Saturday, July 31, 2010

ANCIENT PORN by Peter Nolan Smith


Pornography is derived from the Greeks linking two words; prostitute and I read. The portrayal of sexual acts can be traced to pre-Ice Age. Scientist claim a naked figurine carved from a mammoth ivory was man's first attempt at figurative representation. Opponents to this thought counter that lurid images were not found amongst the thousands of neolithic cave paintings around the world. I'm certain that the ancients hid their XXX material far from the prying eyes of society whether they were Cromagnon or Neanderthal.

Late spring 1965 my best friend Chuckie and I were exploring the abandoned army base not far from our suburban housing tract on Boston's South Shore. The hilltop installation was a victim of military cutbacks. I had vandalized several buildings with Chuckie's older sister, her boyfriend, and Bush, a motorhead from Fore River. We were the first. Hundreds of teenagers had followed our path of destruction.

There was nothing left of value.

Chuckie and I entered a dilapidated office. The corners were steeped with beer cans. The impact of bullets pocked the walls. Fire had scorched the entrance.

Teenage parties.

Maybe older.

Chuckie discovered a a moldy cache of 1950s porno mags. The content ventured to another dimension of perversity than the Playboys we had found in his father's closet. This was not the birds and bees. This was our introduction to reality.

We separated the damp pages with the care of the Israelis handling the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most was straight. Some was homosexual. A little sadism and a few filmy images of men with women who were men. Chuckie and I didn't have a word for that. In many of the photos the women were completely naked and the men wore sox.

"Why?" Chuckie was dumbfounded by this mystery.

"Maybe their feet are cold." I kept on my sox in the winter.

"No, the girls' nipples aren't erect."

"Why does that rule out the cold?"

"Because mine get that way in the cold." It was simple logic at its best.

"Maybe the actors forgot to take them off in the excitement."

"If a girl is naked, I'm going to be naked too." Chuckie divided the magazines according to genre. He took some of the queer stuff. One of the boys looked like him. I didn't comment on the likeness.

When I got home, I stuffed the magazines under my mattress. Far from the edge. My mother liked to tidy the covers after we went to school at Our Lady of the Foothills. I shared the bedroom with my older brother. He fell asleep before me. I explored the magazine one by one. My fingertips smelled of their pages. The things on that paper inspired long evenings of masturbation. I dozed off during the morning classes. My grades were slipping from As to Bs. Mother Superior examined my eyes. Her glasses were thick. Her nose sniffed at my hands. I washed them with Ivory Soap after every time I sinned in deed and thought.

"What's your excuse?" Sister Mary Josef had been born in Stuttgart. The 7th grade called her 'Hitler'. She beat students with a ruler. Usually for no reason.

"For my grades?" I had been the #2 student in that class. "I reading all the assignments and finishing my homework."

"Chuckie Manzi is having the same problem, only he's slipped from B to C." Sister Mary Josef was tall. I was scared of her. She also taught at a school for the deaf. I had heard bad stories about how she treated those girls.

Nasty as the magazines under my bed.

"I don't know why."

"Have you been touching yourself?" She seized my hands and turned them palm up. Her eyes pingponged across the whorls of my flesh, as if she was reading runes.

"No." I answered with feigned horror. The sisters said that we would grow hair on out palms if we sinned with ourselves. I shaved every morning with my father's razor. "That's a sin and I'm an altar boy."

So was Chuckie and my older brother. We were paid $5 for funerals and $10 for weddings. People died more than they got married in our parish. Three funerals a week. $15. Good money. Levis cost $6 at Walker's Western Store on Boylston Street in Boston.

"Make sure you do nothing to lose your soul." Sister Mary Josef released my hands. "I'll be watching you."

My nocturnal forays into the magazines became more clandestine. My older brother dropped off to sleep early, but my mother was insomniac. She didn't shut off her lights until after THE TONIGHT SHOW. Once her bedroom went dark, I slipped my hand under the mattress. My boy scout flashlight guided my travels through a maze of warped encounters. I read each magazine a hundred times that spring. Their images and words were memorized more fervently than the Baltimore Cathecism.

And no one saw nothing.

Same as the anthropologists searching for erotic prehistoric paintings. They existed in the recess of unexplored caverns. Chuckie and I scoured the Blue Hills for more pornography. Our magazines were falling apart. We traded them to each other, but we needed something new.

Red Tate was the man to ask. He lived at the dump. His home a concrete bunker. Something bad had happened to him in the Korean war. My uncle said that Red was a hero. My uncle had won the Silver Star. He gave Red money for beer.

"I'm not giving you anything weird." Red Tate exploded after hearing our request. "You're good kids. How you think people would talk if they found out I was giving kids stroke books."

"We're not kids." I protested since I was almost 13.

"You don't even shave." Red Tate touched my cheek. His fingers smelled like discarded cigarettes. The callouses were rough as a cat's tongue. "Stay away from that shit."

"But you must have some." Chuckie was desperate.

"I'm not interested in sex. Not the real thing. Not the fake." His family kept him in clothing. He actually didn't look too bad if you ignored the scar jagging across his forehead. Red must have been a good-looking soldier in his youth. "Not any more."

"Maybe you can answer a question."

"Like what?" Red licked his lips. The talking made him thirsty.

"Like why do the guys in porno books never take off their sox?"

"That's easy. They keep on their sox so they can put on their shoes easy if the police raid the studio. That's where you get the expression 'blow off your sox'." red pushed me away roughly. Parents didn't want him speaking with children. he was pure danger in their status quo minds.

Chuckie and I were disappointed by Red's refusal.

By month's end the magazines were in shreds. I threw mine away in the woods. Chuckie flushed his down the toilet. They clogged the pipe. The plumber didn't say a word to Chuckie's father. We returned our devotion to our studies. Chuckie was B+ and I was A-. Sister Mary Josef commented my dedication.

"I was saying prayers."

"So was I." And I continued by requests to a pagan god for more pornography.

Certainly the nuns' god was not into filth.

He had more important things on his mind.

Me, I had only one thing.

And it wasn't god.

Not then and not now.

Wicked forever.

English Health


From Pattaya Rag

After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here’s the final word on nutrition and health:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English.

Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English.

Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English.

Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English.

Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English.

The French eat foie-gras, full fat cheese and drink red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the English

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Per Capita Tattoo Capitol


Pattaya must be the per capita capitol of farangs with tattoos. Westerners parade shirtless to exhibit the beauty of their body art, despite the collateral damage to the colored flesh from the tropical sun. Most tattoos are eagles, dragons, and declarations of never-ending love to go-go girls festooned with vows of fidelity to previous boyfriends. Occasionally you come across tattoos of incredible stupidity.

The other day I spotted a twenty year old with his name DAVID tattooed down his spine. I asked him why and he said. “So people know who I am.”

A name tag through his pierced nipple would have been more effective.

A friend of mine once had a Soapy massage at Sabaii-Land from a girl with the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE to the American flag tattooed on her back. “Made me feel patriotic.”

Another friend had MADE IN THE UK tattooed on his forehead, which was fine until his mother told him he had been born in Poland.

As a child the nuns warned if you had a tattoo then you couldn’t go to heaven. Not that I have a chance of chance of passing through the Pearly Gates, but I’ve never submitted my skin to the needle. My wife tells me she thinks they are dirty, except for magical spells worn by many Thais.

Traditional Thai tattoos (sakyant) serve to protect the wearers from misfortune and evil spirits. Those men tattooed are asked to obey the five following tenets.

1. Honor your parents.
2. Fidelity to your wife.
3. No drugs.
4. No fruit and food that has fallen from the tree. Only eat fresh food.
5. No oral sex with women.

From my observation most of these men have no trouble observing at least four of the five laws.

I can only obey three out of the five.

One is the fallen fruit.

Of course the main trouble with a tattoo for me was finding one I could live with the rest of my life.

69

Born to be Wild

Mom

The name of my daughter

Certainly not the Pledge of Allegiance.

I doubt the poor girl knows what she’s wearing, but America salutes her patriotism.

Friday, July 30, 2010

No Joke


"Where they all come from?"

The Deadliest Month

The British Empire spanned the globe. Its power and influence were felt in every corner of the world. The greatest jewel in the crown was India and any threat to the Raj had to be met with the proper equation of arms and gold. Afghanistan lay beyond the Khyber Pass. A weak king surrounded by warring tribes. The Russians were playing the holy war card.in the early 1840s and the Viceroy of India decided to invade the landlocked country to extend British power into the highlands of Asia.

The Great Game.

Easy victory.

1839.

Reduction of occupation forces.

Growing resentment turned to open hostility, as the families of the British troops and sepoys migrated to Kabul, as if they were coming forever. Military success was impossible against the better-armed redcoats, however strategic blunders weakened the invaders' position and the lack of response to a murder of Sir Alexander 'Sekundar' Burnes, spurred an uprising leading to a badly-planned winter retreat by the British commander.

4500 soldiers and 12000 camp followers marched out of Kabul on January 1,1842.

The 44th regiment was destroyed at the Gandamak Pass.

Only one soldier reached the safety of Jalalabad.

A Dr. William Brydon.

"To err is human. To repeat these errors is the act of the divine."

Few Americans have heard the name William Brydon. Even less know that this month was the bloodiest in Afghanistan for the US occupation forces. 66 dead. Only ten more than the number of women and children killed in a single NATO missile attack. No one knows their names. Not even me and I care about ending this war.

"Recent months in Afghanistan have ... seen tough fighting and tough casualties. This was expected," the top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. David Petraeus, said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month. "My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months."

Intense could be replaced by the word 'ugly'.

Ramadan may offer a respite.

August 11 till the new moon.

After that the Taliban and their Pakistani allies will attempt a Tet-like offensive to break the resolve of the Pentagon and their mercenary auxiliaries.

After a massacre by US contractors an Afghani asked, "Are we not Muslims? Are we not from Afghanistan? Infidels are here and they are ruling us. Why?"

Because no one in America gives a shit.

Gandamak 2010.

Then they'll give a shit.

Until AMERICAN IDOL comes back on the air.

Bring the troops home.

Bhutto's Widow


Once the Milk Bar opened in the late winter of 1995, the ultra-modern nightclub on Canon Drive was a cash cow. The limited occupancy created a chokepoint at the door. People wanted in. They duked me $20-100 depending on their urgency. Their drug dealers were waiting inside. Supply meeting demand. The nightlife writer for the LA Times loved the 'milky-white' decor, sleek furniture, primal lighting, and soulful music. She was less than impressed with the clientele but Beverly Hills was not Hollywood and Hollywood was not New York.

Not even close.

Scottie the owner never complained about the crowd. They paid cash. No plastic.

I wore the same jean jacket every night. It had a lot of pockets. Drugs and money. My back up was Big Bernard. The tall Haitian and I had run the door of Scottie's Milk Bar on 7th Avenue. We watched the Empire State Building at midnight. The tower lights went dark at 12:13. Our split was 60/40. I had senority. No one messed with Bernard. He was 6-8 with connections to the voodoo priestesses of LA. We had a good time until the Beverly Hills Fire Department decided our nightly occupancy exceeded their safety measures.

'How many people you think you have inside?" The fire marshal asked standing in front of his cherry red patrol car. A ladder truck was double-parked on Canon. The red lights swirled a hurricane of attention. His daughter was working the bar.

"Within a hundred." The capacity was 210. No more. No less. "I'd say 700."

"I thank you for being honest." He spoke into his radio and the fire truck returned to the station. "You have ten minutes to clear everyone out of there. And tomorrow night I want you to run it straight. You got that?"

"Yes, sir." There was no argument with his judgment

The last night of Chasen's restaurant, the BHFD closed the fabled steakery for over-crowding. We remained open for several months more and attracted the usual smattering TV stars, movie madmen, and passing dignitaries. The nightlife writer of the LA Times failed to re-review the Milk Bar. Beverly Hills was a world apart from Hollywood. No one was going to get famous here or in trouble.

Unless that's what they wanted.

One evening two dark-windowed SUVs pulled up to the curb. They were government-issue. Bernard spoke to the passenger and returned to the door.

"They have the husband of the Pakistani president inside."

"Ali." The Paki taxi drivers in New York spoke his name with disdain. He was a thief. Some even said murderer. His wife was president. "He's shit."

"We wants to come inside." Bernard smiled and gave me a c-note. "This was his calling card."

"Tell him welcome." He had never done me wrong. People like him got one chance to fuck up. Most of them used it within an hour.

The small man was escorted inside by Bernard. His suit was shiny Italian silk. His Secret Service bodyguards surveyed the rooftops for assassins. I got them a table by the dance floor. Scottie asked who our guest was.

"A future dictator." Women didn't rule in the Orient for long.

Ali ordered several bottles of champagne and then sent a buzz-cut agent over to me.

"This is funny question." The G-man sounded like he had been raised on a farm. I figured him for Kansas. A Baptist. He deserved a chance to take a bullet for the president.

"I always like a good joke." I hadn't heard a single joke the entire time I had been in LA. It was like everyone in this city of suburbs was saving them for an audition on THE TONIGHT SHOW.

"Our guest would like those two blondes to join him at his table." He pointed at two starlets. They were nearing 30 in a town where 22 is old. Tits jobs were only an advantage to meet men like Ali.

"I can ask, but I can't say they'll say 'yes'." I knew their names. They came in a couple of times a week. I'd never see them do anything bad.

"Thanks, he'll be grateful if you succeed." Pimping was not his forte, but I knew what success meant to my pocket and motioned for the two blondes to come over. I told them the story and the taller one with the mammoth breasts shook her head.

"We don't do Pakis." Girls in LA have a high opinion of themselves.

"That's too bad, because he'll give you $2000 each."

$2000 each?" The taller blonde shucked her prejudice faster than a snake on a frying pan shred its skin.

"That's the number I heard." I was making it up, but thought 2-Gs was a fair price for a short foreigner with a duffer's moustache. The girls sat at Ali's table. 30 minutes later his entourage left the Milk Bar. The g-man gave me $200. I split the gratuity with Bernard. 50/50. The next day the girls came to the club and complained that Ali had only paid them $1000. They were wearing new dresses. Armani. Ali had bought them in the hotel.

"Sorry, I'm not a pimp." I had majored in economics at BC.

I graduated sin laude.

Without praise.

Ali's wife was assassinated in 2007. Rumors blamed the Pakistani internal security organization. The taxi drivers of New York speak his name with a viper's venom. The Pentagon backed his election to presidency. Ali claimed to have graduated from the London School of Economics and Business. There are no records since this school never existed on this planet.

His country received $1 billion for the Pentagon last year.

The same is slated for this year.

Ali is a man who knows how to butter his toast.

Thick and often.

His jacket must have big pockets.

Mine certainly did at the Milk Bar.

Bring the troops home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 420 Bus to Hollywood


Distances in LA tend to be far. North Hollywood to Beverly Hills was not too bad with a car. A twenty minute ride. I was living with Scottie Taylor in a pool house.

The year 1995. Late spring.

The owner ran a strip club off West Pico Boulevard. The girls sunbathed nude in the mornings. They were Jesus freaks. Scottie and I were sinners in their eyes. We were running a nightclub in Beverly Hills.

The Milk Bar.

Decor very CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

Clientele; young, semi-famous, and druggy.

The naked sunbathers' prayer session interrupted my sleep and I'd stuff my ears with cotton. The Bible was reduced to mutterings. Jesus was not saving my soul. My wake-up hour was noon. Breakfast at a diner. Basketball at North Hollywood Park. A bicycle was my transportation. I had bought it from a junkie on Vineland. He wanted $50. I gave him $20.

Probably $10 too much.

My cousin Sherri lived on Hartsook. I spent my afternoons writing in her house, while she filmed XXX films with lesbians over in Van Nuys. Some of those girls were Jesus freaks too. None of them broke ranks, especially for a nightclub doorman without a car.

No one walks in LA. Only Losers. Walking gets you nowhere. The city is too big. Hitchhiking is illegal. The train system is a work in progress. Buses are the only transportation left for the lower classes.

Scottie had a car.

A mud-colored Pinto. Something was wrong with the steering. The brakes were long overdue for a change. Scottie was my ride to the Milk Bar most nights. We opened at 8.

Scottie and I had a problem.

The Simpson re-runs aired Sundays at 7:30. The show lasted 30 minutes. No one told jokes in LA. No one told stories either. Laughs were hard to find at the Milk Bar. Homer Simpson filled the gap.

"I can't believe you are going to be late for a cartoon show." Scottie only watched the History Channel. He liked to be serious.

"It's not a cartoon. It's the Simpsons. You could always watch it with me."

"I own the club. I have 20 people who work for me. They get there at 8. I get there before them. Otherwise they'll come in late. Like you."

"I don't mind taking the bus." The 420 ran over the Hollywoods Hills to Sunset Boulevard. I caught another bus on the corner. It went to Beverly Hills. The trip took 45 minutes. Sometimes less. Sometimes more. "Besides no one comes until 10."

"You ever think about giving a good impression." Scottie didn't shave. His clothing dated back five years. He was driving a Pinto.

'Not out here." I wasn't trying to be in the movies. My novel was about the last man on earth. Pornography too. Dirty cops. Lesbians. Murder. High-tech sex. I was on chapter 23. 200 pages plus. The end was off in the distance. "I'm on time the nights the Simpsons aren't on."

"What about the nights with Star Trek?" Scottie knew my schedule.

"That's VOYAGER." Seven of Nine was sexier than any of the Bible strippers. "Monday night."

"I can't believe it." Scottie would leave me in the pool house.

I'd sit before the TV. A glass of water in my hand. The clock on the wall ticking its way to 8. It was time for the Simpsons.

Ha ha ha.

When Insults had Class


These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." “ Walter Kerr.

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.“ Winston Churchill


A modest little person, with much to be modest about.“ Winston Churchill


"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."Clarence Darrow


"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."“ William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).


"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?“ Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)


"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.“ Moses Hadas


"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.“ Abraham Lincoln


"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.“ Mark Twain


"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.“ Oscar Wilde


"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.“ George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill


"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second¦ if there is one.“ Winston Churchill, in response.


"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here.“ Stephen Bishop


"He is a self-made man and worships his creator.“ John Bright


"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.“ Irvin S. Cobb


"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."“ Samuel Johnson


"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.“ Paul Keating


"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." Jack E. Leonard


"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.“ Robert Redford


"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."“ Thomas Brackett Reed


"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.“ Charles, Count Talleyrand


"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.“ Forrest Tucker


"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?“ Mark Twain


"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.“ Mae West


"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.“ Oscar Wilde


"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts¦ for support rather than illumination.“ Andrew Lang (1844-1912)


"He has Van Gogh's ear for music.“ Billy Wilder


"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.“ Groucho Marx

A Downpour of Leaks


The war in Afghanistan is going badly despite Obama's escalation of troop levels. The enemy hits convoys with IEDs. Their troops battle our occupation forces. The KIAs and WIAs increase to record levels. Rampant corruption makes it difficult for any Afghans to side with the government and civilian casualties from 'friendly' fire' turn neutrals into insurgents. The White House is under siege from senators and representatives souring on the war effort, especially after Wikileaks' release of 'secret' documents.

This avalanche of information highlights the failings of the military and civilian effort in Afghanistan, however Secretary of War Robert Gates has asked the FBI to investigate the leak of over 90,000 documents, such as how to candycoat civilian casualties by misinforming the public about the number of dead as well as their innocence.

The leaks also finger the Pakistani intelligence's influence on the conflict through their financial and military support for the Taliban.

Anyone who read Stephen Coll's GHOST WAR knew the two players in the Great Game were on the same side. GW Bush refused to believe the truth and President Obama is following the stumbling footsteps of his predeccesor toward ruin.

There is only two options left to the US Military.

Withdraw or annihilate the populace.

Of course our soldiers are already firing a billion bullets a year.

50 for every Afghani civilian.

It's a wonder any of them are alive, then again after 30 years of war these tribesmen are tough than a bucket of nails.

Always have been too.

Just ask the British or the Russians.

The White House, the FBI, and Department of War can investigate the leaks, because that's the only way they don't have to look at the truth.

This war is lost.

Mission unaccomplished.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Price of Happiness


Jimmie has been coming to Pattaya several years. He has obeyed the advice of his lager lout mates to never get involved with a bar girl. Every night of his holiday he goes out, drinks, gets a girl, brings her back for sexual release, and the next day repeats the same process.

“I feel like I’m doing an expensive version of GROUNDHOG DAY.” Jimmie said in his Gordie accent one afternoon, nursing his hangover with a beer.

Actually he had to repeat the sentence three times before I could understand his dialect. He shrugged and added, “Met a girl last night. She’s a good one. Doesn’t want nothing and fucks like she likes it. I think I’m gonna stay with her.”

Being a married man and nearly faithful ( I believe Bill Clinton never had sex with Monica Lewinsky ), I don’t like seeing any man in his golden age succumbing to allure of commitment. “Jimmie, fight off that urge. Have another beer.”

Jimmie was weak. The girl was cute. He looked like a vulture. She loved sex and he said, “I want to stay with her the month. She says I have to give her 15,000 baht ($400US) for the month and then the bar 6000 baht. Does that seem like a good deal?”

15K was probably better than she was making at the bar.

“If it makes her happy.”

“What about the 6000 to the bar?”

“Well, it’s an insurance policy. Once you leave she’s going to have to work somewhere and she likes where she works. So you have to give the bar their due.”

“I just feels a little too much like slavery.”

Bar fines are confusing to most men.

The prices in Pattaya generally run according to these rates

Go-go girls get 500 baht.

Show girls cost 600-1000 baht.

Service girls in go-go bars are 500 baht.

Bar girls are 200 baht.

Short time girls on Soi 6, Welkom Inn, and Jade Garden at 200 baht.

Free lancers at Marine Disco or Tony’s don’t expect a bar fine, although it would stop them from asking for one.

I explained all this to Jimmie as well as that his girl gets a commission from the barfine. 25-50%.

“So you think it’s a good idea?”

“Yeah, sounds great to me.” Some people need a shove to push them off the cliff.

“Cheers.” Jimmie bought a round for the bar to celebrate his decision. The girl came down later and thanked me.

“Only trying to make a man happy.”

“I make him happy. He make me happy. Good.”

“Yeah, sure. But can you understand what he says.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I don’t speak German.”

Neither does Jimmie, then again I’m not so sure that he speaks English.

Doesn’t matter. Money says love in every language.

RECAP

Jimmie lasted a week with the girl. Has someone else since then. Almost a month. It’s either love or laziness.

SCHNORER /Bet On Crazy by Peter Nolan Smith


After I made a sandwich at my desk, Richie Boy grabbed a slice of salami. Our sharing more than food throughout our twenty-year friendship didn’t deter my protests against his poaching. “I see you have no shame in being a schnorrer!”

“Only cause I learn from the best.” Richie Boy popped the peppery slice in his mouth and returned to fielding the onslaught of phone calls from friends and customers.

“What’s a ‘snorer’?” said Anna, the tall student who had been hired for the Christmas rush. She was beautiful and sweet, but her Brazilian accent couldn’t get around the guttural ‘schn’., so I explained, “A schnorrer is someone who mooches off you.”

“Mooch?” This term stumped Anna’s English.

A passing Hassidic pearl dealer interjected his two cents, “A mooch or schnorrer is a beggar.”

“Yes, but not always,” I explained. “A schnorrer is more someone who eats off your plate, because he likes what you have.”

“You mean like how someone else’s potato chips taste better than those you buy.”

Satisfied Anna understood my analogy, I turned to the Hassid. “Can you think of another word for beggar?”

“Not that I know.” The Hassid pulled on his long curly sidelock.

“Marty,” I yelled to the retired principal, who schlepped merchandise part-time for Manny’s partner. “What’s the Yiddish word for beggar?”

While Marty was a scholar of Judaica, he replied perplexed. “Have to admit I really don’t know.”

“So a ‘snorer’ is like those ladies with the canes begging on the sidewalk?”

“No, those ladies are Palestinian Gypsies,” Marty frowned disapprovingly.

“So there’s nothing wrong with them?” Anna’s eyes widened like she had witnessed a miracle.

“They have a school where they learn to walk like ballerinas with broken feet.”

“I thought they were cripple.”

“They’re thieves running a scam.”

“So beggars are more honest.” Anna was puzzled.

“Beggars are just as bad.”

“Not Lenny!” I protested.

Manny, my boss, lifted his head. “Lenny was the worst of them all. He pretended to be mad, but he had more money than all of us put together.”

Manny also accused me of having a hidden fortune and I said, “That’s not true. How much money did you think Lenny made in one day?”

“Fifty dollars easy,” Marty ventured and even Lee got into the discussion. “He didn’t need the money. His family was rich.”

“Lenny was too crazy to make any money.”

“Too drunk more like it!” Manny muttered, then added, “Don’t you have anything better to do than talk about that bum!”

“Yeah, the world’s a better place without him!” Lee returned to his end of the booth.

Lenny certainly wasn’t cantonizable to sainthood, so I dropped the subject and called several customers about picking up their merchandise. Once I was hung up, Anna sat down and asked, “Who was Lenny and why did everyone get so angry about him?”

“Lenny?” I looked over my shoulder and whispered, because I didn’t want to ignite another debate. “There’s a mad rabbi who always is shouting ‘Shalom!’ and another Hassid pretending to be asking for alms for the new temple in Jerusalem. Lenny was the only Hassidic bum on the street who wasn’t running a religious scam.”

“So this Lenny was a good person?” Anna whispered, as Manny went into the window for a diamond brooch.

“No, Lenny wasn’t such a nice person, but I like him.” Maybe because he resembled an overweight puppy gone.

“Anna, I want you to go up to the setter and have him check these stones.” Manny handed her a set of earrings. “Why are you bothering to tell stories about that gonif!”

“Because Lenny was special and certainly didn’t steal like Tie-coon.” Tie-coon was a well-dressed gentleman from Harlem providing ties and belt from famous stores at a fraction of the price.

“Tie-coon provided a service.” Manny gave him $20 any time the shoplifter asked. He had a weak spot for him and I had mine. “Lenny might have been worthless, but he wasn’t a thief and always had a nice word for me.”

“Cause you gave him a buck!”

“Yeah, well, it was my dollar.” Noticing Anna waiting with her coat over her arm, I motioned for her to leave. Once she was gone, Manny said, “And now you don’t have to give it to him, because Lenny’s gone.”

“Don’t tell me that makes you happy?” I actually missed seeing him on the street.

“No, just glad I don’t hear his whining voice anymore.”

Manny resumed juggling his bills and I went to the front window to rearrange the rings. In front of 34 West 47th Street an older man in a suit sat on the sidewalk with his trouser rolled up his wooden leg and by the garbage can a seventeen-year old Gypsy with a baby in her arms was begging to passers-by. Sometimes it seemed like there were more beggars on 47th Street than customers, but none of them were as good as Lenny.

He made me laugh many times and there aren’t many people who can do that.

The first day I started working at 45 West 47th Street was cold.

By the afternoon the snow was coming down hard and the operation across the aisle was packing up for an early departure home. Manny was desperately hoping for a final sale and said we were staying till closing time. The guards weren’t happy to hear this news, but no customers entered the exchange. Not one and at 5pm a bovine-faced fat man with broken glasses and a yarmulke drunkenly perched across a prematurely balding skull opened the door. He wasn’t wearing a coat, only a tee-shirt and paper-thin pants, though he showed no effects from the blizzard other than show on his shoulders. He blew on his hands and asked, “Anyone have anything to give today.”

Manny shouted, “Get out! This is a place of business.”

“What you have against Jews?” His voice was high-pitched and sounded easily excitable.

“We have nothing against Jews, only bums!” Lee angrily shouted, “You heard the man, get out of here!”

“You’re both Nazis!” He faced me. “What about you? You’re a gentile, right? You got a dollar. I don’t do drugs. All I do is get a little stitch. That’s Yiddish for drunk.”

I dug into my pocket for a dollar. When he eagerly stepped closer, the smell of rancid potato wrinkled my nose. He took off his threadbare yarmulke. “Sorry, but I don’t wash in the shelter. It’s not kosher.”

I laughed, “You are a little ripe.”

“In the summer it’s worst, but it keeps away anyone who wants to hurt me and in the shelter there’s plenty of people that don’t like Jews.”

I handed him the dollar and the bum shrugged to Lee. “See how gentiles treat Jews.”

As soon as he left, Manny said, “I don’t want you giving that bum any money. Not in my place of business.”

“Okay,” I answered, but my money was my money.

The next day I was returning from Berger’s Deli with my lunch and spotted the bum was speaking with Manny’s first employee, Norman Greenhut. It was below freezing, yet his skin steamed from the fever of his mania.

I stopped and listened to his articulate treatise on Microsoft stock. He almost sounded intelligent, though I wasn’t banking anything on someone who smelled like a dead man’s shoe. As I began to walk away, the bum said, “There’s the goy who gave me a dollar yesterday. The good goy, Damien.”

“His name isn’t Damien___”Norman started, but I interrupted, “I like the name Damien fine.”

“My name’s Lenny.” The bum nervously shuffled from one foot to another.

“You want my lunch?” I couldn’t resist the charm of his utter helplessness.

“From Berger? That’s not kosher.”

“Just what the world has been waiting for, a finicky bum,” Norman laughed, but Lenny cringed with hurt and shambled off with a mutter. “I’m not finicky, just don’t eat tref. See you, Damien.”

Berger’s was definitely kosher, though not dairy, and I said, “Lenny doesn’t seem to be playing with all the cards in the deck.”

“Believe it or not, Lenny used to be a big stockbroker on Wall Street.”

“What happened?”

“He went nuts after the 1987 Crash. Lost his fortune and his mind.” Norman never had a nice word to say about many people, but admitted, “He really does know what he’s talking about.”

“So you would use his stock tip.”

“About Microsoft? No way they’ll beat out IBM.”

Of course no one listened to Lenny, because he would start the day on 47th Street at noon as a meek moocher and work the street getting a dollar here and there. Richie Boy and I gave as did another twenty soft touches. He would always joke about Richie Boy having schitzah or gentile girlfriends and thank me for any contribution by saying, “You’re a good man, Damien. God bless you.”

We all made fun of him, but no one picked on the schemiell more than himself and he worked self-deprecation to a fine art. People would ask him to come home in hopes of salvation, but Lenny was beyond redemption and apparently happy where he was, though he did suffer.

Once I caught him limping up the sidewalk and asked him what was wrong.

“You know I sleep outside, because the crackheads in the shelter will steal everything I have.”

“Lenny, what could they want from you?” Lenny possessed nothing even a crackhead would want, but desperation is the evil step-father of need.

“They think I’m rich, just like everyone here. The Nazis!” He unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants. “I was sleeping on a bench and a cop hit me.”

The bruises across his thighs were not self-induced and I told him, “Pull up your pants, Lenny. There are women present.”

None of them were looking, but Lenny chuckled, “Sorry, I forgot where I was.”

I held out five dollars and Lenny said, “You don’t have to, Damien. I know you don’t make a lot of money.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I know everything about the street.” He smiled wisely and his eyes were clear. “Maybe one day I’ll tell you everything I know like how three years ago there was a drought in Angola. You know where it is, right above South Africa.”

The country had been suffering from a savage civil war since the Portuguese abandoned their old colony in 1975. I nodded and Lenny continued, “Well, there was a UN truce and things were getting back to normal, but because the water was so low, people were able to go into the rivers and pick millions of diamonds from the riverbeds. Billions and diamonds were getting about as rare as light bulbs, so deBeers got tired of paying out this money and paid Savimbi from Unita to start up the war again. Don’t worry, you won’t find it in the papers. Thanks for the money, Damien.”

And he was right, I never was able to verify this tale, except there is still a war in Angola.

Being right didn’t help Lenny, but he always retained his humor. His best schtick, occurred in 1996, when he ran for president. “Vote for me for President. A Jew for America. I have a plan for peace in the Middle East. We normalize relations with Cuba, bet them to declare Havana to be Miami. All the Cubans will move to Cuba thinking it’s Miami, then we get all the Israelis to move to Florida, where Disneyworld will build them a new Jerusalem to await the messiah.”

Of course no one voted for Lenny, but they would give him enough to buy a pint bottle of whiskey. Despite his size it didn’t take much to get him drunk and by 5pm he was a disgrace. His glasses at an angle, he would insult the pedestrians, ignorant of anyone’s generosity, and the police hustled him off the block for good.

The winter of 2000 I left to live in Thailand, thinking I could retire from the diamond trade.

Life was good out there and I returned to New York for the holidays. The city was prosperous and filled with shoppers. I hadn’t been looking for Lenny, but found him on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His schtick didn’t work on the bussed-in tourists and he appeared sad, almost sick. I went up to him and said, “Lenny, are you okay?”

He squinted behind his smeared glasses and whined, “Oh, it’s you Damien! You still working on the street?”

“No, I’m living in Bangkok. Working for an Internet company.” At least hat was my cover.

“Oh, Bangkok, you have to be careful there. They’ll steal all your money, you don’t look out.” It was a prediction to which I should have listened. I reached into my pocket and held out a dollar bill. “Damien, you don’t have to.”

“Hey, it’s the holidays.”

“For the goyim, but not a poor Jew like me.”

“Poor, everyone on the street thinks you’re rich.”

“A lot they know.” He emptied his pockets. They held nothing, but lint. “I haven’t made any money, since they threw me off the street. All because I started saying that Israel should give back some land to the Arabs.”

I had heard it was for exposing himself in an exchange, but he had done that plenty of times without getting in trouble. “What about your family?’

“I have no family. My mother and father, you think they want anything to do with me. And my brother and sister. Them too, but what can you expect? I’m a bum. You want to know where I live. I’ll tell you. You know I can’t sleep in the shelter, because it’s not kosher, so I sleep on the grate near the Fifth Avenue Synagogue. I think the rabbi doesn’t like me doing that, but you know why I do this. Because I make the gentiles think there’s such a thing as a poor Jew.”

“But everyone on 47th Street thinks you’re rich.”

“That’s what they want to think, because they don’t want to know anyone poor. That’s why I haunted 47th Street. Just to show them how close being poor was. That was my mission, but they took that away from me.”

“Lenny, that’s not true.”

“Damien, that nice of you to think that, but I know better. You look at all those diamonds. All so beautiful and do they make the people who sell them happy. Not that I can see, but then I’m nearly blind.”

He took my dollar and lurched off the steps like a giant Panda trying to find a new zoo.

When Anna returned to the store, she asked, “What happened to Lenny?”

“He died of an infected hernia.”

“That’s so sad.”

“Yeah, and he was a good dancer.” It was a lie, but I wanted Anna to think good of him.

I miss him. Miss him beaming an idiotic grin at the window. Miss him pissing off Lee. Miss his stupid shamble up the sidewalk, because on a street where wealth is exulted, Lenny believed in just being a human being. That might be wrong, but like him I don’t really believe in the value of diamonds, only their beauty. Just like people.

BET ON CRAZY 7 / Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton by Peter Nolan Smith


The day after Christmas Manny’s longtime partner, Lee, was showing a 7.04 Cushion Cut Round Diamond to a retired couple from West Palm Beach. The sixtyish woman wore a matriarchal Dior outfit, though she betrayed her Brooklyn roots with an envious coo, “I don’t know, it’s so bigggg!”

Her husband’s skin color of an old leather couch from the decades of sun on Long Island and Florida. For once he agreed with his wife, wanting to get back to Boca Raton ASAP. “It is big.”

“Big? This isn’t big.” Lee, silver-haired and handsome in his early seventies, slipped the platinum ring onto the woman’s finger. “You remember Liz Taylor and Richard Burton? Well, back when we were all young, my good friend, Buzzy Yugler, had a 55-Carat D Flawless Diamond, which sparkled like snow under moonlight. Liz thought it was a little too big, yet once she put it on, she somehow changed her mind and said, “I think I can get used to it.”

Acting as if he had been in the room with Liz, Lee guffawed elegantly and the couple laughed too, though the man sighed, when Lee asked me, “Could you put this back in the front window.”

As the woman’s eyes trailed the ring longingly, I heard Manny mutter about Lee’s unabashed schmoozing, “Buzzy Yugler had nothing to do with that sale.”

Whereas Lee had been brought up on Park Avenue and inherited his father’s diamond business on 47th Street, Manny had spent his youth on the streets of Brownsville and learned the jewelry trade on the Bowery from the bottom up. The Italian suits and imported ties accented more his rough background than hide them, not that he cared a rat’s ass what anyone thought, because he didn’t have to pretend that he had a firm grasp of what was right and wrong.

“What do you mean?” I asked, bringing the 7.04 to the front window.

“I don’t have time to tell stories.” Manny looked at the wall clock at the back of the exchange. It was past noon and his customer hadn’t arrived with a promised check. He frowned like Jackie Mason not getting a laugh and turned to me. “And neither do you.”

I surveyed the sidewalk for prospective customers, however most were intent on wide-eyed browsing. “Not much business out there today.”

“Now you hexed the entire day.” Manny pulled out the folded paper towel he wore every morning to prevent his shirt collar from getting dirty. He knotted his tie and joined me in the window. He was ready for action, but one glance at the street broke his heart and he said, “Buzzy Yugler bid a million dollars for the stone, which wasn’t 55-carat.”

I remembered Liz Taylor leaving the singer, Eddie Fisher, for Richard Burton during the filming of CLEOPATRA. “A million dollars back in 1964 must have been a lot of money.”

“But not enough to buy a 66-carat Pear Shape, because someone beat Buzzy’s bid by three hundred thou, though failure didn’t prevent him from crowing about having sold Liz the stone.”

“I thought Harry Winston sold Richard Burton the stone.”

“Maybe he did.” Manny shrugged like he heard different. “Abe Padrush offered Elizabeth Taylor two-million three for the stone. She would have sold it to him, except he wanted her to hand it to him personally and be photographed doing so. Publicity like that would have been priceless, but Richard Burton refused. Thought it was too low-class. Goyim, go figure.”

Richard Burton’s rejecting the prime Yiddish tenet of ‘nimmt geld’ or take the money confounded Manny, as did many aspect of gentile behavior. His son, Richie Boy, had been speaking on the telephone, but overheard his father and decided to his father a zug or needle. “You just don’t understand them, because you were brought up on the Bowery.”

“We had plenty of Gs downtown.”

“Yeah, but not like here and you don’t know how to deal with these people uptown.”

Being Yankee Irish I had a lot of better things to do than intermediate the eternal psychological battle between father and son, but Richie Boy turned to me and said, “You remember than million dollar ruby?”

“How can I forget?” I could easily recollect the fingernail-sized stone ten years earlier. I only had only seen it twice and each time was awed by the blood red radiance, yet I hadn’t seen any one million dollars in it and when I had told Richie Boy the same, he had said, “I don’t either, but believe me that’s what it’s worth.”

“Your guy isn’t going to buy it!” Manny insisted, as we examined the stone.

“Why do you always have to be so negative?” Richie Boy shook his head. He wasn’t handsome, but possessed an demonstrative affability, which had won over a good number of wealthy clients, though none as rich as the president of a West Coast airline who was looking to buy his girlfriend, a blonde heiress from Millbrook, something special for her birthday. His call was for a very rare ruby. It had to be over five carats, a natural from Burma, internal perfect, and the color of the blood bleeding from a pigeon’s nose. The vein, not the artery. Very specific about the details, which meant the customer had done his research.

Richie Boy phoned several dealers and within a day came up with a stone. It wasn’t cheap and the dealer flatly told us, “875,000 dollars and I don’t want to hear any bitching about the price.”

Banned from chiseling the price angered Manny, especially since his son was reaching for stars he couldn’t see. “I’m not being negative, but no one, and I don’t care how rich they are is going to spend a million dollars for someone else’s wife.”

“Yeah, but he’s going to marry her as soon as she’s free.” Richie protested, though Manny merely laughed, “Think what you like. You’re young. You’ll find out.”

His father walked away and Richie Boy asked me, “What do you think?”

“It doesn’t look like a house in the Hamptons with a beach view, but what do I know?”

Richie Boy agreed and picked two diamond necklaces for back-up from Lee’s inventory. Both cost over a quarter million. “The G has to buy something.”

An hour later the client called and told Richie Boy to meet him at the Regis Hotel.

In his room on the tenth floor.

Richie Boy’s father immediately announced that we were being set up. Neither of us disagreed, but the client wasn’t coming to 47th Street. Manny wanted to kabosh the entire deal, however we were insured for the full value of the merchandise.

“And what if you get robbed on the street?” His father liked to play all the angles.

“That’s not going to happen!” Richie was licensed to carry, though when he stuck his 9mm in the shoulder holster, I asked, “You’re not really going to shot someone, if they try and rob us?”

“No, nothing is worth dying over, but it will look better on the insurance form, if I was carrying.” To Richie Boy’s way of thinking getting robbed was almost like making a sale, since the insurance companies would have to cover the loss, though both of us could do without the psychological scarring of someone sticking a gun in our face..

As Richie Boy hid the jewelry inside his suit coat and I picked up the front section of the newspaper. His father swore, “What you need a newspaper for?”

I was about to tell him, I wanted something to read, however Richie Boy told him, “Pete broke Doom Darazzio’s nose with a newspaper. One blow.”

Manny’s brother. Seymour the Cop, could attest to my toughness, but that was a long time ago and I was only taking the newspaper was to have something to read, while Richie Boy conducted his sale. Everyone wished us luck, though his father swore we were crazy.

He was right, but we walked over to the St. Regis Hotel and arrived at the hotel without incident. Two guests tried to get on the elevator with us, but Richie Boy and I glared a warning to take the next car up. Reaching tenth-floor corridor, we smiled nervously. So far everything had gone accordingly to plan.

Richie Boy padded his pockets, as if he thought he might have been pickpocketed by the Invisible Man. Feeling his jacket, he nodded to indicate the jewelry was still on his person and then he rang the bell. A woman laughed and several second later the door opened.

Both of us stared, because the blonde was naked, but for high heels. She was in her late thirties, but her skin tone revealed a gym regime. When Richie Boy and I exchanged a puzzled glance, she smiled and drawled straight out of Texas, “C’mon in, boys, we’ve been waitin’ for y’all.”

She sashayed into the main suite, where her boyfriend rose from the satin couch. He was tall, athletic, and wearing only a bathrobe. Greeting Richie Boy with a handshake, he looked at me and asked, “Who’s your friend?”

Richie played it right and took the two diamond necklaces from his jacket. “He’s the protection for these.”

He draped the diamonds on the woman’s bare neck and she sat on the man’s lap. Even though they weren’t dressed and were from the best families in America, I didn’t trust them, but by the end of an hour Richie boy had sold one of the necklace. We took a cashier’s check for more money than either of us could earn in several years, but Richie Boy wasn’t happy, because he hadn’t sold the ruby.

Back at the store everyone congratulated Richie boy on the sale. His father shrugged and said, “I told you that he wouldn’t go for the ruby.”

“Yeah, you’re always right.” Richie retold the story a dozen times that day and probably several hundred more, including the day after Christmas. Lee came over and turned up his hearing aid, since he liked to hear about the schitzah’s being naked as much as the blonde buying his piece. “I love that story.”

“You would.” Manny commented, since Lee’s admiration of blonde gentile woman was endemic to the most Jewish men. “But I’ll tell you another story.”

“Not about your girlfriend!” Richie Boy groaned, fixing his purple label suit’s lapels.

“No, I’ll tell you a story about schitzahs that will curl your hair.” Manny smoothed down his Caesaresque coif for effect and then continued, “I was working down on the Bowery. Before you came to work for me, Richie.”

“Back in the Stone Age before the car and telephones!” Lee joked, but Manny was two years younger and said, “You remember those days just as good as me, if not better, but this was also when the blondes were really blondes and not out of a blonde. Well, maybe half of them were real.”

Manny had everyone attention, including the two Hassidic diamond brokers at the counter. “It was summertime, maybe 1971. Hilda and I were doing good. She was a lot like Richie in that she could sell rain to a picnic. Anyway this day she’s not working and I’m in the store with Norman.”

“Norman!” Everyone remembered Manny’s first employee and some not fondly, especially Richie Boy, who announced, “Best thing I did two years ago was fire that kuchleffle!”

As far as I could recall, Norman retired once he inherited his mother’s money, but Manny raised his hands, “Norman was a shit-stirrer, but back then he was a real lady’s man back then. Won the Lido Beach Club Body-building contest all through the sixties.”

“And you call that a talent?” Lee asked and Manny answered with a smile, “It worked for me. Anyway this one afternoon I see Norman outside talking with this beautiful blonde. I mean, she’s like a Vegas showgirl. He comes in with her and I expect him to want to use the vault, but instead he tells me she’s looking for a diamond ring. A big one. Five carat. I know not as big as Liz Taylor’s or and certainly not more money than you got for that diamond necklace.”

This story sounded very familiar, because I had heard it from Norman. Manny noticed this and said, “Norman likes to tell it that he sold her the diamond and got screwed later, but she said to me, “I have this boyfriend. He’ll buy me anything I want. He won’t chisel you for the price, but I want you to give me half the profit.”

“I couldn’t believe my ears and thought she was trying to pull a scam, but the guy came in, didn’t squawk about the price, and she left with him. Ring, box, go.”

“And so then what happened?” one of the Hassidic brokers asked, stroking his salt-and pepper beard.

“Well, she came back, just like she said she would. I paid her what I owed her.”

“Half?” Lee demanded incredulously.

“Fifty-fifty above my cost.” This split could have meant anything, but Manny stilled all other questions by saying, “She was happy, but gave me back the ring.”

“She wanted you to buy it back?” It would be the first time a woman did this to a man, however Manny shook his head. “No, she said she wanted me to sell it back to her.”

“What?” Everyone asked in unison.

“She tells me she has another boyfriend, who wants to buy her a ring, but she can’t have two, otherwise she won’t remember which is which could lead to complications, so she says, “Sell me this ring again and we’ll split the money fifty-fifty.”

Manny eyed everyone. I shrugged to signal I would ruin the punchline and nobody mentioned anything about the morality of what the woman proposed, but Manny admitted nothing by saying, “I did what I thought was best.”

“Which means, “Lee demanded.

“That nobody got hurt.” Manny’s last word coincided with the arrival of a young couple looking for an engagement ring. I heard Richie Boy start to say, “No one is luckier than Pete.”

Manny and Lee said, “Barbara.”

I glared over my shoulders to silence them and then turned to the young couple straight in from Connecticut and asked, “When are you getting married?”

“September,” the twenty-two year-old brunette announced as if the vision of her wedding was playing inside her mind.

“2002?”

“No, 2003.” The man put his arm around his future bride.

Manny and Richie Boy chuckled and said, “A WOT.”

They were probably right that doing missionary work with these two would be a waste of time, but you never knew where anything was going to lead, so I said, “Congratulations.”

And I wasn’t lying.

Blessing The House


Johnson had been living in Bangkok between his oil rig gigs. Hers first choice was Ban Suay Nok near her brother. Johnson had been to Ban Suay Nok twice. Her brother had no family resemblance.

“He not brother 100%. Not same father.” Thai relationships are very confusing for simple farangs.

Johnson decided to move to Pattaya, buying a house in his girlfriend’s name. After they set up house, she asked to have the residence blessed by monks.

“It tradition and good luck.”

Johnson’s job was dangerous. He needed all the luck he could get. He let his tee-lat arrange the blessing and two weeks later seven monks showed up with a pick-up truck along with several other cars of his girlfriend’s family. Johnson was glad to see that the ‘brother’ wasn’t in attendance and sat through the mumbled prayers. He paid off the first six monks and then noticed that the head monk looked very familiar.

The ‘brother’.

“No, not brother. He cousin brother. Not same father me.”

Johnson wasn’t too sure about that and short-changed the dubious monk a 1000 baht. An hour later the headman of the village came to his house and asked why Johnson had stiffed the monk his pay. Johnson explained his suspicions and the headman laughed, “Brother cousin boyfriend. You never know with Thai lady, but this man he monk. Not monkey business. He speak English good, ha ha.”

Johnson gave the headman the 1000 baht, plus another 500 to the headman for his time in settling the dispute. He asked me if I ever had my house blessed and I said once a year, except for last year and I got arrested by the cyber-crime unit, so don’t be cheap.”

“But I’m not doing anything criminal.” Johnson was straight.

“This is Thailand. You’re in a foreign land. You never know. What about the ‘brother’?”

“He quit being a monk and now is doing work on the house so he can buy a wig.”

“Oh.”

“But he’s not her boyfriend.”

“No?”

“Just family.”

Oh.” I said nothing and told his ‘all the best’, knowing how tight families are in Thailand.

Brothers cousins and uncles too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Competence of the DEA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeGD7r6s-zU

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SEA LEGS by Peter Nolan Smith



The trade between Asia and Europe was centered on spice. The oriental lore of processing roots, seeds, and bark into food enhancers inspired travelers to seek various paths to detour the layers of middlemen profiting from the lucrative east-west trade route. Successful voyagers stood to make fortunes. Christo Colon failed to reach Japan in 1992, but seven years later Vasco de Gama rounded the Horn of Good Hope. The Arab monopoly on the Spice Trade was broken for good.

Ferdinand Magellan was a disaster for the sailors attached to the fleet. The commander was killed in proselytizing battle on the Philippines. Only 15 of the 237 men who set out on five ships set foot on Spanish soil. Death had captured the rest, yet this disastrous circumnavigation of the globe resulted in great wealth for the survivors and investors, because the remaining two ships stopped at the famed spice isle, Tidore, as well as Ambon in the Moluccas.

The Dutch, French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish fought wars on several continents for control of these islands. Manhattan was traded to the Dutch for a small island in the archipelago. The Dutch had acquired the foothold on North America for 60 guilders or the price of several thousand tankards of beer. It seemed like a good deal for the two parties at the time.

In 1991 I sold a big diamond and bought my second round-the-world ticket from PanExpress on 39th Street. I had survived a head-on motorcycle accident in Thailand and freedove to sunken Japanese destroyers off Biak. Both events were memorable and I planned a different westward journey.

JFK-LAX-HONOLULU-BIAK-AMBON-BALI-JAKARTA-SINGAPORE-BANGKOK-PARIS-LONDON-JFK.

Six months.

I had $6000.

More than enough.

My friends and family were worried about this voyage. America was going to war. Kuwait had been slant-drilling into Iraq's Rumaila oil field. Saddam had claimed his neighbor belonged to Iraq. He had massed 30,000 troops on the border. The US ambassador had said, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts."


Green light for invasion.

The Saudis felt insecure. Israel was threatened by Saddam. George Bush was a WWII hero.

Green light to war. America's sense of geography had been ruined by the IT'S A SMALL WORLD ride in Disneyworld. The distances of Asia were blurred by the various cuisines. None of my friends could finger Indonesia on a map. Kuwait was 8000 kilometers from Jakarta. Even farther from Biak. I told everyone not to worry.


"I was out there in World War 2. Fought off Biak in the Battle of the Sump." My Uncle Dave had been in the Navy. Two years on a battleship. Kamikazis off Okinawa. "Ain't nothing there. You be careful. Those people don't value life the same way we do."

Uncle Dave had never been to IT'S A SMALL WORLD. He was seeing doctors for a chronic cough. A lifelong cigarette smoker. Pall Mall.

"Don't worry about me." I had been a peacenik in the 60s. 70s, 80s, and 90s too. No one really wanted a piece of me. I brought postcards of New York. Photos of my family. Their images would revealed my humanity to the natives. I included a photo of an ex-love. Two years after the end I couldn't get her out of my mind.<

No other tourists offloaded the Garuda flights from LA. I got a room in the Dutch hotel across from the airport. I was the only guest. US troops and their coalition allies massing on the border of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi invaders. The outcome was in doubt. My Sony World radio had good reception. I listened to the news on the BBC World Service. I was betting on the West. We had better tanks.

Biak was a backwater. The war was on another planet. I had committed desertion in the face of the enemy. I didn't have a dog in that fight.

Scarred Japanese war veterans wandered through the graveyards of their fallen dead. They avoided everyone but their memories. They stayed one day. None of them spoke English. I nodded to them with respect. 5000 of their comrades had died in a cave. Only five survived the carnage.

My days were lazy. The big bottles of Bintang beer were cold and kretek cigarettes were laced with cloves. The aroma lingered on my fingers. The cough hung out a little longer. I had my own diving mask and flippers. The coral cliffs began twenty feet beyond the shore. Fish fed on the current. Sea turtles and large parrot fish. I stayed in Biak two weeks.

Ambon was next on the list. A spice island. Capitol of the Moluccas. A diplomat attached to the Indonesian consulate in New York had suggested a lay-over with his uncle. I gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. No one in Asia drank Johnny Walker Red, unless there was no Black.

"You have wife?"

"No." I was used to this line of questioning.

"You have baby?" Asian thought bachelorhood a curse. My mother thought the same.

"No." I wished the answer could have been yes.

"Maybe one day."

James was a government official. A Christian. Indonesia was 95% Muslim. Ambon ran against the grain. Christians were the majority, but everyone was a mixture of Malay and Papuan on the tropical island, except for the Javanese deported from their overpopulated island. They worked as pedicab drivers. A few jeered at me. I was the only white person within a thousand miles.

"Saddam # 1. Bush no good."

I agreed with the 2nd sentiment. I considered myself in exile. Simon's uncle lent his car and driver for a tour of the island. An old fort, giant eels in a river, a beach on the north side of Ambon. The sea was murky. Fish were scarce. Fishing boats bombed the corals with dynamite. The driver pointed to mountains across a broad channel.

"Seram. Have big magic. Men fly in sky. Bad magic."

The people followed animism. Magic was their sole export. No tourist went there.


"I not go there." I spoke a little Bahasan Indonesian after my last trip to the archipelago. It was an easy language. No articles. No tenses. Bagus was good. Bagus-bagus was very good. "Go Tidore."

"Tidore. No mistah go Tidore. Banyak Muslim. Go to Bali." The driver was dumbfounded by my choice. The young wanted off this island. Jakarta was their dream. Not an island more forgotten by time.

"Saya ke Tidore." I dropped the verb to go. It was a common trait in Bahasa.


"Tidak apa-apa." No problem.

We returned to the city to drink Johnny Walker with honey. No ice. James took me to the chicken farm. Young girls served older men beer. This scene was played out everywhere in Asia. Europe and the USA. We drank to Rambo. No one toasted Saddam or Bush. Religion and politics were off-limits in brothels. I showed the girls pictures of Manhattan. None of them believed the pictures were real.

I returned to my hotel on the harbor around midnight. The Bugis sailors were preparing for a morning departure. Ropes creaked on the masts. The design of their prahu dated back centuries. Indonesia had thousands of islands. The prahu were the connection. For some reason I was overcome with deja vu. I blamed sensation on the honey and then the whiskey.

The hotel staff was watching the TV. Soldiers loading bombs onto jets. Saddam had been our ally. Iraq had fought Iran. The war of the I-nations. The dictator was hoping for a reprieve. He should have been packing his bags for exile in Switzerland. Saddam had been I tried to call my parents in Boston from the Ambon PO.

Collect.

The telephone operators were Christian. They gave me the sign for victory. Pro-USA.

No one answered the phone.

I gave the operators the thumbs-up. It wasn't my fight, but Saddam had massacred thousands. He deserved a bad ending.

I got on the morning flight to Ternate. James and the driver waved good-bye.


"Kembali." Return.

"Rambo."

I was the only 'mistah' on the plane. The flight stopped briefly at Bata, the old prison island, before flying over the Molucca Sea. Small boats dotted the surface. Wakes of white vee. The stewardesses served sandwiches. A beer too. I had two. I showed photos of my family. The stewardess asked if I had a wife. I was embarrassed to say no. The pilot announced our approach. There were no delays. This was the day's only arrival.

I picked up my bag from the carousel and walked outside. Volcanoes dominated the horizon. The air was fragrant with spice. The taxi drivers were surprised to see me. Their faces were Javanese. More deportees.

Hostility. This island was 100% Muslim.

Several words were said under their breath. I couldn't decipher their exact meaning, but the tone was unmistakably crude. The polisi seemed to share their antipathy. I pulled out a $10. It was a lot of money in 1991 on a remote island. Enough to buy a smile from one driver.

He took me to the best hotel on the island.

"Here safe. No problem for mistah."

"Tidak apa-apa."

He was happy to hear a 'orang asing' speak his national language. None spoke the tongue of the Moluccas. I was the only westerner in the hotel. The room was clean. The manager said that it was safe. Only one condition.

"Please do not leave the room."

"Why not?" I had a good idea why.

"Ternate people like Saddam. He is Muslim. No one like Dutch people." Mohammad had been to Mecca. He had seen the world. His belief was for the good of man, but his neighbors remembered the rule of the Netherlands. The Dutch had impossiblized independence for the Moluccas. Europe loved divide and conquer. Most of the nations of the Middle East had straight line borders. A recipe for conflict.

My room was on the 2nd floor. I stood on the balcony. Minarets silhouetted against the early evening sky. Moonlight bathed the volcanic cones. Magellan's successor, Juan Sebastián Elcano, had admired the same vista in 1521. Joseph Conrad had written about these islands in VICTORY. Jack London haunted his books with blackbirds, pearlers, and beachcombers. My uncle Dave might have smoked a cigarette on the deck of a battleship off these two islands. The BBC was broadcasting a quiz show. I was hungry.

The manager was surprised to see me.

"Mistah no go."

"Makan-makan." Eat was an easy word to remember in Bahasa. Mohammad arranged a motorcycle ride to the harbor. The driver was fat. He knew a good place to eat. Warungs lined the beachfront. Men walked with men. Women walked with women. Music blared from tinny speakers. Pop mixed with traditional. I sat at a food stall. Dozens of plates spread across a table. I picked my dinner according to appearance.

One offering was better than others. A little tough, but very tasty. I ordered seconds. A murmuring swelled at my back. People were gathering behind me. I ate the second plate with some dispatch and ordered the bill. "Rekening."

"Saddam # 1." The chant was loud on the first try. Louder on the second. I figured the crowd numbered about 40. Amok comes from the Malay language. One man mad. Another twenty men joined the anti-western mantra. The waiter delivered my bill and moved aside with speed. I stood slowly, as if nothing was wrong. Magellan had been killed by such a mob in the Philippines. I turned around to face the odds.

100 to one.

An old man with one arm was screaming in my face. His eyes were red. He had been waiting to hate a white man for decades. I was the target for his spittle. It was time to go.

My hand went to my wallet and I picked up the rekening.

One word stuck out.

Angin. Two plates.

I had seen it before.

Hati-hati angin.

'Beware of the dog." I held up the bill to the old man.

"Saya makan angin?"

"Angin." His eyes focused on the bill. "Dua angin."

"No, I did not eat 'angin'." I would have ordered 3rd if the crowd had not interrupted my dinner.

"Mistah makan angin." The old man with one arm announced to his followers. They laughed with mirth. No mistahs ate dog. "Kamu makan angin."

The mob was on edge. Blood was running hot. The temperature was in the high 80s. only magic could save me and I cast a spell with my next word.

"Lezat."

The crowd of men had not expected a compliment for the cuisine of the island. A mistah liking dog. They laughed and I exited from the harbor through a gauntlet of hands clapping my back. They followed me back to the hotel singing the chorus, "Saddam # 1."

I said nothing about Rambo. The hotel manager asked the mob to disperse. They shouted 'angin, angin', as they disappeared into the night. Mohammad was happy nothing bad happned to me. It had been a close call. That night the US hit Iraq position. Allied Air superiority was countered by missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia. I took my breakfast at the hotel in the morning.

I wrote a few more chapters of NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD. My female protagonist was sculpted from old memories of my ex-girlfriend. I couldn't remember her phone number, but the hotel managed to secure a connection to the USA. My mother and father were relieved to hear my voice. Uncle Dave was in the hospital. His lungs were shot. I asked if I should come home.

"Uncle Dave will be happy that you asked for him." My mother was close to him. They had been friends for over 40 years.

"Tell him I'm staying out of trouble."

My forays from the hotel were few. Two trips around the island. Once to Tidore. Its hills were blanketed by clove trees. The people on that island seemed to be ignorant of the war. Only a few houses sported TV antennae. I swam at a beach at the end of the road. The current was too strong to snorkel. The Moluccas stretched north into terra incognita. Across the sea lay Manudo. Rough Guide said the diving off the nearby atolls was exceptional. A ferry was crossing the strait in two days. I booked passage. It was the end of January.

The war was going badly for Saddam. The Battle of Khafji pushed back his troops. F-16s pounded his positions. The men in Ternate no longer chanted his name. No one likes a loser. Only the old man carried the flag for Saddam. I called him the anti-Rambo. We ate dog together. He drank beer with ice. His real name was Baab. He was the first mate of the ferry across the Molucca Straits.

"Pagi ke Manado." Baab reserved a sleeping berth of the ferry. It was in his cabin. The price of this luxury was $3. I bought beer for everyone. A half-dollar for a big bottle of Bintang.

"You not same mistah." Baab didn't like the Dutch, but he hated the Javanese. Jakarta was far away like Amsterdam. Someplace strange. Someplace on the other side of the world. Distances still mattered on Ternate. His two wives lived on opposite sides of the island.

"You eat dog. Dog make strong. Same bull."

"I like dog."

"You have wife?"


I was tired of saying no and pulled out a photo of an old girlfriend. She had been the love of my life in 1989. Baab held her photo to the light with his one hand.

"Makali Indah."

She had been too beautiful for words. Baab thought that I was human. One of the world. We drank until midnight. I walked back to the hotel guided by fireflies. Magic was in the air. The smell of cloves too. Sleep was a maze of dreams centered on me and my children. I woke thinking of diapers. The manager knocked on the door.

"I have phone to America."

I ran to the desk. It was my mother. She had bad news.

"Uncle Dave is dead."

"Dead." The cigarettes had killed him. He would have loved to hear about this trip. the sea her had been part of his youth. A youth gone forever.


I expressed my condolences and told my mother that I was fine. I said nothing about the ferry. The newspapers in the USA frequently published reports of their sinking.


130 dead in the Java Sea.

Better she think I was flying to Bali. Planes made more sense to her western mind. Her mother had crossed the Atlantic in a cattle ship. Boats were bad luck to Nana. Her daughter thought the same.

I spent the day writing. 2/3s through my novel about pornography in North Hollywood. My ex-girlfriend's character was a virgin. I never fantasized her a whore. I listened to the BBC. The outcome of the war was written by the West. The Iraqis were in retreat.

I gave gifts to the hotel staff. Baseball cap to the manager. Postcards to the waitress staff. A tee-shirt to the fat motorcycle driver. He drove me to the harbor. The ferry was warming up its engine. Baab was hovering over the motor. He was the engineer. Our cabin was next to the wheelhouse. The room reeked of oil and unwashed sheets. It was better than the sleeping quarters below deck.

His friends shouted from the pier.

"Rambo, Rambo."

Saddam had ceased to be their # 1.

"Tidak suka Rambo." Baab grasped the railing with one hand, as the ferry pulled away from the port. The sea was calm. The sky clear. The volcanoes of Ternate and Tidore dominated the ocean. The 3rd-class passengers sought a comfortable position on the deck.

"I like Rocky." Baab excused himself. He had duties.

I walked forward to the prow. The ferry was cutting a swift vee through the waves. The wind was from the east. I pulled off my baseball cap. Uncle Dave had steamed through these waters. His ship a battleship. Mine a ferry. Joseph Conrad was writing prose in my head. A romance about the sea.

The captain studied the clouds in the sky. He shouted orders to the crew. They battened down the cargo. The volcanoes were getting smaller and the waves much larger. Several passengers were getting sick. The sun was dropping in the furrows of the western sea. The sky red. Baab stood by my side.

"Bad sea tonight," He said these words in English and explained, "I work ships everywhere. Europe. America. Asia. All my life. I lose my arm in a storm. Most men stop the sea after accident. But I love the sea. She is my wife. My real wife. You must think much about your wife."

"All the time." My ex- had no idea where I was. We hadn't spoken in two years. What I told Baab was no lie.

"Good." He looked over his shoulder at the other passengers. "Seasick. It like plague. Spread fast. Only two cures for seasick."

"What?" I was feeling queasy.

"Land and death."

The ferry buried its bow in a keel-shaking wave. Behind us was a horizon of storm. Ahead its twin.

"I hope land come first."

"Land come first." Baab patted my shoulder. He was a Muslim. He had hated me a week ago. We were now friends. ROCKY was his favorite movie. His first wife's name was Bellah. # 2 was Amina.

"Good." I fought off seasickness. Baab was pleased that I wasn't like the other passengers. Ee was a man of sea. We were people of the world. A war thousands of miles away was unimportant. The sea was all that mattered and after that land.

It couldn't come soon enough. Death was for someone else. Like my Uncle Dave. He was not looking for me to join him for a long time.

Until then I was at peace.

Tidak apa apa.

THE WAY OF SAIL by Peter Nolan Smith


Once the world traveled by sail. One side of my ancestors arrived in America on the Mayflower. The trip lasted 66 days. My great-grandaunt Bert circumnavigated the globe in the 1870s. Her father's clipper ship powered by wind. Steam engines replaced sail by the beginning of the 20th Century. Proud schooners and brigantines retired from the high seas. Their hulls rotting in estuaries. Only a few luck ships survived into the 21st century and yesterday Tom Berton of Manhattan by Sail invited several female friends and me for an early evening cruise on the tall ship the Clipper City.

The 158-foot schooner was a veteran of the logging trade between the northern woods and the city of New York. I had seen the black-hulled vessel the previous weekend from Governor's Island and thought, "Pirate ship."

I told Gabby, her sister, cousin, and daughter to meet at the North Cove Marina along the Hudson. The July sun baked the bricks of Battery Park City, as I arrived at the supposed docking area to discover that the Clipper City was berth at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Tom had told me that information three times.

Sometimes I don't listen to nothing. It was time to panic. I kept my cool. The girls showed at 4:15. We had 15 minutes until departure. I frantically called Tom, while hailing a taxi.

"I have 139 people waiting." Tom is a fan of my writing. He has run his business for over ten years. 5 seats were $200.

"I'll be there on time."

A taxi driver said that he'd drive the five of us for double the fare. A bargain. We jumped in the cab. He was Bangladeshi. He rounded the southern tip of Manhattan in 7 minutes. We made the Clipper City with 2 minutes to spare. Tom waved us onto the ship. It was a sell-out.

"I'll see you when you get back."

The Clipper City motored away from the pier. The wind was light. The incoming current on the East River created a chop. The bow rose and fell with a mythic cadence. Gabby and I had seen each other since New Year's Day 2009. Her daughter was 10. A stunning replication of her mother's beauty. Her sister was a painter. She was glad to be on the open water. A breeze exiled the memory of the hot concrete of Manhattan. Her cousin smiled with the realization that there were no loudspeakers or music.

"Tom likes for the people to really hear the wind through the sails."

"You never lost that Boston accent." Gabby was rehearsing for an audition. Hollywood wanted her to play the heiress to a Swedish steel fortune. She had the right age and look. Blonde and sophisticated.

"Never really tried to." It was impossible.

"Not in French." We knew each other from Paris. The late 80s.

"Not in Thai either." I sounded like a thug from South Boston more than a Kennedy. The more I drank. The more L Street. It was an act. I was reared on the South Shore. 10 miles from Southie. "I'm stuck with it."

A giant liner was stormtrooping south to the Narrows. Its wake was strong enough to rock the Clipper City. Several guests appeared a little green. Gabby said in a whisper, "They look like they might be seasick."

"It can happen in the calmest waters." No landlubber is prepared for the methodical quivering of the sea. Ocean voyages were in my blood. "My Nana crossed the Atlantic in the Year of the Crow. I've narrowed it down to 1910. She was a 12 year-old girl from County Sligo. Most of the other passengers were cattle. Nana never liked ships after that."

"Guess it was a rough crossing." Gabby was a brave woman. Actress and singer. She had migrated from Montreal to Paris at the age of 21. The inverse of my Nana.

"She ventured onto a ship from Boston to Nantasket. My older brother and I had stayed at her house in Jamaica Plains. My father suggested taking the ferry from Lowe's Wharf. It was a beautiful summer day." Probably a little like this one. Hot and muggy. "The ship was filled with day-trippers. Hundreds of kids. A clown to entertain them. He had a funny wig and big floppy feet. My brother and I were scared by him."

"Clowns scare me too." Emma, the 10 year-old daughter, had a sparkle in her eyes. Mischief. She would be trouble in her teens. Mostly to young boys.

"They scare my son too." Fenway was frightened by monks too. I didn't mentioned that to Emma. Kids have enough hang-ups without ones borrowed from stranger's children. "We kept our distant from the clown. The trip was usually about 30-40 minutes. Uneventful because the route was sheltered by the many harbor islands,however this afternoon the wind picked up and the sky grew dark. The waves smashed over the bow. The boat swung from side to side. My grandmother clung to my brother and me, while the clown and scores of children slid across the tilting deck. The storm ended faster than it began. We landed at Nantasket. My mother asked about the trip. My Nana said nothing. We didn't say anything either."

"A secret." Her cousin was used to those. She was the pastor of an episcopalian church off 5th Avenue. If she was preaching from a pulpit, church-going wasn't such a chore. she accepted my non-belief. I admired her avocation to do good.

"Secrets are only good if you don't tell them."

"So it's not a secret anymore." Gabby's sister was sitting out of the sun.

"No, I have a big mouth." I sat with her. My skin had had too many years on the beach.

We drank beer. Corona in a frosty can. Even little Emma. Only a sip.

The captain shut off the engine. Emma and I helped pull up the sails. It was hard work. The wind caught hold of the Clipper City. The tall ship was under its spell. I shut my eyes. Salt air. Wooden deck under my bare feet. The sun on my face. It could have been 1830. The Moluccas. Cargo of spice. The time warp stretched several seconds into the present, until a squad of jet skis from New Jersey buzzed along the port side.

2010.

New York.

Temperature 93.

It was time to order another beer.

To join the crew of the Clipper City or Shearwater, please go the the following URL

http://www.manhattanbysail.com/

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The End Of Global Warming


The morning sun flashed off a window on the top floor of Brooklyn Tech. The reflection flooded through my westerly windows. My bedroom is on the top floor of a Fort Greene brownstone. White light saturated my eyelids. The distant fireball crisped the iris, retina, and finally my optic nerve. It was dawn.

Temperature already over 90.

I skyped Fenway's mom in Jomtien. Monsoon season. Heavy rains. 89F. Mam was thinking about moving to Si Racha. I liked that town. It was Thai. We were planning to make the move in a month. Fenway for once wasn't busy. We spoke about e-lang. Birds scare him sometimes. They scared me too.

I tried to return to sleep. HAYDAY, a novel about 1848 America, proved a powerful somnifer. Another 45 minutes of unconsciousness. No dreams, no demons, no desires. My body thermometer needed a shower. 30 seconds under the spray of cold water. Catskill water chilled to Niagara cool.

I dressed light. Long-sleeved white shirt. Jeans. Tan sandals. Straw hat to keep off the sun. The atmosphere had ceased to offer protection from the cosmos. I walked down Lafayette to the Academy Diner. The waitress took my order. The same every Saturday. Vera knew it by heart."The usual."

"You got it right." Bacon, eggs over easy, home fries, rye toast, coffee with milk. My seat sat in line of the air condition. 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Hot out there." Vera delivered ice water and OJ.

"Feels like Venus with a little less toxicity." Sci-Fi movies famously portrayed the solar system's second planet as misty. Water was not in the chemical make-up of the intergalactic fog.

"The air is so thick you could pour it." Vera had a way with cliches. the 40 year-old was pure Brooklyn. Carroll Gardens. 3rd Generation.

"Last year it never got hot." June had been rainy and cold. July had seen one 90-plus day. August had seemed more like September. My eggs were up. Vera left me with the New York Times. She respected the silence of a man eating breakfast.

I scanned the front page, the sports, and lit on the weather report. The heat wave stretched across every state east of the Rocky Mountains. The torrid pressure zone was centered west of Wichita. Kansas prairie. Tornado Alley. South lay Oklahoma. Tulsa had spent the entire month of July in the 90s.

I paid my bill. The tip was 20%. Vera asked about my kids. She knows that they are on the other side of the world. I stepped outside the diner. 70 to 95 in a second. This was the hottest July on the records for New York. ConEd was taxed by the relentless heat. I didn't have AC in my apartment. I was trying to sweat off the winter three months after its demise. I was down to 190. If this weather held up, then I'd be down to 185 by Labor Day.

"Hot." AP greeted me on the steps of his brownstone. His two kids wanted to go swimming. The nearest pool was on Adelphi.

"Be hotter later." My two fans were my favorite possession. "Strange you don't see any debunking about global warming in the newspapers."

"Not the right season."

"James Inhofe is strangely silent." The Oklahoman senator was the GOP's pitbull on climate change.

"Skeptics hide during the hot." AP wiped his forehead with a small towel. It was our fashion accessory for the last month.

"I'm no skeptic." I was melting from the heat like the Wicked Witch of the West at the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ, although I had no intent of clicking my heels twice. that only got me to Kansas. I wanted Greenland. My friend Fabo is drilling oil exploration off of Thule.

Temperature.

41F.

Drive fast. Bigger cars. No fat people.

Paradise.

To the end of time.

Daddy's Car in the Woods


Little Johnny watched his daddy's car pass by the school playground and go into the woods. Curious, he followed the car and saw Daddy and Aunt Jane in a passionate embrace.

Little Johnny found this so exciting that he could hardly contain himself as he ran home and started to tell his mother. 'Mummy, I was at the playground and I saw Daddy's car go into the woods with Aunt Jane. I went back to look and he was giving Aunt Jane a big kiss, and then he helped her take off her shirt.Then Aunt Jane helped Daddy take his pants off, then Aunt Jane...'

At this point Mummy cut him off and said, 'Johnny, this is such an interesting story, lets save the rest of it for supper time.I want to see the look on Daddy's face when you tell it tonight.'

At the dinner table that evening, Mummy asked little Johnny to tell his story Johnny started his story, 'I was at the playground and I saw Daddy's car go into the woods with Aunt Jane. I went back to look and he was giving Aunt Jane a big kiss, then he helped her take off her shirt. Then Aunt Jane helped Daddy take his pants off, then Aunt Jane and Daddy started doing the same thing that Mummy and Uncle Bill used to do when Daddy was away on the oil rigs.'

Mummy fainted!

Moral: Sometimes you need to just shut the f##k up and listen to the whole story before you interrupt!

This wisdom came thanks to LA of Franks Lounge, my favorite bar in Brooklyn

Across from General Fowler's statue.