Monday, May 30, 2016


69. 'Hello, It's Me'
The Troy Hotel was a bestial
hell-hole, probably on par with
the bank right next door to it.
(But no one ever made the
comparison 'cept me. Next to the 
Troy Hotel, over one street at 
the curb, was the Ben Franklin
store. You have to think of,
perhaps Woolworth's, on a
smaller  scale by far, and
cheesier yet, too. A big deal
at Ben Franklin would be
like a row of toy cars,
hard rubber collectibles,
small rows of trinkets,
and a goldfish aisle.
Around these parts of
Pennsylvania, there were
plenty of Ben Franklin stores.
The men inside the Troy
Hotel were like dark, deep
vagrants who never leave.
A big draw there was the bar
-  where men sort of sat, and
just never left, or so it seemed.
If guns had been allowed, you
could be sure there'd be a pistol
on each guy's hip. It was, close
to certain, the welfare hotel
for Pride. Mostly kept dark,
or dim, there was a central
sitting room, like from an
old, or a 1930's movie.
Heavy fabrics on big chairs,
lots of things dark red or deep
shades of maroon and purple.
All things a little too large,
and dark. Much wood, big,
old walls with things hanging
-  pictures, pasted photos on
glass, a mirror or two,  but
really too high up to show
anything but room-views.
Good for avoiding surprise
and ambush perhaps. You
never knew.  Over to one
side was a reception desk
area, with a long shiny
wooden counter, a ticking
grandfather clock with some
moon-phase thing going on,
the slow, dull move of the
steady pendulum behind glass
keeping some sort of time to
a musical score of its own.
At the rear of the reception
and sign-in spot were maybe
30 mail cubicles, arrayed. It
could have been, once, there
really was a need for such and
so many. I think if there were
ever more than 7 long-termers
in there  -  who would actually
'need' a mail-service, that was
a lot. The big sign-in book.
The old tattered wooden sign
above everything, 'Men Only -
No Women Allowed'. Yes, that.
Anachronistic as all get out, it
must have meant something.
A large bathroom off to the side,
and a creepy, old elevator with a
gold arrow that swung past the
floor-numbers as it went along.
Pedestal ash-trays. A unused
shoe-shine stand. Just aside all
this, through a slight doorway,
was a bar. a few tables, coffee
urns, and the rudiments of a
serving kitchen area in only
the modest ways -  maybe
once the 'food' idea was a
going concern here, but
now, not much of anything,
really. No extra lights, no
televised anything, actually
no noise. The was probably
a sign somewhere reading
'Quiet!' with that exclamation
point in bold. Here all time
was lazy, as if non-existent
and gone. There was a big,
old wooden stairway going
up one side. The entire place
was, in my fact anyway,
almost comforting  - no one
chased you, out or in, and
no one bothered you, just
sitting there. A nice hideaway,
'Honey, I'll be at the Troy
Hotel.' I'd even seen a few
of those 'women' who were
not allowed, creeping down
that stairway, after they were
done, I guess. I always thought
there was, just as well, most
probably a back entrance and
exit too. Unseen. Alongside
the place, and shared with
the bank, was a parking lot,
usually with some 15 or so
cars in it. That's all I ever
saw, anyway -   never a 'big'
crowd, and always room for
more. The cars in that lot
were always funny. Here it
was, something like 1971-72,
and cars in that lot seemed
always to hark back still to
about 1958. It was pretty cool;
fuselages and fins, swoopy and
crazy two-toned cars in weirded
out color combinations you'd
never anymore see  -  reds and
blacks, light blues and creams.
I guess a 12 or 14 year old car,
is nothing to really go on about,
but in that era, those particular
12 or 14 years meant a real break
in style and taste. Things has
changed so greatly that the
leftover-old really, really
stood out. That's funny about
things, and it works for people
too, and language, styles of
talk, clothing, even ideas.
We all know a few people,
as it were, 'living out of their
time.' That was the Troy Hotel.
Wasn't really much drama
ever. Or none I ever saw.
People just sat around. The
hunters were the biggest deal  -
come about Oct/Nov, they'd
start the hunt seasons going,
filtering in, three, four, five or
more days at a time, and often
in clumps of five or six guys.
These weren't the organized
'hunt club' guys  -  they all had
club-buildings and places to
stay. These were loner guys,
banded together for a week
of no shaving, lots of booze,
and feeling-up, the usual
tall-tales of the hunt, and
then feeling up some more
whatever they'd get in there
with them to feel up. It was
all a ritual scene, a rite of
passage akin to an old native
American Indian sweat lodge.
You enter as a boy, and you
come out later as a warrior,
a man. Just add booze. I do
think, however, just as many 
upright and strong men came 
out of all this, actually, as did
the sleazes, scaliwags and bums.
I'd see them, sometimes staggering
along about something, other
times as they seemed to just sit,
transfixed and grizzled. To me,
never knowing what to say, I'd
have no intentions of going past
the visual - just seeing them was
enough for me : It was as if,
back home and young once
more, I was on Avenel Street,
east of the underpass, walking
out, an evening, past Mike's 
Subs on my way down to 
Rahway Ave.  to reach the 
library, and I'd pass the 
Roxbury, that quiet old
men's bar, and see one or
more regular neighborhood
guys, fathers of my friends
here and there, walking in
or out, and just wave hi.

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