I call Andy’s assistant, Blair, while Jack settles in with his skeptical cousins. Blair tells us to meet Andy for cocktails after 5 pm at Max’s Kansas City. I hope Patti Smith will be there but don’t want to run into her boyfriend, Robert Maplethorpe. I call Jay who gives me a number to call Marty’s assistant. All these assistants make everyone seem more important than ever before.
Brett and Trent are sitting on the big couch with the same idiot grins as Jack uses to show he is happy and needs nothing.
“Why are they ignoring you?” I sign 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 sit on the couch with the brothers.
“Y’all look like a portrait of ‘the Idle Rich’,” I tell all three of them.
“Why won’t he speak to us?” Trent asks.
I sign to Jack, “Do you want to answer that?”
“What do they care?” He signs.
I translated for the two.
“Our friends think you’re famous,” Trent speaks directly to Jack.
“Those photos with Andy in the Post last Easter.”
“Does that make me famous, too?” I ask.
“No. You’re not related to us.”
“So, I’m just the translator, cool.”
“What if he refuses to speak to our friends?”
“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.”
“Who’s the wife, then?”
“We don’t do that. We’re partners. Do you want to know who gets fucked?”
Brett speaks up for the first time, “Yeah. Who?”
“It’ll be you, if you don’t shut up,” Trent tells 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 turn bright red.
“Well, we’re off to meet Andy,” I grab 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.”
“Have you ever been to Union Square?”
We get up to change. Jack is surprised my stuff is in the brothers’ room. We move it to a room facing the Park. Mummy has sent Jack’s wardrobe ahead. We just put on our Iowa farm duds.
“Your cousins are kinda creepy,” I say.
“Why did you sleep in their room?”
“They wanted me to. Brett slept with Trent. Wanna ditch ‘em?”
We just walk out the front of the Dakota, leaving a message with the doorman that we don’t know when we’ll be back.
Instead of going to Union Square, we walk across Central Park. It’s warm for mid-winter, no snow with birds already out scrounging for seeds. I want to check on the Jace’s Place at St Patrick’s. I ask for Father Frank at the office. He’s not there. We are sent to Cardinal Cooke’s assistant. With only assistants dealing with us, we seem to have outlived our fame. I take Aaron’s hand-written note from my wallet and call him. He’s ecstatic to be able to show us the Jace’s Place at his temple. He and Paul will meet us there immediately. Kids never forget.
Temple Emanu-el turned over an apartment building they own for homeless housing near the 65th & Park synagogue. It’s just blocks from St Patrick’s. The boys are outside, holding hands. I feel at home. They’re so proud together. It is explained that we’re Jace’s band mates, which brings a crowd of kids to the reception hall. Guitars appear. Jack and I strum Pink Floyd chords, while I relate the Jace story. They ask us to play ‘Dark Side of the Moon’
and ‘Crazy Diamond’.
Jack is only playing guitar. When we get to the Sid Barrett random noises and bird calls, he’s able to do those. I hug him so hard that I break down crying. The kids are already emotional. Jace floats above the group. He starts crying diamond tear drops. Kids being kids, a scramble breaks 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 supervises their Jace’s Place comes over. “You Catholics. Always with the miracles.”
We all laugh.
It’s time to leave for Max’s. Aaron and Paul beg to come along, so they can tell us everything about the homeless program. They just want to be with us.
We take 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. We’re interested in opinions about other places. Just tell us if we need to investigate.”
“Why isn’t Jack saying anything,” Paul asks.
“He got snake-bit in Iowa,” I drawl.
Their eyes grow 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 takes a shot. “What’s it like living with cowboys and Indians?”
After a second, he translates Jack’s answer.
“He said it’s not like that. They even have bowling and football there.”
All four of us plus a ghost are smiling.
At the Factory, Blair rushes downstairs to meet us.
“We want to talk the business end here. Then just socialize at Max’s,” as I kiss Blair on the cheek.
He goes all a’twitter, so we walk past him, up to Andy’s office.
“Boys, I’m just finishing up to meet you in Union Square.”
“You mentioned you have a proposition for us. Best to talk business here, then socialize.”
“Come with me,” he orders. Our entourage of two keeps up as we go into a downstairs studio, where there is a contraption called a Big Shot.
“It’s a new Polaroid, for taking portraits,” Andy explains.
It looks like something out of the 19th Century. You have to move the camera to focus on the subject. The photos he already took are large and show clear images with surprising depth. I instantly know how to utilize this new technology – we’ll spotlight the kids in Jace’s Place all over the country. Rather than tell stories, we’d just show beautiful kids who have been saved. Teen Jesus genius.
“So, you want to take our picture?”
He frowns. “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 recommend Paul Morrissey over Scorsese,” Andy argues.
“If you want campy porn,” I counter.
“Ew, that hurts,” Jack says.
“You’re talking,” I exclaim.
“Oh, yeah. Just so happy to be with Andy,” Jack hugs him. “You know, Andy, Tim calls himself Andy in Iowa.”
“New York just isn’t big enough for two Andys,” I giggle.
Andy seems to get it, that I’m not idolizing him. He may be a False God, but that isn’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 turns to Aaron and Paul. “And who are these pretty boys.”
“Meet Aaron and Paul, from St Patrick’s and Temple El Manu-el. They started a jewish Jace’s Place .”
“Have a seat in front of the camera, boys, and tell me your story.”
Andy quizzes them and snaps photos with the Big Shot for about an hour. Their whole story captivates him. He expects boys to be burnouts and throw-aways. He loves how Aaron went to Catholic youth group to be with Paul. Paul has found a Jewish Teen Jesus.”
We finally get to Max’s around six. No sign of Trent and Brett. Aaron and Paul have been warned about all the paparazzi. They’re still shy in the spotlight. Jack and I take 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 speaks 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 rubs his hands.
“You chose me over him. End of story.”
“I 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, here we are with Andy in New York.”
“Aren’t you glad?”
“Boys, no need to argue in public.” We embarrass Andy.
I reach across the table and deeply frenched Jack. The boys look thrilled, while Andy smiles benignly. The flash bulbs are popping. I look into Jack’s eyes, as devotedly as I can muster. We turn and simultaneously kiss Andy on opposite cheek. More flashes.
Trent and Brett choose to arrive at this moment, seeing us kissing the art icon. They rush over to get into the photos, total gossip sluts.
“How nice,” Andy observes. “More eye candy, and so preppy.”
They sparkle in the spotlight, but have nothing to say. I look them in the eye and give them the idiot grin. They immediately revert to mute idiot clowns.
“These are my cousins, Trent and Brett,” Jack introduces them.
Their mouths drop 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 suggest.
“Not until after we have at least another drink. What are you boys having?” he asks the brothers.
They have caught Jack’s mute condition.
“Get them tini martinis,” I suggest.
“You boys no longer smoking pot?”
“Sorry. We’ve grown up.”
Trent pulls out a joint and silently offers it up.
“Prep school boys are always holding,” Andy observes.
I worry that Jack, having overcome the speech-phobia, will regress with a pot-inspired meltdown. It doesn’t take long. Aaron and Paul love watching Jack go into sexual overdrive. Our whole group goes back to the Factory for the brothers’ photos. I lead Jack to the control room where I fucked Velvet Underground royalty Lady Jane every which way to Sunday. I’m inspired enough to repeat the performance. Jack remains totally fucked up. We break up the party. From the signals I observe, Aaron and Paul may be staying later. Good for Andy, but that is against my same age only sex proscription. Celebrity trumps rules. I just hope the boys won’t be disappointed. They look really pleased as we leave. The brothers remain idiot-faced, muted clowns.
I promise Andy I’ll get back to him with Marty’s response about the Jace infomercial.
It isn’t that late, so we drag Trent and Brett to Ho-Jo’s in Times Square for fried clams. I love sitting in the window, watching a rerun of my 14 year-old self. There do seem to be less kids on the street, but there are still plenty of druggie, prostitute adults to pick up the slack. Times Square is like Trafalgar Square, not the crossroads of the world, just its cesspool.
We are back at the Dakota before midnight, just in time for a lecture from Mummy.
“He’s speaking now,” the brothers try to explain our escapade.
“How’d that happen?” she asks.
“Andy Warhol took us for drinks.”
The brothers are now mini-celebrities by proximity. Wait until the morning Post comes out. Their friends are devoted to Page Six.
As we attempt to get to bed, the brothers create 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 needs gay sex lessons.
“What part of privacy do you not understand?” Jack counters.
“Please,” is the best argument they can muster.
We shut and lock the bedroom door. I swear I can hear their breathing as they lurk on the other side of the door. We mimic actual sex noises with squeals and moans. As we reach a fake climax, we throw open the door, catching them jerking each other off to their fantasies about us. They scurry back to the closet.
All these diversions don’t dull our need to fuck each other. Jace joins in as well, happy we’ve gotten our groove back. I’m not ready to be fully penetrated yet, residual rape reluctance. But Casper’s ghostly dick is okay, comforting, not invading. He’s glad to be the meat in our fuck sandwich. The sun is coming up over Central Park by the time all our hormones are satisfied. Sitting together in a big bay window, I realize how special the Dakota is. Jack tries to make excuses that it’s on the ‘wrong’ side of the Park, sounding too much like Trent and Brett. I hush him, saying the view alone is worth more than anyone else’s opinion. I carry him into bed, with Jace hovering until we both are sound asleep. I wake up in a couple of hours. Jack is in need of more beauty sleep. I knew I have to return to Ames in just a few days.
I meet Mummy and Daddy in the dining room for breakfast. They are slightly upset that I dragged Jack off to Bohemian Downtown Manhattan. On the other hand, they are relieved that his speech has returned.
“Was there something you did that helped him recover?” Mummy asks.
“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 defends me.
“The subconscious doesn’t think that logically.”
“Is he completely cured now?” Mummy is 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 asks.
I just laugh.
“Well, you continue to make the news,” as he picks up the Post.
Never shy, I eat up the multiple photos of our Andy tryst at Max’s. We are no longer old news. It reminds me that I need to speak with Marty. Fame can be fleeting. I only have 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?”
“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 Jack 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 answer but wonder why he isn’t taking the lead with the Jace’s Place project at St Patrick’s. Maybe I can 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 blame Social Services in Miami.”
“All’s well that ends well.”
Unless you have to live in a swamp for four months, which makes me think of Tommy. My heart feels conflicted. My dick reminds me that I have my mojo and sex drive back. He is still in my heart.
I call Marty’s office first. The assistant demurs about a meeting, saying Marty is too involved with the Academy promotion of ‘Taxi Driver’ in April. I drop Andy Warhol’s name and get a few minutes scheduled that morning. Marty is coming in around eleven. I have to be there to wait and hope he’ll see me. I tell the assistant to look at the photos in the Post, to assure him that my fame is reviving.
“Hi, Auntie Em,” I greet 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.”
“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 comes 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 feels 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 sniffs.
“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’s bawling into the phone. “I loves ya so much, Huck.”
“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 sads ‘bout ya’s.”
“I ain’t that tough.”
“Yes, you are. Suck it up. And don’t be playin’ hookey 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 sounds hopeful.
“’Course. We’s the Hillbilly Brothers.”
“Makin’ babies wid each other.”
“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 damn mean, too.”
“That’s how I loves ya.”
“I ain’t never gonna be mean ta you’s.”
We hang up.
I call Jay and tell him to get a copy of the New York Post to show Mike Sr. He isn’t surprised we are 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 decide it’s time for a shower. In our room, Jack looks grumpy, with his cousins ensconced on our bed. I know how to get rid of them.
“Hey, have you seen Page Six today?”
They jump up and ran to the dining room, Jack immediately brightens.
“Why do you let them run all over you?” I ask him.
“Typical habits of the idle rich, they feel entitled. What’s 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 breaks 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’m kneeling in front of him on the bed, singing from the heart. The cousins rush back in with the newspaper, jumping into bed with us. I figure I could stand them a few more days. Jack seems totally recovered. We jump in the shower together, making sure we’re thorough in all the right places.
We arrive at Martin’s office before eleven, prepared to wait for him. His assistant is pleasant but not exactly gay-friendly. There’s an Italian guy also waiting.
“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‘?”
We all laugh.
“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.”
Marty walks in on our gabfest.
“Well, looks who here, last year’s sensations and this year’s model,” he kids 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 think.
“We got Andy interested in using it for his latest art project.”
“Warhol can’t seem to get enough of you boys.”
“We like kissing him.”
“On the ass, yeah,” Bobby quips.
“Who’s side are you on?”
“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 comes to our defense.
“Don’t be turning queer on me.” Marty attacks back.
“Hell, that would be the day all the saints and sinners in Little Italy roll over in their graves.”
“This has nothing to do with gay-lib. It’s about homeless kids,” I stop their diatribe.
“Who sell their asses to survive.” Bobby laughs.
“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.”
“And you’re turning him down because?….” de Niro pushes 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 look like we were about to hug him. He makes it known that isn’t going to happen. Instead we high-five each other.
I call Aaron about a more in-depth visit to the Temple Emanu-el’s Jace’s Place. His father answers, concerned that the two boys did not come home. I explain that we are working on an infomercial project on the shelters. I promise to have the boys contact him. He is cool for a parent who’s 14 year-old son didn’t come home overnight.
It’s a short walk to the Factory. The boys are easy to find. Assistant Blair casually explains that they stayed with him after finishing the developing of the Big Shot portraits. Andy is not in, probably sleeping in after our busy night. Aaron calls his dad and promises to come home. It’s a school day. We take the boys to eat. I’m livid that they may have been exploited.
“What were you thinking, staying out all night? That guy’s twice your age.”
“No big deal. We’re committed to each other. We don’t fool around,” Aaron defends their actions. “We figure our parents assume we’re at each other’s house.”
“We’ll come home with you and talk with your folks,” Jack suggests.
I feel way older than 17. At least being gay means I never have to be a full-time parent. It’s instructive to see these kids through parental eyes. They’re oblivious to the potential for abuse. We assume that taking homeless kids off the streets will protect them from abuse. It’s more complicated.
At Aaron’s, I sit with both sets of parents and tell them the story of Jack’s snake bites. My point is that we 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 explains why they don’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 is Catholic and gay, that he doesn’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 adds. “I felt stupid and guilty for trusting that preacher.”
Aaron’s father is 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 look abashed and ashamed.
Paul tells us that they’re worried about abusers at Jace’s Place. Kids come from the streets with hearts closed to everyone. There are only other kids to open up to. There’s no counseling, just a place, supposedly safe. Once a kid has opened up to others, they form a bond to protect each other. New kids need to belong and share the mutual bond. Adults can never share that bond. The motives of the staff are suspect as there is 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 ask Paul.
“The only safeguard is that the kids themselves expose the abusers and make them leave. But that’s naïve. Most homeless kids are too embarrassed to tell anyone they’re being abused or bullied.”
“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 like we failed them,” I admit. “Maybe the infomercial we’re working on needs to move past just getting the homeless kids off the street.”
I know I have 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 is still a 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.”
Aaron and Paul takes us to the shelter where we speak individually with many kids who want to tell us what it’s like for them. Having been on the streets, they naturally are suspicious of adults. That blanket suspicion prevents them from sharing with staff any specific problems they encounter. A code of silence is allowing abuse to fester. I’m determined to root out abuse but have no plan to counter this code.
Jack wants me to stay longer than the time the moms allowed for me to be in New York. I’m reluctant to manipulate the moms. Instead, we agree he will spearhead the reforms and work with Andy on the portraits and multi-media exhibition about Jace’s Place. I’ll remain in constant contact from Iowa.
“Do you want to go back to Iowa with me? I can come back here eventually but I love my family too much to want to leave them now.”
He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. His eyes get wide. Jace tells me that Jack has regressed and needs me to take him home.
“We have to leave. I’ll call when Father Frank arrives. This has been instructive.”
“Is Jack alright?” Aaron senses something wi wrong.
“He’s still not fully recovered. I need to take him home.”
Jack starts silently crying. The boys instantly embrace him. I se him relax.
We walk across Central Park, hand in hand. A photographer must have seen us, as we reappear on Page Six the next morning. Once we’re in the lobby, a younger boy and girl come up to us.
“Why are you holding hands?” the boy asks, with a marked North England accent
“Because we can,” I answer.
“That’s a rhyme,” he remarks.
“A rhyme in time rings true.”
“Are you a musician?” the girl asks
“What’s your names?” I ask.
“Nina, and this is Julian. His father is a famous musician.”
“Do you play, Julian?” I ask.
“I play drums. Paul McCartney is teaching me guitar.”
“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 asks.
“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 asks.
“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 start.
‘Would you stand up and walk out on me?’ Julian sings in a voice that tells me his father is John Lennon.
‘Lend me your ears and I’ll try not to sing out of key,’ Nina sings 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 sing
‘I just need someone to love,’ Jack collapses into my arms.
– Joe Cocker
“Is he really sick?” Nina asks.
“At least he’s singing. It’s an improvement.”
“A snake bite causes him to stop talking? Is he daft?” Julian is 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 is a wit. We both laugh. The kids relax, 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. It 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 states. “I know me place there. No snakes to keep me deef and dumb.”
“You guys are fun,” Jack speaks. I’m instantly relieved he was talking again. He and I hug.
“Cured?” Nina asks.
“Completely, until my boyfriend is mean to me again.” Jack laughs.
“Come up to my room.” Julian offers.
“You sure Yoko won’t object?” I kid him.
“She’s not me mum. And I have me own flat.”
“Do come,” Nina pleads.
“We’ll go get our guitars. We’ll play and talk some more.”
“Meet us at 407 in 30 minutes.”
Mummy and Daddy are having afternoon cocktails as we walk in.
“Your cousins want to speak with you both.”
“That’s nice,” Jack answers, as we sat down, with matching Cheshire cat grins.
“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. Wear your coat.”
“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 hear she’s not so nice.”
“Ta,” Jack sings as we leave to get the guitars. We pick out two acoustics, the old fender Mustang and Jace’s SG. Before leaving we realize we look ridiculous loaded down with four guitars. We just take the acoustics.
We tell the parents we’re 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 lose interest.
We bang on the door to 407. Then wait for several minutes until Nina comes to the door. She looks flustered.
“Been smoking pot or making out?”
She blushes. “Pot, we’re only 12. We don’t make out.”
“You should try it. It makes the time fly by.”
We walk in. The apartment is a typical kid’s room in shambles. A drum set and amps are in one corner. The opposite corner had several couches with a full ashtray and pot paraphernalia. The curtains are 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.”
“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 starts taking the piss out on us.
Instead of setting up to play, they want to talk.
“Wanna hit?” Julian asks.
“Only if you can stand seeing us fag out on each other.”
They giggle and bring out the bong.
We are one hit wonders. Jack starts rubbing on me, moving behind me and slowly humping my back. The kids start laughing at us.
“Why were you so mean to Jack?” Nina asks.
“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 has little interest in my explanation, working my back with his hands and rubbing a hard-on against my buttocks.
“Why were you arrested?” Julian is 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 ask 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 laughs.
“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 pipes 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 picks the finale, ‘Somewhere’.
It’s easy. I feel she trusts me. Jace takes her hands and places them on the guitar, shaping the chords for her.
“Who is making me do this?”
“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 have their attention. Nina starts strumming the rhythm which she inherently knows.
All four of us sing along.
‘There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
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 is thunderstruck. “Teach me, too.”
I sense he’s 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. She’ll show you.”
He moves over and takes the guitar. She shapes his hands to the chords. They’re so cute, intently working the miracle together. He starts strumming. We came in with the lyrics. At first he’s furiously trying to understand how the notes are properly playing. Finally, he relaxes and lets the music flow. His Beatle Uncle Paul was teaching him notes before he felt the sounds in his head and heart. The two methods are in conflict. Realizing that he can stop over-thinking it and just play a song lets him be free. He’s twelve years old; what problems could he have?
“Okay,” Jack announces, “now we go play for Mummy and Daddy. It’s the cocktail hour – Showtime.”
Again we’re in hysterics.
“We’re too stoned to perform.”
“Stop worrying. We’ll just do it.”
Jules has at least five acoustic guitars. The four of us troop 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 strums a short prelude before all four of us came in on vocals.
We blend 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 pays off.
“Can you do another?” Mummy asks.
“Play that new Wings song Paul taught you,” Nina tells Jules.
“Oh, it’s just a silly love song,” he smiles.
“Perfect,” Mummy ordered.
Jace and I are astounded, as we had thought of that title when we were first writing songs.
Jules confidently plays the intro, saying it’s a new song on the Wings album due out in March.
When we get to the ‘I love you’ chorus, Jules sings to Nina while I sing to Jack. Then we turn and sing to the Stones, ‘It isn’t silly at all.’
“How do you know the words. It hasn’t even come out?” Jules challenges us.
“We’ve always known someone would do this song,” I remain enigmatic. “Here’s the song we ripped off from your dad.” Jack and I sing ‘Love 2’ to each other. The kids create 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.
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.
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 giggle. The parents are slightly shocked.
“That’s our band’s song,” I told them.
“Pretty sappy,” Jules critiques.
“Not so old to be jaded?” I respond.
“Old enough to render Jack speechless when you’re mean.”
“You’ve been mean?” Mummy asks.
“I have to go back to Iowa. Jack wants me to stay.”
“Please stay,” both Jules and Nina nag like only kids can.
“And that’s what makes Jack stop talking?” Mr. Stone realizes.
“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. Let me go back to Iowa, too.”
“No,” argue the kids. “You’re our only friends.”
“Want to come to Iowa, too.”
“Ew. And get snake-bit? No thanks”
The Stones are too old for all this childish bickering. We are politely dismissed.
Nina and Jules come back to our bedroom. They don’t notice how much cleaner our room is compared to Jules’. We tell 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 is not impressed.
“Unless you’re Andy. Then, you start crying and pass out.” Jack tells the truth.
“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 works?” Jules is 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 fail to think that a ghost is also magic.
We ask them to stay for dinner. Nina calls to let her parents know. Jules generally eats with her family; he doesn’t need to disturb his rock god parents. It gives me an idea for a new band song: ‘Son of False Gods.’ Mummy inform the staff and tells us that dinner is at 7 pm.
After we were seated and eating the soup course, Trent and Brett rush in from their Collegiate socializing.
“Who are these kids?” they look accusingly at Jack and me. Apparently the Stone’s good manners gene has not found the other side of the family
“They’re our friends. We invited them,” Jack doesn’t bother to introduce his cousins.
They sit down, slurp their soups. Then they looked around bored.
“We’re invited to Bitty’s Waldorf tea party on Saturday night. If you want to come, we can 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 quip. Jack kicks me under the table. Jules and Nina burst out laughing.
“And who are you, again?” Trent interrogates them.
“They’re neighbors. We all entertained my parents while you were ‘A’ listing this afternoon.” Jack is 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 have 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 is 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 realize that there are serious flaws in the Jace’s Place model. We need Father Frank here. Can you call him?” Jack adds.
“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 isn’t shy about exposing his cluelessness. The kids giggle, having followed our discussion.
“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’s singing with Jules and Nina that got it back today.
The kids beam.
“Can he come back to Iowa when he’s fully recovered?” I ask, worrying he’s going speechless again.
“It worries us, Tim,” Daddy speaks 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.”
“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 pipes up.
“Well, my moms live together.”
“Oh, my mums hate each other.”
“That’s much more normal, dear,” Mummy to the rescue.