Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
Kyle had recommended the Copacabana for salsa when he knew I was coming back to Manhattan. It was almost a year since the two of us were in New York together, living large in our midtown suite, shopping for shoes in SoHo, and burning the floorboards at smaller, neighborhood clubs.
The main ballroom at the Copa was three times the size of the Century. On Saturday night it was packed, the men and women were dressed fine, and their dance level was sharp. But it was a couple’s crowd for the bridge and tunnel crew, which meant that the opportunities for a sola salsera on the floorboards were slim. Gratefully, the Copa offered a second dance floor, spinning hip-hop and pop, so I could break out my freestyle moves; no partner required. When that fun was done, I took a taxi to the hotel bar, my mind set on a crystal, clear martini.
It was after 1:00 a.m. when I returned to the James Hotel and found the lounge overflowing with New Yorkers. Disappointed that there was no room at the bar, I caught the bartender’s attention and mimed my order of a stirred martini. He’d made several for me during the past few days, and he had it down: stirred and dead dry with three olives.
Balancing the beautiful cocktail, I made my way to the lobby in search of a free chair. I picked one in a conversation pit, opposite two men. They broke for a bar nod when I asked whether the seat was available. Both were black, and framed an eclectic portrait: one wore a Michelin Man parka, his ballooning dreadlocks tied up in a red scarf, while his friend cut toward convention, with short-trimmed hair, black-rimmed glasses and a three-button blazer over blue jeans. Both appeared young, but who knew? I’d given up on guessing.
I took a sip and waited for what I knew would be coming: an invitation for conversation. It was a bar room fact that a brother was not likely to let a single woman sit single for long, and I had two contenders to guarantee I would not be drinking alone.
Black men had been demonstrating this reflex from day one, when they flooded my mailbox on the dating site. Curtis Jones, the dreadlocked of the pair, proved me right by calling out my pants. I had hit SoHo for shopping after my skate in the park, and had scored big with low-riding cargo pants, hemmed to capris-length, and cut from a jungle-green camouflage pattern. They were unique and sassy, embellished with asymmetrical embroidery, and a studded grommet pattern, and just shy of too much.
That got us rolling, and for more than an hour we talked about fashion, the arts, and their New York City lives. They were both locals, Curtis a fine art photographer and Earl a music producer. Curtis told me his photos were simple ocean landscapes, but printed to monumental scale, larger than fifteen feet across. He described the elaborate process of making the prints, with darkroom exposures that were timed in days, not seconds. Curtis’s prints sold for more than twenty thousand dollars, and were one-of-a-kind. He was practicing the exact opposite of what I had begun with my Forever Forty- Four art catalog of unlimited editions, and a business plan of affordable art.
I learned that Curtis’s early influences included the black photographer, Gordon Parks, a close friend of his family. Of course I was a fan of the artist; I had studied Parks in college, when I got my first degree in photography. His career included photographing for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, fashion for Vogue in the ‘40s, and Life Magazine in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Parks was also a composer, screen writer, and filmmaker. He wrote and directed Shaft, released in 1971, the first of a genre known as Blaxploitation that hit the screens through the 1970s. Ironically, and sadly, Gordon Parks had died that same day. What a life. Parks had stepped over every barricade engineered to keep a creative black man down. He had literally done it all, and done much of it first. That was a lot of living packed into ninety-four years.
I was ready for my second cocktail when the staff announced the bar was closing. I looked at my watch; it was only two o’clock.
“We need another drink! I have a bar in my room!”
“And I have weed in my ride,” Earl said with a bright smile.
“To After Hours, at Chateau Vicki Marie!” said Curtis, the perfect toast before we drained our stemware and moved the party upstairs to the fourth floor of the James Hotel.
Unlike the previous evening with Reggie Simmons, I invited Curtis and Earl to my room because I’m a social animal, not because I was looking to fast-forward toward sex. The conversation was high-octane interesting, and I wasn’t ready to put Saturday night to sleep. It’s a fact that, “come to my room,” is hook-up code for, “let’s have sex,” but I was offering sex-free hospitality. Whether they understood that or not, Curtis and Earl proved to be fully capable, and brought their good manners, big brains, and party spirit to the room. Fortified by cross-cultural conversation, single malt scotch, and New York homegrown, the three of us dug in for a respectfully long Saturday night.
TOMORROW: Chapter 45
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.