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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beginning of End

I was a new incarnation of junkie. I knew I intentionally chose "the life" this time, so I couldn't fault anyone but myself, but it was the most pathetic version of junkie I'd ever been.

I told you about the dope - it was horrible. Horrible dope that made me puke. I worked harder to secure money for dope, so basically, all I did was run around town, and when I wasn’t running around town, I was either stripping or puking. Washing and blow-drying my hair became my biggest headache, because it took at least an hour and a half. I had no time for that, and my hair was perpetually greasy anyway.

I stood in the dressing-room mirror one night at VIP and noticed my nipples had fallen past the Halfway Mark. The Halfway Mark is an unspoken standard. Simply draw an imaginary circle over the breast, and if the nipple is entirely below the Halfway Mark, you might as well strip at a nude juice bar along with the amputees and bearded ladies.
My real, D-cup breasts had finally succumbed to gravity. Hey, I was aging fast - 22 already!

They weren't much past the Halfway Mark, but they definitely were. If all my co-workers sported real breasts, the Halfway Mark wouldn’t be so important, but my competition was almost all silicone and skyward.

I stood there in VIP dressing room, frowning at myself. Then I remembered the numerous strategies I’d seen employed by other girls, which inspired me to snatch up the unused Wet-n-Wild fuchsia lip liner and take it to my breast like an unloved child, and start scrawling on my nipples.

I drew nice, round nipples. Then I smudged the edges. I got so caught up in my art that I didn’t hear myself being called on stage until I had to leave in a gallop. I made it just in time. As I danced onstage, I was very conscious of my bright pink nips. I kept thinking of childhood ghost stories and how my new, vivid nips might figure in them.

After I climbed down, the crowd went wild. Every man wanted a dance from me. I knew it was the fuchsia.

* * *

Sometimes I went back to Scores to dance. This happened after I phoned one night, inquiring about the free housefees I was supposed to receive when the calendar came out (which it hadn’t yet), and I learned Scores had a new general manager. It was Scott, the same guy who coordinated the calendar shoot. Scott was a sweet guy. So sweet, in fact, that I thought to myself that Scores had given up on trying to act like it’s managers aren’t simply mafia puppets. Scott was an obvious puppet to a larger organization. But when I chatted with Scott on the phone, he promised me immunity any prior bullshit against me, assuring me that Scores, under his "rule”, would welcome me back with open arms.

It seemed funny to me, even then, that I felt that going back to the best club in the country was admitting defeat.

So I showed up on Sunday nights, which was totally allowed. Scores didn’t mind girls showing up on Sunday nights as they pleased, which brought out a lot of haggard bitches who might not have danced in years.

One time, I decided to show up on a weekday. I stood at the front of the dressing room, fucked up on opium. As I took off my streets clothes, I heard a gasp. It was the housemom. “Stefanie!” she yelled/gasped, like I was a puppy who’d just peed on her shoes.

I looked up in horror. “What?!”

“My GOD! You’ve lost weight!” A pause. “I mean, you look fabulous,” she fit in a lie, and it sounded like it, “but have you been dieting?”

Everyone else in the room stopped what they were doing and stared.

“Umm. No.” I looked in the mirror and saw nothing strange.

“So why have you lost so much weight?”

“Uhh. I… I guess sometimes…” I looked around at everyone who expected an answer. “Sometimes? I’m so busy right now, I mean, I just forget to eat.”

“Yeah, that happens to me, too,” said the housemom. She was morbidly obese, by the way.

I laughed, grateful. “Yeah, I mean, I just get so busy.” I looked down at the carpet.

Another girl nearby chimed in “Yeah. I get busy like that, too.”

* * *

My roommates had their own struggles with opium. They would kick sometimes. They’d rent a cabin upstate, take a batch of Darvoset and Tylenol IIIs with them and sweat it out. We were all trying to kick at the same time so we wouldn’t tempt each other. At this particular time, though, we were all on opium.

During one clean month in the Spring of 2000, my roommates Tanya and Ollie had saved enough money to buy a brand new car. Owning a car in New York is like owning a huge yacht. It’s not a needed form of transportation, but it will get you all the clout you want, if you can afford one. Tanya and Ollie honestly had no reason to own a car. So when they finally decided to go back on dope, Ollie had this brilliant idea: he would become Leila’s driver. For a cut of her nightly earnings, he drove Leila around town, sometimes accompanying her into the most luxurious penthouses in the city, as her chaperone and transportation. This went on for months. It was good for everyone – Leila’s benefits were obvious, and Ollie had a form of employment that was both lucrative and under the table. At that time he collected disability benefits from the government, a new, lighter version of he and Tanya’s many scams as a couple. He couldn’t hold a regular, taxable job.

He even introduced Leila to a Russian brand of sparkling, salty mineral water – an acquired taste. It was all I ever heard about for a while there. Damn, it I wanted some, too, but was too proud to ask.

My stripping earnings all went to dope. It was disgusting. So one night I asked Ollie to let me borrow $100. I lied, said I was clean, and I just needed money to “pay someone back for something.”

Of course I called Leila and asked her to meet me at our usual place. She was late, so went to a corner store and ordered gelato. When I walked out, still sucking on my mocha cone, I saw Ollie’s car pull up. With huge embarrassment, I bought the bag from Leila under Ollie’s stare. It killed me. I was caught in a lie. A huge lie.

That night, I vowed to get clean again. I didn’t care what the fucking strippers thought of me, but I didn’t want Ollie to think I was garbage.

The next day, I confronted Ollie before he had a chance to get Tanya all worked up about my lies.

“I’m getting clean. The very next thing I but from Leila will be methadone,” I vowed.

“Is good,” he agreed.

I bought a lot of methadone from Leila. Ollie told Tanya the whole story, and she decided that they should get clean, too. She bought a lot of little white pills for the to use. This time, we would really get clean.

* * *

The very next night, I sat with Tanya in the living room, waiting for Ollie to return. We planned to get clean together.

Ollie wasn’t answering his pager. Tanya grew more and more worried. I rolled my eyes and assured her he would call soon. After 24 hours, I wasn’t so sure.

The following is a genuine news article. But all names were changed:

A special education teacher who gave out cookies to students and kept exotic pets in her Harlem classroom was charged yesterday with possessing and selling drugs from a parked car in Manhattan. 

The teacher, Leila xxx, 51, and a friend, Ollie xxx, 30, were arrested Thursday night on 54th Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues after they sold cocaine to a man who earlier got into their car, according to prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney's office. 

The man was also arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, which was found in a bag in his pocket, said Greta Mxxxxx, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. Ms. Mxxxx said she did not have the man’s name. Police officers saw the man get into the backseat of the car when it stopped at 29th Street and 10th Avenue, she said. The man then handed over some cash, and Leila xxxx, who was in the passenger seat, handed him a bag, Ms. Mxxxx said. 

Earlier in the night, the officers had seen Ollie and Leila driving along Seventh Avenue and making several stops near 20th Street, she said. 

After the man left the car at 29th Street, police officers followed the car up to 54th Street, where they made the arrests. 

The police said Leila's handbag contained 86 bags of cocaine, 12 bags of heroin, and various quantities of opium, crystal methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Quaaludes, Valium and 100 other pills, according to a criminal complaint. 

Because the amount of drugs exceeded two ounces, Leila and Ollie, if convicted, could face maximum sentences of up to life in prison. Leila was arraigned last night and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second and third degrees, and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. Her bail was set at $100,000. Officials said Ollie, who lives on West 56th Street in Manhattan, was to be arraigned on the same charges late last night. 

Leila had an unblemished 25-year teaching record, according to Ms. Qqqqq, a spokeswoman for the Board of Education. 

Leila joined Public School ### in East Harlem in 1993, and teaches fourth grade. She lives alone in a penthouse apartment overlooking Gramercy Park, people in her building said. 

A spokeswoman for the district attorney said she did not know whether Leila or Ollie had a criminal record. 

Board of Education officials expressed surprise at the arrest. 

"It's very hard to believe," Ms. Jergens said. "I'm looking at this woman's record, where she has clearly stepped up the ladder in terms of teaching." She added that there were no complaints against Leila. 

"I'm sure she will not be with children until this is resolved," Ms. Jergens said. 

In the neighborhood around Leila's school on East 106th Street yesterday, students and a faculty member expressed anger upon hearing of the arrest. 

If the charges are true, "It's awful and unethical," said Jane Doe, a social worker employed at the school for the summer. 

"It's very unfair to the children that they don't have someone better teaching them, who could be a better role model." 

A group of schoolchildren who knew Leila described two sides to her. 

She had a quick temper and often shouted, for little reason, they recalled. 

Dari Vasquez, 13, said, "Sometimes she was mean, she would yell in my ear." 

But Leila often delighted them with the unusual menagerie she kept in her classroom, as well as her streaks of generosity, they said. 

The children described tanks of brightly colored fish, as well as an array of lizards whose tanks and cages adorned her classroom. 

They also said that she was known for giving out cookies, and that recently, she had baked gingerbread cookies with her class and built a gingerbread house, decorated with jelly beans. 

And she would also reward good behavior by giving out money.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What's Happening Now

I have not forgotten about his blog. I have a rambling post I keep meaning to edit and publish, but the past seems so silly right now, what with the present being so difficult.

Thing is, I don’t know if I can keep my job. And this is a really big deal to me – I thought this new job would provide me with new experience and a better income, which it can. I spent the last few weeks bitching and moaning to anyone who would listen about my new job, how impossible it is, how it’s everyone else’s fault. It’s my boss’ fault for being so disorganized and incommunicable, and it’s the VP’s fault for snatching up most of my work before I can do it (and learn it). But I realized last weekend that it was me. Me! My fault. I was hired to run a business. I’m not doing it so well.

And the mistakes I’m making? They’re starting to come back and bite us all in the ass. The problem? I didn’t see these matters as problems when I first encountered them! How can I give anyone a “heads-up” when I don’t see reason to at the time? These mistakes – I’m just learning about them when they’re so direly fucked-up that we’re all screwed! I feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time. I feel like I should go back to the area of my profession where I’m most knowledgeable.

Who the hell can train me when I had no training? “Here, steer this ship; now.” Is it acceptable for “training” to be an indeterminable period of time where I just fuck everything up and learn in that manner? No! I don’t think it is. I have suffered, for the first time in my life, serious health problems related to stress. At least a dozen doctor’s visits. And I’m not going to the gym 3 times a week. This is not me. This is not who I am now. I am strong, and all I feel lately is weak and stupid.

If this were a larger company, there would be people to ask, and resources available for me but there aren’t here. Today I cleared out my desk and took down my personal pictures. VP saw me. VP is younger than me. Her radar went off immediately and she closed the door and asked me if I was quitting. I said yes. She proceeded to give me the most friendly pep talk I’ve ever had. Which made me feel ten times worse. She related to me how she almost single-handedly fucked up the company too, when she was first hired many years ago. The boss even cried at her and screamed that she was ruining his business. But don’t worry, I’ll get used to it. I couldn’t help but smile/sob, but what these people perceive as a normal work environment is simply not. VP pops prescription blood-pressure lowering pills every day and still breaks out in hives, every day. It’s not healthy, it’s making me sick, and the horrible thing is I don’t get paid for overtime, which I’m expected to work every day (they want 10 hours a day from me). I don’t get it. VP thinks I can eventually catch on and she believes in me. Sweet. And genuinely honest. But do I want to?

I had a job interview a couple of years ago with the president of a company, an Israeli man. He was also a cokehead – I caught him doing coke when I walked into his office, which he played off like “I-just-have-the-sniffles; oh-wait-let-me-shut-this-small-lacquer-box; nevermind.” For all his weirdness, he said something to me that stuck in my head: “There are two kinds of people: ducks, and eagles. Ducks are content to sit and wait for instruction, ducks are good and dependable, but only if you want someone who does small things. Eagles: they soar high. They lead, they demand that others follow. They make things happen. I only hire eagles.”

Now, I can’t help thinking that – well, that I’m a duck! Should I just seek out a duck’s life, a duck’s job? Because if that would truly make me happy -- fuck, I’m a duck! I’ve fantasized quitting my job and bagging groceries for a little while. Seriously!

I will send my resume out on Monday again. I will answer any calls I get from headhunters. And if I get a job for less pay, I think I’ll take it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hill Street Blues

Back from jury duty, folks. Back from the filthiest chairs I have ever seen/sat in for 8 hours (due to the heavy mixture of dander, skin flakes, and upholstery deterioration, a yellow powder appeared to have been sprinkled all over them).

"California... the greatest state in the union. Where people live together in harmony... but not always. Sometimes justice is needed." Or so said the state-mandated video we were forced to watch. Testimonials abounded. "I knew I was going to have to wait a while, so I bought a book, and it wasn't that bad," smiled a plain Chinese woman, circa 1994.

Sights from 111 N. Hill Street: a camerman from lurking around the courtyard door, one homeless man carefully giving another homeless man a shave, countless ant infestations, and a woman screaming on the corner about the real identity of the illuminati.

LASC, fight fight fight!

I would have been on a civil trial anyway, which is boring but would not have given me nightmares for the rest of my life. I mean, WTF is a murder trial? Imagine, you, going around, minding your own busienss, then you get summoned to be on a jury for a muder trial where bloody exhibits get shoved in your face, tearful testimonies, pictures of mangled corpses -- how do you recover from that? I know all about the justice system, believe me, but it still doesn't seem fair. Whatever, i have to get to work this morning. See ya soon.