Monday, December 31, 2012


I am not one with the universe. I am many. - James Steele

Auld Lang Syne

2012 will come to an end this evening. 2013 has already dawned on my young family in Thailand. Seven hours remain in 2012 at the Fort Greene Observatory. Darkness lay heavy over the borough of Brooklyn and a bottle of Riesling stands on my desk as my passport to the new year. Tonight I will celebrate the final moments of the year with my friends at Frank's Lounge. It should be a festive occasion and I doubt that we shall sing AULD LANG SYNE at tock of midnight. Robert Burns wrote the Scottish lyrics in 1788, although the song dated back into times unknown as a traditional folk song according to Wikipedia. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! and surely I’ll be mine! And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. CHORUS We twa hae run about the braes, and pu’d the gowans fine ; But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin auld lang syne. CHORUS We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn, frae morning sun till dine ; But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin auld lang syne. CHORUS And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere ! and gie's a hand o’ thine ! And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne. CHORUS James Steele's version is more cheerful; Old acquaintances are not forgotten, and will always be brought to mind? We should always speak of gone, For without them there is no Auld Lang Syne. CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my Comrades, For auld lang syne indeed, A shot of tequila and a beer chaser For Auld Lang Syne, my Comrades. And another for the new year. It's good for you and all of us. And one more before we go insane For Auld Lang Syne, Comrades.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chestnut Mare You GOP Fuckheads

For the past months the media with the help of the GOP fuckheads have been fear-mongering about the US government falling over a fiscal cliff on January 1. 2013. On that date the Bush tax cuts will die and unemployment benefits will cease. President Obama has offered compromise after compromise to the Republican Congressional Representatives without their leaders responding with a counter-offer. Doom is upon us according to CNN, ABC, CBS, and Fox News. Except the vast majority of the American public were thrown over a cliff years ago by the GOP, so I say to both sides of the floor in Congress, "C'mon down. The water is fine." And ten we can sing the Byrds' CHESTNUT MARE together. And we were falling down this crevice, about a mile down I'd say! I look down and I see this red thing below us Comin' up real fast and it's our reflection in a little pool of water About six feet wide, and one foot deep Crawling down right through it We hit and we splashed it dry That's when I lost my hold and she got away But I'm gonna' try to get her again some day. Yeah, ride 'em, cowboy or cowgirl.

Wounded Knee

The Wounded Knee Massacre, South Dakota, 29 December 1890 Lest we forget whence we came to be who we are.



To hear SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN / Johnny Cash please go to the following URL

VOW OF SILENCE by Peter Nolan Smith

Almost everyone in the world has a phone. Cellular service can connect my phone with Antarctica or Greenland. I can call Fenway’s mom in Thailand and Mam will pick up on the other end. Millions of cellular calls and SMS messages crisscross the globe searching billions of destinations. We are so close, yet so far away from each other.

Yesterday evening AP and I moved a set of headboards from the 3rd Floor to the penthouse landing. They were heavy and luckily neither of us hurt our back.

“Thanks,” my landlord/friend/architect said, walking down to the 2nd floor.

“No worries.” I ascended the stairs to my apartment.

Those three syllables ended my verbal communications for Saturday. I shut the door and pulled out my book. I was asleep by 11. Three beers had sung my lullaby.

Sunday morning I took my time getting up. Rain splashed against my window. I checked my watch. 7:30am. Today was a day of rest, and I shut my eyes in hopes of making it to noon.

My second stage of slumber came close and I stayed down until 11:16am.

The rain was harder than before and the skies were a charcoal gray. I pulled the cover over my shoulder and read a little of Edward Rutherford’s NEW YORK. The segmented series of interconnected stories about the city has a wonderful way of dismissing any urge for action and the book fell on my chest for another half-hour.

Waking up I looked at my phone.

No one had called me yet.

I got out of bed and looked out the window of my Fort Greene penthouse. Not a soul was visible in the alleys behind the brownstone. The sky was devoid of airplanes. I could have been the Last Man on Earth, except I am not Mada, Adam’s dead end.

I opened the door to the stairway. AP should have been downstairs with loving wife and two adorable children. This afternoon there was no noise from below.

AP must have gone out with his wife and kids.

shut the door and ate a breakfast of two slices of toast and milky tea with one sugar. I sat by the window to examine the windows across the backyard alley without discerning life from the neighboring houses.

Five million people lived in this borough, unless zombies had risen with the dawnand eaten the entire population of Brooklyn before noon.

I looked out the window again and sipped the tea.

There were no zombies or else I would have woken with the screams of their zictims.

AP was out with his family. People were having brunch at the restaurants in Fort Greene. Kids were playing with their friends inside the brownstones. Lovers were lying in bed. None of them weren’t thinking about me and I ran a hot tub in the bathroom.

After a good twenty minute soak I decided to resign my day to a monastic vow of silence. It was a tradition dating back to my old apartment on East 10th Street.

Back in the late 80s Sunday mornings were spent in bed with a book. A late breakfast was followed by a long afternoon bath with my evenings devoted to finishing the book while drinking a bottle of wine.

Once or twice during these Sundays I would check the phone to see if there was a dial tone. I was somewhat disappointed to discover that buzz, because that meant no one thought to call me on a Sunday and I returned the favor, as if we had a non communicato pact .

This vow of silence lasted, until I started dating Ms. Carolina. The former beauty queen liked talking and I couldn’t blame her. She lived in Deep Dixie. Many of her neighbors entertained very conservative thoughts about the intermingling of races and religions, but I had warned her about my Sunday tradition.

“I don’t speak to anyone.” More like no one spoke to me.

“But you’re an atheist.” Ms. Carolina had been educated at a convent school back in the era when convent schools were convent schools.

“Seneca said, “As often as I have been amongst men, I have returned less a man.”

“Which means?” Ms. Carolina was slowly adapting to my odd behavior.

“After a six days of listening to New York bullshit, I need a day to clear out my head.” I was working as a diamond dealer on West 47th Street. My ears were constantly crammed by the blather of my co-workers and clients.

“Don’t worry. I respect your beliefs.” The blonde golfer was a true gentlewoman. “But what about if you just pick up the phone and listen to me. That’s not really breaking your vow of silence.”

“Let me think about this.” One Trappist sect was very strict on silence, but my rest of my life style was a complete rejection of the Cistercian dictates and I told Ms. Carolina, “As long as the phone calls don’t last longer than twenty minutes, I’ll pick up the phone.”

“Thank you.” Her gratitude was sincere.

Ms. Carolina was obliged to attend church every Sunday morning at home and the service at her husband’s church lasted two and a half hours. Baptists wasted the entire day trying to save their souls. Her congregation was very advanced for the area. They believed that blacks possessed souls.

That Sunday my phone rang at 11:15.

I was sitting in my bathtub, which was in the kitchen. My apartment was very East Village. I picked up the phone. It was Ms. Carolina and she recounted the preacher’s ranting sermon in accent.

“He believes that all homosexuals are damned to Hell. I told him after the service that I knew that he was going to some Richmond bars where men were dancing with men and gave him a check for $25. It’s going to fix the roof.” Ms. Carolina was originally form New Jersey. Her family was Old Yankee same as half mine. We had more than those genes in common. I knew her husband. The doctor was a good man and I was feeling bad about ‘us’. She kept the conversation low and ended with the wish, “Good luck with your vow of silence.”

Luck had nothing to do with my Sunday’s silence.

A ravaging hangover had silted my mouth with rust. I hadn’t really spoken with Ms. Carolina. I had listened to a woman on a phone. Words never left my lips.

Two weeks passed before Ms. Carolina visited me in the East Village. We went to a good restaurant in Soho. I drank more than I should, but I was a sucker for a good Saturday night drunk.

Sunday morning I woke up before Ms. Carolina.

Light filtered through the shades. My eyeballs were socketed in sandpaper. My guest lay on her side facing me. She liked to watch me sleep. I picked up Peter Freuchen’s BOOK OF THE ESKIMOS,and read away the pain in my head.

A little before 11 Ms. Carolina opened her eyes and said, “Sometimes I think you’re dead when you’re reading. You barely breathe.”

The blonde heiress accepted my shrug as an answer. We slept one weekend a month together. She deserved more, but I could only give what I had to give.

“You know the Trappist monks never really had a ‘vow of silence’.”

This was news to me. My mother loved the quietude of their monastery outside of Boston.

“St. Benedict, their founder, had three tenets; stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. Benedict preferred the monks to exist in silence, because speech was disruptive to contemplation.” Ms. Carolina was as good as a nun and only wicked with the lights out.

Like my Irish mother I have the gift of gab, although dampened by my father’s preference for silence.

The Maine native had held his piece for years under the blitzkrieg of my mother’s monologues, but today Ms. Carolina wanted to hear my voice and I surrendered to her need.

“I’ve been to the Trappists monasteries in Belgium. They made excellent beer. Did I ever tell you how my ‘vow of silence started?”

“No.” Ms. Carolina was a repository of my vocal history through our road trips through Guatemala, Peru, and the Far West. Listening was one of her better traits.

“Back in 1979 the phone in my 10th Street apartment was shut off.”


“Yes.” I had racked up a $700 bill tracking down the whereabouts of my blonde model from Buffalo. My broken heart remained broken all that time. “My service was cut for years. I never could get together the money to pay the bill. The phone gathered dust under the sofa. One Sunday I was watching a BONANZA re-run and a telephone rang. I thought to myself, “I didn’t think they had phones on the Ponderosa.”

“And they didn’t.” Ms. Carolina laughed at my reincarnation of that morning. She was my best audience.

“No, it was my phone. It rang for a minute and then stopped. I picked up the phone. There was a dial tone. I tried my parents' number. I hadn’t spoke to them in ages. It worked and not only that, but I could call anywhere in the world.”


“Even stranger was that the phone would ring the same time every Sunday.”

“During BONANZA.”

“Correct.” I liked the chemistry between Little Joe and Hoss.

“Did you ever pick it up to find out who was calling?”

“No. The phone remained in service for two month, then went silence again. After that I never spoke on Sundays. At least until I met you.”

“You’re still quiet on Sundays.”

“I try my best.” I led Ms. Carolina by the hand into my bedroom. There was no need for words in the darkness. Our bodies did the speaking and this Sunday I’ve yet to say a word to a living human being.

That Sunday was over fifteen years ago. The sky was getting dark over Brooklyn. A scream shivered up the stairs. AP was back with the kids. They hadn’t been eaten by the zombies.

I went to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of beer.

Orval is a Trappist beer.

It poured into my mug with a pleasant glug glug glug.

There’s was no danger of Ms. Carolina calling me. She passed away in the winter. I raised my glass to her. She had been a good friend. Another five hours and it would be Monday.

I would call Mam. Fenway would get on the phone. He likes to speak with me and tell me to come home soon and I like to say, "I will."

My vow of silence would end then as it always does, for no Sunday lasts forever.

Sunny Cold And Loud

Last night I went to bed at a decent hour. My eyes closed reading AMERICAN TABLOID by James Ellroy. He really hated the Kennedys and I dreamed about my meeting RFK at the Lower Mills trolley stop in 1966. JFK's younger brother shook my hand with the a reincarnated firmness. I attempted to warn him about the gunman in the LA hotel, but a pounding noise disrupted my Sunday morning slumber. The thumping came from the construction of a condo a good ten blocks from the Fort Greene Observatory. I checked my telephone for the time. 7:01. The contractors had their workers at it early probably to catch up on a yesterday lost to snow and rain. I looked out the window. This morning's sky was blue with wispy clouds. I hadn't turned on the heat. My bedroom was cool, although I couldn't see my breath. The work crews on the condo wouldn't be so lucky and I hoped that they were getting double overtime and buried myself in my pillows, hoping to regain contact with RFK. He was still back there in my dreams.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Modern Forever

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue to be the crown jewel of corporate modernism and the 38-story skyscraper has withstood the architectural assault of time. Last week I was walking past 375. My eyes were drawn into the granite plaza and my gaze rose up the steel and glass tower in awe of its spare aesthetics. At the time of its completion the Seagram Building was the most expensive office tower in America and that money continues to show the beauty of modern forever. Fotos by Peter Nolan Smith

Au Revoir Les Quebecoises

Christmas trees appeared in Fort Greene the day after Thanksgiving and the pine aroma of the Northern Woods permeated the corner of Lafayette and South Elliot for the weeks leading up to Christmas. The two young people selling the trees were from Quebec and I greeted them each day with a 'bonjour'. Amy and Vincent hailed me on my return at night with a 'bon soir' from their spruce and balsam forest. They were amused by my ability to speak French and I gave each of them gifts of warm clothing throughout their stay on the corner; radio to share, a white scarf and cashmere jacket for Amy, and Yoji trousers for Vincent. I had found them on the street. South Oxford between Lafayette and DeKalb was a rich block. Last Sunday night the two of them announced their impending departure for their village south of the mighty St. Lawrence. I returned to their depleted stand with a bottle of wine. They were delighted by this last gift and we drank to each other's health. Christmas Eve I spent at my doctor's house on Staten Island. The next morning I arrived back in Fort Greene. Amy, Vincent, and the trees were gone as was the scent of pine. But they'll be back next year and with luck I'll greet them with a bon jour.

Snow, Rain or Ice

New York was spared a White Christmas for the holiday, but weathermen predicted a winter storm due for this weekend. I woke early in the Fort Greene Observatory. The skyline over the brownstones promised to back up their report. Within an hour snowflakes swirled in the air and I touched the window. It was cold to my fingertips and I pulled on my heavy-duty clothing for a walk to Ralph's Meats on Lafayette. Opening the front door I was disappointed to see that the snow had turned to an icy rain. Puddles formed on the sidewalk and umbrellas shielded pedestrians from getting wet. I phoned a friend on West 137th Street. Her apartment had a view of the Hudson River. "We have snow," she declared with pride. "And we have rain." Somewhere in between there had to be ice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I had moved away from Boston in 1971, but every Christmas of my adult life had been spent with my family on the South Shore. This streak of thirty-three years was broken in 1985, when n art dealer invited a female French singer and me to his cottage on the Isle of Wight for the holiday.

I phoned my mother to break the news on December 23.

“Oh, really.” The hurt was audible over the trans-Atlantic static. “This will be the first one you’re not home.”

“I know, but I will be flying to Boston on the 26th.” Our club in Paris was closed until after the New Year. My bosses had given me a good bonus. We were more friends than co-workers.

“Where are you going for Christmas?” My mother was worried about her second son. The rest of my brothers and sisters lived within ten miles of our parents.

“The Isle of Wight.”

“Didn’t Queen Victoria have a palace there?” My mother was extraordinarily well read and I had inherited that love. My father liked to travel. I was his son too.

“Yes, and I’m staying at a cottage on the grounds of the former royal residence.”

“Osbourne House.” My mother had a bear trap of a memory for details.

“Yes.” Victoria had lived in Osbourne House with Prince Albert, from where she had ruled the vast British empire. The Italian palazzo was visible from the windows of the cottage.

“Sounds very grand.” My mother had loved visiting the big cottages of Newport, Rhode Island and robber-barons' mansions along the Hudson River. She breathed the history with her senses. “Supposedly when her husband died, the Empress went into mourning at a pavilion on the beach.”

“That’s what I heard too.” I refrained from mentioning that the empire had languished without her participation in its day-to-day governing. Finally Her Majesty’s ministers approached the Scottish gillie, John Brown, to bring Her Majesty out of her grief.

My mother offered no knowledge about the rumors of the Queen’s affair with a common huntsman. Sex was for procreation. She had six children. Queen Victoria had had nine.

“After her death it became a convalescent home for navy officers. They still walk around the grounds.”

“That is so fabulous.”

“I suppose it is.”

“I love you and we’ll spent our Christmas together a day later. They will be plenty of left-overs.” She was succeeding in seeding guilt into my heart.

“I’ll see you on the 26th.” I fought off the urge to take a taxi to Charles De Gaulle Aeroport. There were direct flights to Boston, but the beantown had not been my home for a long time.

I hung up the phone and called the singer.

The singer and I had met at an after-hours club in Lower Manhattan. Her friends were starting a fight in the decorated loft. I was security. Stopping them was a matter of a single punch and bum-rushing them out of the club. Lizzie liked telling her friends about that incident. She really was a punk

We had been having an affair for the past month. Neither of us pretended that we were serious about our time together. She and I were free spirits. Our paths met and joined in many cities. Paris was just one of them.

“I’m ready to go.”

“No more mama and papa.” The petite brunette had a vicious streak tempered by an adoration for danger. She had been the first punk in France and she had scored a # 1 hit in 1984. I had bought her a bottle of Chanel # 5.

“For Christmas." I mentioned the flight leaving Heathrow on the 26th.

“And how do I get back to France?” It was a good question.

“Vonelli will take you back.” It was my only option.

“And is he a gentleman like you who abandon helpless women in a foreign country filled with beef eaters.” She had never met the bearded Floridian.

“Much more of a gentleman than me.” .

“We will see.” The singer could take care of herself. She had lived in the Lower East Side in 1975

"Meet me at the station.” The train left from Gare St. Lazare at 4:45pm. The station was across the Seine from my apartment on Ile St. Louis.

I showed up at the train terminal a good half hour before departure. The holiday queues at the ticket booths were breaking down into mobs. I spotted Vonelli at a news kiosk. He was looked smitten by prosperity in his tan cashmere coat and his beard had been trimmed to a respectable length.

“Where is she?” Vonelli had our tickets. The art dealer was excited to meet the singer. He liked beautiful women.

“Women are always late.” I planned on any female companion to be at least thirty minutes behind schedule. “But not my friend.”

The singer was running through the crowds of homeward-bound travelers to Normandy. A cigarette hung from her mouth. Her unruly hair was wrapped under a scarf. A heavy coat hid her petite body. Doc Martens shielded her feet from the cold. She lifted her head to acknowledge seeing us. A shroud of tangled hair fell onto her face. Her gloved hand pushed away the matted strands and the singer kissed me on the lips and then pecked Vonelli on both cheeks. Other passengers stared at her. She was famous.

“Let’s get on the train before I have to sign an autograph.” The singer dropped her cigarette on the ground. Her left boot extinguished the embers of the discarded butt. She had studied ballet in Lyons and that the gracefulness of that training showed with her most insignificant gestures.

“I saw you sing on TV.” Vonelli offered to carry her bag. It was twice the size of mine and the singer liked to travel with thick books of philosophy. The art dealer grunted , as he hauled the heavily laden bag over his shoulder.

“French pop stars never sing on TV. We lip-synch the words. It’s good for our voices.”

The Paris-born singer handed her bag to Vonelli and lit a cigarette. She was a heavy smoker and her naked skin smelled of tobacco. The Gitanes were hell on her throat and she made no effort to stop. “But I am on holiday and we are taking a big boat. So no more talking about music.”

The three of us boarded the train and Vonelli had commandeered a 1st Class compartment. The singer was very pleased with his arrangements and I noticed the warmth in her smile. The same glow had greeted me the first time that she had seen me in Paris. I thought about whether I should be jealous, then decided that Vonelli and the singer made a good couple.

The train pulled out of Gare St. Lazare on time. The French were very German that way. We were comfortable in our compartment. It was cold outside. Tomorrow would be Christmas.

“Here’s to Noel.” Vonelli poured champagne into three glasses. The bearded art dealer had come prepared for the journey. We ate foie gras on crispy baguettes, as the train rocked on the rails through the night. Vonelli amused us with humorous tales of sales at the Hotel Drouot auction house.

“They have their own Mafia. The cols rouge in the black uniforms with red trim come from the same region of the Alps and nothing gets shipped or stored at the Drouot without their okay. This morning one of them said that he couldn’t transport a painting to London, because it was in violation of Christian holiday traditions. 200 francs converted him to atheism.”

Vonelli fawned on the singer and she adored his manners.

“You know how I met your friend?” She pointed at me.

“I stopped her friends from having a fight at an after-hour club.” I hated people bringing up my past as a bouncer. In Paris I was deemed a physionomiste for my talent to recognize faces as much as my ability to decipher if the person was a welcome addition to the melange of personalities within the club. It was not a skill learned in schools.

“You stopped them and then threw me down the stairs.”

“I didn’t throw you down the stairs.” I couldn’t remember the particulars of that night.

“Yes, you did, but I forgave you.”

Vonelli shook his head.

“Bad boy, but that’s why we like you.”

I sulked in my seat for several minutes. The singer sat at my side and admonished me in baby language.

"You want everyone to love you like your momma loved you, but only one woman can do that."

Vonelli thought that she was very funny and I had to admit that she owned a biting wit. My anger dissipated with another glass of champagne. Snow drifted against the windows. The darkened landscape was covered with white. It was beginning to look like Christmas.

At le Havre Vonelli steered us out of the station. The city had been heavily damaged during the Battle of Normandy and he joked about how the church’s Belgian architect was awarded a medal from his government for his masterful uglification, “Le Havre is the most dreary city in France. Think grey and grim. Concrete and more concrete and no building in the city has more concrete than the Eglise of St. Joseph.”

“But even this city has some charm.”

We ate dinner at a fantastic fish restaurant. Several diners asked Lizzie for autographs. The singer was in a better mood than Gare St. Lazare. She even posed for photos with her fans. Vonelli and the singer engaged in a conversation about Sartre. They ignored my comment about his collaborating with the Nazis. I was becoming the third wheel.

It was a short walk to the ferry.

We boarded the ship. So far neither the singer nor I had put our hands in our pockets. The three of us rendezvoused at the stern railing and watched the ferry slip from the harbor.

“Fuck you, France.” The singer gave her native land the finger.

“Its better than America.”

“But not New York.” The singer had been introduced to the scene at CBGBs by a legendary singer of a punk band. Forkhead had shown her his world. In 1975 the East village was the only place to be in the world for people like us. I got there one year later.

“New York is special.” The veterans at Max’s considered me a late-comer. My pinball play won friends at CBGBs, but no one ever called me ‘Tommy’. I was just me.

“I want to wash up. I’ll meet at the bar.” Vonelli returned to his suite. It was a double.

I stood with both hands on the railing. The singer leaned into me. The ship’s wake glowed with froth and the stars shimmered with increasing numbers, as the ferry left the light of land. Its prow cut through increasingly larger waves. The singer gripped the railing and leaned over to kiss me. I put my arm around her and we walked back inside.

“Your friend is very generous.” The singer shucked her heavy clothing in the cabin and entered the shower room. It was too small for two people, but she left the door open. The ferry was pitching from bow to stern in heavy seas. Tonight’s crossing promised to be a rough one.

“I guess he had a good year at the Drouot.” I had the feeling that his extravagance was aimed at impressing the frail-boned brunette.

“He seems like a nice man.” Her voice was sappy with dreams.

“He is a good friend.”

The singer and I had been on a train to nowhere with our affair. It had just pulled into the station and I was getting off. The singer had a new destination and I asked, “Do you like him?”

“He’s cute.” She lathed her body with soap. It was a show with one purpose.

“Really?” No one had called me cute since I was a kid.

“Almost like a Santa Claus in training.” The singer was my age, but looked much younger in our cabin's dim lighting.

“It must be the beard.”

I reminded myself that she was in my cabin this evening and not his. I took off my clothes and staggered into shower. It was big enough, if you stood close.

Thirty minutes later we went to Vonelli’s cabin. We drank a bottle of wine holding onto the table to stay in the chairs. They had been screwed into the deck for just such weather. This was the Channel. The Spanish Armada had been destroyed by this stretch of water and I was beginning to understand why.

“I suggest that we skip dinner in this weather. Always better for the stomach.”

The singer and I concurred with his suggestion. The uneven motions of up-down-sideways-back was testing my constitution and I put down my glass without finishing the wine. This was going to be a long night.

Vonelli suggested that we visit the midship casino.

I hadn’t gambled since losing big time at Reno in 1974, but we sat at the blackjack table together. Two other players greeted us with green faces. The crossing was not agreeing with their stomachs. The dealer wasn’t much better and our first five hands were winners. The slick-haired pit boss replaced her and succeeded in cooling the table.

Vonelli and the singer were more interested in each other than the cards in their hands. Their inattention gave the pit boss an edge and the odds of the house shifted against the six people at the table. The balance shifted a minute later, as the power of the sea overcame the inescapable grind of blackjack.

Casinos are constantly on the watch for card-counters, but my mind was calculating the time between troughs. The ship rode down one wave and struggled up another for the same length of time. The spray covered the windows with foam, almost as if the ferry was a half-submerged submarine.

The rhythm of the waves stretched into an extra long descent to the bottom of a nautical chasm and the deck shuddered, as the ferry’s engines fought to climb the steepening slope of a ship-crushing wave. Everyone’s eyes went wide and the bow cleared the crest and the ferry dropped into the next trough in a free fall. I grabbed my stack of chips before floating out of my seat. My head grazed the ceiling and then I fell right back into my chair. Vonelli and the singer were also lucky, but the pit boss landed on the table.

“I think it’s time to call it a night.” The pit boss was visibly shaken by his flight. The rest of us nodded assent to his suggestion. “Go to your cabin and we’ll cash you out in the morning.”

He shouted to close the casino and ordered the passengers to their cabins.

“Sorry about this.” Vonelli helped the singer to the door. He had wanted everything to be perfect. We separated to enter our rooms. For a second the singer seemed ready to go with him and if this had been a voyage from Southampton to New York instead of Le Havre to Southampton, then tomorrow night she would have made the move.

“See you two in the morning.”

The singer stripped off her clothing and slipped into bed.

“You like Vonelli?” I asked lying next to her. I hadn’t bothered to take off my clothes. If the ship sank, I wanted to be ready to abandon ship.

“Yes.” This question only needed a one syllable answer.

“I mean more than like.”

“Yes.” At least the singer was honest.

“Then I wish you luck.” Vonelli was a complicated man, then again men are much more simple than women.

“You do?” Her surprise was tempered by relief. No one liked a nasty ending.

“It’s obvious that you two like each other in a way that we would never come close to.”

“It is?”

“I think so. Remember I’m a professional physionomiste.” I could divine everyone’s future, but mine. I caressed her shoulder without daring to touch a more intimate stretch of flesh. This was it. “I’m happy for you. For you both.”

The ferry shuddered with a wave slapping the port-side.

“You think this ship will survive.” She was frightened by the ocean.

“Ships make this trip all the time. They are built for La Manche. Everything will be fine. Go to sleep.”

It was easier sad than done, but after two hours the sea surrendered its fury and the ferry resumed a gentle course to England. The singer kissed me on the cheek and went to sleep. I followed her within seconds. We woke with the announcement that the ferry would soon be docking in Southampton.

“How you sleep?” Vonelli was waiting at the railing. The low coastline lingered under a low grey overcast. We were approaching England.

“Good once the storm ended.” The singer stood between us, although a little closer to Vonelli. She made her choice. I watched the ferry about Southampton at half-speed. The captain had brought his ship to safety. Tonight was Christmas Eve. The day after was Christmas. I would fly home on Boxing Day. My mother would love the Chanel # 5. It was just her style and like all men I loved left-overs.

THE LAST GO-GO BOY by Peter Nolan Smith

Americans judge the nation’s fiscal well-being by the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Index, even though Wall Street’s accumulation of wealthy has reaped a mostly negative effect on the vast majority of workers. Next month's bonuses will not add a penny to the buying power of consumers buried under debt and corporations will trim benefits and wages to the bone in order to maximize profit. Other than Occupy Wall Street few employees protest working condition for fear of losing their job.

The economy is still in the shitter and I ask myself what jobs are available for a 60 year-old man.

Very few is the answer.

Years before I had been lucky that Manny always reserved a place for me on West 47th Street, but this year has been the exception. Times are that tough in the Diamond District.

Last month I sold some rings for a gay writer. I flogged his family heirlooms to a black gold dealer in another exchange for the best price possible. Going through Manny would have cut into the final number and the writer needed every dollar to pay his health care bill.

My friend showed his gratitude with a dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant in the East Village. Every seat was crammed with young people enjoying the fast life in the city. These go-getters were my competition in the morning for a subway seat. Luckily these happy-go-lucky youths were not ruthless enough to throw me under the train.

“I never see anyone my age on the subway.”

“Most men our age are retired.” Bruce was a world-known novelist. The heavyweight Syracuse native had won awards in Europe. Critics had recognized his genius. Sales for his last book totaled a little over 2000. “Do you have a retirement plan?”

He ordered with his finger darting over the menu. The waiter paid attention to his every word like he was a seeing-eye dog. Bruce had a way with young men.

“When I hit 70, I'm taking a plane to Norway to rob a bank. I'm going to shoot someone in the leg too so it's armed robbery, then they'll sentence me to 20 to life. I've seen photos of the prison for armed offenders. The rooms have computers and are furnished by IKEA.

“Ten years from now the Norwegian prison officials will have instituted euthanasia for the elderly, so robbing a bank in Oslo is not really an option."

"You have any other suggestions?" I had been doing a little non-union extra work for TV shows. The pay was $8 an hour with a meal. Twelve hours added up to almost $85 with overtime.

"Ever think about taking steel pole lessons from strippers? You could always lose ten pounds and work as a go-go boy at the queer retirement home.” Bruce’s biting wit was best suited to attack rather than self-deprecation.

“More like twenty pounds.” December hadn’t been so cold, although a steady diet of stress had melted the fat from my bones.

“Honey, those old wrinklies aren’t so particular about the weight. They like the young flesh.” Bruce had written a book on the rough trade in Times Square. His tricks had called him Papi. None of them were under 20 and he never sunk under 250 pounds.

“A scary thought.” I felt my age and my young Thai wife kept reminding me over the phone that I wasn’t 17 anymore. Mam was 28 and my son was four years-old. I couldn’t quit working until I was 78.

"Those old fags want someone young.” Bruce was a year from Social Security. “None of those old queens in the nursing homes have seen anyone young as you in decades. You could charge the homes $100 a visit, which has to be better for the old geezers than any other medicine.”

“Thanks for the idea, but I'd rather rob a cradle than a grave."

"Times change and people like you and me have to change with them, plus graves are richer pickings than a cradle. Hell, you could franchise it in Florida. How many retirement homes you think are in the Sunshine State? Thousands? There has to be a demand for middle-aged men from the elderly.”

“Supply and demand.” I ordered oysters with seaweed noodles, plus a glass of wine. The waiter was thin and handsome. He had to be 35 years younger than me. He wouldn't think of me as middle-aged. I was almost 60.

“And who knows? You might be able to sex them up for a little more money on the side.” Bruce caressed the waiter’s behind. He was a regular here. The waiter walked away content to know that he would be receiving a good tip. Bruce liked to pay for sex even if it was merely a grope.

“No way. I barely wanted to have sex with myself let alone with someone else.”

“Why, because you’re too good to have sex with someone older than you. Like me.” He frowned at this unintended insult. “What about the woman you had sex with in Palm Beach?"

"Helen?" She had been unnaturally blonde and thin.

."That's the one. You said she was over 70.”

“That was different.” The heiress had been the publisher of a Florida magazine. We had smoked reefer in her apartment overlooking Lake Worth. The address had been in West Palm Beach. "She wasn't really rich."

"But she had your number." Bruce was fascinated by the sordid.

“How?" The blonde septuagenarian spent part of a good part of her fortune on soaking her body in Botox like it was fondue cheese.

"As I remember it, she said she hadn’t had cock in her mouth in ten years. She had begged for it and you gave it to her like you were shooting a remake of SUNSET BOULEVARD.”

“It was a mercy mission.”

With the lights off, the curtains billowing with the breeze, and Helen wearing sheer lingerie and satin high heels, I imagined that she was Paris Hilton in the year 2040. On her knees the mirage had performed fellatio like she was entering the Porno Hall of Fame. Thankfully she had never said, “Ready for my scene, Mr. DeMille.”

Maybe the first time, but what about the second time?” Bruce sat back, as the waiter delivered our appetizers; fried calamari for him and raw bluepoints for me. “Gore Vidal said about orgies that once is experimentation, but twice is perversity.”

“The second time was because I was drunk.” Two bottles of wine and a joint had loosened by inhibitions and she had had her way with me. “There was no third time.”

Only because you saw her with another man at the Chesterfield.”

“She was in the Leopard Lounge.” The other man had been in his late 60s. He had once been an Elvis impersonator. I felt cheap.

“And you heard her use that ‘haven’t tasted cock’ line on him, so don’t tell me you can’t go-go boy anymore. We all have a price.”

“I’d rather rob a bank in Norway.” I sucked down an oyster tasting of the Atlantic.

“And end up a stick boy in prison.” Bruce was enjoying himself. "You don't look like you'd like being a bottom."

"Never." I never would be a bottom, except with my wife Mam. She got off better that way.

“You do what you have to do to survive. Believe me. I know.” He had taught creative writing at a dude ranch college two years ago. He was lucky to have escaped the range without any charge for perversion.

“I know you do.” Bruce was in his 60s. His novels were in every bookstore in the East Village. His tales of hustlers and go-go boys were cult classic within the gay community. His name in in Wikipedia.

All that meant almost nothing. Bruce was forever broke. Same as everyone in America, for the very rich have no use for old go-go boys.

And I know, because wealth has a funny way of making an old man young, but I had a few good years in me yet and one of them would be in Florida.

Maybe Bruce was right and there was only one way of finding out and high season was only a summer away.

RESUME Dorothy Parker

Resumé Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live. Dorothy Parker I was in the same mood two weeks ago and my landlord AP recite this poem. He put me in my place and my place is with the living. Same for you and all of us. Live for today and live for tomorrow, which will be today tomorrow. Please go to this URL

147 A GO-GO by Peter Nolan Smith

Last week the best antique dealers in our diamond exchange moved to a new address. Their vacated booth was both minuscule and expensive. The building management had been hard-pressed to find a new tenant in these hard times after Christmas.

I stood by the glass counter with the departing salesman and Jo-Jo the security guard, who were discussing the possibilities for such a constrained space. The salesman was in favor of a rest area for the ill-mannered hawkers of 47th Street. Richie boy hated them and Jo-Jo suggested a bar. It was a good idea, but I had a better one.

"We should open a go-go bar. The girls dance in the window. We have six seats. $10/drink, which have to be finished in less than ten minutes. That's $360 an hour. $3000 a day. Over a million a year. Most of it profit."

Jo Jo and the salesman turned their heads.

"The window isn't big enough for anyone to dance in it." The salesman was thinking normal like most people his age.

"This go-go will be special." I didn't even have to shut my eyes to envision the crowd inside the exchange. The mob on the sidewalk would be five deep. My idea was genius. "We hire midgets to dance in the window. Steel pole hobbits. No dwarfs."

"No dwarfs?" Jo Jo sounded uncertain of the difference.

"Midgets and dwarfs don't get along."

"Don't get along?" Jo Jo was drunk. The redheaded ex-cop had a drinking problem with Buds. I said nothing about it to no one. I wasn't a snitch.

"There used to be a midget bar in the West Village. The bartender never served dwarfs. Midget think that they merely short humans, while dwarfs accept their shortness as normal. Everyone has to have someone beneath them."

"You wouldn't want to be known for prejudice against dwarfs." Jo-Jo knew my politics.

"No, I wouldn't like that." But I had seen fights at that bar between the two vertically challenged groups. "Only one or the other. Not the both. I'll save that for the boxing arena."

"So what would you call the bar?"

"The 147 Club, because that's the average height of a midget."

"And they could be kosher." The salesman laughed at the possibility of shimmishabbah midgets dancing on the go go poles.

"Midgets willing to shave their heads for you." I pointed my finger upward. "Isn't there an office upstairs? That could be the short-time room. I'll be a millionaire in a year."

"The police will arrest you in the first week." Jo-Jo was an ex-cop and all cops are downers on a good time.

"I'll pay them off. For religious reasons."

"Like what?"

"I worship Hassidic midget go-go dancers."

Manny my boss was staring at me. He hated my bullshitting. My salary was too low for him to say too much, but we liked each other and I returned to my counter. There were no customers. Business was slow. Last year had been even slower.

"What were you bullshitting about?" Manny wanted to know how I was wasting his time.

"Midget go-go dancers in the next booth."

Manny shook his head. Most of his 80 years old had been spent in New York.

"You live long enough to hear everything. Please get back to work."

"Whatever you want." I returned to my desk and looked at the booth. The 147 a Go-Go was an impossible dream, but for one day it would have been a paradise for midgets. Me too because I would have served dwarfs just to see the shit go crazy. Once a punk always a punk.

Boxing Day England

Boxing Day has been a strictly English holiday dating back to the Middle Ages when the lower class received hand-outs from their feudal overlords. In early capitalist times the box was clay pot containing the year’s tips for the underclasses from their betters and on December 26 the year’s bonus would be doled out to the workers, however whenever I ask Brits about Boxing Day’s origins they state it’s the day after Christmas on which nothing is open. This is a fact, for I traveled from Portsmouth to London on Boxing Day 1985. The single 2nd Class train car was shared by me and five National Front lager louts. The ride had all the making of a combination of the zombie film 28 DAYS LATER and the Jam’s hit DOWN IN THE TUBE AT MIDNIGHT. I opened my Opinal knife with care. The edge was sharp and I weighed out the factors. Desolation. Rain. Drunks. Violence. I first felt a fist, and then a kick I could now smell their breath They smelt of pubs and wormwood scrubs And too many right wing meetings My life swam around me It took a look and drowned me in its own existence The smell of brown leather It blended in with the weather It filled my eyes, ears, nose and mouth It blocked all my senses Couldnt see, hear, speak any longer And Im down in the tube station at midnight I said I was down in the tube station at midnight – THE JAM Luckily the skinheads departed after the second stop up the line and I closed my knife. It's a good thing to be a lucky man.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

THE GIFT OF UNGIVING by Peter Nolan Smith

Most of my landlord's friends are married couples with kids. His wife and AP regularly invited them over to the Fort Greene Observatory for weekend lunches and evening drinks. I keep my distance from his guests, since my marital status is an enigma and after a few glasses I tend to recite a litany of my tales from around the world. AP and his wife have heard enough of these to last them a lifetime, so whenever I do join them at the kitchen table, I am mindful to only speak when spoken to. Silence is golden in children, but in older men reticence was a platinum hit to be rewarded with another glass of wine.

Last week AP, his wife and another couple were discussing their favorite toys.

"I would give anything to see my old toy boat." I had lost it in the early 60s. "It's probably in the Closet of Lost Things."

"What's that?" asked our neighbor's young wife.

"My 6th grade nun had comforted our sorrow over lost toys by saying that a closet of lost things awaited us in heaven." I had been too old to believe in miracles, but young enough to still expect miracles from the unknown.

"I have something like that in Chicago." The wife filled my glass with a clear Pinot Grigio. The woman was a doctor. Her husband worked for the NY Times. AP had smart friends. "Every Christmas my mother would put all the gifts under the tree. One each present had the contents written on the wrapping along with our names."

"Did your mother do that to keep you from opening the gifts?" I drank half the glass in one go. My kids were on the other side of the world. I missed them more than words could explain. This was going to be a sad Christmas.

"Let her tell the story." AP's wife scowled at my interruption with disapproval. In her eyes I would never change and she didn't want me to change too. We liked each other just the way we were.

"No, my mother wasn't that kind of woman. Christmas morning would come and she'd give out all the presents one by one. We had to read out our names and the contents. Halfway through the distribution she would give us a gift and then take it back saying, "You're not getting this one this year."


AP, his wife and I flabbergasted by this maternal Indian-giving. Her husband said nothing. They had been married over ten years.

"She'd take the gifts and put them in a closet with all the other gifts that she hadn't given us from previous Christmases."

"Did she say why?" AP's wife poured everyone some more wine. I had a thirst.

"No explanation. Just put them in the closet and locked the door."

"Were they empty?" AP was stunned by this admission.

"No, they felt like whatever she had written on the wrapping was inside the box."

"Wow." I was speechless until I sipped my wine. "And does your mother do that to your children?"

"The tradition lives on to this day."

"And your husbands don't say anything?" AP was looking at the NY Times editor. He was a big man in media.

"You don't mess with tradition." He must have tried to break the string of ungiven gifts without any success. Any man in his right mind would have tried to free the teddy bears and dolls. "Mother-in-laws are a world onto their own."

The three males at the table had at least one mother-in-law and we lifted our glasses to toast our wives' mothers. I excused myself from the gathering. It was morning in Thailand. My kids would be waking for school. Later in the day I would sent money for gifts. After all it was the season of giving and my toy boat had to be somewhere.

If not in this world, then the next.

GUILT VERSUS SHAME by Peter Nolan Smith

Back in the last century I left work on 47th Street early on December 24. Manny complained that I was deserting my post selling diamonds, but I had been working every day since Thanksgiving.

"I should pay you a half-day." Manny was a grinch of the first-order.

"Do what you want. I'm heading home." Boston was my destination. My mother was cooking a big turkey for our family's Christmas feast.

I caught a train north and arrived at our suburban split-level ranch house on the South Shore in time for drinks and dinner. Our guests left a little before midnight and my mother requested her prodigal son attend church with her. I had been a non-believer since the age of 8, but I respected her faith and said, "Sure.”

I dressed in a dark-gray suit with a black cashmere polo shirt. My mother came into the room and asked, “Where’s your tie?”

“Mom, this shirt is pure cashmere.”

“But what about a tie?” My mother was old school.

“You can’t wear a tie with a polo shirt.” I had worn a tie every day at Our Lady of the Foothills.

My mother frowned with disappointment.

“I hope at my funeral you’ll wear a tie.” The words were drenched in sadness.

Ridden with guilt I changed my shirt and put on a tie. Saying no to my mother was difficult, especially with tears in her eyes.

Later the next week I related this story to the mother of my diamond employer. Hilda tsked and said, “That’s the difference between Jews and goyim.”

“What?” Her son and I were befuddled by Hilda’s statement.

“Your mother simply shamed you to wear a tie at her funeral, if it had been me I would have guilted my son by saying, “Once you kill me, I want you to wear a tie to the funeral.”

“Aha.” Richie Boy and I replied, for Hilda had explained the true depth of Jewish guilt in a single sentence.


We were all bad boys, except to our mothers.

To them we were saints.

Even if we didn't wear a tie.

Tis the Season BET ON CRAZY

My boss at the diamond exchange hailed from Brownsville, one of the toughest neighborhood in Brooklyn and those streets bred its own language. For years Manny greeted Christmas shoppers to his diamond store with the phrase 'there is no season for giving'. His son Richie Boy tried on many occasions to explain that he was basically saying that at no time should anyone ever give gifts.

"That's not what I said." Manny had a problem with accepting criticism. Most bosses think they are infallible.

Thirty years on the Bowery and twenty years on 47th Street had deafened the eighty year-old's ability to hear his own speech.

"Then what are you saying?" His son was mystified by his old man's vernacular.

"I'm saying that you can give a gift whenever you want."

"We know that's what you're trying to say, but sounds hinky." Richie Boy's command of the queen's language had been polished by his friends in high places.

"Wrong way? You understood what I was trying to say, so what's the problem?" Manny was at the age when being wrong wasn't an option unless you wanted to admit decades of mistakes and admission of one error would lead to an avalanche of realizations. It was better to think yourself forever right.

"Nothing at all." Richie Boy shrugged his defeat and soon 'no season for giving' became our holiday motto.

Of course like a corked wine Manny aged either way and on the day before Christmas my boss was showing a young man a diamond ring.

"I'm not looking for an engagement ring. "The customer was too young to want to get married.

"Not want to give a gift." Manny's hearing was gone so he only hears whatever he wants. Richie Boy motioned for me to TO or take over the sale. I shook my head.

"No, I want earrings." The young man was shaking his head.

"So buy a ring already. This is Christmas, a time for giving, not a time for jerking off."

Richie Boy and I exchanged a disbelieving glance. His father couldn't have said that gem. We laughed aloud we heard and Manny continued to insult the morning's only customer and he wasn't stopping either.

"I don't that the time to waste on someone who would rather jerk off than buy his girlfriend a present."

"All I want is earrings." The young man had never expected holiday abuse from an 80 year-old man.

"I already showed you rings, now stop wasting my time." Manny threw out the young man and went back to his desk. He looked at us and asked, "What?"

"Nothing." Richie Boy and I went back to our desks. We knew better than to ask any questions during the season of 'not jerking off'. It wouldn't be Christmas until we shut the safe and we were counting every minute.

Peace In No Man's Land

On Sunday 28 June 1914 Bosnian assassins attacked the motorcade of Austrian Archduke anarchists Franz Ferdinand. The first attempt was foiled by the Hapsburg heir deflecting a diabolical device. His bodyguards strongly recommended seeking safety, however Franz Ferdinand insisted on a hospital visit to see bystanders injured by the bomb. His driver took a wrong turn and nineteen year-old Gavrilo Princip stepped out of the crowd and fatally wounded the archduke and his wife with a Browning .32 pistol. Within weeks massive armies mobilized across Europe. In August Germany invaded Belgium, routing the French and British troops. The Emperor's troops were stopped 43 miles short of Paris a month later and after the Battle of Ypres millions of soldiers on the Western Front occupied two opposing sets of trenches stretching hundreds of miles from the Channel to the Swiss border. The deadly stalemate continued into December without any end in sight. Peace feelers were rejected by the High Commands of the Axis and Allies. The daily grind of blood, sweat, and tears abated with the approach of Christmas and hundreds of thousands of soldiers declared an unofficial truce on December 24. Germans and British soldiers met in no man's land. Shared carols were sung in both languages. Fallen comrades were retrieved from the shattered battle ground. The truce continued past Christmas, but military commanders recognized the danger of fraternization and prohibited any repeat of the Christmas peace for the rest of the War to end all wars. I myself am having a truce in Fort Greene and wish everyone peace and love. It's my gift to the world. Peace, brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Truce

Peace on earth. I'm declaring a Christmas Truce on all bad thoughts. Enjoy.

Back To Work

Last week I had no work ahead of me and the rest of the year promised to offer more of the same. I luckily sold two diamonds to make enough money to pay rent and send my kids in Thailand, but my own existence was threatened by a dismal lack of funds. I called friends to any leads. Most of them were leaving town from the holidays. My luck seemed to have crapped out, until I spoke to my old employer, Richie Boy, on 47th Street. "I can use you over the holidays." "Thanks." I started last Tuesday and have worked every day since. Getting up at 7am and not getting home until 7pm. My entries into Mangozeen fell to zero. Today will be the seventh in a row. "Working every day sucks," Richie Boy stated yesterday. "Not working every day sucks worse." Don't I know it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two Days To Go

In 1990 I visited Tikal with my Aussie friend Cathy. We stayed at a horrible hotel, but slept atop the Mayan pyramids surrounded by the thick Peten jungle. Howler monkeys dashed from tree to tree and the buzz of insects hummed outside our mosquito nettings. This abandoned city had had a population of 90,000 souls around 600AD. No one lived there now. And this was before the time of Baktun. Enjoy the last two days of the 12th Baktun. The 13th will be a good one.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hour Of The 13th Baktun

A little more than three days remain until the end of the 12th Mayan Baktun, which began on August 11th, 3114 BC. Supposedly the Egyptians invented written language on that date. The rest of the Neolithic world was recovering from the ravages of the Great Ice Age. Agriculture wouldn't revive in Northern Africa for more than a hundred years about the same time as the foundation of Troy and Caral the first city in the Americas. Stonehenge had yet to be built by the Celts, but beer had existed since 9500 BC as the first stepping stone of civilization. Billions of people have lived since then. The supposed approach of doomsday on 12/21/12 had leadened the spirit of the world. A tenth of Americans are concerned whether they will survive the dawn. The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter was purportedly obsessed with the End of Times. The director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe has declared that the entire apocalyptical prophesy has been a hoax foisted on mankind by the media. According to him there is no planet Nibiru in this galaxy, planet alignments have no effect on the Earth, and a magnetic polar shift occurs every million years and if it happened now north becoming the south would take centuries to complete. So I guess I'll drink beer on December 22. Heck, I'm drinking beer on December 17 and I will on December 18 too. Happy Beermas.

You Bet I Would Lingerie

I might be three times her age, but in my mind I'm still 15. So she would reject me for being too young. Drat.


Three years ago Christmas sales were few and far between on 47th Street. The depression has robbed the middle-class of their imagined wealth. Diamonds and jewelry purchases have been sacrificed to pay mortgages and credit card bills. America as a nation continued to suffer from the banking debacle, the collapse of the car industry, and the two wars in Asia. Thankfully Richie Boy has rich clients who are taking advantage of the downturn to buy high-grade diamonds and luxury jewelry with ruthless bargaining.

"We squeaked out another year." Richie Boy toasted our few successes at the Oyster Bar three days before Xmas. The wine was Austrian and the oysters had been harvested in New England. His wife was happy with both.

"A million-dollar ruby sale, a couple of rich guys buying big items, and a few lucky sales off the street." I had sold an Italian suite of pearls and sapphires to a Swiss couple and the ruby to a woman from Boca Raton. Richie Boy's client was the richest man in New York. I'm sworn to secrecy about his purchases and his name. "We were lucky."

"And we showed up to work every day. 90% of success is showing up on time."

"Or not too late." I arrived at the diamond exchange fifteen minutes after the opening time of 9:30 every day without exception. It was my one perp after working there for twenty years. "Here's to 2010."

As happy as we were with the season, Richie Boy's father shared none of our positivity. The bills came in faster than the money. His son's spending was profligate, but Richie Boy deserved every c-note. Without him the firm would be another dark window on 47th street.

The next morning Manny brandished the bill from the Oyster Bar.

"$4 for an oyster. They sell them at Doc's for $1 at Happy Hour." Doc's was his local bar on 34th Street.

"Happy hour ends at 7 and we worked until 7:30." I had worked 7 days a week since my return from Thailand the week after Thanksgiving.

"And only two of them were $4. Willapas as big as your palm." Richie Boy had been disgusted by the size. "The goy loved them."

"Almost as much as the clams casino. Oysters wrapped in bacon." I turned to Benzy, my Hassidic diamond broker. He's a big Yankee fan. We're friends anyway. "If oyster are tref and bacon is tref, do two tref make something kosher like two negatives make a positive in math."

"That's a good question." Benzy laughed with the joy of a man with six healthy children, which was a small family for the Hassidim in Williamsburg. "I'll ask my rabbi. He has a good sense of humor."

Not Manny.

He hated Richie Boy and me for spending money on oysters.

"Why are you so miserable?" Richie Boy wasn't allowing his father to ruin his holiday. He was heading up to Vermont on Christmas Eve and then off to St. Bart's with his wife for the New Year's. Richie Boy had a good life and his father ruined every success with a bucket of Grinch. Manny reviewed our sales, as if each was a dead loss.

"You should have got more profit for the jewelry suite."

"I'll take $20,000 on a $50,000 sale any day." The commission paid the flight to Thailand.

"Big hero." He thought that I should have hit them for 70K. "I would have let them walk."

No one was exempt from his holiday gloom. He schlepped every dealer to the last minute. He chided my co-workers for every supposed fault. I told Richie to give us our bonuses before his departure to Vermont, otherwise his father would divine some way to make us miserable.

"I'm out of my here at 2:30." Richie Boy distributed our pay and Xmas bonus. He had wanted to give me a G. Manny cut it down to $800. I thanked them both. Manny had stiffed me with a nothing bonus the previous year.

"Manny, let them out early. They're goys and have family." Richie Boy cared about us, although not enough to stick around to insure an early Christmas Eve closing. He had a long drive in front of him and was eager to leave behind the grumblings of his old man.

"I'll let them go at 7." The exchange closed at that hour from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.


Only Manny wasn't joking about his remake of Dicken's classic Xmas tale. Manny was Scrooge and I was Bob Crachtit. Everyone wanted to go home, but Manny wanted to show he was still boss.

"Manny, could you at least let Deisy go home early? She has a baby and needs to go to church." I pleaded between muttered curses.

"She's go home at the normal hour."

And we sat there for another two hours without a single customer entering the store, so I went out and bought some beers to drink. I didn't offer Manny a sip. He kept his head down and crunched numbers on his ancient accounting machine.

"Fucking mean old shit."

At ten to 5 I started pulling the back showcases.

"It's not five yet." Manny lifted his head and tapped his watch.

"Then buy a new watch. The computer says 5. My watch says 5. My phone says 5. The clock in the back says 5 and you had the landlord retime it five minutes slow to get another few minutes of shopping time. We're closing."

"Since when have you become my boss."

"I'm not the boss. I'm a goy and we celebrate Christmas."

"You're a non-believer." Manny remembered my many rants against the Church.

"Not today. Deisy start pulling."

"Deisy, don't do anything."

"Manny, give it up. We're going home."

"Why don't you go home and don't come back?"

"I can't, because Richie Boy asked me to look after you."

"I don't need anyone looking after me."

Manny was seething with anger. The octagenarian's friends have died or retired to Florida. His girlfriend lived in Miami. He doesn't want to join them and rightfully so because most of them sit in their rooms watching the wall. By coming to work Manny got to pretend that he was actually doing something useful and truthfully the only reason I could show up fifteen minutes late was that Manny arrived at 9:30 every day without fail. Richie Boy's 'extravagant' life style was managed by his father's careful balancing of the checkbook.

Manny might have been Scrooge, but he was my Scrooge and after closing the safe I wished my longtime boss a good holiday.

Deisy was gone. It was just him and me.

"You feel like a drink?" Manny got up from his papers and I handed him his coat. It was cold outside.

"Down the street?" I had nowhere to go this Christmas Eve.

"Anywhere as long as they had wine and maybe some oysters." He knew me well.

"Sounds good to me." I was still pissed at the old git, but Manny wasn't that different from me and neither is everyone else.

We all have a little bit of the Grinch in us this time of year, for as Manny likes to say, "There is no season for giving."

And ain't that the truth, especially if you like oysters and they tasted might good on Manny's tab.

Man O Manischewitz

Fort Greene is a friendly neighborhood. People say hello to each other. I smile a greeting, glad to be here. It is a 'we' world. Across the street an older Trinidadian woman collects beer cans and bottles for the deposit money. I give Jinny all my empties, at least ten a week. At five cents a can my annual contribution adds up to $25. This rainy afternoon I exited from the Fort Greene Observatory, I spotted Ginny struggling to drag her cart loaded with plastic soda bottles onto the sidewalk. Her daily effort finances her yearly visit to the casino. She loves the slots. "Wait there," I shouted and walked over to help maneuver her load out of the street. "Thank you, sweetie." She smiled and scurried back to her basement apartment, "I have something for you. Watch my things." "Sure." I estimated that she had collected over two hundred bottles this morning or $10 for her battle with the one-armed bandits of Aqueduct. Thirty seconds later she emerged from her flat with a plastic bag. "This is for you." Ginny handed me a bottle. It was Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine, 100% kosher for Passover, until it contains a kitniyot grain such as corn syrup. "Thank you." I took the bottle with sublime gratitude. No one had given me a Christmas gift. "I'll drink a toast to you with my landlord AP." "He is such a good man. And those children are lovely." "Yes, they are." I pointed to her cart. "You need any help with that?" "No, I'm going down to Pathway to redeem the money. I think I might go to the casino on New Year's Day." "Then I wish you luck." I returned to AP's brownstone and showed my friend the bottle. "Man O Manischewitz." AP made a face. He was used to better wines. "I can't remember the last time I drank it. It must have been back in the Zapple and Boone's Farm years." I examined the bottle for percentage of alcohol. "It says 11%. Care for a glass?" "Not right now." We had eaten pasta with clams for lunch, which calls for white wine and certainly not glatt kosher wine. "Later?" I hated drinking alone. "Much later." I had no reason to wait and cracked open the bottle in my top-floor apartment. The bouquet was pure sweetness. I poured a glass and brought it to my lips. A simple sip renditioned me back to 1966. Man O Manischewitz. Some things in life never change. "Here's to you, Ginny."


Michael Moore's 2002 BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE examined the reasons for America's phenomena of gun murders. Other countries have similar histories of violence, our gun movies are seen all over the world, and even a well-armed Canada has only a fraction of the murders that occur in its southern neighbor. Last year Detroit had 298 murders. Across the river Windsor, Ontario had none. Michael Moore suggests the cause is not the culture, the murders on TV, the hideous gun movies, the mass killings on video games or even the access to guns. "It's the fear." America the Land of the Freaked. Where even the shadows are scared of the shadow-givers. ps Charlton Heston is dead, so we can rip the gun out of his dead hands. Please watch BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE by going to this URL

Texas Tower Massacre

On August 1, 1966 Charles Joseph Whitman started the day by killing his wife and mother. He left a note in his apartment.

"I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts."

Charles Whitman left his apartment and drove to the Texas University. The ex-Marine climbed the 307-foot tower with a cache of weapons. From this aerie he shot dead 13 and wounded 32 others with telescopic rifles. This rampage lasted for hours. Finally two Austin police officers put down the killer with shotguns.

"We got him."

Medical examiners found a brain tumor in his head. He was also on speed and rumors abounded about his abuse as a child by the Catholic priests from his home parish of Lake Worth, Florida.

No one blamed the guns.

Not then.

Now now and not when gunmen assail 'soft targets' such as school, fast food chains, and malls. Strangely no deranged gunman has ever attacked a gun show.

Guns and guns and guns.

Not once in America has a mass murderer assailed a gun show, proving that either the madmen are scared of not accomplishing their murderous mission or gun shows calm the burning blood of a killer's brain.

Don't get me wrong. I like shooting guns. Just not at people.

Unless they are after my family, then it's open season.

Lock and load.

Old Coot

Last summer a young Cambodian boat driver came over to our table at the Full Moon Bar in Jomtien. Tip was young. He liked to drink. He smiled at me and said something to Mam. I really didn't understand what, but her reaction translated the meaning. He smiled at me again like I was an old fool. That may be true, but I'm only a fool for my friends. I picked up a knife and said to Mam, 'This boy is going to have a problem."

"No problem." She knew my temper.

"No problem." I envisioned standing up behind the young man and putting him into a submission hold. Old fools don't fight at my age. Instead I put down the knife and said nothing. I could see Mam hoping I did nothing stupid and I didn't do anything stupid other than ordered another beer. Mam and I returned across the street to drink in front of our apartment building. It was a smart move and Tip was smart too, because he said nothing else.

Old guys can be like that and Chas Mover sent a joke that's very appropriate.


An old prospector shuffled into town leading an old tired mule.

The old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat.

He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail. As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, "Hey old man, have you ever danced?"

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance...

"Never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said,”Well, you old fool, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old man's feet.

The old prospector --not wanting to get a toe blown off-- started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet. Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers. The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air. The crowd stopped laughing immediately. The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly.

The silence was almost deafening. The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands, as he quietly said,

"Son, have you ever licked a mule's ass?"

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No sir..... But... I've always wanted to."

There are a few lessons for us all here:
Never be arrogant.
Don't waste ammunition.
Whiskey makes you think you're smarter than you are.
Always, always make sure you know who has the power.
Don't mess with old men; they didn't get old by being stupid.

Bullet Control

Gun control? We need bullet control! I think every bullet should cost 5,000 dollars. Because if a bullet cost five thousand dollar, we wouldn't have any innocent bystanders. Chris Rock To view his comments please go to this URL

Time To Talk

After the Sandy Hook shooting several right-wing TV pundits admonished the call for a national dialogue on gun control. There was no mention of guns during the presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney the GOP challenger. When Bob Costas commented on a KC football player shooting his girlfriend and then himself, the NRA ramped up its media machine and Mr. Costas had to retract his criticism on guns. Even the White House came out with a statement; “I think that day will come, but today’s not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation." I not now, when? The Bill of Rights guarantees our freedom of speech. "The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable." And this is no matter what the NRA thinks about gun control.

SAD SUNSET by Peter Nolan Smith

Friday evening Mr. Dithers was driving back from Amagansett. I had spent the day laboring on his post-modern beach house in the dunes. It was much easier work than smashing knives. The sun was setting into horizon tipped with magenta, as we drove west on Route 27 into the early evening. The mirage of open road would shift to rush hour congestion after Easthampton. Mr. Dithers and I admired the celestial alignment of Venus over the sliver of a crescent moon. This was the first trip out of the city in months and I was in no hurry to get back to the Fort Greene Observatory, although my good friend/landlord AP had mentioned a need for a babysitter. "You want to get something to eat on the way?" The younger Mr. Dithers asked from behind the wheel of the rented car. "That would be nice." "I know a lovely restaurant on the way." My boss for the day had a strict diet of tasteless food thanks to a finicky stomach, but he was quite an aesthete with the palate of others. "Sounds great." I was getting tired of my own cooking. The telephone rang on the console. The caller was identified as Mr. Dithers' wife. He answered the phone with the push of a button. "Where are you?" Nancy's voice was sad. She worked as a psychiatrist at a major hospital. Most of her patients suffered from addiction. "Just coming to Easthampton." "Did you hear about the shooting in Connecticut?" Nancy had been crying. "A young man went into a primary school and killed 6 adults and 20 children under the age of 10." Mr. Dithers said nothing, but I swore, "Damn." Nancy recounted the news from the TV at their apartment on East 57th Street. Another lone gunman had torn a hole in the fabric of life. "What makes someone do this?" Mr. Dithers wanted to know. He was a calm person. I doubted if he had ever had a fight in his life. "He was either a psychopath or psychotic?" Nancy added that most of the killers with white males on prescription drugs to deal with anger issues. "It's more than that." I had been bullied in grammar school. I never wanted to revenge myself on innocent people, only the two thugs who had beaten me up every day. "This boy must have been in pain. The school reminded him of this pain and he wanted other people to feel the same pain, but also he went to the school knowing that he was going to commit suicide and like a Viking chief he wanted people to accompany him into the afterlife." "I don't think so." Nancy wasn't buying my theory. "Honey, I'll be home as soon as I can." Mr. Dithers hung up the phone. "Sorry, but dinner's cancelled." "I understand." It was time to be with your loved ones. The last vestiges of the day were fading from the western horizon. The sun was rising halfway around the world in Thailand. My children would be going to school soon. I sat back in my passenger seat, knowing that they were safe and sound and far from America. I only wished that I could say the same for myself and those poor children lost to a madman's rage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

B'ak'tun Tsunami

Doomologists have pinpointed the end-date of the Mayan's 5,125-year-long cycle as or December 21, 2012 without predicting the cause of Armageddon. Various options for the B'ak'tun have been offered by opposing camps. Fundamentalists are hoping for the Second Coming of the Messiah and survivalists are arming up for collapse of the New World Order, while New Ages search the cosmos for an errant asteroid or black hole. The apocalypse was supposed to start May 21 and culminate with a cataclysm on 12/21/12.

Last evening I had a dream in which I was staying on the 8th floor of a Honolulu high-rise. The waves surging into Waikiki grew larger and larger, until a surfer duck-dived under the crest of a monster tsunami. The wave crashed into the condo and water splashed against the terrace windows.

I looked out the window.

An even bigger wave surged towards the submerged beach and I backed away from the window in time to escape the wave shattering the glass. The sea was only two stories below our floor. Another wave was coming and it was huge.

I woke up with a start and looked around my room.

Dreams about tidal waves are often the result of life's overwhelming pressures and our tendency to not dealing with our problems. I have to admit that I don't have everything under control, however not everything in the world is about me and I got out of bed to look out the window. It was still dark and no wave rose over the skyline of Brooklyn, but I don't really have to worry about a tsunami.

Fort Greene is only 104 feet above sea level and the doric column of the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument adds about 149 feet of elevation. This added height would provide sufficient elevation to survive a tidal wave of epic proportions, but I would only be one of hundreds of Brooklynites seeking refuge from certain doom.

A jug of moonshine is under my kitchen sink.

It was a good back-up plan for doomsday and I went back to sleep content that the world was not ending today.

Ka xi'ik teech utsil, which is Mayan for good luck.

We'll be needing in the months to come.

The End Of The World

Early Christians expected the return of the Man from Nazareth to Earth. Their Messiah failed to show up to save them and converts gave up on the 2nd Coming for the End Times or 'days of vengeance', when their persecution would be revenged by fiery angels. Revelations in the Bible forecast the horrors of the End of Times.

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

The signs were to be a host of disasters befalling man. Different sects arose to offer various and contradicting version of the Last Day. Presently Christian premillennialists eagerly entertain the notion that the End Times are now. Dispensational pre-millennialists await the Call of Jesus to heaven for the bliss of the Great rapture. Fundamentalists believe that the doom written in the Bible is what will occur to purge the Earth of sinners and non-believers and they will resume their place in the Garden of Eden.

Even more extreme sects exist on the fringes of End Time thought. Preterists teach that the Christian surviving the holocaust of God will be whisked into heaven. Dispensationalists are given to the belief that the Antichrist and the Beast are ruling the world. Barack Obama is their demon. Post-tribulation pre-millennialists, Restorationists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Muslims have their own versions of the End of Times. Listening to their arguments has to be maddening, but no one was madder than the great Gothic horror writer HP Lovecraft who defined the signs of Armageddon in THE CALL OF CTHULU.

"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

That sounds a little like now, but more like the 70s.

Those were good times in New York.

Punk and disco.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.


It's an address on 5th Avenue.

The Great Disappointment

This world was a cesspool of sin for Christians in the early 19th Century, as Satan threatened the souls of the White Race through race miscegnation and women's demands for equality were an attack on the eternal domination of men over the weaker sex. The United States was losing its religion to Mammon the filthy idol of money. The Millerite movement chose to defend Christian values with the Second Great Awakening, but in August 1844 their Baptist leader, William Miller, interpreted the Bible writing of Daniel and declared their Saviour would return to Earth on October 22, 1844.

His followers gave away their houses, horses, and possessions in preparation for the Rapture.

On the predicted End of Days some of his faithful climbed church steeples to leap into the air, so angels could seize them for a flight to heaven. Thousands of Millerites gathered for the moment on October 22.

Dawn passed without the horns of salvation blaring from the heavens. A few of the devout jumped from their perches and struck the ground with a thud. None died, but many suffered broken bones. Noon passed without the appearance of the Man from Nazareth. Non-believers ridiculed Miller's flock throughout the rest of the day and the sun set on what would become known as 'The Great Disappointment'.

William Miller re-predicted the 2nd Coming for 1845. The preacher was wrong yet again. His flock examined the text of the Bible and the Millerites fragmented into different camps. Many joined the Quakers, but two camps arose from the wreckage of the Great Disappointment. The 'shut door' camp believed that the door to heaven was closed to foolish virgins and only the wise virgins would be accepted through the Pearly Gates. The majority of the remaining Millerites rejected this theory and convinced their leader that heaven was open to all believers. William Miller died in 1849 without achieving his much desired rapture. His followers evolved into the Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and Advent Christians.

Madmen and madwomen.

I'm disappointed that their Messiah hadn't taken them away on October 22, 1844.

The world would have been a better place without them.

Maybe this time.