Amazon.com Widgets

The Potato Eater

‘Attention must be paid’ so said Willy Loman’s wife

IMG_4112

I’ve been neglecting my four most recent creations: A three year old, a two-and-a-half-year old, a two-year-old and a one-and-a-half year old. (Though all very recent, they represent fifteen years of  intensive on-and-off work.) They come to mind … but then I enshrine my time on other things. Time passes. I swallow hard and slap the side of my head; am reminded that Willy Loman’s wife Linda said of Willy, ‘Attention must be paid’.

Give a hand: Tell a friend! Order one or more as summer reading! Take to the beach! Take camping! Take on an airplane flight and leave for the stewardess to read when you depart! Buy two or three for bedside table! Order early for holiday/birthday/anniversary/wedding/retirement gifts! Again:  Attention must be paid!

Themes vary from: Matisse to Alcoholism to Jewish Identity to Gay Life in the 40’s and 50s and more.

Very soon a new book will be launched. Before that, let’s do read the others. Like you and me, Attention must be paid!

Nominations in the category of Most Neglected :

Potato Eater:

The raw true story of Padric, a gay hustler from the Bronx who spent 1941-1965 in and out of 20 prisons- paperback

Padric McGarry was the surviving twin born in 1925 to the unwed 15-year-old daughter of Irish immigrants. Raped at the age of 7 by an older boy, he learned early during his Bronx childhood to use his wits and good looks to hustle and steal at every opportunity. He eventually did time in twenty prisons across the US, where McGarry improved his criminal skills and snatched moments of comfort with Miss Scarlet and other queens in the “Homo Blocks.” The Potato Eater is an unsentimental biography that offers a stark, unembroidered view of the intersection of gay and prison cultures. For this unapologetic and often darkly comical account of a rootless life at the bottom of the heap, award-winning author Alison Leslie Gold drew on interviews she made with McGarry in the 1970s, as well as his letters and his own notes. McGarry died, with two years of sobriety, in a halfway house in San Diego in 1982. From an audio tape made in 1977 in New York City: “I was 16 when I was arrested for corrupting the morals of soldiers and sailors, blocking a public doorway, and disturbing the peace. In prison I began to grow up and learn. I learned how to pick pockets, how to open five kinds of safes, how to forge checks, how to work second story, how to boost. We’d practice there. I learned all the necessary things to spend 20 more years in different prisons. Riker’s Island was my Junior High School. Sing Sing and Dannemora State were my High Schools. The chain gang and Leavenworth were my colleges. Immediately I had ‘Homosexual, Degenerate, Cock Sucker’ stamped on my records so I was rarely in population with the rest of the men. I was kept in segregation with junkie queens, wino queens, booster queens, prick peddlers, drag queens and some men who just preferred to be in the homo block where they were adored and given sexual comfort. Life in segregation with those mad sissies was like being caged with a mass of mad, screaming peacocks.”

Not Not a Jew, a novella in verst   

In 1930s Berlin, Eli G. is an abstracted young Jewish painter addled by Marxist idealism and tangled memories of his mother and the shtetl. Longing to move to Paris, Eli feverishly paints maps and watches the baby while his wife Vera gives up her ambition of becoming a doctor and works as an accountant. This is where Not Not a Jew – A Novella in Verst, by Alison Leslie Gold, begins, wryly shadowing the life arcs of Eli, Vera, and their son Ira who are depicted in glistening kaleidoscopic shards. Although Ira tries to lose himself through sex, food, and restless travel, he returns to his parents to grapple with his birthright as their lives are ending. In Not Not a Jew, internationally acclaimed Holocaust writer Alison Leslie Gold presents a boldly surrealistic novella that explores Jewish identity, rootlessness, Diaspora and self-absorption in a century of upheaval and annihilation.

Elephant in the Living Room:

The story of a skateboarder, a missing dog and a family secret

by Alison Leslie Gold and Darin Elliott

Eleven-year-old Danielle Godot has her own room in a nice house near the beach, two devoted parents, a kid brother who is only occasionally a pain in the you-know-what, a parakeet, a rabbit and a loyal best friend who is as into skateboarding and animals as she is. What could possibly be wrong with this picture? In Elephant in the Living Room, authors Alison Leslie Gold and Darin Elliott show that even colossal problems can be invisible as long as no one wants to see them for what they are. Gutsy, tom-boyish, big-hearted Danielle loves her father fiercely. But she is embittered by the loss of her beloved mutt, Beckett, who disappeared as a result of one of her dad’s bouts of drinking-induced irresponsibility. What’s wrong with him? Are they all going crazy? Aimed at children from the ages of about 10 to 14, and all who are confounded by problem drinking, Elephant in the Living Room tells the story of how a good man’s slide into alcoholism damages the people who love him most, and how his family summons the courage to make themselves – and him – face up to it and get help. The narrative is leavened with Beckett’s clear-sighted and irreverent commentary and the book concludes with a list of resources for those whose lives are affected by alcoholism.

The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead

In The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead, award-winning author of Anne Frank Remembered and The Devil’s Mistress, Alison Leslie Gold presents the life of nun-cum-artist’s model Claude Boule. Inspired by a true story and told in spare, evocative prose, this improbable, color-soaked life arc spans the art of Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol, a convent in 1930s Nice, wartime Lyon, postwar Paris, New York in the dazzling 60s on to millennium’s end. The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead explores the abstruse relationship between artist and model: Who transfixes whom? The incidental, often travail-filled, life of Claude Boule – impenetrable and inscrutable – serves as a poignant foil for intimate views into the creative processes and behind-the-scenes life of one of the 20th century’s most momentous artists. The brash assemblage of The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead also encompasses diverse uncelebrated but no less vividly tinctured people whose lives were touched – erotically, devoutly, unscrupulously and in other often unpredictable ways – by the model’s.IMG_5984

IMG_0699[All are available on Amazon as paperbacks and/or kindles

by Alison Leslie Gold

(except Elephant is by Alison and Darin Elliott)

Page 100 – The Potato Eater

enlight1-4

… Nick, an Italian, serving twenty years for murder, didn’t like Padric sharing his cell. Nick hung around with what he called the “elite” who in his book were the Italians. He told Padric why he didn’t like him.

            You can’t be a rat here, and you can’t be rapist, you can’t be a child molester to hang around with us, and you especially can’t be a rapist or a queer.

            Nick had pin-ups on this wall. He had gross girlie magazines hidden under his mattress, also dusty webs made by spiders under his bunk where crumpled tissues were thrown after he jerked off. Not one person during his 20 years in prison guessed that he would live with and love another man when finally released.

 

To Nick’s relief, Padric McGarry was transferred into Cellblock 1-F, the homosexual area. 1-F was carefully guarded and segregated. At the intake, a captain who wore a girdle touched his arm.

            You are better off with our own kind. Bend down. 

 

Sex in Dannemora: On the fly, in hallways, with the guy in the chapel, any place he could snatch three to five minutes.

            He never had sex with all his clothes off. It was possible to have sex in the belfry. It was safe because it had a long, spiral stairway and even the lightest step on the stairway would ring because the steps were metal. Someone coming up the steps could be heard a mile away. The routine was to tell the guard that he was going up to sweep up the dead green flies, and to send ‘Jerry’ or another trick up with a mop. An all clear might mean five or ten minutes together.

 

He went to work in the prison tailor shop where he was taught to measure men by an old tailor, using a string he tied to his waist. As instructed, he measured around the neck and added one-half inch for wearing ease. He measured around the fullest part of the man’s chest, used the string. To measure hips, he measured at the seat or the fullest part of the hip. He marked the tape position with pins on the undergarment and measured down from the waist using pins to establish a hipline. He noted the distance from waist to hip. Finally he measured the center back from the prominent neck bone to the waist string.

            For sleeve length, he said, Bend your arm. …

*****

Excerpt from The Potato Eater

available as a book or kindle on Amazon

Page 1 – The Potato Eater

IMG_2400IMG_2400IMG_2400

*****Page 1 *****

A FAMILY. Twelve children and two adults – marital status unknown – crossed the Atlantic from Ireland. The adults couldn’t cope so they swaddled the children with every piece of clothing they could grab from a church rummage and took the ferry from South Ferry, Manhattan to St. George, Staten Island in search of orphanages run by the Catholic Church. Clamping the small ones on their laps, lining up the larger ones, the family crowded onto wooden benches on the deck of the drab, double-ended boat with their backs to lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers. The Statue of Liberty was shadowed in murk because of a leaden sky; close by, freighters were anchored at sea waiting for available docks in order to unload cargoes.

          Street venders on Staten Island hawked pills that would protect against approaching Halley’s Comet. Newspaper boys shouted to alert those disembarking the ferry to wear helmets or head-covers against the dangerous showers of debris that was about to fall on their heads should the comet pass too close.

           The parents’ picked up a copy of The Daily News, read, circled in red crayon:

          it is believed that the comet’s tail is full of deadly cyanogen gas. Planet Earth may hurtle straight into this brew like a cannonball. It’s likely that the skies will curdle and the seas will boil and every living soul will smother. It’s calculated that the world will end sometime between 10:20 P.M. and midnight on Wednesday, the 18th of May 1910.

            Were we fools to leave Ireland, the mother wondered.

            A Priest separated the girl and boy children. The girls went into the Loretta Convent, the boys were sent to St. Joseph’s Seminary. No more information about the parents exists, except a rumor that they both either died or disappeared, or, perhaps, that the wife died of a broken heart. These variations of factless rumors were told to him by Mary, his mother, at different times.

            There was something funny – peculiar not haha – about the stories. Maybe Mary made them up? Padric never saw one souvenir or trace of her parents. Nor was there a family rosary left behind. Nothing.

 

Several little girls in the Loretta Orphanage got headaches that caused a high fever. Soon these wee girls were unable to move their limbs. The Doctor visited, called the illness poliomyelitis. The Sisters referred to it as infantile paralysis. The older children renamed it “The Crippler.” The Nuns blamed it on the poor, dirty Italian immigrants who had begun to move onto Staten Island.

            God forgive them!

            Afraid that animals were the carriers, the City of New York exterminated seventy thousand cats. Mother Superior told Sister Bright to hang a giant flytrap in the kitchen at the orphanage. Also, a bold red warning sign was nailed onto the front door by the city officials.

            Mary had every symptom but didn’t get polio.

 

Sister Aida caught Mary drinking vinegar and kicked her out of the convent school. This was 1923, Mary was thirteen.

           Mary would never tell what she did or where she went once she went out into the world.            Padric and another child – twins – were born on April 10, 1925 when Mary was fifteen years old. She gave birth at the House of The Good Shepherd, a Catholic hospital for unwed mothers. Good Friday happened to fall on April 10th in 1925. The home for unwed mothers was close by Battery Park, in view of the clock tower at the edge of the pier that sounded the signals for watches kept on board ships. His twin – brother? sister? – Mary didn’t remember which – either strangled on the umbilical cord or was stillborn.

          When Padric began teething, Mary scrounged a piece of bacon rind to chew. She attached string to the rind and tied it to his wrist.

*****

The Potato Eater, available on Amazon as a novella or kindle.

What now? Tearing pages…

sunset

Having calmed (I thought) my young, neglected novella along with my eleven other disturbed creations the other night, I entered a period of empty-headed wellbeing that, unfortunately, was rudely interrupted just now just as the sun was sinking into the Aegean Sea. I heard a disturbing sound that made the hair on my neck stand up straight. I could hardly believe my ears. Again, it emanated from the tall bookcase in the old house. Perhaps a mouse, or several mice, were chewing on Alice Munro? This is the sound. Have a listen: [The sound]. Opening the cabinet’s double-glass doors, I realized it was the sound of tearing paper. These were the culprits:

IMG_0461.JPGThe Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead and

The Potato Eater.IMG_1235.JPG

After I’d separated them, I saw they had been in the midst of…I can hardly admit it…tearing out each other’s final pages.

Why, I demanded, sliding M.G.Le Clézio’s Desert between them to keep them apart. Why destroy endings I worked so hard to complete?

Would you prefer if we tore off a cover, or the first lines…? Came the answer – a question answered with another question.

No, I replied.

Or pages mid-book, just as plots and characters, and emotions are building?

No. Not that either.

Then what would you have us tear out?

How about … nothing … Or, if you must … the copyright page?

How about posting our publisher’s Flap Copy?  You posted your sniveling novella’s Flap Copy the other night. What are we, chopped liver?

Okay. If that’s what you’d like. Consider it done. [see below]

Flap Copy: The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead 

In The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead, award-winning author of Anne Frank Remembered and The Devil’s Mistress, Alison Leslie Gold presents the life of nun-cum-artist’s model Claude Boule. Inspired by a true story and told in spare, evocative prose, this improbable, color-soaked life arc spans the art of Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol, a convent in 1930s Nice, wartime Lyon, postwar Paris, New York in the dazzling 60s on to millennium’s end. The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead explores the abstruse relationship between artist and model: Who transfixes whom? The incidental, often travail-filled, life of Claude Boule – impenetrable and inscrutable – serves as a poignant foil for intimate views into the creative processes and behind-the-scenes life of one of the 20th century’s most momentous artists. The brash assemblage of The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead also encompasses diverse uncelebrated but no less vividly tinctured people whose lives were touched – erotically, devoutly, unscrupulously and in other often unpredictable ways – by the model’s.

Flap copy: The Potato Eater

Padric McGarry was the surviving twin born in 1925 to the unwed 15-year-old daughter of Irish immigrants. Raped at the age of seven by an older boy, he learned early during his Bronx childhood to use his wits and good looks to hustle and steal at every opportunity. He eventually did time in twenty prisons across the US, where McGarry improved his criminal skills and snatched moments of comfort with Miss Scarlet and other queens in the “Homo Blocks.” The Potato Eater is an unsentimental biography that offers a stark, unembroidered view of the intersection of gay and prison cultures. For this unapologetic and often darkly comical account of a rootless life at the bottom of the heap, award-winning author Alison Leslie Gold drew on interviews she made with McGarry in the 1970s, as well as his letters and his own notes. McGarry died, with two years of sobriety, in a halfway house in San Diego in 1982. From an audio tape made in 1977 in New York City: “I was 16 when I was arrested for corrupting the morals of soldiers and sailors, blocking a public doorway, and disturbing the peace. In prison I began to grow up and learn. I learned how to pick pockets, how to open five kinds of safes, how to forge checks, how to work second story, how to boost. We’d practice there. I learned all the necessary things to spend 20 more years in different prisons. Riker’s Island was my Junior High School. Sing Sing and Dannemora State were my High Schools. The chain gang and Leavenworth were my colleges. Immediately I had ‘Homosexual, Degenerate, Cock Sucker’ stamped on my records so I was rarely in population with the rest of the men. I was kept in segregation with junkie queens, wino queens, booster queens, prick peddlers, drag queens and some men who just preferred to be in the homo block where they were adored and given sexual comfort. Life in segregation with those mad sissies was like being caged with a mass of mad, screaming peacocks.”

And there you are. Are you satisfied? I queried, wanting to get back to my sunset before the light had totally drained from another seamless day.

There was no reply, so I repeated the question.

Again I heard nothing except Virginia Wolfe sighing or perhaps it was Jack London dreaming of dining on hardly-cooked hare. I shut and hooked the glass doors, then, hurried upstairs to the terrace. Unfortunately, when I stepped outside, night had fallen and the mosquitoes had entered stage left.

night

613 seeds

P1000822

A visitor from Berlin by way of Istanbul–Bernd Brunner. He’s an old friend and fellow author, even more prolific than me, who has been living and working and rooting into Istanbul for the past several years, also studying the Turkish language. He’s a gregarious, intense fellow. During his visit, though I offered olives, Biscotti smelling of anise, wine, tea or coffee, a glass of still water remained untouched in front of him while he devoured half of a giant (messy) pomegranate chopped up and laid out on rolls of paper toweling while we caught me up on all his news. His most recently published book is The Art of Lying Down: A Guide to Horizontal Living. Originally from Berlin where he also spends time, previous books include: Bears: A Brief History, Moon: A Brief History, Germans to America, The Ocean at Home, Inventing the Christmas Tree, Birds and Humans: A Curious History. An article titled “The Wild Dogs of Istanbul” has been included in Best American Travel Writing 2013. About this piece Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) commented: “Written in such a strange and dreamy voice that it felt to me like an Italo Calvino short story, curiously translated from some lost, obscure language.” High, justified, praise; he is, indeed, a writer whose varied intriguing themes lure me in and keep me rapt in worlds I never expected to visit.

The following extract, from Bernd’s article in “Smart Set on the pomegranate. As happens with much of Bernd’s excavation, his study of the pomegranate has been expanding into a book:

The pomegranate must have other properties to have caught people’s imaginations for centuries. Unlike the potato, tea, sugar, or cotton, it hasn’t determined the course of world events: Its influence has been subtler. Rich associations run like a common theme through the cultures of antiquity. It is even possible that Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit came from a pomegranate tree. The fruit’s large number of seeds earmarked the pomegranate’s destiny as a fertility symbol. It can be found as a holy plant among the ancient Egyptians and in Judaism. Here, the perfect pomegranate contains exactly 613 seeds, which corresponds to the number of commandments in the Torah. In ancient Greek reliefs, the pomegranate is sometimes a divine attribute, sometimes a sacrifice for the living, and, at other times, a gift for the heroized dead. Sometimes the fruit appears on equal footing with an egg, a blossom, or a cockerel. A semi-clad Aphrodite often carries a long scepter crowned by a pomegranate. Its unmistakable form has been modified many times, occasionally complemented by ornaments and rediscovered in the form of bottles of oil, vessels of ointments, glass vases, and gold pendants. Its characteristic calyx supposedly inspired King Solomon’s crown, and then those of the European monarchs. In ancient Rome, young women bedecked themselves with wreaths made of pomegranate leaves in the hope of being blessed with fertility. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a lark sings from the branches of a pomegranate tree. In some cultures, especially in Iran, it features in celebrations to this day, such as weddings, where anaar is dropped to the floor: They say the burst fruit brings fortune in engendering children.

photo-75

While Bernd was examining the Biblical pomegranate, I’d taken the lowly potato and made it the armature on which I hung my gay novella The Potato Eater. I gave my friend a copy. In contrast to his glamorous pomegranate’s 613 seeds, my tuberous, starchy potato contains no seeds whatsoever. Last year around 368 million tons of potatoes were produced worldwide, dividing down to perhaps 77 pounds (33 kgs) per eater per year. Though my potato is perishable and will eventually decompose (has been accused of  causing schizophrenia if allowed to rot in a dark place), it’s cheap and easy to grow. Ceramics shaped like potatoes are crafted in Peru and considered sacred. Van Gogh famously painted (1885) Dutch peasants eating my ordinary baked potato. Perhaps a bit gloomy, the eaters are coarse but earthy; just like my novella. My potato morphed into a toy–unattached plastic ears, eyes, mouth, derby hats that attach to a brown, plastic potato shape–Mr. Potato Head.  To date, I know of no Mr. (or Mrs.) Pomegranate Head though Courbet, van Eyck, Ghulyan, Sargent, Rossetti, Botticelli, Holbein, Cezanne, among a miriad of others, have inserted Bernd’s pomegranates into paintings, mostly broken open and spilling out their luscious, sweet/tart 613 seeds.IMG_0810

Not rivals, it’s possible for one evocative edible to embolden the other. In concert: along with feta cheese, pepitas, olive oil, honey and red wine vinegar (walnuts optional) mixed together. Or maybe accompanying salmon and kale.

Nor are Bernd and I rivals. Instead, I’d say we’re farmers. Of a sort.

 

 

The last time he saw his mother, Mary

IMG_0808

[Excerpt from The Potato Eater the story of Padric McGarry, who spent 20 years in 21 different prisons]

He arrived back in New York alone.  June 1950.

Summer was sticky and humid; a dog’s summer. He immediately went to the old places. He needed a big drink.

 

A Winter afternoon. He turned a trick in Brooklyn at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Nevins and Fulton Streets. The trick bleat like a sick sheep then passed out. Padric stole his money, a bottle of gin and a bottle of red wine from a shelf. He put each bottle into a coat pocket and tip-toed onto the back porch of the trick’s apartment that was on the second floor. He looked out at the neighborhood, sat on the railing, lit a cigarette.

He was looped out of his mind and was wondering what to do next. Then, suddenly, he was not sitting there anymore, but was down on the ground lying in the snow on his back, breath knocked out of him, moaning like a wounded seal. He lay there a good ten minutes until somebody helped him up and walked him to the subway. The first thing he checked for was his bottles. Miraculously they had survived the fall. That’s when he took it into his ‘fruit head’ – as he always called it – to ride the subway way the hell out to the end of the line in Queens and see Mary. He hadn’t laid eyes on her since he’d run away from home a good six years earlier.

He did that and got off the IRT subway in Flushing. He took a bus outside May’s Department Store and another that traveled along blocks of brick apartment buildings and frame houses, stores, YMCA’s, schools, empty lots. He walked for many blocks past brick attached houses each with trees and real lawns. He nipped away at his bottles, slugging on the gin for warmth and chased it with wine to kill the taste. Finally, he couldn’t walk any more because his back was hurting. It began to snow. It was heavy snow.

He was now drunk, was half walking, half crawling. The police drove by, stopped him. He showed a letter from his sister. They put him in the police car.

The cops dumped him out on Mary’s doorstep. The snow suddenly was raging. His back hurt like hell.

 

Mary opened the door. The only thing he noticed was that her eyebrows needed plucking. She took him in, told him to wipe the snow off his clothes, put him to bed.

The house had five rooms. Jeanne was living with Mary and Mary’s new man, a little Dutchman. Another baby had been given up for adoption to some cousins.

Every day Mary brought him some food.

Every day she told him, You should leave as soon as possible because I want to keep this guy, I don’t want him to get irritated by you and your ways. But didn’t throw him out.

 

Two weeks passed. He began to feel better, to walk around the house. Mary made a pile of baloney and mayonnaise sandwiches on soft Dugan bread then he plucked her eyebrows, wiping each hair from the tweezers onto a napkin. It was like old times, he made Mary laugh, he made her eyes fill with tears when he yanked a hair with a deep root.

Mary asked him to fill her big bucket with Westpine and water and mop across the kitchen and bathroom floor. When he’d finished and the flooor was spotless, Mary brought him his clothes, washed and folded neatly.

Get dressed.

He got dressed.

Mary fed him homemade wine in a jelly glass. You gotta go.

She gave him two boxes of food and took him by the arm, walked him to the bus.

This bus will take you to the train, the train will take you to the city.

Padric walked up the bus’ steps. He never saw her again.

 

July 1950. Sentence: Eight months. Charge: Petty larceny committed in a YMCA. Arrest: Number Eight.

 

Back on the Homo block. He was too old to be a “new” face.

“It won’t always be this bad.”


photo-64
[excerpt from The Potato Eater — It’s 1941, Patric McGarry, from the Bronx, New York  is 16 years old. His first arrest.]

Officially, Padric and Miss Scarlet were too young for City Prison, so they were sent to Boys’ Reformatory. They were put into isolation cells with solid steel doors, but no bars. They were put far from the other boys because they were queer. Their cells were side-by-side, a screen between. They could see each other but couldn’t touch.

The Warden came to see Padric. He brought books for him to read. Young boys began passing notes to Padric under the steel door. Also notes to Miss Scarlet.

One read: Please sing, we want to hear your girly voices.

There were six or seven little holes at the bottom of both of their doors. Padric and Scarlet would get naked and lie on their bellies on the floor, and see out at the other boys who would also lie down on the floor and peek in at them. Some of the boys kissed Padric’s finger-tips through the holes.

After two weeks, Padric began visiting a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist knew all about the note passing and about the finger kissing.

You’ll get in trouble, he warned. It’s best that I put you in another institution with your own kind. Don’t you agree?

I agree.

 

Padric and Miss Scarlet were put in a closed panel truck and taken to the Homo Block in City Prison.

All the homos on the Homo Block were adults. They were the only boys except for Miss Angel, a Puerto Rican kid who had been arrested for soliciting in drag. Miss Angel was thirteen and had syphilis. She was small and slim. They were known as “queens.”

Padric guessed that’s when he became a “queen.” He didn’t know for a while that “queen” only meant “homosexual” not that he was regal.

“Homosexual” was stamped on his records even though he’d been convicted of disorderly conduct. The theory was that “homos” are less trouble when kept together in one cellblock.

 

That record followed him around. It meant that he was segregated with queens in every prison where he did time, except the last one in California, and the two federal pens, years later.

Prison was just like Forty-Second Street except there were no cars and taxis or movie theaters. Padric got friendly with every “girl” in the Homo Block:

Sweet Sue from the Bronx.

Goldola, sixty if she was a day.

Gigi

Miss Mattie Dears

The Jersey Lily.

Miss Bondey who could sing “Some of These Days” just like Sophie Tucker.

Miss Maybe, a sweet black queen who got famous later.

Fat Blindeens who had only one eye, and only liked to go with uncircumcised men.

Kitty Cunt who was reputed to turn between forty and fifty tricks each night near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, at $1 each.

She explained, I get myself arranged I’d lay up in a room, serve cunt. Those seamen couldn’t tell the difference.

Gorgeous Junkie Chuck.

Mickey Rapucci, a thief who Padric fell for

Mama Sutton, a madam from Brooklyn connected with the famous scandal involving several Senators that got into the papers.

A queen from New Mexico. Padric also loved her, but never remembered her name.

Scrap Iron Mae West, a muscular queen missing many teeth, but with metal replacement teeth

Miss Kitty Darling, a Jewish Drag Queen whose father owned a chicken restaurant in Brooklyn.

Clara Bow with red hair

Clara Bow with blond hair.

Greta Garbo, who Padric knew from Forty-Second Street

Miss Katie Hepburn, a black girl who would sometimes be so desperate she’d do it for five cents

Kay Francis, a Swedish muscle-bound queen who looked like a longshoreman.

 

Christmas: Padric was sixteen. His entire block was moving boulders across a big field. It began to snow. Padric began to cry. Miss Francis noticed the tears, pressed Padric’s head against her flat chest and crushed him with her big, brawny arms covered with tattoos. Padric sobbed but he didn’t know why.

Miss Francis crooned, There, there honey. It won’t always be this bad.

 

All winter they moved dirty boulders. Miss Scarlet, Miss Angel, Padric, and all the girls.

 

[*photo credit: Andre Gelpke, “Wilbert” Salambo, 1976] [YouTube credit: “Some of These Days” Sophie Tucker, 1911]

 

Something to nosh on while reading THE POTATO EATER

If you eat while you read, the following vegan recipe was suggested by my lifelong friend and Brain Trust, Johanne. Thank you, Jojo. It should provide just the right leavening for prudes and the faint-of-heart during a first reading of THE POTATO EATER in the same way potato in any form, including raw, was a staple for it’s hero, Padric McGarry.

Creamy Dill Potato Salad

3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 cup vegan mayonnaise (try Vegenaise)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover completely. Add some salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until just tender but not falling apart.
Drain the potatoes in a colander and let cool.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
Cut the cooled potatoes into 1-inch cubes and add them to the bowl, stirring carefully until coated.
Makes 6 to 8 servings

[Source: http://www.peta.org/living/food/creamy-dill-potato-salad/]

[Below: My Editor, My Brain Trust, My Son]

IMG_0951-2

How I met Padric, THE POTATO EATER

 I had been invited to write a piece by the editor of a new gay men’s magazine who happened to be a friend of mine. It was not an easy time in my life, my future prospects were wobbly to say the least, I had a weak-kneed skill set, an 11 year old son to support and had not yet earned a penny as a writer. My editor friend wanted me to interview an ex-con named Nick who had just been released from prison in Dannemora, New York where the recent double escape just occurred. Nick had committed a murder as a youth in a hold-up gone wrong and served 20 years in prison. The editor of this somewhat raunchy magazine wanted a piece about Nick’s sex life in prison during those 20 years.

Nick gave me a great interview, filled me with eye-opening material from a world about which I knew nothing. However, when we got to the subject of sex, Nick shrugged. I asked what the shrug meant. He answered, I only had sex 4 times in 20 years. But aren’t you gay, I asked. Yes, he replied, But I’m also Italian. In prison I didn’t want anyone to know I was gay. You see, you can’t be gay if you’re Italian …that’s how it was then. My life would have been hell if anyone had discovered my secret. I couldn’t risk it. Sometimes I would plan for one of my sexual encounters for 2 or 3 years, making sure that I wouldn’t be discovered. I’m sure you can’t imagine this, but it’s true. None of these 4 liaisons lasted more than 10 minutes.

Fascinating stuff, but hardly the makings of a sexy article. What to do? What to do?

Then, by chance, I met Padric McGarry who told me he’d been in 20 different prisons in the course of 25 years, starting at age 16. I told him about Nick. Yeah, I knew guys like Nick in those days, you couldn’t blame them. It was dangerous to be gay. What about you, I asked, did you hide it too? He laughed. Are you kidding. I was put in segregation from the get-go, had Homosexual stamped on my papers. What about your sex life, I timidly enquired. Me? You could call me a seminal dump. I probably had sex thousands of times …

Right then my article became the story of 2 rather than 1 gay ex-con. It was titled  “Sex In The Slammer” and, a bit sheepish about writing so brazenly about sex, I used a pseudonym. I earned $245 and took my 11 year kid out for the steak he’d been wanting. And so my career as a professional, money-earning writer and my entanglement with the life story of Padric McGarry  began ….

[Photo: Padric at age 56] [The Potato Eater]

A day out with Alison

Today I had the pleasure of spending time with my favorite author, Alison Leslie Gold.IMG_2321

We started out by shooting a Book Trailer for Alison’s upcoming novella Not Not a Jew. I set up my iPhone 6 with a lavaliere mike at a table in Brooklyn Bagels on 8th Ave, while Alison went to grab the most jewish bagel she could. With cream cheese and Nove-Scotia lox, of course. The vegan in me wanted to scream just a little bit, but I realize a jew without lox is like a fish out of water.

We shot some great footage which will get promptly put on YouTube once edited and finished.

From there we took the #1 train to Time Square to try and retrace the steps of Padric McGarry, the mostly drunk and usually incarcerated hero of another new Alison Novella, The Potato Eater.

Now, while The Potato Eater has not been officially out yet, the Kindle version IS selling, so go grab a copy!

Time Square was bustling as usual. We went to pee at the Hard Rock Cafe, from there found a comfortable seat in the traffic-free area on 7th ave, surrounded by shiny billboards featuring 40 foot tall skinny men and women wearing almost absolutely nothing. But that was Padric’s stomping-ground starting at age 16, so that’s where we were.

We sat there for about an hour shooting Alison discussing the book, Padric, and what his life as a queen in 1940’s was like. After that Alison took the train back home to go get some writing done, and I got lunch at Maoz, and sat at the High Line and got some quality work time myself.