Blogging is kind of like stepping up to the plate as a baseball player. If you write something good 30% of the time, you’re doin’ pretty good! When I read through the archives to find something old that could be something new again…I don’t bat .300. Most of what I write on this blog is either time-sensitive or just lousy. It can be difficult to find something worth republishing. Whatever…here’s one I’ve chosen.
Growing up on Long Island – in a school district demographically comprised of 85% Jews…and 15% “other,” I didn’t exactly get a culturally rich view of the world. I knew NO hispanics, NO Asians, and just a handful of black people who were the housekeepers and nannies that took care of me while my mother went to work.
When I shipped off to college, it was pretty much the same – except for a very militant black 15% segment of the student body, almost all of whom were inner city Cleveland students on scholarship…who didn’t study…and mostly posted signs the likes of “Honkies ain’t shit” around the dormitories while nobody was looking. Still…not a diverse view of the world I’m sure we can all agree.
Finally, after leaving graduate school, moving to Manhattan for a short period of time, and then going on the road for a year in a band, I got to see a little more of the world’s diverse racial and ethnic makeup. But being an East Village guy, the only hispanic culture I became familiar with was Puerto Rican. And that was mostly welfare cases sponging off the system while they sold drugs on my block. Not a fabulous view of hispanic culture.
Then came cab-driving, which introduced me to Mexicans. Habitually, three or four dishwashers would flag a yellow cab from their restaurant on The Upper East Side, and go to three or four different stops in Corona, and Jackson Heights. It wasn’t a great ride from a profitability standpoint – but I didn’t mind that much. I knew they were working a tough job for low wages. And yes, they were friendly, courteous and always tipped even if they made shit money for all their work. Viva Mexico as far I was concerned! And I still feel that way to this day.
Then I got my job at Action Magazine! As a basically native New Yorker – and a cabby who’d been to all the Queens neighborhoods a million times…I knew the geography of Queens. And as almost all the previous employees were native Philadelphians who a) didn’t know Queens…b) didn’t speak Spanish…and c) didn’t want to deal with the small to medium size advertisers in the boro, nobody wanted to bother. So when the boss discovered that I actually spoke Spanish, knew Queens, and was more than willing to go out there…he was smitten.
A couple of owners had called in for ads….and there were a few already in the paper. So I hopped the #7 train and it was off to Corona, Jackson Heights, Woodside and Flushing to sell some ads. And THIS…was my introduction to South America. All the clients were either Colombian or Venezuelan. And they couldn’t have been more different from the boriquas and boriquos in The East Village.
For starters, I understood what they were saying. For those who speak SOME Spanish (as opposed to being totally fluent), I’m sure you all agree that Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are very difficult to understand. Their dialect is slurry, slangy and just incomprehensible to anybody who studied schoolboy Spanish on Long Island. Conversely, the girls in Queens sounded like aristocracy. The language flowed from their tongues almost musically.
And because everybody from owner to floor girl got a kick out of my studied school boy Spanish – and the fact that I made the effort – and the fact that the paper brought them good customers – I became their gringo mascot. I was constantly greeted with big smiles, food from the culture, and occasional free sessions and marriage proposals.
With the exception of one house which had a cold taskmaster of an owner whose very own daughter was the top girl, I found them to be women of class and refinement – despite their dubious career choice. Whether it was Inez, or Carolina, or Nicole or Sonia, I liked them all. But Dolly was my favorite.
For me, Dolly was very beautiful. Yeah, she was cheap and always behind on her payments…but we had a friendship. We never had sex (she wasn’t feeling me that way), but that didn’t stand in the way of me enjoying her company and learning about who she was as a person.
Dolly had this funny story about her childhood. She said that when her mother took her to the park (in Colombia), she would point at the hookers and the gay crew and tell Dolly and her brother “you never want to be like those people!” And so what happened? Dolly grew up to be an escort – and her brother is gay! So much for the joy of parenthood and the offspring realizing all their parents’ aspirations.
One day Dolly and I were driving from Queens into the city. She’d decided to open a place in Manhattan to see what riches the endeavor might bring. Dolly and I had known each other for years by then and as always, she felt very comfortable confiding in me about anything that was on her mind. And on this day, Dolly complained that she never got horny anymore. She had a boyfriend but he was grousing about her lack of libido. And she was concerned.
At the time, there was this over-the-counter dietary supplement available at most bodega check-out counters called Stamina RX. It was in fact (among other ingredients) CIALIS, available for like 75 cents per dose. A client of mine (male) had recommended it to me and though it did kind of give me what I called haunch-ache, it was clearly an effective hard-on inducer that lasted and lasted. At the time, there was no cialis on the market so nobody but scientists really knew what it was about the pill. They just knew it worked. And …there was a pink-colored FEMALE stamina pac as well.
So when we got to the city, I ran into the nearest bodega and bought Dolly a couple of female stamina pax and made her a present of them. “Try these, baby and call me in the morning,” I played the doctor routine as I gifted her with the magical pills. And guess what! The next day she called to say “Ay, papito!” The shit jump-started her libido.
The only girl I speak to from those days of yore (13 years ago) is in fact Dolly. And characteristically, she owes me a few dollars which I would never chase her for. She’ll call eventually and fill me in on what’s up with the crew and I’ll harken back to those carefree days when I wasn’t glued to a computer posting those infernal web ads that go to the top and slip down the page at the speed of light only to need refreshing way too often. To think I used to ride the subway – and even ride the bike – to all those South American neighborhoods in Queens at least once every week! And now? I don’t think I’ve been out to Queens in YEARS. I get my dose of Colombians and Venezuelans right here in the city! But it’s not the same.
The Spanish houses in Manhattan are smack-dab in the middle of New York’s mostly gringo culture. When you go out to Queens – under the L – and soak in the ambience…it’s almost like traveling to a foreign country by train.
I have this one shirt I bought for ten bucks under the L years ago. It’s like this Tex-Mex deal with all kinds of embroidered cacti and Southwestern stuff. Whenever I wear it, everybody has something complimentary to say. Maybe it’s because I give off a positive vibe when I wear it…because it makes me reminisce about the old days…and how much I liked the South Americans in Queens.