morning and the sun was already hot near 23rd Street. The season was upon us in
the unofficial start of summer. I was out the night before with some of the
boys. It was Memorial Day weekend in New York City.
Most of the city was half-emptied with the wilder, younger crowds out someplace else—like say, maybe down the shore in Jersey or out east on Long Island, in the Hamptons, or out on Fire Island, or at Montauk Point.
I was up early. So was Pete. Everyone else was asleep in the small two bedroom apartment, which belonged to our friends that lived on 23rd Street in the Stuyvesant section of New York City, or Stuy Town as we called it..
Pete and I decided to take a walk down by Avenue A. He wanted to walk over to a spot where Pete could buy a bag of weed.
Keep in mind, nothing sold here was ever really good. The quality was poor but for Pete and for the time being, whatever they had by St. Marks was good enough for Pete.
I never spent a Memorial Day weekend in the city. Most times, I usually ran with the rest of the Hamptons crowd and flocked to the places like Neptune’s or C.P.I.’s.
I went to Fire Island a few times. Either that or, I stayed local to the popular spots on Long Island, like Paddy McGee’s or Sprat’s on The Water in Island Park.
The summertime weekends in the city always seemed different to me. Not sure why. I suppose maybe this is because I was a Long Island kid. Maybe this is because I always associated the beaches with summertime. Maybe I snuggled the ideas of beaches and the spots out east because together, they harnessed my ideas of what summertime was supposed to mean.
But either way, I was fine to forget about the pretentious crowds and the usual places. I was fine to be away from the usual routines and the same people doing the same thing they did the year before.
I enjoyed the ocean and beaches but I never enjoyed the crowds or the “In-shape” people and the self-absorbed who find themselves stuck in their own vanity, tanning for hours in the sand, and then hitting a tanning machine at a shop on the way home so they could brown their skin to a new shade of pretentiousness.
The city was fine with me. Besides, I love this place. Pete and I started to walk from 23rd Street. He was smaller than most but funny, charismatic, but mostly sarcastic. Pete was good for a laugh but he frequently laughed at the expense of others.
He was born from a fortunate family; wealthy, somewhat snobbish, and certainly not challenged by the harsh realities of life without the benefit of money.
We started walking and talking about the night before. We joked about the girls we chased and the ones that got away. Pete was not afraid to talk to anybody, which is something I admired about him.
He was not overly good looking or strikingly handsome. He was not muscular by any means or athletic. He was not a fighter or a tough guy—he was exceptionally smart though. He was witty. If asked, Pete would say, “Always have a story to tell. Girls love a guy with a good story to tell.” And apparently, Pete was right.
He liked to use the back door tricks to get to the girl he was aiming for. Pete was all about the mind games and mental chess. He said, “Always pay more attention to the friend of the pretty girl and not the pretty girl themselves.” He explained, “Vanity is a funny thing.”
“Pretty girls are insecure too,” said Pete. “If you reject them, they’ll want to know why. And if they come to find out why then you know you got them.”
I heard advice like this before. Only, I heard this quite differently. I was offered similar advice like this by a man, whom I will call Johnny the Rug. He said, “Treat a whore like a princess and a princess like a whore and you’ll get laid every day for the rest of your life.”
But now please, keep in mind, sentiments like this were not the romantic sort, nor do I condone them now—but nevertheless, if you consider the source and consider the age of young adulthood and me in my time of great insecurity; I would ask you what else is there to do but to be young and crazy, or to be wild, and be with whatever girl that would have me?
Pete was a mystery to me. He was snobbish and boastful. He was both intellectually and socially snobbish, which means he held himself above others. He appeared to be holier than though.
But yet, people liked him. Girls liked Pete too. However, sometimes I wondered if they liked him for the size of his wallet—or maybe it was the size of something in his shorts, who knows? But maybe it was his attitude, or maybe they liked him because it was like Pete said; he literally had a story for every occasion.
We were walking along 2nd Avenue and heading over to 14th St to head East down Avenue A.
We always found ourselves here. At night, we went to some of the spots in this part of town but we usually went elsewhere.
We were always looking for the best places to be. We went wherever we could. We did anything for a good time.
We used to eat at a place called Stingy Lulu’s. The food was good and the prices were cheap. The crowd was cool and the waitresses were all transvestites. I liked the Yankee pot-roast here. This was my go to dish. This was also a place near St Mark’s at the Avenue where there was always someone looking to sell weed.
With me being me and since I was not into the weed thing or drinking at bars, I was the sober kid that hung around. But I had no hang-ups with Pete being Pete or the rest of the boys drinking or doing whatever else they chose to do.
By the time we got to Avenue A, the sun was strong. The streets were mainly empty because the hour was somewhat early. There were others walking around to do their thing and some of N.Y.C.’s homeless were sleeping on the benches which lined the sidewalk near the park.
“I wonder if
anyone is out here yet,” Pete asked.
“Of course, someone is out here,” I said.
“Someone will always be out here.”
And I was right.
There was an odd looking girl with dirty hands and black outlines around her fingernails. She was filthy. She looked boyish with short hair, like a crew-cut, and her eyes were off-center and one of them (I believe it as her left eye,) pointed outward as if it was beaten up pretty badly in her younger life.
She was a homeless kid, a street girl; only there was no work in the sex trade for a girl like this—so at best, she hustled guys like Pete and sold bags of fake weed.
She asked if I was looking for anything. I waved her off and expected Pete to do the same. However, Pete engaged with the girl for some reason. I wasn’t sure why. She told him he would have to give her the money first, which I warned Pete not to do.
“I’ll be right back,” she said.
“Yeah, sure you will,” I told her.
“I’m just going across the street,” said the girl.
She was damaged. Missing teeth. She spoke with a speech impediment. The condition of her body was poor but the odor from her underarms was even more so.
Pete agreed to give her the money.
“How much,” Pete asked.
“20” she said.
Pete took out a $20 bill and handed it over. I knew what was about to happen. So did Pete, which is what confused me. Pete never cared about anyone but himself.
He was often mean and always sarcastic. Pete always had something to say; he was extremely smart and very quick-witted, but I never saw a charitable side to him, nor did I ever consider that charity was a possible thing for Pete.
The girl did as she told us she would. She ran across the street and retrieved a bag. And there was weed in the bag too—it just wasn’t the same kind of weed people smoked to get high.
She delivered the bag and slipped away quickly.
“Let me see that,” I said and ripped the bag away from Pete’s hand.
After inspecting the contents I told Pete, “You know you got beat, right?”
“I know,” said Pete.
“But she needed the 20 bucks more than I did.”
It was the unofficial start of summer. I was young and in my late 20’s. I still don’t remember Pete as a nice guy but I do remember the time he showed a piece of his heart on a quiet morning during a Memorial Day Weekend on Avenue A in New York City.