The following summer I received a letter from Sebastiano. He was in New York and I called him, got his address, and was on my way into town, driving the family Mercedes at breakneck speed. In those days I prided myself in how fast I could get anywhere in Manhattan and back out to Pelham and I never had an accident. But now, because of my excitement I let my guard down, something that can be fatal in New York especially in those days.
I got to the address at 90th Street and Third Avenue, six blocks south of where Harlem begins, parked the car, and got out all in one motion. As I headed to the intersection to cross, five big tough black guys, all dressed in identical white shirts buttoned to the collar, emerged from the shadows. The biggest one asked me for a match which is often the interaction that precedes your death. Normally, I would have seen them even before I parked.
New Yorkers know how and when to cross the street. They practice avoidance for survival. But now I was wide open. As I reached for the match, I heard Sebastiano bellow from the window of his apartment on the second floor across the street. He could see what was going on. Hanging out the window and sporting a wife beater tee shirt a la Stanley Kowalski, what he communicated was that if those guys touched me, he would literally jump out of the window and kill them. The African-American brothers looked at each other, let me light the leader’s cigarette, and faded back into the shadows.
Sebastiano was living with a dancer, a tall willowy beauty who was also a very nice person and obviously in love with him. It’s amazing the bond created by orgasm. Did I say living with a dancer? He was living off a dancer. Somehow, he never was able to get his own talents focused in a way that produced anything more than survival money.
He and his girlfriend and I did a few things together and I managed to get him some work on the soap operas. A few months later, he was living with an African-American woman, another real beauty, who was about to become a model in Oleg Cassini’s stable. One night we accompanied her to the famous designer’s house where she had been invited to “audition.” Sebastiano and I paced the streets for a couple of hours until she finally emerged, slightly the worse for wear. I think she passed the audition.
And that was the end of our story, because here in New York our lives were very different. I was still in the protected, if dysfunctional, warm bosom of my family and still a college boy while Sebastiano, as usual, was barely maintaining by living off women who were attracted to his wild personality and to “the brute”!
Coda: Thank you for being with me as I relived my adventure in Spain, an important chapter of my life. Sometimes at night, unable to sleep, I count the times I could have been killed one way or another. I count it as grace that I came through and am still strong and healthy at age 77 (next month). Being a risk taker has rewards but I don’t recommend it. Be well, do good work, and stay in touch. Ricker
From The Painting of My Life at Amazon