On the bedroom wall of their Soho loft hung two wooden plaques.
One read "Spirit of Leo" and the other, "Spirit of Gemini". The
Gemini plaque was inscribed with the information that, among three
other signs, Geminis are compatible with Leos; vice-versa for the
Leo plaque. When you read this, you thought how fitting it was,
how they did indeed seem to mesh in many ways, this former model
from Pittsburgh, this Black jazz bass player. She was older than
he was, and he liked the fact that she took good care of him in
her slow, meticulous way. She was a pro vegetarian cook, but, as
he told friends, "no rocket scientist". She was always a hard worker,
though, and he admired that. When he was between gigs, she worked
part-time in bakeries and in record stores, and she did so uncomplainingly.
Too old to model, she was still a tall, sexy redhead, like a girl
out of his childhood fantasies, and she liked to act out sexual
fantasies, too. When he went on tour, he promised to be faithful,
and he meant to be. But the other dudes would have thought that
he was pussy-whipped, and besides, those German girls, those German
girls! One was named Greta and she played electric violin. Back
home, he confessed to his wife, and she accepted all. Why didn't
she give him an argument, the dumb-ass bitch, he thought. That night
in bed she told him she was pregnant.
Their son was named Eric, but the
Gemini called him "Little Man". He liked to swing him over his shoulders.
"Little Man" had his musical genes; he was always drumming with
silverware. A phonecall one day from the Gemini's manager--his band
had been offered a six-month tour. Greta travelled with them. When
he returned, he told the Leo he needed a woman with talent. Little
Man was only one and a half years old, he hardly knew his father,
so a divorce shouldn't really affect him, the Gemini rationalized.
The Leo found herself another Gemini--a
Black homicide detective who loved children.
"I've always heard that cops have
the best drugs." she told him when they met, and he proceeded to
prove the truth of that rumor for years. She kept the plaques up
on the bedroom wall. The cop also sometimes got annoyed with her
big, passive, cow-like blue eyes, which accepted anything, which
endured anything, but he didn't leave her. After all, she was a
hot sexy redhead, and she took real good care of him, real good
care of him.
He was a delicate old man with feathery white hair, and even though
he was Jewish, he'd spent the last 17 years living in a YMCA in
New Orleans. He liked living there, he had his friends, all retired
gentlemen like himself, all good poker players. At this point, he
could outguess their moves. But then he had a stroke, and after
he recovered, his daughter was worried that he might have another
one, and she wanted him living near her. Her lawyer husband bought
him a co-op studio on West 90th Street in New York City. There was
only one other senior citizen in the building, a Mrs. Wilensky.
She was a kind-hearted lady, hard-of-hearing, not too bright. Sometimes
they went to Riverside Park together. His daughter lived in Maspeth,
Long Island. Every weekend his son-in-law picked him up in his maroon
Cadillac Seville and silently drove him out to their house for dinner.
The old man had three grand-daughters.
They were plump, sulky teenagers who seemed to always be polishing
their fingernails. His daughter had to reprimand them to say hello
to their grandfather. "Get off our cases!" they'd whine.
When it was Marcy's birthday, Grandpa
brought her a blouse he'd purchased in K-Mart: white rayon with
lace at the collar.
"Here, darling, much joy to you,"
"Ooh, tack-y!" Marcy replied, her
expression even more sour than usual.
The next day Grandpa went to the park
with Mrs. Wilensky. "Did you have a good weekend?" he asked, when
they were positioned comfortably on a bench with cans of grape soda.
"Yes, it is the spring season," she
said, nodding happily.
Grandpa opened up his New York
Post. On page four, there was a photo of a dark-haired local
college girl. She had been abducted while waiting for a taxi in
her hometown on spring break, then raped and stabbed to death by
"Why are you crying? What is it, my
darling?" Mrs. Wilensky asked, putting a protective arm around his
shoulders. The sun burned into her astigmatic eyes like ammonia.
"Such a beautiful girl. What a world.
Those animals," Grandpa replied, shaking all over.
Island of Tropical Breezes
Yesterday, on the N train, a man sat down next to me who looked
as if he were singularly trying to atone for the bad image created
by this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade. Middle-aged, he was a genial
sort, albeit, as Chris Rock would say, "a crazy Puerto Rican". He
was wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt, with a Miss America-type
sash with a rubber frog pasted onto it. He even had a Puerto Rican
I asked him why he was wearing a
He explained to me about the singing
frogs in Puerto Rico, who can only exist in that climate ("Always
the hurricanes blowing...") and whose females incessantly call out
for sex to the males.
"10,000 of them, everywhere you go,
all night long, it's more noisier than Yonkee Stadium."
This gave me some insight into the
behavior of my cousin Lois. She had married a guy making mega-bucks
in the rag trade and they began hating each other mere minutes after
exchanging vows. He was as mellow as the average Canadian, she was
more tightly-wound than an Internet stock trader. Anyway, they bought
a crib on 79 between Park and Lex, and furnished it in exquisite
taste--every ottoman cost $5K. Since they were miserable and it
was the 80's, it all went up their noses. She called me up once,
asking, as all my female cousins do, "How do I have an orgasm?"
"How the fuck should I know???!!! Get a vibrator!" has been my consistent
reply. Then she visited her father in his vacation cottage in Puerto
Rico. There she met a local fisherman, moved to his one-room shack
with no plumbing or electricity, and is now blissfully re-married
(and, presumably, Big-O'ing) with two children.
Next time I get one of those cousinly
calls (just because my middle name is Ruth, does this make me Dr.
Ruth?) I'll advise, "Why not take a vacation to San Juan ("I know
a boat you can get on") and listen to 10,000 horned toads?"