Inside of Ridgewood
EXCERPT FROM A MEMOIR
By Dan Schneider
Folks, this is how it’s done. Hell-raiser Dan Schneider is the ultra-prolific editor of Cosmoetica.com, a Minneapolis-based poetry site fiercely devoted to transcending the dull, academic “p.c.” literature promoted by the postmodern establishment. This piece is an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir of Dan’s early years, a series of interrelated essays told from a variety of points of view, and all of them with poems . The main character is a composite of many of the runaways Dan knew while growing up in Ridgewood, NY (Dan himself makes a few brief appearances). TM is proud to present this harrowing tale by one of the 21st century’s most promising literary badasses.
I don’t know how I can answer that question? I mean, I feel enough shame- well, not shame per se, but a little embarrassment, about the whole series of events anyway. & I would prefer it if you did not use my real name- a pseudonym would be nice….No, Mr. X is too James Bond….John- no (chuckle), that would be laying the irony on a little too heavy. What? The Kid? Wasn’t that some famous silent film, or something?….Ok, I guess- The Kid it is, call me the Kid- but not Billy- if you know what I mean.
Yes, I was a child prostitute. I was also a runaway. My parents were fairly well-to-do folks & we lived out in Massapequa. Yes, that’s New York – a town on the Island. Nassau County, to be specific. My dad was part-owner of a plumbing company & my mom worked as a real estate agent. We lived fairly well back in those days. What?….Oh, yeah, the late 60s & early 70s when I was growing up. My parents were having problems in their marriage. My dad had screwed around on her a couple of times but she forgave him. My mom had also had a brief fling with her boss in retaliation, but they had always worked things out. That was until 1 day my dad announced that he had gotten some other woman pregnant. I was 6 & a _ when that happened. The words he said I don’t recall exactly.
My mom’s response? Well, she was livid, but quiet for a long time. I was sent up to my room. About a _ hour later all hell broke loose. I heard pots & pans flying from the kitchen downstairs, screaming, yelling, & what sounded like fighting. This went on until I fell asleep hours later. I remember I awoke around midnight & heard crying downstairs. My dad was in their bed snoring, so I went downstairs. Mom was crying. I tried to comfort her but she was more distant than I’d ever seen her. She kissed me on the head, told me she loved me, then told me to go to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to go to school & she was gone. Dad called all over but she had disappeared. No 1 at work knew where she was, & even family & friends were clueless. I never saw her again. Well, at least not till years later, when in 1998 I got a letter from her – but that’s another story.
In the meantime, my dad felt guilt. Even worse, he was investigated by the local police for suspected homicide. Eventually they concluded that mom just left. The violence in the kitchen was of the routine petty kind, not murderous, & mom had taken $3,000 from their bank account. Besides, I could swear that I was the last person to see her, & she was sad, but healthy & alive.
What? Oh yeah, this was just after Thanksgiving in 1970. I was gonna turn 7 the coming January. Anyway, it was nearly 30 years before I’d hear from my mother again. My dad’s guilt got the better of him. He started drinking big-time. The woman he got pregnant moved in with us, but as the delivery date got closer dad got worse. More & more violent, more & more self-pitying. It didn’t help that the woman he got pregnant was the black Dominican girl mom had hired to clean the house twice a week. Her name was Estella, & dad seemed to blame her for all that he had done to wreck his life. Things got even worse when the neighbors found out that Estella was living, not just working, at our house. It was 1 thing when a nigger came to work for you, but when they found out my little brother was gonna be a coon things got bad. I was beaten up more times than I can remember. I was a nigger-lover 1st, & then a _ nigger myself!
School was even worse than what happened in the neighborhood. I hated the baby. I hated Estella. Not ‘cause they were black but ‘cause what they had done to my family. But, most of all I hated my dad, who seemed to reciprocate. He beat me up worse than the other kids did. Soon, I had made up my mind. The baby was due in late June & I decided I was gonna be long gone by then – right after school ended. My grades had slipped to the point that I was failing almost everything, so what did I care? Except, I did. I waited until the semester was over before leaving. I figured by the new school year I could be living somewhere else & going to another, better school.
I decided to start fresh in the city. I walked for miles, & then took the subway 1 afternoon before my dad got home. I had stolen about $16 in cash from the hiding spot in 1 of the kitchen drawers. I thought about going to Manhattan, where a kid I once knew said there was a place that helped kids like me, with bad families & all. I never got there. I was hungry & somehow ended up getting off at the exit for Halsey Street, in a nabe called Ridgewood. It seemed an ok place. I remember walking along Cypress Avenue when I ran into a smelly old guy named Tonio. He could see I was different, not like the local kids who wore such dirty & crappy clothes. They all seemed oblivious to me. It was nice to know there was a grown up who seemed to care about me. Tonio said he owned a club, & met lots of kids like me. I told him I was only 7 & he seemed impressed at how mature I was. A lot of kids he met, he said, would just constantly whine & cry about every little thing.
That 1st night I was given a room over Tonio’s club, which was a few blocks away from the train station. I shared it with a boy named Michael, who looked a couple of years older than me but did not talk. What? No, I don’t think he was deaf, I just think he did not care to talk. For a few days things seemed great. I really liked it at Tonio’s place. There were other kids between my & Michael’s ages, & even a few who were nearly teenagers. I forgot about going to that place in the city I had heard about, & thought that Tonio’s was as good a place as any.
Hmm? Well, yeah, I’m getting to that. Like I said, Tonio’s kids were ok, but they were not too talkative, either to me or themselves. It was strange because I tried hard to make friends. Then I ran into some of the local kids. There was this fat kid, who was a year or 2 younger than me. He didn’t say much & seemed kind of shy. I don’t remember his name, but he reminded me a little bit of Michael, except he would talk; he just deferred to the 2 older kids he hung with. The oldest was a tall skinny blond boy named, er, um, Iggy, I believe. Yeah, Iggy – like the whole David Bowie thing. Iggy was the leader of this trio & he called me a faggot. I didn’t exactly know what that meant except he asked me how many dicks I had sucked. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then the other kid, this smaller blond kid about my age with glasses, named Danny, told Iggy that ‘I must be new.’ Iggy just laughed.
I was getting a little bit angry that these. Well, to be frank, dirty little urchins seemed to think they were superior to me. Their laughter was not as imposing as the taunts & fists of the Massapequa kids who made fun of my ‘niggerness’ but somehow I sensed that being a ‘faggot’ to these kids was as bad or worse than being a nigger out on the Island; even though I didn’t know how or why. I soon found out.
After about a week or 2 later, 1 night, Tonio asked me how I was doing. I said ok. He told me that he liked me but that taking care of all these kids cost money & he was not a rich man, just a generous 1. I understood, I think. He said that the only way that he could make money enough to help us kids would be if we helped him to make money. He asked me if I wanted to help him. I said sure. Tonio hugged me. Despite sensing something far different than anything I had ever known before was gonna happen, I genuinely felt that Tonio liked me, & all the kids, & really wanted to help us. I still do, all these years later. Not that I excuse all the crimes he eventually committed & was prosecuted for. But, he was not a violent man, & he wasn’t really a criminal. The little I heard about him had come from Iggy & Danny a few days before.
Iggy told me that Tonio made his money by having his kids fuck & suck off faggots who came to the club. I told him I didn’t even know what a faggot was. I had a dick, but no 1 had ever sucked it. I asked him if that’s what a dick was for, aside from pissing? He smacked me upside the head & laughed again. The thing I remember the most about Iggy was his sick little laugh. He just shook his head & Danny would step in. Of the 3 kids I liked Danny the most. He was a foul-mouthed little punk, with an even bigger mouth, in terms of needing to cackle & shout whatever he said. Still, he seemed to be the smartest & nicest of the 3 boys. Danny explained that there were only a few ways a kid could make money in Ridgewood; 1 was to be ‘protected’ by 1 of the cops whose beat it was- that is the cop would look the other way at whatever was going on if the kids would keep a lookout whenever the cops would do something they shouldn’t, & warn them if a clean cop came by. Another was to deliver ‘funky candy’ to & from the candy-men in Bushwick to the hippy kids in the nabe. Another was to help the hookers ‘sell kisses’ to the passing johns in their cars. Danny said that this was the easiest & safest way to make money ‘cause the hookers were the nicest to the little boys, & would actually sometimes give them more than the quarter they had promised for their help. The only other way for a kid to make money was to work at Tonio’s, sucking dick for the faggots who came to the club.
I had told them that I never sucked dick & that Tonio never asked me to. Now, Danny laughed & Iggy said, ‘He will. You’ll be faggotized soon!’ As I sat there with Tonio, I asked him if helping him meant I was gonna have to become a faggot. Tonio assured me this was not the case. He also told me that I would never even have to look at the faggots. He took me downstairs to a little room where I saw Michael & some of the other kids sitting on chairs. It was pretty dark in the room & all the kids were sitting in front of these cutout little holes in the wall. I had never seen anything like it. Tonio explained to me that this was what was called the Glory Row & that the holes were called Glory Holes. Apparently, faggots were men who didn’t like women. Regular men would stick their dicks into holes in women, but faggots liked to stick their dicks in holes in men, usually the asshole.
I asked what that had to do with this room. Tonio said that some faggots could not get any men to like them enough to let them stick their dicks in their assholes so they would come to Tonio’s. Was I supposed to let a faggot stick his dick in my asshole? Of course not, Tonio assured me. Instead the faggots would stick their dicks through the holes & the kids would just lick & suck on them for a few minutes & the faggots would pretend it was a man’s asshole, & sometimes even non-faggots who couldn’t get women would come to get their dicks sucked through the Glory Hole & pretend they were sticking their dicks in a woman’s hole, which was called a cunt, I soon learned.
So, all I would have to do would be to suck dick for a few minutes? Sure, said Tonio, that was it. He told me I should watch the other kids before trying it. Basically the kids, about a dozen in the room, although Tonio took care of 3 or 4 times as many (they would rotate nights), would see the dick & then pretend it was a lollipop- sometimes licking the dick tip gently, & sometimes, as it got bigger, wrapping their whole mouth around it.
The walls would sometimes shake on the other side as the faggots seemed to love the dick-sucking. You could hear them curse & scream with pleasure- sometimes so loud that the music that usually emanated from the club could barely be heard at all. After about 20 minutes of watching the oldest kid, Tilda, a blond girl, got up & told me to give it a try. I sat in her seat & waited for the next dick to pop through. It was quite a wait. I guess Tonio’s was slow that night.
Then 1 did. It was a brown dick, brown as Estella’s skin. Tilda bent over & motioned for me to imitate what she did in the air, except that I should do it on the dick. After a bit of nervousness I watched her & did what she did, except to the dick, not air. I did so for about _ a minute when all of a sudden the dick pissed on me, a bit in my mouth, & I backed away. Tilda slapped the dick & it went back into the hole. I was choking on the piss & it was disgusting. Tilda washed my mouth out with soap & explained to me that it wasn’t piss. & it wasn’t. It was this sticky, foul-tasting white gooey stuff. I asked if the faggot had pussed in me? No, Tilda told me, it was not pus or piss but come, or cum. The faggot had came in my mouth. She told me that when dicks get real excited they release cum. Usually, when this happens in a woman’s cunt that’s how babies like Estella’s got made. Even more disgusting than the taste of the faggot’s cum in my mouth was the realization that my father had shot this stuff into Estella, & even my mom, to make me! That I started out as cum was alarming.
Tilda told me that usually you can tell when a faggot is about to come. It takes a few minutes. But, sometimes early cummers like the ‘nigger faggot’ happen by & you get the cum all over you. She said I would learn when most dicks would shoot their load soon enough. Then I would stop sucking, get 1 of the plastic bags on the floor & wrap it around the dick so it would come in there. The reasons for this were 2-fold. 1st was that it kept the Glory Room cleaner, & 2 was that some of the faggots were sick & their cum was bad & we could get sick if we tasted or swallowed the cum. Tonio did not want any of us getting ill, ‘cause it was bad for business & might mean the kids would be sent home to their parents.
I asked if Tilda had parents. She said yeah. She was nearly 12 & had been with Tonio for nearly 3 years. She said that she had come with an older neighbor girl all the way from Ohio. The older girl now worked for Harold Rankin, the guy who ran the pink whore house a couple blocks away. She told me that as soon as her tits started growing she was told that Harold wanted her to come & work for him. You got more money & your own apartment- or at least _. She was gonna share a place with Debby, the girl she came from Ohio with. The only other thing she told me that night was that we had to suck all the dicks, unless you saw 1 with scabs or that looked bad, then you’d call Tonio. If he said it was ok to suck you did. If he said no he’d go outside & beat the faggot up for you. Tonio did not take kindly to faggots who tried to get his kids sick. I spent the rest of that night sucking. I remember I sucked 13 more dicks until the club closed that night. By the 9th dick I thought I was pretty good, 1 of the best kids in the Glory Row. I took a sort of pride in being a quick learner, & also that none of the other dicks came all over me.
The next morning Tonio was by my bedside & gave me a big hug. Tilda saw him give me a crisp new $5 bill. I had never held that much money before. Tonio said I should get some candy or go with 1 of the older kids to a movie. When he left Tilda told me that $5 was nothing compared to what Debby made in a night. She also told me that she wished she was a boy because then Tonio would not want to fuck her. She said that she knew Tonio cared, in his way, but that she did not like fucking him. He did not give any more money for it. She also worried that when Harold Rankin came around in a few months, to have her go & work for him that there would be trouble between him & Tonio. I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t care. I was 7 years old & financially independent!