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by D.M. O'Connor

I met Adam at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, in Dance Studio Two in the basement of The Astoria, a regal building on 72nd. We were attending a first-day workshop: Introduction to New York City Crime. At the time Madonna—who we cheered as she jogged around the pond in Central Park flanked by twelve highly paid body-guards—owned the top floor. Gentrification had not become a common word. Adam and I were sitting beside each other. I was a lumberjack. He thought himself a Jersey queen, but was more of a princess in training, a firecracker mix of Cuban and Scottish descent. There was a female cop, tight dress-suit, badge on leather belt, perfect hips. We suspected her of being an actress. She was schooling us freshmen and women on how to survive in the concrete jungle. Her job was to clean the cornhusks and wheat sheaves from our ears and eyes, so we weren’t mugged, raped or abducted by serial killers. To make it on Broadway, we had to be callous on the street and keep the vulnerability on stage.

“Where is crime? On the Corner? On the subway? In those syringe lined-alleys? No?

Come on, you kids are smart, where does all crime occur?”

“At night?”

“In the projects?”

“Uptown?”

“You kids are gonna be robbed blind. Come on, wise up, chicken-feed. Where’s all the crime?”

Adam put up his hand. “Inside us.”

“You. Mister, stand up take a bow. That’s right. Crime is inside all of us. It is everywhere. Inside your family, your roommates, your main squeeze. Guns are everywhere, under pillows, in purses, one beat and bang you’re dead, but mainly crime is inside you, and when you are victimized it comes inside you and stays a part of you forever. Now I am going to teach you how to shield yourself from crime. First step, create a mask....” The cop grimaced and faked an epileptic seizure. The room laughed. She wasn’t trying to be funny, but we were so damned eager. It was my first time in a real dance studio. Mirrored wall. Clear wood floor. A ballet bar. Adam leaned over, “Wanna go puff one? Meet you on the corner of 73rd on the break.”

 

The New Yorkers speed walking down West End Ave looked like movie extras. I was rolling my own tobacco. I gave Adam a thin smoke. We stood outside a yoga studio and looked through the window blinds. I had never seen yoga before. Women in tights extended their hips to the ceiling. A shirtless man with a long ponytail patrolled the room adjusting an elbow, a shoulder, unlocking a knee. I thought it was a dance. We rounded the block and stood in front of the Beacon Theater. Adam declared he would work there one day. I asked Adam how he knew that crime was inside us. “My third cousin Vinicius came here last year, told me the whole deal. Said always go first and know the answer, then they’ll remember and let you off the hook. Be bold and first and the battle’s half won. Think if I don’t go back in there, they’ll notice? No way, man. They’ll remember

I was the smart guy with the right answer, now I‘m free to go about my day. Worked in high school. Wanna go down to Washington Square and buy a nickel bag, get blasted?

You got five bucks?”

“How far is it?”

“A train ride. You got a few bucks train fare?

I had money. I had spent the summer in the Yukon planting trees. Singing to moose. Reciting monologues to bears. A feast for mosquitos. Washing in streams. I was on full scholarship. I was all plans back then. In seconds we had rattled to West 4th Street and were sitting on the fountain looking at America’s best arch.

“After we smoke this bag, want me to suck you off?”

“Sorry?”

“Oh shit, you’re straight.”

“Yeah, I am.”

“Shoulda figured, all that plaid.”

“Just not into that.”

“Not yet. But I’m patient. Here comes a guy. Don’t talk okay.”

Adam and this homeless-looking guy whispered for a few seconds. I watched Adam hand the guy my five dollars. The guy went over to a bench and conspicuously dropped something on the pavement. Adam went over and made this dramatic hand-over-open-mouth-gesture, “gee lookie what I found,” and pocketed the bag. Packing one end, he shoved a metal pipe that looked like a cigarette into the bag.  Adam was a detailed teacher. “This is my one-hitter. Home run every time.” He passed me the pipe and I smoked weed in Washington Square for the first of many times.

 

About six years later, I went to see Adam in Tony and Tina’s Italian Wedding, a dinner revue structured like a wedding, with free booze and way too much interaction. Adam was the showstopper. The applause after his number raised the roof beams well into the next number. The guy could perform. A tough act to follow. A born ham. Over the years we kept in touch, but our diverging interests drew us into different corners of the city. I wanted to do classical work like Shakespeare-in-the-Park. Adam was a song and dance man. He wanted Cats, Chicago, South Pacific. I landed commercials. Adam became a famous elf at Macy’s. He got a spread in The Times. After curtain, we holed up in a piano bar on Christopher Street.

“Hey I am getting married tomorrow, wanna come?”

“Wait. Married. To who? Is gay marriage legal? Gays can’t marry.”

“Not yet, fucking hick. Our maid. My dad’s banging her. Up the waazoo! He wants to keep her in the country. Nice girl. Cubana. Massive ass. Might be pregnant. You got a suit I can borrow?”

“So it’s a green-card kinda thing, eh.”

“Well, I ain’t straight, won’t ever be. Maybe I can get her to suck you off.”

“I’m alright, Adam, I’m seeing someone, but you can use my catering tux.”

“Thanks sista. You gotta a camera?”

We drank and laughed all night. One thing that boy could do was tell a story. That night he slept on my kitchen floor. In the morning he used my razor and toothbrush, drank my coffee and got into my only suit. It fit him well.

“Come by the courthouse around noon.”

“What’s her name?”

“Who?”

“Your bride to-be.”

“Oh her, Maria or Lucia or something, maybe both.”

“Sounds like you got some studying to do.”

“Huh?”

“You have to know everything about the person for the green-card interview.”

“Oh yeah? Can you bring that camera?

“Well at least her name. Birthday. Number of siblings. Toothbrush color.”

I watched Adam walk down Grand Street toward The World Trade Center. I checked my messages, went for a run over the bridge, showered and was down near the courthouse just before noon. The camera needed film. I couldn’t find Adam or his bride anywhere. I used a pay phone and left him a message.

 

I didn’t hear from him for a couple more years and never saw my tuxedo again. Mutual friends kept me appraised of his exploits, acting gigs, torrid affairs, drug stories. I landed a job on Theatre Row playing a priest in some bullshit revival. One night after curtain, I was walking by Carmine’s Italian Kitchen on 44th and spotted Adam taking an order from a cowboy-shirted-blue-haired couple in a window-booth. I banged on the window and made a face. Adam danced a full Irish jig. The couple burst into stitches. I went inside and sat at the bar. We hugged and laughed and were well entertained until he cashed out. We turned to whiskey. Right at the bar, Adam started doing coke off the end of a key. He paid for the whole night, wouldn’t even let me reach for my wallet.

“The Feds are after me for immigration fraud.”

“What?”

“Maria got deported. Had an abortion. My dad is shitting lawyer bills. Basically, the officer who came to the apartment for the interview was hot. I ended up sucking him off and we started something. Then when he caught me with a busboy one Sunday morning, he went ape-shit and turned me in. I got court tomorrow.”

“But how did he prove anything?”

“I just walk into a room and people know what I like. I can’t play straight.”

“Anything I can do to help...”

“Bring books. Prison man, as much Genet as you can get your grubby cum-stained mitts on...”

“At least there’ll be a lot of dick there.”

“Yeah. If I want it or not. Rough trade. Bring me domes too. Some latex lollipops.”

“Any special flavor?”

“Yeah, extra-large.”

“You might not get time.”

“My dad said he’d do it for me, but he’d die in there. I’ll get some reading done, sober up a bit.”

“What are you looking at?”

“Max five years. Minimum six months. In a perfect world, low-security, out in three.”

“Jesus.”

‘I am sure I will suck a few of those. Hola papi.”

Adam took me to The Roxy and we went nuts on the dance floor. He knew everyone. When things got sloppy he disappeared, leaving me to fend for myself—so Adam. I rolled home around dawn and my girlfriend was not pleased. I remember dragging my feet up the stairs, not wanting to go home. The beginning of the end. I never saw Adam again.

 

Years later, Danny Rocket called. He was a close mutual friend and ex-classmate who had roomed with both Adam and I in different apartments at different times. I was on set doing a Volvo commercial in Ibiza. I couldn’t talk or process the information. There was too much money on the line. I was sailing a luxury catamaran full of super-models and film crew. On both sides there were cameras zipping around the hull in zodiacs. I had to hit some tough marks. Round buoys. Look good for the camera. Relaxed. Happy. That night I smoked a joint with the Swedish director—not a friend, just another guy on set. After a final buffet dinner and fantastic wine, in the middle of a glorious wrap party, the dam gave, and I broke down. The director had his assistant—who was attractive and smart—escort me to my room. I cried while she went down on me and again after laying naked in bed on those expensive sheets drinking fine whiskey on the rocks and telling her all about Adam. She left to get ice and never came back. She went back to the party. I didn’t blame her. When I arrived in Barcelona, I bought The New York Times. I never made the service.

Police Car Kills Pedestrian

Harlem, N.Y. Police officers driving to investigate a report of a man on a corner with a gun early yesterday struck and killed a pedestrian in Harlem as he stepped out into the street, the police said.

The pedestrian, Adam Rodriguez McDunn, 31, who lived on Manhattan Avenue, was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was declared dead at 1:55 a.m., about 25 minutes after he was struck. The police car was traveling north on Frederick Douglass Boulevard when Mr. Rodriguez McDunn stepped out from behind a parked van near West 115th Street, the police said. The accident is not under investigation.

The original report led to the arrest of Luis Martinez McFee, 18, of Harlem, who was charged with possession of marijuana.

Last summer I had to shoot a few pick-up scenes in Chicago. I called Danny Rockett and we went bowling and drank too much and I never made it back to the hotel. I awoke on Danny’s North Side sofa as he sang Sondheim and poached eggs. After breakfast we walked Montrose Beach and Danny rolled a joint in the cold wind blowing off Lake Michigan. I had the day to kill before a flight and wanted to kill it with Danny. After a few puffs, there was a comfortable silence, the kind you can only share with an old friend. Then out of nowhere, Danny blurted.

“Fucking NYPD shot another black kid yesterday. The kid had three grams. Three fucking grams, got him seventeen bullets.”

A flock of seagulls dove and swooped in the wake of a fishing boat.

“You thinking about Adam?”

“I was. How’d you know?”

“We never really got to mourn him properly, not together anyway, did we?”

“What a way to go. They never had their siren on, never investigated either.”

“No, What do you think he’d be doing if he was here now?”

“Adam, that old queen, if he was right here, here here, he’d be bogarting my joint. If he was here here, on earth, say in New York or Miami, he’d be sucking some guy off and making old people laugh with fart jokes. Or in rehab.”

“He had talent.”

“More than any of us.”

“Did you know the cops that hit him, weren’t using a siren.”

“What?”

“Yeah the fucking pigs had no flashing lights and no siren, going a hundred and five in the city, in the fucking city.”

“Jesus.”

“And no investigation. Nothing.”

Dan went down the sand and pissed into Lake Michigan. I could see Adam walking down Crosby Street in my catering tux on his wedding day and the world spun with less laughter and force. Adam was a lighting rod that struck every moment with life.

 

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