Thursday, March 31, 2011

Phineas Beardsley's I-Pad 2

Apple announced the release of iPad1 on April 2120. 3 million were sold in less than 3 months. 15 billion dollars in sales. A year later over 15 million iPad1 had hit the market. Immense profits for Apple and the West Coast company stroked the desires of high-techophiles with the debut of iPad2 on March 2, 2011.

Launch date March 11, 2011.

PDQ, a friend from DC, offered to buy me a iPad2. I had done him some favors. Our business conversation were indecipherable to others. PDO spoke in mumbles and my speech was interrupted by stutters. Richie Boy, my boss on 47th Street, had introduced us. He was ever-vigilant to protect his interests. PDQ and I were forthcoming with the truth.

"I can't understand a word you two say." Richie Boy had ADD, the attention span of a gnat. Neither PDQ not I would do anything to hurt him. Richie Boy was our friend. None of our fathers had raised their sons to be fall guys.

"I'm getting an iPad2 because I solved a problem."

"Which was?"

I really wasn't sure what I had done for PDQ. A signature on a paper. No money exchanged hands.

"It doesn't concern you."

"Everything that happens in this store concerns me."

"This is out of store, so it doesn't concern you."

Richie Boy didn't like the answer. He is a boss. Bosses hate lips as much as the KKK hate an upppity black man.

I ordered 2 iPad2 through my landlord's MacMall connection, Rod. 32GB. Apple Care. 3G AT&T. Rod threw in free shipping and names on the cases. PDQ gave his card and I asked Rod, "How long?"

"You have a priority status. It's 3/9. My computer is linked to the warehouse. You're fast-tracked for immediate delivery." Rod spoke with the authority of an oracle. he was providing me with the future. It might only last a half-year, but the doomsayers were predicting the end of the world by October 21, 2011.

PDQ was satisfied with the time-frame. He was heading off to Europe. His fiancee was taking off time from her job to see Paris for the first time. Lovers didn't need an iPad2 in the City of Light. PDQ and the love of his life flew first-class to London. I was stuck in New York with Richie Boy. His father was in the Promised Land with his mistress. Maria was taking good care of him. Manny deserved the best.

Two days after placing my order a Fed-Ex employee arrived at the diamond exchange with two boxes. MacMall to PDQ. I signed for the packages. Richie Boy glared at me. As a boss he counted the seconds his employees detoured from his game plan like Scrooge with his coins. I smiled back with revolution in my heart, until I lifted the boxes. They were light. A razor sliced the protective tape. I pulled out two pleather case protectors and two Apple Care cards.

"Where is your iPad?" Richie Boy needed glasses to read the menu, but his vision was good enough to discern the disappointment on my grill.

I called Rod. He answered the phone with an apology.

"Some Chinese guy hit every store in the USA with his gang. They bought every iPad2 in stock and then some. He's now selling them online for twice the price, but don't worry yours are coming."

I hate when anyone tells me to 'not worry'. PDQ called from the Hotel Athenee for an update. He could buy the 16G version on the Champs-Elysees.

"Do what you think is best." It's the advice I give everyone when I don't want to tell them what they want to hear.

A week went by without any sing of an iPad2. I called Rod. He said they were coming on Monday or Tuesday this week. 2 weeks late. I sort of believed him with the resignation of impending disappointment in my soul.

Monday nothing other than a call from Rod.

"Tomorrow 100% guaranteed delivery."



That night I drank a little moonshine. The corn mash burned inside my stomach like a napalm explosion. Three sips were my limit and I drifted to sleep dreaming about my iPad2, but strangely my name on the tablet had been replaced by 'Phineas Beardsley'. The next morning I woke and went to my iBook G4. A Google search found the name. Phineas Beardsley had been a soldier during the Revolutionary War. He had served in Valley Forge.

Even ghosts wanted an iPad2 and Phineas Beardsley wanted mine badly enough to come back from the grave.

As promised the Fed-Ex agent delivered two boxes on Tuesday morning. They were heavy. Both contained iPad2. One for PDQ and the other for me. It's amazing cutting edge technology, but I'm more than willing to share it with a ghost. That's what's life all about and so is death.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Save the Boobs

The normal boobs ( . )( . )

The silicone boobs ( + )( + )

The perfect boobs (o)(o)

Some boobs are cold (^)(^), and some boobs belong to grandmothers \./\./

And let’s not forget the very large boobs (o Y o) and very small boobs (.)(.)

Lastly the asymmetrical boobs (•)(.)

We love them all!

Post this message on your wall and say ┌П┐(◉_◉)┌П┐ to breast cancer !!

Save the boobs!!!!!!!!!!! :)~

From my comrade in arms

Ms. Carolina.

And let's not forget my favorite


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moonshine, Masturbation, and Eclipses

Children are cruel by nature. Both boys and girls instinctively bully the weak and ridicule the infirm. There was nothing funnier than a cheap trick at the cost of a poor unfortunate in keeping with the ageless adage, "Comedy is when a beggar falls down the stairs. Tragedy is when a duchess does."

In the early 60s our teachers and parents offered the blind/deaf/mute idol Helen Keller as an icon of individual triumph. Anne Bancroft won the Academy Award for her portrayal in THE MIRACLE WORKER of the teacher who brings light to a suffering young Alabaman girl. It didn't take long for Helen Keller jokes to hit the grade school circuit.

How did Helen Keller's parents punish her?

They moved the furniture.

Her triple affliction gave healthy children comfort that they were normal, however our parents and teachers had learned how to instill new fear in callous youth unafraid of the Devil. At age ten my sins were small; mostly disobeying my parents and telling lies. The priest in the confessional announced my penance in a hushed voice.

"Ten Hail Marys and two Our Fathers."

These prayers cleansed the black spots from my soul. Lying and disobedience occurred in the natural order of childhood. My innocence was challenged by a deadly scourge signaled firstly by waking in the middle of the night with pajamas soaked by a sticky substance. This oddity was a terrible embarrassment for a 12 year-old. Bed-wetting was for babies. I hid my shameful affliction by washing my PJs whenever the phenomena stuck unannounced. My father thought I was crazy and my older brother kidded me about a regression to infantilism. I threatened him with a beating. I was taller by two inches. My best friend Chuckie Manzi solved the mystery by opening the Boy Scout Handbook to a small section entitled NOTURNAL EMISSION.

"If the Boy Scouts write about it, then it's normal."

Normalcy excluded a visit to the confessional, but no one told the priest about touching themselves after dark. not if they knew what was good for them. Masturbation was a mortal sin threatening the immortal soul. Sex was strictly for procreation. Pleasure in the act disrupted the natural order of life. Jerking off was a sin and even worse the priest warned their young male parishioners that wasting the holy seed of life endangered the sense of sight.

"You could go blind or worse suffer from effeminacy."

The man across the street from my parents' house was queer. He flew jets for Eastern. His boyfriend, Joe, coached football. Chuckie and I suspected them of masturbating each other.

"It's what queers do, isn't it?"

The mystery was solved by finding stroke books in the woods of the Blue Hills. Queers did everything married couples did in bed and more according to the moldy paperbacks titled 'JOCKS ON FIRE' or 'COCK-MAD COACHES' and other homo tomes of lust. I whacked off to pages 75-78 of THE MALE ITCH about seven hundred times without losing my eyesight, although I did need to wear glasses. My mother said it was hereditary.

My sight worsened throughout my grammar school years. My seat moved to the front of the class. I got good grades. Bullies didn't like smart kids with glasses. The beatings and myopia were painful, but better than how Tyrone Power had his eyes pluck from his head by a Borgia traitor in PRINCE OF FOXES. Orson Welles played Cesare Borgia.

Evil incarnate.

I didn't know any blind teenagers. They were sent to a special school for the blind, deaf, and dumb. The nuns taught them how to live in the normal world.

A high school mate lost an eye in a freak ski accident at Stratton Mountain. The brothers were hip to drugs. The vice-principal held an assembly to inform us of the danger of looking into the sun. The guest speaker was an acid head who had stared into the sun during a total eclipse.

"All I can see is the sun now. Nothing but the sun."

I used my savings to buy prescribed sunglasses. Eclipses were rarely announced on teenage TV. Being an ex-Boy Scout I had been trained to 'be prepared'.


The height of style in the 1960s.

Girls thought that they were cool. The bullies stopped hurting me. They liked the girls who liked my glasses.

The bullies stopped their torment. They liked the same girls. I wore my sunglasses all the time. The nuns tried to stop me from wearing them in classes. My optometrist said I had sensitive eyes. He wasn't scared of the nuns. Doctor Shaw was Jewish.

The last threat to my eyes was moonshine. I bought a gallon from a Mississippian this weekend. I tried a few sips on Sunday night. The corn mash burned a light in my stomach. A match to a spoon filled with the illegal alcohol ignited a blue blaze. A good sign, for a yellow fire is a cause for caution.

Rotgut moonshine can blind or kill the unsuspecting, mostly if the manufacturer isn't too tidy with his contraptions. A car radiator is a good source of lead and anti-freeze. A dangerous combination, but a high-minded distiller will 86 the 'foreshot' of the batch ie the first offering from the still. After that it's white-line fever and I see the light.

The Utter Folly Of Wise Men

Every country has a pantheon of vaunted heroes and leaders. Their names grace universities, libraries, towns, and cities. Children bear their names in remembrance of their contribution to country. In contrast few parents bestow any honor on the knaves of a nation. Adolf and Benito were banned by an unspoken edict during my childhood. Pol Pot is spoken as a ghost to young Cambodian children. They had no other memory of the Khmer Rouge. The Year Zero was over 36 years ago. People forget history faster than sports records and few fools are forgotten as fully as Mad Lopez of Paraguay.

Solano Lopez had been appointed Paraguay's vice-president by his father in 1855 and the Francophile supplied the national army with foreign arms with the express desire of confronting his more powerful neighbors. Egged on by his Parisian courtesan Eliza Lynch, Lopez satisfied his Napoleonic obsession by ordering his forces to aid Uruguay in their war against Brazil. A strip of Argentina separates Paraguay from its troubled ally. Their incursion incited Argentina to join Brazil and its puppet government in Uruguay to embark on the War of the Triple Alliance.

Three against one.

Enough to drive a man mad.

Lopez had his mother flogged for an unspoken offense. Her execution was forestalled by her confession that the leader had been born a bastard. He sought canonization from the Church. The depraved theocracy rejected his claim. He died with the cry “Muero con mi patria!” on his lips.

A madman to the end

Three against one.

It is utter folly to fight against those odds. Waging two wars at the same time proved disastrous for Hitler and Mad Loepz's idol Napoleon, but this week President Obama went for the Trifecta with the launch of an allied air war against Libya's Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi, one of the 20th and 21st Centuries' most reviled dictator.

Active combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aviator aces attacking key strategy concentrations of power in Tripoli. The city is mentioned in the Marine Hymn. It's a only site for the Corps. Drone warriors cruising the skies over the Khyber Pass. Obama in the Oval Office with a IPad 2 on his lap directing firepower like a VDO killer in HOMEFRONT.

Three wars at once.

Barack Obama is a smart man. The blackish president graduate from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review. My cousin Ty Spaulding went to school with him in Hawaii. He swears that the president isn't a foreigner. The religious right consider anyone of color not of this country.

A crazed nigger with little discernible method to his madness.

Just the way I like my leaders.

Bring the troops home.

ps GW Bush graduated sine laude or without honor.

Me too.

pps the foto is of Lopez's French woman, Eliza Lynch.

The Irish emigre of the Great Famine is buried in the National Cemetery.

She buried her husband and fallen son with her bare hands after the Battle of Cerro Cerro.

A heroine for a fool.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

GODLESSNESS by Peter Nolan Smith

The highway east of Albuquerque wound up the Santia Heights out of the Rio Grande Valley. The summer air lost its heat, as the rusted pick-up climbed toward the pass. AK and I were relieved by the cooler temperature. Late-June in 1974 was murder on long-haired hitchhikers crossing the Far West. Rides were few and distances were far. This driver of the Ford 150 was heading to Amarillo, Texas. The distance was a little under 300 miles between the two cities.

The hippie farmer belonged to a Jesus Freak commune in the Panhandle. He refrained from any preaching, but his young buxom wife asked us at a pit stop along the Pecos River, if we believed in god.

"I'm half-Jewish," AK answered with a Long Island accent. I had never seen AK say a prayer in the three years that we knew each other. "The other half is agnostic."

"That's okay, Jesus loves everyone." She smelled of patchouli. Her blue eyes were dazed by the bliss of divine love. The teenage blonde was the epitome of trailer park beauty. If she was jesus, then I would have worshiped at her feet, but I had converted to non-believerism at age 8 and she was simply a girl on the cusp of womanhood.

"Everyone will be welcome at his table. Even sinners, if they repent at the last moment." She touched my hand with a promise of more at the commune. Her husband wiped the windows clean of insects. A big man with a bushy red beard. He seemed the type to get jealous real quick.

"Doesn't look like I need to repent this very moment." I gently pulled away my hand. The sky was cloudless. I had $15 in my pocket. AK had at least $150. He wouldn't let me starved on the road. "It's a beautiful day."

"Praise the Lord for that." The burly driver pushed his long hair under a straw cowboy hat. "But Jesus never predicted the day of deliverance. Could be five hours from now or three seconds."

I counted that latter span of time. Nothing bad happened at a count to three and the driver shrugged with indifference to the coming apocalypse. He motioned for us to get in the back and studied the searing sun. "Praise the Lord. You'll get a little taste of hell this afternoon."

The flatbed of the Ford 150 offered no shelter from the sun. We were baked to a crisp. The ragged mountains became a fading memory and the landscape was ruled by sere buttes and endless vistas of dry ranchlands. The wind whistling over the truck killed any conversation. AK and I pointed out wind devils scouring the desert plains. There was not enough moisture in the air to strengthen them into tornadoes. The driver kept the pickup to the speed limit.


The sun set into a flat horizon. The dying light scorched the featureless terrain of the northern Chihuahuan Desert a rabid red. The night sky soon shone with a billion stars. The dark did nothing to chill the air. AK and I sweated in the blow-torch humidity. Our water was down to a few drops, when the driver stopped for gas in Amarillo.

"I'm heading north from here. A small town near the Rita Blanca Grasslands."

His wife stayed in the pick-up. She looked at AK with yearning. Her gaze betrayed that the high plains were a lonely place anytime of the year and the commune needed new blood.

"You sure you don't want to join us. The girls at the commune are friendly to strangers new to the Lord. We believe that the moment of orgasm is a gift from god. You don't have to convert. All you have to do is listen." It was a friendly pitch and at this time of night sharing a bed with a hippie Jesus freak girl was an enticing temptation. "They can wait and the girls at the commune would like to see new faces."

"Thanks, but I have a girlfriend back in Boston." AK had been faithful on this month-long trip from Boston to the West Coast, although not from a lack of trying. He had tried to pick up a go-go girl in San Diego. Maya hung out at a gay disco. She danced like a snake on acid. AK's friend had called her a 'fag hag'. AK refused to believe that she wasn't interested in sex. I wish that he had been right.

"What about you?" The truckstop lights painted the parking lot a cruel yellow. The semi-trailers rumbled V8 threats. The hippie was staring me in the eyes like he had the power of mesmerism.

"We have to meet friends in Tulsa." I had met the Spear sisters the previous summer. Vicky was a detective with the Police and her sister was a freshman at Oral Roberts University. It was a dry town, but the sisters knew where to have fun. "Then it's back east."

"To what? A life of sin?" He shifted his weight like he thought about hitting me.

"Something like that." I had graduated from college without honors. No bank would hire me and even the CIA had rejected my service. "Thanks for the ride."

"Thank the lord. He provides for all."

The hippie jesus freak smiled with a shrug of surrender. Our souls were lost to the devil. He got in the pickup and his waifish wife waved goodbye from the passenger window. They disappeared into the night and we walked into the air-conditioned truck stop. it was good to get out of the heat, however the long-haulers glared at our appearance with disdain. I couldn't blame them. Dust coated our long hair and our clothing was stained from sitting in the back of pick-ups. In their eyes we were dirty hippies.

"How about burgers?" AK dropped his bag near the counter. "My treat."

"Milkshake too."

"You got it. We just escaped salvation."

"You got that right." I had lost friends to bible-thumpers. Some of them forever, but I was done with god for this lifetime, even having gone as far as unbaptized myself in Lake Sebago at the age of 10.

The burgers tasted good and after AK slurped down the last of his chocolate soda, he asked, "Were you thinking about going to that commune?"

"Not really."

"It;s not like you have anywhere to go."

"I have Boston."

"No job, no girlfriend, no place to live but your parents. 22 and no future."

"Thanks for the bummer, but I'm not into god. Not since I was 8."

"What happened then?" We hadn't spoken for hours and AK wanted to loosen his jaw.

"I had a best friend in Maine. We did everything together. We used to raid the strawberry fields in the farm behind our houses and crawl on our backs eating strawberries from the plants. We watched the YOUNG RASCALS together. His family and mine were good friends. We went swimming together at Lake Sebago. I thought we were going to be together forever, but my father was transferred to Boston. Chaney, that was his name, and I promised never to go swimming unless we were together."

"Not an easy thing if you're living in Boston and he's in Maine." AK signaled for the check. The waitress told us that we could wash up in the men's room. We must have smelled a sight. AK tipped her a dollar on a $6 bill.

"No, but I kept my end of the bargain." An 8 year-old boy wasn't allowed to leave his neighborhood and my South Shore town had no beaches, only the Quincy Quarries which were off-limits for any one other than juvenile delinquents. AK and I entered the men's room. "And come June my parents were taking us up to my grandmother's in Westbrook. It was only a few miles from Chaney's house across from Portland.

"A reunion of friends." AK washed at the sink. The water off his face was gray. Mine was closer to black.

"A week before our departure I'm watching TV with my brothers and sisters. We were already out of school and could watch it if we had done all our chores. My mother came downstairs to the den." Our family like thousands of other suburbanites lived in a split-level ranch house. The house was painted pink, although my mother called the color 'teaberry'. "She told me to go sit in our station wagon. Not everyone just me."

"What had you done?" AK took off his shirt. His arms and face were tanned by the sun. The rest of his body was white as chalk. He wet a paper towel and wiped at his skin. I did the same.

"Nothing, but I obeyed her, since that was what 8 year-old boys were supposed to do, if they knew what was good for them." My words transported me back to a late-June day in 1961. The family car was a Ford. My father only bought Fords. His first car in college had been a Model Ford. The interior was steel, glass, and plastic. I was wearing shorts. My legs stuck to the seat. "My mother came out to the car. She opened the door and said that Chaney had drowned. Her explanation was short. He had been swimming in Sebago, while everyone else was water-skiing. He had just received a diving mask and snorkels."

"Must have been when SEA HUNT was on TV." The popular series ran from 1957 to 1961 and featured Lloyd Bridges as free-lance scuba diver Mike Nelson.

"Guess so, but anyway Chaney was left with his grandmother. She was from Czechoslovakia." I put on my last clean shirt. "She escaped out of Prague riding on top of a train."

"She must have been Jewish." AK's father had liberated a death camp outside of Munich. He refused to buy anything German. It was an easy boycott after the war. The Nazis had been bombed to the Stone Age.

"Not Jewish. A communist, but that has nothing to do with this story, except she couldn't swim."

"Why? Because godless commies can't swim." AK and I left the bathroom.

"Commies can swim. They swim gold medals at the Olympics." We exited from the restaurant. The gas station was empty of cars. The clock on the truckstop's billboard said the time was 11:45. "And swimming has nothing to do with whether you believe in god."

A sign on the on-ramp bore a warning against picking up hitchhikers. We ignored this edict. There was no other way out of here than by the thumb.

"Anyway Chaney was swimming, but went out over his head and started to drown."

"What about the snorkel?"

"He panicked and started hyperventilating. His grandmother tried to rescue him, but he was out to far. When help finally came, it was too late. My mother told me that story in less than 30 words and then left me in the station wagon to watch the sun set over Big Blue Hill. I didn't go to the funeral, since then I haven't believe in god."

"You don't ever doubt his existence." AK pointed to the cosmos swirling over our heads. The Milk Way dominated most the the sky.

"The universe was eternal. Always was, always is, always will be. I wrote a thesis in my math class that E = MC squared meant that eternity is forever and there never was a god. Going to a Catholic school, that theorum earned me an F." That grade cost me my scholarship. "My godlessness broke my mother's heart. She had wanted me to become a priest, but then a god who let my friend drown was no god of mine."

AK sat on his bag and I stuck out my thumb. No one stopped for us. It didn't really matter. Tulsa was several hundred east. Sooner or later someone would stop for two dirty hippies.

It was written in the stars.

Only the time was missing.

Moonshine Quote - Johnny Knoxville

You can tell it's good if you light it and a blue flame comes up; that means it's good moonshine and it won't make you go blind. - Johnny Knoxville

And it will make you do crazy-ass things.

Killer Shine

A flatlander was driving down a road back in the hills when a hillbilly stepped out into the road and leveled his rifle at him.

The flatlander stopped and the hillbilly motioned him out of the car. Then he handed the rube a jug and said, "Drink it." The man tried to refuse but the hillbilly aimed his gun at him and said, "Drink it!"

The flatlander took a swallow and collasped on the gound choking. When he finally rose to his feet the hillbilly handed him the gun and said, "Now you hold the gun on me while I drink it."

GODLESSNESS by Peter Nolan Smith

The highway east of Albuquerque wound up the Santia Mountains. The summer air lost its heat, as the pick-up climbed toward the pass. AK and I were relieved by the cooler temperature. Late-June in 1974 was murder on long-haired hitchhikers crossing the Far West. Rides were few and distances were far. This driver of the Ford 150 pickup was heading to Amarillio, Texas. The hippie farmer belonged to a Jesus Freak commune in the Panhandle. His young buxom wife asked us at a pit stop along the Pecos River, if we believed in god.

"I'm Jewish," AK answered with a Long Island accent. I had never seen him say a prayer in the three years that we knew each other. He called himself an agnostic.

"That's okay, Jesus loves everyone." She smelled of patchouli. Her blue eyes were dazed by the bliss of divine love. "Everyone will be welcome at his table. Even sinners, if they repent at the last moment."

"Doesn't look like I need to repent this very moment." The teenage blonde was the epitome of trailer park beauty. If she was jesus, then I would have worshiped at her feet, but I had deconverted to non-believerism after an uncaring god let my best fried drown in Lake Sebago at age 8. The sky was cloudless. I had $15 in my pocket. AK had at least $150. He wouldn't let me starved on the road. "It's a beautiful day."

"Praise the Lord for that." The driver pushed his long hair under a straw cowboy hat. "But Jesus never predicted the day of deliverance. Could be five hours from now or three seconds."

I counted that latter span of time. Nothing bad happened and the driver shrugged with indifference to the coming apocalypse. He motioned for us to get in the back and studied the searing sun. "Praise the Lord. You'll get a little taste of hell this afternoon."

The flatbed of the Ford 150 offered no shelter from the sun. We were baked to a crisp. The mountains were a fading memory and the landscape was ruled by sere buttes and endless vistas of dry ranchlands. The wind whistling over the truck killed any conversation. AK and I pointed out wind devils scouring the desert plains. There was not enough moisture in the air to strengthen them into tornadoes. The sun set into a flat horizon. The sky boiled with a torrid red. The driver stopped for gas in Amarillo. It was dark. His wife stayed in the pick-up.

"You sure you don't want to join us. The girls at the commune are friendly to strangers new to the Lord. You don't have to convert. All you have to do is listen." It was a friendly pitch and at this time of night sharing a bed with a hippie Jesus freak girl was an enticing temptation.

"I have to get back East." AK had a girlfriend waiting for him. His one attempt to seduce a woman on this trip ended in failure. Maya was a go-go girl in San Diego. She hung out at a gay disco. AK's friend had called her a 'fag hag'. AK refused to believe that she wasn't interested in sex. I wish that he had been right.

"What about you?" The truck stop lights painted the parking lot a cruel yellow. The semi-trailers rumbled V8 threats. We hadn't really slept in two days, but I had lost friends to bible-thumpers.

"I'm heading back East too."

"To what? A life of sin?"

"Something like that." I had graduated from college without honors. No bank would hire me and even the CIA had rejected my service.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Call of Wild

My life was once ruled by the night. I haunted concerts, bars, clubs, and parties from dusk to dawn from the 60s into the 90s. My retirement occurred around the turn of the century and the birth of my children completed the process, for I feared the Chris Rock's curse of being the oldest man in the club.

Last night I came home from work. My plans for the evening were dinner, a little writing, a glass or two of wine, and then retire to bed to finishing reading THE SAVAGE FURY, a non-fiction book about racism, dirty cops, and injustice in New York of the 60s and 70s. This destiny was disrupted by a phone call from the 347 area code.

A New York City cell phone.

I answered the call and a gravelly voice spoke several indecipherable words.

"Who's this?" Only my wife called at his hour and I was a little annoyed until I deciphered the thick Delta slang. "Homer, that you?"

"Course it's me. Who you think it was?" Homer was a regular from Frank's Lounge. The rest of the crew loved to rib him about his Deep South roots.

"Had no idea." Homer and I had a bar stool relationship. 660 Fulton was our universe. He drank Beck's. My quaff was Stella. Our conversation were face-to-face. This was our first interaction on a phone. "What's up?"

"I got that thing." His voice dropped to a whisper, as if his cellphone was taped by the NSA seeking out terrorists around the world.

"Thing?" I was confounded by 'thing'.

"You know, the shine."

"Shine." The syllable referred to the elixir of the South, Moonshine otherwise known as Mountain Dew or Brokehead. A good percentage of the regulars at Frank's Lounge had family in the South. Several months ago the bartender's husband brought up several jars from NC. The 'shine was favored with peaches. We drank the demon liquor with reverence and I remarked that I was in the market for some 'shine. "How much?"

"A gallon for $35."

"I'm in." A liter of Scotch cost about the same and I was stashing this 'shine for an emergency and judging from the state of the world ie Japan earthquake, the rich having all the money, revolution in the oil states, and the rising cost of everything under the sun I considered a gallon of distilled corn liquor a good investment.

"I'll be down the bar in an hour." Homer was good to his good and an hour later I had my jug. Plastic unlike the old ceramic classic jug. He shook the jug. "See them bubbles vanish quick. That means the 'shine is strong."

"And if you take a match to it and it burns blue, then it's clean." LA said from his computer. The 40m year-old worked around the corner. His second office was the window table at Frank's. It was my living room.

"Don't you be lighting no matches around 'shine in my bar." Tyrone the owner's son was in charge of the joint. 'Shine was highly flammable and the health departments of the Deep South condemned the safety of drinking 'white lightning'. Blindness and internal destruction of body organs were only a few of the risks. Mostly the state and feds were worried about the theft of their tax revenue.

"Don't worry, this ain't have nothing to do with you." Homer lifted his finger. The Mississippian had earned his respect. 75 years on this world and not a gray hair on his head. He leaned over to me and said, "Put that under the bar stool. you can only drink in a bar what the bar serves, unless the owner isn't there and then we can do what we want."

I planted the jug between my feet. I had intended to go to sleep at a decent hour. I watched basketball until midnight. Only four beers and I got into bed before midnight. At home I cracked the cap of the 'shine. the fumes cleared my head, but I resisted the siren call of its magic.

The Call of Wild was for the weekend.

I won't be an old man no more thanks to the grace of 'shine.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

General Tso's Blizzard

Christmas is a time for family. Mine was on the other side of the world in Thailand. I had a ticket reserved for a January 10 departure. My sister insisted on my spending the holiday with her in Boston. She was worried about my head, since our beloved father had passed away in November. I boarded a Chinatown bus northbound to South Station. Christmas Eve was with friends and family. Christmas was was strictly family. My sister missed my father and so did the rest of us. Our parents were good people.

My plans for the weekend were fluid, until I discovered my nephew Matt on the telephone. He was calling his airline for confirmation of his flight to DC. All departures on the East Coast had been canceled for that Sunday. The US Weather Service was forecasting a major storm. 24-36 inches. Amtrak was sold out. The only out from Boston was the Chinatown bus. Matt and I packed within minutes and my sister drove us to South Station. We caught the 11AM bus. The snow was light, but the traffic was heavy. People were trying to get home before the worse. Upon our arrival in Chinatown I offered Matt a place to stay.

"I got to be in work tomorrow."

He worked for an internet company. It was not affiliated with the CIA. At least that was his cover and I had been brought up to not ask questions about jobs in DC. I put him on a DC-bound bus and took the F train over to Brooklyn. It was only 4PM, so I stopped in Frank's Lounge for a beer.

Several of the regulars were in their Sunday seats. We drank several rounds before looking out the window onto a terrifying scenario. The snow storm had been upgraded to the wintery tornado. The accumulation was already 10 inches and there was no sign of let-up. None of us had anywhere to go tomorrow. The radio had announced the trains were being taken out of service.

"We where we are and nowhere else." Homer was happy to be in Frank's. It was our favorite bar, but we were hungry. He made several phone calls for take-out.

The only response was from a Chinese restaurant up the block. I ordered the General Tso's Chicken extra chili. Homer followed suit.

"You know General Tso's Chicken doesn't exist in China." It supposedly was invented by the Hunnan chef T. T. Wang in 1972.

"How the hell am I supposed to know that. I ain't ever been to no damned China." Homer traveled mostly on a straight line. Brooklyn to Mississippi.

"Well, I have." Only one time to Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet in 1996. "And there was no General Tso Chicken."

"I don't care about no China. I'm here in Brooklyn."

The traffic on Fulton was exinctized by the snow. We started to fear that our food wasn't going to come and we would have to survive on the packets of chips from behind the bar, but the door banged open for a small man covered by snow. He held two bags of food. We cheered his arrival and Homer gave him a $5 tip.

"That's because Tipping ain't no city in China and a Chinaman will deliver your food even when the US Mail can't get through. Here's to the Chinaman."

We raised our glasses and ate like this was the last meal on Earth.

Looking out the window that's just the way it felt.

Rain, Sleet, and Snow

St Padraic's Day was blessed with spring weather. The next day was even warmer, especially since I had traveled south to the Northern Neck of the Potomac. Hal, Ms. Carolina, and I stood at the end of the dock. A super-sized moon was rising over the far shore and the equinal sun was setting behind a line of yellow pines. The lilting breeze offered a promise of an early spring, even though the maples were leafless.

"Guess winter is over." I was standing in a tee-shirt and jeans, contemplating tomorrow's leap into the Potomac. The temperature was predicted to be in the 80s. The cold water wouldn't kill me.

"Hush your mouth," Ms. Carolina barked at my side. She had lived in Virginia over 35 years, but her childhood was a product of the Adirondacks, where winter holds onto the cold and snow for a month longer on each end of the season.

"I have a good feeling for new season." I flexed my knuckles. They had been weapons in the hundreds of fights that I waged over the decades. No cracking meant dry weather. Snap, crackle, pop was a good indication of wet. I heard nothing and expected to greet the morning in bathing shorts.

My knuckles were right about the moisture, however the temperature dropped through the night. Morning dew glazed the lawn. I defied my better judgment and performed my death-defying swim in the river. Ms. Carolina gave me a towel and her husband handed me a glass of Dewar's Scotch.

"How long you think you could have lived in that water?" Hal had been an officer in the Navy. His friends had cruised the North Atlantic in warships. Not all of them returned home to Newport News.

"Four minutes."

"A fisherman might make it ten minutes."

"I heard of some people lasting 40 minutes." I'd have to google the Nazi experiments of cold water immersion to be sure. There was no internet service on the Northern Neck. I told Hal that I would check on the data later.

When I got home to Brooklyn the following night, Fort Greene had reversed the sweep of the season from spring to winter. Snow fell on Tuesday night and Wednesday evening was a melange of hail, snow, and rain. I was wearing heavy tweeds impervious to the cold and wet. Even my knuckles were safe from the chilly damp in cashmere lined gloves. Ice pellets bounced over my Donegal cap. I was ready for winter, but not another two months of it and this weekend the forecast is for more snow.

Damned global cooling.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Mandingo Madness

The is a website showing the national penis size of countries around the world.

I'm half-Irish.

We are far from the smallest, although were not even close to the Sudan.

We are all John Holmes at the moment of truth.

To see the map please go to the following URL

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THIEF OF TIME by Peter Nolan Smith

My first watch was a Timex bought by my father for my 14th birthday. I wore that timepiece throughout high school and college. It disappeared in the mid-70s. Lost, but not stolen. I went without a watch for the reminder of the decade. Punks in the East Village had no use for time. Our days and nights were ruled by rising and setting of the sun.

One of the cops moonlighting at Hurrah, the rock disco on 62nd Street, had a brother in the jewelry business. Manny called me on the phone. The Canal Street diamond dealer asked for a favor.

"Can you let my son into your club. He's a good kid and wants to see the Ramones." Manny spoke like he had spent his working life on the Bowery. It wasn't far from the truth.

"How old are they?" The NY drinking age in 1978 was 18. All the girls from the Manhattan private schools were welcome regardless of age. Cute teenage boys were also on the list. Most of the bartenders were gay.

"Old enough and they have ID. My brother will take them home."

The two boys showed up for the concert. Richie Boy and Seth were 16. They had a great time. Andy Warhol hit on Seth. Richie Boy met Mick Jagger. Both of them threw up on the sidewalk. Richie Boy's uncle was a no-show. Seymour had a girlfriend on the Upper East Side.

I let the two boys sleep in my apartment. They snored like old men. Manny called at 5AM. His wife thought that her son had been in an accident. I allayed their fears without any explanation. Manny thanked me for acting beyond the call of duty.

"I'll take care of you when I see you." He gave me the address of his diamond shop. "Stop by for lunch. We eat around 1."

At noon I rolled out of bed. Seth and Richie whined on the floor like two dogs begging to be put out of their misery. Threats of a kick got them to their feet. Their clothing looked like they had been kidnapped by white slavers. I gave them clean tee-shirts.

"Where are we going?" Richie Boy rubbed his face. His eyes squinted in the harsh midday sun. It was still his bedtime.

"Down to the Bowery to meet your father. He invited me to lunch."

"Great." Seth showed signs of life and licked his lips

"No way." Richie Boy searched his jacket with both hands. Money would change my plans for him. He found none.

"Then how are you getting home?" I had already gone through their pockets. Seth was broke. Richie Boy was a gold mine. Home for them was Long Island. Not a walking distance in any condition.

I shoved the two teenagers out of my apartment. We caught a taxi on Avenue A. The ride to Canal Street took less than ten minutes. I paid the fare with a brand new $10 bill. Richie Boy started to say something.

"What?" I was ten years older and famed for my bad temper.

"Nothing." He exited from the Checker Cab knowing his place, while plotting his revenge.

Seth was looking forward to lunch. He was a good boy. Manny wasn't happy to see his son. The 48 year-old diamond dealer was dressed in haute couture for Little Italy. An immaculate gray flannel suit and a big diamond pinkie ring. Manny's father was in the corner counting slips. I recognized them as lists for the numbers game. The old man eyed me, as if i might be a snitch. Manny cooled his jets.

"The goy is good people. He works with Seymour."

"Boydem mit politsa." The old man spoke Yiddish.

I had studied German in high school with a Bavarian monk and read several books of Isaac B. Singer. I had no idea what boy dem meant, but aped the old man's inflection, "Nicht Politza. Ein sheygutz. Nicht Goyim."

The man laughed at my appreciation of the difference between a goy and a sheygutz. manny looked at his watch. The clock on the wall made the time 1:05. A tall Puerto Rican boy rushed through the door with two bags of food. He was out of breath.

"That's Domingo." Manny shook his head in time with his father. "That boy is never on time and neither is my son."

Manny slapped Richie Boy's hand hard.

"No food for no one that hasn't worked and don't say nothing about the sheygutz and your friend. They're guests."

The food was a meal from Angelo's on Mulberry Street. It reminded me of Little Italy in Boston. Manny's father was named Jake. He told stories about bookies, the shetl, and working hard as a carpenter. "Everyone has to have some honest work."

After I finished my lunch, I thanked Manny for his hospitality. He lifted his hand. A watch dangled from his fingers. A Pulsar P2. Roger Moore had worn the same model in the James Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE. 007 later replaced the Pulsar with a magnetized Rolex.

"It's yours. For taking care of my son and his worthless friend."

"I thought you were giving it to me." Richie Boy protested from the steam machine, at which he was cleaning rings.

"Was, wasn't. Sie gesund." Manny snapped the watch on my wrist and I wore it with pride for years. Richie Boy and I became friends. Our interests ran the same; good music, night clubs,, beautiful women, and drinking. Manny's term for our relationship was 'asshole buddies' It was a derogatory term. Richie Boy and I were straight. I discounted his bullshit. He had been born in Brownsville. Its motto was 'Never ran never will'. Manny was a tough guy.

Richie Boy and I were Kings of the Night. We went everywhere. I was working for Manny. His son was able to order me around. His revenge had been a long time in coming, but I didn't begrudge his come-upperance. I was getting old.

For Thanksgiving Eve 1992 we had been invited to a party at an apartment overlooking the staging grounds for the Macy's Parade. Gigantic balloons loomed before the windows of our motorcycle friend RT. I drank a little too much too quick and told the story about meeting Richie Boy for the first time. I showed the guests the Pulsar watch.

"James Bond wore it in LIVE AND LET DIE."

"Roger Moore wasn't really James Bond," a young man said and took the watch from my hand. He was a painter. The watch looked as good on his wrist as mine or Roger Moore. I argued for all the 007s and we drank tequila shots toasting the pantheon of James Bond girls. The taxi ride home was in a fog.

The next morning I woke up wishing that I had stayed home. Drinking at age 40 was more punishing than at 30. I reached for my watch. It wasn't on the night table. It wasn't anywhere in my apartment. I excavated the dregs of the evening and recalled the painter taking my watch. He had never returned the Pulsar to my possession. I called my hosts and told them of the incident. The painter had left town. I remembered his name. New York was a city of millions, but our scene was small.

Sooner or later he had to show up at a gallery opening or dinner or party.

I was wrong.

My watch was gone.


I saw one on 47th Street a month ago. The dealer wanted $1100. I cursed the painter and imagined my revenge, if I should meet him. The rendezvous wasn't a long time coming, for this past weekend I had been waiting for a Chinatown bus. My nephew and his girlfriend came to have lunch with me. Matt and I drank three beers in an hour. His girlfriend only 2. I missed the 4PM bus and his girlfriend suggested that we visit the National Gallery.

We walked by the two score plus portraits of presidents guessing who was whom.

None of us were right about Buchanon.

On the 3rd floor was an exhibit of a modern painter. His name sound familiar. A couple of seconds later I said to Matt, "This guy stole my watch."

"The Pulsar, right, Uncle Bubba." Matt and I had spend time together. He had heard most of my stories. Some more than twice.


"Well, at least he is a good painter."

The thief's paintings portrayed fantastic apocalyptic vision. I admired his cartoonish prophecies, while raging about his ripping me off back in the last century. A tableau of arctic ice chilled my jets.

"You know you're grandmother Nana said that if you lose something that it wasn't yours to begin with?"

"Matt told me that too." His girlfriend beamed at the bridging of the generational gap.

"Also about the nuns saying that there was a closet in heaven with everything you ever lost."

"So I'll have to wait until then to get my watch back." There was a good chance that the artist had not stolen my watch, but I had lost it in the taxi. I liked my story better. Always true, if interesting.

"If you're going to heaven." Matt knew my non-belief of the afterlife.

"No ifs, buts, or ands. I'm hoping for alien abduction before the end."

His girlfriend laughed at the inside joke. She was possibly family. We walked out of the National Gallery in a good mood. She hadn't seen me key-scratch a painting. Matt had rolled his eyes at my crime. I was his Uncle Bubba and he knew it was always better to be a vandal than a thief.

SOUTH OF THE POTOMAC by Peter Nolan Smith

My St. Patrick's Day ended at Frank's Lounge on Fulton Street. Everyone at the bar knew my name and well they should, because I'm the token white just like that Paul Benedict's character in nearly all-black TV show THE JEFFERSONS. Audience laughed hard whenever Mr. Jefferson slammed the door in the kindly Englishman's face. Harry Bentley never showed any rancor and neither do I at Frank's Lounge. Since Day One I haven't heard any of the regulars speaking badly behind my back, for they have the courage to speak their mind to my face.

I bought a round for the bar. It was the right thing to do.

"I knew Old Irish would show up here on St. Patrick's Day." Homer crowed in his thick Delta accent.

"This is my home away from home." My apartment was only two blocks distance from my favorite stool. I wasn't working the next day and I told Homer about going down to Virginia in the morning to visit a sick friend. "Ms. Carolina lives on the Northern neck of Virginia."

"Where's that at?" Homer hailed from Philadelphia, Mississippi. He left that town after the police telling his momma that they wanted to speak to him. The year of that midnight departure was 1953. I was one year old at the time.

"Someplace east of I-95." My geography of that region was limited to a teenage trip to Virginia Beach with my parents in 1966. "The Tidewater."

"Cracker and peckerwood territory." Homer shook his head. He swore that he had no trouble with white folks in the Delta, however my sense of direction south of James Chaney, a black man from Meridian, Mississippi was murdered with two northern white boys in 1964. "You be careful how you speak. They don't have the same ideas as you do."

"Thanks for the warning." I lifted my hand and ordered another round. I got home at midnight and set the alarm for 7AM. A southbound bus was leaving from Chinatown at 8. My bag was already packed with two days of clothing. I fell into bed like a bag of mashed potatoes. It had been a good St. Padraic's Day and I slept like the dead.

But not for long.

6:54AM I opened my eyes. It was dark outside my window. Dawn was another hour away. Sweet sleep beckoned from the softness of my pillows. I resisted the siren call and left the house within minutes. I made the 8AM bus with enough time to buy a bacon sandwich from the Chinese bakery. The bus departed on time. I was headed to Washington DC, the nation's capitol. We arrived on time. I rented a car at Ronald Reagan Airport. The drive to North Cape Point was 120 miles. The speed limit was 55. The traffic inched along the highway. I was stuck in the belly of the Fairfax County traffic monster.

Once off 95 there were no stoplights. I visited the Fredericksburg battlefield for a half-hour. The day was getting late. I had been on the road almost ten hours. I drove a little over the limit. County troopers were manning speed traps. They weren't catching me for nothing.
North Point Cape was 20 miles from the main road. Fallow fields were blue with ragweed. Winter weed was a thick carpet of green. The county police had a speed trap set on a downhill stretch. I was driving the right speed. The land dropped under my wheels.

The tidewater.

Marshy inlets and crooked tidal flows.

My phone service died two miles from my destination. Ms. Carolina and her husband were waiting at the door. She was a blonde as the first night I met her in New York. Richie Boy had sold her diamond studs. Her cornbread accent was sexy. If I took off my glasses, she would be as young too. Her husband was a tall gentleman for whom looks had never been a problem even at the age of 80. Ms. Carolina and Hal had been together 35 years. It showed with their every gesture.

Dinner was on the table. My last food was that Chinese croissant. Hal put a drink in my hand. Dewar's Scotch. Ms. Carolina served a plate of corned beef and cabbage. It was delicious. Hal and I conversed about hitchhiking, fathers, the death of our brothers, his career as a gynecologist in the Bible Belt.

"Two people I can't stand are Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses. Both are idiots when it comes to the matter of birth control and a woman's health."

"I'm a Catholic and I agree with you too." My faith had been abandoned in my teens.

After dinner we walked onto the dock. It extended a hundred feet into the river. The air was soft as summer. No mosquitoes buzzing in our ears. Ms. Carolina hadn't spoken much during the evening. Hal had dominated the conversation. She seemed to favor her right side. I blamed it on her last chemo session.

"That's the last of winter, I think." I was forever optimistic. "If it's this warm tomorrow I'll jump into the river."

"Crazy-ass Northerner." Ms. Carolina's husband had met a caravan of his wife's friends. Most were a little eccentric. I was rumored to be the most of the lot. She and I had traveled the world; Maine, Peru, Guatemala, and the Far West. People said we were lovers. They knew nothing. Friends for the road. Ms. Carolina was a good travel companion.

'Only in a good way. My people fought at St. Mary's Heights." The battle lasted most of the winter afternoon. 20,000 Union soldiers had been killed during the assault on a fortified ridge. Pure suicide. "I stood there today. They were lucky crazy ass-Northerners."

"Not like Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg." The Civil War was far from over in the South.

"No, the 20th Maine stopped the Texans and the Alabamans from taking Little Big Rock." My recollection of that fateful day's history depended on a faulty memory. "Joshua Chamberlain ordered a "right-wheel forward" maneuver. The ensuing bayonet charge saved the day and the Union."

Hal muttered a curse under his breath. He was a serious church-goer. A doctor for women too. He supported a woman's right for choice and birth control. A man of contradictions. I liked him fine. He was a man of the South.

I believed in no god. Ms. Carolina was in the hands of fate. She was seriously ill. I could tell by the way that she favored her right side. Ms. Carolina had told me the worst. She had six months to a year to live. It was something that I didn't want to believe. Hal, Ms. Carolina, and I watched the rising of the moon over the Potomac River. A silver disc spreading a scalloped path of light into heaven. After a dinner of corned beef and cabbage Hal and I discussed our president. He used the n-word more than an entire CD-rack of ghetto rap hits.

"You think Obama is a Muslim?" I had voted for the president twice in 2008. Once in the East Village and another time on an absentee ballot from Thailand, following the venerable Tammany Hall, Hall adage, "Vote early, vote often.'

"100%." Hal was a die-hard GOP supporter.

"And he is a member of Al-Quada."

"I don't know about that."

"Well, what if he change his first name to Al for Al-Quada."

"And why would he do that?" Ms. Carolina fell for my trap.

"Because then he would be Alobama and the state of Alabama would vote for him."

"He won enough southern state thanks to the black vote." Hal was conceding 2008 without a recount. The contest for 2012 was still in the air.

"You know what Ford's agricultural secretary gave as the reason for why Lincoln's party didn't get the black vote?" Earl Butz came from Indiana. The Hoosiers backed the KKK big in the 1920s. I was certain that Hal knew the quote, but I beat him to the punch. "I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit."

"I understood the comments about sex and the outhouse, but he lost me on the loose shoes."

"Me too." We had more than Ms. Carolina in common. He was only 80. I was 58. The generation gap meant less now than it did in 1975. "Still like his saying about the Pope's opposition to contraception."

""He no playa the game, he no maka the rules." Hal proved his memory was as good as mine. We toasted the past and bid each other goodnight. Ms. Carolina was going to her first floor room. Hal had his room on the other side of the house.

"Hal snores like an out-of-control jack hammer."

"I'm like a truck stuck on ice." I took after my dearly departed father.

"The you two will snore in harmony."

Only the living room separated us.

"Sleep well, dream better." Ms. Carolina smiled with warmth. She was with her husband and an old traveling companion. Not many people came this far off the track to see her. Hal and I sat up watching NCAA basketball. I switched to wine and killed half a bottle. At 10 we called it a night.

"Thanks for coming down. She can use some cheering up." Hal intoned that he didn't want to discuss her health and I respected his feelings on that matter. We retreated to our bedrooms. It was very quiet and remained that way for the rest of the night

My telephone was out of range. My computer had no signal. This was the end of the world. All roads to somewhere other than here and I lay on the mattress with a heavy head. Ms. Carolina looked okay. Fenway's mom knew that I was in the hicks or ban-nok as the Thais called the boondocks. I read two pages of A SAVAGE CITY. A history of racist courts, police corruption, and black power revolution on the late-60s. The true explanation of the Summer of Love. My reincarnated youth existed for a couple of minutes. The full moon burned through my curtains. I felt like the Wolfman without a demon inside me. The book fell on my chest. Sleep was my paradise and I drifted into the clouds. There was no other place to go at this time of night in North Point Cape.

The morning started late. I woke and went back to sleep. Everyone else in the house was on a similar wavelength. I finally got out of bed and walked to the end of the dock. The balm had departed from the wind. The temperature was below 50. Hal joined me with his dog. It was a lot bigger than I recalled.

"A cross between a wolf-hound and a mastiff."

"Nice puppy." I recounted the tale of my taking care of a crackhouse Airedale in Palm Beach. Pom Pom had weighed 95 pounds. She was on the hit list for bad dogs. I cured her insanity with beer on her Kibbles. Drunk dogs don't pick fights. Hal wasn't impressed with my story and asked, "You still thinking about going in the Potomac?"

"Not this instant."

"Thought so."

Ms. Carolina was calling us to the table. Blueberry pancakes and bacon. Corn syrup instead of maple. I said nothing. North Point was 600 miles from Vermont. After breakfast Hal drove us on a tour of the area. Beaches, houses, fields for hunting, new forests, a cousin's estate on the shore, the burial ground of Lee's family, he never stopped talking. Manny liked to say that he had never met anyone who could speak more than me, but I had to admit Hal had me beat.

I heard about his Navy career in Key West and Norfolk, playing sports during high school, his father's work as a car dealer.

"He had no cars. Only a book. People would come to his office and order a new car. A week later it was there. Daddy worked hard."

Hal had read a book on mine. NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD. A tale about a New York hustler forced into a contract hit by two dirty cops. He fakes the murder and escapes into Death Valley with two lesbians making a movie about the last man of Earth. I thought that novel was going to make me famous.

"Porno. That's what I remember about that book."

"I gave the book to an agent. Her husband read it in a day. They had sex three times in a row. "Great." I said, but the agent told me that she was divorcing her husband. End of NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD."

Ms. Carolina promoted my writing. I'm beyond that task. After a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches I looked at the dock.

"If not now, never."

"You are going in the river?" Ms. Carolina liked me for crazy behavior.

"In three minutes." I changed into my shorts and white tee-shirt. I met Hal and Ms. Carolina on the dock. The wind was stiff from the north. The water looked cold. There was only one way of doing this and I handed my camera to Ms. Carolina.

"Record this."

After several words I leaped off the dock. A ten-foot drop into the river. It wasn't cold. It was freezing. I swam to the ladder. The distance was only twenty feet. My feet were losing feeling. My fingers were numb. Ms. Carolina was waiting at the top of the steps with a towel.

"You are one crazy ass northerner." Hal was shaking his head.

"That is right."

Ms. Carolina was laughing and her laughter was tonic to my ears, for laughter is the magic of life. Back in the house she told me about the doctor's prognosis.

"Six months." She lifted her shirt. The cancer had erupted on her skin. Tumors covered the right side of her chest. She dropped the shirt and I gave her a soft hug.

"You will always be beautiful to me."

Hal was standing in the doorway.

"And me too." He was playing it tough.

"Let's have a drink."

Whiskey and wine.

A good talk about life.

We were friends.

Until the end.

There was no place else to go on the North Point that evening.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

JUMP AROUND / House of Pain

Why don't the Fife and Drum bands play this Irish hip-hop hit?

Jump Around

The Irish Are Coming

I extended invitations to a drinking Craic around the Village for St. Patrick's Day. My good friend JW, skateboarder/urbanologist, begged off joining us with the following words.

"I’m back. Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I think I might beg off tonight, But thanks for the invitation. I’m honored

But I want to hibernate a bit and stay away from the sauce

Too much sauce in Tucson!

Mys response was swift.

Hibernating during the high holy holiday of hibernian inebreation is heresy

Irish: Go dtachta na péisteoga do thóin bheagmhaitheasach.

English: May the worms choke your worthless butt.

I understand JW since Tuesday evening I did a practice run in the East Village

A coma yesterday

Today beer-hungry.

Drinking with two comrades-in-arms

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

QUEEN OF THE PLAZA by Peter Nolan Smith

St. Patrick’s Day promised to be another disaster for the Retail Collection of the Plaza Hotel. Hordes of green-clad spectators streamed down the escalator into the basement. Their eyes averted the luxury goods on offer, as their destination was the hotel’s public bathroom. Within the first hour I had given directions to the toilet over a hundred times. Most said ‘thank you’.

“Why don’t you just print out directions?” My co-worker pulled off her glasses and put down People magazine. Her eyes were out of focus like someone waiting to be informed by a doctor that they were blind. Most people with reading glasses had that look.

“Firstly because Americans can’t read maps and secondly we might get lucky.” I was wearing a leprechaun tie and a forest green Donegal Tweed. Maybe one of the passers-by might give our shop a shot.

“Lucky how?” Janet refocused her eyes on the parade-goers.

“Someone might buy something.” I was half-Irish. My mother’s mother was born in the Year of the Crow. She came to America at the age of 12. Nana said she was lucky. I might not play cards or gamble in casinos, but I believed in survival of the luckiest over the fittest every day of the year. Today was no exception.

“Buy what?” Janet put down People. A bus commuter had left the magazine on the subway. She would take most of the week to read it. “We have no crosses, no NYC charms, no Claddad rings. That’s all these people buy besides beer and something green.” Janet came from Brownsville. People from that Brooklyn neighborhood understood the needs of other people. It had been mixed in the 50s.

“Nothing wrong with drinking beer.” My grandmother had brewed beer in her Jamaica Plains cellar during the Prohibition. I celebrated Beermas at least once a week. Guinness was good for pregnant moms.

“My father said whiskey was invented to keep the Irish from ruling the world.” Her prejudice against Spirits was distorted by her tribe’s love of God. I knew only a few Jewish drunks.

“We ruled the world before your Yahweh wrote 10 Commandments of Don’t.” Moses’ tablets had created a land of No. I preferred more of a yes world and told Janet, “Stop being so negative.”

“Not so negative? Our store is in a basement. Only three things function in a basement. A bar, a brothel or a boiler.” Janet’s morning Valium was wearing off faster than mascara on a crying whore. Her hands shook with desperation, as she pointed a long fingernail to the bathroom for the benefit of an older lady in distress. “Plus our merchandise is dreck. Who staying at the Plaza would buy this crap?”

“A blind man might.” My friend Richie Boy had partnered up with two losers. One a thief and the other broke. We hadn’t made a sale this month and only two in February, but I had a shot at selling a million-dollar ruby and had two emerald rings put away in the safe for a Texas oilman. Selling one would pay off my debts. “We might get lucky.”

“2009 is not a year for luck.” Janet had been blown-dried too many times, so that her coif resembled a thatched peasant hut. One session at the upstairs beauty salon would have repaired the damage. Last year she grossed $200,000. This year she’d be lucky to hit 50K. 2009 was no 2005.

“It could be worse.” Rain was the norm for most St. Patrick’s Day. The Neponset River in Boston had flooded its bank on Evacuation Day 1968. In Lower Mills Station only the tops of the trolley cars were visible. Today was blue skies and fleecy clouds. It was a good day to be Irish.

“That’s what’s scaring me.” Janet plucked a Valium from within her purse. A doctor friend had put her on the suicide watch. I made sure she only ate one. Within ten minutes she achieved her desired level of apathy, her eyes fixed on People’s photos, as if the young girls in pretty clothes mirrored her past.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I left the store, signaling to a security guard to keep an eye on Janet. There might not be customers, however the previous week two thieves had clipped three shops with bad credit cards.

I had a coffee at the Austrian pastry shop and then visited the other stores. Not a single one of the day’s walk-ins had purchased a gift from the luxury stores. No musk-ox sweater, no Sea Island cotton shirts, no imported alpaca blankets. St. Patrick’s day was shaping up to be another goose egg and I returned to our store infected by Janet’s pessimism,

“It’s your friend, Richard.” Janet handed over the phone and buried her face in the magazine.

“How’s it going?” Richie Boy was in his store on 47th Street.

“Lots of green going for a pee.” It was as if someone was handing out flyers on 5th Avenue advertising PEE IN THE PLAZA.

“Any sign of that Arab?” St. Patrick’s Day on 47th Street was as dead as the Plaza.


Several hundred Saudis had been staying at the Plaza for over a month. Yesterday one came down to the Retail Collection. He looked at an emerald ring. It belonged to Richie Boy’s partner. The color was off and the cracks had been filled with resin. The price was ridiculous and I had told the Saudi to come back tomorrow. The two emerald rings in the safe were hued by the Columbian jungle. “Come-backs’ were rare at the Plaza and I was already planning on returning the rings to the Afghani dealer later this afternoon.

“Is anything ever going to happen there?” Richie Boy was losing sleep over this store.

“I’d like to say yes.” It had taken 400 years for Ireland to free most of the island from the British. The struggle had sometimes been hopeless, but the Retail Collection was worst. The Plaza had been a destination for over 100 years, however the new Israeli new owners had trashed the legend to sell condos and had invested nothing in advertising for the Retail Collection. Even worse the sound system was stuck on same nine insipid world songs. Sometimes I felt like working here was like Guantanamo Bay Lite and I said to Richie Boy, “This place is a lost cause.”

“I’m going to give it another couple of weeks and then pull the plug.” Richie Boy’s father had been against the deal from the start. Closing would prove him right and the old man never liked being in the wrong. “Just keep my partners from ripping me off.”

“You got it.” I hung up the phone. Janet’s eyes were stuck on the same page. Many bosses would have fired someone in her condition. Her mental condition was our secret. Victor McLaughlin’s stunning performance of betrayal in THE INFORMER had forever prejudiced me against snitches.

The five hours to closing threatened to stretch their length beyond three-hundred minutes, until an elegant woman in her early 40s descended on the escalator. Cherry-red hair framed a face white as an equinal moon. Her slender body had never borne an extra ounce of weight. Her sophistication was not derived from designer clothing, but life itself. The woman stepped off the escalator. The salespeople snapped to attention, as her stiletto heels clicked on the tiled floor.

Janet put down her magazine, took off her reading glasses, and rose from her chair. Years of experience had honed her radar for a potential customer. Her eager smile was a masterpiece of Park Avenue dentistry and I hated telling her, “Janet, she’s coming to see me.”

“You?” Disappointment tremored her face.

“She’s an old friend.” I walked to the store entrance and embraced Dove. Her taut body was a testament to good living. Our birth years were a year apart, but her face was that of a thirty year-old except for the grey world-weary eyes. Her youth had nothing to do with plastic surgery. The injections of her Swiss rejuvenation clinics bordered on magic.

I released Dove and introduced the two.

“You two are friends?” Janet couldn’t believe that someone so ‘fabulous’ could be my friend.

“We know each other since CBGBs.” Dove and I had met at the bar. The Ramones had been on stage.” Dove had been a rail-thin blonde desperate to become the 2nd coming of Nico. Several punk groups promoted Dove as tomorrow’s darling. She lived too much for today to be anyone’s tomorrow and opted for a career as a Senator’s mistress. She had been a woman so long, that few people knew her as Dave. “Over thirty years ago. I once saved his life.”

Dove’s husky voice recounted her taking revenge on a thug from New Jersey who had beaten me with a baseball bat outside of a Paloma Picasso party. He had acquired a permanent squint after she stuck a cigarette in his eye. Janet listened to our conversation while pretending to read her magazine, while Dove surveyed the jewelry under glass.

“If you see anything you like, I’ll be happy to show it to you.” Janet had a tendency to step other salespeople’s toes. This practice was considered bad form and I admired her lack of shame. I wasn’t much better at starving my fellow workers.

“When your friend Richie Boy told me that he had opened a store in the Plaza, I had expected South Sea pearls, Burma rubies, and pink diamonds.” Dove wrinkled the delicate cartilage of her nose with displeasure. Her taste ran toward Madison Avenue and Place Vendome.

“Pretty crappy stuff.” Richie Boy’s busted partner had loaded the cases with second-hand merchandise and out-of-style closeouts from bankrupt jewelers. Subsequently our inventory was an unavoidable embarrassment, but I had two aces in the hole.

“I have something in the safe that might interest you. Emerald green for St. Patrick’s Day.”

One emerald cost about $200,000, but the other was in her price range. I held up a 5-carat Sea-Green Emerald surrounded by a micro-pavee of diamonds in an 18K gold and platinum ring. The stone evoked the slopes of the Connemara Hills after an afternoon rain. I had spent a wet autumn within sight of the Seven Pins.

“Nothing greener than Ireland where it’s either rained, stopped raining, or is about to rain. Wetter than a bucket of beer.” Dove had been out of the country a long time. Me too. Neither of us had stayed in touch during our years of exile. Hearing her laugh made me realize how much I missed her, although not enough to give her the ring for free. We haggled on the price like two old nuns over the baptismal name of an abandoned baby.

“$32,000 and not a dollar more.” Dove dipped into her pocketbook and withdrew a clutch of c-notes. “Green good?”

“Even better on St. Patricks’ Day.” I eyed Janet. This was 100% my sale. She had seen the Jewish version of THE INFORMER and was no yenta. I called the owner of the emerald and beat him down an extra $1000, insuring Richie Boy would get his bone. His partners would get nothing. I counted out the money. It was about an inch thick. My commission would fit in my wallet without changing the cut of my trousers.

“So now that’s out of the way.” Dove glanced at her delicate Audemar-Picat watch. I had seen an identical model on 47th street for $120,000. Dove was living well beyond my means. “I think it’s time for a drink.”

“Drink?” I liked drinking, although mostly a little later in the afternoon into the dusk. The bars were empty during those hours and the drinks were usually half-priced.

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day. You’re Irish. I’m Irish.” Dove turned to Janet. “You don’t mind if I steal your partner for a few minutes. We have a little catching up to do. How’s the Oak Bar these days?”

“It isn’t what it used to be.” Janet had stuck her head in the famed bar once. $16 glasses of wine were beyond her means. Mine too, but $9 Stellas were affordable. We went upstairs. The bar was packed, but wee found two stools at the bar. The bartender remembered Dove. She was fairly unforgettable. She ordered two Jamesons.

“A little heavy for the early afternoon.” I stayed away from whiskey on most occasions.

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day. It’s never too early.” Dove clinked my glass. She held her drink like a woman, but drank like a man. Some masculine traits were harder to camouflage than others.

“Never too late either.” We hadn’t seen each other in eight years. That span of time was bridged in a second by her holding my hand. Her life revolved around the fashion seasons in Paris. I amused her with my tales of Thailand. Two wives. Two kids. An arrest for copyright infringement. Coming back to take care of a crazed dog in Palm Beach and finally opening the store in the Plaza. “I thought the Plaza. Big sales. I’d work four years and retire again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We’ll be lucky to last out the month.”

“Could be worst.” Dove eyed a table of politicians in the corner. One nodded to her with respect. She had been the mistress of a US senator. He had been dead for more than twenty years, but his power remained on her skin. “You could be back in Ballyconneeley.”

“That wasn’t so bad.” My mother’s death wish had been for me to visit Ireland.

“Your mother wanted you to find someone like your aunts and sisters to marry, so you rent a house from Sir Robert Guinness. Not cheap either for off-season and you end up in a haunted cottage.”

“It used to be a schoolhouse.” The cold house was situated on edge of the bogs. They dated back to the Ice Age. The walls were wrapped by the winds off that primitive plain. I did hear voices from time to time.

“Ghosts of the beaten boys.” Dove signaled Orlando for two more Jamesons. “And the only women you found out there were knocked-up teenagers and lesbians.”

“I’m glad you find it so humorous.” I had thought at the time that my mother didn’t approve of my lifestyle from her perch in Heaven.

“No one really laughs at their successes. Failures alone are funny.” The bar was getting crowded. Several men eyed Dove with interest. Rich men. Young and old. The veneer of elegance slid off her skin with the third whiskey. She laughed with the haughtiness of a whore regaining the best corner in Manhattan. “I like being here.”

“You’re staying at the Plaza?”

“Not a chance.” She admired the emerald in the early afternoon light filtering through the Oak Bar’s wide windows. “I’m strictly a St. Regis girl.”

“I like the King Cole Bar.” I hadn’t had anything to eat today. The whiskey was rotting in my belly. I slid off the stool. “Dove I have to get back to work.”

“Not before you see some of the parade.” Dove hooked her arm over my elbow. She was taller and stronger than me. Maintaining her figure required hours in the gym. “You worried that that girl working with you is going to steal the store?”

“No, more like she’ll have a nervous breakdown.” My co-worker lost her money with Bernie Madoff. The 60 year-old Jerseyite had no idea how to make her next Botox payment, but Janet was no thief.

“Janet will be fine. The diamond on her finger is worth $50,000. She’ll survive without you for another 30 minutes.” Dove had just bought an expensive ring and the customer was always right. “You’re seeing the parade whether you like it or not.”

“I don’t the parade.”

“Everyone loves a parade.” Dove led us down the marbled hallway to the foyer.

The muted drums muttered louder with every step. A high school band was performing Michael Jackson’s BEAT IT. The playlist had expanded during my absence as strict as previous years, but I had other reasons for shunning the parade than music.

“I’m from Boston. The parade has nothing to do with me.” The parade through Southie had been a riot waiting to catch fire at the end of Broadway. Marchers congregated at the dozen bars in that odd intersection. By mid-afternoon the orderly procession had evolved into a milling donnybrook. Fisticuffs were the rule. A plastic shillelagh filled with sand finished most fights. Broken noses and black eyes marks of honor for the following days. That martial mirth soured after the Bussing Riots of 1975. Hate became synonymous with South Boston and I left my hometown for good.

“You’ve been living in New York over 30 years.” Dove checked our reflection in the mirror. Other eyes were on us. The security man at the hotel entrance studied my partner. He sensed something amiss with her, but the doubt in his eyes revealed that he couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong with the picture. Dove passed for a woman, because she had been just that. For most of her life.

“Are you talking about gay people not being allowed to march?” Dove ignored the guard’s scrutiny. There was nothing left of the boy from Queens. She was 100% upper-class and a lady to boot.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.” I pushed my way through the revolving door. The high school band was in front of the Sherry-Netherlands. 5th Avenue was packed twenty deep. The sky was blue4 to heaven and the temperature balmy for March.

“Are you coming out of the closet?” Dove stood on the steps. Her mouth softened to a smile. Twenty years in Europe would never change her being a New Yorker.

“I’m straight, but I don’t like exclusion in the Land of the Free.” Gays and Lesbians have fought for the right to express their Gaelic spirit without success.

“Land of the Freaked more like it and especially with our brethren. Sex is a taboo subject. No one talks about knocked-up teenage girls or predatory priests. I don’t understand why anyone gay would want to associate themselves with this crowd.”

“Because we’re all Irish.” My younger brother had crusade for acceptance by the straight world. His radio show 1-in-10 had been a big hit for Boston gays. He died on AIDS without the battle won. I carried on the struggle in my own way.

“Most gays think everyone is gay.” The crowd was applauding a troupe of prancing Irish dancers. We walked off the steps. The senior doorman greeted Dove. She had been a guest at the Plaza many times with the Senator.

“They’re not 100% wrong.” I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t bi. Outlaws had no sexual designation.

“Except with you.” Dove had attempted to seduce me many times. She almost succeeded the night she stuck the cigarette in my attacker’s eye. Too much cocaine had protected us from becoming more than friends. “I wanted you so much. Still do.”

“I’m an old man.” I was flattered by her desire, but I was faithful to both my Thai wives. “Set in my ways.”

“The parade is over a hundred years old. It’s set in its way too.” No woman liked ‘no’ for an answer and she walked a little faster into the crowd.

“It’s the only parade to march up 5th Avenue. The others head downtown.” I held Dove’s hand. Her fingers and palm were teenage soft. I regretted my stubborn ways, for I hadn’t been with a woman for months.

“And that too will never change.” Her words sounded hard.

“And neither will I or how I feel toward you.” I pulled her closer. We made a nice couple. I could tell that by the admiring looks from the crowd. They actually envied us. I peered over their heads at the marchers. The mayor was waving to his constituents. A few drunks cursed him for tearing down Yankee Stadium. Coming from Boston I was glad to see the House that Ruth Built in ruins.

His eyes swung in our direction, then narrowed, as if he recognized Dove. She knew a lot of people thanks to the Senator. He waved to her, as the parade halted for another of his photo-op on 5th Avenue.” You want me to ask him about including gays in the parade?”

“He’s looking for a 3rd term not political suicide.” He was a mayor of the rich and the champagne years were gone for the moment. “There’ll never be a gay contingent in this parade. The Ancient Order of Hibernians are scared if they let in the gays and lesbians that there’ll be a float dedicated to Ireland’s most famous homosexual, Oscar Wilde.”

“Or banners honoring Roger Casement.” The revolutionary had been martyred for his politics by the British not his homosexuality.

“Or bands playing songs of Sinnead O’Connor.”

“That might be too much to ask.” The singer had told the Pope to fuck off on TV. That statement had branded her as dangerous to the Church. They were a greater danger to the young than a shaved-head pop star. “Although I wouldn’t mind hearing JUMP AROUND by House of Pain.”

The video had featured New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bands, politicians, majorettes, the crowds. Cops, drunks, and fights. The latter was another reason to avoid the parade. The brawls could turn very ugly and the cops rarely interfere before someone got hurt.

“It could be arranged. After all I know people.”

Female parade-goers gazed at her forest green Armani suit cut two inches over her knees with envy. The outfit cost more than most of them earned in a year. I could live off the price of her high heels for a month. Several pedestrians whispered to each other. They thought she was famous without realizing the source of that fame. Dove was one of a kind.

“I think they want your autograph.” In my clothes I looked like her driver.

“I’m not famous.” Dove posed for her admirers. She could have been an aging French actress or a retired ballerina. Her poise had been perfected after years of practice.

“You were always famous for me.”

“More infamous than famous.”

“Less of either than you could imagine. Paris is such a small town for the wicked. Same faces. Same stories. All the time thinking of New York.”

“You could have stayed here.” Her senator died in her arms during sex. His senator’s family didn’t contest the will to avoid a scandal. The deal had been for Dove to stay out of the limelight.

“Things would have been bad for me here. Too much money and too many bad friends.” She basked in the detoured memory of that path. “It would have been glorious, but it’s not to late for gays to march in their memory.”

She pulled me forward to the police barricade. Two officers turned to stop her forward progress. Dove whispered to one. He glanced over his shoulder to a distinguished-looking man in his 70s. The man motioned to the policeman to let Dove over the barrier.

“You want to come?” This was her show, but it was nice of her to ask.

“No, I’ll be going back to work.” I pointed to her ring finger. The stack of hundreds filled my jacket pocket. Some of it would go to my wives. “Thanks for everything.”

“My pleasure.” She held up her hand. The emerald shone in the afternoon sun like a pagan god’s eye. It was that good. “Call me at the St. Regis tomorrow. We’ll have drinks.”

“Consider it a date.”

She blew a kiss and strode up to the man. He greeted Dove with a kiss on the cheek and linked his arm with hers. He was her yes-man for the day, but I wasn’t jealous. They made a nice couple too. Dove had that effect on most men.

I would close the shop, send Janet home, pay the dealer for the emerald ring, pass by 47th Street to drop off Richie Boy’s share, and then go to drink in the East Village. Some friends were at a small Irish bar. I’d buy a few rounds. We’d tell stories about haunted schoolhouses and kissing Catholic girls. Most of them would be true.

The parade resumed its uptown progress and Dove disappeared from sight. I smiled to myself thinking that there were gays in the parade. Not just Dove, but men and women from all walks of life. All Irish or wanting to be, because on St. Patrick’s Day everyone loved the Irish.

Monday, March 14, 2011

BEAR SEASON by Peter Nolan Smith

Hunting season along the Hudson River opens in mid-October. Bow and arrows only. Guns are allowed in November, so I feel relatively safe walking in the woods, especially wearing a neon-orange hooded sweatshirt. No animal in that color existed north or south of Troy, New York and during the shooting season non-hunters drape their bodies in orange to prevent any hunter from mistaking them for a deer.

“No one has ever been refused a hunting license because they’re color blind,” Floyd told me at the Green Acres Tavern. The drinking establishment on Rte. 29 is brightly lit all hours of the day, since the owner thinks people look more honest under 100-watt light.

“So someone might shoot me even if I’m wearing this.” The orange was hurtful to the eye.

“If drink was involved.” Belvin shrugged his shoulders. The 56 year-old farmer is a crack marksman. The previous weekend he scored 99 out of 100 with a bolt-action .308 Winchester. “People shoot at whatever they see come hunting season. One time I’m sitting here and this down-stater enters the tavern, telling everyone about the spike-horn deer he killed. None of us had ever heard about this species of deer and asked to see his kill. It was a billy goat.”

“That’s nothing. Them folks will shoot anything that moves.” A scrawny UPS driver diverted his attention from the NFL replays. People up here like talking about hunting season. “My uncle’s game warden down in Duchess County. One time he stops a truck on Route 44 and asks the driver what he has on the roof. The driver tells him a spotted deer. It was a St. Bernhard.”

“I lost a cow to a hunter three years ago.” A lady mournfully remembered with a Bud in her hand. “She was a good milker.”

“I’ve never hunted in my life.” My father was vehemently anti-gun, so the majority of my experience with weapons comes from shooting with my Dutch uncle Howie Hermann at the 20th Street Shooting Range in Manhattan. Every Monday night we would meet at the 2nd Avenue Deli and then drive over to shoot pistols; Lugers, Colts, S&W ad infinitum. Howie was real gun-nut. Sweet as pie, but liked his guns.

“Nothing wrong with not hunting.” Another drinker commented from the end of the bar. His voice betrayed his real feeling on the subject. Guns were sacred this far north of New York.

“I know that.” My youth had been spent in Maine. Deer and bear are strapped to cars during hunting season. Their blood dripping over the windows is a badge of manhood in the North. “Never really wanted to kill anything, but I’m not saying it’s not a good thing as long as it’s for eating.”

“Deer meat’s good.” Belvin had a side of deer in his freezer. “Bear not so good.”

“If you get them in the fall, you can grill them up as steaks.” A bearded beer-drinker added from his stool. Everyone here knew everyone. “But they cook up dry real quick.”

“But if you undercook it, you get trichinellosis.” I was the outsider, but was familiar with this problem thanks to reading about the disastrous polar expedition of the Franklin. The crew ate bear and died of trichinellosis.

“That’s deadly, ain’t it?” The beer-drinker was scratching his head, as if his fingers might jog lose the brain cells holding that information.

“Same as if you ate uncooked pig.” Belvin was a subsistence farmer. He could eat everything on his land, excepting the tree bark and his wife knew how to make teas from them. “You get nausea, heartburn, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. That’s why the Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork.”

“I’m not so sure that’s the reason. I have a lot of Jewish friends who are bacon Jews. They love pork. I think the real reason their religion prohibits pork is that it tastes so good.” At least to my palate. “I was in Sumatra once. A big island in Indonesia. Full of Muslims. Anyway I go up to the highlands and the people are Christians. Everyone of them. They even sing Christian prayer songs like BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. We were out in the forests and I asked them as we were cooking wild pig, why they didn’t become Muslims like everyone else. The elder explained that they loved the taste of pork too much to give it up for any god.”

“Not much tastes better than bacon.” The UPS driver smacks his lips.

“What about apple pie?” The woman eyed the dessert tray by the kitchen window. The food at the tavern was home-made.

“Apple pie pretty damn good, but it ain’t meat.” The bearded farmer’s statement granted him a bar of nodding heads.

“The pig that night on Sumatra was good. The hill people ate everything but the oink. Afterwards the headman asked, “You know why we like pig so much?” I shook my head and he answered by saying, “Because it tastes like man.”

“Cannibals.” Belvin’s hand reached for a gun at his waist. The .357 was in the truck.

“Supposedly not anymore, but I didn’t like the way they were looking at me. Sort of like a fat person after eating a salad.”

“What you do?” The UPS driver was on the edge of his seat.

“I thanked them for the dinner and headed home. Thought they were going to bushwhack me on the trail. I locked the door of the hotel and left the next day. Believe I was happy to be back with the Muslims.” They were a little grim about my beer-drinking. “I’ve never heard of any Muslim cannibals.”

“Me neither.” The bartender put a shot of whiskey in front of me.

“What’s that for?”

“You won the biggest bullshit story of the night award.” Belvin scanned the rest of the clientele. They were locals. “No one here can come up with better.”

“But it wasn’t bullshit.” My bone marrow trembled with the remembrance of the ex-cannibals’ faces.

“You should make it a double.” The UPS driver had returned his gaze to the Jets’ highlights. “He even believes his own bullshit.”

“Here’s to bullshit.” I drained the shot and ordered a round for the bar. It wasn’t painful. Buds in the Green Acres are only $2.50 and that’s everyone’s favorite beer. Mine was Labatt’s Blue. It was $3. Belvin drove me home before midnight. We both had long tomorrows ahead of us. He left me off at the end of my friend’s drive.

“That was sure some good story.” Belvin was smiling with the belief that I was the best bullshitter he had heard in some time.

“Thanks.” Sometimes it’s best not to disappoint the masses. I waved goodnight and Belvin disappeared over the crest of the hill. In the light of the moon my sweatshirt glowed orange. I made it home without a single shot coming in my direction. Next month would be another story.