Archive for the ‘Sweetzer Court’ Category

His name wasn’t Gianni, but that’s what everyone called him.

His real name was Polish and hard to pronounce.  He’d picked Gianni from the label of a jacket a client had loaned him.  The jacket and the client were both long lost.

The girls called him “Hollywood” when he worked Highland with them, at the corner by the Donut Time.  Computers were taking all the work off the streets but Highland was a show that had to be seen live.  The trans on that corner competed for the attention of the traffic orbiting the block.  You couldn’t get that on computer.

Gianni didn’t much care for computers and all their English and reading.  He was all about the show.  Gianni was a hard worker with a strong back.  He was quick enough to get out of Poland and evade immigration in America.  But in Hollywood, no one cared about his mind or his work ethic.

He lived in Florida when he first arrived in the states.  It was a place that was easier to be for people who weren’t supposed to be here.  He’d been Derek then — not his name, but closer to the truth.  He got a job making plastic milk jugs.  He laughed every time the little pellets blew into identical gallon bubbles, until the sameness dulled his wonder.  He learned English from the dozen Cuban refugees he shared a motel room with, sleeping in shifts.

In Florida, Gianni met his true love.

Theirs was an enduring romance.  It weathered jail and flight and life on the streets.  It made Gianni’s life worth living and a living hell.  It was the reason he got up in the morning and stayed up all night.  It was what he lived for and it made him long for death.

He’d never had much of a taste for wine.  He’d take a beer every now and then, when it was hot and he was thirsty.  He sniffed cocaine – it was Florida, after all – but he found more fun and comfort in a shot of vodka.  But the first time he smoked the little cocaine rocks, he knew it was love.

His love was deep but cocaine was a harsh and constant mistress.  The job at the bottle plant didn’t pay enough to keep the romance alive and the hours kept them apart too long.  He tried selling it, but couldn’t bear to part with the rocks once he had them in hand.  He tried stealing to repay those he owed for all he’d smoke before he could sell it.  But when he got money, he just bought more rock and smoked that, too.  That’s how love works.  You just want more.

Jail saved him from the people who were trying to collect.  After a third visit to prison threatened to become permanent, Derek changed his address and then his name.  The stolen car got him to the one place in America everyone in the world knows, Hollywood.

It was there that Gianni discovered his true talent.

He sold the car, got a room in a motel on Sunset Boulevard and went in search of Hollywood.  Gianni couldn’t find it.  There was a big sign on a hillside and stars on the sidewalk for a couple of blocks but that was about it.  There were no movie stars or studios; no such thing as Hollywood.  But there was lots of rock.  His money and his motel room were soon gone.

Walking the sleepy streets to keep warm late at night, he chanced upon the activity at the corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.  The girls there weren’t the prettiest he’d seen but they seemed willing.

“Hey bonitaful,” he said, dragging his toes and giving it his best walk.  “Soy Derek.”

“Mmm, mm, mijo,” the raven haired beauty said, arching a painted brow at him.  “I’m Ruby.  You workin’ or playin’?”

“Always ready to play,” Gianni answered in his thick accent, cocking his head to the side and grabbing himself.  “You got game?”

“You are a mess,” Ruby answered laughing and folding her arms.  “You got cash?”

“I don’t pay to play,” Gianni said, raising his hands.

“Then you on the wrong corner,” a nearby dark skinned beauty snorted.

All the girls within hearing laughed, Gianni knew, at him.

In need of courage, he ducked down the dark street that ran behind the check cashing place and the sandwich shop in the corner strip center.  The center’s parking lot, like a little street, opened onto both Highland and Santa Monica.  It was repurposed after closing and almost as busy as both of the major thoroughfares it adjoined.  Donut Time lit up the corner like a beacon, brightly lit and open all night.  It was part of the center but free standing.  The lights, the sugar and the coffee kept the corner’s nighttime traffic lively in the parking lot that surrounded the shop.

Behind Chex4Cash, Gianni found an alley doorway where he could smoke up the nerve to go back and talk to Ruby.  He was more in need of sleep than bravery and nodded out with the glass pipe still in his lips.

He awoke to see his Latin love talking to a man in a deep blue BMW sedan.  Hidden in the shadows, Gianni watched as the business transaction played out.

“Ohhh, Papi, I make you feel so good,” Ruby cooed, pressing her breasts against the car’s partly rolled down window.

“Let me see,” the beamer’s lone passenger asked, hoarsely.

“Bad boy,” Ruby said, wagging a finger.   With a deft tug at the front of the sequined top, a generous brown breast spilled out, its nipple like dark chocolate.  “You like?”

“Not that,” the driver said, gesturing lower.

“Oh, very bad boy,” Ruby laughed, her voice deep and rich.

Gianni pressed the heel of his hand against the front of his jeans.  He watched from the darkness as Ruby raised the front of her short skirt.

The guy in the car reached out to touch the front of Ruby’s panties.

“Unh, uh, uh,” Ruby teased, stepping back.  “No touching, Papi.  Not yet.”

“Then let me see it.”


“To see it?” the man demanded with a short curt laugh.  “Forget it.”

The sound of the electric motor whirring filled the alley as the car window slowly rose.

“Okay, okay, Papi,” Ruby said with a wave.  “A little preview.”

The motor’s whine fell silent.

Gianni could no longer feel the chill of the night that enveloped him.

A thumb in the waistband, the panties came down and Ruby’s secret was out.  So was her cock.

Gianni’s laughter broke up the little scene.  The car sped away as Ruby tucked herself away.

“Quien? Who’s there?” Ruby demanded.  The glare from the street light flashed off the blade she wielded.

“Lo siento, chico,” Gianni said, hands raised, emerging into the light.

The other girls came running in answer to Ruby’s shouts.

“They pay for that?” Gianni asked, still laughing.

“Plenty,” Ruby said, emboldened by the little mob behind her.

“How much for this?”  His pants puddled around his ankles.

“Ay, dios mio!” Ruby screamed, dropping her razor.  “Que bonito!”

“We could all retire if you charge by the inch for that thing,” Ruby’s friend shrieked.

They shared a laugh.  The girls treated Gianni to donuts and coffee.  He learned his new trade from them quickly and soon found that there were more and better customers a few blocks west.  He hadn’t retired, but he’d made enough to keep his romance alive.

Time passed.  He couldn’t say how much.  Get some money, buy some rock, smoke the rock, get some more money.  It was hard to count the days when they were all the same.  Internet changed Gianni’s business but not much else.  Each rock seemed harder to come by than the last.  His street corner show was available on line.  People could order in what they used to cruise the streets to find.

His pockets were empty but there was a rock under his tongue.  He stood in the car port at Sweetzer Court, watching through the gate.  The manager, Rudolph, took the kid into his apartment.  Gianni snickered at the old man fluttering around the kid like a woman, he thought.  He’d seen those tea party manners gone like smoke in the wind when he’d crossed the building manager in the past.

Gianni wasn’t taking any chances.  He waited until they were out of sight, then darted across the courtyard.  He hugged the walls.  Careful not to be seen, Gianni made his way along the gallery to the windows of one of the ground level apartments.  Pressing his talent against the glass like he’d seen Ruby do that long ago night, he lowered the front of his trousers.

“Hey,” he hissed.  “Look what I brought you.”

To be continued . . .


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1 ~ Sans

Los Angeles was everything he’d hoped and less.

It felt like he could breathe for the first time.  The light seemed different somehow.  Perhaps it was the angle.  Maybe it was just not filtered through the haze of bigotry and hypocrisy at the other end of the highway he’d followed there.

I-20 begins in Florence, South Carolina, his home town.  It merges with the 10 in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas and comes to an end in the tawny enclave of Santa Monica on the west side of Los Angeles.

Sanders Aiken Nicholson Santee — Sans to his friends — got on the 20 when there was nothing left for him at home but bad memories.  The journey had been as liberating as it was unplanned.

His life had exploded.  Everything he’d worked for since graduating from college was ripped from his hands.  There was nothing to do but run away.   Although, in truth, he’d been forced to leave.

Los Angeles was the end of the road.  Literally.  He got off the freeway, had a look at Venice, drove east on Santa Monica Boulevard back through Westwood and Beverly Hills.  He stopped for lunch in West Hollywood at a restaurant called The Silver Spoon.

The thing that struck Sans most as he drove into the city was the lack of a city.  There was no there, there.  As he crossed the country he saw city after city, each unique but all the same.  Each sprouted like a nipple, peaked at the center and radiated out to identical edges.  All had the same stores, fast food polyps and housing blemishes.  All were laid out from greatest concentration to least.  Traversing each was the same.  There was more and more and then there was less and less until there was no more, over and over.

But Los Angeles wasn’t like that.  It was all less and then more less.  There was no center.

Sans felt lost and free.  The city seemed to dismiss expectations by not meeting them.

He’d heard of West Hollywood all his life — well, he paid attention since puberty arrived with a surprise package.  Body hair, wet dreams and you’re in love with your best friend, Roy – Surprise! He’d never denied his sexuality; he just never mentioned it.  California in general and West Hollywood in particular loomed like legends.  It was a magical land where people didn’t hate almost everyone and everything in the name of their god of love.

Sans hoped the legends were true.

As he sat alone at this table at The Silver Spoon, he looked around at the other diners.  An old movie star he’d thought was dead, a mom and dad with their kids, two women kissing, two men holding hands waiting to be seated – all were of equal value.  There was no shock.  There were no stares.  Well, other than Sans’.

He peered at the marvelous alien landscape around him over the top of the newspaper he’d bought out front.

“What are you looking for?” the waiter asked, stopping by to refill Sans’ iced tea.

“I’m sorry?” Sans answered, reddening, caught.

“The classifieds?” the waiter said, giving the paper a thump.

“Oh, that,” Sans laughed.  “I’m looking for an apartment.  I’m new to town.”

“Really?” the waiter said with a meaningful grin that Sans missed.  “Well, that’s not how you find an apartment in LA.”


“The best way is to go to the neighborhood you like and walk around,” the waiter explained.  “Write down the phone numbers from the For Rent signs and call them.”

“What neighborhoods do you like?” Sans asked, looking for the code.

“This one’s great,” the waiter answered with a sly smile.

Could he be? Sans wondered of the waiter.  It was hard to be a part of an invisible minority.

After lunch, Sans tossed the paper into his car.  He set out into the neighborhood in the landscape that rose behind the restaurant.

The Hollywood Hills begin their steep incline just north of Santa Monica Boulevard, the Main Street of West Hollywood.  Sans wandered up the gentle grade for a bit of sightseeing.  He could hardly believe the waiter’s notion.  Ads and rental services seemed a much more sensible way to go about finding a place in a new and unfamiliar city.

It took West Hollywood a little more than two blocks to change his mind.  Up one block, over one and up a little farther, there it was.  The sign out front said “Sweetzer Court, bachelor and 1 br for rent.”

It was a strange building, a little out of place on the block.  It was surrounded by huge glassy modern structures, pocked with balconies.  The one immediately next door was an embarrassing leftover from the pastel and glass block architecture of the Miami Vice era that would have been more at home in South Beach.

Sweetzer Court was a cross between the familiar Victorian architecture Sans remembered from back home in the South and the pictures he’d seen of the Alhambra in Spain.  The asymmetrical profile of the building seemed almost whimsical.  Tile roofed turrets protruded from walls and corners and sprouted on the roof like a fairy ring of mushrooms.   The walls were scored with mismatched windows and sculpted from stucco, not the clapboard he knew from home.

As he stood on the street out front, the building gave Sans the feeling of back lot facade or stage set more than a real place.  The archway that opened onto the street led into a motor court that reminded him of the movie Sabrina.  The circle of narrow ports opened onto a jigsaw of terracotta tile and cement medallions grouted with wide bands of grass.  Above, a gallery lined with windows and numbered doors looked down through clouds of magenta bougainvillea blossoms onto the fanciful car park.

The sound of splashing water beckoned Sans through the second barrel archway.  Flanked with brass mailboxes, set into cracked and gap-toothed blue and white mosaic tiles, the little passage opened onto a second courtyard.  The forbidding iron gate stood open, like a hand extended.  Sans could not resist.

He stepped through into a secret garden, at once frowsy and grand.

Old roses, unkempt and heavy with white blossoms tangled around the pilasters and railings of the double galleries that bounded the plaza on three sides.  The same grass grouted medallions radiated out from a moldy looking tile fountain at center court.  Two cherubs, on the backs of entwined dolphins, spit water onto the tile and lilies below them.  The water drained lazily through notches in the four sides of the central square pool below the angelic pair.  The water collected in a cross shaped pond surrounding the angels set even with the ground.  Gold and white koi flashed against the blue and white tile at Sans feet.

It was a place of magic and it held its new visitor in its thrall.


Sans cried out.

The cough tinged laughter was deeper and more elegant than the voice that had given Sans such fright.

“I’m so sorry,” Sans apologized, ever the southerner.  “I didn’t mean to intrude.  I just couldn’t resist.  Such a perfect place.  ”

“You must be the new tenant,” the man said drawing nearer.  The panama hat he wore cast a shadow over his face that made it hard to make out his features.  There was a grandeur to his manner that put Sans at ease in the way that knowing the words to a prayer gave him a sense of his place in the universe.

“I’d love to be,” Sans said, taking the hand that was offered.  “I’ve only just gotten here.  I saw the sign and, well, here I am.”


“South Carolina,” Sans blushed.  “Mouth full of grits?”

“I love southern boys,” the man smiled.  He looked past Sans though he still held his hand.  “That accent.  I had a beau from Savannah, a sailor.  Drove up from San Diego so he could come out without getting found out.  But that was more than your lifetime ago.  I’m Randolph, welcome to the Sweetzer Court.  I’m sure you’ll be very happy here.”  He gave Sans’ hand another little shake, more an embrace, with both of his.

“No, I’m not the new tenant,” Sans said.  He laughed nervously.

“Dear boy, I’ll decide that,” Randolph said, releasing Sans’ hand.  “You’re looking aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” Sans nodded.

“Sir,” Randolph laughed.  “You’ll make me feel old.”

“Sorry, sir, I mean . . .”

“And you like it here don’t you?” Randolph spread his hands to include their exotic and homely surroundings.

“I love it,” Sans grinned, nodding.

“Then welcome home,” Randolph said, lacing his arm into Sans.  “I’ll make us some tea and you can tell me what you can afford.  I’m sure that we’ve got something in this rambling old heap that will suit.  I’ve got a sense about these things.”


To be continued . . .


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