Reflections on Interviewing Tram Combs

June 6, 2016

Yesterday I started working with Tram on his autobiography. I thought I would have to remind him that was what I was going to do, but with my presence he seemed to remember and was ready to begin.

We went down to the coffee shop across the street. He sat in the large windowsill overlooking Spring Street. I ordered a green tea for me and a large ice coffee–plenty of milk–plus a chocolate croissant for him. I brought over the pot of honey and poured until he said stop–about a tablespoon.

He asked me to sit at the chair close to him, so it would be easier for me to hear him. I opened the computer and we began, but he soon stopped, saying he was distracted. He wanted to look out the window. So I just decided to let him finish his drink and pastry.

As he sat on the large wooden window seat, leaning back with his bare limbs on the bench, he scratched and picked at the dry skin on his legs and feet. I noticed he was leaving a dust of skin peels on the bench. It could have looked like spilled sugar to the poor barista having to clean it later.

Then, he remarked, “I forgot to bring a bottle.”
“What do you mean,” I asked
“Because this place does not have a toilet, I piss in a bottle while no one is looking.”
“You’re wild,” I said.
“I am wild,” he responded.
“Well, we have to leave soon since they are closing at 7.”

But soon he was telling me to let me use his chair, because he wanted to sit down there to piss in a cup. Feeling I could not convince him otherwise, I gave him my seat and moved over to the next bench, hoping I would block him. I looked away.

A few minutes later, I went back to the table and began busing the dishes, wanting to get out as quickly as possible. As I took my tea cup, I was about to take one last swig but stopped, not knowing if it was all just tea.

Later that evening me and another friend of his decided to clean out his closet, which he suspected the cat had been using as a bathroom for a couple months because she did not like the new cat litter. Sure enough, as we started dragging stuff out, it stunk so much like ammonia it was hard to breathe.

There were piles of old clothes, newspapers, magazines, even boxes of unopened candy piled two feet high: a pooping paradise for the cat. It took us two hours to throw everything out and clean it. I must have hauled a thousand pounds of waste the five flights down to the curb.

On a trip to Duane Reade to get more plastic gloves. I was struck by the contrast between me, covered in a dust of cat feces, and the typical glitzy kids in tight dresses and muscle tees roaming the upscale eateries and bars of Nolita.