Today is my brother’s birthday. Rather than celebrate with a bbq at my parent’s house, we’re headed to Jersey to the home of Mafia Joe, his wife Mafia Monica, and their 7-month-old Baby Joey. Jersey doesn’t get much better than this.
I get to meet more of the NYC crew. Brett is notorious for being as big as the heart inside him, and as sweet as he is outspoken. Claudio is who I’m most looking forward to. Sarah says I’ll love him. She says he’s my kind of good looking (she tends to prefer really pretty men, so I’m skeptical). Claudio shows up to get us, with Brett in the passenger seat. He’s driving a black Audi with tinted windows (of course). We squish into the back, and we’re on our way. The city traffic is mad, it’s Saturday, and it takes us almost two hours to hit the Holland Tunnel, which is actually a five-minute drive away, sans bumper-to-bumper.
I think Sarah is right about Claudio, but I can’t tell because he’s wearing glasses. He’s kind of wiry, and well dressed in a way that indicates he wasn’t trying. I notice his watch right away. I don’t know what it is, but it’s beautiful. My boyfriend asks, and he says it’s a Roger Dubuis. He takes it off to show it to us, and the back is all exposed to show off the machinations on the inside. Claudio sells designer watches to pro athletes. His claim to fame to date is a watch that sold for two and a half million. No, that’s not a type-o.
Brett hates the traffic, and seems really squished in the front seat. He is kind of loud and brawny, but very friendly. Brett has done everything from mortgage brokering, to insurance sales. He currently buys and sells cell phone towers. He and Claudio live in the same apartment building in Brooklyn.
After fighting through traffic, we finally arrive at Mafia Joe’s. They have an adorable house in Jersey City with a really nice yard. Joe isn’t really in the Mafia, but he could be. He’s one of those solid Italian guys with very little neck, and a kind and earnest host. His wife, Monica answers the door. We hand her the bottle that we brought and wish her happy birthday (we’ve just learned from the boys that it’s her birthday). She tells us thanks, but she’s knocked up again. She says “Fuck me, it’s all I do!” and laughs warmly. I like her instantly.
The other guests consist of two brothers – Arthur and Alen, and Alen’s wife Stacy. Stacy and Alen work in the fashion industry. They have one year old twins. We introduce ourselves, and calmly answer the “So how do you know each other question” honestly, and they simply say “Oh, cool.” Conversation shifts to our children, and parenting, and Baby Joey makes an appearance after his nap. He’s a dumpling, and we love him. Even the men take turns holding him, and feeding him, and playing with him. This is one of the things I love most about this generation.
Brian shows up with a willowy girl with curly red hair. She’s very beautiful, in a really natural way, and I’m surprised because she’s my type, not what I imagine his would be. The women stay inside, except Sarah and I. We all feast (the food was great) and we listen to the boys tell stories.
Arthur just got his first DUI. He tried to make it home on a flat tire, and the cops were alerted because of the sparks flying everywhere. I imagine he must have smelled boozy, because he ended up blowing a breathalyzer and getting booked. He was handcuffed for five hours to a post in jail, kind of terrorized by all of the thugs in there. Later this week he has to attend a meeting to hear the stories of DUI accident victims’ families. He speaks of it like a life lesson, and a wake up call. This whole story is tied to a girl, a girl whose uncle is helping to get him off as lightly as possible. The girl keeps sending him photos of a carrot cake via text messages. At first, when he says “she’s making me a carrot cake” I think it’s some sort of sexual slang, involving redheads. This guy is young, charismatic, and good looking. I hope he has actually learned a life lesson here. I watch him after with the baby, and decide there may be hope yet.
Someone else describes a similar first booking in a Las Vegas jail and all of the boys groan because apparently Vegas is the worst place in the US to get arrested. This person told the cops they were suicidal to get a more isolated holding cell, after they grew weary of watching people’s faces mashed to a bloody pulp.
I’m listening to the timbre of Arthur’s voice, in fact the voices of all the people around me, and I decide that New York accents are the accent of everyone. It’s a blend of the many immigrants who have settled here, and it’s like some kind of beautiful music.
Ironically, conversation switches to a party at the Hard Rock (in Vegas maybe?) called Rehab. This is apparently a pool party with a $400 cover that is worth every penny. I listen to the boys describe the music, and the food and booze and women, and I decide ancient civilizations must have partied around the water in a same way. I think of our cottage parties, and chime in with a description, and decide that someone should open a resort for our generation in cottage country. Goodbye cottage country.
Claudio mostly listens, like me, but when he does pipe up, it’s with the driest, most nail-on-the head zingers. He describes Arthur as the “luckiest kid he knows”. His action in Vegas is described as “rolling a quarter out of your ear and right into the slot.” These boys enjoy their gambling. Arthur describes his luck as the kind that would inspire him to “marry a girl he met that night and then get stuck sharing his winnings with her”. They guffaw at this.
Arthur describes losing $1,500 at The Rio in a hotel room safe he forgot to lock, and a separate incident when someone stole his player’s card while he was winning. Don’t worry Arthur, if I read your palms, I could tell you that you are poised to have your luck turn.
The boys want to know what I do for a living. I have them all convinced (seriously) that my family are beaver farmers, and we raise them and slaughter them for their pelts. When they ask me how to murder a beaver, I tell them that each beaver is different, and thus each death must be handled differently. I’ve made this a euphemism, but nobody catches on. “The beaver will show you how it wants to die.” I say, sagely.
Then I tell them about the Coquettes, and whip out the iPhone to show pictures. Claudio has a particular eyebrow arch for Billie Black, and as the night goes on, I decide how well suited they could be. I even drunkenly text her in the wee hours of the morning to tell her as much.
There is more honesty among these men than I’m prepared for, and I don’t know what to do with it at first. For some, there is a filter missing, and in hindsight, I wish I could have just realized it for the opportunity it afforded, to hear such tales accounted with minimal censoring. It’s burned into my brain though, so I won’t ever forget how it feels to be a fly on the wall.
Brett tells us an equal parts hilarious and disturbing story about how his 15 year old brother lost his virginity to a 24 year old, in the midst of a house party. He knew his way around her anatomy, and managed to hold out for half an hour before climaxing, then running upstairs to gloat to his super hot, 40-something mom about his achievement. This woman is Brett’s stepmother. He’s clearly also conflicted about the whole thing, and the story is nothing short of hilarious. Our boy Brett is a magical story teller. He refers to the three of us as “His Canadians” and takes care to make sure Sarah and I want for nothing while we’re in their company. I’ve promised Brett that the Coquettes will meet him at the airport when he comes to visit in Toronto.
Somehow, amidst all of these stories and all of this camaraderie, one thing becomes clear. The legendary Adam is the kingpin. The mood shifts a little, as the boys reflect on how they are missing him and thinking about him. They will hands-down tell me that he’s the craziest and best of them all. They speak of him with real love and reverence, and more than a little awe. They’ve known him and his family for years, and it’s obvious that they are all devoted to the guy. I’m touched by male friendships that run so deep. They are in some ways, more simple and pure than female relationships.
The sexy Jersey parents move on to another party in town, and graciously invite us to hook up later with their other friends. We have been warmly welcomed. We stay a little longer, and Mr. Nice arrives with his French lady, who is more talkative tonight. After chatting with them a bit, we pile back into Claudio’s car and head to Brooklyn.
As we pull into Claudio’s garage, the attendant in uniform is holding someone’s toddler, a sleepy little girl, while her parents are unloading their stuff. I love that picture, and the warm smile he gives us all. Claudio leaves the man his keys, and we head up to his apartment to wait for Brett who needs to change. Claudio has been traveling for work, and he apologizes for the mess, but his apartment is actually really beautiful. There’s a real, rich sense of the person who lives there – family photos, tasteful furniture, interesting pieces of an eclectic, global nature, and my favourite – a framed, autographed Gretzky jersey from when he played with the Kings. Claudio points this out after I discover his hockey sticks.
Our evening concludes at Brooklyn Bowl. It’s a huge warehouse converted into a bar, live music venue, and bowling alley. The live music is so good that I don’t notice it is being played live until Sarah points it out to me. They are having a hip hop karaoke night, but if you’re not good enough they stop you mid stream. Our hosts are very gracious, and we really have a great time. My girlfriend proposed to me for the second time in front of the bar. Claudio fashioned us a ring out of a twist tie, which I sadly lost on the bowling alley. Sarah bowls for the three of us, because I’m no athlete, and can’t really dazzle in platform shoes. Not like that, anyway.
I think I love these boys a little. They are real, and raw, and they’ve got big hearts. Tonight we’re forming a posse to head to Long Island and show the legendary Adam, over dinner, how much he is loved. I think I’m a little bit nervous to meet the man, but I’m thrilled that it will happen this trip. Love is an important tool in times like these.