Tags: new york


New York Stories: The Outback Punk

Aliq was a flag-pole-shaped gutter punk who rode the rails and jumped off wherever there was a hardcore scene and an Outback Steakhouse. Because Aliq was Australian, his accent guaranteed him a job at the Outback, even though his appearance, you know, gutter-punky, kept him in the back, away from the eaters. He was so loyal to the Outback that he had their logo painted on the back of his leather motorcycle jacket—the logo with the kangaroo carrying the bindle stick in the diamond shape. That hobo kangaroo was Aliq's totem animal. And since Aliq always wore his leather jacket, wherever he went he was known as the Outback Punk. Aliq could rhapsodize for days about the virtues of the bloomin' onion and chocolate thunder from down under, and wearing your leather all the time.

My friend Doug found Aliq dumpster-diving in Las Vegas, where Doug was going to school. I'm sure Doug recognized a kindred spirit when he saw Aliq wearing his leather jacket during a sweltering Las Vegas spring day. Doug also wore his leather MC all the time. For Doug and Aliq, leather was their armor. They felt unsafe with out it. In fact, I met Doug because of that jacket. The Mission was a tiny goth club conveniently located two buildings down from my apartment. It was July 2, and really hot, which was the reason I went to The Mission that night—to bask in gothic air-conditioned splendor. There was a goofy guy gothing out to Peter Murphy's It Cuts You Up wearing a leather jacket. I had to talk to him—how can you not talk to a guy who's wearing an MC in July?

Aliq frequently crashed with Doug at his apartment across from the UNLV campus. When Doug moved to NY, Aliq was torn between his loyalty for the Outback and his intense desire to go to hardcore shows at ABC-No Rio. This was the early 90s—there was no Outback on 23rd street back then.

It took Aliq a while to save up enough money to come to NY, but the July after I met Doug, Aliq was livin large in Doug's Stanton Street apartment. And Aliq was a great asset to our group—he looked outrageous with his multi-colored mohawk, black eyeliner, pasty white skin and that leather MC with the Outback Logo. He was about 6'2" and maybe 130 lbs. And, despite his Australian origins, he spoke fluent Spanish, thanks to his father, a simultaneous translator who lived in DC. This meant that every time Aliq and I went into a bodega and the counter guys started talking shit about us, Aliq would freak them out by speaking to them in his perfect Castillean Spanish. They'd charge us the insider price for our 40s, and we'd go up on Doug's roof and drink. Doug's roof had a sweeping view of lower Manhattan. It was really lovely, a great place to drink and hang out and watch the sun go down. We hung out there pretty much every night we weren't going gothing. You could sit on the ledge, but I never did. There was nothing to stop you from falling off. When I was a kid in the projects, some other kid fell off the roof once. Or maybe she was pushed. Whatever, I stayed away from the ledge when I was drunk.

We took Aliq to ABC No Rio, and to Communion at Limelight, and Ward 6 at the Bank. And the Mission. But it was August at The Bat Cave where he met his true love, Veronica.

Veronica was not a goth or a punk. She was just an art student from Queens living with her parents. A tiny girl with a pretty face, it was easy to see why Aliq fell for her. But what did she see in him? We never really found out. After meeting her, he spent most of his time at her parents house, and he'd wander around Manhattan in a Veronica-fog while she was at Parsons. He'd come by every so often and he'd talk about Veronica.

"She's a fine fiery female," he'd say. "Her ass! Her ass is like a peach, so ripe and succulent!" And then he'd make some obnoxious gnawing sounds. Aliq could soliloquize about most anything, but he'd really go overboard talking about Veronica. If Veronica had a logo, he would have replaced the Outback one with hers.

In October, they split up. Oh, the tears. Neither of them wanted to break up, but her grades were suffering because of all the time she spent with Aliq. Her father was paying for that art school education, and no skinny gutter punk was going to stand in the way of her getting her father's money's worth.

Aliq was more than mopey. He was morose. "We wanted to get married! How could she do this?" Nothing we said helped. He was inconsolable. He started drinking more and more. He started drinking ridiculous amounts, even for an Australian.

One Thursday night, we all, Doug, me, and Aliq, went up to the Doug's roof to drink. It was a beautiful October night, still summery but with a hint of the chill to come. It was too warm for a normal person to wear leather, but Doug and Aliq suited up, even though I was the only one who would see them.

We were hanging out, talking shit. No doubt Doug and I were arguing about Ministry. We always argued about Ministry. He contended that if Ministry ever got popular he wouldn't like them any more. That's bullshit! I would yell. Why not be happy for them? No, because if they got popular it would be because they toned down their music. We were always arguing about theoretical shit, like who we had a pass to sleep with if the opportunity came up. His pass was Kim Deal from the Breeders. I said I wanted my pass to be the goth kid from the health food store on Avenue A. "But you can't pick someone you might actually get to sleep with!" he whined. "What about Trent Reznor?" But health food store boy almost looks like Trent Reznor!

We realized at some point that Aliq wasn't chiming in like he usually did.

We look around. No Aliq.

We go downstairs. No Aliq.

"He's fucking with us," Doug said on our way back up to the roof. "He's hiding on the fire escape. Let's go down and find him."

We start walking down the fire escape stairs, calling his name. Aliq! Aliq!

When we get to the third floor, we hear a soft "Doug!" We look down, and Aliq is sprawled in the alleyway.

"Holy fucking shit! Doug, you go down, keep him company, I'll call 911."

Aliq fell 6 stories, landing on piles of trash bags ready to be hauled out to the curb.

He was still conscious when the EMTs took him away.

Doug stayed in the hospital waiting area all night and called me at work at 9. He sounded terrible.

"Aliq. Aliq…" he trailed off. My stomach started to flip and my mouth got dry.

"Aliq is fucking fine!" he laughed. He had 3 broken ribs, and his liver was lacerated. He was fine. The doctor in the ER said, "You know what saved him? That leather jacket!"

New York Stories: The Summer of My German* Cockroach

*actually not German at all, but American. But German makes a better title

After I graduated from college, I ended up in Park Slope, and not the nice Park Slope with the restaurants and the strollers, but the crappy Park Slope with the crack heads and wine coolers. The apartment was on 5th Ave, near Atlantic, and having lived on Staten Island and the more genteel parts of Manhattan did not prepare me for this.

Many things happened in this apartment—-my cat ate my roommate's pot plant, people got into fistfights while playing dungeons and dragons, our neighbor's sink broke when she was having sex on it and fell into the apartment below--but what I remember most about 5th Ave was the vermin.

We had mice. I wasn't too pleased about that because the apartment was small enough without having to share it with more mammals, even if they were tiny. At first my cats had no idea what to do with them—-they'd never seen mice before. Eventually one of them figured it out, and left a dead mouse on my pillow as a present. The landlord offered us traps, but that seemed worse to me—-at least Ed the cat's kills were clean. But after a while the mice left—-they probably moved to a larger apartment in a nicer area.

One night I was watch TV in the dark and the cats were behaving oddly, like they were chasing something. Oh great, I thought, we have mice again. I could see by the TV light that the younger cat, Merv, had something in his mouth, and Ed was trying to get at it. I'd like to interject here that Ed and Merv are great names for cats who live in Brooklyn. So Ed and Merv were kind of having a Mexican stand-off when I suddenly noticed little legs wiggling out of Merv's mouth. Oh my god. Those are not mouse legs-—it's a giant cockroach!

I'd read about these giant cockroaches in the NY Times. They were hardly seen in NYC, but in the mid 80s the huge American Cockroaches or Palmetto bugs started showing up in Brooklyn neighborhoods. It was speculated that they migrated from the south. These were about twice the size of the normal NYC German Cockroach. And not only were the new insect immigrants huge, they flew. They flew! I knew when I read that article that I never wanted to meet one.

And here was one in Merv's mouth.

Merv! I yelled, and because he was startled he dropped the cockroach. It was still very much alive and had use of all 6 of its giant cockroach legs. It immediately began scuttling around. And it was loud! You could hear its cockroach armor scraping the floor as it ran around. I threw a combat boot at it, but somehow, even though it looked like a direct hit, it managed to crawl out, essentially unscathed. I grabbed a Joyce Carol Oates book and only wounded it. It shook itself and started running towards me. I jumped on a chair like a lady in a cartoon being menaced by a mouse.

My roommate came out and said "what the hell is going on?"

"There's a giant cockroach! Running around!"

"C'mon. You only think it's giant because you're from Staten Island." My roommate was from the Bronx and he thought he'd seen everything.

I turned on the lights and pointed to where it was.

"Wow-—I've never seen one that big," he said. "I don't think we have anything we can kill that with."

We tried to catch it with a coffee mug—we thought if we could get a coffee mug over it and leave it there it would eventually die of natural causes. But this sucker was fast.

I decided the only way to kill it was by using an entire can of raid.

I get the raid from the kitchen and I come back, poised for the kill.. I'm not sure how the giant cockroach knew, but somehow he did. And he did the unthinkable.

I still can see it in slow motion in my mind—he began to unfold like a transformer and suddenly sprouted wings! And he took to the air.

I couldn't deal with this. This was against nature. It was an abomination!

I suddenly realized that this was no mere battle between human and bug, but that this was a fight between the forces of good and evil. I'm not sure who was on which side.

The cockroach flew around the living room for a time, and eventually tired out and landed on a wall. I snuck up on it, aimed, and began to release the stream of toxic chemicals. The demon-bug thing flew away!

This went on for a good long time—-years, it seemed. I'd spray, it flew, over and over.

And then it did something that is so horrific I don't even feel right about mentioning it. But it's something you all need to know.

It shed its skin.

That's right, it sloughed off its chitnous exoskeleton, and emerged as a slimy alien insect.

I closed my eyes and sprayed. I'd peek every so often and it would still be slithering around, and I'd spray some more, and the cats would come over and I'd shoo them away and I'd spray and spray.

And then I ran out of raid. I was going to step on it, but it finally gave up. My roommate came out and got rid of the body.

Since then, I've encountered many giant cockroaches, and disposed of them handily. I've yet to meet an opponent as formidable as my first.