I bounced onto the Henry Hudson Parkway weaving in and out of traffic, leaning as close to the road as I could possibly lean without hitting, until the crease of my suit-pants brushed the tarmac, tempting fate. Every second swerve the Hudson River dazzled me with sun-glitter — a carpet of tiny reflections off the gentle waves rocking its calm shit-brown waters.
At West 79th Street I passed an Adopt-a-Highway sign sponsored by James Alexander Kunt, which had been graffitied with swastikas in blood-red and black.[i] And a ‘Bike-life’ wolfpack riding-out on Honda CRF250L and Kawasaki KX450F dirt bikes and Yamaha Raptor 700 and classic Suzuki LTR450 ATV’s, slid onto the Parkway in tight formation on either side of me, popping wheelies at random, revving their menace into the red, and painting the daylight with wild primary colored vehicular graffiti.
At West 96th Street the wolfpack drove me off the road and into the Dinosaur playground, where they encircled me like it was Little Big Horn and I was General fucking Custer, took off their helmets at once as if by divine command and dismounted.
When they did I was staring down a tribe of green-eyed Shangó’s, and they couldn’t keep their paws off me.
The lead Shangó raised his hand in a god-like manner to calm his trigger-happy forces and brandished a Samsung Galaxy S4 tablet, but instead of reading The Sermon on The Mount, he showed me, by way of a threat, a video of Joy in a brown Boston University T-shirt dirtyish dancing to Phoenix’s “Lisztomania,” on a blacktop rooftop, in a homage to the iconic group dance scene from The Breakfast Club.
His idea was that the video gave them, whoever they were, leverage, as in the video Joy was untamed, free, and her knickers were showing, which was-not and was a ruler-of-men look depending on your proximity to a pole.
My thought was that Joy looked damn attractive, that the video was a generation or two beyond scandalous and would play as well to her hot-blooded base as it would play badly to the cold-hearted who would resent it, as they do everything that smiles.
So, the threat was idle.
So, I shrugged it off with a gruff: “¡Está bueno, pero la próxima vez mándame un tweet! “ Foolishly taunting the Beast to tweet the video and be damned.
It was premature.
The Beast had much more, and the sing-song falsetto of a minister to deliver it: “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God,” he sing-sung quoting Nahum 1:2 and Stallion RIP.[ii] “The Lord is avenging and wrathful,” he arpeggiated, flicking through his treasure trove of half-a-dozen grainy spy-cam shorts, taken on our trip to Kunt’s bountiful Key Largo estate. “The Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies,” he threatened, raising his voice as he played to the flock, while swiping between footage taken by a camera above the bed of the Adam’s Suite at Key Largo that showed Monica, shiny with sweat, stroking her sex against my lips ‘as she rolled her nipples like a joint.’
She looked happy and he looked happy, which is how we looked when the picture was taken.
The second short was taken by the Key Largo beach club pool. It featured Monica (naked) straddling SCOTUS (naked) in a beach chair --- her booty bouncing by the light of silvery moon.
Monica looked happy and FLOTUS looked happy, which is how I’m guessing they were when the picture was taken.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth spy-cam shorts were variations on the two themes, but his greater point, which he reinforced by handing me Angel Maranzano’s napkin with its fifty-million-dollar promise scrawled on it, was that: “Monica is a cuero malo! Joy is the sister of a cuero malo! — a whore! And you Degas are their pimp and puppet master. Es una historia jodidamente fea. Yeah, it’s a fucking ugly story that doesn’t ever need to get told — ever.”
“So long as my bitch drops out of the race. And we get out of King Kunt’s face?” I ventured channeling Maranzano, while licking the blood off my right knuckle.
It tasted as salty and as acrid as the day.
“Yes, walk away now and you walk away with life, liberty and lotto money — the American dream. It’s a good deal and it’s the only deal you got,” he chuckled as he tucked the tablet into his robe and walked away to his bike, signaling that his flock should follow.
I lit the butt of a cigarette and called Joy who did not pick up. So, I took a photo of Maranzano’s fifty-million-dollar napkin and sent it to Joy in a ‘fuck ‘em’ text. Then I folded the napkin twice, so that it was one quarter of its original size and popped it in the chest pocket of my jacket.
I went back to my bike.
I got back in the saddle.
One part of the mystery had solved itself: The Beasts were Stallion or close enough to Stallion that the difference did not matter, and they answered to Kunt or his Buncha Kunts and they were so intertwined that the difference does not matter. And collectively they used the Beasts to disrupt democracy and make it work in their favor as they have other imperfect markets --- the stock markets where private equity funds and hedge funds dump their bad bets on the “little guy” and founders and managers increasingly restrict the rights of ordinary shareholders to vote; the commodity markets where traders regularly place “spoof” orders to create the illusion of demand and inflate prices, and retail markets where internet’s promise of transparency has been submerged under the weight of disinformation, often paid for by the sellers themselves. Meanwhile, in the urban jungles of America, net-worth, price-paid, and the value of life, are determined and continuously recalculated and rebalanced by the unerring relationship between supply and demand, for drugs, for weapons, for shelter. The result is brutal, ugly, inhumane and ultimately undesirable, which is why no-one cares to look.
I glanced at the S7 for a return text from Joy, but I had a @therealkunt tweet to look at instead. A rogue Twitter employee had deleted Kunt’s account on their last day in Twittervile and Kunt had flipped --- he wanted his Twitter back, unlimited Big Mac’s, his wall, and his Chief of Staff to salute him whenever he came into the fucking room, like Kim Jong Un’s peeps did.
A southerly breeze took a swing at me as I crossed the Henry Hudson Bridge into the Bronx from Manhattan and chased me down the long and winding and steep road that is Kappock Street, to Johnson Avenue where I bounced north past John F. Kennedy High School, through potholes as deep as craters. The school had served a largely immigrant Dominican community badly, until it was closed by the Department of Education in 2014 after decades of underperformance, beatings, stabbing, slashings and shots fired, having scored an ‘overall D’ in its 2009-10 lack-of-progress report, complimented by a F grade for student performance and a four-year graduation rate of 46%, — 17 points lower than city average.
The eight-story building had since been transformed into an education mall with seven schools specializing in seven lack-of-disciplines, from international studies, through theater, engineering & technology, math, to a school of law and finance that offered themed classes in a mock courtroom, where I, surfing on my fifteen minutes of fame, had been invited (on account of my notoriety and after a recommendation from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. who had a bone or two to pick with Kunt going back to his pops eviction from the Trump Village apartment complex in Coney Island in the early 1980’s) to make the commencement speech to graduating students, which were few and far between.[iv] [v]
It was just after two in the afternoon.
My speech was scheduled for six.
The polls closed at nine.
It was going to be a busy day.
I took a sharp left on 230th Street, passing a line of cars waiting to be buffed and puffed at Riverdale Car Wash, which, in its glory days, was owned by the bad-tempered, hard-drinking, ex-New York Knicks power forward, center and omnipresent on-court enforcer Charles Oakley, who had banged the boards at Madison Square Garden for a decade more effectively than they have been banged before or since.
I’d met “Oak Tree” for the first time during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Gardens on February 8, 2017, where he’d gone wild, hurling abuses at a security guard he felt was profiling him and yelling “Fuck all you white boys,’ at franchise owner James Dolan, before mixing it up with three security guards.
He was arrested and handcuffed near an arena exit where I stood in line with John McEnroe and Spike Lee to separate him from the guards. I’d accompanied him to Midtown Precinct South, where he declined his right to legal representation, and received a desk appearance ticket.
I’d been keeping him out of trouble ever since.
At Broadway, under the elevated train tracks, a gaggle of Joy’s urban buffaloes on their way back from an event in the East Bronx were waving banners and flags, waxing lyrical about the birds and the bees and the damage to the trees, rocking the vote in democratic socialisms’ uncertain direction.
There was no sign of Joe Crowley anywhere!
No Joe, who’d sent former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma as his surrogate to the previous week’s primary debate, claiming a ‘scheduling conflict’ for the second time in succession, inevitably leaving voters to wonder, wonder, wonder — ‘what are we, chopped liver?’
I supposed old Joe thought he had an unassailable lead and was playing prevent defense, but that left the enemy free to take territory without opposition and address the ‘chopped liver’ without argument or obstruction. Consequently, my personal exit poll was calling it for Joy and my prediction was that a change was going to come.
It was just after two in the afternoon.
My speech was scheduled for six.
The polls closed at nine.
It was going to be a busy day.
I pulled up to my office at two-thirty in the afternoon. I know because Frida Car-on-the-down-low, a dilapidated eagle with a clenched toothless smile for a fist, stood at the building entrance, with her hand extended and told me so.
I filled it with a couple of quarters, as if I was paying a toll.
To thank me she hit play on the classic Panasonic Rx-5100 S mini-boom box she had hanging by a yellow ribbon from her neck as if she were a juke-box and a few seconds of cassette tape hiss later, Alejandro Fernández, a silky tenor with the face of an angel, a buff, defoliated chest inspired by Adonis, a voice by way of god, and a quiver full of platinum awards, was smoothing away the day’s rougher edges with; “Si Tú Supieras,” a lush ballad featuring saccharin strings recorded at Abbey Road recording studios in London, over rhythms cooked at Criteria recording studios in Miami by Emilio Estefan Jr. — Gloria Estefan’s empire building spouse.
The song ends, as it must, in a swamp of glissando but by that time I was long gone.
Monica was sitting at my desk, on my chair, in my office spinning Shangó’s fat star-sapphire on her ring finger, which snatched the light like a mirror-ball and threw it about the office like we were in the club, which brought me back to our first meeting twenty-months before.
“Part of your inheritance?” I grimaced, gazing at Shangó’s rock.
“All of it Pajero,” she lobbed back calmly, raising her mahogany eyes a notch and her brows to the sky, which was when I noticed that the birthdate ink on the side of her neck was gone and the skin was a little lighter where it had once been.My first thought was that she was preparing to evaporate into witness protection. My second thought was even more dramatic --- that we might never meet again. My third thought was more of an observation --- Abe, my ex-Papi, was sitting opposite her and he was wearing a grin close to pride, which was not where we’d left things on Roosevelt Island.
My first thought was that she was preparing to evaporate into witness protection. My second thought was even more dramatic --- that we might never meet again. My third thought was more of an observation --- Abe, my ex-Papi, was sitting opposite her and he was wearing a grin close to pride, which was not where we’d left things on Roosevelt Island.
So, I poured myself a bourbon to fortify myself for their story. Then Monica ordered one, so I made two.
The short of it was that Abe had been, ’chagrined’ was the word he used, that Kunt, after promising during the primaries in early 2016 to put out his “very big, very beautiful” tax returns, had not and had offered instead various reasons for not giving out the information, saying that his lawyers told him not to release the returns because they are being audited and that voters are not interested and ‘there’s nothing to learn from them,’ all of which Abe considered to be “lame excuses.”[viii]
He was particularly offended by Kunt’s assertion made in the first Presidential debate at Hofstra University that “Smart people don’t pay taxes,” as he had been paying taxes all his life, and he felt that Kunt was calling him a fool. So, he signed the online petition on the “We the People” portion of the White House’s website calling for the release of Kunt’s tax returns.[ix] But even though the petition got over 1 million signatures, it was ignored. Instead, Kunt spokesperson Kelly Connor announced that Kunt would not release his tax returns due to lack of interest.
So, Abe got together with a forensic account friend of his that had recently left Kunt’s accountants — Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and they dug deep and put together a mock return.
According to Abe the trick was that: Kunt had claimed $916,000,000 of Net Operating Losses in 1994 for Federal income tax purposes even though the vast majority of the losses were his investors and not his resulting in him not owing any Federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
“Degas, the effect of this,” gasped Abe somewhere between exasperation and wonder, “is that even though Kunt had adjusted gross income of over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS in 2017, he is claiming a refund of SIX MILLION, SIXTEEN THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY-SIX DOLLARS.”
“No cents?” I asked, kidding.
“No cents!” Abe confirmed, grinning.
He’d come through for me in a pinch.
Yes, for the first time in four decades, but he came through big time nevertheless.
So, I reached out to him and we hugged.
I knew he was crying because I felt his tears on my cheek.
I was dry eyed, because my heart hurt for Mami, who wouldn’t have missed this embrace for the world.
I was wondering what to do with my heartbreak when the telephone rang.
It was Diaz.
He was as pleased as punch and even nastier.
He’d just gotten word from Captain Thomas Fraser, Commander of the 45th Precinct, which serves the northeastern section of the Bronx, that Joy was in custody at the station house.
Apparently, the Beasts and a posse of Crowley supporters attacked Joy’s urban buffaloes outside the Applebee’s at Throg’s Neck Shopping Center and knives and guns were drawn.
Minutes later, “as if by fucking magic, Degas,” Diaz marveled, “2 patrol cars from the Four-Five and one for good luck from the Bronx Task Force entered the mall from a couple of directions and started making arrests.”
“Unfortunately,” Diaz chuckled the Beasts and Crowley’s posse got away. “But the good news is that Joy was taken into custody and we charged her with marijuana possession and Second-Degree aggravated assault. I’m calling you because she needs a lawyer, and I thought you might be interested Hijo de la gran puta.”
And then, having called me a son of a bitch, he slammed down the phone.