Two almost identical long grey-scale shadows fanned out through the venetian blinds shading my bedroom windows and stuck around changing in intensity with the passing clouds as muted daylight from a cold overcast morning replaced the orange-yellow streetlamp-tinged blackness of the night.
The shadows crept up in me almost every day. They were so familiar they’d earned given names. The first shadow “Fear” kept me under the covers looking back at the many mistakes I’d made. The second shadow “Loathing” despised that I was fearful and got me out of bed.
I met dawn naked under a white collarless shirt marked with the scent of the pay-as-you-go distraction I’d plucked off a red velour seat at Club W, a strip club that squats in the midst of 30 garbage transfer stations, next to the huge Wastewater Treatment Plant in Hunts Point. It brags a dry-weather shit-flow of 200 million gallons a day, rising to double that in wet-weather, when the run-off suffocates the East River and contributes to an asthma rate that is 1000% higher than the national average.
I’d discovered the hip-hop legendary establishment, representing a dimwitted sanitation worker who’d been convinced by his half-brother, a psychotic pimp, to drop his girlfriend’s dismembered body in a dump at the Metropolitan Transfer Station, less than a mile down the road.
A few days later, a co-worker on a bulldozer unearthed her torso and then her right leg, which was barely connected to her right foot and dangled like a hooked fish from an over-stretched extensor digitorum longus.
The foot was conveniently tattooed with the pimps’ name. A clue the Cops dutifully followed to his crib in East Flatbush, Brooklyn where they found her head, hands and left foot on ice and her blood splattered on the walls like a $5,000 Hirst.
A few hours after the Coroner put the puzzle pieces back together and established that the cause of death was a plethora of blunt force injuries to the head, they let my guy go figuring he’d had little choice but to cooperate with the homicidal pimp.
My dimwitted client rewarded me with ‘a trip to the b-b-bootyful’ — Al’s Mr. Wedgie, as Club W was called at the time, in honor of its founder the late Alfred Rivera.
His widow later apparently flipped it to the owner of the even more hip-hop notorious Sin City Cabaret, a South Bronx “jiggle joint” frequented by footballers, basketballers, baseballers and highballers, which closed when the State Liquor Authority revoked its license for 18 violations of state law, a year after nine strippers and bouncers were arrested for dealing cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth to plain-clothed-coppers 24 times.
The State Liquor Authority also charged the clubs’ owner-by-proxy, Konstantine “Gus” Drakopoulos, with “availing” — running the club and profiting from it with his mother’s name on the liquor license, a stutter-step necessitated by his conviction for insider trading in 2002.[i]
I knew Drakopoulos through Charlie “Knox” Allen, a grimy cop and occasional bag-man for Edwin, who’d commanded both the 45th and 52nd Precincts.
When Allen retired in 2009, he was wealthy beyond the pay-scale of the NYPD.
Drakopoulos bought Allen out of retirement to manage the club’s relationship with the 4-O and particularly with Christopher McCormick its commanding officer, who became the poster-child for the NYPD’s illegal Stop & Frisk practices, when he got caught on tape informing his shock-troops: “I have no problem telling you to target male blacks 14 to 21.”
Allen managed the club-cop relationship well — fights, even shootings were smoothed over with cash and Champagne-room sexual favors. He even arranged for the 4-O to dispatch a pair of coppers in a patrol car to loiter outside the club on busy nights, providing additional security at taxpayers’ expense.[ii]
Drakopoulos and Allen came to see me with stack of shrink-wrapped Benjamins a few days after the club closed searching for grounds to appeal. I told them there were none, which I’m sure is the same answer they got from the other consiglieres they visited.
All else having failed, they posted an online petition urging employees and patrons to protest the Club’s closing on the basis it discriminated against Black and Latino strippers, which I’m certain was uppermost in Martin Luther King’s mind on the march from Selma.[iii]
I’d gone back to the club a few times since to nurse despair back to melancholy and for cheap masturbatory relief. This visit was to flush myself of Monica Rivera who’d burst into my life in a hurry, filled my head with grand ambitions, and left me waiting for a fucking burner phone to ring.
I had been 10 weeks since Robert Ramos passed me Monica’s burner and it hadn’t rung once and my countless texts and calls to the last number she’d called me from were unanswered, ignored.
I’d dug up enough about the statute of limitations for fraud-based inheritance claims in New York State to know it was six-years. So, I was 11 years shit-out-of-luck.
Kunt’s attorney, Michael Cohn Esq., was not returning my calls.
The X5 was nowhere to be seen.I hadn’t bumped into Lady-cop Dowd or Man-Cop Tyrell.
Hints of the 5-stories Monica had left with me surfaced from time to time but as glancing blows that grazed Teflon Kunt who dismissed them as fake news but did not permanently damage him or impede his progress.
“Me había enamorado de la ilusión, y ella me dejó seco.” I said to an audience of me Yeah. Monica had left me low and dry. And alone.
The urgent care I was looking for had arrived quickly in the form of Lux, a Trinidadian Barbie doll with dyed blonde hair that curled its way down and around a pair of tensile strength bare titties. She wore a latex faux-leather thong transparently tight on her crotch, spiked stilettos and earrings that swung like pendulums as she friction-rubbed me to climax with long slow strokes to the beat of SZA’s insidious, lazy-grooved, “Shit, Damn Motherfucker” derived, pussy-celebrating anthem, “Doves in the Wind.”
She stuck around in exchange for a CÎROC™ Diddy — a stirred and not shaken vodka & lemonade cocktail, garnished with pineapple, lime and the myth it was created by Bad Boy Entertainment founder and luxury brand builder Sean P. “Diddy” Combs.
The Diddy is a copy of the John Daly, named after the hard hitting, alcoholic, golfballer and invented by a at the Whiskey Creek Golf Course in Fort Myers, Florida, during Daly’s wet run at the Dirty Gator Open in 2005. [iv]
And Diddy himself?
He makes a $2.15 on every bottle of CÎROC™ sold and topped the 2017 Forbes Celebrity 100 list with pretax earnings of $130 million — more than Beyoncé ($105 million), Drake ($92 million), and Ed Sheeran, Britney Spears, and Chance the Rapper combined.[v]
It’s a lot of money, and it buys a lot of protection, but not nearly enough if the urban legend that Diddy paid the Southside Crips $1,000,000 to kill 2pac and his manager and Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge“ Knight, is within rifle-range of the truth.
The hit on 2Pac happened in Las Vegas at 11:15 p.m. on Saturday September 7, 1996, at a red light at the intersection of East Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in front of the Maxim Hotel. A white, late-model Cadillac sedan pulled up to Suge’s black 7-Series Beemer on the right side, rolled down a window and one of the occupants, Orlando Anderson, a Crip who got his two years later in an unrelated “gang-shooting,” pulled out a .40 caliber Glock 22 and hit ‘Pac four times, twice in the chest piercing his right lung, once in the arm, and once in the thigh. Suge, who’d been hit in the head by shell fragments drove on flat about a mile to Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, where the Bike Patrol pulled them over and radioed for help.‘Pac died six days later in the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, though some of his fans swear by his resurrection. Suge was released from the hospital after a one-night stand but refused to cooperate with the investigation, preferring, to handle the matter of revenge himself — “Coz you can’t be from the ghetto and be a rat.”A few months later, on March 6, 1997, I flew to Los Angeles to attend the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards, at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, as guest of Keith Clinkscales, President of Vibe/Spin Ventures, and publisher of Vibe magazine, the headline sponsor of the show.The trip, which coincided with my 30th birthday, was gift for brokering a shhhhh settlement between the hip-hop record label Def Jam and Vibe editor-in-chief Danyel Smith, after Foxy Brown, one of the label’s top artists, assaulted the hack in a restaurant because the rag had made insinuations about her personal life in a cover-story.[vi] My gift came with first class airfare, a suite at the Beverly Hills adjacent Nikko Hotel, a stretch, a seat at the show next to Lakers baller Magic Johnson, a backstage pass and an introduction to the show’s hosts Brandy, LL Cool J and Gladys Knight; Quincy Jones, and Jada Pinkett who introduced me to Aaliyah, who introduced me to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, who led me to Snoop, who introduced me to Yuko, a video dancer who spoke English with a thick Japanese accent, gave herself generously, spat me out in the end and charged me $300 for her ride home.The following night I met Keith at the Vibe after-party at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles.,The scene at the after-party was mellow given the guest list. Diddy was there with Bad Boy’s biggest artist, Christopher Wallace, AKA Biggie Smalls, AKA The Notorious B.I.G., and B.I.G’s. estranged wife, Faith Evans, who 2Pac claimed he “fucked” to settle his score with B.I.G., was there chatting with Snoop and Death Row rapper DJ Quik, whose entourage included ten fierce Treetop Piru Bloods. The baker’s dozen Crips who had wangled invitations included 2pac’s assassin, Orlando Anderson.I was at a table with Keith and hip-hop royalty — Diddy, Junior M.A.F.I.A. rapper James “Lil’ Caesar” Lloyd and B.I.G who was playing show and tell with the Psalm 27 he’d inked on his right inside forearm a few days before.
By 12:30 a.m. the party was so overcrowded and so overcast with Marijuana smoke that the fire marshal closed it down.We left the museum in a motorcade — I climbed into Diddy’s white Chevy Suburban and sat in the middle row next to Keith. Diddy sat next to his driver Kenneth Story up front. Behind us Diddy’s three bodyguards were squeezed into the 3rd row bench seat.B.I.G. lifted himself into the passenger seat of the second truck, a green Suburban, next to his driver, Gregory “G-Money” Young, while Junior M.A.F.I.A. rapper James “Lil’ Caesar” Lloyd, who trickled up with B.I.G., and his bestie, Damien “D-Rock” Butler, rode in the back seat.The green Suburban was trailed by a Chevy Blazer carting Diddy’s head of security.We crawled along Wilshire, which was crowded with party-people and blew through the amber light at South Fairfax Avenue.B.I.G.’s vehicle didn’t make or break the light and stopped on the south side of the intersection.As a white Toyota Land Cruiser made a U-turn to separate the green Suburban from the trailing Chevy Blazer, a black Impala SS pulled up on the Suburban’s right side. The driver was alone in the sedan, dressed to suggest he was full-on Nation of Islam, in a grey suit and poker-dotted red bow-tie. He rolled down his window, which I thought strange as it was a colder than usual night in Southern California, chilled by a breeze from the north. He looked B.I.G. in the eye for a moment, pulled a 9 mm blue-steel automatic pistol across his chest with his right hand, braced it against his left forearm and bang, bang, bang, bang, shot B.I.G four times. Three of the bullets hit mostly flesh, but the fourth entered B.I.G’s big body through his right hip and pierced his colon, liver, heart, and the upper lobe of his left lung, before stopping in his left shoulder.As the Impala sped away, heading east on Wilshire, the Land Cruiser made another U-turn and drove off, its screeching tires burning rubber into the tar.We ran across Wilshire to the green Suburban and opened the passenger-side door.B.I.G. was hunched over the dashboard with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, bleeding through his jacket.Kenneth Story pushed G-Money aside and we sped to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, less than five minutes away on Beverly Boulevard, just past South La Cienega.At the hospital, it took six people to lift B.I.G. onto a gurney.As doctors rushed B.I.G. into surgery for an emergency thoracotomy Diddy dropped to his knees theatrically and prayed for his life. But on this occasion the wicked were victorious, and at 1:15 AM the lead surgeon came out of the operating theatre wearing a frown over his bloody frock to tell us B.I.G. was dead.[viii]The same urban legend that says Diddy ordered the hit on 2Pac, says that Suge ordered the hit on B.I.G. An eye for an eye. A prince for a prince. Two red lights. 4 bullets for 4 bullets.DO THE MATH!Lex Talionis and the laws of retaliation and reciprocity dictate that on the street the punishment corresponds exactly to the crime.Diddy dodged the bullet, so the equation remains unbalanced.The net, net is that Suge’s got business with Diddy that may have to wait 28-years as he’s locked up for the manslaughter of his “friend” Terry Carter and attempting to murder Cle “Bone” Sloan with his truck on the set of “Straight Outta Compton,” and that I despise CÎROCI offered Lux another Diddy, but she turned me down. She said she needed to go prospecting for gold. She did tap my number into her iPhone like she was playing a piano, keeping her fingers parallel to the key to protect her long blood-red nails. And I went home hoping but not expecting she’d use it.She called around 2 AM sounding low and high as a kite. Perhaps her ride had gone home with someone else. Perhaps she didn’t have a home. Perhaps she went home with any fool that bought her a couple of Diddy’s and a dance and treated her decently.I really didn’t care, she was something to play with that didn’t have an agenda beyond the next couple of hours.I gave her the address of my kennel on the Grand Concourse and told her I’d pay the cab when she arrived. She said it wasn’t necessary, she’d pay her own.She arrived 20 minutes later in a black FENTY PUMA tracksuit that placed a big elaborate F on her chest and coddled in a Raccoon-fringed BURBERRY Parka.She looked around the apartment, like she was checking I was alone, and asked for directions to the bathroom.After a delay I heard the toilet flush, then the shower and ‘Precious Lord” like she’d been dragged up channeling Aretha at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church.She came out in her birthday suit and curled up on my lap like a long thin cat. I had thought she was in her late-twenties, but I now realized she was a cub. She rubbed her head against my dick, opened my zipper and put everything in her mouth. I think that she was pleasantly surprised when I turned the tables.I didn’t see her leave.She didn’t leave a note.She had come and gone and left me in peace and she hadn’t asked for anything except that I respect her, and she’d shown me a bunch of reasons why I should.
I finally struggled out of bed just before 9 AM and spent the next hour wading through a weeks’ worth of Emails, texts and voicemail messages, from ‘unfortunates’ who’d tripped over man-hole covers, walked into nightsticks and wandered onto building-sites without hard hats; ‘illegals’ who’d fallen foul of ICE; and ‘deplorables’ who’d sold drugs to the wrong coppers, the right coppers at the wrong time, or just got unlucky.
The tall tales of woe were rudely interrupted by the buzzing of the burner in the coin-filled front-right pocket of pants I’d strewn half inside-out on the floor of the bedroom in the heat of the last night.One convulsion, then another, then another in response to three texts from Monica.The first was a reminder that Kunt would be inaugurated President at noon and suggested I watch the “show.”The second let me know in response to my many texts on the sore-subject, that she already knew that the statute of limitations for fraud-based inheritance claims in New York State was six-years. So, we would have to persuade Kunt that paying me what he owed me was in his best interests. And she had a few ideas about that.In the third she said she missed me, which I doubted. But it kept me in the game.Mami called me shortly after that to invite me to Kunt’s show. She was serving Pernil Asado Con Mojo, Tostones, Y Moros y Cristianos and bottomless coconut Mojito’s for her friends.I told her I told her that I’d watch the Kunt’s show at the barber shop and promised to pass by later.I jumped into a dark-grey Italian-made Paris-wool suit I’d bought the week after I’d met Monica and still believed that better would come and because the text barrage suggested it might yet.I grabbed the Camel single-breasted overcoat I’d gotten the same afternoon and went out onto Grand Concourse smiling for the first time in a while.A cold wet mist clung to the Bronx and brushed my new coat with a fine covering of sparkling droplets as I made my way up the west side of the Concourse, past the Instagram famous graffiti wall that skirts the Italian Renaissance styled Andrew Freedman home — once a place where people who lost their fortunes could live rent free in something close to the style they were accustomed to with servants and silver service and an English Garden; it became a refuge for European Jews during World War II; and was now a center for the arts and the most fabulous B&B in New York City.As I crossed McClellan Street the earth shook as a D-train rumbled underneath me, and streetlights flickered on as if triggered by the quake. In that instant the sky seemed to get darker and the low frozen clouds that had hovered like thick eyebrows over the majestic 6-story deco condominium blocks that line the Concourse since morning-has-broken were plucked by the night.I turned left at 167th where brilliant blinding headlights came toward me hard and fast and from nowhere, bouncing to the irregular beat of potholes and jiggling to subsonic bass, as I shuffled down its slippery slope pulling my coat closed at the neck as the wind picked up. I crossed Walton Avenue weaving between a sidewalk rag-rack, a fruit-stand and a double-parked Garbage truck, busy collecting the remains of a busy day.Julio’s XLNT Cutz was half-way down the block, just past a grimy Restaurant Row anchored by a MacDonald’s. It was open even though its graffiti-decorated shutters were shut. Julio probably didn’t need the protection of armor plating, but in his business, you never know when going the extra mile’s going to be life preserving.I pushed the shop’s glass door open.Aventura’s haunting “Obsesión” welcomed me inside; first Romeo Santos’ seditiously sweet falsetto call; then Judy Santos R&B soaked response over Yamaha APX electric guitars that glissando like harps and slapped funk bass.The 2004 monster hit was the tipping point of a transformation that took Bachata from the barrio brothels of Santo Domingo, though the melting pot that is the South Bronx where Romeo tempered it with R&B, hip-hop and reggaetón, to the Obama White House where Aventura performed ‘Romanistas’ for POTUS and FLOTUS on November 7, 2014.[ix]Additional percussion came from pool-balls colliding, as two high school aged Trinitarios, faced-off in Julio’s demilitarized zone, playing for a stack of bills resting on the table’s faded green rail cushions.Julio Ramos was a street entrepreneur on the way up. He cut, shaved, buffed and puffed. He sold burners, SIM’s, and legal and not so legal pumpers, poppers, uppers, downers, and dick enhancement pills. But his primary side-hustle was selling identity.Fake driving licenses cost between $50 and $75 depending on your domicile choice — Florida, California, Chile and Brazil being favorites. A Green Card (or Social Security number of someone recently departed) retailed at $400, paid half in advance and half on delivery. His lowest priced counterfeit U.S. passport cost $2,500 and came with the disclaimer that it could not be used to cross borders.If international travel was your business, then Julio could arrange a $9,500 COMPLETE ID-PACKAGE, consisting a “lost” or “stolen” and then cloned passport with reprogrammed biometrics, a bank letter verifying a bang-up credit history, a social security card, IRS W-2 forms, and genuine pay-stubs from fictitious companies to demonstrate a stellar employment record.
Julio met me with the glass half full, boundlessly optimistic, expression he wore to every occasion and an ironic wolf whistle and cracked. “Papi chulo parece un millionaire hoy.”Embarrassed for all the days the universe had seen me at much less than my best I bowed, sat at the only station that was vacant and asked him to tidy me up, which means a wet shave as close as it gets, and my hair brushed back from my forehead and over my ears, as close to my scalp as is possible.“Soy un bacano,” I said admiring my reflection the mirror “Tu no estas mintiendo,“ which more or less means that I thought I looked handsome too.Sitting back in a barber’s chair as a cut-throat razor, with a blade sharp enough to kill you, defoliates your cheeks, chin, and neck, through warm foam is a sleepy thrill, and about as close as a straight man gets to another man’s face, which is why barbers suck on breath mints and their clients close their eyes.Then suddenly Julio stopped, wiped the blade clean of the foam and called a time-out by pushing the palm of his right hand at me. He picked up the TV remote and then there was sound to go with the picture.I pulled my lids apart.All eyes were on the barbershops bright big-screen TV, where Kunt, sporting a particularly virulent strain of his signature all-over Cheeto-orange fake tan (except that sockets of his Panda-eyes were many shades whiter that the rest), squinted like a deer in the lights as he recited his inaugural address from a teleprompter in deep monotone designed to fright.[x]His blue suit that was far less crisp than mine, a red tie that screamed GOP hung way below his belt, which was advance notice of where he was going.
Kunt pointed first to the heaven like a preacher calling on God or perhaps to suggest he was anointed by God or even God, and then he pointed at us, looking the camera straight in the shutter in a way that took me back to the photograph Monica had shown me of our Papi Joe Kunt, which took me back to IHOP with Monica, which took me back to Monica who was standing there in front of us on the stage at West Front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. tucked just behind Kunt’s ex-model wife, Nadyia.
And for a minute I was lost.
Kunt’s dark message described a nation descending into poverty and overrun by a dark “horde” of illegal immigrants while the “elites” in Washington prospered.“Their victories have not been your victories,” he said, not in solidarity but in-spite of competitors he would now vanquish.“Their triumphs have not been your triumphs,” he continued not in solidarity but to divide and now rule.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he promised grimly, with his arm’s outstretched, before pivoting with a snarl wrapped in a smile to sell “a new vision will govern our land.”He was resolute: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”He curled the thumb and forefinger of his right hand together to make an O signaling that all was right in his world and exited center-stage with a self-congratulatory wave to a crowd he’d left behind at a Red State vanity rally — confident that the bluster that had served him so well on the campaign trail had made yet another day glorious.And then he waved goodbye and hello to the nation, and behind him Monica now in close-up leaned over to Nadyia, brushed a few strands of loose hair from her left ear with disarming familiarity. and whispered a sweet something in her ear that made them both laugh out very loud, which distracted and annoyed Kunt as it deflected our attention.And I muttered to myself and at Monica, “El que anda con perro, a ladrar aprende,” which warns that ’those who sleep with dogs learn to bark.’“Hecho a la brigandine” replied Julio.
Kunt’s rant was immediately followed by a CNN panel, moderated by the painfully moderate Wolf Blitzer, assembled to debate Kunt’s impact on ‘the American people.’ A meaningless descriptor of an aggregation that doesn’t exist, for the excellent and obvious reason that the people have no single will, but that is used by the powerful and powerful recommendation engines to exploit the aspirations, prejudices, vices and buying patterns of everyone else.[xi]chapate
At the commercial break, Julio switched the TV to silent and the barbershop reset to its former self. The skinnier of the two Trinitarians got beat and the victor grabbed the spoils. And I got shaved so close I felt wind on my face on a still early-afternoon as I made my way outside chased by Julio’s well-wishesThere’s a bunch of flowery stuff written about the calm before the storm, but I’m sure that its a new phenomenon created by advance information that gives us a reasonably accurate early-warning of events and lets us prepare for the storm with the luxury of time, wondering if our defenses will hold.Monica’s familiarity with Nadyia tied a knot in my stomach and was an early indicator that a storm was closing in.