She was a muse to rock gods.
I saw her at CBGBs.
I was nothing to the November 1974 Playmate of the Month.
And I'm nothing today too.
Voila le beauté du punk.
An Abraham Lincoln lookalike visited Fort Greene on President's Day to promote Quicken Loans. They promo team was offering $25 to put a photo of the ersatz Abe and #quickenloans on your Facebook page. I tried on my cellphone without success. The young girl gave me a card for trying and I was to have the extra money, which I used at the Latino liquor store to purchase two bottles of wine for $10.
Some things never change.
Spike Lee doesn't feel the same way about Fort Greene with good reason.
At a speech at Pratt Institute the film director attacked gentrification as an invasion of uncool white motherfuckers who call the police to quiet his jazz playing father and white couples bogarting Fort Greene like it was their birth right.
He's actually very funny about how realtors changed Bushwick to East Williamsburg, why there's more police protection and better schools.
This telling of the truth was met with anger by the newcomers and Uncle Tims like John McWhorter of Time Magazine without any mention of economic cleansing of Harlem, the Lower East Side, the East Village, and Brooklyn.
Spike Lee was speaking about reverse migration and affordable housing.
"Where are we going to go?"
"People can not afford to live here anymore."
I know the story.
I was moved out of my place on East 10th Street.
I had lived there almost thirty years.
They and we know who they are don't want us here.
In Russia they call it a pogram.
'They' want the poor, minorities, and the disenfranchised to leave without a forwarding address.
Well, we ain't going right yet and I applaud Spike Lee telling the truth.
It has to be said and said by 'us'.
To see Spike Lee's speech at Pratt Institute please go to this URL
Last night I went to sleep at on the top floor of the Fort Greene Observatory. I was wearing a cotton night gown and my cover was a double blanket. The cold seeped through the windows and a little past 3am I woke to a chill. The outside temperature was wavering in the teens. This winter was breaking records all across America.
I got up and grabbed a Hudson Point blanket from the closet. The Haida Indians of the tundra called them Baahlaads gyaa'adaay. The wool covers were valued trade items for fur, because they were easier to sew than a bison skin.
It was warm.
I fell asleep dreaming of Thailand and my kids.
I woke to a cold dawn.
Winter wasn't leaving any time soon.
Fotos by Gwen O'Neill
After Valentine’s Day business on 47th Street slowed to a halt. The rich were vacationing in St. Barts and Palm Beach. Oil bills taxed normal New Yorkers to the bone and purchasing a diamond was the last thing on most people’s mind in a bad economy during the harshest winter in modern memory.
Hlove the store manager had succumbed to a cold and called in sick. Richie Boy phoned me to come in to open the safe. I was grateful for the day's work.
After setting up the counters and front window, the standard procedure was to plod through the repairs and pick-ups from the setters and polishers.
No one entered the diamond exchange.
At least no one with an honest intention of buying jewelry.
By noon Richie Boy and I were standing around the space heater discussing our lunch plans. We decided Chinese.
"You want anything, Manny?"
"Not for me. I'm on a diet."
"Suit yourself." Manny, my boss and Richie Boy’s father, was unhappy with our obvious idleness.
“I might as well hired two brooms than you heroes.”
“What else should we do? Get down on our knees and pray for customers?” Richie Boy’s clientele came from his going out at night. None of them were getting out of bed before noon or out of work until after lunch.
“Maybe that would do us some good.” Manny pointed to me. “I got one goy. You must know some prayers for getting money. Who’s the patron saint for money?”
“St. Matthew is the patron saint of money managers. He doesn’t really count.” I had been an altar boy in my youth. “Saint Agatha is the patron saint of jewelers. She was martyred for refusing the sexual advances of a Roman. Her body is supposedly incorruptible.”
“Enough already.” The thought of a 2000 year-old virgin corpse disgusted Manny. “But say a little prayer to this Saint Agatha. It can't hurt.
“I’ve forgotten my prayers.” Some stuck with me. The nuns taught religion with the help of a ruler. My hands twitched in memory of the flat wood measuring stick striking my knuckles.
"Sa but my atheism wasn’t something I mentioned at work.
“Pray already. We need money.”
"I'll do my best." I rejected my atheism for ten seconds and begged the intercession of St. Agatha, but stopped before saying how much cash I wanted, because lunch had arrived from the Chinese take-out.
“Great, first I have a religious bullshitter and now I have loafers.”
“A man has to eat.” Richie Boy handed me my order of General Tso’s chicken. He was having the same thing.
“I loved the succulent meat covered with crunchy batter and the sweet tang of the sauce. Neither of us ever questioned the source of the meat until after whoever ordered the General Tso’s chicken had finished their meal. It was just good manners.
“What about me?” Manny asked from his desk, whose surface was cluttering with bills, invoices, and folded packets of loose diamonds.
“What did you order?” Richie Boy pulled out a plate of dim sum.
“Then you get nothing, fat boy.” Richie poked his father’s belly. A good three inches of fat hung over his belt. The eighty year-old liked his food.
“Great.” Manny threw down his pen. “I pay everyone to do nothing and I get to starve.”
“You’re not going to starve. We ordered you Moo Sho Pork.” Richie put Manny’s food on the counter.
“I’ll eat at my desk.” Manny started pushing his papers aside.
“No you won’t. Last time you did that you ate a diamond with a dumpling.”
“It was only a twenty-pointer.” Manny remembered everything that he had ever done with diamonds.
“And I found it two days later.”
“Don’t tell us where. We’re eating.” Richie Boy had a delicate stomach.
Manny put a paper towel under his collar. His tie was Armani.
I ate at my desk with a real fork and spoon. I hated plastic utensils.
Richie spoke on the phone with his wife, mumbling out apologies. He had had a late night last evening.
“Were you with my son last night?” Manny constructed a small crepe from the pancake accompanying the Moo Shu Pork.
“Only until midnight, then we both went home.” I had no idea what time he got home.
“You’re a good friend, but a bad liar.” Manny crammed the Moo Shu Pork into his mouth. The sauce dripped on the counter. Pork was tref to most Jews, but Manny, Richie Boy, and everyone from our partners’ firm were bacon Jews. They loved the taste of pork more than Yahweh.
“Manny, when you were a kid, did your mother let you eat pork?”
“I’m from Brownsville. We couldn’t afford pork. My mother covered everything in a gravy. I had no idea what we ate. It could have been cat same as that General Tso’s Chicken.”
“What makes you think a Chinaman is going to serve you cat?” I put down my fork.
“There are no cats in Chinatown,” Richie Boy shouted from his desk. “We had a store on Canal Street for twenty years and I never saw a single cat and the Italians in Little Italy never let their cats out of the house. Cat makes a very good General Tso’s Chicken.”
I examined a piece of fried chicken without figuring out what part of a chicken it came from.
""I have a question for you."
"What?" Manny asked daubing at a post of gravy on his shirt.
“Why do Jews like Chinese food so much?”
“Because it’s cheap.”
“It has nothing to do with the money. Chinese culture and Jewish culture go back thousands of years.”
I popped the crispy morsel in my mouth. It tasted like chicken.
Manny expounded on this theory.
“They know each other since Adam. Marco Polo found Jews in China. They weren’t there for their health. They probably came from one of the lost tribes.”
"Lost tribes? That's almost a good a legend as General Tsao Chicken being cat."
"My father told me ten tribes were deported from Israel by the Assyrians. They were scattered across the earth."
"Jake taught you that?" Richie Boy put down his phone.
"Whatever my father taught me stayed taught same as the nuns." Manny had dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and had started working on Canal Street at the age of 16. “My father said our family was a lost tribe in America."
"But then you were found?"
"No, but we discovered China in Brooklyn, because when I was a kid, there were Chinese restaurants on every corner and every Sunday the Chinese restaurants were crowded with Jewish families and the real reason Jews like Chinese is that they never mixed dairy with meat."
"I thought you said that jake didn't take you out to eat." Richie Boy remembered his family history from its one source.
"We never ate at the restaurant. Jake hated giving tips." Manny's father had been a common laborer. He had worked into his nineties as a diamond schlepper for his son. A truck ran him over on Canal Street. Jake survived that and lived another three years with a slight limp. "Like I said we were poor, but sometimes my father would treat us to take-out. We ate on paper plates, which my mother would hide in the trash, so the neighbors wouldn’t know that we were so poor. Like she was fooling anyone.”
“So you went, because it was cheap.” Richie Boy wasn’t letting go of this bone, because Manny liked to save money. He wore the same shirt twice and to prevent his collars from getting dirty he placed a paper towel between his neck and his collar. We called it his ’sweat rag’.
“Sure, it was cheap and good, plus my brothers and I ate pork, because eating forbidden foods showed we were Americans. At the Chinese restaurant Jake wouldn’t even look at the menu. He’d order #3. Pork Chow Mein. The waiter would say, “#3." and never mention pork. They were respectful that way. The number two reason that jews eat Chinese is that they weren’t goys. At an Italian restaurant there was always a cross on the wall. How can a Jew eat at a restaurant with a Jew nailed to the wall? Feh. But Buddha, he always had a smile and we rubbed his stomach for good luck.”
“You said you didn’t eat at restaurants.” I thought I had caught Manny on this, but he shook his head.
“What you think we had telephones back then. Take-out meant you went to the restaurant, ordered, and brought the food home and another good thing about the Chinese was that we weren’t Jews to them. They thought all white people looked the same, so we were the same as everyone, because they couldn’t care less about anyone as long as you had money.”
“So you never ate in a Chinese restaurant as a kid?” Richie finished off his dumplings.
“I never said never. We went on Christmas, because they’d be no one there and afterwards we’d go to the movies. There was no one there too. My old man didn’t like waiting for nothing.” Manny made himself another crepe. “Stop looking at my food. If there’s anything I hate, it’s a schnorrer.”
“Your son is the worst in here.”
“Only because he studied with the best. You.” Manny bit into the pancake loaded with pork and pointed to the door. A man and woman were coming out of the cold.
My prayer to St. Agatha had hit its mark.
“Enough talk. Work.”
“You got it.” I put away my food before Richie Boy could get out of his chair,
I was hungry for money and ‘nimmt geld’ or take money was the first rule of 47th Street. My lunch could wait till later and Chinese food always tastes better with a little money in your pocket.
Over my years of traveling back and forth to Asia I've flown into Peking on more than one occassion. Each time I have pressed my face to the porthole hoping to see the Great Wall of China. Teachers around the world had taught that man-made barrier against the barbarian horde was visible from low orbit. This claim was based on the English antiquary William Stukeley writing in 1754 about Hadrian's Roman wall, "This mighty wall of four score miles in length is only exceeded by the Chinese Wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the Moon."
No astronauts in low orbit have seen the Great Wall and I never spotted the Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou snaking across the mountains either upon landing or take-off at Peking.
Now coal-burning power plants and factories churn out a toxic miasma to blanketed China's greatest city throughout the year, so that I doubt Peking is visible from a plane let alone the Great Wall.
I've never stopped in Peking long enough to savor those fumes, but I once deboarded on the tarmac.
The sky was clear and the Western Hills shone in the dusk just as they had for Marco Polo, but there was no way he could have seen the Great Wall from Space.
All in the price of progress.
In 1978 I saw the French road film LES VALSEUSES or GOING PLACES at the St. Mark's Cinema. The Bernard Blier movie about two thugs blissfully wandering through France was a Gallic counterbalance to the other feature on the double bill EASY RIDER. Gerard Depardieu's comic talent complimented the late Patrick Dewaeare and I kept my eyes peeled for future endeavors.
I was tantalized by his tough guy performance in the expose into the world of S&M MAITRESSE. I watched Singapore girls cry during his interpretation of CYRANO and he won US acclaim for his acting in GREEN CARD.
Depardieu was excoriated for having admitted to raping a girl in his youth, however he continued to churn out films at a rate of 3-8 a year.
Prolific and also very huge.
In 2012 he moved to Belgium to avoid French taxes on the rich and after governmental criticism he handed back his passport. The next year Boris Putin granted him Russian citizenship and the actor blithely attacked the opponents of the ex-KGB officer, but Depardieu returned to France in 2014.
Once a froggie, always a froggie.
Once a thug, always a thug.
To see LES VALSEUSES, please go to the following URL
Yesterday the New York temperature was in the 50s.
Dirty snow clung to the sidewalks. Ice refused to melt, but the slush was gone.
It got cold again today.
And the forecast for Wednesday is for more snow.
This winter keeps coming.
And the slush now extinct will flow again.
According to Wikipedia the Hudson River was known as Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk by the Iroquois and Muhheakantuck or 'river that flows both ways' by the Lenape tribe. The tidal estuary was a great passageway into the interior and provided fish and shellfish in great abundance. Back in the 70s my friend James Spicer cooked shad roe in season. None of us knew at that time how badly PCPs and other contaimenants, however the late folk singer Pete Seeger helped organize the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater to teach people how to respect the Great North River.
Recently proponents of a cleaner river have suggested that the new bridge spanning the Tappan Zee be named after Pete Seeger.
Personally I like the idea, but wish that the old ferry was brought back for the future.
Ferries are cool.
One night back in 1971 my friend and I were returning from a Sha-Na-Na concert in Boston. Mark was driving along the Jamaica Way and after rounding the circle at the entrance to Arnold's Arboretum he sped up toward Forest Hills. Both of us were digging Jimi Hendrix's HOUSE BURNING DOWN, then Mark exclaimed, "Man, look at that."
A house was ablaze atop a hill.
There were no fire trucks in sight.
"Let's check this out." Mark exited from the Arborway and headed toward the conflagration.
We got out of the car and shouted out, "Is anyone in there?"
The house looked abandoned, but Mark wanted to make sure.
"Where you going?" I asked, because the flames were spreading down from the top floor.
"Making sure no one is in there." Mark stepped onto the porch, lifting his arm to shield himself from the heat. He backed away and I smelled that the fire had singed his jacket. We heard no screams and smelled no burning flesh.
"No one's in there."
We heard the sirens of fire trucks.
"Let's go." Mark trotted back to his car. He was holding weed. "If the cops come, they'll think we set it."
"They like neat stories."
We left the scene of our non-crime in the direction of Forest Hills Station. Concannon And Sennet was a bar beneath the elevated tracks. Beers cost twenty-fire cents and nothing quenched the taste of fire like a beer for a teenager.
To watch Hendrix's HOUSE BURNING DOWN, please go to the following URL
I like the view from the Pulaski Bridge.
No one could tell that the Newtown Creek was a major pollution site, especially with the sailboats tied up on the Queens side of that cursed inlet.
I coasted down the bridge and bicycled to the ferry landing on the East River.
The shore line was lipped by collapsed slabs of concrete.
People were fishing on the abandoned wharf to the north.
The Manhattan ferry was late.
I waited patiently in the sun.
After the ferry arrived I rode my bike to the ramp.
I paid a young girl $5 for the trip to Manhattan.
She seemed to like her job.
It was more pleasant than working on the subway.
The ferry cruised upstream to Long Island City past desolate lots of land.
The real estate boom would eat them up soon enough.
A verdant forest lined the river.
I expected wild animals lived there.
They were probably all feral cats and rabid dogs.
There was no sign of man.
Once trains ran to the river.
A ferry transported them to New Jersey.
Today the tracks lay rusting in the river.
The 14th Street power station dominated the southern vista.
Two minutes later I landed at 34th Street.
I bicycled north to 47th Street.
The ferry was the only way to go.
Dakota and Johnny are bartenders at the 169 Lounge on East Broadway. They treated me like a prince, because I have the last quaaludes on Earth. Dakota wants one bad.
"If you give me one, you'll never have to pay for a drink in this bar." Dakota came from Arizona. He was less than half my age. The longhaired guitarist thought his doing a lude could be a significant dent in the Tragic 2000s.
I showed him the jar.
"What about if I let you touch the bottle?" 'Ludes were extinct, but I took the jar out of my pocket.
"Let me see." David Hustle was my drinking companion. We went back to back when 'ludes were $5 at Danceteria.
"Not a chance." I shook my head. "What about you, Dakota?"
I dangled the bottle in front of his eyes.
"I'm not a pervert." Dakota pulled a can of 'Gansett from the beer cooler. "One pill. All the drinks you want for the rest of your life."
"I'll think about it."
"Ha, I told you he wouldn't give you one." Johnny played in the same band as Dakota.
"I might." I couldn't think of a good reason, then again a friend of mine had boosted one in Thailand, so there were only two in this jar. The secret stash of the other two jars was in Staten Island and I wasn't saying where.
"What if I let you sing on stage with us?"
"When?" I thought I had a good voice.
"Thursday night. The 20th at Shea Stadium. The bar not the baseball field."
"You're not seriously thinking about letting him sing?" David groaned in disbelief.
"I have a good voice."
"Only because you don't have to listen to it."
"Ha, ha." I did think I had a good voice and told Dakota, "I'll see you at Shea Stadium."
"Bring the ludes with you."
"And a gun." The Rorers weren't safe in a crowd.
"You really are evil," David commented with a sneer. He had hated me as a bouncer at Hurrah. I was meaner than a shave rattlesnake in those years, but we had outlived most of our friends, so it was him and me for better or worse.
With or without the 'ludes.
To see WEIRD WOMB tonight, go to Shea Stadium at 20 Meadow Street in Brooklyn. The nearest subway of Grand Street on the L.
To hear PALE PISS by Weird Womb, please go to this URL
The Sochi Olympics are nearing its final days. I have watched no live events in accord with a personal ban against Russia's hardline against homosexuality and free speech. Putin has instituted draconian measures against any protests. Yesterday Cossacks attacked members of Pussy Riot with whips. They were dragged down to the police station and thankfully released after several hours.
As much as I love hockey, I have missed the USA's epic shoot-out win against Russia and tomorrow I'll shunned the gold medal match between the USA and Canada.
A boycott is a boycott and I'm in it to the end, unless it's close in the 3rd period, then my love for hockey will win over the boycott.
Being a Gemini I'm very gifted at being a hypocrite.
Twenty years ago I called Hauoi from Singapore. He had been sick for a long time and told me of his plans.
"I'm going to get drugged up and OD watching THE SIMPSONS."
"Sounds good to me." Suicide was one course left to him.
I loved Bart, but I asked if he could wait until I was with him.
"Sorry, I'll be gone."
We had seen too many friends fade under the waste.
"I'll leave you my Paul Smith suit."
"The one that looks like it belonged to a carnival barker."
"You know the one."
Only too well.
To this day I take that suit out in public.
Surprised that I could fit into it.
Mssr. Montauk wasn't my size, but he was my friend. He knew what was what. And that suit was it.
One night at the Privilege in Paris I was talking to a Vogue cover girl and said, "My friend really likes you."
"Yes." The bearded art dealer made me laugh and I like that in anyone.
"Not a chance." Brigitte was nicknamed Cruella. She had broken many hearts, but I was immune to her allure. We lived together on the Ile St. Louis. If I fell victim to her succubi, I would be living under a bridge by the Seine.
"That's too bad." My girlfriend was a 16 yo Puerto Rican/French model.
"Because Alan has the biggest penis I've ever seen on a white man."
"A real long prong."
Five minutes later the two of them left the disco as a testament to the power of words quenching desire.
I heard them at it that night and many more.
Neither of them ever mentioned my claim about the Vonelli organ.
As I said I was a good wingman.
Both for women and men.
From this still from the movie SONG OF GOD I assumed Jesus of Nazareth was waterboarded in the River Jordan by his cousin Yoḥanan ha-mmaṭbil or John The baptist.
A friend in Miami suggested that everyone see this film about the Messiah.
It's cold in New York.
Miami is 73 this evening.
I told Mario, "Buy me a flight tix to Miami and I'll go to SON OF GOD."
The Bible-Thumpers are offering free admission to the theater.
Every atheist knows how to say prayers for a free ride and the experience of eternity.
I looked for an answer from Mario.
He said he liked the idea, but sent no flight info.
I guess I'll catch SON OF GOD on a rerun.
Pale sky, golden moon, purple horizon, blue waves and a road at dusk
17 on = a haiku.
I cheated with the photo, however there is no greater expression than what we see when we cease to not see.
This is a real haiku.
Basho's OLD POND
at the age old pond a frog leaps into water a deep resonance
This haiku is a venerated Japanese classic according to my backup memory WIKIPEDIA.
I'm partial to his 1685 offering
another year is gone a traveler's shade on my head, straw sandals at my feet
The Beauty of Pure Math.
The recent cold spell is the USA has revived the global warming denialists' campaign of refuting science.
I suspect many had failed the subject in high school.
I responded to their fervent rejection of reason in a reply to a Huffington Post article about the freezing of the Great Lakes by writing the following;
"Global warming is caused by Man's not reading the bible. More sinners go to hell and so many of them are obese that their fat bodies burn hotter than normal people. More sinners = a hotter hell = a hotter earth core = global warming. Less sinners = colder temperature in hell = ice on the Great lakes. Try denying that math."
I don't need my fingers to add 1 + 1 = 2.
Denialists don't need fingers either, because they believe in divine math.
1 + 1 = Adam and Eve.
HANDS OF BRICK a a three-story collection of the game of hoops.
Hockey and baseball have long been New England's two favorite sports, since they offered outdoor entertainment to young boys in the seasons of good sledding and bad sledding. Our gods played in Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, but one night a radio announcer's raspy voice introduced the world of basketball and Johnny Most sunk his hook deep.
"And Havlicek stole the ball."
I loved the Celtics, but my lack of offense skill prevented my playing on the schoolyard, until I hit New York City to discover that defense was my forte. After that revelation I became a fixture in Tompkins Square Park. My teammates called me 'The Brick' for my horrid shooting and ferocious defense against taller player.
I played all the time and on the court forgot everything about the world other than playing ball.
When I was happy, I played basketball. When I was sad, I played basketball. When I was hung-over, I played basketball. When I was broken-hearted, I played basketball. When I was alone, I played basketball. It was a game for all occasions.
I still shoot at the DeKalb playground and the ball feels good in my hands, although its hitting the rim like a brick outnumbers my 'all-net' shots by an incalculable number.
Three stories about my basketball jones and the people with whom I played hoops.
They are my friends forever.
Same goes for the game.
To purchase HANDS OF BRICK for $.99, please visit this Kindle Url
According to WNBC Manhattan fashion designer Michele Savoia has been missing since early Friday after last being seen inside a nightclub, police said.
NYPD reported that Michele Savoia, 55, was last seen inside the club Marquee on 10th Avenue in Chelsea at around 2:30 a.m. Friday.
Michele Savoia, who is 6 feet tall and has tattoos covering much of his body, was reported missing by his driver.
I know Michele from Arthur Weinstian, the late nightclub impresario. He was good people.
Friends have said that he had not shown up for appointments on Thursday and Friday. One went over the Hudson to check on Michele's boat. The tarp, which usually covered the entrance, was not in place.
Police divers checked the river without discovering Michele's body.
I hope for a miracle.
Anyone with information about Savoia's whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
This past month I had been trying to sell a 1.25 diamond to a young tech lawyer. Phoning him was impossible and he didn't return texts, however he was very prompt with response to emails.
"No one speaks on the phone anymore." I wrote him and Gene responded, "Super old people use payphones/landlines, old people use Cell phones/voicemail/email, and young cool people: texting, social media."
"You forgot about ESP. That's for really super cool people. Can you read my mind?"
"I can read yours."
"What am I thinking?"
The answer was easy.
Blank as the fallen snow.
During the last big storm residents of the Upper East Side complained about snow removal. The new mayor replied that they received the smae service as any communities in the five boroughs. The filthy rich immediately accused DeBlasio of class warfare.
Today a fierce storm descended on New York City.
By noon over eight inches had fallen on the sidewalks of Fort Greene, however in truth this winter weather freak was a Girl Scout in comparison to the Buffalo Blizzard of 1977 as seen in the above slide show.
Even New York City was shut down by the billions of cubic inches of snow blowing off a frozen Lake Erie. I tried to visit my family with my hillbilly girlfriend in Boston and my father asked, "How are you getting here?"
"By train." My parents lived close to the 128 station.
"And from there?"
"You'll drive me." My father had been brought up in Maine.
Snow was on the ground most of the year.
"No, I won't. All the roads are closed."
"Closed?" The snow was deep in New York. It was definitely deeper in the Blue Hills south of Boston.
"Route 28 has one lane open for emergency vehicles. My picking you up is not an emergency."
"Okay." I hung up and opted to stay put in the East Village.
Alice and I ate at Veselkas and went to CBGBs for a good time.
The city was ours.
No cars, no police, no commuters.
It was not so much fun for the people of Buffalo, where 29 people died during the blizzard.
As the winter ended an urban myth emerged from the disaster.
Supposedly a father had left his house to buy milk for his children. He never returned that night or the next week or the ensuing month. Dark-hearted neighbors suggested that the husband had taken advantage of the snow emergency to flee his wife. The Spring thaw proved them wrong. The man was found frozen to death only feet away from his house with a carton of milk in his arm.
True or not, then again as James A Steele said,"All stories are true if interesting."
This mornin I woke up to a heavy snow falling fast on the Fort Greene Observatory and I asked the head curator AP, if he was sending his two young children to school.
"Of course I am." AP worked from home and his kids like all kids were attention-seekers.
"So no snow day?" The blizzard was predicted to last into the evening.
"Not a chance."
At 7:30 they were bundled up in parkas and snow boots for the slushy trudge to the C train station.
I killed another hour before joining the exodus into the city. Many commuters must have taken off the day, because I easily found a seat on the B train to 47th Street.
I wasn't working for my old boss at the diamond exchange. Manny didn't need an extra worker and I didn't need to work for him, since I was selling diamonds for my own clientele and as much as I would have wanted to stay in bed, I couldn't take a snow day. I had bills to pay.
Snow days were a special event in my childhood.
Back in the 1960s every young kid in Boston watched the winter skies for snow. We became weather-savvy and listened to the WBZs list of cancellations, praying for a break from the tedious routine of reading, writing, and Arithmetic. The Nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills were quick to cancel school, but none of the schools in Boston rivaled the off-days of Beaver Country Day School, which shut school for the slightest scattering of white on the ground. Groans of disappointment at the end of the radio report signaled our attending school and my mother would send us out into winter to wait for the yellow bus.
"Why does Beaver County Day get off and we don't?" my next-door neighborhood asked on the unheated bus.
"Maybe Newton gets heavier snow than we do?" my older brother answered looking at the orange town trucks spreading salt and gravel on the main state road through our hometown.
"No way. We live in the hills. Hills are higher and colder," I refuted his reply.
A meteorological station topped Big Blue less than three miles from our neighborhood.
"Newton is farther north." It was sound logic.
"Then why don't the Newton public schools closed?" Chuckie argued with the fervor of someone who didn't want to attend parochial school. Few of us did, but our parents wanted us raise in the Catholic faith.
"Because the teachers don't get paid, if they don't teach school."
"Nuns don't get paid?"
"You ever see them with any money?"
"Nuns only asked for money for Jesus, but they have to eat, so they get paid something."
My mother gave them envelopes on holy days. At least our school had more holy holidays days than the town schools, but every snowfall the same issue was discussed on the bus.
Why was Beaver County Day different from the rest of us?
I imagined an ice cap covering its main building twelve months of the year.
Years passed without any confirmation of my vision.
In high school a classmate from Needham said that Beaver Country Day School was for intellectuals.
“Intellectuals?” Senator Joe McCarthy had hunted down intellectuals as pinko commies during the 50s.
“Smart kids.” My friend Joey played football. Our school's varsity team had won the state title last year and the Hawks were undefeated this season. “And this school is for jocks.”
“Jocks?” I had won an academic scholarship and ran track.
"Beaver Country Day only has debating and chess teams."
"Not jocks like you and me, so we'll never play football against Beaver Country Day.”
"And they'll have more snow days than us."
"You win some and you lose some, but not our football team."
Joey was right.
Xaverian went undefeated that year. Our cross-country team was # 1. I finished in scoring position for the freshman squad. We had no snow days that year. Beaver Country Day had seven. In my mind they were the best school within the 128 Belt and I’ve always greeted a snow storm with the prospect of a ‘snow day’.
Same as last Friday.
Not even Grace Church and that institution is for smart rich kids.
On 47th Street I checked Google for the 'Boston weather' and 'snow closings for schools'.
Beaver Country day was open.
Somehow their not having a snow day made me feel good.
Like Peter Pan said to Wendy, “I will never grow up.”
Fuck Beaver Country Day School.
My last Demo Derby was at the Norwood Arena. The race track outside Boston featured drag racing, dirt track, and demo derbies. The year was 1969. I was seventeen. My friend Dave Quaan had driven my older brother, next-door neighbor and me there in his family's station wagon. It was a 1968 Ford with a 287 V8. Its top speed was 115.
That night was warm for August and the five of us drank cold beers bought with fake IDs. We spotted another boy from my hometown at the crowded arena. I hated Joe Tully, since the six-footer had bullied me in 8th Grade.
He hung with a bad crowd, but that was to be expected from a natural juvenile delinquent.
We downed beers, as Detroit clunkers battled on the dirt. Fenders flew off the chassises and bumpers stuck blunt blows, but the coup de grease was a rear-end to the radiator.
"I bet I could win one of these heats," Joe was drunk and looking for trouble.
"In whose car?"
"In my car?" He pointed past the fence to a 1969 Chevy. "It has a 327 V-8 and is faster than any of those wreck on the track."
"I thought you had a suspended license."
Joe had spent earlier part of the summer at Billerica Reformatory for joy-riding. His father thought the two-month stretch would teach his only son a lesson, however Joe was not the learning kind.
"I don't need a stinkin' license," he brutishly slurred over every sibilant syllable.
"Then go for it, unless you're a pussy." I remembered every punch and kick.
"Who you calling 'pussy'?" His fists were white knuckles. "I'm no pussy."
"Prove it." I had grown several inches since grammar school.
Joe staggered out of the arena, pushing people out of his way like he was in a hurry to reach the men's room.
"Leave him alone." My older brother didn't like trouble. We were family and family took each other's backs.
"Okay." I prayed he drowned in the urinal.
The track official announced the next heat. A late entry roared into the arena. There wasn't a dent on Joe's Chevy station wagon.
"No way." His friends hooted their support, as Joe circled the arena in the Chevy.
"He's no pussy." Even I shouted out for Joe. This was wicked.
The official waved the checkered flag and the fray was on.
Two seconds later the station wagon was sandwiched between two white trash roadsters. Joe stepped on the gas and broke free of the pong-pong buffeting, only to be t-boned on his first pass through the figure 8. The Chevy 360ed through a puddle of mud. Norwood Arena liked a wet track.
The Chevy avoided several collisions with speed, but a 64 Ford pinned it against the wall. The cracked radiator spewed steam and we were wracked with laughter. Joe crawled out of the crumpled car with a huge grin.
The spectators cheered Joe as their hero.
We loved outlaws.
"I'm fucked." Joe looked at the car.
"That you are." I forgave him everything, as a tow truck hauled the totaled Chevy out of the arena.
His glorious evening ended upon getting home, because that station wagon belonged to his aunt and she was pressing charges.
His father paid for the wreck and sent his son to a military school in Maine. The grounds were surrounded by thick forests. Winter was as cold as Siberia in Aroostock County. There was no escape, although Joe tried seven times.
After graduation he was forced to enlist in the army. His fare-well party was at Norwood Arena.
"I'm sorry," Joe told me at the end of the night. His hair was cut short. He was ready for war. "For beating you up. It was fucked up, but no worse than you tricking me into the arena with my family's car."
"Did you really think you could win?"
"Yeah, so we're good?"
"Yes, you be safe." Forgiving was easy once you had your revenge.
The next week Joe airlifted to Viet-Nam in 1971. He came back in 1972 to marry the prettiest girl in town. He became a cop and they had kids. In my hometown he could do no wrong.
Joe still tells the story about the demo derby at Christmas parties. We all laugh at it too, but not his father. Some things are never funny to people who weren't there.
Last August I weekended in Montauk with Richie Boy. As we left his bungalow off Ditch Plains, the diamond dealer handed me the keys to his Mercedes SUV.
"You drive into the city." The two of us had had a long night at the Liar's Bar in Montauk.
"You sure you want me to drive." I was in no better shape than him. "I mean this is an $80,000 car."
"Don't smash it up." Richie Boy had newly-born twins waiting at home. He needed the sleep and he crashed out before we reached Easthampton.
Traffic accordianed through the various beach community. All the weekenders were heading back to New York
Approaching the Long Island Expressway my cellphone rang. It was Red Deb. My longtime friend lived with her family in the North Country beyond Albany. We hadn't spoken in months and I pulled over to stop on the shoulder.
"How's it up on the edge of civilization?"
Her town had a one blinking red light, a hunter's bar, a diner, and three churches for a population of a little over 400.
She quickly explained about wanting to purchases a diamond wedding.
"I can hook you up."
There was a loud roaring in the background like a buzz saw.
"What's that noise?"
"I'm at the Columbia County Demo Derby."
"Demo Derby?" ABC's Wide World of Sports featured Demo Derbies on Saturday. Drag Racing too. "I haven't been to a demo Derby since 1969."
"That's 40 years ago."
"A long time."
"Yep." Deb came from Westchester County, but liked country. She was friends with Merle Haggard.
"Any Jap cars in the derby?"
"Just pieces of shit."
"My last time I went to the Demo Derby was in Norwood Arena." The race track was outside Boston. Drag racing, dirt track, and demo derbies. A boy's dreamland. "I was there with my schoolmates. Six of us in Dave Quann's Cougar. Another boy from my hometown, Joe Tully, was also at the arena. He had driven his family's station wagon. So had we. His was a Chevy with a 327 engine. Ours was a Ford. Neither were built for racing. We drank beers for the first couple of heats, then noticed Joe wasn't around. None of us thought much about it, until the next heat was announced and Joe drove out in his family station wagon. His friends and mine gave him a standing O. The checkered flag was waved to the competitors and Dave's car circled the arena. He was broadsided by two car on his fort time through the figure 8. We died laughing. Everyone had to fit in Dave Quann's Cougar. Joe was sent to military school after that. Went to Viet-Nam in 1971. Came back and married the prettiest girl in town. He still tells the story about the demo derby. We all laugh at it too."
"Men will be boys." Deb knew what men were. Her son's name was Earl.
"And proud of it too." My son's name is Fenway.
Like the park.
I hung up the phone and stepped on the gas.
The LIE was not Norwood Arena and Richie Boy's car was not a wreck, but all I could hear were the words.
Gentlemen, start your motors.
I didn't have to be told twice.