Saturday, December 21, 2013

STALLERS: How I Wrote the Book I Almost Didn’t Write

by Mick Mykola Dementiuk

   In the late 1980s I had pretty much reached the end of my stamina and nerves in trying to finish my first novel, Holy Communion, impatient to get away from New York City, where I had lived for almost 40 years. I had closed Holy Communion, which had taken me three years to work on and would take over two decades to see print, going on win the Lambda Award for Best Bisexual Fiction
of 2009, whew! ( In that final year of 1989, when the manuscript was completed, I had decided to take a much needed rest trip to Europe, where some 40 years earlier I had been born, just a few years after WWII.
   Wandering through Europe was an awesome experience and different from what I was used to, the shady dangerous streets of New York City. Instead, here was a European world of newness, really oldness, came upon me, opening itself up to me. I loved Europe! Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Malmo, etc. I was ecstatic just being there and each day I walked through its twisted streets and boulevards, going who the devil knows where. I just walked and walked. Still I couldn’t help but hear or watch the television news of something brewing and happening in Eastern Europe, not too far away from where I was at that moment. I had originally thought of going up to Stockholm or Helsinki and visiting the lands of Strindberg and Knut Hamsen, two writers I whom greatly admired, but I already knew that with the way things were stirring that anything could happen further East.
   Just that previous summer I had taken a part-time nightly job as a television news monitor/transcriber, since my novel was near its end, where we just watched the nightly news and pretty much transcribed what was happening. That summer of 1989 the news about Tiananmen Square in Bejing and the hundreds of thousands of students who seemed to be taking over the Red Chinese City filled the television news.Nightly we would transcribe the stories, our hopes and fears with the students. Bravo! But alas, the Chinese government stepped in and crushed the student spring uprising setting the resistance back to what it was, into totalitarian numbness.
   But watching the news in Copenhagen later that year, though I didn’t understand the language, I saw that something was happening as well, and fast too. West Berlin was seething with something and that year could also erupt or stagger back into isolation, and being so close to it I changed my plans and headed East. Berlin was now my destination. But to enter Berlin from the West the train dipped eastwards, to Alexanderplatz, a boulevard of East Berlin, and though I remained on the train technically I was in the East, the land from which my parents had escaped some decades ago, the Communist and Stalinist Empire, cut-off Russia. Throngs of crowds just stood on the platform trying to get West and watched as a half empty train pulled in and pulled out of the East Berlin station still I wanted to cry to them, “Come with me, please!” But I didn’t and sadly looked out the window as the almost empty train rolled away from East Berlin and entered West Berlin.
   On the streets the city was a madhouse, crowds were everywhere you turned and everyone was celebrating something, by drinking, smoking, kissing and fucking. Passed a few people in the bushes and what else could they be doing? Later I found out that the Berlin Wall had fallen and the two Germanys would now be one, not East and West as it had been called for years, but a united Germany. For a week I prowled in its drunken streets, walking the length of the Berlin Wall in the city and seeing everywhere the crowds cheering and celebrating, while I took hundreds of photographs as a memento. After seven or eight days I knew I’d had enough and started to head west again. Back on the train again and headed for Vienna, Austria. Ah bliss, back to real freedom. Back to my memories, which by then were pretty constant. of old New York City streets and what I had done in them, sexual experimentation which I had forced upon myself.   And though I was in Vienna my notebooks once again came out and where I had filled pages of Berlin memories,  instead I now started filling up pages and pages of what I remembered from my Times Square days back in the 1960s and 70s. Why Times Square in Vienna, Austria? I don’t know. Was it the Berlin exuberance that had triggered these memories which had lain dormant and silent through all the years? Why were the floodgates of Times Square suddenly opened in Vienna after the mad celebrations in Berlin? Little did I know why but it was a relief that it had taken so long to get them out. Seems that I had triggered them into a form of remembrance and now nothing would hold them back. I wrote and wrote, probably three weeks in a Viennese hotel room, hardly going outdoors just buying food and further stacks of notebooks, filling pages and pages of Stallers (that was my name for the bathroom stalls in the Times Square movies houses and Stallers was also my name for the men who prowled the stalls therein). You could say I was on a roll, but sadly, and also exhausted, I did return to America around Christmas time and got down to my new work, the rewriting of Stallers, which now took a few years after that.
    Needless to say, Stallers also took years before I saw it in print. It was not until I made contact with Jean Marie Stine and M. Christian that they brought it out as an e-book. A year or so after that they also brought it out as a paperback collection called Times Square Queer with additional Times Square tales, which I’m very proud of having and holding in my hands. The e-book of Stallers  and the paperback of Times Square Queer, which has all of Stallers and other stories are, I believe, my best work. Hope you come to believe that too!

Mick Mykola Dementiuk is a two-time winner of the Lambda Award, and his collection, Times Square Queer, was a finalist for the 2012 Bisexual Book Award. Visit him at or

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