95 America Street, Chapter 5

April, 2005

Diane Spencer, or Diane “Spinster” as I called her (she was actually married but until I met the poor bastard hitched to this imp, I would not believe it) was upset with my lack of progress.  Her distaste reached the level that she approached me about it in person.  Without knocking or announcing her presence, she walked in the front door one day.  Mr. Pemberton was out for a walk and I was up on a step ladder, calmly painting some crown molding.  I was in a relatively peaceful, blissful state due to the fact that all the prep was done on this job.  Although I was not painting every room, the work ended up being much more than any of us originally thought.  But such is the way with big ancient ladies like “The Castle”.  They never fully reveal all the time and effort required to restore their greatness until you’re in too deep.  You have to treat such jobs like the Cold War.  You have to be tough but cool.  Patience and nerves of adamantium must be summoned upon to slowly defeat your enemy.  Yes, adamantium is the metal alloy found in the comic book character Wolverine’s body.  So I’m saying that your nerves must be as strong as a substance that doesn’t even exist.  I realize that’s asking a lot but that’s what it takes.

Her high heels resonated through the large chamber- like rooms as she walked.  I was in some room downstairs.  I don’t know which room it was because when a house is this big, you run out of names for rooms.  After “kitchen”, “dining room”, “living room”, “foyer”, “den”, and “family room”, I don’t know how to label a first floor room.  Perhaps it was some kind of parlor.  However it was called, Diane somehow managed to let her anger enter this room before her body.  By the time I saw her, I was preparing myself for a stupid battle.  She was wearing the same exact suit when I met her except this one was charcoal gray.  Her real tan was gone and was now replaced with a moderate but fake one, given away by the subtle orange hues in her skin.  Her hair was about an inch shorter and she arrived in a brand new Range Rover!  Damn, this lady moved fast.  There was no mistaking that new car glow, even through the old window that I looked to witness it.  I imagined she got a new car with the same frequency she had her hair done.  In her style, Diane skipped over any greeting and launched into her message.

“When do you plan to finish up?”

Partly out of truth but more out of trying to get under her skin, I replied as vaguely as possible.  “I’m not sure exactly, one…maybe two weeks.  It depends on how the windows go.  They suck up a lot of time.”

“You know, I told Mr. Pemberton not to use you.  I knew you were going to take too long.  I have a crew I work with that would have been done two weeks ago.”

I was amazed how cold she was.  God, I pray that she did not breed.  What a horrific sentence it would be to serve as a son or daughter under this foul by-product of humanity.

“Well I hope they charge you a lot because it must be an awful experience to work with you.”

“I am trying to sell this house!  You are getting in the way of me servicing my client.”

“You really mean I’m getting in the way of your commission.”  Her eyes opened painfully wide and I could see her anger taking hold.  I was a little disappointed with myself for throwing that mud so I now tried to use logic and truth to defeat her.  “Look, I’m sorry it’s taken as long as it has.  I work alone; that’s simply how I do it.  I’ve been very up front with Mr. Pemberton.  After a week of working here, I told him this was going to take longer than we hoped.  I told him that it would delay the date that the house was put on the market.  I told him that although I don’t work with other people, I will try to find help to speed things along if that’s what he wanted but he said ‘No, you don’t have to do that.’”

“Well no one asked me!  This house needs to be on the market yesterday if we want to have a chance of selling it!  It has to be listed before the end of spring!  Don’t you get that?!”

“You’re not listening!  The customer said he was okay with not only my work but the pace in which I’m doing it.  So after that, I don’t give a crap what the realtor or the potential buyer or the mailman think!“

“You are the most unprofessional contractor I’ve ever had to work with!  I will make sure you never work on any project I am associated with!  If I had any idea from the start…”

In the middle of her vitriol that was more intended to make her feel powerful than to provide me with beneficial criticism, Mr. Pemberton walked in the back door from his walk.  I was amazed that she kept going.  He spoke in a loud but controlled voice.

“Mrs. Spencer, can you please join me in the kitchen?”

She stopped talking.  She knew what was coming.  Her eyelids half closed, her head shook slightly, and with her mouth just barely ajar, I could see her tongue retreat to the back of her mouth.  Diane spun around and walked into the kitchen.  Out of class and grace, Mr. Pemberton kept his voice low but I could still barely make out his words.

“Mrs. Spencer, when you had an issue with the timing of Chris’ work, you should have expressed your concerns to me first.  Now, you may notice that as I spoke, I used the past tense.  That is because it is proper to use the past tense when speaking of an event and, in this case, a person that only exists in your past.  You will no longer be in my future, Mrs. Spencer and in the time it takes you to walk to the front door, you will no longer be in my present.  Have a good day.”

And with that, Diane Spencer was off the case.  Thank God I remembered everything Mr. Pemberton said to her.  I had never heard a more eloquent reprimand in my life.  I wondered if Mr. Pemberton’s hands were in his pockets as he spoke to Diane.  I bet they were.

As she walked by me, I pointed out an important fact to her. “Well Diane, it looks like you went from Diane Spencer ‘For Hire’ to Diane Spencer ‘You’re Fired’.”  Whether or not she got my famous 1980’s television reference, I’m not sure but I am sure that she understood that my statement came from the heart.

Mr. Pemberton walked in.  His expression was neutral.  His body language gave little to go on.

“You know I really loved Spenser For Hire.”

We both laughed.  We were clearly two people that did not like tension and looked to break it.

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said that to her but if you heard our full conversation, you may have condoned it.”

“I condone it with the little I heard.”  He then became serious.  “I am sorry you had to deal with her.  I hired Mrs. Spencer so I must take responsibility for her.  Friends of mine recommended her and I was willing to put up with some of her nonsense because I know that is in the nature of many successful sales types.  But her attack on you today was inexcusable.  To put it simply, Chris, you’re a good person and good people should be defended. ”

“Thank you, Mr. Pemberton.”

He nodded.  “Now let’s get some jazz going.”

96 America Street, Chapter 6

May 6th, 2012

Terrence and I stood in front of The Geek

“Is there some way for The Geek to patch into the community center’s security camera network?” I asked Terrence.

Seeing he was so outnumbered by the rest of the team and partly because he felt bad for Ripps’ recent trouble, Terrence, right at that moment hung his head and conceded to the majority’s chosen name for his computational creation, “No, The Geek does not have that capability.  The center’s network is a completely isolated TV network with no link to the outside.”

“We’ve got to find a way to get those tapes.  I think Lily actually takes the tapes home with her every night.  She claims they were stolen but I think she’s lying.” I thought for a moment.  It was time to use Barry.  I hit a button on The Geek to page Barry’s cell phone.  He picked up in mid-scat. “Barry, could you please come down here for a second?”


I’m not sure what that meant but I assumed it was Bermudian for “okay”.

Terrence was curious. “What are you thinking of doing?”

“Barry has certain romantic methods of data collection that surpass that of The Geek.”

Terrence was mildly offended. “Well at least The Geek will never have herpes.”

“Geeks rarely do.”

Barry entered wearing a knee-length black velvet robe with no pants.  Thankfully, he had the decency to wear socks and shoes.

“Well Barry, no need to tell you to get comfortable.  Anyways, at the center, there’s a lady…”

Barry’s mustache immediately rose at each end.  “Stop right there, hombre.  You need not say another word.  This body is in motion.  Soon, two bodies will be in motion!” With that nugget of a line, Barry started to walk back to the staircase.

“Barry, you don’t even know what you have to do.” To say I was put off by Barry’s quick exit was not accurate but his overly strong display of confidence did annoy me for the briefest of moments.  But how could I get mad at Barry for such a thing?  It’s this very confidence that would win the day.  You don’t forge a sword and then get angry when it cuts you.

“This lady has something she won’t give you which is why you called the sensual spy…the heart-breaking hush man.”

“Yes….security tapes.” I increased my volume one notch for every step Barry took away from me.  “Her name is Lily! She has dark straight hair and blue eyes!”

He was nearly at the top of the stairs.



Lily locked the front door of the Franklin Holmes Community Center.  As with most days, she was the last to leave.  She didn’t realize it but Barry Tattle was off in the distance, his red silk-covered legs straddling an ultra-quiet moped, one that his father helped him design years ago.  Lily walked down the street and Barry remained a safe distance behind.  A man dressed in a burgundy silk suit, creeping along on a moped at a drunken snail’s pace – what a great thing.

Had I known Barry was going to stalk, I would have told him to leave the moped at home.  He sometimes forgets that mopeding in the states isn’t quite what it is in Bermuda which causes him to stick out like a steak in a vegetarian restaurant.  I was in Bermuda, once.  I was 12.  My father took us on a company trip.  One thing I remember was all the mopeds.  I can’t remember if their combined sounds were like a flock of humming birds or a nest of bees.  I just remember a buzzing.  I remember men going to work on mopeds, wearing Bermuda business shorts with dark socks and dress shoes.  Barry tells me there are even those that play polo with mopeds (instead of horses).  I have promised Barry we will all try this before we die.

A sign in front of the Milky Way read “Live Jazz Tonight!”.  I say the Milky Way but the name of this establishment might be Bella Luna.  I’ve never been sure.  It causes me great discomfort when a place has more than one name associated it with it.  Perhaps Bella Luna refers to the restaurant part and the Milky Way refers to the lounge part.  If memory serves, the distinction was much more distinct when this place was located in Hyde Square.  Bella Luna was upstairs and the Milky Way lounge was downstairs.  They left Hyde Square because if they had wanted to stay, they or their landlord would have had to pay thousands of dollars to install a sprinkler system.  This regulation was brought on in the wake of The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island which spurred on Rhode Island and Massachusetts lawmakers to write legislation that forced any bar with a capacity of 100 or more to install a sprinkler system.  The Milky Bella Way Luna or whatever it wants to be called decided to move right next to the Sam Adams’ brewery.  The old location was a unique setting.  The lounge part used to be a bowling alley which they kept half of and turned the other half into a bar/dance floor with a stage.  They even managed to find a little room for the US vs. USSR rod hockey game which brought me great delight.

The new space is also nice.  Big tall ceilings, lots of brick walls.  It looks like it used to be some sort of mill.  So once upon a time, I’m sure poor workers were toiling away in a miserable existence but now we get to drink there and reflect on how cool old mill spaces are.

The bar was located in a big open area with lots of tables surrounding it.  To the right, in the corner of this main area was a small bottleneck entryway that one had to pass through to enter a square room.  In this room was the jazz.  In this room was Lily after she bought a drink at the bar and walked over.  Thank God it was jazz night in JP or Barry might have really stood out.  Barry took hold of a glass of Chardonnay and followed Lily.  Once in the room, he stood against the back wall and saw Lilly sit in a chair next to a friend only six or seven feet in front of him.  Barry in his regal silk set against the old brick wall looked like a magnificent, priceless tapestry hanging on the wall in an old mansion or castle.

The band was not really a band.  The drummer, guitarist and bassist remained on stage at all times but other musicians were welcome to come and go throughout the evening.  This explained the collection of men and women in the edges of the room that were holding trumpets and guitars and saxophones and many other jazz-making devices.  As long as you knew what you were doing, they were happy to have you sit in for a song or two.  Barry knew what he was doing.  Barry had rendered his vocal services here before so Franny, the guitarist that ran this jam, allowed Barry on without hesitation.  Franny always remarked that Barry created this vibe or energy that could not be learned.  It felt that it was something in Barry that existed in him before Barry even existed, like Barry was born around this special, ancient, lusty force and made it his own.  It was something that could not even be described.  Barry would call it his “duende”.  Duende is a Spanish word that is often used when talking about a stirring Flamenco performance or upon seeing a powerful piece of art.  It is a Spanish word that has almost no translation in English yet it describes something beautiful and vital.

Barry walked past Lily and approached Franny as he finished a song.  This was the first time Lily saw Barry (the back side of him anyways).  Franny saw Barry which caused a smiled and a laugh in that order.  Barry pointed and said a couple words to Franny and the band members.  They nodded and started playing one of Barry’s most often used standards: Lady Love by Lou Rawls.  Barry loved Lou Rawls and it could be said that Lou loved Barry.  Before he died, whenever Lou performed in Bermuda, he would make sure Barry either opened for him or least joined him on stage for a couple numbers.  Imagine that, Lou and Barry on stage together.  Such moments must have inspired cologne.

One of the most desirable elements of Barry’s performance of Lady Love is that the lyrics he sings, just like his suits, are custom.  Lou Rawls claimed to have loved Barry’s version more than his own (Lou was supposedly heard saying this to Barry during one of his epic “Bermuda Dunes” parties that happened in the sand dunes of Bermuda).  Barry’s response to that was simply, “That’s so heavy.”  Barry wanted to say much more but he couldn’t put it to words.  The fact that one of jazz’s finest creations preferred Barry’s lyrical take over his own was something more than walking on the moon; it was deciding to keep flying past the moon and opting to dance on Mars.  This was Barry’s life.  These were his achievements.  These were the things he would have put in a trophy room if a scientist had invented away to hang a moment on the wall or turn it into a shiny golden figure you could hoist above your head at some sort of award ceremony.

To my knowledge, Barry never won any sort of major award yet he is monstrously respected by his peers and his fans.  Barry is a moment hunter.  That’s what he cares about.  He doesn’t do shows for the money or for the glory of playing in a sold-out arena or for some hope that in the audience there might be a big industry type that will turn him into a big star.  Barry does the shows he wants to do.  As long as there are ladies to charm, a genuine audience, and of course, duende in the air, Barry considers it to be a great success.  In an industry and in a society that concerns itself greatly with the ability to quantify your achievements by standards drafted by someone that you’ve never met and that has never seen your art, Barry naturally drifted to the position of living, performing and creating in the moment.  He is the one that determines what success means within his world, not some soul-less statistic that counts the number of views of a video on the internet.  Barry never understood the allure of the internet, much less the allure of watching performances there.  “If you can’t smell the sweat on my body, how can you truly enjoy my jazz?”

Per usual, the musicians didn’t go right into the song.  They knew better.  They riffed while Barry surveyed the audience and made tender chat with the ladies.  He called this “jazz foreplay”.  What use is a tender song if you don’t know who to sing it to or what wonderful little details define your target?  Barry took the time to know his audience so that when he launched into a song, it felt like the first time.  Barry approached Lily.  “What’s your name, dear lady?”

Lily looked at her friend and smiled incredulously.  She cleared her throat and spoke into the mic that Barry placed before her, “Lily”.

“But of course it is! You only name a flower after a flower!  What do you do during the daylight hours, Lily, or are such details not for public consumption?”

The crowd laughed.  Lily felt embarrassed but also safe with Barry.  She smiled and cleared her throat again, “I work at a community center.”

“Oh, that is VERY MUCH for public consumption.  Well if YOU work at this community center, I want to be the center of your lovely community.  I know that’s asking a lot so for now, please allow me to sing a song for you.”

The crowd giggled again.  Barry dropped back a couple steps and up on to the stage as the band crisply moved into the song.  With a voice matching the heady grandeur of his suit, he sang his own special Lady Love.

Lady love, your breath is fresh
Like a Bermuda breeze
My lady love, with a lovely figure
That’s sure built to tease
Cruisin’ on my moped
To a high school prom
You’re my queen, lady love

Lady love, My Little Pony
Wish they had your hair
My lady love, with a face that’s delish
Like a juicy pear
And you know I need to make
A little synergy
Just with you, my lady love

You know, you could have stayed home or gone to a discotheque
Looking for a lover to kiss and maybe neck
It’s so jazzy, just to love someone like you
I want to thank you for comin’ around,
To let the Tattlesnake love you down

My lady love, I need to take you
To the Bermuda sea
My lady love, a midday cocktail
Just to set us free
At the beach all day
All we need is romance
And a little Bain de Soleil, my lady love

You know, you could have stayed home or gone to a discotheque
Looking for a lover to kiss and maybe neck
It’s so jazzy, just to love someone like you
I want to thank you for comin’ around,
To let the Tattlesnake love you down

Barry finished to robust applause and a few scandalous but welcome whistles.  If smiles were sunshine, everyone would have left that night with skin cancer.  But no one would have complained.  All they would have remembered was an unexpected moment that made them feel good, better than the drinks they were enjoying.

At the end of the show, Barry went over to the bar to order another glass of chardonnay.  He felt and smelled the presence of a lady arrive next to him.  It was Lily.

“You’re a very good singer, Barry.” Lily spoke with a look in her eyes that only a woman in her 40’s can have.  Barry saw her send her friend home 20 minutes earlier and knew it was only a matter of time before she approached Barry.

“Well, it’s Lily the lady flower!  Thank you, my dear.  The high quality of my singing is merely a reflection of the high quality of my inspiration that I find in my audience.”

“So I inspire you?”

“But of course you do. This is one of the many delightful reasons that God made lovely lady flowers: to inspire.”

Lily may not have been Barry’s first choice for an evening lady mate but there was work to be done.  Besides, Barry had the uncanny ability to focus on the parts of a lady that pleased him and while Lily may not have been in danger of taking the blue ribbon at a country fair lady contest (if such a thing exists), she had some sexy confidence that would come in handy later on.  The deception part of all this didn’t bother Barry for a few reasons: 1) he would authentically enjoy himself, 2) Lily would authentically enjoy herself and, 3) Barry sensed some badness in her.

Lily clung to Barry from behind ever so tightly as they drove along Amory Street.  The trees that stood along the narrow strip of grass known as Southwest Corridor Park were giving off a an aroma that only helped the situation.  Barry knew it would have been quicker to cross over New Minton Street to get over to Chestnut Avenue where Lily lived but Barry was a veteran.  He was a four star general in the Army of Sensuality.  He knew the power of a late night blast of spring essence.  It would make her feel young and careless yet pure.

For Barry, the moped ride home with a lady was almost the best part of the evening experience.  This is why he made sure to design a moped that had heavier duty shocks and a more powerful engine.  What if the lady had a little extra love like Lily?  What if the lady lived on top of a hill?  What if a lady could not wait another moment and needed to bring Barry home as quickly as humanly and mopedingly possible?  Barry wanted to be ready for any situation.  He would never forgive himself if a romantic situation evaporated due to substandard moped mechanics.

Her hands instantly became a fan of the silk that covered Barry.  Without realizing it, her hands began to wander.  Other men might falter in this situation and crash their moped but Barry had the nerves of a surgeon performing open heart surgery on the President.

They pulled into a small dirt parking lot.  Barry weaved around a few puddles and stopped so Lily could disembark.  He then found a hidden place behind a couple dark blue recycling bins.  Unless someone decided to do some midnight recycling, no one would encounter Barry’s two jazzy wheels.

With arms interlocked, two people walked into an apartment.  A few hours later, only one walked out.  It was subtle but there was indeed a triumphant air to his step.  He had successfully navigated a lady boat through the often hard to navigate lady seas.  The cost of this experience for Lily was a black VHS cassette that was now in Barry’s hand.  Depending what was on the tape, the cost may be small or quite large.  Unless Lily planned on watching the security camera tape, she would never know Barry peeled the label off the real cassette and placed it on the dummy video tape he brought with him.  Barry actually made the swap while they undressed.  He could have waited until she used the bathroom to make the exchange but he wanted a challenge.  Barry sincerely hoped she watched the tape he left her.  It was a video someone made years ago in Bermuda.  Barry and his friends attached some simple chariots to some mopeds and had a Ben Hur-themed race along a hard sand beach.  There was a driver on the moped, a person in the chariot, lots of action, and no rules.

It was Barry’s first official Jambassadors success.  It would be the first of many.