Monday, January 28, 2013

Still Only $0.99!!

Hey all! In case you haven't picked up a copy, There is No Easy Street is still on sale for the bargain basement price $0.99! You can find it on the following eBook distributors: Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kobo. Thanks for all the support, means the absolute world to me!

Barnes & Noble link:



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

News and an Excerpt

On sale now! There is No Easy Street is now available on the Nook and Kindle! 

Amazon link:

Barnes and Noble link:

And now an excerpt from There is No Easy Street

July 15-20th – Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL – 2000

It was the first real vacation the entire family had ever taken. It would be the first time Jett and Nanna Ophelia would leave New York City. Everyone in my family was going; Max, Tricky, Jett, Ophelia, Lauren, Ada, Vianne and Mr. Howard, even Albert and Arcadia and Oleander were coming to Orlando. They were all going to Disney World. Ada and I were so excited to be going.

Vianne and Mr. Howard paid for the whole clan to stay at the Grand Floridian Hotel and Resort for the week. Ada and I were so excited. We were going to get to stay in a big hotel room all by ourselves. Granted our room was connected by a door with our parents' room, but still for two nine year old girls it was a big deal. We were also plotting to throw a wedding for Tricky and Jett, who were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. Ada and I figured since we couldn't get our parents married, Tricky and Jett were the next best people.

Max and Lauren had moved their relationship from very good friends to dating in January of that year. Ada and I loved the fact that Max and Lauren were finally dating. We hoped the Orlando trip would finally make our crazy parents realize that they couldn't live without each other for a moment longer.

That January, prior to the trip to Orlando, Max had snuck off to Philadelphia without me. He arranged for Ada to stay with her grandparents for the weekend so he could get uninterrupted time with Lauren. Max was fresh off his latest tour and was planning on spending the next year with the family, recording and setting up his own label. He already had several artists in the works. He sent her to the Chanel boutique with his credit card and told her to buy whatever she wanted as long as it was formal. Lauren and Ada very rarely shopped anywhere fancier than JC Penney's. It was really hard for Lauren to go on a crazy shopping spree in Chanel.

Max then arranged for Lauren to be picked up in a limo from the shop and taken to a salon and spa for relaxation and more pampering. The ladies at the salon helped her get into her dress, a slinky, yet very tasteful black dress and a cream colored silk wrap. Her long red hair was twisted into an elegant updo. She couldn't figure out what Max had planned. She told me that she really thought my dad was going to propose. Which would have been crazy considering they hadn't even been on a real date.

A long black stretch limo pulled up in front of the salon. Max got out wearing a suit, a type of clothing he would rather not wear. He was holding a bouquet of red and white roses. In the language of flowers, Max was saying he loved Lauren and never wanted to be apart.

He took her to the best restaurant in Philadelphia. But even in the intimate setting, he couldn't keep the fans from coming up to him. The thing about Max Porter, he's not the most, what's the nice way to put it, the most articulate person on the planet. He can write some of the best songs in the world but when it comes to trying to talk to the woman of his dreams, he was all knees and elbows. He babbled about silly things I had done in the last few days. He reached for his water glass, got bumped by a passing busboy and spilled the water all over the floor. With the nervous tension dissipated, their date got back on track. Conversation moved from their kids to themselves.

After dinner the limo took them to a ballet. Max hated the ballet but he also knew it was something that Lauren loved dearly and didn't get the chance to attend very often. They had box seats and Lauren got to use the opera glasses.

"I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman except for the whole prostitute part," Lauren whispered to Max as the lights for the ballet came up. It was all so magical.

After the show, Dad took Lauren backstage to meet all the dancers. He knew the stage manager from a concert he had put on there a few months prior. In some weird male bonding thing, that Max refuses to tell me about, the stage manager ended up owing Max a favor. I think copious amounts of alcohol were involved somehow. This was the payoff.

Just when Lauren though the night couldn't get any better, they took a late night stroll through the park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Snow was starting to fall. Lauren shivered slightly and Max shrugged off his heavier outer coat. He hadn't expected it to snow or get much colder. They walked up the Rocky Stairs and sat at a bench near the top.

"When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to run up these stairs just like Rocky. He would be Apollo and I'd be Rocky and we'd fake box on the stairs," Lauren said, watching the snow fall. "You've never mentioned your family. What are they like?"

"I wouldn't know," Max said, draping his arm over Lauren's shoulders. "I don't know where they are or really who they are."

"You don't know where your parents are?"

"My mother left me at a mall daycare when I was four. After that it was a string of crappy foster homes until I ran off on my own when I was fourteen." Max stops talking and looked out over the snow. Turning back to face Lauren, he took her hands in his. 
"I've always been alone. Until recently I've always thought it'd be like this all the time. Since I've met you, Lauren, I haven't felt that way. I love you."

"Max, I know," Lauren said, giving his hands a squeeze.

He leaned over and kissed her. As far as first dates go, Max and Lauren's first one was pretty much the tops. About a month later, we were all surprised again. Normally when Max goes to the Grammys I get to go with him. I get to get all dressed up and see all the musicians I love. But no, I have to stay home. To my surprise Ada got to spend the weekend. I think that was Max's way of making up for not getting to go to LA with him. Ada said that Lauren had a work thing that would take all weekend.

So there we were, watching the red carpet interviews hosted by Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart. She had just finished talking with Whitney Houston. You may remember the 2000 Grammys. It was the year of Jennifer Lopez's green Versace dress. Max was nominated for several categories. None of which we thought he could actually win. He was up against Carlos Santana.

"Welcome to the red carpet, Max Porter," Mary Hart said. "You always surprise me every year with your suits. Who are you wearing this year?"

"Armani and my watch was donated by Citizen," Max answered. Jett had made him memorize the designers before he left. The last thing Jett wanted was for Max to make a fashion faux pas and have it tarnish Jett's reputation.

"You have some tough competition this year, are you nervous at all?" Mary asked him.

"There is no competing with Carlos," Max answered. "I'm just happy to be here."

"You always bring your daughter to these events. She is always such a little doll."

"Ithaca's spending the weekend back home in New York."

"And who is this beautiful woman on your arm?"

A medium height woman with long red hair came into the frame. My mouth dropped open. I don't know what kind of faces the rest of them were making but I was in shock. I couldn't believe it.

"This is my girlfriend Lauren Stewart," Max said, taking her hand.

"You heard it here first ladies," Mary Hart teased. "Max Porter is officially off the market. So Lauren, I'm assuming this is the first red carpet you've been to?"

"Oh my God, you're Mary Hart. I watch you every day," Lauren said, the nerves and excitement bubbling over.

"Glad to know us reporters have our fans. So who are you wearing?"

Lauren was wearing a form fitting, floor length lavender gown with intricate beading all over. The lights of the cameras were making it glitter in all the right places. In her hair she was wearing a matching hat that had a peek-a-boo veil to it. She looked like she was stepping off the cover of a fashion magazine in the late 1920's.

"The dress is a custom Tricky Stavros, Chanel shoes and my hat was created by the fabulous Oleander Jane," Lauren said, a bright smile on her face.

"Very nice. Is there anyone you'd love to meet?"

"Oh, my God, was that Cher?" Lauren said, craning her neck over the reporters.

Max and Lauren walked away from Mary Hart, who just smiled and laughed, before moving on to the next celebrity.

"That girl has just inflated sales of Tricky Stavros Designs and Oleander Jane Creations by a factor of a thousand," Jett said, the look of utter shock on his face. He had been working on that gown for weeks and had no clue who the client was. Someone at the studio was going to lose their head. Had he known the dress was for Lauren, there were a thousand things he would have done differently.

Max and Lauren returned home the next evening and was bombarded with thousands of questions. When did they start dating? Why hadn't they told us? They said they didn't tell us because they wanted a month to themselves, to revel in their new relationship without having to answer tons of questions. Ada and I shared a wink, our dream of becoming sisters was getting closer to coming true. Two weeks later we began planning our biggest vacation ever with Nanna Vianne.

The Florida trip was supposed to be Stacey free. When I asked her in April if she would like to come she said she didn't think she'd be able to get time off from work. She had just been promoted and didn't want to make them think she was flaky. Great priorities there, Mom. So I had made other plans. Then Stacey found out that Lauren was coming. Which was stupid because Stacey had known for months that Max and Lauren were together. They made the pages of almost every celebrity magazine all the time. When Stacey discovered that Lauren was coming too, she rearranged everything and was able to come, ruining what was going to be a great vacation.

Convinced that she could win Max back from Lauren, Stacey tried every trick she had learned from the two bit actresses on City Lights. She would purposefully walk in between them while walking through the airport, the hotel and the park. She would interject herself in their conversations. Stacey was being a true pain in the ass.

Despite all the drama my mother was causing, Ada and I had other plans that had to be addressed. Tricky and Jett were celebrating their twentieth anniversary that October and Ada and I wanted to do something special for them. We pestered them endlessly asking all sorts of questions. What song makes you think of Tricky? What's Jett's favorite kind of cake? Besides coming here, what kind of trip would you like to take? We complied all the information and took them to our adult partners in crime, Nannas Vianne and Ophelia and Oleander. Together we gathered with the concierge of the Grand Floridian to plan the perfect wedding for Tricky and Jett.

"Good afternoon ladies," the concierge said, when we came up to his desk. "How may we serve you today?"

"We would like to rent the yacht for tomorrow night," I said. "My dads are celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year and we want to do something special for them."

"I see. And how many guests are you having at this party?" he asked, taking notes.

"Twelve," I said.

"Don't forget about Stacey," Ada said.

"I didn't. Trust me, it's only twelve," I said.

"We would also like a cake," Ada said. "Shaped like a top hat with a pink glass slipper on top. Uncle Tricky's a magician and Uncle Jett's a designer. The whole thing needs to be fabulous."

"Will you be requiring a butler for the yacht?" the concierge asked. The question confused Ada and I. Nanna Vianne took the lead.

"Yes sir," Nanna Vianne said. "I can assume that there will be a full staff for the dinner?"

"Of course ma'am," he replied. "Is there any food restrictions?"

"No, sir."

The grown ups discussed boring things while Ada and I watched more people milling about the lobby of the grand hotel. With everything squared away and charged to Papa Howard's American Express Black Card, the five of us walked back to our rooms. What we didn't know was that we were walking into a gale force storm.

"Stacey, I don't know what your problem is but it needs to stop and stop now," Max shouted. "You are upsetting Ithaca."

"She's so busy with the rest of you that she doesn't even know I'm here," Stacey retorted. 
"If I had known I was going to get ignored the whole time, I wouldn't have come."

"Then why the hell did you? You told Ithaca back in April when we were planning this if you wanted to come and you told her no," Max shouted.

"Things changed at work and I had the time off. I wanted to spend time with my daughter. But I can't do that when she won't talk to me."

"Maybe this wasn't the best idea," Lauren said, trying to diffuse the situation. "Maybe next time you think of something that the two of you can do on your own? Ithaca thinks you don't want to spend time with her."

"Who the hell are you to tell me how to spend time with my kid, Lauren? You know nothing about my relationship with Ithaca."

"I know more about that little girl than you do."

"This is none of your business! This is between Max and me. No one wants your opinion. So just shut the hell up."

"Don't talk to her like that," Max snapped.

"I'm not going to get into this with you Stacey. It is only out of the sheer generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Howard that we're standing here. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever been able to afford such a lavish vacation. So excuse me for not wanting to join the Stacey Mark Pity Party. In fact, we're all a little sick of hearing your poor, poor me sob story."

I think if Ada hadn't have sneezed in that moment, the war would have raged on. Nanna Vianne looked from Stacey and back to Max and Lauren. Her face was expressionless. I took Ada's hand and we slipped into our room to change our clothes for dinner at Cinderella's Castle. From our cracked door, I could hear them starting up again.

"Stacey," Max said, his voice calming down. "Please, for once in your life think of your daughter and what she wants."

"How about we all quit fighting and go have our dinner at Cinderella's castle?" Tricky suggested. "Ada, Ith, you two ready?"

"Coming, Tricky!" we called. We stepped back into our parents' hotel room dressed in matching yellow sundresses.

"I like the sound of that," Albert Arvine answered, offering his arm to his wife.

Tricky offered his arm to his mother and Papa Howard offered his to Ophelia. Max wrapped his arm around Lauren, leading her out of the room. Oleander held her hands out for Ada and I. We took them gladly joining the procession out in the hallway. That left Jett and Stacey alone in the room. Stacey stood with her back to Jett, staring at the open door that joined our room to Max and Lauren's.

"Stacey, a word?" Jett said. Stacey turned to look at Jett, her least favorite person in the world.

"Can't it wait, Jett? We're going to be late for dinner," Stacey sighed.

"No it can't," Jett said, strongly, crossing his arms over his chest. "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm not doing anything," Stacey argued.

"A blind man can see what you're doing, Stacey. Pushing between them in lines? Butting into conversations? Following them along like a lost puppy? The others may be too nice to trample on poor delicate Stacey, but not me. I will be the honest one here. I was glad you chose your job over Ithaca. You only changed your tune when you found out that Lauren was coming. You can't stand to see Max happy and not still pining away for you. Well that's something you're just going to have to get the hell over because Lauren's here to stay. She's stable and there for Ithaca, no matter what."

"Jett, don't you think it's time we put aside the animosity?"

"Not a chance. You may have Max fooled but you can't fool me. The Porter, Howard, 
Stavros Hotel is now closed. You'll not be staying with us anymore. I don't know why you can't keep a roommate but we're not your landing pad anymore."

"You can't make that decision without talking to Tricky and Max," Stacey argued. "You three never do anything unless you all agree."

"When we get back from this trip you have a week to find a new place. After that I will throw all your shit out the fire escape. And don't think I won't. Why don't you just stay with Beckett Tyler. We all know you're already sleeping with him."
Stacey glared at the little Greek man in front of her. "There is nothing going on with Beckett and I. I am just his assistant."

"Then leave Max and Lauren alone. Let him and Ithaca be happy."

"I still love him," Stacey sighed.

"Well, he doesn't love you, Stacey. He hasn't for a very long time."

Jett left the hotel room and caught up with the rest of the family at the elevator. Stacey didn't join us for dinner that night nor did we see her again until we got back to New York four days later.

The next afternoon, July 18th, Operation Tricky and Jett's Wedding was well underway. Ada and I joined Nanna Vianne with the concierge to go over any last minute details. Because Tricky and Jett were spending so much time by the pool it was easy for Ada and I to make off with their gold rings. We had the concierge send them to a jeweler to have them cleaned and polished. Ada and I left notes in all our family's rooms to meet us at the dock at seven sharp and to wear the ultra nice clothes Nanna Vianne insisted on being brought. Max and Lauren were the first to arrive at the dock. The look on Lauren Stewart's face was that of pure joy. Ada had never seen her mother so happy. We looked at each other in confusion trying to guess what had happened.

"What's going on Dad?" I questioned.

"Yeah Mom. What's going on?" Ada echoed.

"We're going to have to tell them eventually," Max smiled. "You want to tell them?"

"Nah," Lauren smiled. "You tell them."

"Tell us what?!" me and Ada demanded.

"How would you like to be best friends who are also sisters?" Max asked, kneeling down in front of the two girls.

Ada and I were quiet for a moment and then they started screaming and tackled their father. We almost went off the dock into the Seven Seas Lagoon. We hugged and kissed him and then went to hug Lauren. We were jumping up and down screaming and hugging each other. You would think we just found out we were really related.

"Don't look now Max, but I think they're happy about this," Lauren laughed.

"Happy about what?" Arcadia asked, arriving at the dock.

"Mom and Max are getting married!" Ada exclaimed.

"Well it's about damn time!" Albert laughed.

Arcadia hugged Lauren tightly and gushed over her ring. "So how did he ask? Was it on a carriage ride around Magic Kingdom?"

"No that would have been romantic," Lauren stated, glaring over at Max. "We're on Splash Mountain, going up for the last drop. He looks over at me and says with a straight face 'We should get married, don't you think?' I'm confused for a minute then we go down the hill. The boat turns into the Laughing Place and Max reaches into his pocket and hands me a blue Tiffany's box. Over the music of Brer Rabbit he asks a little better. Rock stars. What do you expect?"

"Oh my God, Lauren! I am so happy for you!" Arcadia gushed.

Soon Ada and I calmed down long enough to explain why they had everyone gathered at the dock of the Seven Seas Lagoon dressed in their nice clothes and why everyone but Tricky and Jett were there.

"As you know," I explained. "This year Tricky and Jett are celebrating their twentieth anniversary. To help them celebrate, Ada and I planned a surprise wedding for them, on that boat." I point to the yacht docked just feet down.

"Ithaca Vianne Porter!" Max laughed. "You crafty little sneak!"

"I know. I know. I'm good. But I need to get everyone in place because they are going to be here soon. Daddy I need you to stand on the left side where Jett is going to stand. Papa Howard you stand on the right where Tricky will be." I started pulling her father and grandfather to their proper places. Ada walked with the Nannas to the edge of the dock to watch for Tricky and Jett. "Auntie Oleander, you'll stand in the center."

The servers set the cake out on a covered table. It looked better than the drawing the pastry chef had made for us the day before. The black top hat even had an edible feather sticking out of its' brim. There was a magic wand and even a string of pearls coming out of the hat. The bright pink shoe was the crown of the whole thing. I almost didn't want to have to hack into it.

Ada ran back to the boat, signaling me to start the music. Abba's Dancing Queen started playing. Tricky and Jett were coming to the yacht under the assumption that we were having an intimate dinner on the yacht. They had no idea what was really going on. They each help their mothers onto the yacht. For the first time they catch sight of the cake and the music sets in. They see Oleander, sans her drag look, dressed in a suit standing between Papa Howard and Max.

"So, uh, what's going on?" Tricky asked.

"Nothing. Just a family event," I said.

"You're getting married!" Ada exclaimed, unable to keep the secret any longer. I stomped on her foot. "Ow. That hurt!"

Jett gasped and covered his mouth. He and Tricky were so touched that we would think of something so wonderful they could barely speak. He knelt down and embraced his girls tightly.

"Thank you girls," Jett said, trying not to cry and failing miserably. "Such a wonderful, thoughtful idea."

Tricky and Jett walked down the aisle of their friends and family towards Max and Mr. Howard. On Jett's side of the ceremony stood Ophelia, Arcadia, Albert and me. On Tricky's side was Lauren, Ada, and Vianne.

"I had something witty I was going to say to start but now I've got nothing," Oleander said. "It is my great pleasure to be able to be the one to preside over this event. I have known Jett as long as he's known Tricky. In a very unforgiving society, they have managed to stay together. I cannot wait for the day when this union will be respected by the entire country and not just by our family. With that said, let's kick this baby off." 
Oleander took out a set of note cards out of his suit pocket. "Tricky repeat after me. Jett, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy and in sorrow. To honor and revere you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to fall in love with you a little more each day. For where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. I will always be honest, kind, patient, and forgiving. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care for and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you through whatever life may bring us."

Tricky repeated the words she had said, tears he never shed, slipping from his eyes, squeezing Jett's hand tightly. The sun was setting behind them giving a soft glow about them. Flashes from the hotel photographers punctuated the moment.

"Jett, repeat after me. I take you, Tricky, my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and revere you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care for and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you through whatever life may bring us."

Jett could barely say what was being fed to him. Everything he was saying he had felt for Tricky since the day they had met. He was crying more than Tricky was. And Tricky never cried.

"Do we have rings?"

Glancing over at their little sneak thieves, Tricky answered, "We did once."

Sheepishly me and Ada pulled out the cleaned, polished and freshly engraved rings from our pockets. "We had them cleaned for you, Daddy," I explained.
Oleander laughed as I hand Tricky's ring to Jett and Jett's ring to Tricky. "It's not a Tricky and Jett event without someone in tears. Now together I want you to repeat this. With this ring, I thee wed and with it I bestow upon thee all the treasures of my heart, mind and hands."

"With this ring I thee wed and with it I bestow upon thee all the treasures of my heart, mind and hands," Tricky and Jett repeated.

"In the presence of these witnesses I pronounce you, Tricky and Jett, fierce, fabulous and complete. Never forget the way you feel right now."

Those gathered clapped as Tricky and Jett shared a kiss. Ada and I ran into their legs hugging them tightly. "Were you surprised?"

"Very much so," Tricky answered. "We can never thank you girls enough."

The family gathered around the top hat shaped cake and waited for Tricky and Jett to cut into it. The servers then lead us to the dining room of the yacht and serve Tricky and Jett's favorite meal of all time: Baked macaroni and cheese and ham.

"The first time I met Tricky Howard and Jett Stavros, it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving on what I call the coldest day of the year. I was twenty and had absolutely nothing to my name except my guitar and the clothes on my back," Max said. "I was taking shelter under the arch at Washington Square, playing my guitar and singing. Little did I know, I was encroaching on a certain magician's spot."

"Hey, at least I wasn't on fire," Tricky said pointing his fork at Max. "Most of the time when people meet me, I'm on fire or have set something on fire."

"Well anyway, it was a battle of the space for the first half hour or so. When the crowd left I introduced myself to this guy and we agreed to share the space and work together for the day. When Tricky found out I had nowhere to go that night he offered my ex-girlfriend and me a place to stay with him and his partner. That was thirteen years ago. You guys sick of me yet?"

"Just so you know Max, when you and Lauren get married you might want to consider moving to a bigger loft," Jett teased. "I'm serious. I want my sewing room back."

"Or we could just buy the empty apartment next door," Tricky said.

"Tricky and Jett have been the best friends I have ever had. They're more than friends they're my brothers. I don't know who else would have stepped up to help me raise my beautiful little girl."

The next day Ada and I were taking in one more day at Magic Kingdom with Tricky while the rest of the family spent the day elsewhere. Somewhere between the teacups and Space Mountain, Tricky misplaced us. He retraced his steps back to the teacups but didn't spot his pint-sized quarry. The next phone call to Max and Lauren was the worst phone call he had ever made.

"Hey-uh-Max," Tricky stammered. "I need you to be calm."

"Why do I need to be calm, Tricky?" Max demanded.

"We have a problem."

"What kind of problem, Tricky?" Max asked, losing his patience with his best friend.

"I swear they were right behind me," Tricky tried to explain.

"What kind of problem, Philip Howard?" Max said, exasperated.

"I misplaced Ithaca and Ada," Tricky stated, his voice flat and defeated.

"THEY ARE NINE YEARS OLD! HOW DO YOU LOSE TWO NINE YEAR OLD GIRLS!?" Max yelled through the phone, loudly enough that Tricky had to hold the phone away from his ear.

"See this is why I wanted you to be calm. Look, they couldn't have gotten far. I will find them."

"You better or you're going to be the magician formerly known as Tricky Howard!"
Tricky hung up the phone and started his search again. It didn't take him long to find the girls. We were right under his nose. He walked right past us twice at Storytime with Belle before he realized who we were!

"Ithaca Vianne Porter and Ada Nichelle Stewart!" Tricky yelled over the crowd. "Get your tails over here!"

Sheepishly Ada and I made our way over to Tricky. We hung our heads and waited for the lecture.

"For the record Tricky we did tell you we were going to Storytime with Belle but you just kept walking," I pointed out.

"So we weren't lost Uncle Tricky," Ada stated. "You were."

That was the story we told our parents when we returned to the hotel. Of course, we turned on the waterworks and got Tricky into more trouble than we had intended. We hugged Tricky tight after he was done being scolded.

"We're sorry you got lost," we said. "We didn't mean to get you in so much trouble with Mom and Dad."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Sale Now!!

There is No Easy Street is officially on sale! For the first fifty customers the price is .99! After that it will jump to 3.95! "But I don't have a Nook!" Smartphone users, you can download the Nook app and get it that way. You can also purchase and read it on your computer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

January 14th! Keep that date in mind as it will be the first day that There is No Easy Street will be available for purchase on the Barnes & Noble Nook! For the first 100 customers the price will be 2.95! I am really excited about this. And as a treat here is an excerpt from There is No Easy Street!

Mid October – Loft 5F - Alphabet City, Manhattan, New York City, NY – Present Day
 The beeping on my watch draws me from my thoughts. I look down at the time, set my laptop aside, get up from my bed and stretch. "AZT break," I say softly. I leave my room and wander into the kitchen where my godfather Jett was at the bar drinking coffee and flipping through the latest copy of InStyle magazine. His long brown hair is set in curlers and a bottle of red nail polish sits next to the magazine. I open the cabinet to pull out my various bottles of medication I need to survive.
"Hey Ith," Jett says. "How's your project coming along?"
"Slowly," I reply. "Remind me why I agreed to go back to school?"
"Because it's what the Nannas wanted," Jett says.
"I never realized how messed up our lives have really been before starting this paper, Jett."
"I wouldn't call us 'messed up'. We're eccentric. I know you're hurt by what you have learned about Max and Stacey, but you haven't gotten past the trials they went through before things got good. You're still stuck in the late 80's and nothing was good then. Not even for Tricky and I."
"I was re-reading Stacey's old journals she kept for the first few years she and Dad were in the city. She had so many dreams."
"She still has her dreams," Jett says, watching my take my medications. He flinches as I swallow the large handful. I lost my gag reflex years ago from taking so many medications. "They've just changed slightly."
"I haven't heard Stacey talk about dreams for a long time," I say.
"Just because she doesn't talk about them Ithaca, doesn't mean she doesn't have them," Jett chides. "Couldn't tell you what they are now but I'm sure she has something she wants to do besides run errands for Beckett Tyler."
"Jett," I sigh, warningly. Jett and my mother have an arrangement, they don't talk to each other unless they absolutely have to. Even then it's only one or two words. "I know we aren't the definition of normal in any sense but I wouldn't trade what you, Daddy and Tricky have built for me."
"I used to have to leave the room when it was time for you to take your meds. Tricky would have to hold you down and Max would push them into your mouth. I couldn't watch you suffer to make you better."
"You have an event tonight?" I ask, finally acknowledging my godfather's ensemble.
"Of course," Jett says. "Some party for the label."
"Well just yell if you need some help gluing your eyelashes on."
"Girl, when have I ever needed help getting glam?"
"Last week. The zipper to the burgundy gown jammed. And the week before, you lost your earrings and wig case.”
“Besides that,” Jett says.
“If it wasn’t for me and my mad organizational skills you’d look like a stubble faced newbie.”
I leave Jett to his nails and start to wander around the loft, stretching out my legs. We have lived in the same warehouse loft since before I can remember. It was strange for me to think that my mother still had dreams, even dreams for me. She already ruined my chance at a healthy normal life. Risk came with my life. I feel like the first few years of my life, after the diagnosis were spent in a bubble, keeping me free from infections, germs or anything else that could inhibit my growth. Unlike normal four and five year olds I didn't go to pre-school or even to kindergarten. Between Dad, Tricky and Jett they taught me everything I needed to learn in those first formidable years. I didn't start going to school, normal school, until I was almost eight.
I wander back to my room. My room is more of an enclosure made of beaded curtains, sheets and boxes of Tricky and Jett's old costumes and props. My bed is a mattress on the floor. I used to think Daddy, Tricky and Jett were afraid of modern technology. Up until last year, the newest thing in the loft was my laptop. Everything in our loft is second or even third hand or not to be found in stores since 1973, even though we have the means for better things. Having had nothing for so long kept my family very humble and grateful for the things we do have.
The empty mattress against the wall is a constant reminder of the people I have lost in my life. Tricky and Jett are in the process of buying the loft next door to expand. They meant to do it a long time ago but other things got in the way.
I plop back down on my bed and pick up my laptop. My notes from my interviews with other members of my family are spread out in front of me. I pick up the pages about the first time Daddy met Tricky and Jett. I put my headphones on and listen to my father's voice as he sings. With my inspiration on, I find new steam and begin to write. 
Late November – Washington Square Park/ Loft 5F, Avenue A - New York City, NY – 1987
 As my dad was playing, earning change from the Christmas tourists, a man wearing a Foreigner t-shirt, holey jeans and combat boots, stormed over to him, glaring. "What the hell are you doing in my spot?" the man demanded of Max.
Max stopped playing his song and turned to the man. This had happened to him before. "Sorry man," he said, politely. "I didn't know. I'm leaving."
The crowd around Max began to protest. They liked what they were hearing and didn't want my dad to leave. Taking the crowd's applause, Max began to play the opening lick of Iron Man. The man stood there flabbergasted at the nerve of Max. Not to be one upped, the man called out, "Who wants to see a magic trick?"
Tricky set three cups down on the card table in front of him and a red rubber ball. He had the audience follow the balls that added to their number with each pass. At the end of the trick he changed the red rubber balls into lemons. About fifteen to twenty minutes of battling for space, they got a break. Max’s rock music was the perfect compliment to Tricky’s magic. Between the pair they had made forty bucks.
"Hey, I'm Max Porter," he said offering his hand.
"Tricky Howard," the man replied, shaking Max's hand. "You play really well. Been in the city long?"
"A few weeks," Max said. "When'd you learn to do magic?"
"I don't really remember," Tricky said, looking up at the arch hoping the answer was up in the clouds. "I think I was in second grade when I got a card trick book for Christmas from a random aunt."
And that is how my dad met Tricky. The pair decided over a cigarette that they could possibly make more if they worked together. Max became Tricky's barker and soundtrack for the rest of the day. Max was able to walk around the crowd, picking what he could from their pockets. Through his music he was able to make another hundred dollars and from picking he made an additional hundred in cash and a stack of things to sell.
"Hey Max?" Tricky called over as Max was packing up his stuff. "You got a place to stay?"
Such an honest, simple question. In truth, Max had no idea where he and Stacey would end up that night. He had made plans with her to possibly go to the shelter on West 57th.
"I don't know yet," Max replied. "My girl is supposed to meet me here soon. She takes care of our sleeping arrangements."
Tricky nodded and quickly wrote on a playing card. "Well with this cold weather the shelters are likely to fill quickly. If you find yourself in need of a place, this is my address. Jett and I would be glad to have you and your girl."
"Thanks Tricky," Max said, taking the card. He looked up and saw Stacey coming towards them. "Speaking of girls, there's mine. Stacey!"
Max waved over to Stacey and she joined the two men under the arch. She had an unfulfilling day. She didn't want to be anywhere but with Max. She smiled politely at Tricky.
"Stacey, this is Tricky. He was nice enough to share his spot with me today. Tricky this is my girlfriend Stacey."
Stacey gave Tricky a once over and smiled politely. "It's nice to meet you. Umm, Max, we need to get going. The co-ed shelters are likely to fill up fast with this cold weather."
"There is no need for you to stay in a shelter," Tricky said. "I was just telling Max that both of you are welcome to stay with Jett and I."
"Oh no. That's fine. We couldn't put you out. We'll find a place," Stacey protested.
"I insist. Jett's cooking and we have plenty of space."
Before Stacey could protest again, Max agreed. He felt they had spent enough nights apart and he didn't want to deal with it any longer. The three of them walked with Tricky down to the subway. Awhile later the three of them walked up the stairs and into a part of the city that Max and Stacey had never been to.
"Welcome to Alphabet City," Tricky said.
Stacey felt very uncomfortable being in this part of the city. She had only seen the part of New York that you see in travel guides and movies. She never knew that this part of the city existed. She clung tightly to Max's hand and followed Tricky to an old warehouse. He unlocked a door and the three of them walked up five floors. Tricky pulled open a door and invited Max and Stacey into his home.
"Yo Jett!" Tricky yelled into the loft. "Found us some company for dinner!"
A young man with long black hair stepped out from behind the bar in the kitchen. He had flour on his hands and a red sauce added freckles to his face. To Max and Stacey's surprise, on Jett's feet was a pair of tall wedge sandals.
"Hey," Jett said, to Max and Stacey. "I'm Jett."
"What's up?" Max said. "I'm Max and this is my girlfriend Stacey. Thank you for having us."
"It's not a problem," Jett said. "You are more than welcome to stay as long as you want. So…who wants a garlic knot?"
"Homemade?" Max questioned.
"Best garlic knots in the city."
He offered the tray to Max and Stacey. Max took one and bit into its warm center. "Oh my God! These are amazing! Stacey, you have to try one."
Max held out the half gone garlic knot to his girlfriend. He could tell that she was uncomfortable. She always felt better alone or with just him. In a sense she was still the shy, naïve Wyoming girl.
"Stacey, you're being rude," Max whispered fiercely. "Just take the damn knot!"
She took the half eaten garlic knot from Max and took a small bite. She was shocked to discover how incredible they tasted. It was divine next to the bland mass produced meals she had been having at the shelters. She devoured the rest of the knot Max gave her and had two more. Soon the two couples were seated on the couch with a plate of lasagna and laughing together. It was hilarious to listen to Jett start a story and have Tricky finish it. It was what Stacey hoped she and Max would become.
"How long have you been together?" Stacey asked.
"November 10th, 1980," Tricky said.
"Seven years," Jett answered.
"How did you meet each other?" Max asked.
"The same way you meet anyone," Jett replied. "Completely by accident. We met in college."
"But not at the same school. Jett was a fashion major at Parson's and I was a rich kid at NYU. Only I wasn't Tricky then. I was still going by Philip." Tricky cringed at the sound of his real name.
"I go to this party on the NYU campus, not knowing a single person except my roommate who ditched me before I even got a drink in me," Jett said. "I look over in the corner and there's this incredibly cute guy, lighting himself on fire."
"I was not on fire!" Tricky protested.
"The boy was engulfed in flames. It was crazy. He completed his trick and took a bow. I was impressed but played it off. So I was stuck at this party where I knew no one. I hung out for awhile and soon the magic guy came up to me and told me to pick a card."
"I wasn't sure why I was hitting on this pretty boy," Tricky said. "He looked so pathetic standing in the corner all by himself. So I went over to him. I did a couple of card tricks. We got to talking and the next thing I knew, I had a new partner."
"Tricky's parents were shocked that he was still on his 'gay' phase and hated me from the start," Jett said. "The only thing his mother liked about me was I got him to dress better. Clearly it hasn't stuck."
"What really threw them was the fact that you're a drag queen, Jett."
"A what?" Stacey asks, her naiveté, coming to light.
"Drag queen. A man who dresses as a woman," Jett says. "My official stage name is Circe Penelope Ulysses but everyone just calls me Circe. Comes in handy with Tricky's magic shows. I'm his beautiful assistant."
"When I decided that what I really wanted to be was a magician and dropped out of business school, my parents disowned me and locked me out of my accounts. I don't think I'll ever get back on their good graces."
"I think once we give them a grandchild, they'll warm up."
Philip "Tricky" Xavier Howard III was far from his Fifth Avenue upbringing. Gone were his button down Oxford shirts, ties and pressed pants. Replacing his upper class look with grungy jeans and rock and roll t-shirts and aviator sunglasses he looked ready to take the mike at a Journey concert than the stages of the great Harry Houdini. His arms were covered in tattoos. At that time he had almost fifty. Tricky kept his magic simple. He's what you'd call a parlor magician. He didn't like the over the top acts of the major magicians of the time. He liked simple things that kept people guessing on how they were done. He had dappled in fire tricks but soon found out he and fire did not get along. He had lost his eyebrows on more than one occasion. Another time he set the seven hundred dollar silk drapes of his mother's penthouse aflame. Soon after matches, lighters and lighter fluid were hidden and kept under lock and key.
Putting Tricky next to Jett was like looking at those old "Which of these do not belong" pictures and eliminating Tricky from the equation. Jethro Malachi Stavros was classy, polished and fashion forward. He studied fashion at Parson's and had been working on his own fashion line since he graduated. He had long black hair that he kept tied back with a thin leather cord. He wore black-framed reading glasses while he was sketching.
His alter ego, Circe, was glamorous and beautiful. She had won several pageants and competitions. As a little girl, I would watch Jett turn into Circe, watching in fascination, as she would put on her make up. I was two in my first memory of meeting Circe. Jett had gone into his room and this woman came out. It took almost twenty minutes for Jett to convince me that it was him under all the glam and glitter.
"So Max," Tricky said, lighting a cigarette. "We made some good money today. What do you say to working together for awhile?"
"I think it's a good idea," Max replied, lighting his own smoke. "We could try it for a few days. Couldn't hurt."
Jett turned to Stacey. "What about you Stacey? You up for leaving your establishment job and come work with me?"
"What do you do all day?" Tricky teased. "Other than leave scraps of cloth and glitter all over the place?"
Jett ignored Tricky’s dig and turned to Stacey. "Since my business partner Harry and I haven't found a store to buy our collection, we sell our designs at swap meets and on the streets. Our operation has gotten so big that we could use some help."
Even though Stacey enjoyed Jett and Tricky's company she wasn't ready to leave a good paying job in lieu of taking an unpredictable one on the street.
"I can't quit," Stacey said, her tone argumentative. "My McDonald's job is the only stable income that Max and I have."
"It was just an offer," Jett replied. "You don't have to take it this very second."
He looked down and began to gather up the dishes littering the living room. His reaction was a kick in the gut to Stacey. She hadn't meant to be rude it just happened to come out that way. Max elbowed her hard in the side. It was the beginning of the end of their relationship.
"I'm sorry," Stacey said. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"It's fine," Jett replied, coldly from the kitchen.
Tricky sighed with a curse and got up from the couch and joined his partner in the kitchen. Max turned and glared at Stacey.
"Nice job," he snapped. "The first honestly nice people we meet and you have to go and insult them."
"I didn't do it on purpose," Stacey stated. "I'm not you Max. I can't just go with the flow and hope everything is going to be all right. I just can't."
"What did you think was going to happen?" Max argued. "Did you honestly think that you'd run away from home, come to New York and everything you've ever wanted would be handed to you on a silver platter? There is no easy street, Stacey. It's going to be hard. We're going to be cold and hungry. I've been at this a lot longer than you have. Maybe this life isn't the thing for you. Maybe you should go back to Wyoming."
Max's suggestion was like a stab to the heart. She didn't care how cold and hungry she got, she would never go back. Tears stung her eyes. She didn't mean to hurt Jett's feelings. Stacey looked from Max to the kitchen. Tricky and Jett came back into the living room. Jett wouldn't look at Stacey. Tricky and Max tried to keep the conversation going but the elephant in the room kept sucking out the life. Max and Tricky exchanged looks. They wanted to be friends but it would be damn near impossible if their other halves couldn't be around each other. When the silence in the room got to be too much, Jett excused himself and went to his and Tricky's room.
"Max, I'll just wake you up in the morning," Tricky said. "We can head out from there. The couch folds out, blankets and such are in the trunk by the door. Sleep good."