fault. It was Force Major. It was the Revolution. Global Financial Crisis, Bernie Madoff, Credit Crunch and etc.  Eventually I’d find myself staring out of top window of the skyscraper in Midtown East. “I am sorry but we are downsizing the entire hedge fund!” My manager Mark said, trying to pull off a genuine pitiful look. I pretended to be sad too, “Oh I am frustrated  that I no longer have to rock my mind to understand short selling. And ask for help to do do math to reconcile a financial statement. Not but really how tragic is it, that I shall never again get this fat annual bonus.  Goodbye my career as the compliance associate!”

There’s nothing more refreshing than watching my career plans and aspirations fall apart and shatter into pieces like a grandmother’s crystal vase. For sometime I buy an illusion that I can be that normal prudent person who knows what to answer during an interview with HR person for another associate corporate position. Then the undertow inside me grows into tsunami and I erupt… But it took me one more corporate job to draw the conclusion and kill the corporate chick once and for all.

So when I started this blog I’d had a little of life experience and I’d been still young and naive. I guess anyone who moves to NYC from from overseas and who is not a trust fund kid will wind up riding a roller coaster. I am still on a roller coaster. I have been up and down, riding dam roller coaster for at least 4 years now. New York had me like bacon burning on the pan. Over the course of my adventures I had my heart chopped and grilled on high heat. My mind dipped into potion and pickled with chipotle sauce and red salsa. My soul? Hurricane Sandy touched it alright. Only my body  remains intact. Tight. Strong. Hungry. My life is not as I had imagined it to be 10 years ago.  While most of my classmates are exploring their motherhoods or/and moving forward with their careers, I find myself half naked twerking and working on the pole, mastering the art of pitch perfect, and practicing acting skills and discovering artistic expression thru sexual dance and movement. I travel and move around the towns and states like a restless toad high from a mix of adrenaline, adventures, encounters, caffeine, booze, and music and dramas, trying to tame fleeting episodes and moments worth writing about. I am so behind. But I wasn’t even born on time…