Monday, March 24, 2008

Update Part I

Thank you for the overwhelming response to The End of This Blog.
One regret: for all of those people who wrote me heartfelt e-mails to which I never responded. I am
fully aware that your sentiments and opinions were just fine living inside your heads. That you felt the
urge to write to me and express all that is not lost on me, if fact you made my day and then some. But one thing about me – I just get shy and nervous when I receive praise, especially when it’s genuine like
that. I responded to some of you, but not to most.

And for that I’m truly sorry. I’d usually read the e-mail, feel touched, and hurriedly close the message,
saying I’d get back to it later. Just me being a freak – I was always grateful and happy, please know that.

So! Update on stuff. I can do that.

My “New” Job:
I quit my job. The fantastic job that sucked. I just walked out one day, around 11:00 a.m, after a mind-blowing ambush/backstab. I have only done that one other time in my life. Hate doing it.

But then something magical happened. And you know what? The same magic happened last time, too.

Both times, I walked out and never looked back. Both times, I went straight home, feeling joyous, and went out and *immediately* found the job I’d always wanted.

Last time was 1997. This time was – obviously – 2007. I work in Century City now, doing the same type of work but in a capacity that is acceptable to me.

The real Michele came to visit in August. We ran around LA – downtown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills. We went shopping, went to a spa, went out clubbing and dancing, went to the beach, went to Mann’s Chinese and Hollywood Boulevard. We did it all in three days! No drugs or drinking. A first in our friendship. I am going to visit her in May for a whole week -- the first paid vacation I have ever received from a job in my life. I’m totally going to milk that shit for all it’s worth!

So yeah, the “real” Michele is doing very well. So is “Brit” – I talk to him every so often.

The “real” Tanya and Ollie are fucked. He was arrested a year ago for beating a puppy to death. Yeah, that one really shocked me. I found out by googling his name which is pretty unique. It makes me wonder if they didn’t get into some super hard shit. Like, crack or meth. What could make a person do that?

I will update more soon. I just had to “break the seal,” to remind myself how easy it is to post.

Oh, also, I just cut a foot of hair off my head. No, I didn’t donate it to Locks of Love because it was fried to hell.


ex-millennial girl



Me and my daughter:


I feel so free now! I realized that my hair had become this THING that was taking over my life!! To keep long hair healthy, you need: special comb, special hair dryer, special straightening goo, special shampoo and conditioner, special rubber bands, etc etc etc. Taking a bath? Forget it! Terrible, worrisome procedure: a few strands of hair might get wet, and then I’d have to blow those strands dry. I was *always* thinking about my hair. I would not do certain activities if I’d just blown my hair straight, or else risk ruining my ‘do. So I walked into Rudy’s Barbershop in Silverlake one day and said “just chop it off.” I never looked back at the (probably) huge pile of hair I left behind. It’s a 100% pageboy cut -- I can’t straighten it right now, or I look like the Berries n Cream Starburst guy. So I just wash ‘n go!!!!! I have not done that in probably ten years. I’m like: fuck straight hair. So, so over it.

So, okay -- I have a neato thing to share with everyone, and I will do so in my next post. Love and miss you all,


Thursday, December 20, 2007


A couple of months prior to our trip, I finally told Tanya and Ollie what I did for a living. Their response was a couple of grunts and a shrug. We were up to our elbows in dope and nothing mattered.

But on this trip, I could feel the seed embed itself in their brains and begin to sprout. We all slowly awakened to many feelings and sensations and thoughts – one of which was “A stripper rents a room from us. How should we deal with it?” In my head, “Is this whole living arrangement in trouble now?”
These thoughts existed, but were in the backs of our minds. While upstate, we lived in a fantasy world. We escaped from everything.

The afternoon we returned to Cary’s house was a bad one for Tanya. We were lowering our methadone doses and this one hit her particularly hard. We had no other source of illegal methadone, so she couldn’t up her dose to keep comfortable. When we arrived, she had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, shuddering. Cary was very nurturing towards her. She overplayed her suffering like a child and demanded to be hand—fed chicken noodle soup. I acted concerned but I was annoyed. First off, Cary almost died from AIDS less than a year ago. I could never make a fuss like Tanya was making and really expect sympathy from Cary. But she did. Second, Cary’s whole family was there, and Tanya was the person most familiar with all the family members. By overplaying her sickness, and isolating herself and Ollie physically in another room, she made my initial experience awkward.

Luckily, Cary’s family turned out to be friendly. I drank wine with his late-50s parents. I remember telling his father that he absolutely had to see Tommy the movie if he wanted a prime example of good cinematography.

After calming Tanya down, Cary came out of “her” room and procured a joint from his pocket. He said it was sprinkled with coke.

We sat outside on the back porch to smoke it. It was chilly and pitch-dark. Soon, I began to hallucinate that snow was falling. Ollie said he saw the same thing: snow.

After the soaring high was over, I went back into the house and talked more with Cary’s parents and his brother.
Cary was gay – a flamer. He’s the chubby type with meticulously-groomed, female-arched brows. His brother, Glenn, was a gruff upstate redneck-woodsman. As opposite as the brothers were on the male spectrum, they had an interesting similarity. No matter what Cary ever said, whether it was a response to a question, or telling a story, or anything – in essence, the real message was always the same: “Whatever! I’m lewd, gay, and proud!”
His brother exhibited this same trait, except for he always conveyed: “Whatever. No matter what, your problems will never be as bad as mine.”
It was both alarming and comforting to know what to expect from these two guys.

That night, we built a bonfire. It seemed crazy to build a bonfire where we did: under a huge pine tree. The tops of the flames were only maybe 10 feet below the tree’s boughs. I expected the tree to catch flame at any moment, but it didn’t. Glenn said it was one the wettest upstate summers on record. That must have saved us. We dragged all the nice lawn furniture in a circle around the flames. I felt bad for creating such a white trash spectacle in their quaint, pretty yard, but Tanya explained that Cary’s parents live under this rule: Cary and his friends can do whatever they want, because Cary’s family is so grateful Cary didn’t die from AIDS. I think they might have even promised God while Cary was on his deathbed. This immunity made me feel uncomfortable. As friendly as the parents were, they were utterly defeated by this lifestyle. Their beautiful home full of nice furniture was covered in dusty filth, hairballs, and dirty clothes. No one seemed to notice. I asked Tanya about this and she just shrugged and said it was normal.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I'm almost afraid to do this, but I will continue the narrative for a little while. I need to keep writing and have not picked up any new projects yet. I want to keep up my momentum, just in case.

August 2000.

Because Tanya and Ollie were my true roommates, when I woke up that morning, it was the most comfortable feeling one could have while vacationing with friends. Hey, I already lived with them, so there was no awkwardness about bathroom use or grouchiness.

Before we could fully dress for the day, Tanya called out “We must go to Stewart’s and get donuts for breakfast! And their milk!”

“Of course!” Ollie replied.

Stewart’s is a brand quite a few Americans are used to, but only because of their cream sodas. You can find them in most grocery stores. But Stewart’s is a dairy-based chain store in upstate New York, and maybe other places, too. Stewart’s is like a cross between A&P and 7-11 and Krispy Kreme. A&P, because of the limited yet varied selection of goods offered, 7-11 because of it’s convenience, and Krispy Kreme because it’s donuts are awesome. An added bonus (Tanya would emphasize), is it’s own brand of milk, which she considers the freshest, ever.

We gathered up our breakfast quickly, drove back to the cabin, dumped it all into a little rowboat that was beached next to our cabin, and rowed out onto Lake George. We were so hasty, we forgot to pack cups for the milk and napkins. So we poured the milk directly into our mouths and swished our sticky hands in the lake.

I looked up at the rolling mountains. Compared to the Rockies, they were just large hills. A person could climb that part of the Adirondacks with no trouble. It reminded me of a documentary I’d seen regarding the northeast and how it had been completely deforested around the beginning of the 1900s.

“I can’t believe,” I said, “that just a hundred years ago those hills were all cut down for lumber.” I looked at their lush greenness. I tried to imagine the hills completely black, bare, and smoldering, how they must have appeared around 1900.

“Yeah,” Tanya said. We’d watched that documentary together.

I get that feeling a lot when I’m out in the woods. When Colonials discovered America, it was almost all virgin growth. That means that every forest we visit nowadays has been replanted within the past century and a half. Maybe a little more. But really, just baby forests.

After breakfast, it was time for me to be introduced to Tanya and Ollie’s favorite Upstate pastime: mushroom hunting. Not the fun, trippy ones. The real, edible ones.

Previously, at our apartment, I’d seen Tanya and Ollie bring back brimming boxes of mushrooms from upstate. Ollie would do something with the mushrooms and some butter which completely dissolved the shape of the mushroom. I think he fried them while using and egg beater. I don’t know. All I know is the resulting product looked like foamy diarrhea and I never tried it, although they proclaimed it ambrosial.

So we drove to a state park. In a state park, all plants and wildlife are protected. By now, I was used to their grab-assing of other people’s produce but they did warn me to hide any mushrooms I had if we spotted a park ranger.

This was never a problem with me as I never spotted a single mushroom. After endless descriptions and after Tanya personally showed me what an edible mushroom looks like when it’s still in the ground, I never found a single one. Ever. They found hundreds upon hundreds. Very embarrassing for me, but I was actually satisfied to be the dunce. Instead of having an eye for mushrooms, I found other nature and observed it instead. There were many mosquitoes and I seemed to be the only one of our group to be constantly under their fire.

As we were hunting deep in the woods, a park ranger stopped us. That’s right, he walked up just as Tanya and Ollie were picking while I lingered behind, empty handed.

“Hey there! This is a protected forest! What are you doing?” he demanded.

“Oh! Oh hi!” Tanya called back with the same intensity, but she implied total friendliness, like he’d stumbled upon us while we were singing Christmas carols and sipping cider. Her tone of voice was so convincing, he changed his tune immediately.

She excitedly showed him her cardboard box full of fungal booty.

I was skeptical about how it would play out, but knew from strip club experience that a Russian woman’s passion and intensity could win anyone over.

In thirty seconds, the ranger was Tanya’s buddy. I was incredulous. Tanya told him how great the mushrooms tasted, and even showed him how to spot them.

“Well, I never knew those things were edible,” he said. “I see ‘em everywhere.”

Instead of taking her mushrooms and banning us from forests state-wide, he engaged her in a several-minutes long discussion about fungi and pointed us deeper in the woods, where we were sure to find more.

“Oh,” he called, just as he started to walk on, “When you leave the park, look at the front door to our ranger station. There is a huge white mushroom there that looks just like a human skull. I sure would like to know what that thing is called!”

“Of course!” Tanya smiled.

The ranger walked away, and we all collapsed into laughter.

The hunt resumed.

When they felt they had a meal’s worth, we drove out. Of course, we saw the huge skull mushroom at the ranger station, and Tanya poked her head out of the car. Calling out to a totally bewildered ranger, she screeched the name of the mushroom and said to pass the info on to our ranger. He said he would.

Back at the cabin, Tanya and Ollie cooked the mushrooms and ate them, 2 girls 1 cup style. I never saw it, because based on my experiences back in our apartment, the smell and sight of it was truly grotesque.

That night, we were to return to their gay friend’s house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dinner at the Park Plaza Hotel

Thank you for the overwhelming response to my final post. I have written an update and will post it soon. In the meantime, here is a short story I wrote. It is in the ex-millennial world, but it took place after Lake George – in September of 2000. I wrote this story a few months ago to submit to an anthology. It was chosen to be published, but got rejected at the last minute because I am an unpublished author. I could make a wry observation about the irony but really, I respect their decision – it is what it is.

But since it won’t see the printed page, I’ll share it with you. This is probably the first thing I put on my blog that has undergone many drafts and editing. So any criticism you offer will cut me to the bone!!! Just kidding.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The waiter announced the specials. I never listen when they announce the specials. So annoying. I can't help but hold my breath and wait for it to end, smiling vaguely.

"And also we have our chef's version of Shrimp Provencal: a reduction of garlic, tomato, and parsley with a splash of Pernod, topped with grilled shrimps." After a short bow, he left us.

I cringed. "Shrimps? Why do some people say 'shrimps'? The plural of shrimp is shrimp."

My date didn't care.

I leaned into Mitchell's ear. "It's like people who put words in quotations to emphasize them, instead of just underlining. Quotations are not for emphasis." I didn't know why I was blathering on about quotations.


"I don't know," I sighed. "Anyway, I think it's very Midwestern. To use quotations like that."

It was my first date with Mitchell. I was 22, he was fifty-something, dressed in his standard expensive gray suit. His stringy hair was combed over, his flexible mouth always froglike.

The waiter came back. "Have you selected a wine?"

God yes. The wine was selected by Mitchell long before tonight. "Yes. We will start off with the La-Fitte Rothschild. I see you have the 1970," Mitchell thrilled.

"Ah, yes," the waiter's eyes glistened with lust. It was an $800 bottle of wine. "Yes, sir." He walked away, snappy.

Mitchell looked at me with sex in his eyes. "I want to see you taste it. I want you to feel…" he stopped, too emotional to continue. His left hand curled into a fist involuntarily.

I waved it off embarrassingly. "Oh, I know, you've been telling about that vintage for over a year now." And he had. He even called it "The La-Fitte", as if were a work of art or precious artifact; "The Mona Lisa," "The Hope Diamond." I never thought I'd get the opportunity to taste such a wine.

"And now I can watch as you taste…" he shook his head, wearing a theatrical expression.

"I'm sure it will be fine."

He glanced up quickly as if to slap me, but checked himself. "I think you'll find it better than fine." He laughed. "We'll order you some lobster to go with."

"Okay." I didn't care.

The waiter came back to take our food orders, sans wine. "We have someone in our cellar right now, fetching it," was his explanation. The Park Plaza Hotel had a huge wine cellar, for sure.

Mitchell laughed knowingly. In his mind, obtaining the La-Fitte, even if you owned it, should never be an easy task. I couldn't help myself, either: I pictured a rodent-like servant, one of Cinderella's coachmen, scurrying underground to find the prized, cob-webbed bottle.

The restaurant was golden, and all of the furnishings reflected light. Everything from the carpet, drapes, up to the chandelier. I looked down at one of my spoons and saw the Park Plaza's double-P logo. I thought of the children's book Eloise. By the end of the night, I managed to steal that spoon.

The waiter came to present the La-Fitte to Mitchell. Now was Mitchell's chance to perform the ritual of sniffing, swirling and so on that goes with the opening of a fine bottle of wine. I'd been a waitress once upon a time, so I knew the drill.

Still, it was obnoxious. After what seemed like ages, I finally held my own glass.
It didn't taste like any red wine I'd ever had. It tasted of perfumed velvet draperies and purity. The elements. Completely non-acidic and beautiful. After three sips, I felt a buzz, a combination of any drug I'd ever liked, in corresponding proportions: 50% heroin, 20% cocaine, 10% good ganja, and 20% fine cognac.

Oh damn you, Mitchell, you got me. He won. He laughed as I tried to find the words to explain The La-Fitte. Then we laughed together.

The lobster was beautiful and impressive, served on a bed of greens, presented to me on a silver platter. Cute, but I forgot I'd have to use my hands to crack the shell open. I didn't want my fingers to smell like a wharf. After witnessing me give up after just two minutes, Mitchell rolled his eyes and started cracking the lobster for me. He was too cheap to think that lobster meat was going to waste. That's why the dinner and the wine were so special. It all cost real money, something Mitchell had plenty of but didn't like to share with strippers like me.

Mitchell was my regular customer at the club, one of just a few who had my personal telephone number.

My favorite customer, Richard, was good for a free meal as long as I looked pretty and said very little, and Richard never tried to fondle me. With Richard, I could enjoy my dinner. Three crab cakes nestled in tiny poufs of herbed mayonnaise and generously topped with golden caviar, an earthy mesclun salad, flourless chocolate cake. I could order whatever I wanted, whatever the expense. Richard was a gentleman.

Mitchell gave me good money, but usually wanted value for his dollar. I think that's why I gave him my real phone number. It was a deal. Personal information meant intimacy, and he felt he'd paid the required amount for that.

I called Mitchell to set up our dinner date. He was shocked. I usually play so hard to get, fighting off his octopus arms when he visited me at the club.

Lately, I'd been getting behind on my rent. I worked as few days as possible to squeak by. Rent was due, I was drunk, and I knew Mitchell had $1000 to spare. I could call him up, act like I want to have dinner with him, and maybe he could bring a thousand in cash in his wallet…

After only ten minutes of talking to Mitchell, the real reason surfaced. He wasn't stupid. And I stupidly told him the $1000 was for rent money.

"Hmm, sure. Dinner," he purred.

A few months back, he'd offered to get me a little apartment on the Upper East Side so he could visit me on his lunch breaks. Could I go through with it? Could I ever fuck Mitchell? No way. Plus, I realized I'd hate myself even more if I lived in Mitchell's sleazy tryst apartment.

"Listen, let me get you that apartment and you won't have to worry about these things," he suggested darkly.

Working my way out of that argument was like fighting a jungle of man-eating vines, but I did it. We were set for Friday night at the Park Plaza Hotel for dinner, then a carriage ride around Central Park.

"I'd rather we skip the carriage ride," I said. "I hate seeing those horses suck down car exhaust. They should be on a farm."

"Those are old horses, don't you know? If they weren't pulling the carriages, they'd just shoot the poor bastards."

I started. "What about putting them 'out to pasture'? In a nice field Upstate somewhere?"

"At whose cost? Do you want to pay for their hay? Besides, horses like being put to work."

"Oh, alright. Carriage ride too. After dinner."

I heard his laugh.

After dinner, we walked leisurely through the halls of the Plaza's first floor shopping area, looking at the jewelry store displays.

"If this store were open, I'd get you that ring." He pointed to a cocktail ring fit for an eighty year old society matron.


"Doesn't that excite you?"

"Um. Yeah, sure." I always forgot to do that. To act excited.

"C'mon, let's go catch a carriage."

After we climbed into the buggy's cab, the horses started off, jerkily.

"Here, you two," the driver threw a disgusting fur blanket over our laps. He acted as if he were talking to lovers.

"Eww," I complained, pushing the blanket off.

"Come on, it's cold outside," Mitchell smiled. "Plus, it gives us a little privacy."
Mitchell made loud lovebird noises for the driver's benefit. The driver grinned back at us. Mitchell grabbed between my legs, prying them apart.

My eyes were hot with tears. "You're embarrassing me," I whispered.

"Why? Do you find me embarrassing?" He pulled back to stare at me.

"No," I whispered. His breath was rotten underneath. It was always rotten underneath. I felt like if I kissed him, I would come away with a hair in my mouth. He'd given me sloppy kisses on my hand before, and his dried spit smelled of Dumpster.

"Then pull on the blanket."

I did. I was much warmer with the blanket, which I imagined was coated with the semen of at least fifty guys. A brittle, protective inner layer. The buzz from the La-Fitte was gone.

He nuzzled with me. I let him, always watching for the driver's stare. Then Mitchell smashed his hand against my breast, working his fingers inside my blouse. This disgusting action was not covered by the blanket.

"No, please," I hissed, and he hissed back, "It's the money," and I realized he had dollar bills in his hand.

"Let me give you the money, this way."

I shook my head, looking more like I was convulsing.

"Listen, do you think I carry around this kind of cash? You called me, remember? I went to the bank for you!" He was almost yelling.

I nodded, and his hand entered my bra, the sharp bills poking my nipples as he smothered the rest of my breast with greedy grabs.

I held my breath, reminding myself that after he took his hand away, I'd be left $1000 richer and wouldn't have to worry for another month. After this, I'll work more. I'll show up four nights a week, I promise. Or maybe next time I'll just call Richard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

At Last

I did wake up the next day in the Adirondacks, and it was beautiful.

But that’s where the story will have to end. I’ve been putting off writing this post, The Last Post. I’ve worried about hand-crafting each word to give anyone who has read this whole thing a sense of closure.

I can't put this off anymore. I have to break up with Ex-Millennial Girl. But we’ll still be friends.

I’m taking my life in a new direction, and it’s time to take my writing elsewhere. If it wasn't for this blog and everyone who’s read it, I might still be living the kind of life I had in 2003-2004, years that I barely remember. I barely remember. So yeah, it was bad. This blog has been an important part of my recovery.

Now I know my story was pretty interesting.
Now I know how I must have seemed to others back in 1999-2000, without the cushion of self delusion.
Now I know I can put words together and form something coherent.
Now I know that there’s no one else to blame but myself, but I also realize I can be in control if I stay awake.
So here I go.

With Love,

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lake George

Late August, 2000.

Sometimes, I find, when we try to do something new in ignorance, it works out better than if we knew our shit. I’ve found this to be true, and my friends have, too. Like recently, when I had all 4 of my impacted wisdom teeth out? I did it in one visit, and with only Novocain as a painkiller. I had no idea this was a really crazy thing to do, and didn’t find out until afterward, when I was doing just fine. See? I was ignorant, and it worked out for the better. They say that women in some parts of the world view childbirth as no big deal, and have babies almost painlessly because they don’t know it’s supposed to hurt.

My point is, when Leila got busted and all I had was maybe 240mg (or g?) – 8 pills of methadone, I thought it was an ample supply to help me kick opium. I doled out the methadone bit by bit, day by day, not realizing 8 pills was nothing. But the pills cost $180 and thus seemed like a lot – a ton of methadone.

Tanya had her own pills. I guess Ollie kicked while in jail. Awful.

After a week of dodging Tanya, I went back to my apartment yet again for clothes. It was getting tiring. But at that point, Tanya confronted me as I tiptoed around.

“I want to talk to you – you have time?”

“Sure.” All I had was time.

“My friend who was here last time you came – Marina?”

I nodded my head.

“She said I should talk to you – you looked like you were walking on eggshells, she said,” Tanya laughed a little.

“Well, I mean-”

“It’s okay, I understand. Ollie is getting out of jail tomorrow. He gets to stay home until they sentence him.”

“Tanya, I am so sorry.”

“Well, he should have called me and told me what was happening instead of making me wait!” she snapped.

I was surprised at her anger over this issue – I later learned that was what she had been upset about the whole time. About Ollie not calling her as soon as he got arrested. How dare he? She focused on that issue solidly. It almost didn’t matter that he was in the slammer. Just that he didn’t give her a call when he was in the back of the squad car. Would that have really made it better? But I didn’t press the issue. It was clear Ollie would get shit for this for months to come. Serious shit, so I kept my mouth shut.

I was not in the apartment when Ollie got home – I wanted them to have a couple’s privacy. But when I came back home for good, it was not just to see my roommates again. Ollie was part of my family, I felt, and I was happy for our little tribe to be whole again.

Over time, (and I haven’t talked about this much) the three of us had become quite close. We could sit for hours together, watching movies, and not talk. And yes, we could finish each other’s sentences. They talked only in English around me, believing it rude to speak Russian. (“Of course you would think we were talking about you, right?” – and I agreed. That’s always what if felt like when people spoke different languages in front of me.) If they did use their mother tongue, Tanya or Ollie would quickly look over to me and give me the gist of it, and I would always nod as if to say “no sweat, it’s cool”.

We watched a lot of TV during those first few days. There were many bottles of liquor in their closet, which we brought out and drank, to supplement the methadone. We were down to taking one-half a pill per day, per person. Jitters had started to kick in, and the nights were getting a little sleepless. But alcohol cured all that.

Our apartment building had a recycling program, so our empty liquor and beer bottles accumulated every day. “We is fucking alcoholics,” Ollie muttered to me one day as we stood in the kitchen, trying not to knock down a wall of tall green bottles lined up on the floor.

“Nah,” I said.

That was enough to make him grin.

Daytime was the most pathetic, because we started drinking before noon, and sat by the TV. “We need a trip. Let’s go somewhere,” Tanya sighed, smiling.

Ollie and I got excited. The matriarch had spoken. (Remember, I was 22 years old, Ollie was 30, and Tanya was 43. She was the mother of the clan. She also spoke English much better than Ollie.)

“Where?” I asked, like a child.

“Upstate,” Ollie said, as if that were the only place to go.

“You know I used to live upstate. We go there a lot,” Tanya reminded me. Of course they did – those were the times I got the apartment to myself.

I had $250 to my name, and it was two weeks until rent was due. That seemed like forever. And if I was late with the rent, my roommates knew full well why that would happen – so what did I have to lose? I had no job that expected me to show up.

Let’s get the fuck out of here!

We borrowed Ollie’s brother’s car. (Ollie’s car was impounded as evidence.) Driving upstate was so much fun. They were great traveling companions. They were just like me. Any time we saw an abandoned farmhouse, we’d pull over and investigate. (One time, we wandered through a peeling rural manse and even peeked into the outhouse. It was wallpapered with real newspapers from the early century – layers of them. Also there were rusty contraptions strewn throughout the tall, weedy lawn. We finally left because briars kept ripping apart out pants.)

If we saw a crop or orchard, we pulled over, picked the best fruit or vegetable we could find, and each shared a bite.

“I love doing this,” Tanya smiled, chewing a bite of fresh crabapple, “it tastes like … life. Here have some. It’s very tart, not ripe yet.”

I ate it out of fellowship.

Our trip’s destination needs a little explaining. Tanya’s gay friend Cary, the one who had AIDS, lived in Saratoga Springs. Next to Saratoga Springs is Lake George. Our first night, we rented a cabin on Lake George, and then after that, we’d stay with Cary and his family. Cary lived with his family for very complicated reasons. At first, they denounced his homosexuality until he was at death’s door, dying of AIDS (yes, full-blown AIDS, not HIV). He was literally hours away from death. His family vowed their love for him at Cary’s bedside and promised they would do anything if he would just not die.

Well, he didn’t. The doctors started him on a new experimental drug as a last resort and it completely turned Cary’s life around. He got much better, gained weight, and became human again. His family was still stuck with their promise, so they housed Cary, who was in his late thirties, and let him run wild, having boyfriends over and let him party and smoke crack all he wanted. They were just so happy to have their little boy back from the dead. (More on this later.)

So our first night, we rented a cabin easily. It was the off season. The season had just peaked, so all the hotels were still open, and the trees had barely begun to turn their fall colors. On a map, Lake George is parallel to Vermont, New Hampshire, and the lower parts of Maine, so we were waaay the fuck up north, as far as this Florida girl’s concerned.

Our cabin smelled of mildew and dank, like a basement - one of my favorite smells. The cushions on the chairs were faded aqua-colored textured vinyl, and the couch was the same brown-and-gold “freedom 1976/old mill/wagon wheel” pattern still seen in many a grandparent’s home. And it felt like home to me.

Ollie and I got a pizza and we built a fire and all ate outside by the huge lake. I could have spent the rest of my life there. I feel that the most beautiful place to be is up north in the summertime. This was the end of summer, so the mosquitoes were gone. The smell of burning wood and the chirp of crickets, the heady mildew and everything – I wanted to enjoy every drop of night but couldn’t wait to wake up to this beautiful place the next morning.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Out of It

August 2000.

The finality of it: Leila and Ollie weren’t coming home soon. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had enough methadone to keep me from melting, but I really had to quit dope this time. And I had to get the fuck out of the apartment, because Tanya was going out of her mind. Every second in that apartment was like being in a cage with howler monkeys. But the howling was in Russian. A mish-mash of guttural, Cyrillic agony.

I wasn’t really “fighting” with Michele, so I called her. The first week of the incarceration, I stayed with Michele a lot. I’d managed to steal some choice buds of pot from Tanya when she wasn’t looking, and spent time smoking that pot with Michele. One day, we sat on the rooftop of Michele’s apartment building, smoking from a pipe.

“I got my teeth whitened,” she bragged. She felt superior to me because she’d been off dope for a while. She liked to talk about the progress she’d made in her life.

“You did?” I asked. “Well, they look good. I wonder what my teeth look like.” I whipped out a mirror. Squatting in the sun, I saw my teeth were horribly stained by opium-goo brownness. Michele saw it too. Instead of commenting, I flicked my mirrored compact into my purse.

“So I haven’t talked to you since I worked at Centro Fly!” she gasped.

“You worked there?”

“As a cocktail waitress. When I took a break from dancing.”

“Oh, wow. Cool. How was it?”

“It was okay. But sometimes? Oh my God! This one time, this whole party – it was a record company – they rented out the whole club. It was so cool.”

I nodded my head.

“Well, this was a party for Jive records, or Arista, or someone. And everyone at the party was famous! There was Monique, Mary J Blige, Puff Daddy.. and they were all having so much fun! There was none of that uptight bullshit, you know-”

I laughed and did an impersonation of an overly uptight person –

She laughed “Yes! There was none of that! And they were all dripping with diamonds.” She rolled her eyes and used a hand motion and tone of voice to indicate that “dripping with diamonds” was an affliction a person possibly could die from.

I gasped. “Oh my God! So it was probably fun just to be there, even though you were waiting tables…”

“It was. But I go soooo drunk. So when I was in the bathroom – guess who came in!? Mary J Blige!”

“No way! Did you say anything to her?”

Michele got even more excited. “When she was in front of the mirror, I told her I loved her music.”


“So she asked me if I sang and I said yes.”


“Yes! She was like, ‘Can you sing something for me?’ and I did!”

I clapped my hands to my face. “What did you sing???”

Michele looked at me like I was crazy for asking. “I sang ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston!” she squealed, eyebrows furrowed and neck cocked to the side.

“Oh,” I mumbled, like I should have known somehow. “So what did she say?”

“She said ‘Oooh, girl you sound good!’ It was so cool of her. I tell you, that woman is all class, I’m sure people sing crap to her all of the time.”

I was jealous.

I looked down into the little black film canister that held my pot. “Damn. You know, I stole this from Tanya. She’ll find out for sure. Fuck. I think I need to buy more weed so I can replace this before she knows it’s missing.”

“What? Fuck them! I can’t believe Ollie’s in jail!”

“I know.”

“When is he getting out?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard Tanya speak English for days, and I’m afraid to ask her anything.


I stayed with Michele in her Lower East Side apartment. She’d lived there for a while. Her new roommate was yet another domineering male, Jacob, an actor. He had long, shoulder-length sandy blonde hair and looked like Jesus. She hated him. Her room was the size of a postage stamp. I felt bad for her – all of her Manhattan rooms had been less than 12’ by 12’. Michele is a tall girl with a huge personality and presence. I couldn’t help thinking that she deserved the big bedroom I had for just $850 a month, but her rooms thus far were much smaller and much more expensive.

Her old roommate, Gino, was aggressive in his asshole personality, but Jacob was passive. Jacob’s situation was this: he was an actor who worked sporadically, and lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. So apparently, he decided to rent that tiny bedroom to Michele, place his bed in the living room area, and put up a curtain to divide his bedroom from the common area. His choice of fabric for this “privacy” curtain? Sheer, sheer white. It was ridiculous.

“I’ve come in here at night while he was having sex with some girl in his bed. I could see everything.” Michele hissed to me one day, disgusted.

“Oh man! What did he say the next day? Anything? Did you ask him about it?”

“Hell yeah I asked him! And you know what he said? ‘I’m just a very open person. Feel free to leave your bedroom door open if you have any guys over.’”


“He’s gross,” she nodded.

When I was at her place, I saw him dressed in nothing but a towel, many times. I was familiar with his ass crack by week’s end. His ass was weirdly shaped.

In interesting piece of news from Jacob came: he’d just been cast in an episode of Sex In the City.

“He’s all excited, because this is a big role for him,” Michele said.

“What’s his role?”

“I don’t know, but they’re going to call him ‘Marathon Man.’”

“Marathon Man? They’re going to run a race or something? Fight for the cure?”

“No. He said it has something to do with…” she giggled. “The ass. Like anal sex or something.”

“Ha! No way! Because he has like the weirdest ass I’ve ever seen!”

“You think it’s weird?”

“God yes!”

We collapsed into laughter on her mattress.

“Each ass-cheek is bean-shaped! Bad beans, too,” I said. “Droopy beans.”

We laughed.

“I bet they chose him based on his ass. He doesn’t even know! They chose him because his ass is deformed, and he’s so full of himself he thinks they chose him because of his acting! Gawd!” I screeched. “They’re going to embarrass him on television and he doesn’t even know it.”

[People who watch Sex in the City have told me that ‘Marathon Man’ does not show his ass during the episode, but the episode is about eating Kim Cattrail’s ass. Lovely.]

Michele’s living situation seemed unbearable to me. Like most Lower East Side tenements, the front door entered into the kitchen. The kitchen had barely enough room for the sink, cabinets, and a tiny dinette. The “living room” was curtained off, like I said, and the only places to go were her little bedroom or the bathroom. No elbow room in general, and if Michele decided she wanted to do a cartwheel, she’d have to go out on the street to do one – that’s how little room there was in that apartment.

I only visited my own apartment for clothes or for toiletries I absolutely had to have – my topical acne medication or my really great eyebrow tweezers. Every time I returned, Tanya was in the middle of a tearful phone conversation, screeching in Russian. I wanted to help her, but I knew that when she got like this, she really just wanted to be left alone.