HUNG by Peter Nolan Smith

The Village in New York had always attracted a kaleidoscope of radical, deviant, and perverse characters considered abhorrent by mainstream America. The Reds gave way to the beatniks. They evolved into the hippies, who surrendered the counterculture ghetto to the junkies, artists, punks and sexual revolutionaries of the 1970s.

In 1977 I lived on East 10th Street with Alice, my hillbilly girlfriend, and my faux-sister Pip rented an apartment off Bleecker Street. She called me Pud. We had met at CBGBs, which was our Lincoln Center. The owner couldn’t figure out how we got so drunk on one drink. It wasn’t magic. Pip and I smuggled bottles of vodka past Merv at the door.

One spring evening the Ghosts were opening for the Dictators. My girlfriend didn’t like either band, so I went alone. Pip was seated at a table near the stage. Our chairs were against the wall. She filled our glasses with vodka and coke. We had no ice. The Ghosts played a blistering set and closed out the show with RICHARD IS A FORKHEAD. There was no encore and the juvenile guitarist came over before heading to the dressing room.

“You mind.” Xcessive pointed to Pip’s glass. He had spotted our trick.

“Not at all.” My ‘sister’ was sweet on young punk rockers.

Xcessive drained the glass and coughed a little before wiping his mouth.

“Thanks.”

“Good show.”

“I tried.”

I watched the young guitarist thread through his admirers by the stage and said to Pip, “Isn’t he a little young for you?”

“He’s just a friend. Same as you.”

The cheery NYU coed had a crush on most of the men on the scene, but many of the girls at CBGBs suffered the same affliction. This was the 70s and not the 50s. None of us were going steady, although I struggled to be faithful to Alice. “Besides I have my eye on my new neighbor. He’s really cute. His name’s Marc Stevens.”

“Marc Stevens?”

“You know him?”

“I don’t know him personally, but he’s known as Mr. 10 1/2.” The well-hung actor was John Holmes’ rival in the XXX film industry.

“Mr. 10 ˝?”

“Yes, 10 ˝ inches.” I had seen him dancing naked covered in silver body paint at Studio 54. His penis had looked a normal size that evening.

“Oh.”

“He was the star of THE DEVIL AND MRS. JONES.”

“I don’t know that film.” Pip was studying literature at NYU. Her professors expected their students to read MADAME BOVARY and Camus’ THE PLAGUE, not stroke books.

“And I wouldn’t expect anything else.” The francophiles intellectuals had no use for pornography other than THE STORY OF O and I gave Pip a 10-minute course in XXX films from DEEP THROAT to BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR. Her eyes shined with joy. She loved celebrities.

“He’s living with this girl, Jill Monro.”

“Jill’s no girl. She had an operation to change her penis into a vagina. She’s the first tranny movie star.”

“No.” Fame and weird was exciting to the young student from the suburbs of Greenwich. “I can’t believe I know a transvestite.”

“Transsexual.” They were two different creatures.

She kissed my cheek for explaining the birds and bees of a hidden sect.

“I love you, Pud.”

Not everyone held porno actors in esteem, but I haunted the Times Squares peepshows in search of arcane films. My hillbilly girlfriend had no idea about my research. It was a secret I kept close to my heart.

That May Pip decided to throw a party for several Geminis. An underground designer of nightclubs decorated her apartment. She had invited a hundred people. Over 200 crammed into the duplex. I knew many of them, since I was one of the birthday boys.

“I hear Mr. 10 ˝ is coming,” Klaus whispered in my ear. The German opera singer was a fiend of size and he shivered saying, “10 ˝. Divine.”

Klaus and I discussed gay prone films, as if we were voting for the Oscars. My hillbilly girlfriend didn’t drink and Alice wandered off to CBGBs. A minute later a curly-haired man came up to me and said, “I thought she would never leave. My name is Mark.”

“Pip talked about you.” I looked through the crowd. His better half wasn’t in the room.

“She talked about you too.” Marc was wearing a white jumpsuit. He was the thinnest person in the room. His hand touched my ass. “You want to do some blow?”

“Yes.”

I was as used to gay guys hitting on me as they were accustomed to seducing straight guys.

“Not here. There are too many vultures.” His soft brown eyes darted over the crowd, as if he were looking for someone special. “Let’s go to my place.”

Two men leaving a party together was no scandal, although Pip leaned over to Klaus and pointed out my departure. The singer gave me the green light with a wink and shouted out,“Gluck.”

“I don’t need good luck.” I was straight or at least that’s what I told myself, but everyone in the Village was a little bent in one way or another.

“Your friend is cute in a strange way.”

“He likes you.”

“All size queens like Mr. 10 ˝.”

“I bet they do.”

Marc lived down the hall.

“I don’t want any of the neighbors seeing me. My wife is very jealous.” He opened the door and pushed me inside.

“My girlfriend is the same way.”

“Everyone is so hung up about sex. Sex is just sex. Nothing more.”

Marc shut the door. The one-bedroom apartment was decorated with dark brown furniture favored by gays for hiding stains from sex.

The XXX actor went into the kitchen to fetch a Pond’s cream jar from the cabinet.

It was crammed with a white powder with a pinkish glow.

“What is that?”

“Bolivian flake from one of my admirers.”

We sat on the soft sofa. The cushion sank around me like a Venus Fly Trap. The music from Pip’s party thumped the wall. I recognized the song as UP BONDAGE UP YOURS.

“You like that music?” Marc spilled out a mound of blow. The lines were thick as rope.

“I’m a punk.” I had been since seeing the Ramones play CALIFORNIA SUN. Their speedy version of the Rivieras’ hit opened my eyes to a new world and CBGBs became my second home.

“I like leather, but not that music. I’m more into disco.”

He unzipped his jumpsuit to his bellybutton and handed me a straw.

“Enjoy.”

I hit the first rail with an athletic gusto. This was not street gear and the coke burst into my nasal capillaries with the intensity of an Incan sunrise, then scorched my veins with a rush of euphoria. I fell back into the sofa with my bones sizzling on a Peruvian hot plate.

“Good, huh,” Marc whispered in my ear. His lips were tender on my neck. He spooned a small pile into my other nostril. “Breathe.”

I obeyed his order.

The coca renewed its assault on my senses and the universe shimmered out of focus.

I was in no condition to resist Marc’s advances. He was a veteran of porno movies. Millions of men and women fantasized about lying in bed with him. I gripped his thick member with the tenderness of a butcher preparing to cut a steak. Millions of XXX viewers had seen him in MICHAEL, ANGELO, AND DAVID. The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe had immortalized this penis in a black-and-white shit titled MARK STEVENS MR. 10˝, 1976.

I gave it a squeeze.

“It’s not hard.”

“Rough trade gets me erect.” Marc’s admission was not a confession.

He pinched his nipple and his cock stiffened with a throb.

“I like being the queen,” murmured Marc. “You wanna be king?”

Before I could answer, keys turned the lock of the front door.

The actor sat up straight and zipped up his jumpsuit.

“It’s my wife. Do some more blow.”

I snapped out of my trance and turned my head.

The statuesque brunette entering the apartment had a couple inches on us in her stiletto heels. She regarded the coke and then the two of us.

Her smile was marred by the awkward unease of seeing her man with another man.

“Marc introduced us.

“Please to meet you.” His wife held out her hand with a tilted wrist.

I offered mine, expecting a limp handshake.

Jill crunched my knuckles in a vise.

Marc was her man.

I winced with a pained grin and ripped my fingers loose.

“I met him at the party next door. It was fun.”

“I can see that.” Jill sat down with the surrender of accepting Marc for what he was.

“Nice meeting you too. Time for me to rejoin the party.”

“So soon.” Marc was in no position to pursue his desire.

“It’s getting late.”

“Thanks for coming.” Jill smirked with the pleasure of re-establishing her dominance over my host.

“Sure, just one more thing.”

“What?” Jill straightened her posture, as if she was ready for a fight.

“A good-bye gift.” I bent over and snorted the other two lines within two seconds.

Marc laughed and Jill joined him.

“Sure you want to leave?” She spread her legs to invite a touch.

“I already have a lover.”

“Lucky girl.” Jill kissed Marc on the cheek. “Same as me.”

He spilled out more blow. She did the first line. They looked like such a nice couple.

I returned to the party.

Pip grabbed me and asked, “What happened?”

“His wife came home.”

I poured myself a vodka.

“And what were you doing?”

“Talking that’s all. I have a girlfriend.” Pip was a spy for my hillbilly girlfriend. They were good friends. “And I’m not gay.”

“And you’re not straight either.” Pip shrugged with disappointment. She had been all ears for some good dirt. I stayed for another hour. The coke ran its course. I left the party with Klaus. He lived in the East Village. We shared a taxi to St. Mark’s Place.

“So how big was it?” The German was all ears.

“Have you seen his movies?” I could tell Klaus anything. He loved secrets.

“Yes.” His eyes widened with delight.

“It was that big and thick.” I didn’t mentioned the softness of his penis. Some things were best left unsaid.

“Wunderbar.”

“He said you were cute.”

“Really?”

“Maybe you’ll get lucky one night.”

“I can only wished and hope.”

“Klaus dropped me on St. Mark’s. I walked to 10th Street.

My hillbilly girlfriend was asleep in our bed. I took off my clothes and slid next to her.

“How was it?”

“What?”

“MR. 10˝.”

“Big and thick.”

“Too big for me?”

“Yes.”

“And you?”

“I was strictly there for a look-see. I came, I saw, I went.”

“You’re a good boy.” Alice cuddled up to me with a childish tenderness.

I was surprised she believed me, but I didn’t mentioned the temptation.

She was strictly GP-13 and I fell into a wired maze of dreams. None of them were XXX and that was probably better for Alice.

Better for me too, because 10˝ inches was as a big penis in dreams as it was in real life.

Klaus and me at the party.

HERMAPHRODITE by Peter Nolan Smith

Back in the early 80s the Louvre belonged to art historians and lovers of the finer things in life. Few common people visited the former Bourbon palace and once a week I wandered the museum’s dusty corridor without any disturbance to my admiration of its vast collection.

At that time I was le psychionomiste of the Bains-Douches nightclub and my friend Alabama Tony tended bar at Paris’ only Mexican restaurant. We threw his football after closing. The chestnut tree on the courtyard restricted throws and the cobblestones were murder on our feet, but the French clientele loved our rendition of Joe Namath and Don Maynard in Super Bowl III.

Margharitas.

Mexico.

Models.
The Studio on Rue du Temple was a grand success and Tony was happy to be away anyplace close to Mississippi, but Dixie had a tug on his soul and after he locked the doors he played Lynard Skynard and Blue Cheer on his guitar to homesick Southern models homesick. They loved him for being Alabama Tony in a city of Yves.

“You come all the way from Birmingham to hang out with girls from below the Mason-Dixon line?”

“A pretty girl is a pretty girl, but even prettier with a drawl.”

“Can’t argue with you about that.” I was having an affair with Tony’s sister. The blonde army sergeant was stationed in Germany. I had a thing for women in a uniform.

After hearing about the Louvre’s desolation Tony said, “I’d like to go with you’all.”

“You like Art?”

“Not even as a name for a boy, but I’d love to chuck a football in the Louvre.” Tony had a good arm and I was fast on my feet. The Studio’s touch football team beat every squad this side of the Seine. Tony strummed the opening chords of FREEBIRD.

“Then let’s do it.”

Next day the two of us entered the Louvre with a football in Tony’s backpack. We walked to the second-floor galleries on the river. The afternoon sun glowered through unwashed windows the height of a three-story building. Epic paintings scaled the walls to the vaulted ceilings.

“The king used to live here?” Tony was slightly awed by the regal surroundings.

“Until 1682 then the Sun King moved to Versailles.”

“Louis Fourteen, right?” The City of Light had worked its magic on a redneck.

“One and the same. It stored their art collection until the Revolution.”

“Damn, the rich were rich back then.” Tony tugged out the football. No one else was in the long hall and he waved his left hand “Go long.”

I sprinted across the wooden floors and caught the long spiral around a secondary Delacroix. We were a little careful with our passes. These paintings were worth millions. A group of Japanese tourists appeared in the distance and Tony stashed the football.

“You’all know this ‘art’?”

“A little.” I had taken Art Appreciation 101 at university.

“Then give me a tour.”

“Okay, but don’t look at any of the paintings. There are too many. Let them look at you. We are only here to see a statue.”

“Of what?”

“You’ll see when we get there.”

We ignored the Davids, Vermeers, George de la Tours, artifacts from ancient civilizations and royal jewelry.

“Can I look yet?”

“Soon.”

We arrived before the Mona Lisa. A score of foreign visitors were admiring the work. Leonardo’s masterpiece was considered the most famous painting in the world. The great artist’s muse Salai had sold the painting to Francis I for 4000 ecrus of gold, but we had not come here to see La Joconda.

“Turn your head to the right,” I told Tony and pointed to a reclining marble figure on a matching buttoned mattress. “The Sleeping Hermaphroditus.”

“Hermaphrodite?” Tony was no simple grit.

“Half-man, half woman.”

Tony abandoned the Mona Lisa and examined the sleeping enigma of sexuality.

“How old?”

“Roman, the mattress was done in the 17th Century. It’s known as the Borghese Hermaphroditus. The Borghese family was one of the richest in Europe.”

“Where are they now?”

“Not here.” It was our statue now.

“And you consider this the most important thing in the Louvre?”

“That and throwing a football.”

“Cool.” Tony caressed the cold stone. “And smooth.”

That night I was at the Studio with Tony’s sister, Eliie. Her brother suggested to a runway beauty from Louisiana that they visit the Louvre.

“What for?” the blonde asked with a bayou accent.

“Because it’s as lonely as a graveyard and I want you to meet someone.”

“Who?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“Sounds scary,” Tony’s sister was kidding. Ellie wasn’t scared of anything.

“I like scary.” The blonde signed up for the tour and we agreed to meet in the afternoon.

Ellie and I went back to my hotel in the Marais and Tony took the blonde to the Latin Quarter.

The following afternoon we met in the courtyard of the Louvre. Pigeons swirled in the air and a few tourists wandered in the courtyard. Tony and I paid for the girls and guided them to the riverside galleries, where the diffused southern light off the Seine suffocated the Louvre’s forgotten passages and Tony told our guests, “Don’t look at the paintings.”

He was a good student.

“Why not?” asked Ellie, expecting a good answer and Alabama Tony said, “They have seen hundreds of thousand of people and they are tired of eyes.

He fixed his gaze on the blonde.

“Forget Michelangelo, David, or Delacroix. You’re more beautiful than any of theses paintings and you’ll be more beautiful if you don’t let them steal your beauty.”

“Like a camera stealing your soul,” asked the rookie model.

“Everything gets older faster when someone is watching.”

Alabama Tony meandered through the Louvre and the blonde believed anything he said with that mush-mouthed drawl, since he sounded like ‘home’. We lingered

“”Where Tony learn that shit?” Ellie was holding my hand.

“I gave him a lesson or two.”

“I thought the bullshit sounded familiar.” She had gone on two of my walking tours of Paris.

Merde peut-ętre, mais regardez pas les tableaux.”

Our eyes-down tour passed Bellini’s sculptures, Raphael’s cherubs, and the treasure of France, and at the Mona Lisa where Tony announced, “Don’t lift your head, but you’all standing in front of the most famous painting in the world. Everyone knows its name. It’s a woman. She has a smile. No one knows why.”

“The Mona Lisa.” Even the blonde knew that and she was only 18.

The girls wanted to see the Mona Lisa, but Tony and I blocked their field of vision.

“The Mona Lisa is better known famous than the Crimson Tide football team and everyone wants fame, but to your left is the most exquisite statue in existence this side of the Boll Weevil Monument in downtown Enterprise, Alabama.”

“I hate that creepy thing.” Ellie shuddered with disgust.

“Well, this ain’t that.”

Tony played his grits card with vingt-et-un cool and his French was impeccable for someone brought up north of Mobile. “Fermay tes ewes and donned moi your hands.”

Our ‘dates’ obeyed his instruction and we led them to the statue of the Hermaphrodite, where he positioned their hands on the statue’s naked marble ass.

“This is the Borghese Hermaphroditus.” Alabama Tony knew what he knew. “It’s not famous like the Mona Lisa, but the Hermaphrodite survived the fall of Rome. The Louvre is filled with Greek and Roman statues without noses, arms, or legs, but this statue escaped all harm. Two thousand years without a blemish to its flawless stone flesh. It is eternal.”

Alabama Tony had the timing of a delta tide and paused for a span of time not needing a count.

“You’all can open your eyes.”

Its whiteness was startling in the evening dusk.

“Maybe a boy, maybe a girl, but certainly not the Mona Lisa.” Alabama Tony pointed back to Da Vinci’s immortal painting.

“No one can touch the Mona Lisa, but anyone who touches the Borghese Hermaphroditus will fall in love. “

That line was my cue to finish up the tour.

“You girls care to drink some drink in the Palais Royal?”

Ellie said yes and we retreated to a renown cafe at the northern end of the garden. The barman knew our names. We toasted the magic of the Borghese Hermaphroditus. Everyone was happy.

We perfected our non-seeing tours of Le Louvre with models, Sorbonne painters, dancers from the Crazy Horse, and wandering heiresses. Our best time from the entrance to le Hermaphrodite was twelve minutes, but our luck couldn’t last as long as the existence of a naked transvestite’s statue.

That winter Alabama Tony started spending time with one girl. Tracy was a brunette from Vermont. Her smile was too lovely for a cover girl. She was a teenager dripping with North Country innocence. Tony was in the sights of her maple syrup brown eyes.

“I think she wants to get serious.”

“How serious?”

“I’m not seeing anyone else.”

Those words explained the sad faces on the Dixie girls at the Studio. Tony wasn’t playing FREEBIRD for them anymore.

“She wants to go to the Louvre.”

“You going to show her the tour?”

“What you’ll think?”

“You like her?” I thought she was a good girl.

“More than like.”

“Then do what you think is best as long as you remember the danger of the Hermaphrodite.”

“You mean I’ll fall in love?”

“It happens to us.”

For me more than once.

“That falling love story’s a bunch of phooey.” Alabama Tony smirked at my caution. “Besides Traci’s from Vermont.”

“What’s that have to do with it?” I was a New Englander.

“She’s just another Yankee girl.”

“And you’re Johnny Reb. Every statue in the town squares of Vermont had a Union soldier defiantly facing the South. The South will not rise again.”

“We will, you damn Yankee.”

The next day Alabama Tony walked our route through the museum. Tracy was smart for a teenager. She had been to a real school. She pouted at his warning to not regard the other paintings.

“I didn’t come to Paris to be told what to do. I could have stayed in Vermont for that.” Tracy pointed to the wall. “That paintings’s English. That’s French and that’s Delacroix’s LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE.”

“How you know that?” Tony had come to the Louvre on his own. He looked at the paintings then. The color of the light showed him the truth about art. Paris had that power.

“I’ve been here before.” Tracy stepped closer.

“I’ve never seen you here.” Tony held her hand for the first time. It held the softness of a stalled breeze.

“I’ve never seen you.”

A vagrant ray of sunset struck the wall mirror. The lighting was perfect. The only camera was their memory. Time slowed to the pace of their breathing and she hushed, “What how?”

“I’ll show you my favorite thing in the Louvre.”

“The Sleeping Hermaphroditus.”

She laughed like she had been waiting for this punchline.

“All the girls talk about how you bring them here and have them touch the Sleeping Hermaphroditus’ ass to fall in love. funny, but they all did for a few days. Maybe that’s the power of the The Sleeping Hermaphroditus. You willing to try?”

“I am if you are.”

Tracy took his hand and led him toward the Mona Lisa. She had come here on her own too. They passed the gogging gaggle before Leonardo’s painting and stopped before the blemish less statue.

“It’s so perfect.”

“Saved from a grave of dirt.”

“To sleep on stone.”

Traci held Tony’s hand. She steered it to the statue. They touched the marble together.

That autumn the two got married at the Studio. The cobblestones were covered by leaves from the old Chesnut tree. We drank tequila and danced to the owner playing OLD ROCKY TOP on the fiddle. At the end of the night Alabama Tony and I threw a football in the medieval Marais courtyard. Two high stakes Ivy League lawyers challenged us to a game. We beat them like rented mules. Cobblestones were our home advantage. We toasted our victory, yelling “Joe Namath.”

Tony stopped.

“What?”

“Look.”

I did.”

Tracy was beamed at her football hero. Neither of us had broken a window in the courtyard. At dawn the newlyweds went home.

The Louvre was never the same for me after that. People rediscovered the museum.

French first.

English.

Dutch.

German.

Japanese.

Paris was safe. It was the City of Light. In the day foreign crowds flocked to see the masterpieces. They all stopped at the Mona Lisa. Few looked at le Borghese Hermaphroditus, because the fame of Mona Lisa was a tough act to follow even for the cool stone of a sleeping beauty. A few dared to touch her.

But never me.

Nothing else had a better feel when you wanted to fall in love during football season.

Even in Paris.

Go long.

Frank the owner of Le Studio, Tracy, and Tony 1983.

Chocolate Chip Shiva

As 80year old Benny lay dying in his bedroom, he suddenly smells the aroma of freshly cooked chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. They are his favourite. So he gathers his remaining strength, lifts himself from his bed and leaning against the wall, slowly makes his way out of the bedroom. Then, with great effort, he makes his way down the stairs, gripping the rail with both hands. Finally, breathing hard, he leans against the kitchen doorframe and stares in.

“I’m already in heaven,” he thinks, as there, spread out in front of him, are hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

“Am I really in heaven,” has asks himself, “or is it an act of devotion from mine darling Rebecca to ensure that I exit from this world a happy man?”

Then with one final effort, Benny propels himself towards the cookies, but ends up on his knees near the table. His aged hand trembles as it makes its way to the cookie nearest the table edge, his mind already beginning to think about the wondrous taste that he will soon experience.

All of a sudden, Rebecca smacks his hand with her wooden spoon.

“Please don’t touch them,” she says, “they’re for the Shiva.”

ROSH A HOMA by Peter Nolan Smith

Last night I was sitting in Frank’s Lounge with Vince. The owner’s nephew and I were discussing a teaching position as a creative writer. It sounded good and the Fort Greene native said, “Hell, I have a four day weekend thanks to Rush a homa.”

“You mean Rosh Hashanah?” My boss from the Diamond District also called the Jewish holiday ‘rush a homa’.

“Yeah, and I bet no one in this bar know what the holiday is? It’s not me have an extra holiday for Martin Luther King Day.” The school administrator was right. Frank’s Lounge is a black bar. I was the only token white boy in the place. It was a quiet night for a Friday.

“It’s the Jewish Day of Awe.” I knew the High Holy Days from working twenty-odd years on 47th Street. “It’s also the Day of Judgment and Jews have ten days until Yom Kippur to repent for their sins. Of course I don’t believe in that shit, because I’m an atheist.”

“Atheist?” Vince rocked on his stool with laughter. “I’m always amused by you atheists. None of you believe in God until you need him.”

“Not true.” I stopped praying to God years ago.

“You ever hear about this atheist rowing at the lake, when suddenly the Loch Ness monster attacked and grabbed him from his boat. He panicked and shouted “God help me!”, and suddenly, the monster and everything around him just stopped.

A voice from the heavens boomed “You say you don’t believe in me, but now you are asking for my help?”

The atheist looked up and said: Well, ten seconds ago I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster either!”

Several of the nearest drinkers chortled at this joke.

“This isn’t about atheists. This is about Rosh Hashanah and the sins of the world.”

“Well, here’s to Rosh Hashanah. I got two days off with pay and my next beer is to Yom Kippur. I love a holiday to fish.” Vince ordered me a beer too. I was glad for his hospitality. My money was down to $10. I may have sins, but too many to count on a Friday night.

Shana Tova everyone.

Doomed But Not Done

Mankind might well be on the precipice.

We are seemingly doomed by man-made climate change , but that doesn’t mean we have to give up.

Cut your energy costs by shutting off the lights, the voodoo transformers, and curtail your driving to a minimum.

The money you save is money stolen from the energy companies.

The best way to be Robin Hood is not let King John steal from you.

ps I’ll be riding my bike in New York to the March.