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A work in progress (1 Viewer)



The below work has only been lightly edited and is based on true events that took place a long time ago. The 2nd half (not included) is completely unedited and was written first. If you make it to the end that is a good sign. I hope this is the right forum.

Mid-Summer 1980

Central Park in New York City is many things. It is a romance, a love, a picture, a poem, a bedroom to lust filled lovers, a cheat, a nightmare, a terror, a home to bums, a hike, an afternoon, a playground, an office, and to me a place I spend a lot of time. Sometimes I’m riding my bike through its hidden winding trails with my friends, or playing Frisbee golf while walking its paths. Other times I’m waiting for the Black and Puerto Rican drug dealers to slip up, to move to far, to let their hidden stash of drugs out of their view. That’s when my preppy looking hooligan friends and I step in and make our move. In a moment, an instant, a momentary loss of concentration, their stash is ours. We take it and walk away like nothing happened, and they never suspect us. We wear preppy collar shirts with little alligators or tigers on the chest. Sometimes we wear wool sweaters and fake glasses just to make ourselves look more innocent. They’re so dumb, they think they’re fooling the cops, but they’re not even fooling a couple of teenagers. God I hate them.

I guess I should introduce myself before I tell you my story. My name is Josh Weisman and I’m 16 years old. My friends call me JW, like Johnny Walker, or sometimes they just call me Weisman. I’m not a bad guy or anything like that, but I do bad things sometimes. My mom tells me I’m going straight to hell and she doesn’t even know the half of it. I’m not real big; I’m actually kind of short. I got muscles because I lift weights and I’m always bike riding and play fighting with my friends. I almost always win because my parents sent me to judo classes for a couple of years starting at age seven. They thought it would calm me down because I’m so hyper, and make me tough, but it just got me in trouble a lot because I got into a lot of fights. I have dark hair kind of long, but I keep it real neat so I can look innocent if I want. My friend’s parents really like me because I know what to say and I’m polite. “How do you do Mrs. Blum? Glad to meet you. So I hear Julie is thinking about going to Columbia. It’s a fine school. I may apply next year. Nice meeting you.” They eat that crap up. God they’re so stupid. If I ever have kids I would never let a bum like me near them, especially if I have a daughter. Girls like me too. I’m the bad boy and they think that‘s cool.

I just got kicked out of private school, and now I‘m going to go to a public school this year. Actually I didn’t really get kicked out. I was told not to come back, but saying you got kicked out sounds a lot cooler. My friends say there are a lot of black kids at the public school I’m going to. I don’t care because I can get along with anyone if I want. Anyway, my grades really sucked and I had to go to summer school this year. If I didn’t, I would have been held back in 10th grade. My friends think I’m real smart because I never study and I still pass my classes… Well most of them. If I have to spend an extra year at school I think I would kill myself, not really.

So I just finished summer school and now I have nothing to do all summer. Summer school wasn’t so bad, I kinda enjoyed it, go figure. Me liking school; that’s a laugh. All I did was read this book and write a report about it. It was about some retarded guy that got really smart, but then at the end of the book he got really dumb again. Anyway, it was kind of cool. My parents wish I would do better, but sometimes I can’t sit still because school is so boring. My parents even sent me to three different shrinks to be tested because they thought something was wrong with me, but I always pass all their stupid tests. First they just ask me some stupid questions about myself and my parents, and then they showed me these pictures and asked me what I thought about them. When they were done with me, all three shrinks said the same thing, “your son is smart. He’s just not applying himself.” God, they’re so stupid. Of course I’m smart.

I don’t know why, but I always wake up early. Even if I drank ten beers, or smoked half of the weed on the upper west side, I’ll still wake up early as hell. Sometimes I’ll terrorize my friend Ron and call him at six in the morning. My mother calls him my partner in crime. Ron lives a couple of blocks away from me at a hotel. He’s 16 years old too and shares a studio apartment with his mother. It’s a really weird situation. Can you imagine sharing a room with your mother? I think I’d go crazy. Sometimes after she’s asleep he has girls over and they fool around and stuff. He’s crazy! His parents got divorced when he was a baby. Ron’s half black but he acts white. He loves punk rock and walks around Broadway blasting punk rock on his ghetto blaster. Man he’s crazy. He dropped out of school last year but plans on getting his GED. I don’t think he ever will. He’s a dreamer.

First Day of My Summer Vacation after my last day of summer school.

Its 7:15 AM, and I’ve been staring at the ceiling for about an hour. Man I wake up early. Sometimes I wish I could sleep late but I hate feeling like I’m wasting the day. My parents say I should be on medication because I have so much energy and can‘t stop moving. It’s still too early to call Ron but I’m so bored I think I’ll call him anyway. If he doesn’t pick up by the third ring I‘ll just hang up and try back later. I hope his mom is at work. I hate waking her. She works at a printing store and makes copies all day. If I had to do that all day I’d shoot myself. I picked up the telephone and dialed feeling a little guilty. What luck! Ron answered after only two rings and he doesn’t even sound tired.

“Yo, what’s up Ronald McDonald? Did I wake you.?” That’s how we always talk to each other. I’m not even sure what “yo” means, and I always call him Ronald McDonald. He hates it.

“What’s up Assman, I was just making breakfast. Wanna come over?” Ron asked hesitantly.

“O-k, I’ll be there in 10 minutes. What’s for breakfast? I asked knowing I wasn’t going to be invited to eat. Ron and his mom don’t keep a lot food in the house most of the time.

“Sorry Assman, you‘re outa luck. I‘m finishing the last egg.”

“That’s cool,” I replied trying to sound like it didn’t bother me. I don’t think I ever ate at Ron’s house, cheap bastard. I guess I can’t really blame him since he lives with his mom and all. I don’t think they have a lot of money. “Ill just have some cereal here. Do you want to call Dave and tell him to meet us?”

Dave is another one of my crazy friends. He lives with his mom like Ron, only his apartment is huge. You could get lost in it it‘s so big. It has a great view of Central Park. Dave is kind of messed up. His father died when he was eight and he found the body. He missed a month of school because he was so messed up, and his first day back his dick got caught in his zipper and the teacher had to help him, poor bastard. He’s been real quiet ever since unless he’s drunk. Then he’s kind of normal and talkative. Before his dad died Dave use to be the class clown, and then nothing. No more jokes or anything. Dave is fearless and he isn’t scared of anything. I’ve seen him walk on a ledge twenty three stories high on Ron’s roof. He was really drunk too and could of died. Sometimes I think he doesn’t care if he does. One time seven Puerto Rican guys tried to steal my bike from him while I was in a building buying some weed. When I came out of the building Dave was waving his knife around yelling at them. I got on my bike and told Dave to start riding. It took a minute before Dave realized I was half way down the block. He was having a lot of fun scaring them with his big knife. They thought just because he was kinda preppy looking he would just hand my bike over. They were shocked. You should have seen their spic faces.

“You call him,” Ron replied. Ron hated calling Dave. They hung out together but they never talked to each other. Sometimes they would smoke weed for an hour and never say a word. It was kind of weird.

“All right. I’ll give him a call and tell him to meet us at your house in an hour. Do you have any weed?” It was always about the weed. We loved smoking weed and would go through great lengths to get it. Sometimes we would work to buy it, and other times we would steal to get it.

“No, I smoked my last joint last night. Maybe Dave has some. “

“I doubt it.” I replied. “I’ll give him a call and see you in an hour. Later.” I hung up the phone and called Dave who was still sleeping. I forgot how early it was. Oh well. Dave agreed to meet at Ron’s.

About an hour later Dave and I met in front of Ron’s Building. We both rode our bikes there. We almost always traveled by bike, and used them to get everywhere in New York City. If you were a fast rider, you could usually beat the taxi’s anywhere in New York. Ron’s building was a twenty three story hotel, but it looked just like an apartment building. You couldn’t tell the difference. Many of its residents were young people who only stayed for short visits. Others lived there for years like Ron. It was kinda fancy so there wasn’t that much riff raff around except for Ron and some of his friends like me. Some of the residents complained he played his music too loud although when asked, Ron would gladly turn it down. Most people liked Ron and knew he was just a crazy kid. One of the problems with Ron’s building is, since there are so many people in the building living “on the go” life styles, sometimes you have to wait ten minutes for the elevator. Lots of times I take the stairs and carry my bicycle up twenty one flights to Ron’s apartment, and that‘s just what Dave and I did.

Ron was blasting his music as usual. I think it was the Sex Pistols because it sounded so bad. I don’t know why people like that punk rock music. It just sounds like noise to me. I like the Stone’s and Led Zeppelin. Now that’s good music. Ron’s music was so loud, his front door was vibrating. This meant his mother was not at home. They were rarely home at the same time, usually just while sleeping. I knocked once and then twice on the door. After a minute my knocks turned to pounding and finally Ron opened the door.

“About time,” Dave said out of character as we entered the small studio apartment. Ron and I glanced at each other both surprised Dave spoke. Dave never talks.

“Isn’t it kinda early to be drinking?” I shouted at Dave over the music. I wasn’t sure if he had been drinking. It was taking an educated guess. The poor bastard never talks.

“I only had one.” Dave said looking straight ahead at no one.

“You’re a bum!” I shouted. “It‘s not even nine o-clock for Christ sakes!”

Ron shook his head in disapproval and Dave smiled a sad smile. He knew it was too early to be drinking.

Finally Ron lowered the music and started folding his futon bed. Ron’s apartment was divided into two halves, one being his half, and the other his mothers. Dividing their two beds was a small dinette table and four chairs. The table was usually filled with clutter, and was primarily used to eat meals on now that Ron dropped out of school. It was once used to do homework on. Ron’s stereo equipment took up one quarter of the space in the living room area. He had a large stereo rack and huge speakers. On the other side of the wall Ron’s mom’s bed laid against, was a very small kitchen area consisting of a few cabinet’s, a hotplate and sink. On the other side of the kitchen wall was the bathroom. It was small and simple but surprisingly clean. A toilet, sink, and upright shower filled the tight space efficiently. The one big plus Ron’s apartment had was it’s view. Since it was twenty one stories high, a view of the Hudson River and New Jersey was unobstructed.

“What do you guys want to do today?” Ron asked.

Dave shrugged his shoulders, and I said what we were all thinking.
“I wanna get some weed. I’ve got five dollars. How much do you guys have?” I said knowing the answer was usually nothing.

“I have ten Assman, but I’m suppose to pick up half a pound of ham for my mom.” Ron said smiling waiting to be teased back. He always called me Assman. It didn’t bother me.

“We’re in luck.” I told Ron. “My mom just bought three quarters of a pound from the butcher, so before your mom gets home we’ll stop by my house and I’ll give you some ham. Sound good?” It was a lie. My parents are Jewish and rarely ate ham, but I really wanted to get high and I knew Ron did too, so I decided to worry about his dumb ham later.

“Cool!” Ron said excitedly. “You got any money Dave?”

Dave reached into his pocket, smiled, and pulled out a ten dollar bill holding it for Ron and I to see.

In New York City there are places everywhere to buy weed. There are people who make their living selling weed out of their houses, apartments, tenements, restaurants, Bodega’s, laundry mats and other innocent inconspicuous places of business. Or you can take a chance and buy your weed from the filthy street dealers, but they will try to steal your money every chance they get. If a street dealer takes your money and says, “wait right here. I’ll be back in a minute,” he’s just stole your money. Sometimes they will sell you weed mixed with oregano, or tell you it is good quality weed and sell you bunk. If there’s a way to rob you, they will. The bastard street dealers robbed me many times before I caught on. Now I like to steal from them when I can. What comes around goes around.

I was thirteen the first time I smoked weed. My friend Kenny found some in his father’s freezer. I don’t know if his dad was hiding it, or trying to keep it fresh. Kenny took a small pinch and we smoked it using his dad’s pipe. It made us laugh like crazy. Afterwards we went to a diner and ordered some pie and ice cream. We sat at the counter and laughed hysterically for ten minutes until we got kicked out. Man, they must have thought we were crazy.

The next couple of years were not good for Kenny. He smoked weed and cigarettes all the time and eventually got left back in school. He use to play baseball all the time. It was all he could think about, but like most potheads, he stopped playing sports all together. Then he and his dad moved to New Jersey. I wonder how the poor bastard is doing. After that first time Kenny and I partied, I turned lots of my friends on to weed. Sometimes I think my mom’s right. I’m going straight to hell!

Ron, Dave and I decided to ride our bikes to the Band shell in Central Park. We were going to see if there were any familiar street dealers there we could trust to sell us some good weed. If you new the dealer, you were less likely to get ripped off. We all pumped up our bicycle tires with air, walked our bikes down twenty-one flights of stairs, and raced to the park on our bicycles. From Ron’s house to the Band Shell takes about eight minutes by bike if you don’t stop. It is a fairly quick ride. When we got to the Band Shell, we rode around looking to see if any of our pothead friends were there, but they weren’t. It was just a little before ten in the morning; a little too early for normal people to be out and about looking for drugs, especially stoners. We decided to kill some time and go to “The Tree.” The Tree is a special tree that many people use to relax, sleep, and party in. Although I never saw any other people climbing in it, there was a homemade hammock in its highest branches, two rope seats half way up, and the names and dates of lovers carved into its branches. There is one carving that really sticks out in my head. In a heart it reads, “Tommy was Sally’s first right here in this branch in 1945.” Can you imagine doing it for the first time in a tree? Man, they must have been really horny!

Dave and I climbed the tree like a couple of monkeys. We are both slim and fit. Ron, although fit, is not slim. He is taller than Dave and I, maybe close to six feet, and built stocky like a wrestler. He is not made for climbing trees and does not push his luck. Ron carefully climbed to one of the rope seats, sat back and watched Dave and I jump from branch to branch playing tree tag.

“One of you guys is gonna break your neck!” Ron warned appearing legitimately concerned.

“Who cares,” I replied while walking to the end of a long thinning branch about twenty feet above the ground.

Not to be outdone, Dave walked to the end of a similar branch and jumped to the ground landing into a roll. Both Ron and I were stunned. Of the three of us, Dave was the most likely to do something that would ultimately lead to his death. Dave does not fear normal things most humans do. If Dave had a choice, he would fight an army rather than ask a pretty girl to dance. Sometimes I think Dave is more scared of girls than he is of death. One time this girl Dave use to hang out with made a pass at him. Dave got all weird and wouldn’t talk to her anymore. She was hot too. Can you imagine? Poor bastards all screwed up. I think it goes back to his dad dying when he was little.

“Dave, are you ok? I yelled.

Dave stood up at a snail’s pace, looked into the tree admiring the stunt he had just performed, and smiled.

“You’re out of your god damn mind!” I shouted in disbelief.

“You’re a god damn idiot! One of these day‘s you‘re gonna kill your self!” yelled Ron.

Dave looked at Ron and I, and nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders.

For the next hour we all sat in the tree and talked about what kind of car we were going to buy, and what motorcycle was the fastest. We love to talk about cars and motorcycles, and would pass many hours doing just that. Sometimes we would sit on a park bench for hours seeing who could name the make and model of an approaching vehicle first. One time we were doing just that, when the car we were trying to identify stopped right in front of us. Out of the car came a man with a gun and proceeded to rob us. He took a total of twelve dollars, got back into his car and didn’t even miss the light. We sat there in disbelief for a moment and continued to play our game. I told my mom about it and she said that kind of stuff doesn’t happen to normal people. I guess she’s right. She usually is.

Dave and I jumped from branch to branch out of the tree while Ron carefully examined each branch he stepped on. Dave in a rare moment told Ron that for someone built like a gorilla, he climbs as fast as a snail. Ron got a good grip with one hand, removed the other, and gave Dave the finger. Once down from the tree we all did a fast lap around Central Park and returned to the Band Shell hot and sweaty. It was about eleven thirty and more people were out. Man, it felt like it was going to be a really hot New York City summer day, the kind of heat that makes you sweat the moment you step out of your house. You could see the heat rising off the pavement in little waves. Ron saw a dealer by the Band Shell he had bought weed from in the past, but when we asked him if he had any, he said he was all out. He suggested we go behind the fountain, another drug hotspot, and ask there. He said the cops had been making busts in the usual spots, and many of the dealers had moved away till the heat was off. We took his advice and rode around the fountain a couple of times feeling out the area. Not sure if it was safe, we rode our bikes on a dirt path up a steep hill overlooking the fountain. We sat for about twenty minutes out of view from the dealers and watched. We noticed a young Puerto Rican dealer hand a small manila envelope to a young white couple that looked like they were from out of town. After completing the deal he removed a large zip lock baggy from his underwear and hid it in a pile of garbage that had collected where two concrete walls met at a ninety-degree angle. The moment he hid his stash and walked away, Dave, Ron and I all looked at each other smiling thinking the same thing. How do we get it? The answer was obvious. Two of us would distract while the other grabbed it and ran to the get away bike. It was risky, but we would have to act fast. The street dealers typically did not like staying in one place too long. Make a couple of deals and move on. Once a dealer becomes known the police, it’s time to close up shop.

We discussed our plan and decided Dave and Ron would get into a fist fight near the dealer. While they were fighting I would make the grab, that is if the opportunity presented itself. The fight would have to be loud and convincing. Of course the punches would be open handed and not closed fisted. Ron and Dave agreed not to hurt one another, and thought it would be best to wrestle once enough yelling and slapping was done to draw attention. If we were lucky, maybe the stupid drug dealer would even help break it up. We discussed the plan one more time and agreed to meet back at Ron’s house if I was able to make the grab. If not, we would meet at the tree. We also decided it would be best for Ron and Dave to go on foot rather than dismount from their bicycles and begin fighting. That did not look as realistic. And I would make the grab on my bike. I can ride faster than any man can run.

Ron and Dave locked up their bikes to a street light out of view from the dealer and walked towards the fountain. With each of their steps toward the fountain my heart began to pound harder. What if something went wrong and I got caught I thought to myself. Would I have to fight a drug dealer who may have a weapon. I determined if it wasn’t a sure thing, I would abort.

Ron and Dave were quickly approaching the drug dealer. They were suppose to pass him by about thirty feet and then start fighting. It was perfect timing because when they were in position, the dealer was the furthest he had been away from his stash. And then it was on! As they took their fighting stances, they began to curse at one another. It was the loudest I ever heard Dave speak. He was using every curse word in the book at Ron and even called him a nigger. That’s when Ron swung at Dave’s face silencing him. I think it may have been a closed fisted hit. Maybe Dave shouldn’t have called him a nigger, but it sure did get everyone’s, including the dealers, attention. A moment later, Dave began swinging wildly at Ron. For a moment I was so distracted by the fight which appeared to be real, I almost forgot the plan. Apparently the fight was so convincing, the dealer himself was yelling, “kick that white-boys ass homey! Kick his ass!”

One of the things I love about life is it is so unpredictable. If you were to ask me last year, I never would have believed I was gonna be kicked out of school and have to go to a public school, nor would I have believed I would have actually enjoyed summer school. So, as I approached the dealers stash a funny thing happened. Four police officers, two on scooters and two on foot came out of nowhere. They were running towards Dave and Ron with their batons out yelling, “break it up you two.” The drug dealer seeing the approaching officers forgot about his stash and began casually walking away pointing at the two prize fighters. He was pointing at Dave and Ron yelling, “over there, over there!” A small crowd was gathering to see what all the excitement was about. That made it very easy for me to calmly ride my bike over to the stash, make the grab and ride away. I never did see what the cops did to Dave and Ron.

The plan was to meet at Ron’s house after the grab, and that’s exactly what I did; only, Ron and Dave never showed. I went home and removed the dealers baggy from my underwear. I was kinda grossed out thinking that is where the dealer also kept the baggy. The bag contained thirty two yellow paper bindles. Jackpot I thought to myself. I hid the baggy in my closet and waited for Ron or Dave to call.

Finally, at five PM the phone rang and it was Ron.

“Where the hell have you been?” I asked.

“Did you get the stuff Assman? Tell me you got it!” Ron demanded ignoring my question.

“Yes! Yes! I got it. Where the hell were you all day?”

“They took us to a holding station in the park and kept us there till they were able to contact our mothers.”

“You got arrested?”

“No. they just wanted to contact our guardians before they released us.”

“Where’s Dave? How‘d he take going to jail?”

“Dave’s Dave, Ron replied. I think he only said about five words. They asked him his name, how old he was, and his phone number. He answered those questions and didn’t say another word. He just stared off into space. I think they thought he was retarded, or had some mental problems or something.”

“They were half right,” I said while picturing Dave sitting in a jail cell in a catatonic state. The poor bastard. “Was his mom pissed off?”

“No. The cops said our parents must not give a shit about us because neither of our moms asked if we were ok,” Ron said sadly. “The cops said our moms didn’t even want to come and pick us up. They told em to let us go when we learned our lesson. How much weed to you get?” Ron asked changing the subject.

“There are thirty two little envelopes, I think they‘re nickel bags. I didn’t touch them because I thought you guys would be right behind me, besides, you know I hate smoking alone. Where’s Dave?”

“He went home to ice his face. We decided to really hit each other because we thought the dealer was too close and would see we were play fighting if we didn’t use our fists.”

“Man, you should have seen you guys! You’re nuts! I almost ran over to break it up.”

Ron laughed! My mom is going to a friends house tonight and wont be home till after midnight. Do you want to come over?” Ron asked.

I know he wanted to see how much weed he got for his effort. “Sure, I’ll be right over. Do you want to call Dave?”

“No, you call him.” Ron said. I think he may still be a little mad about his tooth.

“You knocked his tooth out!”

“No but it is kinda of loose.”

“Ok, I’ll call him and see you in ten minutes. Later.” I hung up the phone, took the baggy out of the closet and stuffed it down my pants, wrote a note telling my mother I would not be home for dinner, and headed over to Ron’s.

I rode my bike to Ron’s house not sure what the evening would have in store. Many times when we had no plans we would take a bike ride to the Village, sit on a bench in Washington Square Park, get high, and watch the weirdo’s. I don’t enjoy being out in the open in Washington Square park because it is not safe there for me. There are Italian gang members that will kick my ass on the spot if they see me. Man, those guys are crazy. And they never fight one on one; always in a pack. It all started I was eleven years old. After school I was walking with a friend to catch the subway on West Forth Street when this fat little Italian kid came up to us and said, “you guys from around here?” He was pointing his little polish sausage pinky finger at my chest.

“No,” I said realizing the encounter was not going to be a friendly one. “We go to school on Bleaker and are just heading home.”

“What neighborhood do you live in?” The fat Italian kid said while raising his chin in the air stepping real close to my face.

“The upper west side,” I responded while starting to get annoyed at the fat kids arrogance. I was also getting annoyed that my friend did not say a word and coward behind me. Man, I hate cowards.

Then, the fat Italian kid actually has the nerve to slap the soda out of my friends hand. So I say to myself the hell with this, and I get him in a headlock and ruff him up a little. I didn’t even hit him or nothing. Then I let him go and he runs away red faced. He was holding up his pants while he running. Man he looked funny. Then I started calling him a fagot and some other things, and went on my way. I didn’t even hit him. That next weekend I’m meeting some friends in the Village. So there I am minding my own business sitting on some stoops on Bleeker street waiting for my freinds to show up when I notice a gang of kids running my way. So I’m wondering to myself, what the hell is going on. Then the next thing I know the fat Italian kid and eight of his friends are kicking my ass. Turns out the fat little Italian kid I ruffed up is the son of a Mafioso named Fatty Deville. Can you believe my luck. During the next couple of years, Fatty Jr. and his friends organized a gang called “The Go Club.“ These Italian kids were crazy. So for the next few years I had a couple of other encounters with Fatty Jr. and his friends. If I could run and get away from them I would, but sometimes I was forced to fight off packs of these kids. They would kick my ass, but for some reason they would never really hurt me. I don’t know if it was luck or a good defense. I saw them kick some poor bastards ass so bad his face needed surgery. Another guy had all his front teeth kicked out. I had been lucky so far but didn’t want to take any chances.

When I arrived to Ron’s apartment I heard the usual music basting. I pounded one time on the front door and Dave opened it immediately before I could knock twice. Dave’s face looked like it had been in an automobile accident. Both his cheekbones were swollen like a chipmunk, and he had a black eye.

I took a good look at Dave’s and couldn’t believe it. “You guys are nuts!” I said shaking my head in disapproval.

Dave smiled and placed a large baggy filled with ice over his entire face. Ron’s face was equally as bad, but did not look as bad because his skin is much darker.

“Who won the fight?” I asked knowing it would increase the tension. Neither acknowledged my question.

“Well lets see it,” Ron said referring to the baggy. I know he couldn’t wait.

I reached into my pants and pulled out the baggy and placed it on the table separating the two beds. Ron opened the baggy and removed the thirty two mini yellow envelopes and said, “Damn! That makes my face feel a little better.

It might make you feel better but you still look like shit, I said not being able to resist the easy shot.

Dave removed the ice bag, looked at all the little yellow envelopes, smiled, and placed the ice bag back on his face. Ron opened one of the envelopes, poured the contents on the table, and we all went into shock. The envelopes were not filled with weed. They were filled with cocaine. Each yellow envelope contained one gram of coke. We looked at each other and began laughing. Life is so unpredictable.

“Do you have any idea how much this stuff is worth?” I said knowing it was worth a fortune.

“Four thousand dollars,” Replied Dave coming out of his coma momentarily.

Ron and I looked at one another again surprised Dave spoke. “What do we do with all this coke? I don’t even do coke, Ron said. “I don’t want to end up like Janie.”

Janie was this seventeen year old girl who lived in a really nice apartment on the upper East Side. Her dad was really rich and would leave her home alone for weeks with an open bank account. Janie’s mom divorced her dad when Janie was thirteen years old. Janie hated her mom and would refuse to see her. She said the only reason her mom married her dad was for the money. Janie use to go to the same school I went to but got kicked out two years ago when she was fifteen. She use to hang out with us but started hanging out with an older crowd. She was really rebellious and pretty much did what she wanted. Her dad ended up sending her to a school for really rich kids who mess up and cant go to normal schools. Janie said it was pretty cool because you didn’t have to take tests, didn’t get any homework, and you always passed and moved on to the next grade. Janie got hooked on coke at this school. She said all the kids did it. Man, some of these kids were really messed up. I think some had brain damage because they did drugs so much. Janie would use her dads money from “the account” as she called it, to buy half ounces of coke. She would then divide the half ounce into grams and sell it for a profit. Then she would replace the money she used from “the account” so her dad had no idea what she was doing and how much she was spending. She started selling so much she very rarely ever had to spend her dads money. The only problem was she was doing way too much coke. Her speech had become slurred and she would get nose bleeds all the time. She use to be really pretty but kinda looked like a tramp now. I guess drugs will do that to you.

“I’ve got it. I’ll call Janie. She’ll know what to do with it.” Janie was always really nice to me. We use to get along really great before she got kicked out of school. I think it was because we were both so rebellious.

“Ok, just make sure she doesn’t snort it all herself,” Ron said with a tinge of distrust in his voice.

“Don’t worry. She wont rip us off,” I said reassuringly.

I called Janie and she agreed to give us something for it, but she didn’t say how much. She said she would have to test it to see how pure it was. Janie had become a Cocaine expert. She knew how to chemically test it for its purity. Maybe if she had stayed in school she could have become a scientists. The funny thing is, she failed chemistry.

Before going to Janie’s, we did a quick lap around Central Park. It was six thirty and the night air was much cooler. We went back to the fountain area and didn’t see a single drug dealer. I don’t know if we had anything to do with it. It was probably a coincidence. After all, people get ripped off all the time in the Park, even drug dealers. And they always go back. God they’re stupid.

When we arrived to Janie’s apartment building, the doorman stopped us and would not let us in before calling upstairs through the intercom. Man I hate that. Here you have some guy in a funny uniform, and he thinks he’s a security guard. It took the doorman several minutes to contact Janie. Janie told the doorman to only allow me upstairs causing Ron to become more suspicious. Dave just shrugged his shoulders. I reassured Ron not to worry and told him I would meet him and Dave at 86th Street and Central Park West in about an hour. As I entered the elevator, I swear the doorman made a loud snorting sound with his nose. I think the bastard knew.

The walls of the elevator were made of some kind of expensive looking dark wood. I felt like I was in a coffin and was very relieved when it arrived at her floor. Janie’s apartment was the only one on the floor which means its very large. I rang her doorbell and waited for what felt like an eternity. Finally, Janie’s little sister Hilary opened the door, only Hilary wasn’t so little anymore.

“Hi Hilary,” I said trying to act casual. Damn she was hot.

“Oh my god!” She squealed giving me a hug. “I haven’t seen you for over a year. Come in Josh.”

It was funny hearing someone other than my mom call me by my first name . Everyone calls me Weisman, and my good friends call me Assman sometimes.

“I can’t believe how old you got, I mean in a good way. You look great,” I said and I meant it. She was wearing a pair of skintight Gloria Vanderbilt pants, and a light blue turtleneck sweater that hugged her chest. Her hair was light brown just past her shoulders. Man she was hot. She put her hands in her back pockets, arched her back and stood there smiling at me. I think she was waiting for me to say something but I was left momentarily speechless by her beauty. I know that sounds corny. I was starting to feel kinda dumb standing there admiring her so I pretended I wasn’t interested and said, “is your sister in.”

Her smile faded slightly. “Yea, she’s in her room with some friends.”

I’m not sure, but the way she said with her friends, sounded like she didn’t like them. “Take care” I said while walking to Janie’s room.

“Bye Josh.”

I turned my head to take a good look at her ass and got busted. She was looking at me smiling. I smiled back and felt like I was having an anxiety attack. Man she was hot. Then when I thought to myself how my friends call me Assman, I almost laughed out loud. Glad I didn’t. I don’t want her to think I’m crazy in case I see her again.

I knocked once on Janie’s door and entered. Janie was sitting on a bean bag and didn’t get up when I walked in. “Hi Weisman,” she said. “This is Benito and Juan.”

Both Benito and Juan were sharing a small couch filled with dirty clothes, or at least I assumed they were dirty. They looked intoxicated with their droopy eyes. “What’s up,“ I said shaking both of their hands. They were both significantly older than Janie and probably using her for her drugs and money.

Janie’s room had not changed much since the last time I saw it. She still had a stupid poster of Leif Garret on the back of her door, and another poster of Pink Floyds Dark Side Of the Moon album. Her room was defiantly a little messier than she use to keep it, and her shelves were filled with paraphernalia. She use to hide her Bong and triple beam scale she stole from the science room at school, but I guess she didn’t care anymore because they were just sitting there for everyone to see.

The guy named Benito said with a New York Puerto Rican accent, “what did you say your name was?”


“What kind of name is that? It don’t sound like a name I‘ve heard before.” he asked sarcastically.

I wasn’t sure if he was trying to make fun of me so I kept it polite. “It was my great granddaddy’s last name.”

“Oh,” he said. I could see the response confused him.

“How have you been Janie?” I asked trying to aim my attention toward my old friend.

Janie sniffled, wiped her nose with her sleeve and said, I’ve been ok, how about yourself?”

Janie seemed cold and kind of distant. She use to be so full of energy, but now she seemed to use all of her energy just to have a conversation. “I’ve been good,” I told her. “But I had to go to summer school because they said I wasn’t applying myself, and next year I’m going to Public school.”

“Did you get kicked out?” she asked. Suddenly she seemed interested.

“Not exactly. They told my parents I was disruptive in class and would not pass the 11th grade next year if my behavior continued, so they said I was not welcome back, but I don’t care. Fuck em!”

Juan laughed and said, “sounds like you got fucked.”

Benito joined in and said, “yea, sounds like you are the one who got fucked. The homey’s are going to love you in public school.”

I wanted to tell them both to go to hell, but they were a couple of years older than me. I was puzzled why they were taking the offensive. Maybe they were just assholes. Then I started thinking about how the dealer we ripped off was Puerto Rican like Benito and Juan. I was starting to get nervous when Jainie said, “well lets see it.”

“Let’s see what?” I said knowing she was talking about the coke.

“Da. The coke you idiot,” Janie said making fun of me.

I took the baggy from my pants and showed her the many envelopes it contained. Janie pulled herself up from the bean bag and took what looked like a chemistry set from the bookshelf over to the triple beam scale. When she stood up, I saw she had become very skinny. She looked like a skeleton. She also had aged quickly and looked like a young strung out whore on drugs. It was really sad. Juan and Benito both got up from the couch and huddled around Janie as she went to work. She emptied each little envelope of coke onto the scale making what looked like a pile of snow. She then weighed the pile of coke and told me it weighed 24 grams. I had no way of verifying this but didn’t really care since I stole it. Then she took out some kind of filter device, and pressed the coke though the screen eliminating any chunks there may have been. Once the coke was a fine powder, she sealed it in a small jar and mixed it up. She then mixed a few different chemicals together from the chemistry set into a test tube. She took a small pinch of coke from the jar of fine powder using what looked like a mini spoon only capable of holding about half a drop of water, and place it in the test tube with the chemicals. She placed a cork on the test tube and shook the coke with the chemical solution. The solution changed color to light blue. What that means I had no idea, but it must have been good because it caused her to smile. She then compared the color of the solution to a small color chart that came with the chemistry set and said, “this is good stuff Weisman. Where did you say you got it?”

“I didn’t say,” I responded. And I definitely wasn’t going to tell her while Benito and Juan were in the room. I didn’t know or trust those two, and since meeting them ten minutes prior, I was starting to develop a dislike for both of them.

“You stole it. Is that right?” Benito said.

I was wondering what the odds were that Juan or Benito knew the dealer from the park, or had heard that one of the local dealers stash was stolen. The odds were pretty slim, but I wasn’t going to admit how I got the stuff. It’s a small world and you never know who knows who, especially in the drug world. Getting caught stealing from a drug dealer could get you killed, and I was painfully aware of the risk. A year ago, a friend of mine was hit in the head with a baseball bat and killed for selling bad quality cocaine. This dummy would get a couple of grams of coke, and dilute it with a white powder called coco-snow. He would turn one gram of coke into two using this stuff, and then sell it to unsuspecting cokeheads. Unfortunately he sold it to the wrong person. It was pretty funny in a way because the newspapers made him sound like an angel, the poor unfortunate victim of a senseless crime. If they knew he was selling drugs and ripping people off at the same time, they chose to ignore it for purposes of their news story.

“Did you steal it?” Benito said again with a tone that was starting to piss me off.

“None of your fucking business how I got it!” I said getting more irritated by the moment. “Comprende?”

Benito took a step towards me and said, “who the fuck do you think you’re talking to. Do you know who I am? Benito took a dep breath and seemed to relax a little. If we’re going to do business together my friend, then it is my business where you got the coke from.”

Benito and I stood staring at one another for a couple of seconds before I realized he was right, and could kill me if I made him mad enough. “I apologize. I got upset because you were laughing that I got kicked out of school.” That was a lie, but it was an out. I didn’t know these two, or what they would do should I push them to far. “Nice meeting you two. I’ll just take my coke and sell it myself.” I began acting like I was going to leave.

“Why don’t you two relax,” Janie interrupted falling for my bluff. “What difference does it make to you how Weisman got it. What do you care? Besides, its my money.”

Apparently Benito also fell for my bluff. He extended his hand and said, “I didn’t mean nothing by it when I made fun of you.”

I realized they wanted the coke as bad as I wanted to get rid of it. I would not be able to sell it quickly because most of my friends just smoked weed and drank.

“No hard feelings,” I said hoping he would let it go. After all, I was at his mercy. There were two of them and one of me, and I was kinda trapped in the same room with them.

“How much do you want for it?” Janie asked.

I quickly did the math on a piece of scrap paper and said, “half of street value which is fifteen hundred.”

Janie looked at Juan and Benito. She then exchanged whispers with Juan. “We’ll give you a thousand dollars cash for it right now,” Juan said.

“Throw in a couple of joints and you have a deal,” I said. I was trying not to look to excited that I may actually leave the room with a thousand dollars cash.

“It’s a deal,” Janie said without consulting Juan.

Janie went to her closet and looked back at us to make sure we were not spying on her, opened a small combination safe she had hidden behind her clothes, removed and counted some cash, and handed me one thousand dollars in new one hundred dollar bills. Juan rolled three joints from his personal stash and handed them to me, and said, “light one up.”

“Sorry,” I said catching them all off guard, “but I promised I’d meet some friends in the park, and I’m running late.”

I could tell by the looks on their faces they expected me to stay and smoke the joints Juan had just given me, but I was anxious to meet up with Ron and Dave and smoke the weed with people I trusted. I couldn’t wait to tell them how much money we got.

Janie told her two friends she’d be right back and walked me to the elevator. We silently stood together waiting for the elevator to arrive. The friendship we had once shared was gone and we both felt it. We had both lost some of the innocence that was left since the last time we had seen each other. Finally Janie broke the silence and said, “Weisman, don’t fuck up like I have. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said awkwardly caught by surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what she was getting at.

When the elevator arrived she gave me a long hug and said, “I mean it Josh.”

I stepped inside the elevator and said, “I wont.” And then the door closed and I never saw Janie again.

The night air was cool and felt great as I rode my bike at high speeds to 86th and Central Park West. For a moment I thought Juan and Benito would have some friends waiting outside to rip me off, but that wasn’t the case. I was running about ten minutes behind schedule, but knew Dave and Ron would wait since I was the one in possession of the goods. I couldn’t wait to show them what we got for our effort. The fresh air energized me as I raced along side a slow moving taxi. The driver was going just slow enough for me to keep up with. He looked at his speedometer and yelled out the window, “you’re going thirty five miles per hour.”

“Thanks,” I yelled as he sped away, leaving me in a trail of blue exhaust. All the while I couldn’t stop thinking about how messed up Janie looked. She had aged much quicker than she was meant to age, and it was all because of the drugs. She was meant to be beautiful like her sister Hilary, who remained pure. I don’t know if she actually was, but I liked thinking of her that way. The cute little girl Janie was gone forever, and had been replaced by an aging burned out drug user. What would become of her? How could her dad allow her to do this to herself? I knew he didn’t have any control over her. She always did whatever she wanted, but didn’t he notice the change? How could he not have? How much longer could she go on like this? Man, I was starting to get depressed.

When I arrived to 86th and Central Park West, Dave and Ron sitting on a park bench as I knew they would be. They were seeing who could first name the make and model of each passing car. There has to be more to life than this I thought to myself.

When Ron saw me he looked at his watch and told me I was ten minutes late, and Dave agreed by nodding. I told Ron how much money we got and he was pleased and said he forgave me for my tardiness. We rode into the park and found a bench that was hidden from the road, and lit up one of the Joints Juan had rolled. Ron and I lied about the girls we had, and talked about the girls we would like to have. We discussed our futures and what we wanted to be when we grew up, but the conversation always seemed to end up discussing our next scam. Meanwhile, Dave had found a small tree to kick. When discussing girls and stuff like that, Dave would always avoid being part of the conversation. Sometimes Ron and I would ask for his opinion knowing it made him uncomfortable, and he would always shrug his shoulders and say, “I don’t know.“ I don’t think Dave ever had a girlfriend which was a mystery to me. Girls always found Dave attractive. They loved his blue eyes and long light brown hair. They were always talking about what a good build he had and stuff like that. But Dave almost would completely ignore them. After smoking the 2nd joint, I was feeling a little light headed, and Dave‘s battering of the tree was really starting to get annoying, although Dave‘s kicking skills were excellent. Dave was capable of kicking a tree with lightening fast speeds and brutal force. I would hate to get kicked by him I commented to Ron. Ron lifted his shirt and said Dave had kicked him during the distraction fight earlier that day. Ron’s ribs were an unnatural shade of purple. So again I asked Ron who had won the fight not expecting an answer like the last time I asked. Ron looked down and smiled humbly and motioned towards Dave with his head. By this time Dave had worked himself up into frenzy and was now hitting the tree open handed in between kicks. It was very impressive. Ron admitted most of the marks on Dave’s face were from the police holding him down while breaking up their fight. Ron said he had no idea Dave could fight so good. He said every time he tried to hit Dave, Dave would just move to one side counter punch him at will like Mohammad Allie. Coming from Ron, Dave must have been a real good fighter. Ron hates to admit Dave is better than him at anything. Dave took a break from beating up the tree and asked if we were going to smoke the last joint. I told them I was going to go home, and I would call them both first thing in the morning.

“Assman, you better not call me too early!” Ron warned.

“Don’t worry, I’ll wait until the sun rises,” I assured him. Ron looked down and shook his head. Dave waved goodbye, got on his bike, and rode off into the darkness.

The Summer’s End

The next couple of weeks were filled with scam after scam. What ever we had to do to get money or weed was not off limits. It got so bad, we were bordering on the boundaries of being in our own organized crime syndicate. We were actually proud of ourselves for thinking up new money making schemes. A straight-laced friend of mine said, if you guys spent as much time actually working a summer job as you do thinking of new ways to steal money from drug dealers and rich people, you would all be rich. I knew he was right, but we were all hooked on the excitement and unpredictability of the scam. I’m going to hell I tell ya!

One of the brilliant scams Dave, Ron and I came up with was similar to the “taking the hidden stash and running scam,” but was much safer, and involved a little more surveillance. What we would do is find an area where there was a large concentration of drug dealers. We would watch the area for an hour or so to see which of the dealers would leave their stash in the bushes, or hidden somewhere other than their bodies. When we found an unsuspecting drug dealer whom operated this way, one of us would pretend we were interested in making a purchase. The dealer would then show us what he had to offer, and if it met our approval, and was enough for us to want to get our hands on, we would buy a small amount, usually a joint or five dollar bag. This is when it gets good. One of us who the dealer had not seen would call the police at a location a couple of blocks away. When the cops arrived, we would tell them that someone had just stolen our bicycle, and give a description similar to the drug dealers description. The cops being cops would always operated the same way, which made this scam so easy. The officer would tell the poor victim, either Dave or myself, to get into the back of the police car. The cops would circle around the neighborhood looking for the mean criminal who had just stolen the bike from the nice looking kid, being Dave or I. Ron being bigger than the both of us, and half black, did not look like your typical preppy victim. When we would see the dealer from the back of the police car, we would tell the officer, “that‘s the man who stole my bike.” Sometimes when the cops slowed the patrol car near the dealer, the stupid bastard would run thinking the cops were going to bust him for the drugs. What a great fucking scam. And just to be nice, when the cops had the dealer in the back of the patrol car, we would always tell them we messed up and they had the wrong guy. We would tell em the thief had a scar or tattoo on his arm. Sometimes the bastards would actually thank us for telling the cops it wasn’t them. They were just relieved they weren’t being busted for drugs. By the end of the summer we were running out of places to steal from. We had covered all the major drug dealing spots where the sellers would hide their stashes. We always made sure we wore some kind of disguise, so we would not be recognized in the future. The more preppy looking the better. The dumb cops didn’t have a clue what was going on, and neither did the dealers. They probably suspected another dealer of stealing their stash.

Another hooligan friend of mine turned me on to a safer scam. Eric was my best friend in school before he dropped out. Now he was a bicycle messenger. One day Eric came home from work and found a large Persian rug in his living room. Eric told his dad it looked like the rugs many of the office buildings he delivered to had in their lobbies. Eric’s dad was quick to point out that his rug cost him four thousand dollars. Eric said it was like a light bulb went off in his head. The next day, Eric went to work as he normally did, only, he helped himself to every Persian style rug he saw if a lobby was left unattended. He said it was easier than work. He would simply roll up the smaller rugs, and ride with it on his shoulder to the crooked Iranian carpet dealer. Sometimes a rug was so big, he needed a second person to help him carry the rug out of the building. In these cases, he would take the rug by taxi to the rug dealer’s store. The taxi drivers didn’t care as long as you gave them a couple of dollars in advance. The Iranians never asked where he was getting all the rugs. They didn’t care as long as they were able to make a profit. Ron, Dave and I liked this scam. It was safe and had a good return. Eric recruited us, and we specialized in removing large rugs Eric was not able to remove himself. Sometimes the rugs were glued to the floor, but that didn’t matter. We would just pull a little harder and they would come right up. The Iranian’s would usually give us between one hundred and two hundred dollars a rug, depending on the quality. One time Eric got five hundred dollars for a rug. He said he knew it was different because it was not on the floor like all the others, but was hanging from hooks outside a lawyers office he made a deliveries to. A couple of days later, Eric was watching the news and saw an interview with one of the attorneys from the office of the rug he stole. Turns out the rug was some rare rug that was really valuable. Eric didn’t care. He joked and said he did it for his dad because his dad was always saying lawyers were ruining the country. If his dad knew what he was doing, he would have killed him. After a couple of weeks, we were all becoming rug experts, and were beginning to know when the Iranians were trying to rip us off. We didn’t really care since we stole the rugs in the first place. Negotiating was part of the fun.

As the summer ended, so did my participation in most of the scams. I had saved a small fortune and thought it would be wise to quit while I was ahead. Sure I participated in some small scams, but not nearly like I had during the summer. Not once did Dave, Ron or myself get caught. Eric on the other hand was not so lucky. One day while dropping off a stolen rug at the Iranian’s store, a team of plain clothed officers and FBI agents shut the place down and hauled everyone down to the station for questioning. Turns out the Iranian’s were sending money to some organization not on good terms with the United States. Stolen rugs were the least of anyone’s concern. Eric, being caught in the middle, was questioned and released to his father. When his father asked him what he was doing selling a rug to terrorists, Eric had no answer and was grounded for a week. Eric’s criminal career was over temporarily, and he went back to being just a bicycle messenger, and left the rugs alone for now.

It was very rare to see both my mother and father home at the same time. Sometimes I would go for months without ever seeing them together. When they were home, they would usually have their faces buried in their work. The apartment wasn’t big enough for them to have their own offices, so they usually spread all their paper work on the kitchen table, or on the coffee table in the living room. Both were successful psychiatrists, and each worked in a different mental hospital. My mom would tell me about some of her patients, but my dad never talked about work. I remember my mom telling me about a set of retarded twins she saw in the hospital. She said they could tell you the weather on any day, dating back about twenty years, and could also do multiplication really fast. I thought that was kinda interesting, but I think I rather be normal. When my friends would find out both my parents were shrinks, they would say, “no wonder you’re so fucked up.” And they would always ask me the same stupid question, “do your parents try to psycho analyze you?” My response would always be the same, of coarse they do moron, they’re my parents!” I always hated that question because there isn’t a parent in the world that isn’t trying to figure out what is going on in their kids mind, except for Janie’s dad. He didn’t seem to care. Ron would occasionally talk with my mom about his problems. Mom once asked if I cared, and I told her I didn’t, but is was Dave who needed help.

Tonight happened to be one of those rare nights when both my mother and father were home. My dad fearing my mom would cook, quickly ordered out from the Chinese restaurant a block away. The food arrived moments later. Dad was always very suspicious when it came so quickly. He wondered if the food had been prepared beforehand. Mom would always explain to him, that is how it works at most Chinese restaurants. Luckily mom didn’t cook very often. Her cooking was so bad; occasionally it was not possible to identify what it was she had just cooked. The kitchen was small, or as my mom would call it, “cozy.“ There was room for just a small kitchen table and counter top beside the sink. The counter was also used as a cutting board. As mom set the table, she told me she was glad I was home because we needed to talk. This usually meant there was going to be a lecture, and I would be trapped on the receiving end for over an hour nodding my head trying my hardest to pay attention to what it was they were talking about. Sometimes I have trouble listening if I’m not interested in what is being said. I think that’s why I do so bad in school.

“Josh,” she started. “Your father and I need to talk to you about the school you‘ll be going to in a couple of days.”

“I didn’t realize school was starting so soon,” I said in slight shock.

“Well, it is. Your new school is a special school for kids like you.”

Kids like me I thought to myself. What the hell is that suppose to mean?

“It’s a school for children who have had problems in other schools,“ she continued. “You don’t always go to classes. Sometimes you go to places that people work and help them with their jobs, such as working at the local newspaper, or helping out at a museum. How does that make you feel?”

“How does that make me feel,” I said trying not to sound too sarcastic.

“Honey, Josh isn’t one of your patients,” my father said acknowledging my dislike to her wording of the question.

Mom smiled and said, “I sorry Josh. Sometimes when you spend 10 hours a day talking to people a certain way, it‘s hard to turn it off. So what do you think about it,” she said rephrasing her question

“Sounds fine to me,” I said. It actually sounded kinda of cool not having to go to classes all day. Sometimes I couldn’t stay awake for a whole chemistry class, or world history class.

“Josh,” my father said with a serious tone. There will be different kinds of people there; people who you are not use to seeing.”

“What kind of people are you talking about dad?“ I said wondering what the hell he was getting at. In my mind I pictured a school with dwarfs and midgets, and other circus characters.

“There will be kids that have trouble controlling themselves in a regular classroom setting. Kids that have poor impulse control. Some of the kids come from bad neighborhoods,” my father warned.

“I’ll be fine dad,” I assured him.

Dad smiled and said, “lets eat.”

During dinner, my parents talked about the way they were going to decorate the waiting room of the private practice they hoped to share one day. Both had worked in a hospital for over tens years, and felt it was time to set up their own private practices. They asked me how my friends were doing, and I gave them the usual one or two word answers like, “fine,” or “they’re fine.” Sometimes it felt like they were competing over who get more information from me. I didn’t mind. Occasionally I would have long discussions with them, but not very often since I was rarely home. What could I tell them? I don’t think my parents would want to hear about the expensive rugs I stole, or how we stole weed from the drug dealers all over the city. My parents were not completely naive when it came to drugs and stuff. They had grown up in the sixties and had been hippies, and before they were hippies they were beatniks. One time when I was searching their closet for some batteries, I found an old bag of weed that belonged to them. The stuff had to have been over 15 years old. The baggy it was in had practically disintegrated. I smoked it and it had no effect so I threw it away. I didn’t think my parents would miss it, or ask me if I had seen their weed.

After dinner my dad asked me if I wanted to drink a beer with him. I wasn’t sure if I should have said yes but a beer did sound good. It had been a hot day.

My dad poured some beer into a frosty mug he kept in the freezer and said, “so, do you have any plans for the future?”

It was then I realized I was trapped for another lecture. “No, not really,” I said taking a sip of beer trying to act mature. “I think I may want to move to the country, or check out California after I graduate.”

“And do what.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought it much.”

“Josh,” he said again with a serious tone. “I want you to think about how you are going to provide for yourself after you finish school. I want you to start thinking about your future. Your mom and I want you to try to get the most out of this school as possible. God knows we were wasting our money sending you to those private schools. Your new school is an interesting concept I think will work, and keep your interest. You’ll be going out into the real world and working with real people at their jobs, the jobs that allow them survive and live in this city. You‘ll be seeing what life is all about. Life is not a fantasy, or a round the clock party like what you’re use to. Life is reality, and reality is work. Without a job, you wouldn’t be able to own a home, or live in an apartment, see a movie or order dinner from a restaurant like we just did. When I was your age son, I thought I knew everything. I thought it was going to be easy out there, but I was wrong. If you want something, you have to work for it. Not everything is handed to us in life. Do you understand what I’m getting at?

“Yes sir,” I said, but it was a lie. I understood what he was saying, and understood the importance and value of money, but I did not understand why I was getting the lecture at this time. Maybe they were worried about what would become of me. One time in elementary school after messing up on a test, a classmate of mine said he worried about me and wondered what I would be when I grew up. I never forgot that and kinda took it as an insult. I’ll be fine I thought to myself.

Dad must have seen I was in deep thought because he asked me, “What are you thinking about?”

“Oh, I was thinking about the future and school. That’s all.”

Mom entered the room and asked what I was drinking. I looked at my father and he told my mother not to worry about it. Then he said, “if he would just drink a beer now and then and stop smoking dope, he’d be just fine.” Then he looked at me and smiled. Mom looked puzzled, and I sat their expressionless not sure how to react.

Mom finally said, “you’re both going straight to hell.” And then she laughed at herself.

We engaged in small talk about the Yankee’s and Reggie Jackson. Dad was a huge Yankee fan. We had that in common. Even mom liked the Yankee’s, especially Bucky Dent. Over an hour had pasted since the food arrived, so I politely thanked them and excused myself to my room.



Part 2

School’s in Session

The sky was overcast and the temperature was unseasonably cool for a fall day. The weather set the mood for the first day of school. The school, PS 141, was located in Greenwich Village. It was a couple of blocks away from the school I was just kicked out of, so keeping in touch with my old friends would be a problem. I decided to take the subway to school. Normally I would ride my bike, but I didn’t know if there would be any safe place to lock it up. Bike parts are stolen all the time. When someone steals a bicycle part from me, in return, I go out and steal a part from someone who has locked up their bike as I had done. That’s how it works in New York. It’s a vicious cycle. During the last school year, I rode my bike almost everyday. I enjoyed the independence, and being able to get to almost any destination in the city within minutes.

As I exited subway and walked up two flights of stairs to street level, I realized where and which school it was I would be attending. I walked towards the school and suddenly began to get very nervous. This school was totally new to me and I didn’t know what to expect. I slowed as I approached the large black iron gates that partitioned the school from the street. The school with its large bars covering every window looked more like a jail than a school. Just beyond the first set of iron gates was a courtyard with a full-length basketball court. The courts lines were freshly painted and stood out against the black tar court floor. The school itself was constructed of concrete and brick, the first level being concrete. Painted on the concrete was a mural of what looked like slaves and their masters. The black slaves were very muscular and were working in the fields while the white masters watched from their horses. Some of the masters were waving whips in the air. There were scenes of American Indians growing corn and living in teepees. Next to this scene was a scene of cowboys burning an Indian village. I stared at the mural for a minute and then entered the school. The schools interior was dark and gloomy, very different from the bright cheery school I use to attend. There were lots of students walking around. Some of them looked old enough to be in college. Some looked normal like me and some looked like trouble, like they would try to take your money. These must be the kids my dad was warning me about I thought to myself. I asked one kid who had hair down to his waist and a tie-dyed shirt on where the 11th grade class was. He looked at me and said, “first year dude?”

It took a moment for his response to register before I finally said, “yep.”

He smiled and pointed at a sign on the wall that said, “Welcome. All new students please report to the auditorium at 9:00 AM.” And then he walked away.

“Thanks,” I shouted.

Without looking back he gave me the peace sign. It was ten minutes before nine, so I walked around the school looking for the auditorium. The schools walls were painted a glossy yellowish color that resembled vomit or phlegm. They were baron with the exception of artwork of slaves, an occasional essay on peace, or something to that effect. Many of the schools classrooms were unoccupied and locked. Finally I found the auditorium. There were about 100 people sitting in small folding metal chairs. On the stage was a podium, and a couple of people talking with one another about what they would be covering. Some of them looked like ex-hippies. There were talking to a couple of black women in full African attire. One of the women had on a colorful hat so big, it looked like she could carry a bowl of fruit on her head. I sat near the back of the room and waited.

Finally they started. They introduced one another, and told us how lucky and privileged we were to be invited to attend PS 141. What a crock of shit I thought to myself. “Invited to attend?” What are they talking about? Then they told us how test scores don’t measure a person’s intelligence, because in life, there are more than one right or wrong answer. That was true. I went to school with a lot of people that could pass tests, but couldn’t get cross-town without a taxi. Then they explained we would not be spending a lot of time in the classroom which sounded good to me, and that we would be going to work, and would be required to write an essay about our experience.

After the speeches were over, each student was handed a list of jobs to choose from. I checked photographer, and animal attendant. Then as instructed, I took my job sheet to the registration room. When I finally found the place, there was a line about 100 feet long filled with students waiting to register. It reminded me of the lines for food and stuff in Russia. I took my place on line and waited for over 2 hours till it was my turn.

At last it was my turn to register. I entered the small dimly lit office and sat at a huge wooden desk. On the other side of the desk was an attractive young woman who couldn’t be more than 24 years old. “How’s it going,” I said, but she did not acknowledge my presence.

Finally she said, “I’ll be right with you.” and she thumbed through some papers. She looked really annoyed.

“OK, lets see your job list sheet,” she said while looking at a pile of papers in her hand. She still had not looked at me.

I handed the job list to her. She looked at it and started shaking her head. “You didn’t fill out the back side of the list sheet, “she complained. “Your name isn’t on it. How am I going to know who you are without both sides filled out. You have to learn to follow instructions.”

What a bitch I thought to myself. “I’m sorry. I should have paid attention to what I was doing,” I said with an apologetic tone. I’m brand new at this school and was kinda nervous.” My mom once told me when someone acted like a total asshole, to kill them with kindness. She said by reacting in an unpredictable way, they would be momentarily confused.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” she said changing her tone and suddenly becoming human again. “I’ve been looking at these sheets for hours and I think I’m starting to go a little crazy.”

“You must have a lot of patients. I think I would go crazy looking at job sheets all day. ”

“I Think I already have,” she said making a crazy face at me. Now she appeared to be flirting. I guess my mom was right. Kill em with kindness. “Why don’t you tell me your name and I’ll fill out the rest of the sheet for you.”

“My name is Josh Weisman.”

“That’s my brothers name, but he a little older than you by about two years.”

“How old are you?” I asked knowing I was pushing the boundaries of the situation.”

“Just a little too old for you I‘m afraid,” she said while smiling.

“I was just wondering,” I said feeling the blood rushing to my forehead. I knew my face was turning completely red.

“Oh my god! I don’t think I have ever seen someone blush like that. You’re so cute.”

Suddenly I felt hot and could feel the sweat begin to form on my forehead. I couldn’t think of anything to say so I just sat there chuckling while she went through some files to see if the jobs I requested on my job sheet were still available.

I gave her all my info, and she told me I was in luck because the jobs I had chosen were still available. She gave me the address of a local photographer named Abby Hoffman I would be working with, and the New York City ASPCA adoption center. She told me she didn’t know why I chose the ASAPCA. I told her I liked animals, and she said I must since I would be cleaning shit all day. At the end of registering she apologized again and told me to visit her anytime. I told her I would.

It was 1230 and I had the rest of the day free. I didn’t have to report to my class assignments till the next day. I decided to go by my old school and say hi to some old friends. My old school was only a couple of blocks away from PS 141, so I took a short walk over but was disappointed. Unfortunately the reunion would have to wait. My old school had not begun yet.

Photography class and puppy poop

I woke up late dreading the beginning of class, if you could call it that. I was scheduled to be at the Greenwich Village studio of a photographer named Abby Hoffman at 8:45 AM. It was 8:00 when I left the house. I made it door to door in 22 minutes flat, a fairly quick ride from the upper west side to the Village. Abby’s studio was located in an industrial neighborhood consisting mostly of live-in lofts and warehouses. The building was a walkup four-story brownstone warehouse. I checked the address one last time on a little piece of paper I kept in my back pocket. I knew I was in the right place but was stalling. I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. I found Abby’s name on the intercom and was buzzed in immediately. I walked up three fights of creaky wooden stairs and entered her studio through the awaiting open door. Immediately I smelled the chemicals used with black and white photography.

Abby stood in the kitchen preparing a cup of coffee. She was wearing a loosely fitting colorful shirt and blue jeans. She had long frizzy brown hair and looked like a hippie. She was kind of plain looking, neither ugly nor attractive. She looked to be around 35 years old.

“You must be Josh,” Abby said smiling while stirring her coffee.

“Glad to meet you,” I responded feeling awkward. I didn’t know whether or not to approach her and shake her hand. Is it proper to shake a woman’s had or is a verbal greeting appropriate I always wondered.

“Please close the door hun” Abby asked. “You never know who may be walking around the building.”

I closed the door and then shook Abby’s hand. She held her hand out but did not grip. She stared at me smiling while I gave her hand the up and down.

“So hun, you like photography?”

“Yes. I carry a camera around all the time and take photos of things I think look cool,” I explained.

“That’s great! Did you bring any with you?

“No, but I can bring some tomorrow if you like.”

“That’d be great. So let me explain to you what we are going to be doing. I have a big show coming up in 2 months at the Lieber Studio. What we are going to be doing is printing the actual photos that are going to be displayed.

Abby handed me 10 contact sheets and a magnifying glass explained all the images circled would be made into prints of various sizes. I examined the images with the magnifier and was surprised. For a moment I caught myself smiling then regained my composure. Many of the images were of Abby nude walking in various landscape settings. Some of the images contained many people with no clothes doing different farm chores such as milking a cow and picking up hay bails. The people in the photos were not models like in a playboy magazine. They were ordinary people like Abby.

After examining the contact sheets for a minute or so, I handed them back to Abby.

“Well what do you think hun?”

I was speechless momentarily and finally the only thing I could think of saying was, “there are a lot of naked people in those photos.”

“Sorry hun. Maybe I should have warned you.”

“Oh no! That’s ok. I don’t mind. I was just surprised,” I said smiling.

“Have you ever worked in a dark room?”

“Yes, in school for a couple of months last year.”

“Good. So you are somewhat familiar with the process.”

Abby poured me a cup of coffee and then showed me the enlarger we would be using for most of the prints. The enlarger projected the images against the wall. She explained the images we would be producing would be poster size, so it was necessary to project them against the wall because they would not fit on the table. She went over the chemical process. When she was done showing me her darkroom equipment, we went back into the living room area of her studio. She told me to have a seat and handed me a couple of binders filled with pages of her photographs. I looked through them and thought some were ok but was not that impressed. It seemed like she was trying too hard to be artistic. Most of her photographs did nothing for me. Some were totally meaningless.

When I was done looking at the last binder, Abby said, “so what do you think?”

“I really like some of you photos, “ I said lying through my teeth. “They’re so mysterious.” What was mysterious to me was why anyone would want to buy her photos.

“That is one of the moods I was trying to capture,” Abby explained.

Just then I looked at my watch and said, “oh shit! I can’t believe three hours have past. I’ve got to get to my next class!”

“Time flies when you’re having fun. Tomorrow we’ll start printing,” Abby said.

“Thanks. I really enjoyed this,” I said.

I was surprised. I really did have a good time. Usually anything that has to do with school is a bore.

I jumped on my bike road at an extremely fast pace to my next class. I was riding with the flow of traffic probably averaging thirty miles per hour. A Tour De France racer would have strained to of kept up with me, and would have been weary to do some of the maneuvers I was doing through traffic. Sometimes when I ride really crazy I picture my mother crying at my funeral.

I arrived at my next class one minute late. I found my contact person Shirley in an office on the second floor of the city pound. Shirley gave me a tour of the facility and introduced me to the mostly gay staff. The facility was big and felt like a prison, and in a sense it was a prison to hundreds of stray and abandoned animals. I never understood how someone could just abandon a pet. We had three cats that were part of the family. After the tour Shirley went over what she thought was the proper technique for cleaning up dog shit. And that is what I did for the remainder of the day. I cleaned up dog shit, some big, some small, and all very nasty. The only good thing I got out of this so called class was being able to play with some of the dogs when I wasn’t cleaning shit. I love dogs and always wanted one, but I don‘t think my cats would like have the same sentiments.

At one o-clock I was done with my pooper-scooper class and had the rest of the day free. I gave Ron a call and Ron gave Dave a call, and we all met in Central Park at the tree. Ron and Dave were already drunk like good bums. Dave and I climbed the tree and Ron sat below. When Dave lit up a fat joint, Ron nervously climbed the tree and planted himself firmly on a stable branch. When Dave passed Ron the joint, Ron almost fell out of the tree reaching for it. Dave and I started laughing hysterically. Ron said, “I’m going to kick both of your asses when we’re on the ground.”

“Not if you break your neck,” I said shaking the branch Ron was sitting on.

“You better fucking cut it out Weisman!” Ron warned securing a better grip.

I shook the branch harder and Dave began jumping from branch to branch near Ron.

Ron was getting so mad his dark face began turning a shade of red I didn’t know possible.

“Hey Dave!” I shouted. “Look at Ron’s face. He’s turning bright red.”

Dave smiled and made monkey sounds near Ron. When Ron thought he could reach Dave he took a swing and almost fell out of the tree.

“Oh man he’s pissed,” I tried to say but was laughing to hard to be coherent.

Ron had had enough and began cautiously climbing down the tree.

“Come on Ron. We’re just fucking around. Stay up here,” I pleaded.

“Fuck you JW! I’m going to kick your ass when you come down!”

I don’t think I have ever seen Ron this mad before and I really didn’t feel like fighting him. What would Abby think if I went to photography class the second day with a black eye. That would be embarrassing.

“Come on man. I didn’t mean to make you that mad. Come on up and smoke the joint with us.” I didn’t realize that through all the torment, Ron never let go of the joint.

Ron smiled and took a big hit deeply inhaling the smoke from the joint and said, “fuck you.”

Dave who was always very stingy with his weed said, “pass it over,” while reaching down from the tree expecting Ron to obey.

Ron took another big hit and said, “that’s some good weed.

“I’m not fucking around,” Dave warned.

And again Ron took another big hit.

Dave was becoming increasingly irritated watching Ron smoke his joint. Finally he had enough and jumped out of the tree practically landing on Ron’s head. Once firmly on the ground he began grabbing for the joint. Ron threw the joint my direction and began fighting with Dave. This time they were just wrestling and no punches were thrown. After a minute of rolling around on the ground getting dirty, Dave and Ron agreed to call a truce. And Dave agreed to share his weed on the ground and not in the tree. After a minute of awkward silence and dirty looks, Dave and Ron were back to normal trying to claim victory for their little tussle. After the joint was finished, Dave and I played tree tag while Ron watched. Sometimes I wondered who felt more like an outcast, Ron for his physical limitations and dark complexion, or Dave who was socially retarded. In the end I think it was Dave. Dave would shutdown around people he did not know, and was only capable of socializing with the help of a few beers or a couple of shots of hard alcohol.

Later on that evening the three of us stopped by Eric’s house. Eric was a little irritated we did not call first because his girl friend Sharon was over keeping him company. When Dave lit up a joint, Eric’s irritation disappeared. Sharon would spend many nights at Eric’s house. Sharon lived in New Jersey and took public transportation into the city to go to school when she did not stay at Eric‘s. Eric and Sharon were both sixteen years old and neither of their parents cared if they spent the night together alone. Their relationship was a rocky one. One time Sharon got mad at Eric and slapped him. Eric returned the slap with a punch to the face leaving Sharon with a black eye. Sharon called me up that night and told me that she and Eric had had a fight. At the time I thought she meant an argument. She asked if she could come over and spend the night. I told her no. The next day when I saw her black eye I apologized and told her she should of told me it was a fist fight. She forgave me. Later on that week I was over at Eric’s house. I could tell there was still some bad feelings between them. When I went to the kitchen to get something to drink, I was followed by Sharon. Sharon stood in front of me and dropped to her knees and attempted to undo my pants. I pushed her away and said, “we cant.” We never spoke of the incident.

I have two sets of friends, my school friends and my neighborhood friends. My school friends were mostly the children of very rich professionals or successful artists. Many of them lived the life of the rich and famous through their parents money, lucky bastards. I don’t think they’ll amount to shit. Many of them are spoiled coke-heads like Janie. My neighborhood friends did not have nearly as much money as my school friends, and overall were a much rougher bunch. Both sets of friends like their weed and drink, but my neighborhood friends like to fight.

Eric was both, a neighborhood friend and an old school friend. Eric’s parents were well off but were not filthy rich. Eric’s dad was the manager of a hugely successful art supply store, and his mom was a house wife. She was a tiny French women no larger than five feet at most, and his dad was the tallest Puerto Rican I have ever seen. He must have been around six feet five inches tall. That’s a big Puerto Rican! Eric did not get his fathers height. He was only five feet seven inches tall. It was hard to picture what his dad saw in his mother. She was a really silly women, easily confused, and his dad a serious and complex man. About a year ago Eric’s family invited me to a picnic in Central Park. We were sitting at a table eating lunch when Eric’s mom pointed to a payphone and told us she had to call a friend. She stood up and started walking away from the phone. Eric’s dad said, “Isabelle, where the hell are you going? The phone is over there for Christ sakes!” Eric’s mom made a u-turn and was laughing at her own stupidity. Eric and his dad both looked furious and ashamed. If I could read their minds I would have thought they were thinking, how could anyone be so stupid. The whole scene was kind of embarrassing. Eric didn’t get to see his dad that often. His dad works long hours at the art store. It was one of the few times I ever saw his family together.

After the joint was gone we were all sitting there in silence. It was awkward, but at least no one was trying to fill the silence with meaningless babble. When Sharon was present, there was always an uneasy feeling. It was probably because she was a girl surrounded my young men. She wasn’t pretty nor was she ugly, but she did have large breasts I always found myself trying to ignore. The harder I would try the more she would flaunt them. She knew exactly what she was doing. “Excuse me,” she would say as she leaned over me to pick up the ashtray, or to pass the joint practically smothering me in her bosom.

Finally Eric broke the silence and asked, “so what have you guys been doing?”

When Eric asked a question about what is going on in your life, it usually meant he wanted to tell you about his life. “Not much, just been going to school and stuff,” I replied. “And you?”

“I’ve been busy working for Good Rush Couriers. They may give me a dispatch job soon, but I don’t know if I‘ll take it. I’ll be stuck on the phone all day and won‘t be able to get outside. Oh! You know all those rugs we took from the lobbies of those buildings?” They’ve all been replaced with new ones. Some of them are worth a lot of money,” Eric said enthusiastically.

“You’re not going to start stealing rugs again,” Sharon said with a tone of concern.

“Of course not although it was easy money. It was easier than riding my ass off all day.”

“Easy money until you got caught,” Ron said.

“Your dad would kill you if you got caught again,” I added.

“I’m not going to get caught stealing rugs because I’m not going to steal any rugs. Ok, can we talk about something else now?”

“Yo Dave what’s up,” I asked knowing I would only get a grunt or a shrug.

“Nothing,” said Dave.

“How’s school?” Sharon asked. “You go to McBurney don’t you?”

“It’s cool,” Dave said making his word total three since we arrived at Eric’s house.

“Do you have a girl friend?” Sharon asked poor Dave who was starting to get nervous.

“Nope,” Dave grunted.

“Dave’s never had a girl friend,” Ron said looking at Dave knowing it was making him very mad.

Dave gave Ron a dirty look.

Sharon smiled at Dave and said, “he’s so cute I find that hard to believe. You on the other Ron will be lucky if any girl goes near you.”

Ron always had a girl friend, and if he didn’t, it meant he was between girl friends. For reasons I don’t understand, women find Ron attractive. Only god knows why.

As the night went on Sharon made a few more attempts of trying to figure out Dave. She asked Dave if he wanted her to fix him up with one of her friends and Dave would chuckle a little and say, “no I’m cool. She asked Dave where he lived and then asked what his parents did for a living. This was the first time I ever heard Dave talk about his father dying. He told Sharon when he was eight years old he was going to visit relatives in New Jersey. He went into his parents bedroom to ask his dad a question but did not see his dad in the room. He left the room and asked his mother who was fixing her hair in the bathroom where dad was. She told him he should be in the bedroom. He went back to the bedroom and saw his dad’s feet sticking out beside the bed. His dad lay dead on the floor from a sudden heart attack. Dave said he sat on his parents bed for hours until the ambulance took his father away. It was really a sad story but Sharon handled it only the way a women could, by showing a lot of compassion and sympathy. Dave didn’t seem the least bit upset by telling the story. I think all of us were more disturbed by the story than Dave was by telling it. To Dave, it my have been a relief.

Shortly after the sad story Ron Dave, and I rode our bikes home. I didn’t sleep very well that night.

The Next Few Months

The next few months at school were fun. I didn’t go to any classes in the traditional sense, but was getting class credit for making enlargements for Abby a couple of hours in the morning each day, and cleaning up shit at the humane society for the remainder of the morning. Abby encouraged me to carry my camera and take photographs all the time. And when Eric got me a job with Good Rush Couriers after school, my photograph collection grew. Abby was very enthusiastic about my work and that motivated me to take even more photographs. Eventually I never left home without my camera. Even Eric began taking photographs of New York while doing deliveries.

I loved riding my bike and got paid to do so. Eric and I would compete to see who would made more money each week. Bicycle messengers are paid a commission for each delivery. The more deliveries you make, the more you got paid. It was a good incentive to work hard. Even though I was faster than Eric on my bike, he always made more. He was working twice the hours I was, but he never made twice as much. I made sure to point that out to him and even was so kind as to do the math for him. I know that irritated him. That’s why I did it.

Dave continued to go to school and did well for someone who was always intoxicated. Dave’s school was a very good academic private school that did not tolerate rebellious trouble makers like Dave. Dave must have been truly gifted because he was able to pass all of his classes in his state, a state of perpetual intoxication. He would occasionally get into a fight, but usually got in them after school was out so the teachers never found out. One time he got suspended for a whole week. It was one of those things that you have to laugh about because you can’t believe it really happened. One day during lunch hour, Dave and a few other students drank a few beers a couple of blocks from school. Dave had to urinate really bad so he told his friends to go back and he would be right behind them. After his friends had started back for school, Dave ducked into a vestibule and starting pissing. As his urine flowed out and there was no turning back, his teacher who happened to live in the brownstone entered the vestibule and saw Dave pissing. She was not pleased and neither was Dave’s mother when he was suspended. They never did get him for being drunk. They only got him for pissing in public. Dave said it could have happened to anyone, but my mother said that kind of stuff doesn’t happen to normal people.

Ron of all people got a decent job in a large bookstore in the mid-town area. I always thought it was kind of odd that a high school drop out got a job in a book store. Ron said the manager, a women 12 years his senior, took a liking to him. Ron was kind of embarrassed by hanging out with her in front of us. Not only was there a large age difference, but the women was missing most of her fingers. Ron said he didn’t notice until they became intimate but didn’t care at the time. The relationship lasted only a couple of months before they parted on good terms. Ron was able to keep his job.

In February, my class with Abby ended. For a final finally, I was invited to an opening of her work at the prestigious George Ross Gallery in Greenwich Village. I had no idea what to wear or what to expect. I dreaded the event because I knew there would be a lot of homo’s and artists at the opening. When ever I was surrounded by homo’s, there would always be at least one that would stare at me and sometimes they even proposition me. It made me want to put my fist through their faces. God I hated those perverts!

It was about 30 degrees outside. I didn’t feel like waiting for the subway so I rode my bike to the village. It was a cool crisp evening but once I was riding I forgot how cold it was. I didn’t ride very fast because I was in no hurry to get there. When I was in front of the gallery I rode past once to scope out the event. The gallery was very crowded, filled with capacity with young artists, old artists, former hippies and current hippies, and even some punk rockers. And of course a lot of homo’s. I slowly locked up my bike to a parking meter a couple of doors down from the gallery and slowly made my entrance. I entered the gallery and was immediately greeted by an attractive women at a desk wearing a French beret. “Can I help you?” She asked.
“My name is Josh. I was invited by Abby,” I said still scanning the place trying to take in as much as possible.

“Oh hi Josh. Abby said you would be coming. She’s over there” She pointed towards at least thirty people. “Go on in and introduce yourself.”

“Thanks,” I said trying to fight an anxiety attack. I always hated hellos and goodbyes. Sometimes to avoid the goodbye at a party or social event, I would just get up and leave without telling anyone.

Just when I was starting to feel like Dave, I spotted Abby surround by a group of people. She was beneath a large photo that was hanging on a freshly painted white brick wall. She looked like she was giving a lecture about the image. The photo was of a couple of naked people walking on a lonely country road, one man and two women. None of their faces were visible, but everything else was. The women were unshaven in their private areas and had hair protruding from their underarms. They probably hid their faces because they knew they were passing off that crap as art. The gallery was a big white square with two brick walls and two smooth plaster walls, and the walls were filled with Abby‘s photos. It was a very large and bright gallery. Placed around the gallery were a couple of podiums with vases filled with beautiful flowers, and a table filled with champagne in big silver buckets and plenty of plastic wine glasses.

“Josh!” Abby yelled from across the room. “Come over here.”

Suddenly for some reason I felt a burst of confidence and made my way through the traffic of people. When I reached Abby she gave me a big hug and kiss. Her breath smelled like alcohol. “Everyone,”
She announced, “this is Josh. He’s one of my assistants who helped me in the darkroom.”

“I bet he did,” someone from the crowd yelled.

“Josh printed some of the photos that are on display in the gallery.”

I looked around and immediately saw that every single one of the images I saw in the gallery was something I had printed for Abby. Pretty good deal I thought to myself. Get a student to do all of work for free. And a pretty good deal for me too. Get class credit for making enlargements all morning.

Abby broke away form the crowd that surrounded her and took me to the champagne table and poured me a drink. You’re not driving she asked and I told her just a bicycle. I think she was joking. She gave me another hug and told me I was such a cute kid. Man was she wasted. She walked me around the studio and introduced me to some of her friends. I took a good look at these people and wondered if I would be like them in 20 years. Somehow I didn’t think so. They all seemed nice, but they didn’t seem like real people. They were images of stereo types, the starving artist, the happy gay couple, the old hippies with long gray hair and purple wool turtle necks, women with crew cuts and 20 piercing in their eyes and noses. Where were the normal guys that liked the Yankees or just wanted to talk sports? They weren’t there.

After Abby went back to talking about her photos, I went over to the champagne table and poured myself a drink, and then another and another. After the alcohole took effect I was feeling very good. I realized that the lighting had dimmed and small spotlights were illuminating all the photographs. In the background they were playing electronic space music adding to the festive atmosphere. I walked around and mingled with the crowd and actually got up the nerve to converse with people about art and how I printed her photos. People were very interested about my printing techniques. I tried to make it sound more complicated than it really was. In reality all I did was guess how much exposure was needed, and did it till I got it right. There was really nothing to it, but some of these people thought I was some kind of printing wizard.