XVII: Beryl Carnelia

[Editor’s Note: Part Two of Hairbrushes, Rakes, and the Value of a Dollar.]

Beryl is the name of the colorless crystal that attains shades like red, blue or yellow because of the impurities in it.

Carnelian:  It’s a dark red stone but is slightly less precious than rubies. 

Beryl Carnelia attempted to solicit me, her son’s best friend, into purchasing the services of one of her prostitutes. As hard as I try to create a well-rounded profile on this woman, containing virtuous qualities versus her faults, the fact that she attempted to solicit me into purchasing sex from one of her strippers/hookers, numerous times, is what I will remember most about her. As far as I’m concerned, it’s her legacy.

Perhaps the best thing I can write about Beryl Carnelia is that she was a loyal parent. I wouldn’t call her a good parent, for my definition of a good parent involves passing along good qualities, and that is, at best, debatable when it comes to Beryl Carnelia. She was loyal to her children, however, loyal to a fault. Any person who has lived a full life is going to positive and negative attributes that we can color in any light, and it’s unfair to paint them with broad strokes. As such, some might consider it unfair to provide readers anecdotal information to define a person who lived a full sixty-something life.

In attempt to be fair, and/or more comprehensive, we can use tools others have used to define character. “You can learn a lot about a person by how they treat people who can do nothing for them.” She doesn’t score well on this chart either. She and her husband provided jobs for the indigent. While that may be an admirable quality, the Carnelias negated this virtuous act by treating those employees like pond scum. The Carnelia parents taught me that the best way to feel better about yourself is to do whatever you can in life to surround your life with the mentally and physically challenged. Not only will it improve your self-esteem, and your outlook on life, but it will provide you endless hours of entertainment. 

Another measure we might use to evaluate Beryl Carnelia is how her children turned out. I understand that any measure of a person is fraught with peril, as it’s difficult to measure a person in absolutes. Some good and honorable parents can raise some awful children and vice versa. In my experience, young males are better equipped to escape the influence of their parents. Females are generally more law abiding, amenable to rules, and less rebellious. Females are more apt to seek guidance from authority figures and use it to stave off the chaos of childhood and the teen years. These characteristics often lead females to be better adults, more stable, honest, and they tend to be better employees. This general rule of thumb carries with it a bold, unforgiving asterisk with a footnote that reads, “As long as the authority figures in question have these characteristics.” Females are also more apt to look to a mother for guidance on how to be a woman, and males look to their fathers on how to be a man. If any of this true, Beryl Carnelia’s daughter may be a better indicator of Beryl Carnelia than her son is, and her daughter is an absolute train wreck by any measure. Her daughter may be one of the most narcissistic, dishonest people I’ve ever met. Among the bullet points list I could provide here is the fact that she lost of a job due to charges of theft. Her employer also considered filing embezzlement charges against her. As was the custom with any charges brought against a Carnelia, the daughter didn’t panic in the manner some of us might in the face of such charges, and she didn’t profess her innocence in any way to me. She told me that her lawyer said that the charges wouldn’t hold up.

As narcissistic as Beryl Carnelia was, she was a doting mother. Her children were her whole world. She wanted her children to go to the best schools, find a loving spouse, and have a mess of wonderful children. She also knew that her children’s friends would have a tremendous influence on them, and she wanted them to have honest and upstanding friends, and she said that she thought I was one of them. She enjoyed hearing about my values, because she loved to laugh. She considered the whole idea that I still, even after fifteen years on the planet, believed in people, places, and things hilarious material. She also encouraged her son to continue hanging around me, because she thought I had a good influence on him. Thus, it confused me when she attempted to set me up with one of her strippers/hookers on numerous occasions. I’m still not sure if she switched strategies after a while, or if she was so frustrated by her failures, but she called me an unreasonable tightwad.

College football was the reason I ended up at her stripper club/brothel so often. Her son would invite me to watch football games in their establishment. I thought it was odd to watch a football game in such an establishment, and I told my friend that. “Why?” he asked, and almost in the same breath, he warned me, “Just to let you know parents are going to try and get you to set you up with one of the girls. I told them that you’re not into that sort of thing, so if you don’t want to do it, just say no. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.” That line was a profound turning point for me in my understanding of my friend and the dynamics of the Carnelia family. His parents embarrassed him, and he was so embarrassed he felt the need to warn his friend before we entered. I can only speculate how that conversation went, “We’re going to get your friend.” To which my friend must have said something along the lines of, “Isn’t the whole reason you want me to befriend him based on his honesty and morality?” “Sorry,” his parents might have said in a roundabout way, “We need to get him laid, so we can get paid.” I don’t know what they said, but based on what he said in his warning, it was something along those lines. My friend was a strong, independent person, but how could he avoid some influence, from such a matter, when it involves the primary influences of his life?

I invited others to watch the game with us, and I delivered a similar warning to them, except I added, “Don’t do it. Don’t fall for any of Mrs. Carnelia’s little ploys.” We were able to watch football games free, as long as we bought beer, and as long as we were able to endure strippers/hookers on our arms, trying to seduce us. I informed strippers/hookers, and my friend’s mom that I wasn’t interested so often, over the years, that it became part of the college football weekend package.

“I think she likes you,” Beryl Carnelia informed me. Beryl Carnelia was observant in this regard, in that she was able to notice signs of interest. When she said, “I think she likes you,” she said in a coy, sweet manner. She pointed at me and lifted her eyebrows at me, and she said it as if her stripper/hooker were a normal girl with a schoolgirl crush. The stripper/hooker reminded me of a young Mariah Carey in the face, and I enjoyed being a focus of her attention. I was enamored with her, but I wasn’t going to pay for her beauty. When Beryl Carnelia began buying us drinks, I thought she was being a hospitable host. Your son and his friends stop in at your place of business, and you buy a round of drinks for them. That’s almost social protocol for such a situation right? I thought so too at the time. I didn’t realize that wasn’t a personal transaction for her, it was business. A drunk patron part with his money much easier than a sober one will. When I refused to pay for sex, Beryl Carnelia grew frustrated. I don’t know if calling me an unreasonable tightwad was an adaptation on her part, a switch in tactics if you will, or if it was an expression of her frustration, but she did eventually give up on me.

Some say prostitution should be legalized in our country, and others may be so unmoved by the prospect of a mother attempting to seduce her son’s friends into paying her to receive such services from one of her employees, but I didn’t come from that place. I was more accustomed to mothers showing some appreciation for a young man befriending her son by taking the two of us out to ice cream. My only prior experience with a mother trying to get me to part with some of my money, involved one asking me to buy Girl Scout cookies from the younger daughter. I had no frame of reference for a mother trying to get me laid, so she could get paid.

The news reports on the brothel that the Carnelia’s ran, report that the Carnelia parents received half of the stripper’s/hooker’s payment for services rendered and half of their tips. The Carnelias didn’t pay taxes on that income, of course, as it was all under the table money. The reports also indicate that their accountant opened up a charity that vowed to keep families together and to reunify broken families. It was all a ruse of course, as the charity bought the brothel from Carnelia’s to help them avoid paying taxes. They didn’t pay any taxes in the four years that proceeded the federal government shutting down their operation.

A thorough analysis of my life might reveal the effect of watching one friend’s dad beat up on her mom, and some subconscious effects of having Beryl Carnelia try to convince me to buy one her hooker’s services, but I don’t see it. I don’t think either of these things had an effect on me. I don’t know how anyone could avoid the effect of watching their parents, their guiding lights, their beacons in the darkness of chaos engage in such activities. It’s tough enough for a normal kid with normal parents to try to achieve whatever definition of normalcy gives them some peace in life and leads to a normal adulthood, but when their parents do things like that, how apt are they to end up doing things like this:

Before the Carnelias turned their establishment into a brothel, it was a corner liquor store. The corner liquor store thrived on regular patrons. These patrons would often order a drink, and a pack of smokes, and sit for hours in the corner liquor store. At one point in the decade long history of the corner liquor store, one of the regular patrons succumbed to his hard drinking four pack a day smoking habit. Prior to this, my friend and the patron regularly engaged in a game of the dozens. The dozens involved insult jokes, such as your mama jokes. They did this for years. My friend was fond of the patron, but they weren’t friends. The man was a part of his life for years, even if tangentially. One might think that such a situation might call for some sorrow, or even mourning, as the patron lay on his deathbed. My friend saw an opportunity to cash in on the man’s state. He signed the dying patron up for one of those twelve cassette tapes for a penny deal from Columbia House. In the midst of the months that followed the patron’s demise, Columbia House continued to send the patron “the tape a month”. This feature involved Columbia House automatically sending a tape to the customers who did not check a default box that said I don’t want this tape. About four months and sixteen tapes later, Columbia House sent the deceased patron a letter stating that he was contractually obligated to purchase a number of full-priced tapes. My friend responded by sending them a letter to inform them the patron was deceased. When Columbia House responded that they were “sorry for your loss”, but that they would need the sixteen tapes back, my friend informed them that no one knew where the tapes were. Columbia House, of course, threatened to send the matter to a collection agency, coupled with possible litigation if they did not receive the tapes back in a timely manner. I asked my friend if these threats concerned him. “Who are they going to sue?” he asked me. “The guy’s dead. They wipe stuff like this off the books all the time. They probably use it as a loss in their tax returns.”

Years later, another regular patron named Joe died in the apartments above the liquor store, where many of the regulars lived. A patron named Leo stole the cigarettes out of the deceased man’s pocket. When my friend razzed Leo about it, Leo said, “What, he wasn’t going to use them.” My friend turned to me and said, “Leo is such a piece of junk.” To which, I wanted to say, didn’t you do the same thing, in a roundabout way, with your Columbia House ploy?

Soon after Beryl Carnelia’s funeral, the Carnelia family decided to dine out together. Beryl Carnelia’s daughter backed out at the last second. Knowing that the family would all be out of the house at the time of the dinner, the daughter used her key to enter the home and stole all of Beryl Carnelia’s most valuable belongings. The question those who know the Carnelia family well would ask is would Beryl Carnelia be ashamed of her daughter? I don’t think she would’ve been proud of her daughter, but I think she would’ve expected as much from the woman who happened to be her daughter and some visage of her legacy.  

By every standard we have to gauge the character, Beryl Carnelia was an awful person. She was mean, condescending, narcissistic, misguided, and immoral, but she did have some hand in creating a charity to “keep families together and to reunify broken families”. Did one broken family see a dime of that money? I have to imagine that their accountant, a family friend, informed that that their charity had to have a certain percentage to maintain the non-profit status, and if they gave that percentage, it was far less than the income taxes they paid prior to becoming a non-profit. An outsider might say that Beryl Carnelia sold her soul for a few bucks, but she lived by the credo “Everybody does it, and you need to get yours before you go.” She never paid for what she did while alive, but those of us who try to live an honorable lifestyle hope that there’s an afterlife just to have people like her pay for what she did. If there is a St. Paul, standing before the pearly gates, we hope he has a better accounting department than the IRS did, so she can’t use her fictitious foray into charity as a way to finagle her way past him.