Friday, January 9, 2009

Introduction to the "Dover Street" Stories, Chapter Four


The following is a true story. However, quite a few of the names and other identifying details have been changed, and dialogue re-written accordingly, because of that fact. Some characters are composites.

* * * * *

Let's begin this one with a cliff-hanger, shall we?

The room was full of people, male and female. Mostly female. There were three or four or five separate conversations going on. Most of the members of the small crowd were smoking cigarettes (primarily menthol). Several were eating slices of an extra-large pepperoni & mushroom pizza, the remaining one of two pizzas which I had paid for. Some were smoking cigarettes while eating slices of the extra-large pepperoni & mushroom pizza which I had paid for.

The pizza -- or, I should say, the box which the pizza was in -- was on the floor in the middle of the room. Those who were seated -- and there were several of us -- sat on the floor as well. For some strange reason, the two chairs in the room were both empty. I noticed that because... well, because I usually notice stupid stuff like that.

A guy named Jeff sat facing me, across the pizza, as it were. He was in his mid-thirties, maybe three or four years younger than I was at that time. Despite his white-bread, preppy-sounding name, Jeff was actually Latino. I knew him as the "husband" of a young woman named Dawn; they weren't actually married, but they shared a two-year-old son... and a heroin habit.

Dawn wasn't with Jeff tonight.

Each time Jeff reached for a slice of pizza, he cut it free (unnecessarily) with a rather strange knife he had. This knife was similar to a switch-blade, but without the "guts" needed to respond to the button you'd press to open a switch-blade. Jeff's knife was opened by a sharp flick of the wrist, whereupon it remained locked into its open position,. I'd seen this type of knife before, years earlier, and heard it called a "throw-out knife," but I doubt that was or is the proper name.

And, as I said, Jeff was using it -- unnecessarily -- to cut slices of pizza for himself.

I think he just wanted me to see that he had a knife.

Actually, let me re-phrase that: I know Jeff just wanted me to see that he had a knife.

"So. Dave." he said, while still chewing.

"David," corrected one of the girls. A couple of them laughed.

(People often find it amusing that I prefer "David" to "Dave," and that I bother to point that out if and when someone calls me "Dave." I'd like to learn exactly why that's so freakin' funny, before I die. If your name is "Robert," and I call you "Bob," but you prefer "Robbie," wouldn't you correct me?)

Jeff ignored her. "So," he repeated, adding "What are you even doing here, man?"

The "three or four or five" ongoing conversations which I mentioned earlier suddenly dropped to one. Ours. Mine and Jeff's.

I'd been dreading this one for months. I knew what Jeff was asking.

* * * * *

Between my two "hooker buddies," Sheila and Julia, I'd been introduced to several more streetwalkers over the course of several weeks. I got to know some of them very well. They didn't all learn that I was, as Julia had put it, "writin' a book." That information was generally saved for those I ended up getting along with to the point where I'd invite them for one or more one-on-one interviews... the kind which generally involved money.

Most of these women were addicted to one drug or another, usually heroin. Eventually -- I should say "inevitably" -- I got to meet the boyfriends or husbands of some of them, and I also got to meet some of the low-lifes who supplied them all (women and men alike) with their drugs.

By this time, I realized that I was smack dab in the middle of a dangerous situation. Why do so many writers have this need to be self-destructive? There's an unnamed "something" that far too often makes sleaziness attractive to writers, and I'd discovered too late that I, in a sense, had developed an addiction of my own.

It was the same kind of "addiction" that may have brought Edgar Allan Poe to the point where he was found delirious -- and shortly to die -- on a Baltimore Street.

It's the addiction to what Hunter S. Thompson would later call "gonzo journalism" that brought Ambrose Bierce to his disappearance and probable death.

Many years later, it also brought that same Hunter S. Thompson to ride with the Hells Angels, researching a book, much as I was... and the final chapter tells of the day when the same Hells Angels who had welcomed Thompson into their midst beat the living crap out of him for no apparent reason.

This thirst for "real sleaze" as opposed to "phony sleaze" steered Jim Morrison down a path where psychedelics gave way to alcohol, but neither prepared him for what is today accepted as a lethal overdose of heroin, heroin which he may or may not have mistaken for cocaine.

Writers throughout history have succumbed to alcoholism, or drug addiction, or bouts with excessive gambling, or sexual misadventures, or [fill-in-the-blank] sometimes by merely being around The Bad Thing(s)... and usually the writers in question have arrogantly assumed, as do most addicts, that they could quit The Bad Thing(s) if and when they really wanted or needed to.

Bullshit.

Well, usually.

In my case, my own brand of arrogance was in believing that it was okay to surround myself with hookers, junkies, drug dealers, and the like, as long as I remained detached from it all -- one could almost say "above" it all -- by not paying for sex, not using drugs, not (naturally) selling the drugs... I wouldn't be breaking any laws, even while surrounded by those who were.

And as far as being "safe?" Hell, these people didn't even know where I lived. If I ever wanted or needed to "escape" from them, all I had to do was stop visiting them!

In other words, I could quit any time I really wanted or needed to...

One thing that didn't occur to me until it was too late was that when you're among those who habitually break various laws, minor and/or major, the law-breakers themselves don't necessarily see the predominately law-abiding populace as being "their" type of people. And if said law-abiding people are also gathering information, for any reason, the information gatherer might as well be taking his or her notes for the police.

And although I was making all of my "notes" mentally, I fully realized that my purposes would be resented and misinterpreted all out of proportion if the wrong people were to question what I was doing there.

* * * * *

"So," said Jeff, a "wrong person" if ever I saw one, "What are you even doing here, man?"

I knew exactly what he meant, but didn't admit it. "What do you mean?"

"You don't sell drugs. You don't use drugs, neither." He waved his knife in the smoky air, vaguely pointing at some of the prostitutes in the room for emphasis as he said "And you don't date the girls... "

"I go out with a lot of them!" I said, disagreeing. I was hoping to fall back on the fact that several people could vouch for having seen me driving off with one streetwalker or another for one of my so-called one-on-one sessions.

Now Jeff was leaning partway across the open box of pizza, closer to me, gesturing -- only gesturing, so far -- with his knife, to accentuate a point. "No, man, you go off with 'em, but you don't go out with 'em." He was artfully -- more artfully than I would have given him credit for -- cutting through my own bullshit. And he wasn't letting me use "going out" -- yet another term which, like "dating," meant having sex for a fee -- in the euphemistic way in which I was trying to use it. He was nailing me down to the point where I could only use it his way. "You give 'em rides an' shit, but you don't do dates."

"Says who?" I asked, quickly glancing around the room and noticing that none of the girls whom I joking called "my regulars" were there. No Sheila, no Julia, no Catherine, no Bella...

So much for back-up...

"Never mind who. Says... enough of them," answered Jeff, with a smirk. I can only guess what emotion(s) my face betrayed then. "Yeah, I've talked to a few. Just like you always do. I just talked to 'em." I took another glance around the room, and wondered if it was just my imagination that told me that the percentage of male inhabitants in the room had increased. "So what are you always talkin' about with the girls, man?"

* * * * *

During my time among those who would inspire my "Dover Street" stories -- which, by the night of this head-to-head between Jeff and myself, was envisioned as an endless string of comic book mini-series, rather than the book Julia was anticipating -- I'd only made a few of my famous mental notes about Jeff and/or his "wife," Dawn.

Dawn was a pretty, thirtyish little -- and by "little," I mean short -- white girl with long, frizzy blonde hair, whose mission in life seemed to be telling people that although she was totally flat-chested, she had a great butt. Each time she said that -- and she really did say it a lot -- she'd either turn around or, if she were sitting, stand up and turn around to show off her butt. Then she'd look back over her shoulder for confirmation.

I liked Dawn a lot, even then, which was odd considering that I didn't get to know her well until a long time after the night Jeff started getting nosy. She was more intelligent than most of the hookers -- and that's not some kind of joke, seeing as how they weren't the bunch of idiots you may assume that they were -- and there was something about her personality that brightened up a room, at least, by comparison to most of the Main Street crowd. She was pretty popular.

Jeff was different. Although he seemed fairly well-liked by the male addicts and dealers, most of the women talked against him whenever he wasn't around. They were always telling Dawn she should dump him. In fact, these little confrontations usually consisted of two or more hookers telling Dawn to dump him, arguing with her until she was on the verge of tears.

They never had these conversations in front of any men, with the glaring exception of myself. (I suppose that by then, they had accepted me as an impartial observer.)

I was never quite sure what they had against Jeff other than the fact that he occasionally beat Dawn up. And I'm not trying to pass that off as something relatively inconsequential. They did, however. Truth be told, most of them had boyfriends or husbands that smacked them around, and most of them felt that they themselves had provoked the "smacking." Far too often, I'd hear one of the girls joking about how she'd "really pushed his buttons this time," or something similar. Like it was her fault, ultimately.

(Then again, these were women who also considered being occasionally raped to be little more than a hazard of their profession. I suppose that eventually, all sorts of affronts to your body become more tolerable if your self-esteem is that low. There's an old joke that says "you can't rape a hooker, only rob her." In fact, one of my "Dover Street" stories begins with that joke. Well, once you've met a few hookers, and heard part of -- or all of -- each one's life stories, that joke loses whatever humor it may have ever had.)

The first incident which made me aware of Jeff at all, before I'd ever actually met him or Dawn, occurred one summer afternoon. I had been standing on Main Street, talking to Julia and a couple of other women. I saw two policemen several yards away, in a verbal altercation with Jeff in which one of the cops made some crack to Jeff about "your whore girlfriend."

Jeff bristled. "Hey, man, have some respect! That's the mother of my son!"

The other officer laughed. "How can you talk about respectin' her when you make her work out here to support your habit?"

It was two or three weeks later when I was actually introduced to Jeff and Dawn. About a week after that, I was flagged down one evening by Julia. Jeff was with her.

"David," asked Julia, "how long you been in towns?"

"About half an hour, why?"

"Have you see Dawn anywhere tonight?"

"No. Some kind of problem?"

"We don't know. She get pick up to do a date, and after that she supposed to go with Jeff to cop."

"How long ago was this?"

"Almost an hour. You go look for her?"

"Sure," I said, which was when Jeff jumped into my car. I began to object, but then figured that it was his wife (or girlfriend), after all...

Jeff was either drunk or on something. Half the time he was with me, he was talking about how worried he was about her. The other half, he was saying that she'd probably had her date drop her off at her dealer's place, and gone to do all the drugs by herself. During those more suspicious moments, Jeff called Dawn the "C" word more times than I -- and any three friends of mine -- have ever used it in our lives.

At one point, immediately after saying what a pain in the ass she was, Jeff added something incredibly graphic about her sexual talents which I supposed was meant to be a compliment. And maybe it would have been if it hadn't been phrased so crudely, and if it hadn't been said to a relative stranger.

Or maybe he assumed that I'd either agree with him if I was one of Dawn's tricks, or consider it as a recommendation to go out with her if I hadn't already! I didn't ask. All that I almost said was, "Hey, man, have some respect! That's the mother of your son!" but I knew the remark would have been lost on him.

We looked for almost an hour, but never did find her that night. She showed up at home about three hours later, long after I'd gone home, according to Julia. And Jeff had been right. She had gone to score her drugs and do them without him.

* * * * *

"So what are you always talkin' about with the girls, man?" asked Jeff.

I suddenly felt two hands on my shoulders. My first thought was that someone behind me was providing a little physical reinforcement for Jeff's line of questioning.

My second thought was, "Oh, shit."

* * * * *

Next time -- I hope! -- the conclusion.

8 comments:

  1. I was about to ask you if you forgot about this blog.

    I am happy you did not.

    Scary times.

    I personally hate when women excuse the beatings with "I pushed his buttons" or "I really do deserve it".

    It is funny how you can see it in someone else, Dawn, but not yourself, the other girls.

    Now you really do have me on my edge. I hope it is not too long before your next chapter.

    I'm the first to write a comment. Brake out the brownies for everyone else who is coming. Got to make the place cozy. Special brownies not as bad as heroin habits. I believe I read somewhere they are not habit forming.

    So enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "I was about to ask you if you forgot about this blog."

    Nope. However, after having immediately followed the "Angelina" story with this one -- and I'll explain why I did that shortly -- I was feeling rather "hookered out," as I told my friend Debbie the other day. So every time I decided to work on a chapter of this storyline, I'd write a little bit, then drift over to David'Z RantZ, where the grass -- drug pun not intended -- was always greener.

    "I personally hate when women excuse the beatings with 'I pushed his buttons' or 'I really do deserve it'."

    So do I! But if you make excuses like that (for any kind of behavior), it's easier to believe that the other person really loves you, "even though he (or she) does this or that... "

    "Now you really do have me on my edge. I hope it is not too long before your next chapter."

    Hopefully, it won't be. I'm really trying to wrap this up soon, just so I can distance myself from "Dover Street" for a while. As Cousin Saul said, I don't want people thinking I'm a one trick pony. But after having presented my readers with "Angelina," and saying it was only one in a series of similarly-themed tales, I wanted to tell people exactly why I have this odd abundance of hooker & drug lore. ("Hm. Is there something in his past he's trying not to tell us?")

    "Special brownies not as bad as heroin habits."

    Nice of you to leave them lying around for us.

    And we all know, we can quit any time we want to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can understand being prostituted out.

    First You were there. Now you are reliving it.

    It seems things pass there as o.k. that are not. It could be hard to not think like that when it is around you.

    When I spent two weeks watching three seasons of Nip Tuck I started thinking like that. Wondering how I could get tens of thousands of dollars to rework everything.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I guess I was just getting bored with the same subject, and "feared" -- that's really too strong a word, hence the quotes -- that my readers might be, too.

    You're right about things "passing" as okay in that world that aren't okay in the "real" world. (Of course, they call what they go through the "real" world.) I never became too accepting of their rules, however. I'd often see something, shake my head and think, "That is so wrong." But I still stayed around for the sake of research.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That is great you could do that.

    I almost wrote "real world" myself, than took it back. Eveyone's world is real, even if they are crazy. that is their real world.

    Prostitute stories are interesting. It wasn't boring me. People with hard lives make interesting stories. If everything goes well, it's not so interesting.

    I am a pretty feisty person in real life. I have been known to speak my mind to people who did not appreciate it.

    I have been around people when I held my tongue just to see how they act. Sometimes you get drawn into their world.

    Even told women to leave bad relationships when I couldn't see my own was bad.

    ReplyDelete
  6. David,
    So...did Jeff kill you?

    ReplyDelete
  7. No... but you wouldn't know it from the way I've been feeling lately.

    I just finished scheduling the next three David'Z RantZ posts, and spaced them out to give me a week's worth of time to do nothing but this blog.

    I originally expected this current topic to take up only one or two chapters. (Most of the anecdotes from this period of research will be future fodder for the Dover Street stories.) Then I realized that there was more that needed explanation and resolution, and that it was stuff that wouldn't ever get used in my fictional works.

    Don't forget, I'm the guy whose 7-part tribute to a friend ended up being 28 chapters.

    Hey, wait a second! I almost forgot, I'm talking to the guy whose 12-part autobio has lasted well over 150 segments!

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Why do so many writers have this need to be self-destructive?"-So far, for me, this hasn't been true in the sense that I have yet to put myself in any sort of physically dangerous situation for a story idea. I act this out emotionally, I think, without ever thinking about it. Maybe it is because my work is more emotionally charged than physically descriptive (if that makes any damned sense)...or maybe my work is more emotionally charged because that is just the way I am from seeing and being involved in the situations in my life that made me empathetic to just about anything. I don't know...But your observation is true more often than not. I always figured writers carry a lot of emotional baggage and things like addiction came because sometimes writing out the pain isn't enough. You want to dull it altogether. That was why I loved booze so much....But I don't know....Maybe for people like Poe and Morrison it was fueled more by the attraction to danger. I will save my disagreement with your statement about Jim's cause of death as you know how I feel on that already. haha

    ReplyDelete

I strongly urge you to sign up for follow-up comments, because I (usually) reply to your comment! Comments left for me more than two weeks after a post is published will not appear until I approve them, but they will be answered eventually!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails