Authors: alan mitchell
Activity buzzed all around with elderly Jamaican
women doing laundry, nasty garbage trucks picking up refuse in the middle of
the afternoon, blocking the street, and young kids still playing the ancient Brooklyn game of skelly. A symphony of Buju Banton and Bob Marley filled the air from a variety
of nearby apartment buildings, not to mention the faint smell of weed mixed in.
Brooklyn was the Costco of marijuana and you could easily find a plethora Kush,
Sour Diesel, Purple Haze, Orangina, Chocolate Thai, Beef and Broccoli, and even
the government grade G-13. Friends would often offer to take me on vacation to Jamaica, which I wasn’t really interested in because I figured that I was living in Kingston already.
We haggardly unloaded garbage bags full of my
clothes from the U-Haul. I probably should have just started fresh and bought a
whole new wardrobe, but there were some old t-shirts and jeans that I had grown
attached to and wanted to keep. Since I had gained some weight I figured I
would keep my old clothes as a measuring stick for the kind of shape I was in
and motivate myself to get back down under 200 pounds. It wasn’t only women who
were trying to fit in their old clothes. Guys did that as well.
“I don't know what you needed this big ass U-Haul
for, all your stuff is in garbage bags,” Caesar teased.
“I know. He could’ve moved in a cab,” Khalil chimed
in. The two of them laughed hysterically like that was the funniest shit ever.
“Whatever. I like to travel light.”
“I don't think you had much choice since Kennedy
owned everything. But you still got this raggedy ass couch.”
“And the knife and fork she left you. What type of
sick bitch leaves you with only a knife and fork?” Caesar asked.
“A hurt, sick bitch. That one was personal. I mean,
she even took the carpet off the floors!”
“Anyway. You're going to like Brooklyn. This is
where all the artists and hip people kick it now,” Khalil said.
“And the homos, too,” Caesar added.
“That's not true.”
“You would know.”
“How the fuck would I know?” barked Khalil.
“Just drop it,” I urged the Odd Couple comedy duo.
Caesar made it a point to tease Khalil about his
sexuality any chance he got. It wasn’t Khalil’s fault that he had soft,
feminine-looking features, dressed well, and was into theatre. People would
always ask him if he were wearing eye liner and he would respond angrily, “What
man wears eye liner besides Prince?”
We walked down the urine-soaked steps to my side
entrance. Bums used to use the stairwell as their own private bathroom, so I
made a mental note to post a sign warning: “
This isn’t a fucking bathroom! I
don’t piss on your shopping cart, so give me the same respect! -Occupant.
I was beginning to feel claustrophobic just from the
walk down the narrow hallway into the basement apartment. I struggled to get
the door open, but finally did to behold the one-room apartment. Not one
bedroom, one room! A studio would be considered spacious. But what did you
expect for $988.00 per month in New York? Nonetheless, I didn’t care because I
saw nothing but potential. I would hook it up with rustic black leather
sectional, flowing white chiffon curtains, and small accents of red via roses,
candles, and abstract artwork.
The fellas looked at each other, then burst into
“Go ahead. Get it out.”
“No problem,” exclaimed Khalil. “This place is so
small you can turn the channel on the TV while you're sitting in the bathtub.”
“This place is so small you have to go outside to
change your mind! Just kidding, man. At least it's yours. And think of all the
fine dime pieces you'll have coming through,” Caesar reminded me as he stared
out the window. “Like that bitch across the street,” he said, referring to a tall,
dreadlocked sista who was walking her Pomeranian. We rushed to the window to lustfully
undress her with our eyes like a bunch of seventh grade boys during recess.
“Does every woman have to be a bitch to you? Was
your momma a bitch?” Khalil asked.
“First of all, if you say anything about my momma, I
will kick your ass. And secondly, yes, she was a bitch! My daddy told me so. You
need to get the estrogen out of your blood and stop acting like a sissy.”
“Your momma!” responded Khalil. It was still the
universal trump card when it came to ending arguments and starting them.
“What did I just tell you?” Caesar fired.
Too much playing around. I had to stop it. “Guys,
please. Must we go through this every time?” I decided to change gears, so I
changed the subject. “Who hung the clothes in the closet?”
I took Caesar to the closet, which is only a few
feet away in the small studio.
“Look how you've got my shit hanging all erratic,” I
screamed. "Color palettes go in order from black to green to brown to blue
to khaki. And from right to left.” I also had a job selling suits in the
mall when I graduated from college. I learned all the intricacies of displaying
clothes and incorporated it into my own closet.
“You anal motherfucker. You wash clothes every three
weeks, let dishes pile up, and can barely remember to take out the garbage.”
“That was when I was staying at your place. This is
how I do things at my place.”
Unfortunately, people usually treat their own
property better than they do others’ and I was no different.
Is Beyonce’ Fine?
I awakened the next morning to my empty apartment
and a raging hard-on. It had been a long time since I experienced either.
It was ironic that the indication my marriage
was over was an empty apartment and now the indication that I had achieved
independence finally was once again an empty apartment. Caesar always advised
me never to move in with a chick, especially if your name isn’t on the lease,
because she could get pissed off and throw your ass out at a moment’s notice,
causing me to end up crashing on his couch. He was right. I
hadn’t lived on my own since my short residency in Los Angeles ten years ago. But
it didn’t matter to me because at least I had my own shit again.
I slept on a twin mattress on the floor that I borrowed
from my old bedroom at my parents’ house. I bought two plates, two bowls, two
glasses, two forks, and exactly two knives, just in case I had company. If Cez
and Khalil came by at the same time, one of them would have been assed out.
I staggered into my kitchenette and grabbed the
carton of orange juice from the refrigerator. I drank half of it right from the
carton, in particular defiance to my dad who would have a shit fit when I did
that. That is one of the benefits of having your own shit.
I opened the Venetian blinds, then the window to
take in my first morning in Brooklyn. The hustle of commuters scampering past
my window headed to the subway got me motivated. It reminded me of the opening
credits to Laverne & Shirley as I could only see people’s feet passing by
since I was in the basement apartment located beneath street level. The
minivans and landscapers of suburban life were replaced by nannies, street
sweepers, and crack heads.
I must admit that it wasn’t easy getting to sleep
last night because two crack heads were arguing outside my window at 3 o’clock
in the morning over a bicycle that they had “found.” While I looked
out the window I could see that there was a variety of commuters hustling to
the subway station on Utica Ave. They fluctuated from young, white
college grads commuting to Wall St. to African American women in their black,
blue or gray Anne Klein business suits headed for midtown.
The laughter of
beautiful Black children,
could be heard as they exuberantly rushed for the bus. Not the school bus,
though. Kids in New York rode the city bus to school. I could see their
dreams, their innocence, their potential etched across each child’s face.
I felt a sense of pride I hadn’t experienced ever before. I loved the
energy of Brooklyn and needed the change of pace. This was the right place for
me. Today was my first day of working in Manhattan, so I had to make sure I
looked sharp. Look sharp, be sharp! That’s what my father always
I took a cold shower to wake up since I had
nervously tossed and turned all night in anticipation of today. I couldn’t
believe I was actually here and how far I had come. I was a little scared. But
fear is good, and it’s also a liar. It’s an acronym for False Evidence
Appearing Real. I could do this. And I could do it well.
I had the “be sharp” part finished now it was time
to work on the “look sharp”. I wore a three-button, single-breasted,
navy, pinstriped hand-me-down Michael Kors that Caesar donated to me. I
set it off with a pair of camel-colored Bruno Magli wingtips that I borrowed
from Caesar as well. Luckily for me, we both wore a size 12. The only
place I had any choices to make was in neckties. Should I sport my orange
Hickey Freeman or would that be too bold? Maybe the lime green
Versace’? I decided to play it safe and settled on the burgundy Ralph
The new and improved Dapper Carter swaggered down Madison
Avenue with a revitalized pep in my step. I loved Madison Avenue.
All the top boutiques were there. Calvin Klein, Cartier`, and Gucci on
one side of the street. Dolce`, Armani, and Cavalli on the other. You
can say what you want about New York chicks not being approachable, but you
can’t say that New York women don’t dress their asses off. They had a superior
sense of style, and why shouldn’t they? N.Y.
capital of the world.
I noticed the businessmen wearing name brand Hugo
Boss and Armani suits and I wanted that. They say that “clothes don’t
make the man, the man makes the clothes.” I had that going for me at
least. I looked pretty good in everything….when I don’t weigh 240
pounds. So until then I needed to make some dough. I smelled the
success in the air and I could not wait to be a part of it…
After a few minutes of fawning over my new
atmosphere, I finally arrived at my destination,
The Fitness Depot
one-stop shop of the fitness equipment industry selling high-end, commercial-quality
Right off the bat I noticed how the other salesmen
were in great shape, much better than I. I made a mental note to
get my ass
back in shape!
I immediately spotted the store manager, Mike DeLeo. He
was two hundred and forty pounds and a former linebacker for the New York Jets.
I was a Jet fan growing up and actually remember when he played. He welcomed me
enthusiastically to what he called "fitness heaven."
I liked how the store was neon-ed out and the
salesmen were dressed in khakis and knit golf shirts, showing off their
professionalism. I noticed in other companies that the salesmen were a bit
younger and they were wearing track pants and tee shirts. They were trying just
to make money instead of making equipment sales a career like I was. The best
thing about sales was that there was no earning ceiling. The harder you work,
the more money you can make. It was the only profession in which anyone could
be successful if they worked hard, and it didn’t require a college degree.
Mike’s office looked like an NFL General Manager’s office,
adorned with NFL paraphernalia and pictures with old New York Jet teammates
from the '80s. I coolly sat across from him at his glass desk. I always had ice
water in my veins and was confident that I could bag any job I wanted.
will take you places you never thought you could go
. And I reeked of it. Once
he found out that I was a former college athlete, all I had to do was show up
and do what athletes do best. Play up the fact that we are team oriented, goal
driven, highly motivated, competitive, and a proven winner. Corporate America loves that shit. He pitched to me that Fitness Depot was the number one fitness
equipment retailer in the world, grossing over eight million a year out of this
store alone. All I was interested in was whether or not I could make six
“Does a bear shit in the woods? Is Beyonce’ fine? Will
the Yankees win the World Series?”
“Yes, yes, and no. I like the Mets.”
“Yeah, you're right. I'm a Mets fan too. You can do
six figures as long as you remember the number one rule of sales. Do you know
what that is?”
“Of course. What real salesman doesn’t? A-B-C.
Always Be Closing.”
“My man. This is pretty much an all boys club, so
just like the boys over on Wall Street, we go out a lot after work. You
got a lady?”
“You don't have a fella, do you?”
“Do I look like I'd be with another man?”
“In this city, you never know. Looks got nothing to
do with it. How come no woman?”
“I just got divorced.”
“Been there and done that. You got to keep it
moving. Making some money should help ease the pain.”
Mike and I were on the same page. We walked out onto
the sales floor just as a stylish , middle-aged woman entered the store and
meandered around the treadmills. She seemed interested enough but was lingering
around the entry level $500 treadmill.