Saturday, August 27, 2016


So a person like me goes from
walking the aisles to walking
the streets, and all before caring
and all before driving. But oh how
they wanted me to kill. My head
was a resounding chamber of scary
echoes, and some of the things I
was picking up weren't good.
Two little pieces of information I
always walked with: Edward Abbey,
who wrote "Man will never be free
until the last king is strangled with
the entrails of the last priest." Now
there was some stuff; and Walt
Whitman, who'd written, or said:
"resist much, obey little." All the
rest was a national addicted TV
nightmare I'd decided I wanted
none of. I used to read this little
book that had a bunch of real
lame hints and guidelines in it:
like 'how to tell when a person
is lying.' They'd list  -  dry lips,
a pulse below and behind the
ears, avoidance of eye contact;
stuff like that. Useless. I always
wanted to add : 'being on TV.'
Back in that shit-little 14th street
bar that Marleybourne Fishburn
frequented, I'm sitting there, it's
like Mid-May something or other
and I'm just half out of my head
dizzy, but I've got all I want and
the floor is clean (in case I fall
over. I always liked to check  -
some of these places were real
skankpits and pissholes. You'd
never want to pass out onto
one of those). The worst one I
ever saw was up in the east 60's
right by Bloomingdale's, just
across the street, up from it,
maybe 61st or something;
anyway, the place hadn't been
cleaned, in any way, since
about 1961, just like the
street, and there were two
inch clots of dust on all the
fixtures and lights and tons
of little junk behind the bar :
small trophies and statuettes
and dolls and all sorts of crap,
the kind of dust that doesn't
blow around like new dust  -
rather this was old, greasy,
dust that had coagulated and
gotten sticky and all. The
old guys around, named liked
Tone-Tone and Left-Hooker,
real word stuff, they just sat
around and seemed to never
move or had, in one of their
long back drunks, forgotten
how to and it never came back
to them. There were pictures
on the wall of old movie-star
ladies from what had to be 
thirty years ago  -  real schlubettes.
It was Billy Martin's favorite
bar  -  he was some crazy drunk
Manager guy on the Yankees.
He'd come here after most every
home game, and get way-drunk.
He lived right around there some
where, an east-side apartment 
or something. Quite often 
there'd be a fight because he 
couldn't take criticism very 
well, let alone when drunk, 
or never felt he had to, being
a big-deal manager and all,
and somebody, no matter,
would make a crack about 
how the Yankees, or their 
Manager, or some player 
or another had really 
screwed up that night's 
game. Somebody always 
got punched out. Billy was 
a big draw, so they never 
threw him out. But anyway, 
the stench and the mess there, 
you'd never want to go 
down to the floor. Billy
later died, drunk and shitty, 
driving his pick-up truck and
being stone-ratty drunk, into
a ditch, up by Binghamton, 
NY. He was dead right there.
They held a wake-vigil for
him at the 'Subway Bar',
(which is what it was called)
 that lasted about three years.
So, I figured all I had was 
all I'd ever want, and this 
14th Street bar-hole had 
become a place for me. 
Never wanting much more.
One night, saddest thing I
ever saw, and it still gives 
me the shivers  -  in fact I 
can almost cry for wanting 
so much to help the guy, 
but really had nothing to 
offer. He was a little older 
than me, dirty and hungry too.
He was bouncing from table
to table, hitting up everyone,
crying, with a rag in his mouth; 
excruciating to even look at,
far worse to have to hear. The
pleading, the crying wail, the
garbled, rag-filled mouth. The
poor guy had some sort of
massive toothache, and the
constant pain and ache was
killing him. He was pleading
for help  -  I never saw anyone 
like that before. He wasn't,
per se, asking for money; he
was just plain asking, pleading 
for help  -  'please help me, my
tooth is killing me, I want to die,
I can't stand it, I need a dentist,
do you know anyone who can
help me, do you have a dentist
please!...' Oh man, hard to take.
The guy was crying.
Stuff like that used to make me
wonder  - what was life about?
How were we supposed to work 
our ways through it all? To help
others? To slave ourselves away?
Little then did I know that I
myself, for the next forty 
years, would also just be a 
working, everyday slob-snail
like the next guy. I'm sitting
there, listening to all this stuff,
watching the traffic and the
people outside, strolling by.
There's something about
Mid-May in New York City.
It's as if it's not supposed to 
be. There's absolutely no
reason to feel Spring, or any 
season, there  -  the glass and
the macadam and the steel,
 certainly that doesn't care. 
Yet, there it all is  -  the river
breezes are different, all the 
little fragrant curb trees and 
stuff, the tiny gardens and the
box flowers people set out; 
so weird, it all somehow 
comes to life, even in the 
middle of the night. Bars 
and tenements, tugboats
and barges, birds and 
flowers. They all seem 
to meet in some sort of 
Heaven right there, for a
month or so anyway, 
when the heat then really 
sets in and ruins it all.
I'm sitting there, a not-so-
settled in a hundred ways,
just watching to learn, and
see : these people, all these
people, they seem to meet,
everyday, all in the Heavens
of their own imaginings, they
have each other, just passing
friendships, and that's all they
want. Good enough. There's no
language for that 'between two
places' stuff, none that I yet
knew then, and the trash is in
the street  -  as if garbage was
on strike, the collection of it, I
mean  -  but people are OK
with that, just move around 
it all  -  and the old guys here
they just sit back and watch
the ball game, up above their
heads on some sickly screen,
and the girls, they come and 
go everywhere  -  the amazing 
ones, the flat-bellied ones, the
fat ones, thigh'd-tight in blue
jeans, swagger-hipped, 
scanning the room, looking 
up at the televisions, hillbilly 
baseballers, slow-talkers, wise, 
cheery, swift and happy. All 
are there. Someone hits a 
home run and all the drunks
in fourteen counties applaud 
at once, and that's the sports 
world that day they proclaim, 
and the one guy he picks up 
the Daily News that's been 
left at the bar and reads aloud,
'mad bikers revenge crazy
wipeout one dead eleven
injured in gun melee' and 
he looks around smiling
to the tall girl, the nearly
naked one, the beautiful
one and he says, 'who said
Bikers aren't violent, who
said?', and she looks down
with a smile and says, 'Oh my
God I heard that on the radio,
oh my God let me see...'

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