“Condo Chronicles” Says Adieu…For Now

I started this project a little over a year ago, and I wasn’t even sure how long I would be writing this story. Now, having a more comprehensive idea in mind, I think that I’m now somewhat past the halfway mark of this tale, and I fully intend on its completion. However, it would be a disservice to an audience and the story itself to simply issue it in parcels until the very end; it should be treated with the respect of any whole work. So, I will continue to write it, compile it, and then eventually edit it with the help of some intelligent friends and colleagues. And then, when it has reached a more mature stage (much more than my sophomoric self), I will release it, as a novel.

For those who have continued to read it (and for those who stumble onto it from this point), I hope that you have enjoyed it so far, and if you have any interest in its final form, feel free to send me a note at

peter.bolton.author [at] gmail.com

And I’ll do my best to send you a free copy when it’s finally available. Many thanks once again!

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.

Condo Chronicles: The Truth Will Find You

However, it was one day in the office, in the midst of posting to Facebook about the various announcements and happenings of West Guttenberg, her favored world collided with the real one. In the last few minutes of the previous day, she had posted something about a local missing man and about a reward for any provided information…and per usual upon every morning, she always checked for comments to the the posts of the previous day. When it was warranted, she would engage with the citizens of West Guttenberg in the most professional way possible. (Though, it sometimes required the utmost patience, since trolls have a way of testing one’s resolve. For every acerbic comment that she would read, she would have to watch a benevolent cat clip in order to clear her palette. It was her way of balancing yin and yang.) After only a few sips of her iced coffee, she reviewed the post of the missing man, and as she reviewed the comments below, she found her temperature plummeting to a degree below her beverage.

Even though nearly half of them were in Spanish, she could always use Google Translate to grasp their meaning. It seemed that some of the commenters were making serious accusations about how the red-suited men had gotten a hold of this missing man, how it was a Satanic group of cannibals that ran around the town who acted with total impudence. Of course, others ridiculed these conspiracy theories and then made a mockery of it with jokes about these diablitos, who had come to munch on the chocha of each abuelita. And though the flame war ensued (as they do in each comments section, since it is less of a place of discourse and more of an opportunity to hurl pejoratives and to utilize one another as the metaphorical “emotional tampon”), her focus remained on the subtext of this pointless banter. Unlike them, she actually knew a group of men who wore such red suits and who made it a habit to lurk in the shadows. When she went home that night, she couldn’t shake the feeling of something being amiss, as much as she tried to drown it with poorly made cocktails that were ameliorated with the combination of a milkshake.

And for the next few days, her apprehensions and ambivalence continued to take their toll on her, as she constantly fended off these persistent suspicions. Unlike those of us with a few grey hairs, she hadn’t yet achieved that sort of disposition who gains from a history of walking away; with our callous skin that brandishes scars, we forget how the first time is such a scary proposition. Such an option was completely alien to her, and in that moment, it wasn’t even a possibility, not after placing so many of her chips on one square. Instead, she would rather watch the roulette wheel indulge its appetite by spinning off the gameboard and consume her like Katamari Damacy, all before she would dare to take one step away from the table. A cacophony grew louder around her; more devils and more angels crowded on her shoulders, shouting to be heard above one another. Paralyzed and frozen like an indecisive drunk before the display window of a liquor store, she would have remain transfixed to her metaphysical spot if it wasn’t for the more reasonable side of her, knowing the ultimate carrot for any young woman: curiosity. It prodded and teased, and in the end, the yearning to resolve a mystery overcame all.

So, she created a new Facebook account with a different alias, and with a minimal amount of effort, she befriended a wide circle of the citizens of West Guttenberg, including the friends of the missing man. Winning their confidence with sincere affection, these buddies informed her of his recent money troubles, though he oddly seemed upbeat and unworried despite his financial woes. And when messaging with her new Facebook friends with wild conjecture and gossip of her own fabrication, she worriedly learned how such a disapperance wasn’t a complete surprise to them: it seemed to fit a particular pattern. Even despite some of their more wild points, there seemed to be a consensus on those reported missing. Mostly, these poor souls who disappeared were in dire need of money, had no family in this country, were obsessed with amassing a small fortune, and (most importantly) had a questionable legal status. The more she learned, the greater her suspicions grew…

But Catelyn wasn’t stupid. Nothing was to be gained from confronting Ciro. At best, it could all be a coincidence and a complete fabrication, born of her imaginative paranoia…but her doubt would spurn his love and possibly end what they had. At worst, he could be the monster behind an expertly coiffed mask, and she could become the next one to be missing, joining those long-dead mobsters who had made the wetlands their permanent home. (Plus, if she did ask him, what answer would he give but a denial? Such an imposition would be utterly pointless and futile.) There was only one way to truly find out: she needed to catfish Ciro’s cabal as an inquisitive, prospective buyer. It was an obviously dangerous move, but at this point, she needed a definitive answer. Even in the beginning, she felt a certain moral ambiguity about it all, but her trust and love in Ciro had tipped the scales earlier. But now, in the face of these recent events…her moral compass may have spun wildly in the electromagnetic field that was Ciro, but it was not broken.

Using the various skills and knowledge attained within the last few months, she forged her social media masterpiece, something akin to a forged passport of the Cold War that was undetectable even by the KGB. It was skillfully layered, being connected and verified by other false accounts, all of which were hooked into accounts of the real world. Goddamn, she thought, Sometimes I amaze myself. And with her Hattori Hanzo in hand, she strode out into cyberspace and presented herself to one of Ciro’s people, unabashedly saying:

“Hey, I’m a friend of a friend, and I’m in need of some merchandise on ice. I heard that you had some problems with your last batch. I don’t deal where there’s risk. Tell me straight – everything’s good on your end?”

She didn’t know what the response would be, not expecting much – and that was when Pandora’s Box opened to reveal its horrors.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.

Condo Chronicles: Faustian Beginnings

His Honor, the Mayor of West Guttenberg, then provided her with a brief overview of the history of the Palisades, how the waves of Hispanics had started to reach the castellated cliffs several decades ago. Panglossians from Panama and other such optimists had arrived much like immigrants from bygone eras, with the expectations that the streets would be made of gold and opportunities on every corner…and like their predecessors, much to their surprise, they found it to be much more difficult than expected. Sure, towns like West Guttenberg had welcomed their new Dominican denizens and political refugees from Cuba, but it had hardly been due to altruistic reasons: the federal and state governments had paid them handsomely in funding to adopt these political orphans. Where the money actually went…well, that’s better left unsaid and instead told through a few winks and elbow jabs. So, fending for themselves, these nascent citizens learned to network and support one another, and they found employment wherever they could: the kitchens of restaurants, the shadows of construction sites, the drivers of business trucks and small jitneys. In some cases, though, it wasn’t enough to fulfill their promises to dire relatives; they had undergone the long journey to make a small fortune that was needed thousands of miles away…and desperate to make those ends meet. Sensing some of this palpable desperation, certain people (like the previous mayor who was Ciro’s predecessor and mentor) had formed a small cabal that could extend a service to any who were interested and who had two healthy kidneys of a certain blood type…

“Wait a minute,” interrupted Catelyn, somewhat horrified and leaning back a bit onto her pillow. “They were taking kidneys and selling them? Isn’t that illegal?”

Ciro had nodded, rolling onto his side in order to face her. “Yeah…but it was completely consensual. And everyone else in the whole world does it, Cat. I mean, it’s done where they come from, and they get far less for it in Ecuador. Even after a cut is taken for expenses and trouble, the remainder that they’d get would be way more here than there. And afterwards, they’d send money to their family, and then they’d spend some here in order to set themselves up. You know, like pay for good ESL lessons and maybe even for college…they’d get a ticket to a betta life.”

“But it was still illegal, right?” Catelyn pressing, inquiring but already sure of the answer.

“Yeah,” Ciro shrugged, “But so are lots of things. But when you do it right, and when you’re careful, who really gets hurt in the end?”

“And, so…are you careful?” Catelyn asked, already putting the pieces together and knowing that this business had been passed down to him from his mentor.

“Of course, my cleva girl,” he cajoled, rubbing her shoulder with one of his large hands. “There’s no getting anything past you…You sure that you’re not one of the Feds?” The fear introduced by such an accusation could be seen plainly in her visage, and it made him chuckle robustly. “Ha! You should see the look on your face…But, yeah, I’m always careful. And fair. So…are you into it? You wanna learn the ropes?”

And since it all made perfect sense in the way that he had put it, she climbed aboard this ship of adventurous enterprise and embarked on her new career as a privateer, where the treasure chest resembled more of an Igloo cooler. He taught her all of its administrative aspects: where the men in red suits took their clients for operations; who the medical staff included, among which were also immigrants who happened to be doctors (or so they claimed); the buyers who liked to meet on deserted work roads along the Hackensack River; and the shorthand that was their elementary form of encryption. The last was of paramount importance to her new role, since it fell upon her shoulders to be the facilitator of communication between the various parties. And since she was the social media czar of West Guttenberg, she published her encoded messages within the various posts and tweets of the Mayor’s office. (That had been her novel idea, of which she was incredibly proud.) Ciro even took note of how everyone was up-to-date faster than before, how it was clearly a result of her hard work. She glowed with the appreciation, given that it came from both her amour and her mentor. I was right all long. This was my destiny. I had to sacrifice many things to get here, but I am exactly where I need to be, she thought. I did it…I finally made it on my own.

And for the next few months, all became bliss. Much like when a singer becomes the song, she felt a certain harmony in this path that she had chosen for herself. During the day, she had the thrilling joy of working a normal job while moonlighting as a covert agent, being paid rather handsomely and amassing more money in that short time than the last several years combined. And during the off hours, when it was just her and Ciro, everything became even more magical. They would spend entire weekends on his boat, and they even participated in local races so that she could get a better feel for how to properly run the rigging. (She begged for them to enter the one around Block Island, but he said that she wasn’t ready yet.) They even spent an entire week in Puerto Rico together, chartering a boat during the day and consuming copious amounts of spit-roasted pork that was fabricated with a worn machete. A few times, she was sure that she had even caught Ciro looking at web sites that sold wedding rings, and she told herself to be patient, that the time would come eventually and soon. All was entirely well…at least, for a while.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.

Condo Chronicles: Red Pill, Blue Pill

And so began a passionately torrid affair between Catelyn and this modern-day Tiberius on his rocky cliffs of Capri. She had pledged herself completely to this new pursuit, throwing her soul and her body into this relationship, even if that meek inner voice continued to whine with its constant dubiosity. Though he was obviously an experienced, older man who had spent his time dabbling among ladies, she exposed him to some of the fun activities that didn’t so readily come to mind for those of his generation, like voyeurism and exhibitionism in particular. He showed some reluctance at first, but it doesn’t take long before he eventually acquiesced to the infectious enthusiasm of a persistent young woman. On several dates at dinner and with a tablecloth of decent size, she had guided his hand up her skirt, letting his fingers explore their way around her as others dined only a few feet away. One night, she went down on him in the back of a late night movie theater (though it almost didn’t count since it was yet another SNL movie that left the entire room empty). She convinced him to have sex in a number of bathrooms, including those of Jersey City bars on a late night during the work week. One time, when they had been in the city, it was the public restroom within the Museum of Sex. As she explained it to him beforehand and afterwards, it was a rite of passage for the sexually adventurous. (Though she decided to be tasteful and omit the fact that it wasn’t the first or second or even third time that she had inducted another member into that society.) Even though it took an even longer amount of time, she eventually persuaded him to move their titillating trists to outdoor spaces.

On one Saturday of spectacular weather so fine that it scorches itself into one’s memory, they took a trip down to the marina adjacent to Liberty State Park, where Ciro kept a 34-foot sailboat named Rubicon and joked about how he so often crossed it. (Since Catelyn wasn’t so much of a history buff, he had to explain the meaning of such a terrible joke to her.) Even though it would have been more convenient to keep such a boat in the marina of somewhere closer to West Guttenberg (like Edgewater or Englewood Cliffs), this marina in particular was a place where older men respected the privacy of fellow owners and, as Ciro described it, “knew how to keep secrets”. With deft hands and without her aid, he maneuvered the boat into the Hudson River, where he taught her the basics of sheeting in the sails and running the helm. They jibed and tacked the whole day amongst the busy traffic of the river, and she let out a slight scream with laughter as she took both of their lives into her hands, dodging both the mammoth ocean liners and the nimble, cavalier speedboats. (Like everyone else on the river, she found herself hoping that the former would accidentally squash the latter, since the DB factor of the speedboats seemed fairly high.) When the evening began to fall and with barely enough light to see, the Rubicon found itself near the craggy Jersey coast, just past the George Washington Bridge (or the GWB, as the locals like to say) and its famous miniature lighthouse. After dropping anchor, they brought out the food for a small picnic on the bow, and since Ciro was such a history buff, he explained to Catelyn the irony of the GWB and Fort Lee, given how Washington and Lee hated each other in life but now their respective bridge and town would be linked together for posterity. (She didn’t really care about history all that much, but she wasn’t about to admit such and appear less intellectual.) They ate and drank for a while on the polished deck, waxed on philosophically like drunken college freshmen whose arguments yearned to even ascend to something considered sophomoric, and then they fucked awkwardly (since balance is required on the bow) until the moon could be seen peeking out voyeuristically from behind the skyscrapers. Afterwards, while lying on their backs and staring up at the nocturnal canvas that could offer no stars to compare with the light from NYC, he admitted that it had been a longstanding dream to have sex on a boat, ever since he had seen one video with Traci Lords. She laughed and nodded as if she recognized the name, though she didn’t have a clue.

And in time, she exposed him to more than simply how to play outside the sheets. During one conversation about travel, she confessed that she had never left the country, and the only destination vacation was a booked trip with her friends on AirBnB to Fire Island. When he inquired as to the nature of AirBnB, she explained through an analogy, stating that it was like a ZipCar for apartments owned by people. When ZipCar failed, she patiently tried to iterate through an applicable list of consumer-facing technologies, until it eventually included all of them: Etsy, GroupOn, Kickstarter, Tumblr, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook. Ciro had heard people speak of them, but he knew nearly nothing about them.

As a millennial, it was beyond her comprehension. He smiled at her: she had yet to understand the nature of the Palisades, how time had stood still here despite the accelerating hands of the clocks on the eastern side of the river. “You’ve never been on Facebook? Even once?” When he shook his head, Catelyn had to pursue the line even farther. “You mean that you used no social media in your mayoral campaign last year? At all?!?” After shrugging his shoulders, she vociferously pointed out that he was ignoring younger voters, and she begged him to let her start the social media accounts for his administration. He consented, and over the next weeks, she worked tirelessly to establish his presence online. Learning as she went, Catelyn got his accounts verified in the case of both Facebook and Twitter, and she even took a stab at creating a subreddit for the mayor’s office of West Guttenberg.

After showing him the results and the positive feedback that she had cultivated from her more benevolent posts (like the announcement of a new dog run being built), His Honor was more than impressed. He promoted her as a full aide to his administration, and he granted her the honorary title of Social Media Manager, the first in the history of West Guttenberg. So overwhelmed with the opportunity and so gratified with its bestowment, she didn’t even mind the inevitable jealousy and lost friendships that would ensue with the other aides, how they would all complain and plot behind her back in grievance for having been overslaughed by the mayor’s new tart. Again, it was destiny that had brought her here, and she wasn’t going to look back over her shoulder. She was now both his professional and romantic companion, and they were unstoppable. And so, during one of their postcoital conversations, she thought nothing of it when she asked if he remembered the night of their first meeting and the group of men who had huddled quietly around him. At first, Ciro balked and tried to change the subject, but unlike the girl from only a few months ago, this new Catelyn felt empowered and wouldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer.

After a few minutes of her cajoling, Ciro finally said, “There’s business that I do that…you may not like. But if I tell you this…you cannot repeat it. In fact, if I tell you about it, then I expect you to help me. When I tell you, you’re in, and then, we do it together. Understand? Are you sure that you want to be included? Because afterwards, there’s no going back.”

It’s destiny…and there was never any question. There was never any going back. And with that thought, Catelyn slowly nodded before giving the answer that would be the most influential decision made in her entire life. “Absolutely. Yes. Now…tell me everything.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.

Condo Chronicles: Double Down

After snippets of susurrous conversation at her desk, Catelyn and Ciro finally made the arrangements for a date in the city, away from the prying eyes of West Guttenberg. He reserved a table for them at the 21 Club on the night of the upcoming Saturday, and he and his driver would be at her apartment beforehand to pick her up. Immediately after accepting his offer and complimenting his choice in restaurants, she quickly did a search online in order to learn the story of this establishment (of which she hadn’t the slightest clue), going to Yelp first and then Wikipedia and then scouring any other link to be found. With every subsequent click that revealed a bit more about this staple of the Big Apple, another wave of intimidation crawled all over her, making her shift uncomfortably and eventually causing her to break out into a cold sweat. Even though she wasn’t some dumb honky girl like the others back home, she was far from sophisticated, and she had yet to step inside and confront the grandeur of such a place. (As a young girl who would sneak away to watch Sex and The City, though, she was fairly sure that she remembered the episode shot inside it…which made her panic that much more.) And once inside such a place and lost in its various expectations of protocol, she was bound to commit some form of gaucherie and make a fool of herself. She was just sure of it…and then what would her potential beau think of his new dulcinea? She was in the midst of an email requesting another restaurant from him, since her diet required a gluten-free, vegan fare (which was an unimaginative, bold-faced fabrication)…when she suddenly stopped herself short and took a stand against her fearful insecurities: she was going anyway, and she would not make a fool of herself. Now, she just needed a plan…

First and foremost, what to wear? Catelyn owned nothing that especially spoke of class, but she had always daydreamed of certain clothes, especially a certain cocktail dress and matching bag that came from Kate Spade (along with a few other accessories). But that ensemble (along with shoes) cost a small fortune, with money that she didn’t own. Or did she? She still owned the car that had brought her small crew of friends to New York City, and after they had left her behind, she had kept their eastbound wagon, sitting inside of it on a few occasions while drunk and having a few good cries that were nostalgic of times now past. “I’ll always keep it for the sake of those memories,” she always told herself. However, that was only half of the truth: Moheomga also served as her contingency, her lifeboat to go back home to Pennsylvania if times became too much to bear. (She had named it with the Korean word for ‘adventurer’, when she had asked for the translation from the Korean car dealer.) Whenever she found herself in the backseat of that car, in those lachrymose moments with the taste of gin in the back of her throat, she had often thought about getting into the driver’s seat, turning on the engine, and following I-78 all the way back home. But now, was it the time to decide the fate of poor Moheomga, once and for all? Should she run from this affair that seemed like a delusional fantasy and seek some other path, in the driver’s seat of her faithful iron horse…or should she sacrifice her loyal steed for the sake of furthering this one adventure? Once again, she found herself inebriated and sobbing in the backseat of her four-wheeled Artax, and after shedding a good many tears, she thanked her companion of everlasting loyalty for all the dependable company…and then she gave her kiss and her rolling tears to the back of the driver’s headrest as a final goodbye.

Having liquidated her prized possession and with cash in hand, she bought all of the necessary gear for her date with both Ciro and with destiny. With Saturday’s arrival (and having barely slept the night before), she awoke in sixth gear and raced around madly throughout the day, preparing for the night ahead. By the time that Ciro and his driver arrived in the classic Lincoln towncar, she felt somewhat secure in her choices of adornment, and though still nervous, she came downstairs and (probably for the first time ever) hopped into the car with some sense of actually being beautiful. Based on the reaction of Ciros’ face, she wasn’t the only one that thought so.

And apparently others shared the very same opinion. She turned a few heads at 21 Club upon the couple’s entry, and even though she had arrived with apprehension cawing from her shoulder, it slowly started to recede in volume with the quick glances from other men around the room and with the subsequent drinks that followed. At their table, the anxiety returned for a while with the attentive service that’s normal for any reputable dining but that was completely foreign to Catelyn. She almost died when Ciro gently laughed at her question about the necklace around one of the more bossy waiters…but it’s to be expected that a small town girl from Pennsylvania would be unable to identify the tastevin around a sommelier’s neck. We all suffer such misadventures when we wander away from our comfort zone; it’s an almost essential component of every memorable experience. If one journeys to Montreal and attempts to employ French by telling a native J’aimerais bien manger beaucoup des poutines (but mistakenly uses putains for the last word), one might become asphyxiated since all the adjacent air will be drawn for the ensuing laughter. (Not that this raconteur would be familiar with such a scenario.) These small things at the expense of oneself make the world a more entertaining place, for you and for everyone else. In those moments, we absolutely hate being in such a predicament, but we learn to love them upon reflection and replay them within our mind to reminisce the timeline of our short lives.

But aside from a few token embarrassments, she eventually shed her anxiety as the night went along exceedingly well, as she and Ciro drank and ate to their hearts’ delight. They talked and joked for hours on length, and at the end of their meal, they were taken on a tour of the restaurant’s secretive cellars from the Prohibition era and to the secret dining hall from that age past. With all of the wine in her head, the night swam past her so quickly; she momentarily thought that she would drown in it all. They returned to his car and driver, and with her lower leg now over his, they drove back to the Palisades via the Lincoln Tunnel. She felt in such an optimal mood that she confessed all of her paranoia preceding their date, laughing and joking about it with him the entire ride back. When they finally arrived back at her building, they briefly kissed along with giving each other a quick “Good Night”, and placing her hand upon the door handle, she let it rest for a few seconds before she turned back to him. Smiling, she said, “Why should it end here? I’ve always wanted to see the house of the mayor.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.