A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The 4 Train.
I had just gotten off work and was walking up Broadway to catch the subway home when I realized I didn’t have any cigarettes. I stopped at a newsstand to see if they had any rolling papers. I roll my own cigarettes now because, here in NYC, cigarettes cost damn near $8.00 a pack, and you can’t even smoke them in bars but that’s another story entirely.
As I’m standing at the newsstand trying to determine if they sell what I’m looking for, a rock star looking guy walks up beside me and asks the nice Indian man behind the counter,
“Hey bro, you got any magazines that tell me where I can find a good rock’n’roll show tonight?”
The nice Indian man looks at the rock star blankly as if to say, “Uh, just look at the magazines and figure it out yourself, tattoo boy.” The rock star picks up the latest copy of “Time Out New York” which is when I turn to rock star guy and say,
“Yeah, that’s the one you want. That will tell you what you want to know.”
He thanked me and began looking through the magazine. I turned to the nice Indian man behind the counter of the newsstand and asked him if he had any rolling papers. He said yes and the rock star that was still there flipping through the magazine turns to me and asks,
“Hey bro, you need some papers? I got some. You can have some if you want.”
“Uh, sure thanks.” I replied. “I really only need one though.”
The guy reached in his pocket and pulled out a pack of those EZ Double Wide monsters. You know, the papers that you never have enough of whatever you’re smoking to require such a mammoth ass rolling paper. Anyway, I gladly took a paper and pulled out my little pouch of tobacco to twist one up when the rock star says,
“Bro, do you just want a cigarette, bro?” And then he extends his open pack in my direction with one cigarette sticking out more than the rest as to make it even more convenient for me.
This guy obviously isn’t from around here.
I graciously accept the cigarette and light it. It was a shitty Parliament Light 100, but whatever.
As we both were about to go our separate ways, the rock star turns to me and asks,
“Bro, do you like beer?”
Ok, any readers that know me know for damn sure that I fucking love beer. I fucking love the shit.
Accordingly, I looked at the guy, hesitated and said,
“Bro, you wanna grab a brew, bro? Brew-bro. Haha, you’re my brew-bro.” he chuckles.
Again, this guy obviously isn’t from around here. Coincidentally, earlier that day I was thinking of simple things I could do to break up my rhythm a little. Ya know, something besides wake up, go to work, come home, drink beer, go to sleep. I suppose throwing in a little “hang out with a complete stranger” would mix things up a bit. Why the hell not?
We started walking and he mentioned something about needing to stop by his mom’s hotel room and that he hopes she doesn’t have a customer in the room. Huh? Oh well, whatever. This guy was very chatty and seemed to have a few pieces missing from his noodle, like he would ask the same question twice in a row, weird things like that. So we walked into the Dream Hotel on 55th just off Broadway. If you’ve never been to this place, it’s awesome. A very beautiful place indeed.
We walk up the stairs to the third floor of the hotel and stop in front of room 309. He knocks on the door.
“Hey, it’s Derek!” This is the first time I have heard his name. He hadn’t asked for mine, and I didn’t ask for his.
The shockingly sexy young voice on the other side of the door replies, “I’ve got someone in here right now.”
“I just need to grab something real quick,” Derek says. The door opens and Derek slips into the room as I wait outside. Usually this is the point when I would wonder just what the hell is going on. Why does this guy’s mom have a “customer” in her hotel room and why does this guy’s mom sound like she’s a hot 25-year-old chick? What the fuck am I doing here when I could be home drinking beer and watching reruns of King of Queens? Yeah, fairly reasonable questions in my opinion. The truth of the matter is that I was too concerned about the fact that I did not yet have a beer in my face to seriously ponder the aforementioned concerns.
The door to room 309 opened again and out came my weird new buddy Derek with two frosty twenty-two ounce bottles of Corona and two wedges of lime, one of each in each hand. This is not quite what I had in mind when I agreed to grab a brew with rock star man. On the other hand, this was getting more interesting by the second and appeared to have all the ingredients of a true New York moment. The kettle was just waiting to be put on the fire.
Derek hands me my awesome cold beer and wedge of lime and we head down the stairs to the lobby of this immaculate hotel. At this point, I have no idea what the hell is going on and I have dropped the reigns. Derek is running this show now. We get to the lobby and Derek asks one of the doormen,
“Hey bro, how do I get to that one spot again, bro?”
The doorman tells him how to get to that “one spot” and I don’t really pay attention because I just want to drink my goddamn beer. I follow Derek to the elevator bank where we wait for an elevator. I have been living in NYC for several years and have worked in many of the tallest buildings in the world, and I have never had to wait longer for an elevator than I did on this day at this hotel with Derek. It took fucking ages. I guess this was okay as it gave Derek and I chance to talk. By the way, Derek still does not know my name and seems to be content with calling me “bro”. Sure, whatever. He gave me an awesome cold beer so he can call me Sally for all I care.
So there we are, waiting in the lobby of an elegant upscale hotel in midtown Manhattan surrounded by businessmen in incredibly nice suits waiting for the same elevator, twenty-two and lime wedge in hand. As we wait for this asshole elevator Derek begins to tell me his story. Derek is an ex-addict, a junkie. As in, he says he’s been clean for a month right as he pops two OxyContins and washes them down with a swig of Gatorade from his back pocket. The irony was not lost on him because he chuckled and said unprovoked,
“No, no. I don’t really do these anymore. They’re just for the pain. I had to have a tooth pulled a couple days ago. Those opiates really fuck up your teeth, see?” And he opens his mouth as wide as he can so I can take a good long look at his teeth. Aside from Derek’s teeth you could see the business men getting nervous, which in some weird way calmed me down. The elevator finally arrived and I watched Derek push the button to take us to the twelfth floor. When we reach our destination we get out of the elevator and Derek begins to look around in somewhat of a confused fashion, and of course I follow blindly down the hall, unopened Corona and lime wedge still in hand. We finally find a stairwell and I follow Derek up the stairs and out an exit door where we end up outside. Yes, outside on some sort of balcony on the thirteenth floor of the Dream Hotel. This, however, is no normal balcony. This is quite obviously a place in the building where they never intended any human being to set foot. How do I know? Easy. There are absolutely no measures in place to keep you from falling right off the goddamn roof. Seriously, you could just walk right off the edge.
So here I am standing on a roof in Manhattan with a junkie that I don’t know, and no one knows I’m here. Then it hits me. Oh shit. I am about five seconds away from getting robbed or thrown off this fucking roof, or both. Of course. I was a mark from the very beginning when this guy was supposedly looking for a magazine thirteen stories below me about 30 minutes ago. The rolling papers, the cigarette, the beer. It was all just a ploy to get me on this fucking roof so he could steal all my shit and throw me off! That explains the $250 Diesel jeans he’s wearing in contrast to the fact that he didn’t want to pay $3 for a magazine that contained the exact information he was looking for. Those jeans came from some idiot just like me whom he robbed and then fired their sorry ass right off the thirteenth floor.
Fuck me I am an idiot and now I am going to die.
I snap back into reality when Derek starts coming towards me with a bottle opener and says, “Lemme get that for you, bro.” This is where my life flashed before my eyes as I simultaneously shat myself. Derek reached over and popped the top off my beer and did the little snap thing with the cap and we watched it sail all the way down to the street below, which took a really long time by the way. Derek turns to me and looks me square in the eyes and says,
“Bro, that’s a really long way down!”
No fucking shit asshole and I have a feeling I’m about to find out first hand just how far down it is!
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Derek walks around the tiny balcony checking it out and whatnot, or making sure there are no witnesses. I stand there frozen with my back glued to a wall drinking my Corona as Derek continues to tell me his story. In my mind, I am positive that he is waiting for me to finish my beer so that my faculties will be impaired when he stomps me and shows me what it’s like to skydive without a parachute. I actually appreciated that he was letting me finish my beer before he killed me. Seems like being launched off a skyscraper would be less terrifying if I had a little buzz going, you know? Nice guy that Derek.
Over the awesome cold beer and a few cigarettes, which Derek bummed to me, I listened to his story. As we know, Derek is a junkie. Er, ex-junkie who’s been clean for a month and is popping OxyContin as a painkiller for his tooth. Derek is from LA/Hollywood and loves to talk about the wicked smack they have out there and the base heads and all kinds of nice things. Apparently Derek got into a little trouble in LA and got busted with a whole bottle full of OxyContins that he was not supposed to have. Derek told me about the arrest and all the details and shit and about how the five days he spent in jail weren’t that bad because he didn’t get fucked. Nice. It comes up that the woman from room 309 is not his mom, that’s just what he calls her. She is an ex-porn star from Hollywood that got hooked on meth and is now a hooker in NYC. That explains “mom’s customer”. Derek and MethHooker are old friends from LA so when MethHooker heard about Derek’s legal troubles she flew him out to NYC and is letting him stay with her for a while until his problems blow over.
With a proud smile Derek showed me some of the things that MethHooker bought for him like one of those wicked new Motorola phones, you know, the thin black ones, a really sweet Gucci watch, and the really badass jeans he was wearing. And don’t forget room 309. It’s his room for the week as long as MethHooker is allowed to use it to service her customers on occasion.
Dude, hookers make bank!
Obviously it became clear to me that Derek didn’t get all those nice things from pushing people off of roofs. All of this confusion could have been avoided had I not forgotten to factor in the MethHooker part of the equation from the beginning. I will never make that mistake again.
I wish there was a powerful ending to this story, but there really isn’t.
After I realized that Derek had no interest in stealing my jeans and launching me off the roof, I really got to like the guy. We hung out for a while on that roof. He is a really nice guy with a huge heart who just wanted a friend for a little while. Derek went out of his way to make a friend from a total stranger and give them whatever he could give to make them happy. In this case, an awesome cold beer, a couple cigarettes and a breathtaking view of the most beautiful city in the world was perfect.
Cheers, Derek. I sincerely wish you well.