A Prairie Christmas Chapter 13

I called Andy’s assistant, Blair, while Jack settled in with his skeptical cousins. Blair told us to meet Andy for cocktails after 5 pm at Max’s Kansas City. I hoped Patti Smith would be there but didn’t want to run into her boyfriend, Robert Maplethorpe. I called Jay and he gave me a number to call Marty’s assistant. All these assistants made everyone seem more important than ever before.

Brett and Trent were sitting on the big couch with the same idiot grins as Jack used to show he was happy and needed nothing. Tim 609
“Why are they ignoring you?” I signed to him through Jace
“They always mock me by mirroring my adolescent behaviors. It makes them feel superior by showing they can be as weird as I am by barely trying.”
I sat on the couch with the brothers.

“Y’all look like a portrait of ‘the Idle Rich’,” I spoke to all three of them.
“Why won’t he speak to us?” Trent asked.
I signed to Jack, “Do you want to answer that?”
“What do they care?” He signed.
I translated for the two.
“Our friends think you’re famous,” Trent spoke directly to Jack.
“Those photos with Andy in the Post last Easter.”
“Does that make me famous, too?” I asked.
“No. You’re not related to us.”
“So, I’m the translator, cool.”
“What if he refuses to speak to them.”
“Then, they have to speak with me.”
“How do we explain you, then?”
“Tell them Jack and I got married in Monaco, making me family.” Tim 509
“Who’s the wife, then?”
“We don’t do that. We’re partners. Do you want to know who gets fucked?”
Brett spoke up for the first time, “Yeah. Who?”
“It’ll be you, if you don’t shut up,” Trent told him.
“You both seem rather inexperienced in queer culture. The obvious answer is both of us do. I fuck for you. You fuck for me.”
They turned bright red.
“Well, we’re off to meet Andy,” I grabbed Jack.
“What? Where? When?”
“Max’s at five, but be reasonably late.”
“We can come?”
“Only if you keep up those idiot grins you’ve been practicing all afternoon.”
“Should we call a car?”
“If you want. We always take the subway.”
“Gross.”
“Have you ever been to Union Square?”

We got up and said we had to change. Jack was surprised my stuff was in the brothers’ room. We moved it to a room facing the Park. Mummy had sent Jack’s wardrobe ahead. We just put on our Iowa farm duds.
“Your cousins are kinda creepy,” I said.
“Why did you sleep in their room?”
“They wanted me to. Brett slept with Trent. Wanna ditch ‘em?”

We just left, leaving a message with the doorman that we didn’t know when we’d be back.
Instead of going to Union Square, we walked across Central Park. It was warm for mid-winter, with no snow and birds already out scrounging for seeds. I wanted to check on the Jace’s Place at St Patrick’s. I asked for Father Frank at the office, but he was not there. We were sent to Cardinal Cooke’s assistant. With only assistants dealing with us, we seemed to have outlived our fame. I took Aaron’s hand-written note from my wallet and called him. He was ecstatic to be able to show the Jace’s Place at his temple. He and Paul would meet us there immediately. Kids never forget.
Temple Emanu-el had turned over an apartment building they owned for homeless housing near the 65th & Park synagogue. It was just blocks from St Patrick’s. The boys were outside, holding hands. Tim 552 I felt at home. They were so proud together. It was explained that we were Jace’s band mates, which brought a crowd of kids to the reception hall. Guitars appeared. Jack and I strummed Pink Floyd chords, while I related the Jace story. They asked us to play. We did ‘Dark Side of the Moon’

 

 

and ‘Crazy Diamond’.

Jack was only playing guitar. When we got to the Sid Barrett random noises and bird calls, he was able to do those. I hugged him so hard that I broke down crying. The kids were already emotional. Jace floated above the group and started crying diamond tear drops. Kids being kids, a scramble broke out to collect the tiny gems.
“They’re worthless. Only those who have Jace in their hearts can touch them without the diamonds bursting like bubbles.”
The rabbi who supervised the Jace’s Place, came over. “You Catholics. Always with the miracles.”
We all laughed.

It was time to leave for Max’s. Aaron and Paul begged to come along, so they could tell us everything about the homeless program. They just wanted to be with us.
We took the familiar subway to Union Square.
“Do you want hear about problems or successes at Jace’s Place?”
“Both, but not just about the Emanu-el one. We’re not interested in opinions about other places. Just tell us if we need to investigate.”
“Why isn’t Jack saying anything,” Paul asked.
“He got snake-bit in Iowa,” I drawled.
Their eyes grew wide, thinking we were in the wild west.
“I can speak with him through Jace. You guys should be able to, as well.”
“Hi Jack,” Aaron took a shot. “What’s it like living with cowboys and Indians?”
After a second, he translated Jack’s answer.
“He said it’s not like that. They even have bowling and football there.”
All four of us plus a ghost were smiling.

At the Factory, Blair rushed downstairs to meet us.
“You’re early.”
“We want to talk the business end here and then just socialize at Max’s” and I kissed Blair on the cheek.
He went all a’twitter, so we walked past him, up to Andy’s office.
“Boys, I was just finishing up so I could meet you in Union Square.” tim-709
“You mentioned you have a proposition for us. Best to talk business here, then socialize.”
“Come with me,” he ordered. Our entourage of two kept up as we went into a downstairs studio.
There was a large contraption that looked like a snapshot machine at an amusement park.
“It’s a new Polaroid, for taking portraits,” Andy explained.

It looked like something out of the 19th Century. You had to move the camera to focus on the subject. The photos he already had taken were large and showed clear images with surprising depth. I instantly knew how to utilize this new technology – we’d spotlight the kids in Jace’s Place all over the country. Rather than tell stories, we’d just show beautiful kids who had been saved. Teen Jesus genius.
“So, you want to take our picture?”
He frowned. “Can’t you come up with something better than a photo shoot.”
“Of course, we’ll spotlight the kids in Jace’s Place. With your eye, you’ll make stunning portraits. I want Martin Scorsese to use the film footage to tell the story. Your faces. Marty’s story.”
“I’d recommend Paul Morrissey over Scorsese,” Andy argued.
“If you want campy porn,” I countered.  Trash
“Ew, that hurts,” Jack said.
“You’re talking,” I exclaimed.
“Oh, yeah. Just so happy to be with Andy,” Jack admitted. “You know, Andy, Tim calls himself Andy in Iowa.”
“New York just isn’t big enough for two Andys,” I giggled.
Andy seemed to get it, that I was not idolizing him. He could be seen as a False God, but that wasn’t an issue here.
“Use Marty as director and you get the whole movie already made. The original purpose was to tell the story of Jace’s Place. Think of it as an infomercial like you did as an advertising man, but on a bigger scale.”
“Please. Don’t remind me.”
He turned to Aaron and Paul. “And who are these pretty boys.”
“Meet Aaron and Paul, from St Patrick’s. They started Jace’s Place at Temple Emanu-el.”
“Have a seat in front of the camera, boys, and tell me your story.” Tim 503
Andy quizzed them and snapped photos with the Big Shot for about an hour. Their whole story captivated him. He had expected boys to be burnouts and throw-aways. He loved how Aaron went to Catholic youth group to be with Paul and Paul found a Jewish Teen Jesus.”

We finally got to Max’s around six. No sign of Trent and Brett. Aaron and Paul had been warned about all the paparazzi, but were still shy in the spotlight. Jack and I took over, escorting Andy and making his every wish come true.
“You know they wanted to arrest Jack in Florida after all those pictures of you two at Cannes.”
“How could they. I was a perfect gentleman.”
“Perfectly delicious,” Jack spoke again.
“While I was living in the Everglades, on catfish and rice.”
“With Swamp Boy.”
“Jack rushed to Iowa when he learned I had a new boyfriend.”
“Now the story gets better.” Andy rubbed his hands.
“You chose me over him. End of story.”
“You think you lost your voice because Jesus abandoned you to the devilish serpent.”
“I almost died. You saved me.”
“You stopped talking to punish me and made me follow you here. A week later, we’re with Andy in New York.”
“Aren’t you glad?”
“Boys, no need to argue in public.” We had embarrassed Andy.
I reached across the table and deeply frenched Jack. Tim 307 The boys looked thrilled, while Andy smiled benignly. The flash bulbs were popping. I looked into Jack’s eyes, as devotedly as I could muster. We turned and simultaneously kissed Andy on opposite cheek. More flashes.

Trent and Brett chose to arrive at that moment, seeing us kissing the art icon. They rushed over to get into the photos, total gossip sluts.
“How nice,” Andy observed. “More eye candy, and so preppy.”
They sparkled in the spotlight, but had nothing to say. I looked them in the eye and gave them the idiot grin. They immediately stayed mute idiot clowns.
“These are my cousins, Trent and Brett,” Jack introduced them.
Their mouths dropped open at hearing Jack speak, making their idiot grins look even scarier.
“Let’s interview them as the Upper Westside opinion on throwaway kids,” I suggested.
“Not until after we have at least another drink. What are you boys having?” he asked the brothers.
They had caught Jack’s mute condition.
“Get them tini martinis,” I suggested.
“You boys no longer smoking pot?”
“Sorry. We’ve grown up.”
Trent pulled out a joint and silently offered it up.
“Prep school boys are always holding,” Andy observed. WarholdAndy0712

I worried that Jack, having overcome the speech-phobia, would regress with a pot-inspired meltdown. It didn’t take long. Aaron and Paul loved watching Jack go into sexual overdrive. Our whole group went back to the Factory for the brothers’ photos. I led Jack to the control room where I had fucked Velvet Underground royalty Lady Jane every which way to Sunday.  I was inspired enough to repeat the performance. Tim 510 Jack remained totally fucked up. We broke up the party. From the signals I observed, Aaron and Paul may be staying later. Good for Andy, but that was against my same age only sex proscription. Celebrity trumps rules. I just hoped the boys wouldn’t be disappointed. They looked really pleased as we left. The brothers remained idiot-faced, muted clowns.
I promised Andy I’d get back to him with Marty’s response about the Jace infomercial.

It wasn’t that late, so we dragged Trent and Brett to Ho-Jo’s in Times Square for fried clams. I loved sitting in the window, watching a rerun of my 14 year-old self. tim-642 There did seem to be less kids on the street, but there were plenty of druggie, prostitute adults to pick up the slack. Times Square was like Trafalgar Square, not the crossroads of the world, just its cesspool.

We were back at the Dakota before midnight, Tim 498 just in time for a lecture from Mummy.
“He’s speaking now,” the brothers tried to explain our escapade.
“How’d that happen?” she asked.
“Andy Warhol took us for drinks.”
The brothers were now mini-celebrities by proximity. Wait until the morning Post comes out. Their friends were devoted to Page Six.
As we attempted to get to bed, the brothers created a contretemps about sharing our bedroom.
“There’s two beds there. We know you both only need one. Why can’t we use the other? We often sleep together.” Trent obviously wanted lessons on gay sex.
“What part of privacy do you not understand?” Jack countered.
“Please,” was the only argument they could muster.
We shut and locked the bedroom door. I swore I could hear their breathing as they lurked on the other side of the door. We mimicked actual sex noises with squeals and moans. As we reached a fake climax, we threw open the door, catching them both jerking off to their fantasies about us. Tim 511 They scurried back to the closet.

All these diversions didn’t dull our need to fuck each other. Jace joined in as well, happy we had found our groove again. I wasn’t ready to be fully penetrated yet, residual rape reluctance. But Casper’s ghostly dick was okay, comforting, not invading. He was glad to be the meat in our fuck sandwich. Tim 611 The sun was coming up over Central Park by the time our hormones were satisfied. Sitting together in a big bay window, I realized how special the Dakota was. Jack tried to make excuses that it was on the ‘wrong’ side of the Park, sounding too much like Trent and Brett. I hushed him, saying the view alone was worth more than anyone else’s opinion. I carried him into bed, with Jace hovering until we both were sound asleep. I woke up in a couple of hours. Jack was in need of more beauty sleep. I knew I had to return to Ames in just a few days.

I met Mummy and Daddy in the dining room for breakfast. They were slightly angry that I had dragged Jack off to Bohemian Downtown Manhattan. On the other hand, they were relieved that his speech had returned.
“Was there something you did that helped him recover?” Mummy asked.
“My therapist felt I was mostly to blame by putting so much stress on Jack, causing him to flee Switzerland to confront my new boyfriend. His subconscious was rebelling and punishing me.”
“It wasn’t the snake bite?”
“That was another thing from which I was to protect him. But I failed. He really almost died.”
“If you hadn’t stepped in, he would be dead now,” Daddy defended me.
“The subconscious doesn’t think that logically.”
“Is he completely cured now?” Mummy was still anxious.
“Dr. Kam would caution that he may regress. I thought that seeing his old friends would help.”
“How are you getting along with the cousins?” Daddy asked.
I just laughed.
“Well, you continue to make the news,” as he brought out the Post.
Never shy, I ate up the multiple photos of our Andy tryst at Max’s. We were no longer old news. It reminded me that I needed to speak with Marty. Fame can be fleeting. I only had a few days to line up the infomercial.
“You know I have to leave on Sunday. I promised the moms I wouldn’t stay longer. Do you think Jack can come back with me?” Tim 548
“I don’t know, Tim. We’ll see what his doctors say. At the very least, he needs to recover more. I can’t help but think that the snake incident was a hate crime.”
“More like a trap we naively walked into. Ames is not like that rural town. Our Baptist Church is very supportive, believing that their prayers brought us into their fold.”
“We think that Catholic services are more appropriate.”
“My mom feels estranged from the local parish, as they condemn her relationship with Molly. But maybe he and I can switch back. I see the snake incident as a warning about intolerance.”
“I’ll ask Father Frank to fly up. He’s back in Miami mostly. You and Johnny really bonded with him.”
“Great,” I answered but worried that he wasn’t taking the lead with the Jace’s Place project at St Patrick’s. Maybe I could do some convincing of my own.
“Is it okay to use the phone? I need to speak with Martin Scorsese.”
“He dumped Johnny fairly quickly after the movie failed at Cannes. I blame him for having to send our boy to the monastery in Geneva.”
“Well, without me to shill for the film, there wasn’t much for Johnny to say. I’d blame Social Services in Miami.”
“All’s well that ends well.”
Unless you have to live in a swamp for four months, which made me think of Tommy. My heart-felt conflicted. My dick reminded me that I had finally gotten my mojo and sex drive back. And he was still in my heart.

I called Marty’s office first. The assistant demurred about a meeting, saying Marty was too involved with the Academy promotion of ‘Taxi Driver’ in April. I dropped Andy Warhol’s name and got a few minutes scheduled that morning. Marty was coming in around eleven. I would have to be there waiting and hope he would see me. I told the assistant to look at the photos in the Post, to assure him that my fame was reviving.

“Hi, Auntie Em,” I greeted Tommy’s foster mom. “How’s Tommy doing?”
“To be honest, Huck, all he does is mope since he came back. I’m afraid it was too much for him.” Tim 461
“When’s a good time to call him?”
“Well, he’s home from school ‘sick,’ if you believe it.”
“I’ll try a quick cure on him.”
After a second for her to call him to the phone, he came on with a hopeful hello.
“Hey, little bro. Are you really sick?”
“Naw. Jist sick o’school.”
“I’m in New York right now.”
“Kin ya come here, too?”
“Not ‘tils I’s 18, but it ain’t that fer off.” It felt comfortable to fall into my country twang.
“I misses ya sum’thin’ terrible, Huck. I knows ya don’t means to be so mean, but it rilly hurts,” he sniffed.
“Don’t be a’cryin’ now. Ya cain’t say ya didn’t haves the best time a’fore Jack showed up. Remember snow angels?”
Now he was bawling into the phone. “I loves ya so much, Huck.” Tim 569
“Y’all gots ta learn to share me. It’s a part o’growin’ up.”
“I wants ya ta love me as much as I loves you.”
“It don’t work that way. Ya cain’t deny we’s always had great times tagether. We gots ta build on that.”
“I gets so depressed thinkin’ ‘bout you’s.”
“Listen ta me, boy. Ya gots ta love urself first. Yer so cute and loveable, but if yer mopin’ all the time, I cain’t feel anything but sad ‘bout ya’s.”
“I ain’t that tough.”
“Yes, you are. Suck it up. And don’t be playin’ hooky from school. Jist go to sees yer friends and have sum fun. Fergit yer troubles. Nothin’ gonna change ‘til I’s 18 and yer 16.”
“Ya think?” he sounded hopeful.
“’Course. We’s the Hillbilly Brothers.”
“Makin’ babies wid each other.”
“Better now?”
“Yeah, Huck. Ya always knows how to git me a’goin’.”
“And a’goin’ to school taday, too.”
“Okay, yer right.”
“Luv ya, Tom.”
“Ya makes me so happy, Huck. But yer jist so mean, too.”
“That’s how I loves ya.”
“I ain’t never gonna be mean ta you’s.”
“Good.”
We hung up.

I called Jay and told him to get a copy of the New York Post to show Mike Sr. He wasn’t surprised we were getting publicity again.
“They diagnosed me as an Attention Addict in Iowa.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Tell Mike I’m tryin’ to get Marty to release the film to Andy Warhol so we can make an infomercial for Jace’s Place. I need his advice.”
“He’s tied up in a trial today. I’ll get the paper and tell him what you want to do. Call me tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Jay, as always.”
“You’re my favorite washed up rocker.”

Not feeling washed up enough, I decided it was time for a shower. In our room, Jack was looking grumpy with his cousins ensconced on our bed. I knew how to get rid of them.
“Hey, have you seen Page Six today?”
They jumped up and ran to the dining room, Jack immediately brightened.
“Why do you let them run all over you?” I asked him.
“Typical habits of the idle rich, they feel entitled. What was in the Post?”
“Perversion of idle youth by NYC’s most famous artist. They even got our names right – the return of the wunderkind.”
Jack broke into song, ‘The Book of Love’,

‘I wonder, wonder who, who-oo-ooh, who
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)…
I love you darlin’
Baby, you know I do
But I’ve got to see this Book of Love
Find out why it’s true
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, mmbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)
(Chapter One says to love him)
(You love him with all your heart)
(Chapter Two you tell him you’re)
(Never, never, never, never, never gonna part)
(In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance)
(In Chapter Four you break up
(But you give him just one more chance))
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, mmbadoo-ooh, wWho)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)
Baby, baby, baby
I love you, yes I do
Well it says so in this Book Of Love
Ours is the one that’s true’

Lyrics by Warren Davis, George Malone and Charles Patrick

Label – Mascot / Argo/Chess

I was kneeling in front of him on the bed, singing from the heart. The cousins rushed back in with the newspaper, jumping into bed with us. I figured I could stand them a few more days. Jack seemed totally recovered. We jumped in the shower together, making sure we were thorough in all the right places. Tim 422

We arrived at Martin’s office before eleven, prepared to wait for him. His assistant was pleasant but not exactly gay-friendly. There was an Italian guy also waiting. tim-708
“Hey, it’s the mail box bomber from ‘Mean Streets.”
“Yeah. Well, I’m a psycho in the newest one. Hi, I’m Bobby.”
“You were our favorite in that one. You still off-kilter in ‘Taxi Driver‘?”
“Completely.”
We all laughed.
“Yer the fags in Marty’s rock n roll movie.”
“Yeah. That was a real bomb.”
“Glad I could inspire ya.”
“We wanna get Marty to re-edit it with Andy Warhol. Make it an art bomb.”
“My pops is an artist. But his career never blew up.”
“Andy has the Midas touch, everything turns golden.”
“I pretty much hate artists, too arty.”
“What’s that mean? Maybe being an artist makes ya arty?”
“No. They always try to make things bigger or more important than in real life.”
“Yeah. They’re so superficial and act self-important.”
“That’s Pops.”

Marty walked in on our gabfest. tim-743
“Well, looks who here, last year’s sensations and this year’s model,” he kidded us.
“We’re discussing how you make bombs.”
“Hey, you missed Cannes. We never had a chance without your star-power. Why are you in the Post today?”
“We’re plotting our comeback.”
“That movie’s dead, boys.” What a great name for a band, I thought.
“We got Andy interested in using it with his latest art project.” Tim 472
“Warhol can’t seem to get enough of you boys.”
“We like kissing him.”
“On the ass, yeah,” Bobby quipped.
“Who’s side are you on?”
“Whoever’s winning.”
“Last year’s winners are today’s forgotten memory.”
“We need you to let Andy Warhol turn Jace’s Tribute into an infomercial for the Jace’s Place project.”
“Andy always was an advertising hack.”
“He needs your genius to make the film relevant.”
“I got work backed up for years.”
“Success breeds contempt.”
“What, you little shit?”
“Hang on, Marty. Listen to what they have for you,” de Niro came to our defense.
“Don’t be turning queer on me.” Marty attacked back.
“Hell, that would be the day all the saints and sinners in Italy roll over in their graves.” Tim 228
“This has nothing to do with gay-lib. It’s about homeless kids,” I stopped their diatribe.
“Who sell their asses to survive.” Bobby laughed.
“Give Andy a chance to show you the work he’s already created. It won’t be in theaters, but in museums and galleries. Your film will be called art and be the heart of the exhibit.”
“How will I get my money back?”
“By making it seem like you really care. They’ll be lined up out the door for these shows.”
“Hey, the kid sounds like he’s from Hollywood.”
“He is. He got Doug Weston to sell Bill Burroughs’ ‘Wild Boys’ to MGM.” TheWildBoys
“And you’re turning him down because?….” de Niro pushed Marty.
“I always bust chops.”
“Well, chop, chop.  You and I  havta be somewhere by noon. Tell them yes to whatever they want.”
“Okay, tell Warhol to send me a written spec sheet and proposal. You got your deal.”
“His assistant will contact your assistant. Thanks Marty. How’s yer Mom?”
“Get outta heah. This is no business for kids.”
Jack and I looked like we were about to hug him. He made it known it wasn’t going to happen. Instead we high-fived each other. Tim 477

I called Aaron about a more in-depth visit to the Temple Emanu-el’s Jace’s Place. His father answered, concerned that the two boys had not come home. I explained that we were working on an infomercial project on the shelters. I promised to have the boys contact him. He was cool for a parent who’s 14 year-old son hadn’t come home overnight.

It was a short walk to the Factory. The boys were easy to find. Assistant Blair casually explained that they had stayed with him after finishing the developing of the Big Shot portraits. Andy was not in, probably sleeping in from our busy day. Aaron called his dad and promised to come home. It was a school day. We took the boys to eat. I was livid that they may have been exploited.
“What were you thinking, staying out all night? That guy’s twice your age.” Tim 548
“No big deal. We’re committed to each other. We don’t fool around,” Aaron defended their actions. “We figured our parents would assume we were at each other’s houses.”
“We’ll come home with you and talk with your folks,” Jack suggested.

I felt way older than 17. At least being gay meant I would never be a full-time parent. It was instructive to see these kids through parental eyes. They were oblivious to the potential for abuse. We had assumed that taking homeless kids off the streets would protect them from abuse. It was more complicated.
At Aaron’s, I sat with both sets of parents and told them the story of Jack’s snake bites. My point was that we had naively assumed the Baptist preacher had good intentions toward us. Jack almost died.
“We always believe what Jace tells us on who to trust,” Paul explained  why they didn’t worry about haters and exploiters.
“Molesters and abusers often think they have pure hearts. That preacher asked if Jack trusted Jesus to protect him. He thought because Jack was Catholic and gay, that he didn’t have the true faith. It was like the devil tempting Adam and Eve. They wanted the snake to prove a miracle. Even the doctor told us to pray for his recovery. Jack’s parents had to air-evac him to a real hospital.
“I couldn’t talk for days,” Jack added. “I felt stupid and guilty for trusting that preacher.” Tim 587
Aaron’s father was confused. “So, the boys just believe their hearts can tell them who they can trust. This is the big city, boys. Half the people here are running some scam or another.”
“Their hearts tell them who is also open-hearted. It obviously isn’t fool-proof. Some judgment is required before you spend the night with a stranger.”
The boys looked abashed and ashamed.Tim 490 ryan-kelley-01
Paul told us that they had been worried about abusers at Jace’s Place. Kids came from the streets with hearts closed to everyone. There were only other kids to open up to. There was no counseling, just a place, supposedly safe. Once a kid had opened up to others, they formed a bond to protect each other. New kids needed to belong and share the mutual bond. Adults could never share that bond. The motives of the staff were suspect as there was no real reward for helping kids join a positive peer group.
“You’re worried that the adults at Jace’s Places are potential abusers?” I asked Paul.
“The only safeguard is that the kids themselves will out the abusers and make them leave. But that’s naïve. Most homeless kids are too embarrassed to tell anyone they’re being abused.”
“So, we get them off the streets but haven’t provided a safe place?”
“Each shelter is different. Staff involvement varies. Kids need to have someone to back them up if there’s abuse.”
“Wow. I feel we failed you,” I admitted. “Maybe the infomercial we’re working on needs to move past just getting the homeless kids off the street.”
I knew I had to get Father Frank to be on top of things here in New York.
“Well, I’m only here for a few days. When Father Frank comes back from Miami, let’s all get together and make sure we stay on the right path.”
Aaron’s father was still my fan. “I was so pleased you chose my son to be a leader last Passover. Again you are enlisting him. You make me so proud of him. But he’s still on restriction for staying out all night.”
Everyone laughed.

Aaron and Paul took us to the shelter where we spoke individually with many kids who wanted to tell us what it was like for them. Having been on the streets, they naturally were suspicious of adults. That blanket suspicion prevented them from sharing with staff any specific problems they encountered. A code of silence was allowing abuse to fester. I was determined to root out abuse but had no plan to counter this code.
Jack wanted me to stay longer than the time the moms had allowed for me to be in New York. I was reluctant to manipulate the moms. Instead, we agreed he would spearhead the reforms and work with Andy on the portraits and multi-media exhibition about Jace’s Place. I would remain in constant contact from Iowa.
“Do you want to go back to Iowa? I can come back here eventually but I love my family too much to want to leave them now.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. His eyes got wide. Jace told me he had regressed and needed me to take him home. Tim 419
“We have to leave. I’ll call when Father Frank arrives. This has been instructive.”
“Is Jack alright?” Aaron sensed something was wrong.
“He’s still not fully recovered. I need to take him home.”
Jack started silently crying. The boys instantly embraced him. I saw him relax.

We walked across Central Park, hand in hand. Tim 494 A photographer must have seen us, as we reappeared on Page Six the next morning. Once we were in the lobby, a younger boy and girl came up to us.
“Why are you holding hands?” the boy asked, with a marked North England accent
“Because we can,” I answered.
“That’s a rhyme,” he remarked.
“A rhyme in time rings true.”
“Are you a musician?” the girl asked
“What’s your names?” I asked.
“Nina, and this is Julian. His father is a famous musician.”
“Do you play, Julian?” I asked.
“I play drums and Paul McCartney is teaching me guitar.” Tim 231
“My, you’re very lucky. I’m Andy and this is Jack. I taught him to play guitar. Our drummers are in Miami. Maybe we can jam sometime. I’d love to hear what Paul McCartney taught you.”
“How come he doesn’t talk?” Nina asked.
“He was bit by a snake. It makes him unable to talk, but he’s almost cured. Maybe if we all can sing a song a Cappella, he’ll get his voice back.”
“What shall we sing?” Julian asked.
“How about the Beatles, since you know Paul. ‘A Little Help from My Friends?”

‘What would you do if I sang out of tune?’ I started.
‘Would you stand up and walk out on me?’ Julian sang in a voice that told me his father was John Lennon.
‘Lend me your ears and I’ll try not to sing out of key,’ Nina sang a pure soprano.

‘Do you need anybody ?’ I sang
‘I need somebody to love,’ Julian
‘Could it be anybody,’ Nina
‘I want somebody to love,’ Jack had found his voice again, tears rolling down his cheeks.

‘Can it be anybody?’ I sang
‘I just need someone to love,’ Jack collapsed into my arms.

– Joe Cocker

“Is he really sick?” Nina asked.
“At least he’s singing. It’s an improvement.”
“A snake bite caused him to stop talking? Is he daft?” Julian was blunt.
“No. We talk by sign language. Ask him something.”
“How did you get snake-bit in New York? Sure it wasn’t rat? Maybe it’s the plague?”
The boy was a wit. We both laughed. The kids relaxed, seeing Jack act normal.

“We live in Iowa. A nasty country preacher made Jack test his faith with a rattlesnake. The snake bit him three times, the father, son and holy ghost. The preacher exposed us as Catholics. Jack would’ve died but he got air-evac’d home. The speech loss comes back because he subconsciously blames me for not protecting him.”
“What? Evil preachers? Do they have Red Indians where you live?”
“They all got kicked out. It’s the redneck farmers who hate us for being gay.”

“I’m from Liverpool,” Julian stated. “I know me place there. No snakes to keep me deef and dumb.”

“You guys are fun,” Jack spoke. I was instantly relieved he was talking again. He and I hugged.
“Cured?” Nina asked.
“Completely, until my boyfriend is mean to me again.” Jack laughed.
“Come up to my room.” Julian offered.
“You sure Yoko won’t object?” I kidded him.
“She’s not me mum. And I have me own flat.”
“Do come,” Nina pleaded. Tim 543
“We’ll go get our guitars. We’ll play and talk some more.”
“Meet us at 407 in 30 minutes.”
“Sure.”

Mummy and Daddy were having afternoon cocktails as we walked in.
“Your cousins want to speak with you both.”
“That’s nice,” Jack answered, as we sat down, with matching Cheshire cat grins. Tim 536
“You boys seem very chipper.”
“Oh, we are Mummy. We’re going to play with John Lennon’s son. You know, the Beatles.”
“I heard he lives at the Dakota. Will you be playing outside. It’s still winter.”
“Mummy, I’ve been living in Iowa. This isn’t winter. It’s at least Spring. And, no, we’re not playing outside. We’re playing music together.”
“With the Beatles?”
“No. His son. He’s about eleven,”
“Well, don’t bother his mother. I heard she’s not so nice.”
“Ta,” Jack sang as we left to get the guitars. We got out two acoustics, the old fender Mustang and Jace’s SG. Before leaving we realized we looked ridiculous loaded down with four guitars. We just took the acoustics.
We told the parents we were going to the Octopus’s Garden in case the cousins asked.
“You should be nicer to your cousins, Johnny.”
“They’re jerks. Andy took their portraits. He calls it “Wasted Youth’.”
“Andy Warhol painted their portraits?”
“No, he took Polaroids of them.”
“Oh,” they lost interest.

We banged on the door to 407. Then waited for several minutes until Nina came to the door. She looked flustered.
“Been smoking pot or making out?”
She blushed. “Pot, we’re only 12. We don’t make out.” Tim 487
“You should try it. It makes the time fly by.”
We walked in. The apartment was a typical kid’s room in shambles. A drum set and amps were in one corner. The opposite corner had several couches with a full ashtray and pot paraphernalia. The curtains were drawn, making the room feel like a dark cave.
“Should we get the electric guitars? We just brought acoustics.”
“Only if Junior B jumps on his drum kit.”
“We’ll bring them next time.”
“Super.”
“Wud ja be bothered if we talks like regular folk, ‘stead of this stilted schoolboy speech?”
“So we ’s gots ta treat ya like ‘blokes?” Julian started taking the piss out on us.
“Right, mate.”
Instead of setting up to play, they wanted to talk.
“Wanna hit?” Julian asked.
“Only if you can stand seeing us fag out on each other.”
They giggled and brought out a bong. Tim 91
We were one hit wonders. Jack started rubbing on me, moving behind me and slowly humping my back. The kids started laughing at us.Tim 473
“Why were you so mean to Jack?” Nina asked.
“He stopped talking when I told him I was going back home to Iowa on Sunday. He has to stay here. We were kept apart last year when I got arrested.”
Jack had little interest in my explanation, working my back with his hands and rubbing a hard-on against my buttocks.
“Why were you arrested?” Julian was interested.
“Initially for drinking a beer at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Miami. I got thrown in juvie because my dad said I was out of control.”
“How long were you locked up?”
“It was ‘sposed to be until I turn 18. Two of us escaped and lived in the Everglades all summer. My friend got an infected foot. At the hospital his asshole brother tried to turn him in. I took off after a fight and ended up at my mom’s in Iowa.”
“Why are you going back?”
“I promised the moms so I could come with Jack to New York. He was in a coma.”
“Oh. Let’s play guitars. Nina can sing.”
“You don’t play?” I asked her. “Not related to any musical geniuses?”
“I never learned. But my father’s Leonard Bernstein.”
“I can teach you to play in less than a minute. All you have to do is trust me.”
“Uncle Paul’s been teaching Jules for three years. You’ll do it in a minute?” she laughed.
“Jules is learning Paul’s music. That’s hard. I’ll just teach you to play your own music, what’s in your heart.”
Jack piped up. “If you learn, we’ll put on a recital for my parents for their cocktail hour.”
“What should I try to play?”
“How about a song by your pops? Sing something from ‘Westside Story’?”
She picked the finale, ‘Somewhere’.

It was easy. I felt she trusted me. Jace took her hands and placed them on the guitar, shaping the chords for her.
“Who is making me do this?” Tim 469
“It is the spirit of rock n roll. It will help you realize you already know this song and can play it. Until you feel confidant, he’ll guide you. His name is Jace.”
We had their attention. Nina started strumming the rhythm which she inherently knew.
All four of us were singing along.

‘There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere.’

Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
© 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher.

“How did you do that?” Julian was thunderstruck. “Teach me, too.”
I sensed he was more skeptical than trusting.
“Okay. You first have to trust Jace to come into your heart. Since you don’t know him or us that well, you can trust Nina. She’ll open your heart to Jace for you. Sit with her, and she’ll show you.”
He moved over and took the guitar. She shaped his hands to the chords . They were cute, intently working the miracle together. He started strumming. We came in with the lyrics. At first he was furiously trying to understand how the notes were properly playing. Finally, he relaxed and let the music flow. Tim 506 His Beatle Uncle Paul had been teaching him notes before he knew the sounds in his head and heart. The two methods were in conflict. Realizing that he could stop over-thinking it and just play a song let him be free. He was twelve years old; what problems could he have?

“Okay,” Jack announced, “now we go play for Mummy and Daddy. It’s the cocktail hour – Showtime.”
Again we were in hysterics. Tim 489
“We’re too stoned to perform.”
“Stop worrying. We’ll just do it.”
Jules had at least five acoustic guitars. The four of us trooped down to the Stone apartment.
“Hello, Mummy. I’m Julian Lennon and this is my friend Nina Bernstein. We’re here to entertain you. Hello, Mr. Stone.”
“How nice. We’ve missed Johnny’s impromptu performances since Tim left.”
“We’re doing ‘Somewhere there’s a Place for Us,’ from Westside Story.’ Nina’s father wrote the music.”
Jules strummed a short prelude before all four of us came in on vocals.

We blended well, with Jules’ Liverpool accent making us sound like a Mersey Beat band, if not exactly Beatlesque. Jack’s dare to get the kids to play for his parents paid off.
“Can you do another?” Mummy asked.
“Play that new Wings song Paul taught you,” Nina asked Jules.
“Oh, it’s just a silly love song,” he smiled.
“Perfect,” Mummy ordered.
Jace and I looked astounded, as we had thought of that title when we were first writing songs.
Jules confidently played the intro, saying it was a new song on the Wings album due out in March.

When we got to the ‘I love you’ chorus, Jules sang to Nina while I sang to Jack. Then we turned and sang to the Stones, ‘It isn’t silly at all.’
“How do you know the words. It hasn’t even come out?” Jules challenged us.
“We’ve always known someone would do this song,” I remained enigmatic. “Here’s the song we ripped off from your dad.” Jack and I sang ‘Love 2’ to each other. The kids created their own rhythm chords.

“I never feel this way.
Just happy full of play.
I wake up every day,
You’re by my side,
You reach and touch,
I say goodbye.

There’s no future,
But we have now.
Don’t ask,
some way,
somehow.

We’re perfect for each other,
I never think of another.”
Can’t be love, but who can say
I know you’re here to stay?

There’s no future,
But we have now.
Don’t ask,
some way,
somehow.
We can’t live by ourselves.
We need people that we love
We hate those who hate themselves
We know what they’re not made of.

Love, love, love

I need your love
I need your love
I need your love
I need you”

I kissed Jack. The kids giggled. The parents were slightly shocked. Tim 399
That’s our band’s song,” I told them.
“Pretty sappy,” Jules critiqued.
“Not so old to be jaded,” I responded.
“Old enough to render Jack speechless when you’re mean.”
“You’ve been mean?” Mummy asked.
“I have to go back to Iowa. Jack wants me to stay.”
“Please stay,” both Jules and Nina nagged like only kids can. Tim 492
“And that’s what made Jack stop talking?” Mr. Stone realized.
“He likes to get his way. Sometimes I have to be mean. Not because I want to. It’s about growing up and knowing things can’t always be perfect.”
“So, Jack punishes you when he can’t get his way.”
“Oh, Daddy. I just got him back. I can’t lose him again.Tim 508 Let me go back to Iowa, too.”
“No,” argued the kids. “You’re our only friends.”
“Want to come to Iowa, too.”
“Ew. And get snake-bit? No thanks”
The Stones were too old for all this childish bickering. We were politely dismissed.

Nina and Jules came back to our bedroom. They didn’t notice how much cleaner our room was compared to Jules. We told them stories from the Easter tour of the South.
“Is Iggy really tough and mean?”
“He’s a greaser who likes to dress up in leather and dog collars.”
“Miami sounds so cool, much nicer than Iowa.”
“Actually, Iowans are nice, as long as you fit in. They have barn parties.”
“A party in a barn?”
“No, not in but near an abandoned barn way out in the country where no one goes. Everyone puts their pickup trucks in a circle with the headlights on. You drink beer and smoke pot until the girls put out.”
“Ew,” Nina was not impressed.
“Unless you’re Andy, and you start crying and pass out.” Jack told the truth.
“Who’s Andy?”
“I’m Andy in Iowa. My twin sisters and I have another band, ‘The Triplets,’ Amy, Angie and Andy. Jace taught them to play just like he did for you today.”
“Are you going to show us how that trick worked?” Jules was still perplexed by his own talent.
“It’s no trick. You let Jace into your heart. He finds your own music there. Then he helps you to play it. The only magic is your own music. He helps you find and play it.”
Still perplexed, Jules failed to think that a ghost is also magic.Tim 539

We asked them to stay for dinner. Nina called to let her parents know. Jules generally ate with her family; he didn’t need to disturb his rock god parents. It gave me an idea for a new band song: ‘Son of False Gods.’ Mummy informed the staff and told us that dinner was at 7 pm.
After we were seated and eating the soup course, Trent and Brett rushed in from their Collegiate socializing.
“Who are these kids?” they looked accusingly at Jack and me. Apparently the Stone’s good manners gene was not passed to the other side of the family
“They’re our friends. We invited them,” Jack didn’t bother to introduce his cousins.
They sat down, slurped their soups, and then looked around bored.
“We’re invited to Bitty’s Waldorf tea party on Saturday night. If you want to come, we could get you invited. It looks like we’ve made it to the ‘A’ list after being on Page Six of the Post.”
“That must be exciting,” I quipped. Jack kicked me under the table. Jules and Nina burst out laughing.
“And who are you, again?” Trent interrogated them. Tim 482
“They’re neighbors. We all entertained my parents while you were ‘A’ listing this afternoon.” Jack was still feisty from the bong hit hours earlier.
“Boys, remember my rule about leaving disputes out of the dining room. You can discuss these plans later. Tell us about your meetings today, Tim.” Apparently I had been too busy enjoying the back and forth without participating.

“We met with Marty and convinced him to share the film with Andy. We told Andy that Paul Morrissey was not the right director. Then we had to get Marty to want to work with an artist. He agreed, but getting someone from the Bronx to work with someone from the West Village is worse than arranging a truce in Israel.”
“Then we went to the Temple Emanu-el homeless shelter. We realized that there are serious flaws in the Jace’s Place model. We need Father Frank here. Can you call him?” Jack added.
“He went back to Miami, frustrated about something. Sounds like there are issues to resolve.”
“He can’t do it from Miami.”
“What are you talking about?” Trent wasn’t shy about exposing his cluelessness. The kids giggled, having followed our discussion. Tim 489
“Tim and Johnny got the Church, Baptist and Jewish congregations to set up homeless shelters for kids on the street.”
“It’s important that we get them back on track before I  leave. It’ll be good if Johnny is here to oversee the reforms. He still loses his voice occasionally. It was singing with Jules and Nina that got it back today.
The kids beamed.
“Can he come back to Iowa when he’s fully recovered?” I asked, worrying he was going speechless again.
“It worries us, Tim,” Daddy spoke for the parental unit, “that Jack’s speech problems may be caused by fights you two are having. Iowa seemed delightful when we visited but we don’t want him relapsing.”
“You’ve always trusted me to protect him.” Tim 508
“I’m not sure you can protect him from himself.”
“Well, maybe my Moms will let me come back here, if he’s still sick.”
“Let’s wait and see how things work out. You certainly are welcome anytime.”
“I have two mums, too,” Jules piped up.
“Well, my moms live together.”
“Oh, my mums hate each other.”
“That’s much more normal, dear,” Mummy to the rescue.