originally published on December, 20 2019
In September of 2001, I was flown to John F. Kennedy airport from Buffalo for a supposed modeling gig. Howard Garfinkel had purchased and sent me the tickets on the basis that I would be modeling for a fitness publication of which he was a prime investor. I had been a repeat camper at 5-Star Basketball Camp, where I had met and been approached by ‘Garf’ in the summer of 2001.
In July, on the campus of Robert Morris University outside of Pittsburg, he asked me if I had ever done any modeling. I told him I had not. He asked me if I’d be interested in flying to New York to work as a fitness model for a project he was involved in. I said that I would. Later that summer my plane tickets arrived in the mail. They sat in a basket inside a manila paper folder on the island in my parent’s kitchen until I departed.
I missed a day of school on a Friday, flying as a part of some of the earliest post 9/11 travel back into New York City. The flight was less than full and, other than the hysterical woman sitting in front of me at the beginning, eerily quiet.
When I arrived at JFK, Garf was waiting for me inside the terminal. We took a taxi to Central Park South and I was put up in a hotel room in the New York Athletic Club’s City House. That night I was taken to Smith and Wollensky’s for dinner after seeing a performance of the Music Man on Broadway. The following day I attended a Yankees game from box seats after having lunch at Carnegie Deli. I assumed the following day would be the photo shoot.
That night, Garf said he’d meet me at my hotel room. He arrived on time, knocked on the door and I let him in. After a bit of small talk, he pulled a speedo swim suite out of his bag and told me to wear it and that he would be the one taking the photos. I froze. In the midst of the discombobulation I made the decision to change into the swimsuit.
Walking out of the bathroom I entered to Garf sitting perched on the bed. For about ten or fifteen minutes I posed and flexed according to his instructions while he operated his camera, with mostly one hand, fondling himself through his pants with the other. At the end of the time, he stood up, came over to me and caressed my shoulder, back and chest, commenting on how I had lost most of my tan since he’d last seen me. After he was done, I changed back into my clothes and came out of the bathroom.
He was packing up his bag.
Before leaving, he let me know that, in his opinion, I really could work as a model.
I never saw or talked with him after that night.
That night I vowed to myself I would never tell another human soul about that experience. And until now, except to close friends and family, I haven’t.
The experience has had a lasting impact. Over 18 years later and I think I’ve just now finally forgiven myself…for being duped…for saying yes when I could have said no…for feeling ashamed and confused…for being naïve…for being innocent…for being a kid.
I don’t know if I’m trying to be helpful to anyone else in sharing this. I think I’m just unburdening myself of the self-hate I’ve kept inside. I think I’m sharing this as a kind of gift to myself.
And I’m proud of that.
Just in time for my birthday.
Jonathan lives in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas with his wife, dogs and three children. His Wisdom work comes out of a blend of the Christian Contemplative tradition and 4th Way spirituality with a focus on companioning others from the unified and collective field accessed through the heart. He is a life-long seeker who offers private Spiritual Direction in person or by zoom, one-to-one or in groups.