THE PONCHO CHRONICLES – Depravity On A Rooftop

| March 26, 2012 | Comments (1)

The hightlight of our recent trip to Merida in Mexico’s Yucatan was not the magic of the town’s old zocalo at sunset when the spires of the ancient cathedral glittered pink and gold, or the trip back in time to a hacienda where we rode on a tiny narrow-gauge train through cactus fields, then languished, caudillo-like, on the verandah of an ante bellum manor house with frozen margaritas in hand; it was the moment on a crowded thoroughfare  when we saw Horace  and his rock.

It was when I looked up from my  plate of quesadillas that I spied Horace,  standing under a street lamp a few feet from our curbside cafe,  hand on  hip, a cigarette dangling from his lips. Well over 6 feet tall, weighing upwards of 250 pounds, Horace was forty-ish, a bottle blonde, squeezed into a Hawaiian shirt, snug to the point  of  buttons ready to pop. So tight was his attire, the mid-section had stretched revealing a fleshy navel;  a pair of enormous love handles gave him a decidedly bell-shaped silhouette. But the piece de resistance was the 50-carat amethyst ring he wore on his wedding ring finger. The enormous stone glittered at us as Horace waved his enormous paw, fanning away with distaste at the smoke billowing from the taco vendor’s cart next to where he had positoned himself. 

As he crossed the street returning to the curbside table next to ours, tequila-brave,  I  grabbed Horace’s hand, exclaiming, “What a fabulous ring you’re  wearing!”  Thus began our New Year’s Eve celebration with Horace and Bernie, his  partner.

Bernie and Horace are from Savannah, Georgia. Bernie, a  5′ 2″ accountant and dedicated body-builder; Horace, hair-stylist to the stars, including the late Anna Nicole, hinting but not actually stating that he was responsible for her funeral coiffure. Settling in next to me at our table, Horace explains that he and Bernie have been together twenty years. Bending close in an attempted whisper that ends up  a thick-tongued shout, he confides they are having a fight and that he is thinking of leaving Bernie  before their love turns to hate. Don’t you adore people who, minutes after meeting you, spill their guts and tell you their life story in a flash, especially if it is soap opera-tawdry?. These are my kind of  folks.

 Horace further explains that he had left  the table and escaped across  the street to cool off, fearing that tiny, meek  Bernie might get “physical” if he didn’t remove himself from his presence.  Shout-whispering again, he confides this would not be the first time Bernie had laid a hand on him, and him, Horace, with a severe heart condition. To prove his point he peals back the Hawaiian shirt to  show me a bruise on his fleshy torso, a bruise that isn’t there. At which point Bernie pipes up saying, “I suppose he’s showing you his abuse mark ! Well, I NEVER hit him ! He was drunk and bumped into a sharp corner of  the refrigerator!” Horace slumps into a  pouty slouch, puffing furiously on a Newport lit by one  just crushed under his size 13 shoe.

Horace rues the lack of American female fashion savvy. Rolling his eyes skyward he lashes into US womanhood for wearing their clothes too tight. “I mean WHEN will they learn to think SIZE-appropriate ! REALLY !” His hand flies and the amethyst blinds me with its brilliance, this little discourse ending when Horace’s highly-abused Hawaiian shirt lets out a resounding rip as it shreds at the armpit. A garment’s not so silent protest about size-appropriate.

Switching topics, Horace informs us  that they have been coming to Mexico for twenty years, but see no need to learn  spanish. It just muddies the waters when gringos try to go native, he says. When I ask what they do when nobody around them speaks English, he admits that he does know “nada mas” and that is enough to get anybody through even  the most difficult situation. This avowal of linguist know-nothing-ism endears me even more to the pair. Several hours later as we ring in the New Year with our new friends, I am on the verge of asking my partner if we couldn’t sell our house in New York City and move to Savannah. You just don’t run into folks like Horace and Bernie every day. As we part Horace advises me NEVER to get an amethyst as big as his because “it scratches my Kindle.” Adios Amigos !

Now that we have parted company with Horace and Bernie, I’ll turn to my neighbor, Poncho. Over the past year, I’ve chronicled what I see as Poncho’s rapid descent into deadend nothingness. Here is an extraordinarily bright – indeed brilliant – movie star handsome young person who at 22 years of age has no desire to do anything but drift in a haze of welfare-supported nihilism. When I first met Poncho three years ago, I was attracted to this charming neighbor and decided I would “help” him – finish school, find a job, get his life in order. Mentor Supreme that I fancied myself, I knew I had all the answers for Poncho. Well, you know, something ? Some people DON’T WANT to be helped. They hate kindly advice and helpful suggestions. They want to live their lives the way THEY want !

So I have shifted gears. My new m.o. with Poncho is to put on my writer’s hat and simply chronicle his descent into ruin. A grim, fascinating journey we have embarked on.

In a recent encounter when I invited Poncho over for coffee, I averred that I felt I didn’t  know a person or feel that I could be really be a friend until I visited their house and experienced their hospitality, explaining this was my New Orleans background where people are always invited home if you like them. Poncho seems to pick up on my cue. Before I know it, we are in a gypsy cab heading uptown to his place in the North Bronx.

Poncho and his “family” have recently moved to a new place, a “Section 8” apartment provided by the City of New York for low income people. There are five members in his “family”, his 34-year old “girl”, her 15 year-old daughter and an eight year-old son by a previous liaison, Poncho’s two year-old boy – Poncho Jr. – and Poncho. The apartment is small but nice enough and has three bedrooms, a newly refinished kitchen with a glistening granite counter and cherry wood cabinets, a living area and a bathroom. Poncho explains that nobody is home now. His girl is in hospital having just delivered   their second child, another son, and the other kids are at his Mother’s or somewhere “hangin’ in da hood.”

When he  opens the apartment door I am confronted with piles of  Chinese take-out food containers and dozens of MacDonald’s burger wrappers strewn across the floor. A  open can of Chef Boyardi spaghetti sits directly over a gas burner on the stove. Seeing me eyeing it, Poncho laughs and says, ‘Dis da way we cook here.” My silence elicits further explanation from him  telling me that their diet consists exclusively of take-out – Chinese, Dominican and MacDonald’s. Looking in his face, I wonder how such a glowing, seemingly healthy complexion can be possessed by a chain-smoking, alcohol-guzzling consumer of fast food.

Leading me from the kitchen through a door  to the largest space, Poncho explains that this is his room. Furnished with a new fold-out sofa, a huge flat screen  TV and a maze of electronic equipment, he says this is where he plays his games, his X-Box, and that nobody else, especially the kids, are allowed in his lair. Another smaller bedroom, furnished with two mattresses on the floor, is occupied by his girl, her son and Poncho Jr. A third tiny room is where his 15 year-old step daughter sleeps.

We return to Poncho’s room and I comment on the ashtrays brimming with butts of rolled cigarettes, obviously marijauna from the smell clinging to the walls, and the numerous empty Hennessy brandy bottles scattered about the floor. Again, taking the cue from my silence and sweeping eye motion, Poncho tells me that he and his step daughter had a little party the night before and that he passed out at some point and hasn’t had the chance to clean the place up. Pressing him for more details, he describes how their “hangin’ out” included sex. So here we have an able-bodied, unemployed  22 year-old with no prospect of or interest in a job, living off his “girl”, having sex with the “girl’s”  teenage daughter while the “girl” is in hospital having his second son.

I have seen alot in my life and can say that I am shocked by almost nothing, but this visit to Casa Poncho and the revelations of my friend,  render me speechless and more than a bit bewildered.

I take my leave of Poncho who seems not to have a care in the world. The next day I read his Facebook page and learn that his “girl” got home from hospital with their new son, Roberto, but that she was med-evaced back due to an acute asthma attack and is now in the ICU ward. He writes that he is on the roof in his deck chair, ear phones on “bumpin’ to da sounds of  the rapper Wiz Kalifa , smokin’ a blunt, havin’ some Henny…” and it’s only 2 in the afternoon.  

I’ll leave you now, dear reader, having shared  with you my friendships with Horace, Bernie and Poncho. What can I say except: It’s a sad, mad world out there. Beware the Ides of March or what is left of them!



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  1. Tuesday Rose says:

    Thanks to the leftist socialist-based government, Poncho and ‘gimme more’ people continue to thrive and grow whereas hardworking citizens are struggling stoically with taxes, mortgages and children.

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