Archive | June, 2014

My interview with poet Raquel Gutierrez in Yay LA Magazine

27 Jun

AUTHOR RAQUEL GUTIERREZ ON “BREAKING UP WITH LOS ANGELES”

(Read on the Yay LA webpage here: http://www.yaylamag.com/raquel-gutierrez/)

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Sharif Dumani, musician, kind soul, best known for his fronting of L.A. 60′s pop band Exploding Flowers, recommended a chapbook of poetry to me, well everyone, via social media.

“My skull blown open twice over along with my heart. For anyone who has ever walked our streets, driven our freeways, lived, loved, lost, succeeded, and failed in this city of Angels, it will fully resonate. Raquel Gutierrez’ zine of poems and stories totally captures the heart and soul of this town, while breaking your heart and having you fall in love all at the same time. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Breaking up with Los Angeles, if anything, for the beautiful and loving tribute to Wanda Coleman. Absolutely gorgeous work”

Needless to say, this hyping caught my attention and I ordered the chapbook online.  I got book in the mail and was not disappointed. Breaking Up With Los Angeles made me fall in love with L.A. all over again.

Raquel Gutierrez is a poet from L.A. who now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Breaking Up With Los Angeles is her first chapbook.

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Why do you write and when did you start writing?  Do you remember your first poem you ever wrote and what it was about?

I write because it just seems like the simplest way to create the world I perceive through my five senses. I was always a reader and felt like that was the best way to experience other worlds, worlds I didn’t know or belong to. I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. I wrote plays in grade school and poems in high school. Wrote some music too. Studied journalism but not really writing. Not creative writing. I took one class at L.A. City College but dropped out. Didn’t really like the environment and didn’t feel like it helped me. It just bummed me out.

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Do you recall the first poem you ever wrote that you were proud of?

Oh hmm first poem. Yeah, I think it was a poem about a girl. It was called “Fire Woman.”

 

Where did you find the confidence to write poetry?

Well it wasn’t confidence exactly, I needed a place that had relaxed rules about content and form. Or at least conventions to push against.

 

And you found that place for you was poetry?

I actually always wanted to be more of a prose writer. Fiction, or longer form. I didn’t think of poetry as something I could really do. Breaking Up With Los Angeles was me taking a chance. It was really healing to do. To express grief that way.

 

What are some of your first memories of Los Angeles before you were conscious of it being “L.A.”?

Plazita Olvera. My folks would take us there at least once a month. Driving through downtown. Seeing city hall. I was baptized at Our Lady Queen of Angels. The freeways, they are comforting to me. Bandini Blvd. El Mercadito. The county hospital where I was born and had yearly check-ups that allowed me to miss school until I was eighteen. The fisherman’s outlet for fried shrimp. El Salvador café on San Julian in the alleys. The Frank Romero murals on the 101 Freeway depicting little kids.

 

Discovering yourself and discovering your sexuality, how did the boundaries of freeways and neighborhoods fall into your journey?  Did you feel more “free” in some neighborhoods as opposed to others?

Well in my early twenties there were “T-parties” for the under-21 set. T or “tea” is like, “What’s the tea?” It was a way of saying, “What’s Her Story?” Or like, “Is that guy gay?” They were backyard keggers for queer Latinos. The party lines were on these business card flyers and you’d call them every weekend to see where the party was at. You’d end up at places like South Gate or La Puente or Montebello. We’d drink, hold up the walls, listen to freestyle and Morrissey. My friend used to throw so much shade. I remember having to book it out once because some queen wanted to fight him

Were you openly “out” with your parents?  Were they understanding? Supportive?  I’m assuming your family was Catholic?

I came out to my folks at twenty-one. After my girlfriend broke up with me and I was a visible mess.

 

What was their reaction?

My parents were cool, very accepting. Saw I was in pain and wanted to help me feel better. They are great. My dad was basically “Ay mija, ya te vas a encontrar a otra.” Which means, “You’ll find someone else.” They are more concerned with my artistic pursuits. They wish I would just be like a realtor or work for the city.

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I grew up in the L.A. of the Eighties and early Nineties. It was rife with gang culture and the music of the time reflected that.  What was the soundtrack of your childhood?  What were the first five albums you bought or borrowed from older siblings or friends?

Beastie Boys “License to Ill,” Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Fat Boys, Run DMC, “Tough As Leather.”

 

And what was the soundtrack to the T Parties?

Cover Girls, Masters At Work, Black Box, Depeche Mode. I remember Eazy-E was huge of course. Los Tigres, Ana Gabriel. We would listen to my folks’ music too, like Chico Che y La Crisis. In 8th grade I got into my big brother’s Devo, B52s and Oingo Boingo stash. They Might Be Giants.

 

Easy E, NWA, Dr Dre, Snoop and Ice Cube later on? What about MC Kid Frost?

Kid frost was popular with some classmates. I thought it was so dorky.

 

You weren’t a fan of his “This for La Raza” music video with the buff saxophone guy?

Ha. No

 

You grew up in Huntington Park?  What gang controlled that turf at the time, when you were a kid?

I grew up in Huntington Park till I was four. Then Bell Gardens. Then my folks moved back to HP when I went to grad school. The big gang when I was growing up was Chanslor St. They were in Bell and were the gang messing with the kids I knew. I remember a bullet hole in my window and my mom would stay up all night. There were shootings in the neighborhood I grew up in but it was just typical.

 

Did Chanslor St. have a lot of female members as well?

Oh gosh I think only in terms of girlfriends. Firme jainas.

 

Sometimes it seems like outsiders think of L.A. as either Beverly Hills or Compton, with nothing in between. What do you find is the most common misconception of L.A. and what is the stereotype that is most true about L.A.?

Well I love Compton and Watts. It’s just an extension of Huntington Park. And it’s all brown folks and immigrants now. The Misconception, that L.A. lacks culture.

 

Right, I think South L.A. is something like eighty-percent Latino now

The L.A. stereotype, traffic. Duh. Yes. But I like traffic, it’s a time to think about the day or week’s events. I’ll take L.A. traffic over Bay Area traffic any day of the week though

 

That bad?  Bay Bridge traffic or what?

Bay Bridge traffic is dystopic.

 

You currently live in the Bay Area.  Do you feel that once you left Los Angeles, you were ready to write about it?

I left L.A. ten years ago for NYC. Couldn’t write a damn lick to save my life. This time around leaving I was finally ready to inhabit certain uncomfortable truths about myself. And write from that place.

 

You went to NYU?

Yeah. I did a performance studies Master’s.

 

So you didn’t study writing or poetry at NYU?  Do you find writing classes or seminars claustrophobic?

I didn’t study writing. Maybe I should have but I was enamored with performance art at the time. I studied theory. Worked with José Muñoz. Who passed away suddenly a few months ago.

 

Ah, I saw the reference to Jose Munoz in your book and was wondering who he was.   Sorry to hear he passed away. “The potential for radical precariousness,” such a beautiful line in your book, can you elaborate?

Well that line is about how I feel like my generation there is a want or need for security in creating art. That we value safety over risk.

 

“Everyone in Los Angeles has a loose relationship between time and whiteness” What do you mean by that– and what is/was your relationship between time and whiteness?

In L.A. identity politics are not the topic of the day in the way it feels like they are or still are in the Bay. My relationship with both those things–hmm I guess a banal obsession. It’s present but not one where I am consumed by a toxic rage.

“Someone is talking to me about gentrification again.” A hot topic in the Bay Area? One that is not really discussed as much in L.A.? What do you mean by “Everyone in Los Angeles has a loose relationship between time and whiteness”?  Are you saying the Bay Area has a tighter (grasp?) on time and whiteness? What are you banally obsessed with?

When I talk about the Bay Area, I mean people of color in the Bay Area. Some of the folks who reside here have graduated from some really amazing liberal arts colleges where they had an intense time with race and privilege. People in the Bay Area come here to work it out. They try to create a world that’s only people, not just people who look like each other.  Here I think of myself as a “bad brown person.” I don’t have those traumas because I didn’t have the same intensely negative experience with white people.  I went to college at Cal State Northridge and my fellow students were working class white people and people who worked in the porn industry while going to school. I feel like an outsider in the people of color communities in the Bay Area. I’ve heard of events where white people aren’t allowed. It’s a particular type of person of color who had this kind of collegiate experience or generally negative experience with white people. But I didn’t have that and to me it doesn’t make sense. That’s just me. All that to say that I feel like my brown experience is maybe atypical of other more righteous narratives.

 

This line is from your poem “Ole Dad,” from your book:

“Nothing stronger than a Bohemia here, nothing stranger except for the passage of time each minute denoted with a drop of liquor as it dilutes the blood between us”

 

The other week I had a freelance job in Vernon.  I drove right by Ole Dad Liquor store and had just read your poem about it.  I agree with you when you say “Vernon is the middle of nowhere a woman or child ought to be”.  What is your history with Vernon? The line “the paycheck he earns becomes burdened with so much rabia” is so fucking well-put.  Rabia en ingles is something like “infuriating,” “fury,” “anger,”  but the Spanish word “rabia” has so much more to it besides fury or anger.  

It’s where I’d drive through to get to or get out of Huntington Park. Vernon is so dystopic. So brutal. It attacks all of the senses, especially smell. It’s hard to not be obsessed by the landscape. I fell in love with industrial aesthetic motifs because of Vernon. My parents both worked there. My dad at a printing press and a plastics factory. My mom was a costurera.

 

So a lot of chemicals and nasty things at the plastic factory?  What is a costurera?

Just imagining their day in and day out kind of guts me. Costerera is a seamstress.

 

They still working there now?

My dad eventually got into being a salesman and got his real estate license when he was almost fifty. My mom is now a certified nurse’s assistant.

 

Why is Wanda Coleman’s tongue “mightier than Fante, Gehry, Bukowski?”

Her tongue is mightier to me because she made it out of Watts without leaving Watts behind. She left it but took it with her. Her work is just searing. Sinister. Stunning. She writes about truly frightening things: poverty. Sex. Violence. Ache. I found inspiration. I mean the ache. The rage. The impotence. All makes for easy relatability if you’re in touch with those ugly feelings yourself.

 

Do you have one particular book or piece of Wanda Coleman’s you’d recommend as a must read for folks unfamiliar with her work?

Heavy Daughter Blues.

 

 “Naco Power” works in both Spanish and English.  Do you plan to do more bi-lingual poems?

I was in Mexico City last year and I was taken aback by how well my Spanish came back. D.F. is infinite. Also just conversing with people in my line of work in Spanish I have gotten a better claim over speaking it. Expressing myself. It’s become a whole new world when it comes to poems.

What is your current line of work?

I do arts community engagement, Connecting artists and community to make art together. I’m like the shock absorber.

 

Favorite Spanish-speaking poet?

Claribel. Alegria and Roque Dalton. I love Roque.

 

Books or poems you’d reccomend by Alegria and Dalton?

Taberna by Roque.

 

From your book, this is up there with Fante, Chandler, Nathanael West, a classic description of L.A.

“scatter me in the mouth of Los Angeles

her stomach the desert

her ass the sea

her shoulders the mountains

and her womb the east Los Angeles freeway interchange

for the 5 brought me all of California

while the 101 took me to where it was possible

impossible

 on the 10 during rush hour

and the 60 carried my broken teenage heart home”

 

The freeways in L.A. are like the veins that lead to the heart.  Only it’s hard to find the heart because there is no center.  Where is your heart in L.A.? 

El Mercadito to me is the heart. That’s where my parents met.

 

Boyle Heights is the heart?

It’s so mundane but so much happens there. And the altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe is peerless. I’d say Pacific Boulevard over Beverly Hills any day.

 

Why do people write poetry?

I have no idea why people write poetry except maybe to stave off madness.

 

Will you ever come back to L.A.?  Don’t you find the people in the Bay Area a bit too passive-aggressive and politically-correct (and sometimes lacking a sense of humor?).  I know I’m generalizing. I also lived up there for a spell, have good friends from up there and loved parts of it and didn’t love other parts of it.  People get a little too uptight and a little too PC.  Is this a breath of fresh air for you, a brief repose?   What is the deal with the Google bus?  Will it roll over San Francisco like an Israeli tank rolls over a Palestinian child throwing a rock?

Yes yes and yes to everything you said about the Bay. It’s uptight and not a friendly place. But love and work is here. If I had a cool job lined up I’d definitely come back and if my girlfriend got into med school then for sure. My social world is smaller in the Bay, which makes work easier to do. The Tech Industry is a point of Contention here for sure. Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation is my Bay Area survival spirit animal.

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The Bay Area is a strange place.  I do love visiting and have some dear friends there, but hate to see the counter culture (which what made SF special in the first place) sucked out and priced out. You can see racial tension building in Oakland now with a lot of folks moving out of SF because they can’t afford it anymore – they move to Oakland where the magic word “gentrification” is another point of contention as you said.

Exactly. I have gentrification fatigue

 

I think everyone does. Myself, being white, sometimes I feel that I’m “gentrifying” a place merely by existing

It does seem like the remaining counter culture in SF is dwindling. That’s a weird thing that comes from feeling guilty for being creative. Getting implicated in all of that gentrification labeling. But I can see the beauty where everyone else sees blight.

Favorite taco spot in L.A.? 

Favorite tacos? Duh Guisados. Lengua. But I also love the buche gorditas at El Mercadito.

 

What is buche? Snout?

Buche is stomach! Kind of gnarly, but tasty. Lengua is the bomb. I loved Lengua on wonder bread lunches when I was a kid

 

How is Raquel Gutierrez going to conquer the world, and what is your newest chapbook? How does it differ from breaking up with L.A., and where do people buy your books online?

Conquering the world to give it back to those who were robbed. Next chapbook: #WhiteBoo out in a few weeks. Deciding sequence and designing cover art right now.

 

Is there actually a hashtag in the title of the book? Say it ain’t so.

There is! It’s a place where people of color on Twitter let their guards down.

 

So someone of color who is dating a white person? White boo?

Yeah exactly. Really this chapbook is about racialized anxiety.

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So where do people order Breaking up with Los Angeles and #Whiteboo?

Raquelgutierrez.net/chapbook for info. And soon an Etsy store.

 

Any advice for aspiring poets, aspiring writers… people who are earnest seekers of the truth?  What might they do to ease their minds and their souls a bit?

Just tell the truth no matter how complicated or unflattering it might be. There’s beauty there. And work together. Nothing we want more than a sense of belonging. Don’t be afraid to belong to each other.

 

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“Little Armenian Prowler” Serialized in Dum Dum Magazine

21 Jun

DUM DUM Zine would like to welcome Justin Maurer, whose story “Little Armenian Prowler” we’ll be serializing each week in May as the 3rd incarnation of our web serial tradition. You may remember work from our past serials featuring Jessica Garrison’s One Dollar Stories, and more recently, Kristen Felicetti’s radio play, “The New York Crimes.”

DumDeer

 Everything in Little Armenia got a little weird after the prowler. I was driving back from a book reading in San Diego. Near the venue was a great little fish taco place. I ate too many and it made me sluggish. I tried to enliven myself with some beer mixed with wine and then a few cans of Coca Cola after that combo didn’t wake me up. It was all free at the reading venue so I kept drinking any liquid I could ingest like a fish. (Do fish drink?) I took a couple beers and a couple Cokes for the road, signed a few books, thanked my gracious host and hit I-5. I thought about spending the night on someone’s couch and going to the beach in the morning but the drive back to Los Angeles through Sunday traffic didn’t seem worth it. Driving by night is romantic and I hadn’t done it in awhile.

I stopped a couple times to piss and to get gas and to slam the Cokes and beers, desperately trying to wake up as my body continued to digest fish and shrimp tacos. The radio sucked. I put on the old country music CD I’ve heard a million times and turned it up as loud as it would go. I rolled down the window and the wind smelling like the sea blew through my hair and I felt sort of alive even if it was the middle of the night and I was in a rush to get home and get into bed.  I wish Ephedrine was still legal I thought. I wish someone had given me just a couple lines of coke or speed I thought.  I drank the sugary Coca Cola and it made my teeth hurt.

I drove less than 85 miles an hour because that’s the speed where the cops won’t bother to pull you over even if the speed limit is 65. The fine isn’t high enough. So I hovered around 75. Drive 10 over the limit if you don’t want a speeding ticket in Southern California.

Heading north on the I-5 Freeway, Orange County made me feel anxious. I finally crossed the L.A. County line.  It felt good to get out of Orange County. Then I was in the city limits and there was traffic. Even at this ungodly hour. I saw the city skyline in the distance and I knew I was about 20 minutes from Hollywood.

I merged from the 5 to the 101 Freeway and things picked up. I passed Rampart and thought of the LAPD scandal. I saw a couple of drunk drivers swerving and driving below the speed limit. Driving below the speed limit on the highway is a dead giveaway that you’re drunk driving in L.A. I flew past them and took the Sunset Boulevard exit. I made an illegal turn and went the shortcut way. I was home but it took me another 10 minutes to find street parking.  I jaunted into our place and saw my girlfriend outside the bedroom window shining a flashlight around.

“Oh what now,” I thought.  My girlfriend is prone to hearing ghosts and noises and murderers.  She shouldn’t have been outside in her underwear in the middle of the night.

“What the hell are you doing,” I asked.

“Look,” she said.

There was a chair pulled up in the alley to give someone a perfect vantage point to look into a crack beneath the blinds on our bedroom window.

“There was a man sitting in that chair watching me,” she said. “And he was touching himself. The dog heard the noises and I looked out the blinds and he ran off. I heard the noises too,” she said.

“Jesus Christ,” I said.

The next day we asked our neighbors about it and Jorge, one of the gay guys who lives upstairs, said that he saw a white guy about 6 feet tall, athletic build, leaving the driveway. Jorge was walking his dog and smoking a cigarette. He said that he had practiced reverse racism.

“Because the guy was white, I just assumed he was someone’s friend, just visiting somebody,” he said. “If the guy was black I would have known he was up to something. But the guy was white.”

I told our other neighbor Roberto what happened. He used to be a Sergeant in the Guatemalan army during the brutal civil war there. One night when he was drunk off Bud Lites he showed me a photo of his army days and told me that he had killed plenty of people during the war. His troops slept in the jungle and used giant palm fronds as umbrellas at night when it was raining.  I took him around the side of our apartment and showed him the chair the peeping tom had pulled up.

“Hijo de la chingada,” he said.  He told me in Spanish that if the guy showed up again to call him. He would run out and help me beat the guy up. He muttered some more obscenities in Spanish and kicked the dirt in frustration.

I went to the hardware store and bought some things. I wanted to make some booby traps. I kept thinking, What would Kevin in Home Alone do?  What kind of booby traps did Kevin set up?  I bought some nails, some fishing wire and fishing bells, barbed wire, a few small cacti, a motion sensor light and even found an infrared camera that is triggered by movement and body heat.  It was $100 for the camera and I couldn’t afford it but I bought it anyway.  My money had almost completely run out but I had stuff to make booby traps.

Underneath some ivy in the alleyway I hid dozens of crushed aluminum cans. The noise would alert me to the prowler. I put a Louisville Slugger baseball bat by the side door and gave my girlfriend a can of mace to put on her bedside table.  I unscrewed a table leg and had it like a club on my bedside table in case I needed a second tool for bludgeoning.  Across the alley I put strands of taut fishing wire with bells attached.  I left the chair in the exact same place and hammered nails through the bottom so that they were barely visible above the surface of the seat cushion. If the peeping tom sat down again he would be in for a surprise.  I told my neighbor Roberto about my nail idea and he laughed hysterically slapping me on the back. He liked my nail idea.

I set up the infrared camera.  I tested it at night and then plugged it in and saw myself but I didn’t recognize myself. I looked like a blurry dark indistinguishable creature. The damn camera probably wouldn’t work.  I later used the camera to film some footage of my girlfriend and I having sex but I didn’t tell her about it. I watched it when she was at work and it wasn’t bad.

I was getting off track.  I came home from work and hauled the box of barbed wire to the side alley.  Our neighbor had put black plastic garbage bags full of extra gardening mulch all along the alley. No one could get by, they’d be stymied by gardening mulch.  Ah, fine with me. I got a beer from the store.

DUM DUM Zine would like to welcome back Justin Maurer for the second serialization of “Little Armenian Prowler” (read Pt. 1 here!). You may remember work from our past serials featuring Jessica Garrison’s One Dollar Stories, and more recently, Kristen Felicetti’s radio play, “The New York Crimes.”

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I began to look at everyone in my neighborhood as if they were the suspect. Was it the six foot tall white guy? Or was it a teenage Mexican kid?  Was it a slow walking Filipino guy with a moustache and a limp?  Was it one of the homeless black guys?  Was it a young Armenian man wearing Adidas? Was it one of the Thai delivery boys, coming back to peep in the window after he delivered food?  Was it a mentally deranged Hollywood street person? Was it one of our neighbors we knew?  Everyone was a suspect and through dark sunglasses I surveyed the street and took note of all of the faces. There were too many faces and too many people were weird and erratic and it could have been any of them.

At night if I heard a noise I’d throw the side door open and charge out with a baseball bat in my boxer shorts. I never saw anyone. My fishing line got broken but I wasn’t certain if it was the prowler who broke it.

We almost forgot about the whole thing and a couple of months later I was backing her car out. We were going somewhere and were arguing as usual. She was telling me not to scratch her car. I was annoyed as hell.  From around the back of the apartments I saw a guy walking out I didn’t recognize.  I pointed at him.

“Who’s he,” I said.  ”Follow him!”

My girl followed him down the driveway and asked if he was visiting anyone.

“None of your business,” he growled.

“It is my business, I live here,” she said.

“I’m a tenant,” the stranger lied.

He matched Jorge’s description, white guy, 6 feet tall, normal looking.

We followed him slowly down the block in the car. He flipped us off.

“That’s it,” I said and jumped out of the car.  I started chasing the guy. He had a white mini van parked on Sunset next to the El Pollo Loco.

He got into the driver’s seat and closed the door. I motioned for him to roll down the window. He fired up the mini van and drove down Sunset Blvd. without looking at me.

“Son of a bitch,” I said to no one in particular.

I memorized his white mini-van’s license plate number. Then I repeated it aloud so many times that I was certain I got it wrong.  I had my girlfriend call the Hollywood Police Bureau. She got the answering machine. She called again and put a cop on speaker phone. He had a condescending tone as L.A. cops always do.

“You should have called 911,” the cop said. He sounded like a black cop, despondent that he had to work the phone shift instead of catching bad guys. You could tell he was an actual cop because he spoke the cop language, cop-ese.

“Sir, you could have been in danger. We could have called a helicopter and apprehended the perpetrator.”

“A helicopter,” I mouthed the word helicopter to my girlfriend without making any noise. She covered her mouth so the cop on speaker phone wouldn’t hear her laughing.

“Well, okay, but we’re calling you now, is it okay if we report the guy and give you his license plate number, I asked.

“Sir, again I would like to reiterate. You could have been in danger and you should have called 911 immediately. For all we know he could have been in police custody and we wouldn’t have to have this conversation.”

“Do you want the license plate number,” I asked again, out of frustration.

“Go ahead and give me the plate number, but be mindful that there is a very low chance we can find him at this given time because you didn’t dial 911 immediately.”

I gave the cop the license plate number, said thank you then hung up.

“Jesus Christ,” I said.   Then we got rear-ended by some Latina party girls wearing hair extensions and high heels.  There wasn’t any damage besides a scratch so we didn’t bother to call the insurance people and certainly not LAPD. They’d tell us we should have called 911 so that they could get a helicopter to see if anyone was fleeing the scene of the accident. Then they could radio a squad car and they could open fire on the perpetrator and then unleash a canine on the victim to bite him as he lay bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds.  True story. I didn’t make that up. They did that to somebody.

DUM DUM Zine would like to welcome back Justin Maurer for the final installment of “Little Armenian Prowler” (read Pt. 1 and Pt. 2!), which we’ve serialized in 3 parts in the month of May. You may remember work from our past serials featuring Jessica Garrison’s One Dollar Stories, and more recently, Kristen Felicetti’s radio play, “The New York Crimes.”

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A few weeks later my girlfriend was out to a work dinner and I was enjoying sitting in my underwear eating Thai Food delivery out of the box.

I got a phone call from my neighbor Jorge, the out of work gay actor who lives upstairs with his husband, another actor.

“Could you do me a big favor,” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“Would you mind staying in your living room?”

“No, not at all, I said.”

“I’ll explain later, well, we have this house guest and he’s going crazy and I have to throw him out,” he said.

“No problem,” I said, flicking on the living room lights and the front porch light.

I saw a man with an umbrella and a duffel bag leaving and heard my neighbor’s door slam shut. I heard the man with the umbrella say, “Fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

A few moments later there was a knock on my back door. It was Jorge.

“Come in,” I said. “Do you want any water or juice?” We didn’t have anything besides water, juice and milk and I didn’t think he would want any milk.

“No thank you,” he said, sitting down at our dining room table. He was wearing a black leather jacket, a new-ish one, and had hair gel in his hair. Gay guys are always so well put together. I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, mismatched socks and a dirty pair of blue jeans with burrito stains that I hastily pulled on.

Jorge began to tell me the story, “We have a houseguest.  He was in a play with my husband Francis last year.  He seemed normal and we heard he was living on the street in Hollywood so we said he could stay over for a little while.”

He showed me a photo of the crazy guy. The crazy guy looked very gay. He had a big femmy smile and a lot of hair gel. I think they call this kind of gay guy a “twink,” even though I don’t really know what a twink is or what that classification of gay really constitutes.

Jorge continued.

“On the couch he’ll just sit there staring straight ahead. Even if we talk to him he just stares straight ahead. At night we lock our bedroom door.”

He rubbed his hands together out of nervousness or lack of warmth.

“We went to the grocery store and there was this pretty girl working at one of the cashiers. He went up to her all close and starting hitting on her. She clearly didn’t want anything to do with him. I said, ‘Joe, come on.’  And he didn’t listen. I walked over to him and he said, ‘I just got out of jail, I haven’t had a woman in a long time, leave me alone.’

‘Oh MY God,’ I thought, Jorge said in an affected way that made him sound like a teenage girl.

“So we walked back and he started yelling, ‘Fuck fuck, you fucked it up. You fucked it up. Since Francis and I are from Chicago we hide knives all over the house for protection. Just in case, I mean this is L.A. I found one of the knives and put it in my jacket pocket.”

He pulled the knife out of the inside breast pocket of his newish black leather jacket. It was one of those military style hunting knives that’s in a black leather sheath. My dad used to have one like that with a compass screwed on the end of the shallow handle. It was called a survival knife I think. It had a snakebite kit inside the handle along with some other basic survival tools. I remember hoping that I wouldn’t get bit by a rattlesnake. My dad said he knew how to cut an X on the snakebite and suck out the venom but I didn’t believe him.

I found my mind wandering and Jorge was still telling his story.

“So I got his duffel bag and put it outside.  He left and took his umbrella which he always carries around for some reason and a suitcase. I don’t know where he got the suitcase or what he has inside of it.  I don’t know if he’s shooting up or on drugs or what.  Anyway I can’t have him in our house around our dogs.  So if he comes back, don’t let him in.”

Jorge went out the back door. I drank a beer and let the dog out to go to the bathroom and then watched a documentary in bed. I was drifting off, so I shut it off and went to sleep.  A few hours later my girlfriend stumbled in reeking of vodka tonic. She woke me up and told me that a man had tried to kiss her in an elevator. When she pushed him away he bit her on the nose.

“What,” I said. “Where was the can of mace I bought you? You should have kneed him in the balls,” I said.

“I know, but all I could think of doing was to push him away. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth. He was calling me a prick tease and I said I didn’t know what he was talking about, I didn’t know him or recognize him. There was an old man in the elevator too.”

“And the old man didn’t do anything,” I asked.

“No he just asked the guy what he was doing. And then the elevator got to the bottom floor and I ran.”

“Why didn’t you complain about the guy to the restaurant,” I said. “They might have cameras in the lobby there, you could have pointed out the guy.”

“I know, I’ll call them tomorrow,” she said.

I twisted and turned in bed angrily.  There is never a dull moment in Little Armenia.