Saturday, January 21, 2012


Stephan Gregor was better known as “The Jew” in his youth. His father, Adin Gregor was a military defense attorney who’d joined up in the Vietnam era to defend conscientious objectors from within the system, in later years he specialized in cases where servicemen and women were accused of being homosexuals. As a military brat Stephan lived in many places but mostly at Subic Military Base in the Philippines.

Stephan’s mother had left the family soon after his birth and returned to New York unable to bear the sidelong glances of the mostly southern, overwhelmingly Christian and endlessly disapproving neighbors, since they had no friends. As an attorney Adin saw he kept Stephan.

Officer housing in the sprawling base looked enough like an American suburb but to Stephan, better known as the Jew or early on as Stephanie, it was never home. He took to the world outside the gates where he slipped into the universe of prostitutes and con men that ring all United States Military bases in poor lands. In the barrio, a wall away from ersatz Americana of baseball diamonds and hedges that Stephan escaped an identity beyond his control.

Stephan became ironically known as the Filipino. Stephan could buy women, or drugs or alcohol with the change off his father’s dresser and more than once he did. Stephan became an appreciable street fighter, which in the Philippines is no mean feat, and the boys on base called him Stephanie no more. He made way in both worlds as Jews amid Christians have always done, brokering what was at hand. Stephan made no friends, but made money.

One day he purchased a Honda CB160 from a Marine down on his luck with debts to the wrong people in the barrio. Almost from his first ride Stephan sensed he he finally found something that spoke to him essentially. Alone on the bike he was beyond the reach of either identity and simply showed up unannounced in far flung places where nobody knew any of his names. On beaches far from the base where fishermen hauled nets he small conversation with strangers who knew nothing of him.

Eventually, moving off base, Stephan made a place amid many, but with nobody. When his grandfather died in New York he sold his concrete bungalow shook fewer than a dozen hands and left the Philippines forever. He flew military transport as a last favor called in and landed in San Diego, took a taxi to motorcycle dealership and purchased a Kawasaki Conquers 14 with roughly half he cash he carried with him. In 72 hours, he arrived at his maternal grandfathers wake at 57-02 Northern Boulevard Woodside, Queens.

The ride was effortless, after a lifetime of 400cc motorcycles and primitive roads he was at last as anonymous as he ever wished to be and the Conquers flattened the highways. What he found when he arrived was stranger than any serviceman’s brothel request. Every building seemed a low warren, or borrow as indeed the cities withing the city of New York were called. Rooms filled with darkly clothed people, even in the heat of summer chanted obscure but strangely familiar words.

When accounts were finally settled three somber men presented Stephan with a check for slightly less than $24,000 purchasing his share of his grandfather’s sprawling empire of tailor shops. He walked down three flights of stairs to the Conquers and headed for Mexico.

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