The Blind Sheikh

This date, February 26, in 1993, I and Suli M Thamma, my lover, were living on West 38th Street (Crack Valley) between 9th and 10 Avenues in Hell’s Kitchen next to the firehouse which also had a gay firefighter, my friend Kevin. Our apartment windows overlooked the Lincoln Tunnel entrances behind Port Authority.

The World Trade Center Towers still existed even though a truck loaded with fertilizer explosives had detonated that morning. Killing 6 and wounding hundreds.

Last year on February 13, 2017, the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman finally died in prison.

I had lived in that building since 1988 when it was then ‘sold’ in 1990 by expatriate Iranians to a new expatriate Chechen landlord, Heavenly Realty, Inc. The earthen basement floor was dug deeper by the new live-in landlord/manager with a shovel. Every night dozens of 5 gallon pails of dirt and debris were emptied into the vacant lot beside 336 West 38th Street. The basement became an underground dormitory for the night shift of unfamiliar single men now working for the new Chechen landlord who lived down there as well. The first floor apartments became storage spaces for devoutly religious Egyptian falafel vendors and a chicken processing center as well.

For the tenants living on the upper four floors, our lives quickly descended into a criminal slumlord hell of frozen pipes, drug addict doorstops, and constant tension with the intermittent violence that only the New York City of Rudy Giuliani, crack, prostitution, gentrification by arson, and AIDs could create.

Between minor drug battles, landlord threats, court appearances, police visits, and personal arrests related to the foregoing, I’d kept teaching in the South Bronx; writing; clubbing; foot soldiering in city queer activism and HIV/AIDS education locally and globally; and working with homeless queer youth at The Neutral Zone.

By then Suli had had enough and what little was left of our relationship fractured after eight years. His absence meant my return to familiar haunts and quixotic affairs in for a time in a rapidly vanishing Times Square as Disneyfication and de-pornification took hold! And the abandoned or squatted buildings of Hell’s Kitchen burned in the gentrification creation of Clinton as the Jacob Javits Convention Center rose on 11th Avenue. Even the NYPD horse stables were renovated!

But once my Housing Court case judge, Judge Scott, was arrested for corruption (I’d witnessed both my landlords, cash, and he transacting in chambers.); the NYPD detectives decided it was time for me to move.

Later that year when the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was eventually arrested and tried; I noticed totally by accident one day at school on the front page of THE DAILY NEWS that those first floor vendors were both his intimate bodyguards as well as followers who surrounded him at every federal court appearance and trial date.

All that time they’d been storing tanks of propane with their falafel carts and dumpsters of chicken leavings underneath the second floor apartments!

In my apartment’s building next to the Lincoln Tunnel’s entrances and vents and the Port Authority Terminal Buildings!

Had I been living over their Plan B all that time?

Finally, I have written some details of those days down.

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What John Remembers

I love this short piece!

Allie Racette

“I’ll write,” he promises. And he does.

The first postcard shows a mountain range, a picture captured on a clear day. A few wispy clouds drift by, but the landscape is still bright in the sun. When they’d hiked those mountains together, it had been thirty-five degrees, raining. Their sneakers had slipped on leaves, brown and red and yellow and blanketing the trail. They’d reached the summit covered in mud and laughing so hard their stomachs had ached.

John lies in his bunk and stares at the familiar scrawl. It’s a comfort, after a day spent in a torrent of enemy fire.


John closes his eyes and thanks Gabriel for writing about simple, happy things.

On the second postcard, fireworks explode in blues, yellows, whites, reds, reflected in the ripples of the lake below. Every July 4th, John and Gabriel had sprawled in the sand and watched those fireworks, just…

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What John Remembers

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An Open Letter To All Teachers Opting Out Of Your Union.


Issues in Education

An Open Letter to All Teachers Who Have Opted out of Your Union.

I know you have opted out of the Union, and since if I knew you personally, I would most likely respect you as an educator, I wanted to share my take on this situation. I don’t know what your reasons for your actions are, and don’t expect that you need to share them with me.  But I know that many of you,

  1. feel you just can’t afford the dues.  Perhaps you feel  

  2. the Union doesn’t do anything for you anyway.  Maybe you feel

  3. Unions have outgrown their usefulness.

Suffice it to say this long standing, well-funded and very carefully orchestrated attack on organized labor is not something I didn’t see coming.  I have been watching it evolve since President Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981. When organized labor allowed that to happen…

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I Hate The NYC AIDS Memorial: A Filthy Dreams Rant

Source: I Hate The NYC AIDS Memorial: A Filthy Dreams Rant

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What’s She Reading? – January 18, 2017

My niece’s blog! Call me a nepotist! But there is the ongoing craft of the personal journal which too many simply dump on social media as it is.

Allie Racette

I own a lot of books. Once upon a time, I read a lot of books. Lately, I’ve been buying a lot of books and leaving them to collect dust.

0118171709.jpgThis is my central book hub. It holds about 3/4 of my book collection (not including comics). As you can see, it’s beginning to overflow – because I have a habit of buying more and more books, even though I never read any of them.

“I don’t need more books,” I say to myself, as I walk into a bookstore. “I have plenty of books already,” I insist, as I pile my arms full of shiny new YA titles, a workout that leaves both my biceps and my wallet aching. “I’ll read these soon,” I promise, as I stack my purchases atop twenty other untouched adventures.

But I love reading. I really do. And I’m going to start reading again…

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This Blog Is Looking Pretty Empty, So Here’s a Post

Step One of my (loosely structured) strategy to reclaim my authorial identity was to create this site. Done. Successful. Even one step can be a big accomplishment, if it’s a step in the right…

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