Letter From Milo: For Shame

March 20th, 2017

When I reached the tender age of 12, my mother bought me a violin and signed me up for lessons in a musty music studio in the Gary National Bank building on Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Every Saturday morning I had to walk seven or eight blocks, lugging a violin case, to the music studio and spend a couple of hours struggling to learn how to play a violin.

At the time, Fifth Avenue was one of Gary’s main drags, a thriving boulevard overrun by taverns, poolrooms, liquor stores, gambling dens, diners, bowling alleys, private social clubs and the occasional whore house. It was one of the most popular areas in town and most of my friends hung out on that noisy and crowded street. It’s where a lot of Gary’s young men learned the manly arts of smoking, drinking, gambling and whoring.

And that’s where I should have been on Saturday mornings. But no, I had to take fucking violin lessons. It was mortifying.

My friends never failed to give me a hard time when they saw me walking down the street with a violin case under my arm. They teased me mercilessly, calling me a sissy and a homo. They wanted to know if I was going to start taking ballet lessons next.

I tried to avoid Fifth Avenue. I took shortcuts and skulked through alleys. But it seemed that everywhere I went I ran into someone I knew and as soon as they saw the violin case they started laughing. My 12-year-old ego was shattered. I was a broken kid.

The situation became intolerable. I couldn’t handle the derision of my peers and gave up the violin after a few months. I realize now that it was a huge mistake. I probably would have met a lot more chicks in my life if I had stuck with the violin. I understand Jascha Heifetz did real well with the ladies.

About twelve or thirteen years later I was living in southern Florida and enjoying a fling with a lovely young woman from Alabama, named LaDonna Titwell. We got along wonderfully except for one tiny little thing – her dog.

I’m not certain it was actually a dog. It was more like an animated ball of fluff than any animal I was familiar with. It couldn’t have weighed more than two pounds and most of the weight was made up of tangled and matted fur that resembled canine dreadlocks. To make the little creature look even more ridiculous, the dog’s mistress tied ribbons in its raggedy coat.

Normally I wouldn’t have given a shit about the dog but every once in a while my lady friend would say something like, “Milo, sugah, would you mind taking Pookie for a walk. The poor thing hasn’t been out all day.”

“Ah, fuck!”

“What was that, darlin’?”

“I said I’d be glad to, sweetie.”

So, there I’d be, walking down the street in broad daylight, holding a leash which was attached to a tiny beast that looked and acted like a battery-powered carpet remnant. And, of course, it just so happened that there were a dozen other guys walking their dogs at the same time.

Unlike me, these good ol’ Florida boys were walking real dogs, macho animals. They had pit bulls, pinschers, shepherds, blood hounds, and ridgebacks. One guy looked like he had a wolverine at the end of his leash.

When they saw me walking Pookie, they shook their heads in disbelief. Some smiled condescendingly at me. A few sneered in disgust, but most simply ignored me. They had sized me up, spotted me for a wimpy, pathetic loser, a discredit to the male gender, and wanted nothing to do with me. In all honesty, I didn’t blame them.

One guy, however, did approach me. He was an older, well-dressed man, who looked like he had seen something of the world. He was walking a Rottweiler with a spiked collar. When he came up to me he smiled knowingly and said, “It’s your girlfriend’s dog, isn’t it?”

When I nodded, he said, “I’ve been there, my friend. I just hope your young lady is worth all the trouble.”

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