Literary as hell.

Tag: Novel (Page 2 of 2)

Book Review: Where Night Stops, by Douglas Light

Review by Tess Tabak


Where Night Stops, a new novel by Douglas Light, is a gripping thriller written in deliciously literary prose. The protagonist ends up over his head in a money laundering scheme when a homeless man named Ray-Ray hands him a message in a bar of soap. That message leads him to the local library, which sets him off on a series of jobs that seem easy enough, and pay well. There’s just one problem: he has no idea what he’s doing, no idea why someone is paying him $300 to pick up checks from pre-arranged points and deposit them in library books. He calls these mysterious jobs “Kam Manning,” and inches in further and further, convincing himself that he’s not doing anything wrong.

The novel unravels slowly. It starts with our narrator in a bar with a woman who complains of being ugly. She sits next to our protagonist, trading a few lines of witty banter. She says that “My heart is a divided Vienna,” referencing Orson Welles’s The Third Man. Continue reading

Novel Excerpt: “The Kettle Black” by Christopher Albert


The Makings of a Boy

As a fragile, small-framed only child, I would often get teased in school about how I looked from afar, behind or sideways. The consensus was unanimous: I looked like “a big girl,” instead of the small fancy boy that stared me down in the mirror. Even he questioned my genital capabilities. I believe it was because I was always so beyond my time. As was Prince – who to this very day, continues to inspire my every fashion choice. From the purple pair of three inch heels I wore to a friend’s viewing of the 30th Annual Grammy Awards (the one where Jody Watley won Best New Artist of The Year), to the incredibly thick eyeliner I wore under my eyes. Though I looked more like Alice Cooper, the puritan parents of the small town children of Limestone County could have still, at least, taken the time to teach their kids a little politeness. 

Because of my visionary style, I spent much of my youth trapped in long grueling days of mental abuse and name calling. Brushing off the many words that were slung my way, such as Faggot, Girly Man-Boy and Fart Eater, was no easy feat. At times I felt like La Toya Jackson in the original telecast of We Are the World, desperately trying to figure out where my place was. Though honestly, the vast collection of limited vocabulary from the tweens and twits who knew no better never really affected me here nor there. What genuinely hurt me the most, was when some large red-headed nine year old floozy called me a Pill Popping Princess, just before shoving me to the ground. I cried that day, thinking “How dare she?!” My gateway drug of choice was chewables. That bitch! 

What ultimately got me through the scorn were my big dreams of being a big star. It went hand in hand with the item at the very top of my bucket list – getting the hell up out of Alabama. 

Though my mother was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, and my father, an import from Cuba to the city of Chicago – clearly both from more cultured and sophisticated parts of the world – I had the awesome luck of being raised in Alabama. I still know nothing fascinating about the state, except that the pecan is Alabama’s official nut – making the Alabamian who made that decision, an official nut. 


I’ll never really understand why Mom abandoned her fashion making dreams to live there, but she was obviously devoted and dedicated to Dad – a Navy Pilot – with active duties that moved them around for some time. By the time I was born in 1980, both of them were already in their early forty’s, and they somehow settled down in Alabama, to begin a late family of their own. My oddities and eccentricities can all be attributed to the old egg sac I was developed in. It could have been worse – I could have been raised in Mississippi or Texas – places they also once lived.

My priorities as a child were different than those of my peers. Instead of trying to keep up with the latest and greatest cartoon (by the way, nothing was greater than My Little Pony), I was busy studying the evening news. Not because I enjoyed watching the same stories of murder, robbery, drugs or prostitution busts being played on loop, but because I wanted to ensure that I would never acquire an Alabamian accent. I wanted….no…..needed to keep my diction and accent stripped of any regional characteristics as much as possible. How else would I book all of my future gigs if I sounded like Britney Spears all the time?

My robotic, monotone, newscaster voice helped to further alienate me even more from my classless classmates of course. Getting the hell out of Dodge couldn’t come soon enough, but there would unfortunately be a few more years of “not fitting in” to do.

Though the big chalkboard in class was always filled with angry, illiterate equations such

as this one right here: 

b3f14edb49fd763ec19df7dcf1ff087e, I wasted no time in trying to decipher its meaning, and instead dozed off to boldly go where no lady boy has ever dared to before – the back of my subconscious. (If you’re stuck trying to figure out why my teacher, Mr. Grubs, tried to explain the formula for General Relativity to a bunch of third graders, you’re sadly out of luck. Only Einstein had that answer. Gravity weighed Mr. Grubs down so hard and heavy in his chair, he never got around to another lesson all year.)

Like clockwork, once the school bell rang, I was off. The bike ride home was my absolute favorite part of the day. The escape from the educational institution that inhabited the most common of folk, and inhibited me from being anything more than common, was a freeing release. I pedaled along on what in my mind, was supposed to look like a fancy yellow brick road, but in reality was a black asphalt path, plagued with small sinkholes and weeds. It was my purple, seven-speed bicycle that made it fun to navigate. I was always in a mad dash to make it home, so I could stretch and live out my atypical imaginations, in the comforts of my very own eclectic environment.  

Mom, who was the endless caretaker of our home, could always be found attending to the beautiful garden she created out back. As soon as I would run in, I knew exactly where to greet her and her green thumbs, before spurting upstairs. My first call of duty was to strip and head for the bathroom for a much needed unwinding. In my imaginative mind, I was exhausted, busy shooting bad commercials all day. There was always a hot fresh bath drawn, in part, thanks to my mom, and in part, thanks to the person who created water. This awesome hot bath would often take place in, what my own mind perceived to be a very large, marbled bathtub. A large round white marbled tub to be exact. With a black, white and gold mosaic, three-tiered staircase leading up to it. To say that I imagined in precise detail would be an understatement. This by no means meant that the humble, claw-footed cast iron tub my parents provided me with wasn’t sufficient enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It just wasn't good enough. At least not for the next part of my pseudo excursion, where I would then pretend that my shaggy, short black hair magically grew high up in a bouffant, and my furry unibrow suddenly transitioned into two sharply tweezed arches. My small pinkish lips were also somehow ravenously full with a severe red hue. Lying naked in my glorious tub, I saw myself as someone else – the fabulously overindulged, one and only Joan Collins – cast in a role of a high class hooker, her sister Jackie would write specifically for her.

Playing a character who then played another character should seem to anyone with common sense, that I was borderline schizophrenic. But in theory, I was just another young lad taking advantage of his Only-Child syndrome. In hindsight I probably was schizo, but I’m afraid I could very well be something else by now.

To clarify, I didn’t want to be a woman, or Joan Collins for that matter. The thought of one day waking up to yet another orifice on my body was exhausting. No way Jose’ Maria! I just had a great appreciation for an actress’ talent and technique. Specifically, I was in awe by the begrudged, yet powerful female character, a role that Collins played so well. She always held great power despite living in a man’s world. The very idea of this cunning woman was what Joan captured so well. It was out of admiration that I impersonated her, not aspiration.

I learned early on that women such as Collins were more than women – they were minx’. A minx was the type of woman who gained her power by not only successfully beating her male counterparts at their very own sport of Business and Showmanship, but it also didn’t hurt that these ladies mastered the art of unbuttoning their blouse a little. Dame Joan Collins was great at all three. She knew that all a man really had to do to grow his wealth and power, was to convince his rivals that his dick was bigger than theirs. And so she studied their behavior, and skillfully learned how to spot one in need of an ego-boost, lured him in, and then manipulated him into doing her bidding. Joan was able to uncover the world’s most ancient secret: a man’s reverence came swiftly to those who were affluent enough to drive around in beautiful red vehicles, wearing big black sunglasses. She also became privy to the most undisclosed information of her time: those very same men, gladly undid some of their own buttons, for other men as well.

Armed with her pearls of wisdom, she went on to become a pearl-wearing, on-screen bombshell. The scenes that Collins found herself in were magnificent. She showed the world just how talented she was, by wearing nothing but jewelry over her bosoms. The gaudier the piece the better, as it also covered up her freshly painted hickeys. With a sparkling glass of champagne to match, she would lie back and pour the bubbly all over her chest. These scenes, needless to say, went straight to the director’s vault, and played out in the same fashion, in my own bath.

What I loved most about Joan was that whenever she felt appeased to do so, she would yell cut then storm off set. She reveled in the fact that she could do anything she wanted to, having the production team already so enchanted by her awesomely erotic breasts. As soon as she was sure she had had enough of the whimsical directions she was given, and the god awful bad acting of her co-stars, she’d run unhinged to her trailer. Once there Joan would smear lipstick on the mirror, and in a slow but decisive tone, order the production assistant to get her another glass of champagne and a syringe full of Botox. “Immediately,” she’d insist.

Joan could never keep her face from melting just before the fourth take. So she learned how to inject her poisonous makeup into her supple cheekbones, from her good old friend Elizabeth Taylor. Ever as crazy as Liz was, she was never wild enough to continue to embalm herself into a living corpse, as Collins did. Instead Liz bowed out gracefully, à la Amy Winehouse.

I of course made up that last part to coincide with my phantasmal bathtub playtime. The pure side effect of a maddening mind fuckery, my tender eight year old subconscious would play on me. Often.

The damsel in me could never resist the temptation to be roused by anyone who possessed the title of Legendary Leading Actress. I was even more impressed with anyone who managed to accomplish the title of LIVING Legendary Leading Actress, but how many of them actually die before this status could be achieved is uncanny. Judy Garland. Marilyn Monroe. Heather O’ Rourke. The only one who holds a title remotely close to that is the Outliving Legendary Leading Comedic Actress Betty White. I am taking a big gamble that by the time you read this, she is incredibly still Outliving.  

Out of everyone on a set, it was the leading actress who got to wear the finest of jewels and frocks. The exception however, was when she had to share a scene with Mr. T. The bling budget almost always, immediately went to him. Production companies spared no expense on his adornments, and spent even more moolah on the special effects it took to make him look human and relevant. Yet with all that weight around Mr. T’s gargantuan neck, the cleverest of audiences knew better than to be swayed away from the leading actress.

A female actor is a fine creature, and one with the lines of a robust leading role is lovelier than a goddess with thighs too big for her ankles to bare. Her job was – and still is – to make the portrayal of a self-assured and dignified fem seem that much more effortless. It’s the very reason why Jennifer Lopez will continue to smut around on screen, until she finally achieves that for herself.

Regardless of gender, those who pursued a career in bringing a character to life were very much a part of the fabric that was structurally sewn into me. Just a bit part though, as my life could not have actualized without the influence and talent of the everyday human beings I knew as well. It was the eerie stares of my neighbors, the incoherent speeches from my teachers (warbling on about what they considered inappropriate attire for school), the sex-crazed, flat-chested babysitters who could never hold a decent conversation, and of course the few clergy folk who continually urged my family to attend their characterless service – have all had an effect on the characteristics I slowly developed. These people may not have amounted to the significance of the women on television I adored, like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Phyllis Diller or Marla Gibbs. Yet, they all somehow inspired me, sharing in my composition. It would be no wonder that out of everyone I have ever known (or pretended to), it was my very own parents who were my biggest influences.

My mother, the ever amazing, self-proclaimed proud housewife, was a modest woman of sorts. One who worked hard, kept her house in order and made sure I was fed, sheltered and most importantly, secured to be and do whatever I needed to, in order to express myself. She was also quick witted, smart and funny as all bloody noses! Her honest and free approach to living life kept me straight and narrowly narrow.

You were painted on a unique canvas,” she always said. “A very very very special kid indeed,” she described me to her friends. It was only natural, as she herself lit up any room she occupied.

Mother’s Day was an event in our household. My father and I would gather as many flowers from her cavernous garden as we could; sunflowers, roses, daffodils, petunias and beautiful hydrangeas, to fill the entire home with. We’d get up early Sunday morning to start snipping away, artfully placing the deliciously scented blossoms in and around almost every corner. To achieve this we had to beat Mom’s clock by at least two hours, uprooting the fruits of her labor by four-thirty am. Mom would never mind of course, greeting us with kisses and her famously chocolate-filled pancakes and whipped cream.

In comparison, my father was someone who had just as much meaning in my life. He always did his very best to try and include me in his many hobbies of fishing and rock climbing, even soliciting me to play sports, even if he knew I was haphazard at best. Conversely, when he reluctantly caved in to my enthusiasm for running away from any ball with the words foot, base or basket attached to it, it was mom who showed me how to alter the seams of my jerseys and make them into lovely, fashion-forward scarves.

After those little baths of make-believe I invested much of my time in, it was my father who also encouraged a good book to read to me. As hard as I tried to duly rinse and dry off properly, the way my father had shown me, a collection of sudsy bubbles would magically accompany me on our literary quests. To fully attest to my peculiarity, my authors of choice were Oscar Wilde, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby. Dad’s library contained many kick ass books I enjoyed. Occasionally, at my father’s behest, I’d also enjoy some wonderfully penned titles from the Dr. Seuss collection. My favorite was Bartholomew and The Oobleck. King Derwin – the well-meaning antagonist – who wanted to rule the weather with magic, reminded me of the hefty Ms. Garrett from The Facts of Life. Like King Derwin, Ms. Garrett was beside herself with unnecessary power, always trying to convince the girls in her boarding school that she had all the answers and knew what was best for them. There was no green, slimy Oobleck to rain down upon her, but she certainly looked like she ate a few pounds of it. With a little balance of television and awesome books, I was kept firmly in the clouds I was already adrift.

I loved hanging around dad. He always made me feel normal. Mom did as well, but as expected, she nurtured my every effeminate quality. Dad did more than that. He made me understand that the boy I was, did not have to feel any less masculine than he was.

I loved watching my father. The way he read the newspaper, drank his coffee, held my mother’s hands, brushed his teeth, shaved his already bare face, tinkered with the car, dressed in his best for weekend outings or caught fish with his bare hands. There wasn’t anything my father did that didn’t amaze me. I was entranced by his every waking move. Even observing him watch television, was a pastime for me. I would often view my favorite program, Alf, through the reflection of his glasses, just so I could keep my gaze upon him. One could probably conclude he’s the reason I grew up to be a man-loving-homo, without ever having to molest me. Way to go Dad!

I just found him beautiful. Actually, I found both my parents beautiful. I loved both the sensibilities of my father and the sincerity of my mother. He was a tall, six-foot-even, distinguished and lightly greyed gentleman. He wrote the handbook on what it meant to be dapper. Mom was a petite, naturally graceful, bewitching creature. Sure she had an air of innocence about her, but she was also loosely stern, and decisive about everything our family needed. Yet she was celebratory, and always so generous and eager to grant me and my father’s every wish. And though he was happy to do it, it was Mom who convinced Dad to tap dance into character, for my sole enjoyment.

The first man to leap into a Santa costume for me was my father. (The second, and only other man to do so was Charlton Heston – but we aren’t going to cross that bridge just yet.) My father made every attempt to try and bring Christmas cheer, every year. Despite my mother’s discontent with anything Christmas, Kris Kringle, Jesus Christ, The Easter Bunny, or any sitting President of The United States, she enjoyed the joy it brought me. And so there were times where Dad was also a Tooth Fairy. Even still, my mother made sure that I knew that all these characters were fictional. Including Ronald Reagan. She blamed these figures for war, drugs and crime. War being a factor of religion, drugs that the government secretly helped to manufacture, and crime due to the over indulgent act of gift taking at the end of each year. She rationalized that it made people insane enough to steal their neighbors perfume bottles, pajama bottoms and television sets. If I recall correctly, she referred to the magic of Christmas as “Poppycock.” This confused me for some time because I didn’t understand how Santa, Jesus or Reagan the Red Nosed President, resembled my father’s nether regions, at all.

(If you need clarification as to how I could have a comparative view of his nether regions – Dad was an artsy, liberal hippy at times, and walking around the house naked was a normal occurrence for him – though mom didn't allow it as much as he liked.)

From what I know – these two lovebirds met at a square dance. It wasn’t the most optimal place to first meet, but both my parents were fun, loving spirits who enjoyed anything that had to do with culture. Unfortunately, it was this fun loving spirit that led to my father’s early demise.

Though we lived modestly, a special engine part my father designed was licensed to the US Air Force for a considerable amount of money. It was supposed to have been able to secure our family for over a lifetime, but my parents insisted that we had more than enough to get by. While the money was collecting some dust, and interest in our names, you could tell my father was aching to do something exciting with at least a handful of it. Though my father loved being a dad, he loved the open air even more. And who can blame him, he was a flying junkie before he and I ever met. So, when the opportunity to take his family and invention to New Zealand – for some kind of prototype testing – arose, he didn’t even bat an eye. Mom however, insisted that I not take off from school until summer break, and kept me behind.

Thanks to mom’s instincts, I scored all A’s before the year was out. Not to mention our diversion from death. Somewhere along their route, Dad and three other colleagues reared off course, and collided smack into the Southern Alps. Misfortunes like these were a rarity, but for my family, it was now reality.

Dad’s funeral was oddly somber. I remember meeting characters of all kinds, who seemed to have wept in silence. Though there wasn’t a dry eye there, you could still hear a pin drop through their sorrow.  My mother somehow kept it together. It was actually her who comforted most of his family and friends through their loss. I wasn’t too sure what to feel after his passing. I guess just like Mom being there for those who needed her, I just wanted to be there for her.

As he was a military vet, there were Guards of Honor present, and a beautifully crafted flag was carefully draped over his coffin. The detail I adored most about his funeral service was the band. Interestingly enough, they played a little gem called Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes. Apparently it was a song him and my mother shared. She said he was every dream come true. As sweet as the song was, I couldn’t have been the only one who thought the opening verse to the song was Mr. Sandman….Bring me a drink.

Back at home, Father’s absence was surely felt. For a time, there was nothing but empty laughter at the dinner table. Dad always had the best jokes, and knew how to arouse the loudest of chuckles. As me and mother quietly ate her baked apple pie – that was once again unintentionally over-seasoned with cinnamon – we suddenly stared at each other and knew, that HE would have had the best Dad Is Dead puns to break the tension. Pops was the master at ‘Yo Momma’ jokes too, and they were always fondly about Mom. He could roast the mess out of her, which she always enjoyed. Even through the pain and loss, she managed to fight through and continued to support us.

Some time elapsed, and because money was now tied in bureaucratic red tape, Mom was finding it more and more difficult to make even our simple lives thrive. Even though she was able to stash away some money in her new role as a part time interior decorator, we had no choice but to consider downsizing.

It’s probably safe to say I never cared for my hometown. Alabama started to look even more dreadful once Mom quit tending to her spellbinding garden. To live anywhere other than our home seemed absurd. We managed to make it through some minor tornadoes throughout my short eight years living there. But without Dad, it seemed rather pointless, suicidal even, to hang around for another one to return. It took some convincing, but mom finally agreed to sell our home and head off for greener pastures. In California.

Mom felt San Diego would be a great place to start small while we awaited the liberation of Dad’s small fortune. She also was keen on its schools. But I had other ideas. It took some convincing, but Mom finally agreed, and we were soon set to colonize the beautiful city of Los Angeles. I imagined their earthquakes were much more fabulous than Alabama’s tornadoes.

Just before deciding on a small two-bedroom rental, an old friend of my father’s referred my mother to a woman in LA who was looking for a live-in housekeeper. My mother thought it was worth a shot and arranged an initial meeting with the owner.

With nothing but the clothes on our backs, and a few small keepsakes, such as pictures, books, records and Dad’s old sock collection, we were on our way. I never understood the point of lugging around the latter, but Mom thought it would be the funniest thing of his to keep, considering they were all mismatched and way too long for the weather. I managed to get her to let go of them. All but the one pair she kept. She wanted to keep it handy as a reminder, that she wouldn’t be alone when cleaning the handrails with it.

Enter Mia Fortunato.

The Makings of a Girl

There is never a better time to take a long awaited trip somewhere, than in the middle of abysmally cold weather. Especially when there’s a discount involved. It’s the very reason why Mia planned a get-away, every winter, to escape the delightfully comfortable LA weather, and immerse herself into the numbing chill of New York City. Ironically she likes to spend that time, in a summer home located in The Hamptons of Long Island. Mia typically preferred any property that Mr. Sean Combs, a.k.a Puff Daddy, a.k.a. Puffy, a.k.a Career Killer hadn’t previously inhabited, as she liked to spill her own brand of flavored Vodka onto the furniture.   

Late fall / early winter is a season that is particularly special for Mia. In the months of November and December, she celebrates not one, but two birthdays! It’s an odd scenario, but let me break it down for you: Mia was born on the calendar date of November 20th, but due to the fact that she wasn’t immediately ripped from her mother’s umbilical cord until a month later, she considers the physical freedom another reason to celebrate. Mia’s mother didn’t actually plan on a “Lotus Birth.” She just continued to self-medicate herself into a numb state. It actually wasn’t until Mia finally became detached, that her mother took to noticing she just had a baby.

When Mia was a little girl, for her first birthday, her mother would get her a doll to play with, and for her subsequent birthday, something to rip apart. It symbolized what she did to her mother’s uterus and dating life. When Mia was nine, she requested that they celebrate just the one birthday that finalized their physical separation, and amicably, her mother accepted.

Though Mia’s life giver has always loved her unconditionally, she still held resentment toward Mia for almost turning her body into a mud slide. This was evident the last time a sitting president almost saw her mother’s naked body. She snuck into the White House to flash her chest to then President Clinton, but before Bill could get a good glimpse of her dangling bosoms, the White House Rottweiler confused them for pig intestines and gave her a chase. Though Mia’s mother has since paid to get her breasts tucked back in, it was Mia’s scholarship fund that footed the bill.

Elder Mia – as I called, and still call her – was a working Hollywood actress. She loved herself so much, that she inherently paid her name forward to her daughter. She thought it would be another way to show the world that she meant business. If her dreams of becoming a successful Academy Award winning actress was no longer within her reach, then there would at least be a slight second chance for redemption, with a mediocre procreate. Of course Mia has not and will never be mediocre by any degree. She was just led to believe so, after her mother’s insistence on burning up Mia’s science fair projects. All for fun, of course. Bob Hope always got a good, great laugh out of it.

This is not to say Elder Mia was unsuccessful or evil. She just had a peculiar way of showing her daughter how much she loved her. Even if that meant she set aside a large bowl of cookies and ice cream for her daughter, whenever she locked her in the attic, while she hosted dinner parties.

As for her career, Elder Mia has after all, made a few films that were critically acclaimed by the critics of her time. Those critics however, were all men. Men of any generation, you name it, were/are fairly easy to please. Women on the other hand, were not so relaxed. Once women critics and audiences pan you, that’s when you know that showing your breast in every film isn’t prolific anymore. (For some reason everyone keeps forgetting to pass that memo on to Sharon Stone.)

Back then actresses were depicted as elegant beings, with an air of class. And though Elder Mia was a scene stealer, she unfortunately was also a man grabber, and after getting caught with a picture of innocently pulling Marlon Brando’s pants down, so he could pee, her career was done.

Even with a stalled movie career, Elder Mia managed smaller gigs throughout the years, and even collects to this day, residuals from Kotex and Palmolive commercials she once starred in. For some time, she also lived off her ex-husband, Chuck Norris’ small fortune. They got married for a brief period in the year of 1969. Elder Mia filed for “Irreconcilable differences,” when Chuck devoted all of his time to his Total Gym workouts, instead of her. They settled on a handsome alimony, which was nothing to scoff at. Contrary to what one may assume – Chuck is not Mia’s father. Elder Mia was sadly too preoccupied in many married men’s bedrooms, to take notice to what the sperm donor looked like!  

A rumor in little Hollywood would have it that it was Aaron Spelling who begat the younger Mia. Aaron courted Elder Mia for some time, and even offered her a role in Charlie’s Angels – as Jaclyn Smith’s mother once – to which Elder Mia turned down, stating she was deathly allergic to his old penis. It was 1976 however, and her daughter was already born by then, and coincidentally, so was his. The only other person that came close to a possibility of being the actual begetter, was Rock Hudson. But since Mia is AIDS free, that has also been ruled out.

Mia, being the byproduct of her environment, learned early on how to get what she wanted from men, way before learning how to tie her shoes. I’ll argue that she got more attention from her mother’s boyfriends, than her own mother. Nothing sexual – just a young girl looking for a father figure. In turn, she also learned how to harvest her feelings. Mia became a woman who bottled up her emotions with actual bottles. It was her mother’s bad boy boyfriend in 1977, Richard Dreyfuss, who taught Mia how to pop a cork with her feet. And that was at age six.

I remember meeting the Mia’s for the first time, when my mother and I arrived at their doorstep. It was like meeting the Odd Couple. Elder Mia was radiant in a red satin housecoat, while Mia looked dark and bizarre, like Wednesday Addams. Only pudgier. Before leaving the hip, cool, non-sodomizing state of Alabama, my mother received a call from an old friend of my father who was then working on a project with Sissy Spacek. That friend was asked by Sissy herself, to help her find someone who was domestically enchanting. And since we were already on our way to the beautiful West Coast, my mother, determined to go balls deep, obliged.  

Sissy frequented Elder Mia’s company, during her self-imposed “break” from films. They would spend hours together, drinking tea, writing song lyrics and laughing at how blue the sky was. The tea was always spiked with some sort of medicinal cannabis Elder Mia found in Mia’s room. Elder Mia preferred the unsuspecting Spacek in a “high” state, as it made her more susceptible to lending her money. It was then that Sissy suggested Elder Mia hire someone to water her plants and wash her drinking glasses. Sissy got tired of funding Elder Mia’s habit of throwing them away after each and every use. And so goes the beginning of our story together. Mia & Rocco. Just as I’m used to hearing from the stranger’s – who I hold doors for – I can also say, Thank You Sissy!

I have only seen the woman in a couple of old black and white films from the 50’s, and a horror flick in the 70’s, but even as Elder Mia was about to push fifty (or eighty – no one is ever really sure), she was stunning. I may not have been able to tell her age, but her jewelry radiated and bounced light off her silky bronzed skin. Her uneven colored blonde streaks of gold, somehow magically blew to a fan machine that was never on. Elder Mia was petite and serene. She was also made of armor, as I found out when she threw a delivery man down a small flight of entryway stairs – just for traipsing in and trying to sneak out a glass of water. That was no generic tap water he was trying to smuggle. Her desalinated sea water took years to find and collect from below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, right off the island of Hawaii. She was more than a diva, she was King Kong – in heels. Take that Denzel.

Mom and I had our own separate living quarters, the guest house off to the side of the sprawling 14,000 square foot landscape, Mia and Mia called home. Otherwise known as the “Mia & Mia Compound.” We each had our own bathroom and bedroom, in our own sanctuary to start anew. Though I was already used to being pleasantly spoiled by the woman who always made sure to tuck me in with freshly washed and warm sheets, the new Egyptian cotton, 650 thread-count was beyond amazing. Without Dad it wasn’t exactly paradise. But having Mom around to enjoy some of it with, made it my own personal Neverland.

As a curious young man, I roamed the main house often. I spent the first few weeks pervading our new ample dwelling – inspecting, admiring and sitting on every piece of furniture I could find. Come to think of it, I never quite fully achieved that undertaking to completion. Elder Mia’s infinite furniture collection consisted of any and everything antique and Victorian. It was like stepping into an interior design spread – pages ripped from an Architectural Digest magazine. I would spend hours shuffling through her wardrobe, in which my mother meticulously took care of as well. One night, after playing dress up and rummaging through the books in the library, which all amazingly turned out to be book boxes, I accidentally fell asleep in one of Elder Mia’s beaded gowns. I woke up to find her grabbing a pair of shears and cutting the full length garb off of me, delicately conforming it around me, to fit my small frame.

“If I had a daughter….” she said, “….that’s what she should look like in it.”

I never knew whether or not to be flattered, as truth be told – she already did have a daughter. And from my opinion, was quite beautiful, despite being robust. They shared more than just a name, they shared each other's humor. For anyone listening in on an everyday conversation they may exchange, would think they were rivals, and found their relationship irregular. Most people thought it strange already, to have a daughter of the same name, yet when men name their sons Junior, no one ever bats an eye. I always found it endearing, regardless of Elder Mia’s reasoning for imparting her name.

I rarely saw Mia. It wasn’t until about a month of living there, when I caught Mia dancing and singing to Samantha Fox’s hit “I Wanna’ Have Some Fun,” in front of the incredibly large hallway mirror. It wasn’t intentional, but I howled so loud and hard that she ran off, to be back in her solitude. I was sad because I enjoyed it immensely. It seemed that she stayed locked up in her room alone for periods at a time, hidden from all the luxuries she grew so resentful of. I would have never known it then, but now I can understand why. There was no normalcy for her. Her educational experience was limited to homeschooling, and up until she was nine – she was bathed by strange black mammies. Not to mention the endless stalking from Kirk Douglas.

He remained a regular at the estate, and couldn’t help but to wish he could have a slice of that seventeen-year-old virginal pie. Mia was no virgin of course, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. Though it was rather creepy to have a seventy-two year-old man roam free in a house full of supple kids, outwardly, he posed little harm. Again, Mia already lost her virginity by then, so Kirk really had nothing to look forward to.

It was at the tender age of eight, when Mia found out the true meaning of love, and believe it or not, it wasn’t with a man. It was Little Richard in fact, who first gave Lil’ Mia a good fisting. However gross that may sound, it was actually an accident. Richard could never keep his sweaty paws off of a well-made, appliqué lace, and on that day, Mia was wearing a heap full of it. As soon as she bent down to pick up her first cigarette, and as Little Richard followed in for a closer inspection, he smashed right into her pelvis. At first Lil’ Rich thought he was fist deep in a lump of samples, not the lumps inside of her, but shrieked and ran away at the first sight of blood. Little Richard couldn’t stand to think what it would have taken to remove that awful stain from her garment. Mia on the other hand, did the only sensible thing she could do in that situation, and topped the experience off with the cigarette she had her eye on.

It was easy for me to grow fond of the lovely Elder Mia, I was already an instant fan. But, it was the fruit of her loins that I grew overwhelmingly in love with. It was obvious that Mia didn’t like me at first, seeing me as an overtly impressionable fruit. Yet, I’d hang around her anyway, admiring her taste for bad food, clothing and men. She was almost ten years my senior, and always treated me as a lost kid she found in a department store. It was awkward at times. Sometimes I felt that I was a mere invasion of her space, something that was once, all her own. My mother however made every attempt to intercept. She cared for Mia as if she were family just the same. Mom would fluff Mia’s pillows, make her favorite meals and heave off any advances Kirk Douglas would try to make. The hardened, debilitated Mia slowly melted, showing small amounts of embracement to us, especially after my mother helped to make her nineteenth birthday, something really special.

Whether Mia realized it or not, like her, I too was a loner. An only child, who also, no longer had a father. I never was sociable as a child, though I learned rather quickly that if I remained so, it would be counterproductive to my future success. Living in Hollywood, with a mother of modest means didn’t make it any easier. Sure we lived in a great big house, but it wasn’t ours. My mother tried her very best to make us fit in this new world any way she could, and making the people around her feel good, was a gift she could afford. Mom was more than excited to help plan for Mia’s nineteenth birthday / Christmas bash. She made sure to include elves, candy canes, snowflakes and snow men in G-strings. Anything Mia wanted, Mom made sure to spend Elder Mia’s money on it. Mom even made gingerbread cookies that were engulfed at the turn of every refilled plate. My mother was so good, she even convinced Mia to perform for everyone, an encore of Samantha Fox’s 1989 hit “I Wanna’ Have Some Fun.”  

The biggest surprise was that Elder Mia secured a cameo appearance by Charlton Heston. As I remembered, he was too young to die, yet too old to be considered alive! He surely looked amazingly sad. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was because Elder Mia hadn’t given him the green light to sleep with her yet, or if it was because he had to wear a big lumpy red suit, to prove to her just how badly he wanted to. Either way, he wasn't the acclaimed big screen star he usually played, he was just Santa Claus. He was actually the second man I have ever seen try so hard to convince children that Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick mattered, and indeed existed. Poor Charlton, his efforts were made even harder as this party had only two children who attended. There was me, a not so gullible nine year-old, and Bobby – who was not a child – but a dwarf who came for the free liquor.

In accordance with the festivity, I sucked it up and thought I’d ask Santa for a gift anyway. Other than the gun this Santa had stashed in his glued-on beard, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I was ready for my few minutes on Charlton Heston’s lap. He had to have put a few away by then, he smelled like Gin, with a hint of Rice Krispy Treats that my mother made. I could still see the chunks of Snap and Crackle on his beard, whereas Pop was the sound of his belt, not being able to support the turkey he used to stuff his suit with. I entertained him anyway. At first I asked for my two front teeth, thinking the absurdity of it would crack a smile on his face. His smile shortened after his top row of dentures came loose. Charlton blew a gasket, then threw me to the floor in a rage. Mia, the ever protecting sister she slowly became, punched Heston right in his nose. Before he could grab his own gun in defense, Mia already had it in her cold, dead hands. Everyone screamed for dear life, and, well, party over.

Throughout her many birthdays, it became increasingly important for Mia to get away. From everyone. One such birthday that had a lasting impression on her was her thirtieth birthday-celebration-bash-a-thon that Martha Stewart hosted for her, where Mia lost her favorite pair of earrings. Again, another party that ended in disaster. Police were called, and shots were almost fired. As it turned out, it was Jennifer Aniston who came across them, and never bothered to return them to the lost and found.

There was a time Jennifer and Mia were friends. But every time Mia scored a boyfriend, Jennifer would try and lure them in for herself. The only ones Jennifer failed to seduce were the ones who discovered her Holy Bible tucked decoratively under her satin pillow. King James Version of course. Mia has since forgiven Miss Aniston for her thievery, but not Elder Mia for inviting Jennifer. Mia’s mother loved to make her life as miserable as possible, in the simplest forms. So a stunt like that was standard.

In keeping all of this in mind, Mia stressed time alone away from her mother. She considered it well deserved for being given the title of “America’s Next Top Bastard Child” from conception.

After years of being religiously tormented by her mother’s insults and delusional standards and expectations, Mia finally clutched onto the “glamorous” life her mother always wanted for her. Unfortunately, this also erupted into a lifestyle full of excess, extravagance and addiction. So her birthday time alone often included the most important things to her – booze and sex. You would think for someone like her, embracing this part of the Hollywood lifestyle would have been too cliché, but Mia latched to it anyway. She stated that the drugs alone were the only way to understand what actresses were saying, and the elite had the best stuff money could buy. Mia once had a hit of acid with Molly Ringwald, but it ended badly as Ringwald turned out to be nothing more than a terrible kisser. Not to say that Miss Pretty in Pink was a bad catch, but Mia swore to never go all the way with women, after bearing witness to her mother’s nude rampages. Men and only men suited her. She hated criers, and women for some reason, always cried around her. It didn’t help that Mia’s been known to mace female celebrities' drinks.

Being brought up in the Hollywood scene, Mia built a resentment toward them. “Brainless, sad little lemmings of the world,” she called them.

When asked to tune into a Friends re-run episode, Mia would yell, “They’re just recycling made up garbage over and over again. Since when did anyone need a giant talking box to entertain their unimaginative minds? I’ve heard better dialogue coming out of a child’s ass than what has been produced by Courtney Cox.”

She ignored anyone who used the words Television, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and Julia Roberts. The boob tube was nothing more than a reminder of the glamorous life, she knew did not really exist.

“Those propped up puppets and mannequins, with fake hair are all made to look like heroines, but they look like cheap, wasp robots instead,” she’d say.

No wonder Katie Holmes has lost her identity. She’s been molded into rotting Hollywood furniture. Now she looks and feels like a rocking chair with no arms. Tom Cruise has those parts shoved up his ass.”

I still keep my interest in any of these things and people to myself, for fear she’d scold me. At the very least, all I wanted for her was to at least enjoy the novelty it was all meant to be.

Mia did find some entertainment delightful though, and quite enjoyed Bea Arthur. She always reminded Mia of what a woman could be, if she had a mustache. Plus Mia admired her work – especially in Maude and The Golden Girls. Mia’s mother once had a stand in roll as Estelle Getty’s wicker purse holder. Backstage, Mia got to meet the woman behind the Dorothy character, in which Bea shared with her that she hated the cheesecake they served on set, and made Mia swear she’d never tell a soul. Of course Mia told her mother, who in turn left a heaping plate of it on Bea’s chair. Once the cleaning crew learned of Elder Mia’s cost on wardrobe, food and time, she was booted off set. Of course Elder Mia argues to this day that Bea needed to be changed anyway. They ended up replacing her with Susan Lucci. For some reason that woman loves holding hand bags! Either way, Elder Mia now has Miss Lucci’s penned headshot hanging at home, in her freezer.

On the night Mia went to the Hampton’s to celebrate her fortieth, she consciously made an exception, and planned to go with a guest. Not just any guest, but an actor. Mia may have had some pent up angst against some of her fellow Hollywood neighbors, but she always enjoyed herself younger, washed up stars. She spent all month looking for an outfit, to impress the one and only, Luke Perry with.

Mia was hoping that Luke had forgotten all about their first rendezvous, where Mia left him outside of The Ritz Carlton in Battery Park, NYC, without any clothes on. She thought it would help him get over his “I was on Beverly Hills 90210 – I’m a star now” attitude. Instead it turned him into a bigger pussy, and he never returned to act again! For you readers who have been in wonder about him…now you know.

Luke never forgot unfortunately, and in turn, stood her up. Another birthday. Another bust.

But Mia is resilient. She will continue to strive for bigger and better birthdays as the years may go by. This is a woman who once sought out the company of a Wall St. executive just so she could hustle a grand out from his wallet, and spend it on a new bike for a strange stoner in Brooklyn. She once even managed to squeeze a five-thousand dollar pair of shoes out of a gentleman by the name of Mark Zuckerberg. Before he could tell her that he was a billionaire – due to his work on some sort of internet face collecting – she told him to fuck off.

She’s bad ass like that. Not only does she love the fresh smell of dying trees, but she scours Craigslist for light, dry humping action, from dirty old men. She drinks a glass of Dom Perignon Rose’, every day, for breakfast. I am proud to say, this is now the most important woman in my life.

Even after my mother had passed away, it was Mia who made sure that I was taken care of. My lifetime connection to both Mia and her mother remains. Though Mia’s communication with her mother is now limited to e-mail only, as has been court ordered, I still keep close contact with both. I just hope this year, Mia decides to spend her birthday with me.


Armed with an acquired wit and intelligence that was born from the streets of NYC, Christopher Albert, now a Los Angeles resident, is set to emerge as one of the funniest, charming, yet eccentric writers of our day. With a background that spans over 10 years, Christopher’s more pragmatic endeavors include writing and producing copy and content for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike. He has assimilated his many talents in the fields of finance, marketing, broadcasting, entertainment and – you guessed it – comedy. Christopher has had the fortunate and unique opportunity to study with the best – including veteran comedy writer Frank Santopadre. Christopher’s honest and emphatic approach to the art and craft of humor is evident in his litany of fearless content. Moreover, as a performer, Christopher has been awarded opportunities to share his talents on many stages including the historic Apollo Theater, and appearances on The Rosie O’ Donnell show, Billboard Music Awards and features on MTV and PBS. He has also performed and produced an array of successful live shows, featuring many top performers and comedians. In the works is his yet to be published first novel The Kettle Black: The Chronicles of Mia and Rocco, and his sophomore effort, a memoir entitled A Crack Baby's Bible.

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