Saturday, September 28, 2013

Israeli Brilliance

Almost every nation is in competition for the most egotistical country on Earth.

I exempt Puntland, although I'm certain the Harti Darod and Mehri wanderers have conflicting views concerning their heritage, especially since Harti means strong man in Somali Arabic. Confidently I'm also certain that Mehri says 'strong smell men'.

Egotism isn't a bad thing, but some countries cross the frontier of decency.

They say it's for security reasons same as South Africa defended its apartheid state.

"Der kaffir ist nicht gut."

Nations can substitute any name for 'kaffir'.

Gypsies, Jews, and fags.

Micks, farang kee-nok, dan mistahs.

America brilliantly divided its populace into perfect segment of 'divide and conquer'.

Everyone has its place, although the Native Americans were fair game from the Arctic Sea to Tierra Del Fuego.

Comanche Chief Tosawi reputedly told Sheridan in 1869, "Me, Tosawi; me good Injun," to which Sheridan supposedly replied, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."

The other night at an 8th Street bar three bankers were discussing the best Civil War general and they agreed that Sheridan was the best. Something about that statement bothered me and it wasn't until I remembered his statement, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." that I recalled my objection.

Ethnic Cleansing.

Micmac, Delaware, Nez Pierces, Cheyenne, Apache, and Abenaki.

The Irish and Scots and Welsh scoured from Great Britain.

Everyone feels the same way about their lessers and several weeks ago I received an email touting Israeli Brilliance.

TEL AVIV, Israel - The Israelis are developing an airport security device eliminating privacy concerns about full-body scanners.

It's an armored booth into which you step to be not X-ray you, but detonate any explosive device you may have on your person,

Israel sees this as a win-win situation for everyone, with none of this crap about racial profiling. It will also eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials.

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter, an announcement:

"Attention to all standby passengers, El Al is proud to announce a seat available on flight 670 to London. Shalom!"

BRILLIANT.

Same as the Nazis in Dachau.

Traveling throughout the Far East innkeepers are wont to say, "If you want to avoid terrorism, avoid Israelis."

You are what you are.

Free Palestine. Free Ireland. Free the World.

Elegant Hands

This blonde on the Vespa in front of the Dakota says it all about the 1970s New York. A blue dress in front of a blue car. The blonde elegantly studying her nails and not a mobile phone. Big feet and you know what they say about girls with big feet? Big hands.

Me For Senator

If the GOP shuts down the government, then I propose America has no government at all or else we have an election, since both parties will have abnegated their mandates in congress and the White House. I will run for the position of NY Senator, but only if we move Congress to Frank's Lounge in Fort Greene. My seat is the last one closest to the door and I will listen to all. Now more than ever an Irishman in the Senate. To quote Mickey Rourke in BARFLY, "Drinks for all my friends."

GOP Shutdown

The GOP's hard-right members have refused to relent on their demand that Obamacare be delayed for one year or else they will not approve a budget to finance the government. House Speaker John A. Boehner has attempted to reason with the Tea Party representative, whose leaders are adamant on their stance against any form of public health care, which they consider a step toward socialism. As reported in the New York Times President Obama said Saturday: “Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class. And in the next couple days, these Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or create a crisis that will hurt people for the sole purpose of advancing their ideological agenda. The American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one.” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers retorted, “The president is now demanding that we increase the debt limit without engaging in any kind of bipartisan discussions about addressing our spending problem,” she said. “He wants to take the easy way out — exactly the kind of foolishness that got us here in the first place.” The government has been shut down seventeen times and here are those occasions; Shutdown #1: Sept. 30 to Oct. 11, 1976 when Gerald Ford vetoed a funding bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare in order to stop spending. Shutdown #2: Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, 1977 was against abortion, although more about funding for Labor and HEW. Shutdown #3: Oct. 31 to Nov. 9, 1977 was another dogfight about abortion. Shutdown #4: Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, 1977 was the GOP refusing to fund Medicaid payment for abortion of rape victims. Obviously there's a trend here. Shutdown #5: Sept. 30 to Oct.18, 1978 Carter regarded funding for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as wasteful along with more pork to Congress. Shutdown #6: Sept. 30 to Oct. 12, 1979 Carter fought against a pay raise for Congress, while the GOP wanted to cut funding to abortion. How long did it last? 11 days Shutdown #7: Nov. 20-23, 1981 reagan refused to approve any budget that didn't include his wish for $8.4 Billion. Shutdown #8: Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 1982 Congress forgot to fund the government. Opps. Shutdown #9: Dec.17-21, 1982 Jobs were cut to finance nuclear missiles. Shutdown #10: Nov. 10-14, 1983 Reagan wanted money for Israel. The Democrats wanted money for schooling. Guess who won? Shutdown #11: Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 1984 Crime versus college funding. Police won and black students lose under Reagan and every other president. Shutdown #12: Oct. 3-5, 1984 Reagan wanted it his way or no way, especially if the case of money for the anti-Sandinista forces fighting an illegal war in Nicaragua Shutdown #13: Oct. 16-18, 1986 Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill of the Democrats faced off over Big Oil versus education. Once more Big Oil won. Shutdown #14: Dec. 18-20, 1987 More money for the Contras who shipped cocaine to America which was then processed into crack. Thank you very much, Mr. Reagan. Shutdown #15: Oct. 5-9, 1990 Daddy Bush wanted to cut the deficit. No one thought about shutdown of the Pentagon. Shutdown #16: Nov. 13-19, 1995 Clinton versus Ginrich. The GOP wanted to cut health benefits to the people in order to give tax cuts to the rich ie the trickle-down effect. Shutdown #17: Clinton v. Gingrich Part II Dec. 5, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996 The GOP wanted to cut more money from social services. Same as now. Fuck the GOP. They suck. But not the Beach Boys' song SHUTDOWN. To hear the live version please go to this URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxXWjR6q5u4

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Importance Of Size


Judging from the number of spam emails that I have received over the years about adding length and girth to a penis, I would have to assume that the typical porno-surfing male's sense of inadequacy is much greater than their anxiety of hair loss, obsession with obesity, and fear of impotency. Most online XXX films feature male performers possessing truly biblical Staffs of Moses. These seemingly impossible proportions are the goal of many men purchasing pills, pumps, and medical herbals from internet sites to enhance their girth and length.

I'm happy with the size of my penis, but just once I would like to hear a woman say, "Not with that you don't."

Many women say that size doesn't matter.

Last year I was at the Welkom Inn on Soi 3 in Pattaya. The girls there see a lot of action.

When asked if they liked big the most popular girl said, "I like small and fast too. Not hurt. And not take too much time."

Another libertine admitted, "Sometime when really horny. I like big. Good. But can't work later. Small better."

This doesn't prevent them from massaging the male ego.

The fellatio expert says, "Man always love to hear he have big penis. If not big, he believe big you tell him big. Stupid kwai."

My cousin Sherri did over 2000 XXX films, professed, "Size isn't important. Well, if it's a cashew then it's a problem, but otherwise most girls in the industry like a normal penis. Nothing too awe inspiring. And quick too. Guys with bog ones, not many of them know how to use it, plus when a guy with a giant cock gets an erection most of the blood leaves his skull so he grunts like a caveman. Gimme a nice Irish or Jewish guy any day. Cut too."

Of course there's the old joke about the size of President Clinton's penis.

"How do we know that Clinton has a big penis?"

"It had to be big to get beyond Paula Jones' nose."

The presidential mistress had a huge honker, but Clinton was no John Holmes.

So there you have it.

Here is a list of the average male Erect Penis Lengths for 10 species;

1. Humpback whale 10 ft.

2. Elephant 5-6 ft.

3. Bull 3 ft.

4. Stallion 2 ft 6 in.

5. Rhinoceros 2 ft.

6. Pig 18-20 in.

7. Man 6 in.

8. Gorilla 2 in.

9. Cat 3/4 in.

10. Mosquito 1/100 in.

Just remember, an ejaculation is never premature as long as you get it in.

OLD BILL NEXT TO ME by Peter Nolan Smith


New York's Plaza Hotel has been a world-famous destination for decades and its 2008 reinvention as a condo-palace and demi-hotel failed to tarnish the reputation of Grand Lady on 5th Avenue.

While the newly opened Retail Plaza in the basement had been an abject failure, the Oak Bar continued to attract power brokers, celebrities, and faces from the front covers of the newspapers and magazines.

When Susan Lucci, the soap opera queen, entered our subterranean jewelry store, my young 'work wife' asked the diminutive TV actress, "Does anyone tell you that you look like Susan Lucci?"

"All the time." Her mouth expressed a sweet smirk at my blonde work-wife's innocence.

"Are you Susan Lucci?" Vanessa gasped like she had been tossed out of the Space Shuttle into zero atmosphere.

"Most of the time." Susan Lucci exuded the internal beauty beneath her botoxed skin.

"Congratulations." My work-wife stammered out her best wishes to Lucci being Lucci. Her face was a nice color red.

"Thank you." Susan wheeled a turn on her spike heels without which she would have been less than five feet tall.

We later realted this encounter with the star of ALL MY CHILDREN to the other salespeople trapped in the doomed Plaza Collection.

They laughed at my work-wife's offering 'congratulations'.

"I didn't know what else to say." Vanessa had worshipped Susan Lucci from her couch for years.

Several days later David Beckham and his wife Posh visited the hotel. The paparazzi rioted outside the entrance. Fans screamed out his name. The madhouse lasted for hours.

Celebrity has its perks, but power demanded different accommodations from the public and one February evening the Secret Service locked down the hotel for the arrival of Bill Clinton, the former president of the USA, who had a table reserved in the Oak Room.

Agents in black suits roamed the hotel. They surveilled guests and workers with suspicion. Bill had been a popular president, but men in high places retain their enemies after retirement.

The secret service agents ignored me, judging a fifty-five year old diamond salesman to be harmless. They were right. I was no assassin.

I thought about going up to the Oak Room to gawk at Clinton, but customers kept me and at the closing hour I went to washroom at the rear of the Retail Collection. The owner of Leather Spa said that the ex-president stopped for a shoeshine.

"He tipped Segundo $10."

"He wore handmade loafer from England." Segundo knew his shoes.

"A good tipper." A shine cost $4 at their stand. "Is he still in the Oak Room?"

"Far as I know."

"Maybe I'll stop up there for a drink after work."

I headed into the men's room.

There wasn't an attendant on duty, but the facilities were clean.

I stood at a stall and unzipped my fly.

Two seconds later a taller man joined me. His shoulder almost touched mine.

Male toilet manners require strangers neither touch nor talk to another man before the porcelain god, so I dropped my eyes to the floor, only to notice that my neighbor's shoes were highly buffed loafers with tassels.

I lifted my gaze.

The ex-president was peeing next to me. I checked the toilet area. There were no Secret Service agents in sight. Some things a man has to do on his own.

The former president smiled at me and I involuntarily peeked into his urinal.

Bill frowned and lowered his broad shoulder to block my view. He shook his member and then strode out of the men's room after washing his hands.

Exiting from the men's room I expected to be accosted by his security detail. The only people in the hallway were Segundo and his boss. They pointed upstairs to indicate the direction of Bill's departure. I nodded and returned to my shop.

Vanessa was ready to go.

"What took you so long?"

"I ran into Bill Clinton in the bathroom."

"Hillary's husband?" Women looked at men different from men.

"I peed next to him."

"And did you look at him?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know look at his schwanze?" Vanessa was a nice girl from Moscow, but she wanted to know. "My husband says all types of men check out him in the bathroom. Did you look at his penis?"

She was my work-wife, not my real wife, so I told her what I would have told anyone.

"No." A gentleman never talk about woman's age and other things too.

"Oh." She was disappointed. "Were you scared about being gay?"

"With the president of the United States?"

"Ex-president." Women were experts at putting men in their place.

"I don't look at men's penises."

"Liar. All men look at porno. Don't tell me there aren't any penis there?"

"That's different."

"Right." Vanessa huffed and picked up her cell. She spoke in Russian. I heard the name Clinton, then pietska. It meant penis in her language. My co-worker smiled at me. She knew the truth.

I had looked at Bill's crank.

And checking another man's schlong isn't a gay thing.

It's just something you do.

Of course my gay friends think that all men are gay.

Given the right circumstances.

Bathroom, ex-president, New York?

Not a chance.

Then again Bill's not my type and I'm certainly not his, because he never bothered to look at mine.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Reward Of No Government


The GOP pushed the country to the fiscal cliff in order to force Barack Obama to cancel the Health Reform Bill.

They are threatening the country with a refusal to fund the government.

Anarchy is not the end of the world.

In November 1995 a GOP-controlled Congress shut down America. The White House was under attack by the conservatives and that weekend a blizzard further isolated the President in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton faced this crisis by ordering a take-out pizza and thirty minutes later a buxom 21 year-old intern delivered his pizza to the Oral Office. Her name was Monica Lewinsky.

As I said many time the worst thing to happen to America without a federal government was that the President got head and a pizza or a reality version of the XXX classic THE PIZZA GIRL COMETH.

Their affair lasted eighteen months, because on January 17, 1998 Matt Drudge broke the news that President Clinton had asked Newsweek to kill a story about his affair with said intern and other women.

The Big Press ignored the scoop from an Internet free-lancer, however sex in high office gave the story legs and Kenneth Starr, Congress' independent counsel, conducted a three year investigation into a crooked Arkansas land deal, the death of White House counsel, Vince Foster, and the Lewinsky sexual scandal.

Bill's wife stood by him throughout the tears, pain, and humiliation of believing the lies until they became the truth.

During an interrogation by Mr. Bittman, a lawyer for Kenneth Starr demanded, “Mr. President, if there is a semen stain belonging to you on a dress of Ms Lewinsky’s, how would you explain that?”

No other president has been asked that question for the simple reason that none of the recent White House presidents have had sex while in office.

GW BUSH was too Christian to have sex. His father had been CIA director and hid his afternoon designation with his mistress thanks to his spycraft. Ronald Reagan allowed Nancy to have sex with Frank Sinatra, but the Great Communicator never got any from his 2nd wife. Jimmy Carter merely entertained impure thoughts and Gerald Ford’s wife suffered from a wasting disease. Richard Nixon only masturbated to nude photos of Jackie O and LBJ arranged his dalliance in Texas.

JFK had scores of women in the White House. He confided to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that he suffered migraines, if he went three days without sex. At state dinners the president would disappear with women into the recesses of the White House. His paramours included Angie Dickinson, Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist, the stripper, Blaze Starr, Pamela Turnure, Jackie's press secretary; Mary Pinchot Meyer, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee's sister-in-law; two secretaries nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle, and mob moll Judith Campbell Exner. Marilyn Monroe was a beard for his conquests. JFK was too cool to get caught.

Despite being called America's first black president, Bill Clinton was not so cool, however he survived the interrogation and impeachment proceedings to serve out his term, because he had committed no crime.

Clinton denied having sex with Monica by stating that oral sex wasn't really sex as long you are receiving the oral sex.

The American public had never heard this definition, but millions of American men realized that they might be faithful to their waves according the Clinton Doctrine and he was re-elected for a second term by a landslide. His wife supported him to the hilt.

Monica Lewinsky survived the maelstrom of media abuse. The former intern graduated in December 2006 with a Masters in Social Psychology.

At present she stays out the public eye and I hope that Miss Lewinsky is faring well, for at a time of crisis she helped a president by heeding the words of the immortal JFK.

“Ask not what your country can give, but what you can give to your country.”

Hopefully Barack Obama has a happy ending this weekend.

He most certainly could use one.

America wants universal health care.

Holy Windbag

Yesterday GOP senator Ted Cruz spoke for over twenty-one hours before Congress in hopes of getting his fellow law-givers to reject the much-maligned Obamacare. At one point the Texan read from a popular children's story to fill the time during his marathon anti-Obamacare speech according to the BBC. Other Republicans were not amused by the young Tea Partyer grandstanding against a passed law, but Cruz doesn't care if John McCain calls him a wacko bid and his twenty-one hours at the mike was three hours short of Senator Strom Thurmond's oration against the Civil Rights Act of 1965. I can't speak for more than two minutes without gasping for breath of thought. What a windbag and I mean that in a good sense.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Big Big

Scary as heck. There be dragons. And man will ride them. Surfer Garrett McNamara catches what could be the largest wave ever surfed, off the coast of Nazare, Portugal, on Jan. 29. The estimated 100-foot wave, if confirmed, would beat the current world record of 78 feet, which McNamara has held since 2011. According to SurferToday.com: Foto by Tó Mané

YOU BET I COULD Uschi Obermaier

The other day Duncan Hannah posted a black and white photo of Uschi Obermaier. I was struck by her free beauty and the fact that I had never heard of the 1960s icon. In an article from the Independent Uschi railed against working-class Munich and said, "I used to wish for a plane crash, just for a bit of action. Where I lived, I felt nothing happens and nothing ever will happen." Like many youths of that time I knew this feeling of spiritual displacement. Uschi escaped a dour existence to become Germany's #1 groupie. Of Hendrix she recounted their affair at the Kempenski hotel, "He was the most beautiful of all my men. Making love with Jimi was one of the most profound experiences for me." Excuse me while I touch the sky. Later a radical she left Europe with a pimp. They were a cool couple. Now more than ever. ps

Monday, September 23, 2013

GOING WEST by Peter Nolan Smith

Several years ago week my young nephew left Boston to drive to California. A good friend was accompanying Franka on his cross-country trip. Knowing the highways of America from coast to coast,I called to offer advice on a route.

"We're first driving to Pittsburgh to see my grandmother." Zsa Zsa was in a nursing home there. Seeing his face would make her happy.

"Are you passing through St. Louis?" I wanted to tell him about the Cahokia Indian Mounds.

"No, we're stopping to see Tina Nguyen's cousins in Iowa City."

"There's a great dive bar there. The Deadwood." I had drunk there with Rockford and Brock Dundee in May of 2009. "Plus down the river there's a statue honoring the future birth of James T Kirk, captain of the Enterprise."

"I'm not really a trekkie."

"Okay, but the next day you're hitting the Rockies. There's a great motor lodge in Thompson Canyon and there's nothing like driving over the mountains from there."

"We already have a motel booked and We're trying to hit LA in five days." This was his friend's summer vacation.

"So no Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, or stopping for steaks in Fort Kearney." Grandpa's Steakhouse was almost worth a trip to Nebraska.

"No, but I'll see them another time."

"Okay." I was let down by his lack of adventure and then recalled hitchhiking from Boston to San Francisco in two days in 1972. My friend Peter Gorr and I hadn't stopped to see anything other than the scenery off the highway. "Have a good trip."

"I will, Uncle Bubba."

And I followed his voyage on Facebook.

Day 1: Milton, MA to Painesville, OH...also complete! Oops. Daily updates from now on.

Day 2: Painesville, OH to Iowa City, IA...complete!

Day 3: Iowa City, IA to Westminster, CO...complete! Number of states traversed on this journey: 10. Number of bugs consumed by the windshield: innumerable.

Day 4: Westminster, CO to Las Vegas, NV...complete! Now, for a nice, peaceful slumber--NOT.

Day 5: Las Vegas, NV to Los Angeles, CA...complete! Showtime. (Or HBO!)

I would have loved this trip.

It's been almost twenty years since I last cross the country in Meg Grosswendt's Studebaker.

We stopped everywhere, because the real pleasure is in the going.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tough Skateboard Girls

foto from gwen o'neill i love tough girls.

WHY I MISS JUNKIES by Peter Nolan Smith


(published in OPEN CITY MAGAZINE 2002)

Most New Yorkers depended on air-conditioning to survive the heat waves of summer, however AC always felt to me, as if a dirty old man from the Arctic who isn’t Santa Claus was breathing down my neck. I actually liked the heat and any temperature under 92 was survivable with the aid of a fan and a couple of cold beers. Past 92 required multiple baths in my kitchen tub and the drinking countless liters of water, however as July 1999 stretched into its second week of body-sapping heat I had to admit defeat. I needed cold.

Renting a car for a drive north to a cooler climate was not an option, since the oppressive mugginess occupied the Eastern Seaboard from Eastport to Cape Hatteras and the meteorologists were forecasting no relief till the end of the month. My bank account held enough money for a small 6000 BTU AC and I staggered out of my apartment with one purchase on my mind.

The nearest appliance store was on 14th Street. It seemed out of range in the pitiless swelter and I stood dazed by the brittle sunlight of East 10th Street, until someone called my name.

Sweat stung my eyes and I blinked several times.

Crazy John was exiting from the Russian Baths. His long white hair was wet and his papery skin was flushed red from the long sit-down in the baths. The old junkie walked, as if his feet had no bones.

“You weren’t schvitzing today?” I loved the baths, but not in the summer.

“Why not? It’s so hot inside the steam room that outside on the street is almost chilly.” Crazy John's blood ran cold as a snake. “You should try it.”

“No way.” I was scared of heat implosion. “I need to get cool.”

“Why don’t you go swimming in the East River?” His narcotic eyes were pools the color of mercury.

“The East River?”
Every day New Yorkers drive by, over, and under the broad stream of the East River. Lovers wandered along its banks, tourist ships cruised its waters, fishermen cast lines for blues from FDR Park and kayakers shot the outbound tide off Roosevelt Island, yet since moving to Manhattan in 1975 I couldn’t recollect anyone swimming in that river.

“Only the Dead End kids swam in the East River and that was in the movies.”

“You’re right, but there’s a peninsula of construction rubble on East 20th Street.” Crazy John was in line to inherit millions from a family trust, but preferred to live on the Lower East Side in order to practice his craft as an addict. My uncle was letting the junkie stay for free in his basement and Crazy John had promised to reward Carmine with a fortune for this favor. My uncle's wife and I thought that the junkie ne'er-do-well was full of shit.

“I see where you mean.” The riverbanks were collecting debris and the debris gathered sand.

”So billions of gallons of sea water flush the river every day. My friends tell me it's okay for swimming." His only friends were the dying breed of junkies haunting the avenues east of Avenue A.

"It's closer than the Rockaways or the Hamptons."

"Give it a try and let me know.”

Crazy John sauntered off to 1st Avenue without breaking a sweat.

Bathing in the East River was a mad idea. It had served as a sewer for centuries. The river couldn’t be clean, but I returned to my apartment and changed into shorts and reef-walkers. The purchase of an AC could wait until I checked out Crazy John’s information.

Hitting the street again, I threw a towel over my shoulder and headed toward the river.

No one was playing basketball on the frying pan of Tompkins Square Park. Old men in tank tops listlessly played dominos on East 13th Street, while a pack of children scampered through the feeble spray from a fire hydrant. I resisted succumbing to its temptation and slogged past the Con Ed power station. The river wasn’t far now.

An elevated section of the FDR Drive shaded a cluster of improvised shelters. The inhabitants lay on cardboard boxes, as if they were exhausted from praying for winter. Come January they wouldn’t be so happy about their dreams coming true. Mine was across the access road and I ran to the chain-link fence guarding the river from the city.

The turgid water was a cold green plain separating Manhattan from Brooklyn. A tour boat steamed upstream and two jet skis skated across its foaming wake. Their drivers wore wet suits and laughed like they were having a good time. The air was scented by the evening tide and I hurried to 20th Street.

It was just like Crazy John had said.

Several old-timers basked on a narrow spit of beach extending thirty feet from the stone embankment. Sea gulls perched on the waterlogged stumps of a forgotten pier. The lap of waves dampened the hush of traffic on the FDR and I climbed over a railing to a rock quay slick with algae. The water emanated a chill and I tested the temperature with my foot. It was cold and I inched into the river. My feet cautiously explored the bottom.

Anything could be stuck in the sand.

I was soon waist-deep and my body was dropping down from the heat. A head popped from the river. It was a man and he wiped the wet from his eyes. The swimmer smiled and sensed my hesitation. “C’mon in, the water’s great.”

“Jamie?” I recognized the voice and the face.

“Way you say that makes me think you thought I was dead.” Jamie stood up like he was tottering on an unsteady perch.

“I heard a few things.” Prison was one of them.

“I’m too crazy to die, but I heard you died too.” HIs smile was missing a few teeth and his beard was a grizzled gray, but he was unmistakably alive instead of dead from a series of ODs, fights, and freak outs. “Something about a bike crash in Burma.”

“It was more a near-death experience than the real thing.” My bent left wrist was a reminder of that crash and I hung my shirt along with my towel on a stump.

“Hey, those are the worst kind.” Jamie was as wiry as a meth addict’s pit bull.

“Is it really okay?” A flotilla of plastic bags floated past him.

“It ain’t the Riviera, but it’s better than Coney Island with a million people pissing in it.” His skin was clear of any rashes.

“Maybe.” Goose bumps popped on my flesh. “It does feel good.”

“If the water looks clean and smells clean, then there’s a good chance it won’t kill you.” Jamie swam on his back. “Don’t be a chicken.”

Those words spurred my diving under the water. The cool wet spoke of Labrador and Greenland. Nothing disgusting touched my flesh and I rose from the shallows refreshed by the plunge.

“So what you think?” Jamie raised his arms above his head. The tracks within his arms were on the mend. He almost looked healthy and I said, “Almost as good as Jones Beach.”

“Hey, why shouldn’t it? It’s the ocean. Only don’t swallow any of it?” Jamie glided on his back and the current tugged him away from the shore. He broke free with a frantic flurry of flailing arms and kicking feet. Reaching me, Jamie said, “Damn, it’s dangerous. Exciting too.”

“I have to admit it’s nice swimming in the city.”

“‘They forbid us from doing it.” His tone made no bones about who ‘they’ were. “A friend of mine dove off the helicopter port. The authorities decided he was a suicide. The fire department and police tried to rescue him. He kept on doing the Australian Crawl. Hah. Even the divers were scared to enter the river. It’s not too bad once you’re used to it.”

“Where you been lately?”

Pedestrians stood by the embankment and gaped at us. It might be another ten years before normal people chanced swimming in the river. They walked away shaking their heads.

“The Bellevue doctors diagnosed me as manic-depressive and I wasn’t in any condition to argue with their assessment. Upstate I discovered that the State was hiding hundreds of madmen and women in these abandoned nut houses. Most of them not really crazy. Only homeless.”

“What do you mean?” I was suspicious of conspiracy theories from avowed maniacs.

“You wonder where those Squeegee men went? No, cause you were too happy with them off the streets."

Very few New Yorkers missed the hordes of beggars and mumbling madmen, although their near-extinction posed a very sinister mystery. “I figured the Mayor had hired a death squad from Columbia to kill them.”

“He’s too cheap to pay more than the price of a bus ticket.”

An old man shouted from a bike. Jamie waved to him and threaded his way through the debris-strewn bottom to the beach.

“Friend of yours?” I waded to shore, careful not to step on a broken bottle hidden by the murky water.

“I met Dynamite upstate. He was once was a fighter, then took a few of punches too many.” Jamie picked up a torn tee-shirt.

“You want me to meet him?”

“Dynamite’s a little touchy around strangers.” Jamie motioned for me to stay in the water. “He should be getting help, but they emptied the hospitals, cause the mayor’s running for Senate and can’t piss off those upstate hicks, so you’ll be seeing lots more of my friends.”

“I’ll keep my eyes out for them.”

Jamie waved good-bye and climbed the embankment to the old man.

Poseidon had a claim on my soul and I backstroked with the current into the river. I was exhilarated by this simple pleasure, until the wake from a tourist boat filled my mouth with water. I spat it out.The passengers pointed at me in shock.

“The squares don’t know how good it is,” Jamie yelled from the road.

“Never will.”

I saluted him with a raised fist and returned to the decrepit spit of debris. The sun dried my skin in seconds and I sniffed my arm. My skin smelled clean, but a bath was more than likely not a bad idea.

Back at my flat I scrubbed my flesh raw.

That evening the weather broke and I didn’t buy an AC.

The next day I told several friends about my adventure. Their faces warped between disgust and disbelief. I fought off an exhilarated grin, since I hadn’t witnessed such boldfaced distaste since the grammar school nuns had condemned my wearing a leather jacket to Mass.

I swam a few of more times in the East River without running into Jamie.

Summer rounded the homestretch into September and his prediction bore fruit. Legions of homeless people begged quarters and they harangued passers-by with demented litanies. Most East Villager ignored them in the hopes they would disappear with the change of the season.

School was back in session and one afternoon I stood on 3rd Avenue in awe of the passing parade of NYU students. The boys wore their hair to honor boy bands and the girls groomed themselves, as if they were seeking employment as a shopping mall mannequin. The pudgy collegians watched too much MTV and drank too much Coke, yet happiness beamed from their clean faces and their joy infected the East Village with a blandness of the suburbs.

Tears broached the dikes at the corners of my eyes.

I missed the gap-toothed smiles of the needle-tracked 12th St. whores, the gravity-defying acrobatics of Union Square’s Valium addicts, the ravaged face of William Burroughs shambling through Grand Central, Johnny Thunders falling off his stool, and the constant patter of drug dealers on my corner. My nostalgia was scary, since the bad from those times was so much more memorable than the good.

The traffic light switched to green. Students rushed past the ‘don’t walk’ signal, which I might have obeyed forever, if Jamie’s gravelly voice hadn’t hijacked me back to the present.

“Nothing stays the same.”

“No one said they do.” I turned to face him. He was wearing a rumpled suit.

“Remember the way it used to be.” He pointed up 3rd Avenue. “In the parking lots prostitutes worked out of decrepit vans.”

“Now they’re college dorms.”

“Farther along the street were pawnshops, a gay peepshow theater, and a couple of porno parlors.” Jamie looked worse than the last time and smelled unwashed from a distance.

“Now sushi shops and beer halls for the students.” I breathed through my mouth.

“Shit, the director of TAXI DRIVER filmed a couple of scenes with Jodie Foster at that SRO hotel on 13th Street.” Yellowing bruises discolored his face. He had been in a fight. His hand deftly covered his mouth and slipped on a cap to fill the gap in his grin. “Man, this neighborhood was fucked up. Junkies, sluts, people down on their luck.”

“Not anymore.” His sidewalk preaching was attracting too much of the wrong attention and I crossed the street.

Jamie followed, speaking with a belligerence better saved for the start of an argument.

“I hate these kids. They wear helmets bicycling and condoms for sex. They stare at us like we don’t belong in the East Village. It’s them that don’t belong.”

“Perhaps we’re too old.” I led him onto Stuyvesant Street. There were less people on the tiny square.

“The little stick-pussies pretend they’re us.” Jamie snarled at two teenage punks. “They’d survive about one second where I sleep at night.”

They’re kids.” I had been young once.

“If I ran a gang of thieves, pickpockets, conmen, and grifters, I rip these spoiled brats off for every last penny and send them back crying to their fat-ass parents.”

The idea of a Fagin gang raping the rich was a psycho-flame not needing any gasoline, but I asked, “Little angry this afternoon, Jamie?”

“Damn right.” His eyes twitched without focus. “I finished a weekend bid in jail.”

“For what?” Knowing him it could have been anything.

“This film crew was tearing branches off a tree blocking their fucking shot. I told them to stop and they ignored me. I punched out the producer and was arrested for trying to save a tree.”

“That’s very green of you.” I liked saving the planet, though not enough to go to jail.

“I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the tree, but I hate film people making believe like the shit they film is the truth.”

Jamie was waving his hands in the air to catch imaginary flyballs.

“Then I get out and find out they jailed Dynamite. Shit, he ain’t killing people with tobacco or brainwashing people’s minds with advertisements. Only ranting about a fight he might have lost twenty years ago and if that’s a crime, they’d throw all the assholes talking on cellphones in jail too. I wish I had a hockey stick to slapshot them off their ears. I mean who are they talking to anyway? Dynamite’s crazy talk made it safe for straights to speak on phones like they were talking with Martin Scorsese. Why they have to bust Dynamite? He’s only a drunk. The cops, they don’t care, cause they have orders to protect these fucks’ pretty little world.”

Jamie seized my arm. His fingers bit into my bicep and I pried them loose. It wasn’t easy.

“You gotta calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down.” Jamie spun around, as if a sudden spurt of vertigo might shift the time twenty years into the past.

“Then don’t calm down.”

“Calm, not calm.” Jamie staggered to the fence around a weedy garden. “You gotta remember why this ain’t how it was. Why nothing is the same that it was after the night they took Hakkim away.”

“Hakkim?”

“You remember Hakkim?”

“How could I forget?” His sanity depended on my answer.

“And the night they took him away?”

“We were at the Horseshoe Bar on Avenue B.”

“Good, you haven’t forgotten.” He stood up straight. “Sorry, I lost it, but I get a little crazy, if my blood sugar gets low. They still have egg creams at the Gem Spa?”

A family of Pakistani might have taken over the newsstand, but the recipe was as old as the neighborhood.

“Same as ever.”

“I drink one of those and I’ll be good. You have money?”

A warning accompanied my two dollars.

“You go crazy and you’re on your own.”

“Hey, I’m just having an egg cream.” The evaporation of his rage left him a fragile shell. “You mind coming with me?”

“What are friends for?” I walked him to the corner of St. Mark’s.

“Good to see something’s still the same.” He turned and said, “Do me a favor.”

“What?” I hoped that he wasn’t contemplating robbing the Gem Spa.

“For once it’d be nice for someone to wait around, instead of running away.” He almost sounded like an orphan. “Can you do me that solid?”

“Hurry up.”

While I didn’t owe him any favors, I couldn’t refuse this small boon. I waved him inside and examined the street to recall what remained of the East Village from twenty years ago.

In truth very little.
The St. Mark’s Cinema was a Gap, the Orchida serving pizza and liter beers had been replaced by an Italian restaurant, the Baths were now Kim’s Video.

The people were missing too.

Steven Pines OD, Carol Smith OD, Johnny Thunders OD, Clover Nolan disappeared into East Berlin, Klaus Nomi and Steve Brown of AIDS.

Thousands returned to regular lives in the suburbs and hundreds left for LA dazed by the promise of stardom.

I had gone nowhere.

My apartment on East 10th Street had been my home since 1976.

Back then East Village had resembled ancient Rome a week after the Huns had sacked the city. Apartment buildings had been abandoned by indebted landlords. Other tenements had been torched for insurance and the rest were rattraps overrun by cockroaches with buckling walls and no heat.

The Ninth Precinct had unofficially declared east of 1st Avenue a ‘no-go’ zone populated by thieves, whores, chicken-hawks, hustlers, rapists, scammers, junkies and deviants.

The East Village was dangerous, but my hillbilly girlfriend from West Virginia loved the album cover pose of the New York Dolls in front of the Gem Spa and we weren’t the only ones. The rundown neighborhood was the center of the universe for punks, musicians, artists, runaways, B-grade models, painters, dancers, actors, and sculptors recolonizing the burnt-out blocks between 1st and D Avenues.

Nowadays the politicians, the cops, the shop owners, and the nouveau-riche are quick to claim responsibility for the East Village’s rebirth, however the improvement was determined by one criminal’s absence and if anyone tells you different, it’s because they never met Hakkim, for a scumbag like him came around once in a generation.

July 1, 1976 was not a day for moving. The weather was unbearably hot.

“Why don’t we do this tomorrow?” I was happy in my SRO room on West 11th Street. I had drunk seven beers at CBGBs. My hang-over was second-degree.

“Because I’m not spending another night in this dump.” My hillbilly girlfriend hated the warped linoleum floors and sweating wallpaper. The twenty-one year-old had just graduated from an art college in Ohio. This was the actress’ first summer in New York. It was my second.

“It’s not that bad.” A slight breeze was crawling through the single window.

“Only because you’re near-sighted.” Yanne threw a bag on my chest. Her eyes were two different colors; green with tints of red. The latter was the color of fire. “Start packing.”

“Okay, okay.” I crawled off the soggy mattress and we loaded my books, clothing, stereo, and a black-and-white TV into five boxes. The clerk at the desk gave back my security.

“I get us a taxi.”

The driver of the Checker was reluctant to head into the East Village.

“I’ll give you a good tip.” I loaded the boxes into the trunk.

“I’m not going into Alphabet City.”

“No one said that you needed to go there.” I signaled for Yanne to get in the Checker before the driver changed his mind. He looped around the block to 12th Street to turn down 5th before heading east on 10th Street.

“Easy.” I kissed her.

“Happy to be out of there.”

“Happy to be with you.”

Happiness doesn’t last long in New York.

The driver emphatically refused to go any farther than 1st Avenue.

“It’s only a little bit down the block,” Yanne pleaded with an Appalachian accent. Speaking in tongues was one of her many gifts.

“I don’t care if it was five feet. I’m not going another inch.” The driver pulled over to the curb.

“Thanks a lot.” We unloaded our stuff onto the sidewalk and I tipped him a dollar.

“You said a good tip.”

“It is a good tip for not taking us where we wanted to go.” I slammed the door and the taxi driver cursed me in Greek before racing uptown.

“Thanks for not losing your temper.”

“I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot.” I looked down the block

A flurry of near-naked children played in the spray from a hydrant, their parents lounged on the steps, and old men played dominoes on milk crates. This rendition of a Jacob Riis photo was why my girlfriend and I wanted to move here. It wasn’t suburbia.

“Guess we’re home.”

“No, home is upstairs.” She beamed and lifted a box. I tried to manage with the other four. One toppled onto the sidewalk.

“Mister, you need help?” Two scrawny kids ran up to us.

“$1 each to carry a box to that door over there.” I pointed to the three stoop on the southside of the street.
“Can we trust them?” whispered Yanne.

“We let them help and no one will think we’re stuck-up white people trying to evict them from their neighborhood?”

I handed them each a dollar and she frowned in disapproval of my bride. The kids joked about us being Mr. And Mrs. Opie, then fell silent at the door to our new address.

A pockmarked junkie lay slumped before the door and the taller kid said, “That’s George. He ain’t dead, just fucked up.”

“Let me see, if I can wake him.”

I called his name several times and then climbed the stairs to lightly nudge the comatose junkie with my foot. As he slumped from the doorway, an enraged voice shouted, “Who the fuck are you to kick George?”

”Oh shit.”

The two kids dropped the boxes and ran toward 1st Avenue. The kids in the spray of the fire hydrant scurried to their parents. A bare-chested black man was crossing the street. He was wearing jean shorts too tight for his muscular build and his eyes bellowed with yellow fury. This was not a joke.

My girlfriend stood behind me.

“I didn’t kick him.”

“You callin’ me a liar, you white piece of shit?” he snarled from the bottom of the steps.

“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t look him the eyes.

“Too late for sorrys. You’re fucked.” The veins on his neck pulsed with thick throbs of blood, as he clomped up the steps in his army boots. “I’m gonna to kick your ass.”

Countless scraps with Southie boys had taught me the value of not fighting fair and I threw the boxes at his chest. Their weight knocked our neighborhood greeter off balance and his body slammed onto the sidewalk. The crack of his head on the pavement echoed off the opposite building. He didn’t move and a trickle of blood seeped from under his head.

The street grew very quiet.

George rose from his slumber and stared at his friend and then me.

“Hakkim, what you done to Hakkim? You fucked yourself good. Hakkim gonna come for you and your little girlfriend. Take your clothes, TV, jewelry and fuck her.”

Anyone stupid enough to threaten you without throwing the first blow deserved a beating and I kicked him in the head. My girlfriend stopped me before I hospitalized him.

“We better leave before the police come.”

I opened the door and carried our boxes to our third-floor flat.

That night I lay awake on the futon waiting for Hakkim’s revenge.

A little past 3AM my girlfriend lulled me to sleep.

“Nothing is going to happen tonight.”

Birds singing in the alley woke us and we made love on a dusty futon. We took a bath in the kitchen tub. She washed me and I dried her. We made love again with the sun streaming into the apartment.

When I went to buy groceries, the domino players across the street greeted me with a wave.

Hakkim appeared that afternoon sporting a stained head bandage and George possessing a black eye and a swollen cheek. Their eyes followed me, but neither man tried to attack me that night or any other.

Their unexpected leniency didn’t curtail their reign of terror against the neighborhood. Two models, Valda and Mary Beth, moved into an apartment across the street. The two models heeded my warnings about Hakkim and installed theft-proof grills on the windows.

For several weeks they were spared the unwelcome wagon treatment, but only because Hakkim had been busy elsewhere.

One night they returned home to discover Hakkim had chopped through the walls, stolen their money, defecated on their beds, and threw their clothes into the street. They moved out the next morning.

A musician friend devised the unusual strategy of leaving his door unlocked.

“I have nothing worth stealing.” Kurt upped this security measure by refusing to clean the apartment. He threw pizza rinds onto the growing pyramid of trash in the corner.

“That’s all I have and, if anyone wants it, they can have it.”

A lack of cleanliness was meaningless to a criminal so far removed from godliness as Hakkim and one day I spotted him wearing a jacket which Kurt had buried under a pile of Chinese take-out boxes. Observing my horror, Hakkim warned ominously, “I been waitin’ for you. Waitin’ real patient for a piece of your girlfriend too.”

After hearing of Hakkim’s threat, my hillbilly girlfriend thrust the Village Voice in my chest. The weekly was folded to the APARTMENT FOR RENT section and she didn’t mince words.

“Find us an apartment quick. I don’t care where as long as it’s not East 10th Street.”

I called the landlord of a one-bedroom in Gramercy Park.

It was available and my girlfriend said, “Go over and sign the lease.”

“Right away.” Our experiment with urban pioneering was nearly at an end.

No one being on 10th Street was strange, yet I’d witnessed enough weird shit in one month and I walked to hail a taxi on 1st Avenue expecting the worst.

Loud shouting rang from the corner.

Hakkim and another junkie were arguing about the split of swag from their robberies of apartments. Hakkim saw me. My eyes narrowed and he laughed, “You gonna throw down on me? You a punk bitch same as the rest of ‘em. I own you all.”

Two-on-one was not fair odds and I snatched a two-by-four out of the trash. I charged after Hakkim. He scrambled between two tightly parked cars and I swung at his head. He ducked under the whistling wood and stumbled into the avenue.

His escape was cut off by a Daily News truck. Its fender sent Hakkim flying fifty feet in the air. He landed on the other side of the street, a bone audibly snapping, and his body tumbled to rest. The other junkie stared at him sprawled on the pavement.

I expected him to blame me for causing this terrible accident.

Instead he rifled through Hakkim’s pockets and cried out with joy upon discovering several glassine packets of dope, then ran east spreading the news that Hakkim was dead.

Long-time residents emerged their apartments and stood over the fallen thief.

Only the untimely arrival of a cop car from the Ninth Precinct stopped their revenge. The crowd begged the police to leave the scene. The officers apologized, “Sorry, we have a job. For him as much as you.”

People swore at the cops, as an ambulance carted him to Bellevue, but no one was afraid to pray aloud for their tormentor’s death and that evening people walked on the block with newly purchased TVs, radios, and the stereos. Stuff they wouldn’t buy as long as Hakkim controlled the streets.

“You still want to leave?” I asked my girlfriend. The sun was setting in an orange sky. Children were laughing beside an ice cream truck. She tucked her arm around my waist.

“If he’s gone, then we’re still home. You want vanilla or chocolate?”

“Both.”

Flowers sprouted in the beaten ground underneath the trees. Supers swept the sidewalks and music filled the street. This miracle’s lasting forever was too much to ask from a place so beyond the pale of civilization as East Village.

Two weeks later I was sitting on the stoop with my upstairs neighbor and his face went white.

“What’s wrong?”

“Look.” He had seen a ghost.

“No way.”

Hakkim was hobbling down the sidewalk on crutches. His admiring coterie toasted his resurrection by ripping the flowers out of a recently planted garden.God might have been above saving his only son, but I couldn’t make any sense of his sparing Hakkim.

“Hey, you motherfuckers.” Hakkim waved a clump of roots over his head. ”Get ready for a Christmas in the springtime, cuz I been hearin’ you bought a lot of shit for me.”

Everyone shirked his gaze and I shook my head.

“I have to move.”

When I broke the news to my girlfriend, she started crying.

“It’s not fair.” Yanne believed that Hakkim was coming for her. I did too and took out a five-shot revolver from the closet. It was hardly the most accurate weapon in the world, but if I could get within ten feet of Hakkim, he was a dead man.

Night fell slowly during the first hours of my hunt.

Hakkim wasn’t at Brownie’s or the East Village Artist’s Club on 9th or at any of the shooting galleries on 4th.

I ran into Jamie Parker at the Horseshoe Bar on Avenue B.

“Have you seen Hakkim.”

He pointed to a group of passing Puerto Ricans.

“They’re gonna to find Hakkim way before you. He ripped off their bruja. This fucked with their juju or some shit, so have a drink and let them commit murder for you.”

Hunting someone in hot blood gives a man a thirst. I drank a few beers. My mind imaged Hakkim on the ground before me. The gun was in my hand. My finger was on the trigger. Jamie sensed the rising tide of vengeance and ordered me a shot of whiskey. I pushed away the shot glass.

“I need air.”

“Don’t go far.”

”I’m not going anywhere.”

The night air was still and the streetlights were black. Someone had knocked them out. Running feet slapped against the pavement. It was George. No one was catching the little junkie.

“Who was that?” Jamie exited from the bar.

“Fucking George. Hakkim can’t be far behind.” My hand slipped inside my jacket to the handle of the revolver.

“Help me. Please help me.” Hakkim wobbled along the street on his crutches. “They gonna kill me. Help.”

“Someone call the police.” A gang of Puerto Ricans mocked him.

“Help me.”

Plenty of people were on the street and lots more watching from the windows.

No one answered Hakkim and I tried to cross the street to kick him off his feet.

“This doesn’t concern you.” Jamie restrained me from joining the fray.

He was right and I watched, while the terror of East 10th Street swung a crutch at four young barrio toughs. Six more kids ran up carrying pipes. There was no escape for the terror of the East Village.

“Help me for God’s sake.” Hakkim screamed with his head to heaven.

“Anyone want to save Hakkim’s ass?” a teenager in a black satin shirt mercilessly asked the onlookers.

The people in the windows shut them. Those on the streets walked away. The courts might accuse us of being accessories to murder, but that night we were a jury giving no other sentence than thumbs down and none of us lost a night’s sleep about our verdict.

"What happened" Yanne was sitting on the futon at the apartment. She was wearing a white shift like Patricia Neal in HUD. Everything about her said hillbilly.

"Hakkim's gone." I stashed the revolver in the closet.

"Gone?" The question bristled with hope.

"For good." I lay down next to her and pretended that I was Lil Abner. "I had nothing to do with it."

"I know." Her reward was sweet.

That night was a long time ago and I turned my head in time to catch Jamie coming out of the Gem Spa.

He finished the egg cream with one long suck.

“Damn, that was as good as it ever was.”

“Glad to hear it?” I stepped aside for a quartet of retro punks dressed in new leather. They bumped into me as if to demonstrate their toughness.

“Watch who you bump into.” Jamie’s eyes locked on them and they ran off like rats with their tails on fire. He tossed the empty egg cream into the overflowing trash bin. “Wannabes.”

“Jamie, I didn't need your help.”

“Didn’t say you did, just my way of saying thanks for not walking away while I was in the store.”

“Jamie, you be careful.” I had someplace to go.

“That might be asking too much?” Reacting to my facial expression, he added, “Don’t worry, you ain’t seen the last of me yet.”

To prove his statement, Jamie strolled across the avenue, daring the traffic to hit him. A cement truck lurched to a screeching halt and he yelled, “See, I’m invulnerable?”

Reaching the other side of the avenue, Jamie stopped to speak with a fat coed on the sidewalk. He must have told her a funny line, for she laughed with a hand covering her mouth. They vanished into the crowd of college students. He was lucky with girls, although it was the kind of luck that few people wanted anymore.

In the following weeks I expected to see Jamie again, except he had slipped into the cracks of the East Village.

He might be living in a squat with the fat coed. More likely he had lost his temper and the police had thrown him in jail. If not, I hoped he left town and whenever I went to the church on East 14th Street, I lit a candle for Jamie.

Maybe he’ll return, once the neighborhood reverted to its old wickedness, because all the angels in heaven can’t keep a devil like Hakkim in Hell until Judgment Day. He was made for walking the Earth, especially on the streets of the East Village.

In some ways I do miss junkies.

Not Hakkim, but the others.

They keep a city honest to its past.

CHINESE ROCKS - Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers


Nothing says 1970s Lower East Side better than Johnny Thunders performing the classic CHINESE ROCKS.

"I'M LIVING ON CHINESE ROCKS. ALL MY BEST THINGS ARE IN HOCK."

He was a legend on the Lower East Side.

"I take smack because I enjoy it. I enjoy all it makes me feel. I don't do it to be in with the in crowd. I can rock out with it."

He was no quitter.

But some of us loved Johnny, because he was the strongest of the weakest.

For a listen to the Heartbreakers' version of Dee Dee Ramone's classic junkie tune, please click on this following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3gPaSsCAiI

CHINESE ROCKS - Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers


Nothing says 1970s Lower East Side better than Johnny Thunders performing the classic CHINESE ROCKS.

"I'M LIVING ON CHINESE ROCKS. ALL MY BEST THINGS ARE IN HOCK."

He was a legend on the Lower East Side. "I take smack because I enjoy it. I enjoy all it makes me feel. I don't do it to be in with the in crowd. I can rock out with it." But some of us loved Johnny, because he was the strongest of the weakest.

For a listen to the Heartbreakers' version of Dee Dee Ramone's classic junkie tune, please click on this following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3gPaSsCAiI

Hopper's Lower East Side

So little left of the Lower East Side. Hopper's View from the Williamsburg Bridge.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The William Burroughs Museum

Yesterday lame-duck mayor proposed plans for the long barren tract south of Delancey Street. Bloomberg envisioned over 1000 multi-class housing units, office space, a refurnished Essex Market, a cineplex, and New York City's very own Andy Warhol Museum.

The tenements along the broad thoroughfare to the Williamsburg Bridge had been demolished by city planners in the 60s, however the city's near-bankruptcy prevented development for decades. The Lower East Side was a DMZ throughout the 70s and 80s. The gentrification of the East Village in the 90s forced artists below Houston into the old Puerto Rican and Dominican barrios. Shooting galleries were replaced by art galleries and derelict blocks were renovated for pricey hotels and trendy bars. Bloomberg and his cohorts are eager to turn this city-owned area into another bright spot of ethnic cleansing in Manhattan with the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs.

It is all a lie, then again rich people are good at promises.

Bill DeBlasio the current front-runner in the mayoral race has criticized the ethnic cleansing of the poor and middle-class from Manhattan.

The rich don't need to live on the Lower East Side.

They have the Upper East Side.

All of the Essex Crossing housing for the 99% will be a battleground and the best way to preserve the Lower East Side would be the opening of the William Burroughs Museum.

The beat writer popularized heroin for hundreds of thousands of suburban youth and during the 60s and 70s, the blocks of Lausida were hot with drug trafficking controlled by Little Italy.

Junkies.

Their presence protected us from the rich.

Their absence opens the door to 'them' and truthfully they ain't fun unless they are spending. CLASS WARFARE.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Victoria Selbach Show

SEE YOU THERE

TIN TIN DEO - RAY BARRETTO

I love this song from the 1969 FANIA LP TOGETHER. Baretto's band rocks. Bass – Andy Gonzalez Bongos – Tony Fuentes Congas – Ray Barretto Piano – Louis Cruz Timbales – Orestes Vilato Trumpet – Papy Roman, Roberto Rodriguez Vocals – Adalberto Santiago To hear TIN TIN DEO please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SY8GRTectS8

Ken Norton RIP

In 1973 an unheralded heavyweight from San Diego fought a 12-round match with Muhammad Ali. The former champion was a huge 5-1 favorite against Ken Norton, but from round 1 the ex-marine dominated his opponent, breaking Ali's jaw in the 12th round. The judges gave the upset decision to Norton. He was not so lucky in the two rematches or his WBC championship fight with Larry Holmes. For some reason the boxing gods didn't like him. I think of him as one of the great heavyweights in my lifetime. I wish him well in the Here-After. To view the Norton-Ali fight, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbYtHaduVZ8

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

8 Years

My good friend Shannon and his lovely wife celebrated eight years together. We had a drink at a Myrtle Street bar. "I have to ask you. Sex must be boring, so why don't we have a menage a trois?" "I'm game," Charlotta replied without hesitation. "Tonight?" "Errr." I was in no condition for sex, especially with a good friend. "Maybe another night." "Loser." Shannon was absolutely correct and I watched them leave for a romantic dinner, while I held hands with a glass of beer. It tasted good.

Dido The Wonder Dog

Dido the wonder dog wandered the gardens of the Luxembourg Residence. She roamed the parapets and barked at the crows. They burst into flight at the sound of her claws scrabbling across the pebbled driveway. At night Dido slept in my rooms, when her mistress was away. I liked her fine and she loved my slipping meat under the table. The ambassador was not as happy, but Dido had a winning smile. Sadly she was promoted to dog heaven this last weekend. The ambassador, her family, and I have lost a good friend. Arf Arf Dido. ps I miss my dog Champoo

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yom Kippur Squirrels

Yom Kippur 1972.

Syrian and Egyptian tanks swarmed over Israeli defenses on the Golan Heights and the Suez Canal. The Arab Forces initial successes were reversed by strategic blunders and Israeli air cover, however the losses to the IDF were catastrophic for the small nation. If a country the size of the USA had suffered the same casualties, the deaths would have mounted into the 100s of 1000s. Russian intervention was deterred by a stern warning from President Nixon.

DefCon 3 to DefCon 4.

Nuclear war.

MAD.

Cooler heads prevailed and prevented Mutual All-Out Destruction on a global level and Yom Kippur has resumed its position as a day of atonement for the Jewish People with Bobby Vinton leading the way by singing his hit I'M SORRY.

No holiday is without humor.

A small town had two churches, Presbyterian and Methodist, and a Synagogue. All three had a serious problem with squirrels in their buildings. Each in its own fashion had a meeting to deal with the problem.

The Presbyterians decided that it was predestined that squirrels be in the church and that they would just have to live with them.

The Methodists decided they should deal with the squirrels lovingly in the style of Charles Wesley. They humanely trapped them and released them in a park at the edge of town. Within 3 days, they were all back in the church.

The Jews simply voted the squirrels in as members. Now they only see them at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Of course my late father hated squirrels. Not so much hated them, but cursed them during his visits to my mother’s grave. The town cemetery was overrun with the tree rodents. They scrambled into the paved roads before cars.

A game for them.

An accident waiting to happen for humans.

My father swerved away from a daredevil squirrel and crashed into a gravestone almost 100 feet from the road.

“Damn Squirrels.”

He drove over the next squirrel brave enough to play ‘chicken’.

And he was a Convert to Catholicism.

No Yom Kippur for him.

For him the only good squirrel was a dead squirrel.

MEA CULPA YOM KIPPUR by Peter Nolan Smith

Yesterday afternoon I rode my bike down Kent Street to Williamsburg. Scores of Hassidim were flocking out of the Brooklyn shtel and congregated by the East River to atone for their sins and the Expulsion from Eden. Men and women were separated by a fence and I thought about taking a photo of their devotion, but realized this was a private moment and continued my trip to the metal shop, where a check was waiting for me.

After all 'nimmt geld' is one of the most important tenets of 47th Street.

On the way back the gathering by the small inlet next to old Brooklyn Navy Yard had grown by the hundreds. Police were setting up barricades in expectation of a larger throng in the early evening.

Today I called up Manny to wish him 'Gmar chatimah tovah'.

My old boss answered the phone and asked who was this.

"It's not someone owning you money or asking for some."

"Thank the stars for that." Manny wasn't very religious for a man in his 80s. The word 'god' rarely left his lips.

"Are you open tomorrow?" I had some gold to sell as scrap.

"No, the religious people closed the exchange, but if it was up to me, I'd be open all day." The ancient Brownsville native lived to work as many hours as there were in his waking day.

"Aren't you going to temple tomorrow?"

"Feh, I'm going to Hudson's Bar." It was his local.

"What about a fast?"

"Not a chance. At my age I don't give up any meals, plus I have a medical condition. I need a drink to keep sane." Business in the Diamond District was brutal these days.

"What about a mitveh?" A ritual bath was a purification rite for the Hassidim.

"I'll take a shower and don't even ask me to apologize to 'God'. He ain't done nothing for me this year other than give me more problems than Job. He should be saying sorry to me and everyone else in this economy." Manny was a little bit of a commie. His son was the complete opposite. Richie Boy still believed in the trickle down theory. "What do you care? You're a goy. You do anything wrong last year?"

"A couple of things."

As a boy I had been an altar boy.

We struck our chest saying 'mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa'. None of us meant a word of it.

"Then you have nothing to say to God either. Forget all that Moses shit from the Old Testament. How Yom Kippur was the day he got the second set of the Ten Commandments. Moses was the same as all men. Only sorry if they got caught fucking around." Manny was an expert at that.

"No, I guess I don't." I was content in my state of apostasy. "I'll see you Thursday."

"I should be so lucky."

I hung up my phone. Manny wasn't very religious. Not like Sandy Koufax who refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. His replacement Don Drysdale gave up seven runs in less than three innings and told his manager, "I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too."

Not me, I'm going to Mullane's down the street to have a beer and I don't have to wish I was a goy to do that.

Happy Day of saying you're sorry.

I believe you, but all my friends think you're lying.

OI VEY CHEESECAKE by Peter Nolan Smith


2013 AD or 5773 by Jewish reckoning has 18 high holidays scheduled throughout the year. Holydays such as Yom Kippur and Passover are familiar to gentiles, however a goodly number draw blanks from the goyim. As a young boy growing up outside of Boston, my classmates and I were jealous of the liberal closed-day policy of Beaver Country Day School. This predominantly Jewish school had more snow days per annum than any other institution south of the St. Lawrence River and the shuffle of holydays shortened their school year by weeks. My parents refused to transfer their second son to Beaver Country Day. The year was 1964.

"And I'm not sure that they let in gentiles." My mother dreamed about my becoming a priest. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was a non-believer.

"I sure if you gave them enough money I could get in." I had pitched Beaver Country day as the best school within the 128 Belt.

"No way I'm driving you 45 minutes to another school." My father's commute was in the opposite direction. He suspected I had ulterior motives.

"Please." My reasons were two to be exact. The short year and the rumor that Jewish girls were supposed to be easy. At 12 my body was going through changes and so were those of young girls.

"Not a chance." My father ended my early attempt to become the shabbos goy, although I attained that status after long years working for Manny in the Diamond District. I learned why rabbits are tref, girls shaved their heads, and why Jewish brides smiled going down the wedding aisle.

"Because they're thinking, "That's the last blow-job he gets."

Manny and his son, Richie Boy, are bacon Jews i.e. eating bacon isn't a sin.

The father and son team only observed the high holidays of Passaich and Yom Kippur. All the others were workable days for our firm, since the first rule of selling diamonds is 'nimmt geld' which is Yiddish for 'take money'.

So far this year they ignored Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Shushan Purim, Passover, Second Passover, Lag B'Omer, and on the verge of non-observing Shavuot.

Richie Boy is out of town, but I asked Manny, if we were closed for Shavuot. It was 50 days since Passaich.

"Closed for what?" Manny has been working steady since he was 15.

"To honor Yahweh's giving the Torah to his people." I once calculated that Manny had worked basically seventy-five years since his Bowery diamond store had remained open seven days a week from 1954 to 1989.

"Shavuot's not a real holiday." Manny would have worked Christmas if he had a chance.

"It is for the Hassidim."

"Well, I'm not a good Jew then. We're open tomorrow. Same as any other day." His work ethic was the complete opposite from Beaver Country Day.

"What about having some cheesecake?" Cheesecake and sweets are Shavuot traditions.

"If you want to, eat all you want." Manny was worried about putting his hand in his pocket. These were hard times and his family looked to the 80 year-old for sustenance.

"What if I buy you a piece?"

"Save your money. I'm good and stop trying to be such a good Jew. You're here to work not be a yenta."

"I know. Work makes you free." Manny was a tough guy. He was born in Brownsville. They would be no days-off until the 4th of July. The Diamond District closed for that week.

Manny was driving to Florida. His girlfriend was waiting in Miami Beach and being with her would be no cake walk for Manny, but he lived for his work. It kept him alive.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE DAY AFTER fotos by Stephane Sednaoui

Early morning i went to the Jarvis Center to register as a volunteer. But quickly i realize it was best for me to go downtown my own way, avoiding all the check points. I finally reached ground zero at sunset. This is the first image I took.
I was first assigned to remove water on what used to be westside highway. Then later on when i felt a bit more confident i joigned the chain of rescuers in the rumbles and digged, filling up buckets with dust, mud and debries.
The firemen were restless. They would stop for a while until they had enough force to go back and search. Out of all the differents forces they were the most intensed,maybe i could say the most emotional, they were looking to save people, but also they were looking for their team mates.
After resting I left the west side to search and help on the south east side. But the place is unsure as we keep having alerts that the building next to us is moving and might fall. I leave the site around 4-5 am. My camera, probably because of water and dust, stopped to work for a while, the images turned out blurred. I was in the most remote place in ground zero, north side. We were a team of only 10-15 people. Not digging but searching through the metal beams for survivors...
I digged and search with different teams until around 2-4 am when I was completely exhausted and could not lift anything anymore.
Ground Zero, night of sept 12 to 13 th. Leaving the site. Looking east from broadway
When i look now at those blurred images i feel that it is those that express the best what i felt then. A complete state of shock. As if it was too much to see.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A DAY FAR FROM NORMAL by Peter Nolan Smith


That September morning a jet roared above the East Village. I opened my eyes. Lots of planes and helicopters flew over Manhattan. None this low or fast or loud. Thirty seconds later the windows shook with a muffled thud more a boom than a crash. It wasn’t too far away from East 10th Street either.

The screaming children in the alley day-care center buried any clues as to its origin and I dressed for breakfast at the Veselka diner.

The telephone rang in the living room.

It could only be my Thai ex-girlfriend wanting money.

Mem didn’t deserve a single baht after leaving me for a young Italian tourist,

The angry statement roiling in my head was better left unspoken. I dressed in seconds and left the apartment without answering the phone.

It was a beautiful morning. The pear trees on East 10th Street were lush. Playing at the basketball courts in Tompkins Square Park was medicine for the pain in my heart. Being broke was unimportant. Manny, my boss had offered my old job at the diamond exchange. Everything would work out for the best.
My downstairs neighbor, Jim, ran up and sputtered, “A plane crashed into the Trade Tower!”

“You’re kidding!”

In World War II a bomber had slammed into the Empire State Building during a storm. Today’s sky was so blue that New York could have been atop the highest peak of heaven.

“No, you can see the smoke from First Avenue!” Jim pointed to corner. People stood in the middle of 1st Avenue staring downtown. My neighbor looked upward. I’m going to the roof.”

“I’ll meet you there.”

We rushed up the stairs two at a time.

I grabbed my camera and binoculars from my apartment before climbing another four flights to the roof. The fire door was open and several neighbors gaped south with good reason. Flames gushed from the shattered northern skyscraper and an apocalyptic plume of smoke trailed east over Wall Street.

TV helicopters fluttered around the stricken building.

All over Lower Manhattan sirens whined from fire engines, police cars, and EMS vans. This didn't make any sense.

The previous week I had attended to a concert at the foot of the Trade Towers. The two steel sheaths defied gravity without any threat from man, beast, or act of god. Now a two-hundred foot wide gash scarred the north tower.

“I can’t believe this.”

“They said it was an accident,” Jim had his ear to the radio.

A balding neighbor interjected without taking his eyes off the flames, “I live on the top floor and watched the plane fly right into the tower like this was a suicide mission.”

“Someone trying to finish it off,” Jim referred to the 1993 World Trade bombing. “But it’s still standing.”

“Yes, it is.” I wished that I hadn't said that. It was bad luck.

While the tower had withstood this attack, there was no mistaking that the loss of life would be catastrophic, after I brought the binoculars to my eyes.

Millions of papers floated in the wind and debris rained to the ground, then a strange object shot from a window shrouded with smoke.

It was a man in a suit.

More people followed his plunge from other floors.

The last was on fire.

Their fatal choice stunned me and I couldn’t watch anymore.

“There are people jumping!”

“Why don’t those helicopters rescue them?” A girl from the fourth floor was crying into the sleeve of her pajamas.

“Because there’s too much smoke on the roof.”

Jim pointed to a growing dot on the horizon.

“There’s another plane!”

“I can’t believe someone would actually fly closer to give the passengers a better look.” The bald-headed neighbor shook his head, only the pilot wasn’t conducting a sightseeing tour. The plane struck the South Tower and an enormous fireball exploded through the building to geyser like a volcano from the north face.

Jim dropped his radio.

“Oh, my God!”

Seconds late the DJ confirmed a second airliner had hit the Trade Towers.

Jim shook his head.

“This only happens in movies.”

No James Bond or Bruce Willis had stopped the planes. I searched the sky for an F-16. Nothing.

The city was defenseless.

“This isn’t a movie.”

We had been warned about New York’s vulnerability to terrorist attack. None of us had ever anticipated such an extreme. My mind crunched numbers.

50,000 people worked in the WTC. Anyone on the top floors was trapped by the fire. Friends worked in those buildings. I borrowed a cell phone and tried to contact Andrew. He lived a street away from the WTC. There was no dial tone.

Someone screamed and I joined them, as the South Tower collapsed in a fury of dust and smoke.

Within an hour the North Tower crumbled to the ground. The tragedy vanquished any worries about rent or my Thai girlfriend. This country was at war, but the victims of this first attack needed our help and I declared to Jim, “I’m going to Beth Israel to give blood.”

“Wait for me. I’ll write my wife a note and come with you.”

By the time we arrived at the hospital, the police had cordoned off the street. Doctors and nurses were assembling triage stations and orderlies wheeled patients from the hospital to accommodate the incoming injured.

People were slowly shaking off the shock.

Not forever, because everyone froze fearfully, as a jet’s high-pitched scream filled the air. It was an F-16. Too late to prevent what had occurred, but prepared to insure the day didn’t get any worse.

“Can we help?” I asked a guard. He was at a loss to do more than protecting this location. I asked directions for the blood bank and pointed to a building on 17th Street.

More than twenty people filled the third-floor office. None of our fellow donors had seen the second plane hit and were appalled by Jim’s account, which he ended by saying, “No one on those floors could have lived through that.”

“What kind of animals do this?” A Polish woman dabbed her tears with a Kleenex.

The list of suspects was small and everyone agreed that no American pilot could have been forced to commit such a heinous deed.

No one mentioned the Federal Building in Oklahoma.

Today was about today.

A harried aide handed out medical history questionnaires. I checked off being free of AIDS, Hepatitis B, drug abuse, anemia, but marked “Yes.” to having lived outside the USA. My last two years had been spent in Thailand.

The process of giving blood isn’t fast and the hospital staff asked for patience. Not everyone was listening and a white-haired man in his fifties fumed, “I don’t understand why they can’t give us the needles and bags, so we can take our own blood.”

With his clean clothes, cleanly shaven face, and polished shoes, he could passed for a normal citizens, if you ignored the bottle of vodka sticking out of the plastic bag at his feet.

“When can I give some blood?” His eyes sparkled with dementia. “Give me a razor blade and I’ll pour it in a bowl.”

“Excuse me.” A female doctor read his file. “Bob, you mind us taking your blood pressure?”

“Just as long as you don’t suck out all my blood, I’m good for anything.” Bob glared around the room. “The president of Nicaragua forced everyone in the country give blood and he sold it to the good old USA. Vampire, that’s what he was!”

“Bob, that’s old history.” The doctor was used to humoring the mad of Manhattan.

“You think I’m crazy, but I saw it with my own eyes.”

“You haven’t written a last name here.” The doctor brandished the form.

“They took it away, when I was a POW in Afghanistan.”

A young Asian nurse took his blood pressure.

“I lost my family today. To people like you.”

“I’m sorry, Bob, but you have low blood pressure,” the doctor stated blandly, as if her word was god.

“Meaning?” Bob wasn’t buying her divine pronouncement.

“Meaning you can’t give blood.”

“You don’t want my blood, because I’m an American, not like the rest of you.”

The faces in the waiting room were white, black, brown, and yellow. The accents originated from a score of countries. Their need to help trumped their birth in a foreign country and I said, “This has been a bad day and you’re frightening people with your talk.”

“Who elected you team captain?”

Jim punched my arm.

“Let it go, he’ll be gone soon enough.”

He was wrong.

Bob was warming up his act.

“And who’s to blame for this? The mayor, fucking Ghouliani, because he made New York too safe for terrorists. You can’t tell me that they wouldn’t have come here, if people were getting shot by crackheads. Those terrorists would have taken out someplace easy like Disneyworld.”

“Bob, I need to see someone else.” A doctor motioned for him to leave the waiting room.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Bob folded his arms in defiance of this command.

I had heard enough.

“Bob, there’s a lot of people wanting to give blood. Some of them can and some of them can’t. Right now you’re making a problem for everyone.”

Bob rose from his chair. He was three inches taller than me and poked at my chest.

I knocked away his hand.

“Don’t touch me, Frisky.” Bob glowered down a crooked nose with hairline menace.

I forgot where I was, why I was here, and what had happened, until the doctor separated us. “Not here.”

“Sorry,” I apologized and Bob went to the door. “You’re right. Not here, but I’ll be seeing you around, Frisky.”

The other donors sighed with relief. My heart choked with adrenaline. I didn’t want to fight. Not with him. Not today. The doctor wasn’t so sure. She read my chart.

“What country were you living in?”

“Thailand.”

“Thailand is one of the countries from which we don’t accept blood.”

“I suspected as much.” AIDS was rampant in Southeast Asia. Almost as bad as New York.

“What else can I do?”

She recommended volunteering at the Emergency Ward and motioned for another donor.

Jim was being drained of blood. He hadn’t left the country in years. “Where you going?”

“Someplace I can lend a hand.” I grabbed a donut. They were for donors, however I had skipped breakfast.

Outside hundreds of expectant donors jostled in a block-long queue. At the emergency entrance the doctors and nurses searched the avenue for the ambulances. No arrivals was not a good sign.

Downtown was where help was needed and I returned home to dress in heavy work clothes and boots. I had worked construction in my youth. This city needed every hand on deck. I tried calling my friend, Andrew, again. The line was dead.

I prayed he had escaped injury and rode my bike through the Lower East Side.

The subways were closed to guard against any further attacks.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers walked north on the car-less avenues. Very few of them spoke and those that were usually stopped upon turning their heads to the ghostly column masking the end of Manhattan.

Blockades had been erected on Canal Street to prevent pedestrians from proceeding closer to the disaster site. Every few minutes they were opened for incoming fire trucks and ambulances, however a stunned onlooker stated, “Nobody escaped alive. Supposedly they’re taking the bodies over to Jersey. More than two thousand already.”

“People got out,” a man in a business suit heavily covered with soot contradicted him. “I was on the eight-second floor in the south tower. As soon as the first plane hit, we ran down the stairs.”

“Where were you, when the second plane hit?” a young bicyclist with dreadlocks asked and people gathered around the survivor.

“Something like the twentieth floor. I heard this explosion and then felt the entire building shake. Stuff began to hit the ground. Glass and big pieces of concrete, then bodies. One of them almost got me. It was bad.”

He choked and the bicyclist comforted him. There would be a lot of that today. I asked the nearest policeman. “Where are they accepting volunteers?”

“Volunteers?” The young Latino officer was dazed by the morning’s events. This was his precinct. “Go over to West Street. Supposedly they’re taking people there.”

After another futile call to Andrew, I pedaled my bike toward the Hudson, grateful that that smoke wasn’t blowing north. There was no telling what was in that ominous cloud.

On West Street several hundred people were lining up to help. Mostly construction workers with heavy tools, but a good number were men and women from ordinary walks of life desperate to aid the rescue effort.

“Write your names on your clothing.” A volunteer shouted from the sidewalk.

“What for?” asked a young man in jeans.

“So they have someplace to send your body in case you die.” A bearded ironworker magic-markered a name and phone number on his jeans.

“Die?” The young man squinted like he hadn’t heard right.

“Over two-hundred firefighters are supposed to have died.”

“A lot of cops too,” a beer-bellied welder raised his eyes to the sky.

“And they’re people who practice rescues, so someone like yourself has gotta be real careful, because ‘down there’ isn’t any place for someone not knowin’ what they’re doin’,” the ironworker commented for the benefit of the civilians.

No one walked away. We were New Yorkers. The people in those buildings had been too. No one could change that. We had tolerated years of crime, bad subways, noise, dirt, rats, cockroaches, the disparity between the poor and the rich, and a thousand other petty annoyances, because the million other reasons to live in the city outweighed the bad. They would after today too, only an hour went by, then two.

Not a single ambulance headed uptown and the ironworker shook his head. “I’m not feelin’ good about this.”

“What?” a welder re-arranged the equipment at his feet.

“I think anyone who had a chance to be out is out.”

“That’s negative.” The welder spat on the sidewalk.

“Not negative. If there were people livin’, then they would have us in there right now tearin’ the place apart, but____you saw the thing come down. Ain’t no way anyone lived through that. Maybe one or two, but not a couple of hundred.”

“So you saying you want to leave?” The obliteration of the two beacons hurt everyone and little could stop the hurt.

“No, I wanna say a prayer.” The ironworker lowered his head.

Everyone joined him, despite our desperately hoping for the exact opposite. He was telling the truth.

I waited another hour, listening to heated accusations about who was to blame and how we as a nation should punish the perpetrators of this infamy. Some called for the immediate bombing of Iraq, while others condoned a-bombing Lebanon and Libya. I kept my accusations to myself. No one wanted to hear about a conspiracy.

I borrowed a phone. Andrew was at a friend’s apartment in Little Italy. Safe, but like many people in possession of a tale he would have preferred to have seen from someplace not so close to ground zero.

The other volunteers were glad my friend was okay and the ironworker said, “Go, man, now’s the time to be with friends and family.”

I felt like the deserter in THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. The sight of Andrew, Alice, and my other friends at Billy O’s penthouse assuaged my dishonor. I hadn’t served in Viet-Nam either other than to protest the war.

It wasn’t the same and neither was today.

“It h-h-h-had been a near-thing,” Andrew stuttered on the balcony. “I mean my apartment is across the street. I heard an explosion and saw this paper floating in the air and I thought there was a parade, then the second plane crashed and I r-r-ran for my life.”

“You’re lucky to be here.” Billy opened another bottle of wine and his eight-year old daughter demanded of her mother, “Do I have to go to school tomorrow?

“I don’t think so.”

Gee-Gee clapped her hands and danced out of the room.

Hers was the first laughter of the day and Andrew lit a cigarette.

“G-g-glad someone’s happy.”

We drank wine and told stories.

Billy had dined at Windows of the World with his parents, Andrew had drunk at the Greatest Bar in the World with his wife, and I had driven a motorcycle around the desolate landfill, which would become Battery Park City.

The sun set on the fumes rising from the ruins and even groping Billy’s wife on the balcony couldn’t stop my tears.

I was drunk.

$40,000 of credit remained on my credit cards. Thailand was only a day’s flight away. Mem would be happy to see me. Maybe whatever happened next wouldn’t hurt so much on the other side of the world.

I didn’t inform my friends of these plans and bicycled slowly up the Bowery. People were walking in the eerie silence created by the traffic ban. Some were talking and some were even laughing. I pedaled harder to return home and inform my family in Boston that I was all right.

A block past CBGBs a white-haired man sat on the curb.

He held an empty vodka bottle and sang GOD BLESS AMERICA. He was off-key.

It was Bob from the blood bank.

I should have ignored him, but was mad at the cruel genius who had destroyed the future and even madder knowing that I would never personally wreak revenge, but Bob, well, Bob was right at hand and I rolled up to the curb.

“Remember me?”

“Yeah, long time no see, Frisky.” He jumped to his feet more skillfully than could be expected from a man who had drunk an entire bottle of vodka, though he slurred with a gummy tongue, “I was wondering when you would show up.”

He dismissed any further talk with a roundhouse right.

I ducked the wild blow and Bob followed the flow of his punch to the pavement. His head clonked on the curb.

I hopped off my bike.

His eyes were swimming in the sockets, then his eyelids fluttered like butterflies and he asked, “Where am I?”

“On the Bowery.” I pretended I wasn’t with him, as several co-eds passed, however today was not a day for pick-up lines and I stopped holding in my stomach to upright Bob.

He pressed his hand to his forehead and blood seeped through his fingers to drip onto the asphalt.

“The Bowery, how the hell did I get here? Shit, I remember.”

He didn’t speak for a second and looked downtown. The deadly flume of smoke glowed in the night.

“Hey, I’m sorry about today. Sorry about everything. I’m a fuck-up, but I was someone once. Shit, a soldier. For this country. No bullshit, Frisky. I really was, then something went wrong in my head after I got shot in Afghanistan. I shouldn’t have been there with the Hazarah, but I was.” He lifted his hair to reveal a wicked scar.

“See, I wasn’t lying, but now all I am is an ornery drunk. What’s the sense? Where’s the pay-off?”

These were questions Bob asked too often and I probably did too. “It was a real bad day today.”

“Maybe it would be better, if there wasn’t a tomorrow. Like if I could let a car hit me.” He struggled to stand and I stopped him. “Bob, there aren’t any cars here and I don’t think you’re in any condition to walk to 14th Street to get hit by one.”

“Then kill me and do the world a favor. Hell, no one would notice in all the confusion.”

“I’m not killing anyone.”

“Then I’ll go over to the bridge and jump into the river.” Most people who talk too much about suicide aren’t serious. Bob wasn’t kidding and I couldn’t leave him alone. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Well, what the sense? You tell me.” His index finger aimed at the glowing specter over Lower Manhattan. “What’s the sense?”

“I’ll tell a story about why you have to go on living.”

“I hope it isn’t a long story.” His attention span was rationed in half-minutes.

“Less than a minute.”

“Okay.” He raised the empty vodka bottle like he expected it to have been miraculously filled, and then rolled it into the gutter. “I’m all ears.”

“A long time ago I was traveling in Mexico. This shitty bus stops in a nowhere town. I ate a potato taco. Nothing happened until back in Texas, where I got sick. Almost like I was dying. I lay in bed hallucinating and had a dream about being chased by zombies. They trapped me in this cottage and scratched at the screen door with dirty fingers. I was scared and even more so when one of them asked, “What’s the secret of human life?”

“And what did you tell them?” Bob checked his cut. It had stopped bleeding.

“I didn’t know what to tell them, until a voice said, “If you tell us the secret of human life, we’ll let you live for another minute.” At that moment I knew the secret, but woke before I told them.”

“Thank god, you saved mankind from the dream zombies!”

“I guess I did.”

“So can you tell me the secret of human life?”

“The secret was that no matter how bad things were or what awaited me at the end of that minute, I still wanted to live.”

“I don’t have a place to stay. No one to take care of me. Nothing, so even if I had known the secret, I would have told the zombies to start eating.”

Despite being the world’s leading failurologist, I believed in my eventual triumph. “You really think it’s hopeless.”

“If you gave me enough money for a room, maybe I could forget the despair long enough to get me some hope.” Telling my story had excluded any refusal. I handed him a twenty. Jim made a face. “Where can I stay for twenty bucks in this city?”

“I think you know.” I steadied him on his feet.

“I guess I do.” He patted my shoulder. “You’re not such a bad guy, Frisky.”

He weaved off toward an SRO hotel like a sailor on land after a long sea voyage and I rode my bike to East 10th Street. While I hadn’t saved any victims of the crash, having helped someone in need felt good.

Maybe not enough to forget the horror, but I wasn’t going to run away from New York.

Not today.

Not any day.

It was my home.

Maybe not forever, but I knew its streets, its bars, its people.

Today had not been a day far from normal and tomorrow was another day and if those words could work for Scarlet O’Hara, then they certainly would for New York.

This city was tough.

Every day of the year.