Monday, December 26, 2016

Prophecy of Preecha Por Intarapalit

Every year the Bangkok Post features the yearly horoscope predictions in its Outlook section. Their 2007 forecast for Geminis was spot on the money or lack of money. Today's paper predicted good news Jan.-March, Obstacles solved April-June. Money flies into my pocket July but out for the next two months and then it's smooth sailing to the end of the year.

Thais are big believers in palm reading and stars.

My wife smiled upon hearing the good news. My mia noi less so.

"Not say you leave your wife."

Everyone interprets the predictions according to their needs no matter where you are on the feeding chain.

Recently published the forecasts of Preecha "Por" Intarapalit, the author of thousands of books.

Not much use to present day Thais who read two books a year, but his vision for Thailand in Pai Su Anakhot (Toward the Future) portrayed a nation where cars flew at rather low levels. "There were propellers on their roofs. Sports or private monoplanes flew in scatters here and there not unlike birds. All of a sudden, everybody sighted a huge train, with two tram-like carriages joined together, running at no less than 60-kilometres-per-hour on tracks about ten metres above Sukhumvit Road."

"One could see skyscrapers with at least 20 to 80 stories, the top floors rising into the thick clouds. Fluttering from the top of each building was the tri-coloured national flag. The crowds on Sukhumvit bustled by in a hurry, men in their suits and women in their one-piece outfits. The people of Bangkok looked not so different from the Europeans or Americans."

The narrator asked his son in a hoarse, shaky voice ...

"Tell me, Nop, is this Bangkok or Paris? How come all these cars and planes are flying like dragon-flies?"

"This is Bangkok, Father. This is Bangkok of 2007."

Por described rice fields, orchards and canals giving way to massive buildings and spacious roads; tap water was in abundance and Bangkok was lit up day and night by a pair of "man-made moons". The affluent would spend all day trading stocks and shoppers in supermarkets could shop "'til they drop" - just dumping stuff from the shelves in their trolleys and paying at the exits. The citizens of Bangkok would be dressed in Western clothes and speak English instead of Thai. Transport would come in a variety of forms - from taxis to flying cars, helicopters, elevated trains and personal jets. The sick would receive swift and polite treatment from nurses and doctors ("no more scolding, threatening, and back-slapping!"). Those over 65 would be put in beautiful nursing homes under the constant care of medical staff with four meals a day, and last but not least, everything would be free.

"To say we don't have money [for the welfare programmes] ... no, our government has long stopped saying such things," a taxi driver of the future tells the Samgler crew. "What we earn from selling oil is more than enough for the government to put into developing the country. We recently lent 30 billion to the United States. During my father's time, we borrowed money from the World Bank to restore our country. Now, it is the World Bank that has to send people to borrow money from us."

In Por's book, Bangkok - and Thailand - in the year 2007 has become a heaven on Earth, Asia's number one nation (with Japan in second place) and a land of everlasting joy and peace.

And this is probably where hilarity sets in. The more exuberant Por's depictions of Bangkok are, the more ludicrous and laughable the story becomes. There might not actually be much difference between how readers of 1967 and 2007 could gain amusement from Pai Su Anakhot. It is funny because we know, and have learned to accept, that most of what's described in the book could never be true. The gap between reality and fantasy remains, so why not enjoy the escape?

General Direk said suddenly:

"All right, have no doubts, Korn. We have indeed arrived in Bangkok of 2007. All these things have not yet happened, but we now have an opportunity to see them beforehand. And they will certainly take place [in the future] the way we are seeing them now. Aren't you excited, Kim-nguan?"

The Chinese man gulped down his throat.

"I'm going insane. How could we get to see what has not yet happened?"

Nikorn and Kim-nguan have good reasons to feel initially overwhelmed. The future Bangkok confronting them was beyond their wildest imaginings. By the end of the novella, though, every crew member grew to like their new capital so much so that they wished to return to it again soon.

What were the attractions?

- Places, language, food, dress code, commercial billboards, greeting by handshakes and even boxing had literally become Americanised - "except for the presence of national flags, everything looks like New York ... which meant Thailand must have progressed rapidly, to become the world's superpower, on the same par as America."

- Every cabinet minister, "even the one overseeing the ministry of defense", was a civilian. "They served the country diligently, and there was absolutely no corruption."

- Every Thai citizen was well-educated - the two taxi drivers hired by the Samgler gang had university degrees in architecture and engineering; Bangkok boasted about 200 universities and no fewer than 5,000 primary and secondary schools did not charge for tuition, stationery or uniforms (a precise prediction of today's politicians' election gimmicks).

- Traffic problems in Bangkok were nonexistent.

- The Thai currency had the same value as the US dollar!

- The Thai economy was rock-solid: Rich oil fields had been discovered and Thailand suddenly became industrialised, producing and exporting everything from clothes to cars, planes and battleships. Heavy machinery was exported to China while China sent agricultural products and hordes of tourists in return. Also, Bangkok no longer had small-scale businesses or street peddlers that would allow developed nations to look down on it.

- Thai athletes had swept almost all the gold medals in the recent Olympics, which Thailand had hosted in 2002, and our national soccer team had won the World Cup three times.

- Every Thai farmer was a millionaire; each owned an average of 1,000 acres of land as well as tractors and private jets or flying cars.

- There were around-the-clock entertainment venues, some where all the staff, from chefs to waitresses and cashiers, wore practically nothing and had "attractive body with clean smell".

- The country had been free of war for more than 50 years: "The soldiers and policemen are brothers ... our country could advance this quickly because we Thais all share in our love and unity."

- The prowess of our defense was second-to-none: "In 2004, following a skirmish along the Thai-Cambodian borders, the three armed forces from Thailand placed Cambodia under siege within two days, but the United Nations as mediator asked us to pull out."

Of course Preecha "Por" Intarapalit wrote most of this book tongue in cheek. Kon yai didn't lthis ridicule and said the future will be the future just like he said and in some ways they weren't wrong either.


Every Christmas my mother cooked a 20-pound turkey, I mashed seasoned potatoes, and my sisters set the dining room table with yams, creamed onions, turnips, peas, stuffing, and all the fixings for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, friends, cousins, sisters, and brothers. Grace was said with bowed heads. Our plates were swept by forks and knives. Conversations were dominated by the retelling of old tales. Gifts from under a brightly decorated tree were exchanged before dessert of apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies. A fire burned in the fireplace. The wood came from Maine. We were one big happy family.

There wasn't much to do once the China had been cleared from the table, the pots were washed, and the silverware packed into a velvet-lined cedar box. My parents lived in the suburbs, which had been paradise for a teenager and a purgatory for a young adult in his 20s, especially since I had no car.

On December 26, 1978 I thanked my parents for another superb Christmas dinner and caught a southbound train from Route 128 to Penn Station. My hillbilly girlfriend was with her family in West Virginia and Alice wouldn't be back until the weekend.

I phoned Anthony Scibelli as soon as I reached my East 10th Street apartment. The photographer was a native New Yorker. We were both weary from pretending to be good boys to our parents.

"Suicide is playing at CBGBs." Anthony loved the subdued fury of Alan Vega and monotone drone of his keyboard player Martin Rev.

"I'm in." Suicide was a solid remedy for too much Christmas cheer, plus CBGBs was the only bar opened that evening in the East Village. "Come down to my place and we'll catch them at midnight."

"I'll get us a treat." Anthony lived in East Harlem. They had hard drugs up there.

I went out to buy beers from the corner bodega. Snow scurried against the brick tenements and I ran back home with shivers penetrating my spine.

Anthony showed up at 11 with a bottle of amyl nitrate.

"I couldn't find anything else."

"It's better than nothing." Poppers were beat, but the ghost of Santa Claus died on the first huff.

After listening to the Dead Boys on my stereo, we headed for CBGBs along 2nd Avenue to avoid the frigid wind tunnel of 3rd Avenue.

Snow trapeezed beneath the street lights. The temperature was in the low teens. We crossed 3rd Street and cut through the gas station to the Bowery.

A crowd of derelict was gathered before the Palace Hotel.

A man lay on the concrete sidewalk.

A groan signaled that he was still with the living.

According to witnesses the 50 year-old derelict had stepped out of the third-floor window of the SRO hotel.

The short drop had snapped the gaunt man's legs and arms.

A dingy sheet was draped over his naked body and blood pulsed from a jagged bone protruding from his leg. His chest heaved with rapid breaths and he asked with a pained voice, "Damn, where am I?"

"Where you think you are, you dumb drunk." A fellow misfortunate answered from the huddle of broken dreamers.

"Not the Bowery, please tell me I'm not going to die on the Bowery." His grizzled face strained into the air.

“No where else?” One bum chortled with a bottle of Zapple in his hand.

I lifted a warning finger for silence.

A distant siren filled the air.

Help was on the way.

I kneeled over the bleeding man and tucked the sheet under his wasted frame. I had been a math major in university and calculated his impact on the sidewalk and said, "You're not going to die, old man."

"Maybe you ain't gonna die, but you look like a used condom." His relentless heckler and the bums laughed at this comment. They were a tough crowd.

Anthony quieted him with a kick to the shin.

The police from the 9th Precinct showed up a minute before the ambulance and the cops cleared space for the EMS crew.

"If he ain't family, then move on. Same goes for the rest of you." The driver motioned for me to get lost.

I surrendered my spot and we walked into CBGBs.

Merv the doorman let us enter without paying.

The bartender Allison glommed us a round of beers.

Suicide took the stage before a sparse audience. I counted 19 people.

Martin Rev stood impassively at his keyboards and Alan Vega smacked the microphone into his face between stanzas of CHEREE.

Anthony handed me the vial of poppers.

My head exploded on the first inhale.

It was Boxing Day on the Bowery and tonight was as a good a day as any to be alive in New York City.

To see a live performance of Suicide playing CHEREE please go to this URL

This video was filmed Merrill Aldighieri at HURRAH in 1980.

Friday, December 23, 2016

SKIN COLD AS ICE by Peter Nolan Smith

When Lou Reed died three years ago, a friend called to ask, if I had known the singer.

I said, “No."

El-Roy was a pussy hound and asked if I thought Nico was a good fuck.

“I don’t know,” I replied and hung up thinking one thing.

The Velvet Underground’s singer was probably great in bed an recalled that back in Paris during the 80s, I met a Nico lookalike.

Mirabelle was a blonde aristocratic junkie model, who had greater success ripping off rich men than getting on the covers of VOGUE or ELLE.

I was working at the Bains Douche as a doorman. Only the Palace and Le Sept rivaled the old bathhouse for the supreme destination of the night. The first week I was overwhelmed by the crowds. Les Bains was small. 500 people was the legal capacity. On the nights new wave and punk bands played in the basement, over 700 people packed the club. Fabrice, the owner, complained about the crush and explained everyone was hn worhal everyone wanted to be there.occupancy limit comfortable number of guests

At that time over 200,000 Americans resided in the French capitol. Most of my countrymen worked at banks or attended university. My job offered better perks than pay or wisdom, especially since the patron of the Bains-Douches had granted me the power to treat the French 'comme le merde que ils sont'.

Personally I liked the natives, however Fabrice was the boss and my restrictive door policy earned the hatred of

Many Parians hated me. I learned countless insult in French. None of the abuse mattered, because my friends and beautiful women received the Bains with start treatment.
Mirabelle was one of my favorite thanks my preference for skinny women.

One winter night Mirabelle accompanied me back to my flat on the Ile St. Louis.

We snorted some H and made love without satisfaction until the drug sang us to sleep.

Neither of us took off our clothes.

The next morning I woke to the bells of Notre Dame.

The windows were open and I shivered with the cold.

Mirabelle’s skin was ice to my touch.

I thought she was dead and grew hard as a rock realizing that realize the dead can't feel anything and shove my cock in her bony ass. My medical diagnosis was wrong. The first thrust woke her from the grave and Mirabelle said, "Plus profound.",then her lungs drew a shallow breath.

I closed the window and fucked her with the dawn.

It was like making love to a beautiful corpse

And she gave a death rattle as a moan.

"Good?" I asked from on top.

She simply pleaded, "Encore."

I gave what she wanted,

Because Mirabelle was very good for such a bad girl

And I bet Nico was the same.

A goddess best undressed in the cold.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fi Suay

Several years ago I nailed Xmas lights to the roof of my house in Pattaya. Ours was the only one on Moo 9 celebrating the winter holiday on Pearl Harbor Day. The rest of the farangs were too mean-hearted to pursue any happiness other than the emptiness of sex, drugs, and golf. I spoke to none of them.

Two days later I bought a blue plastic pine tree and explained to my 3 year-old daughter that Xmas was a Christian holiday lifted from the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

Angie only spoke Thai. Her understanding of religion was limited to Buddhism and she said, “Fi suay.”

"Yes, the lights are beautiful."

"Phom lak Christmas."

I tried to explain the wickedness on the Church in my Boston-accented Thai. My wife frowned with disapproval, although my daughter misunderstood my garbled irade and I accepted my failure to enlighten her to evil of the Christian faith, for while I have rejected the deeds and words of the Catholic Church, I still appreciate the beauty of Santa Claus. Mostly since the image of a fat white-bearded man in a red suit flying a reindeer-hauled sleigh around the world a sleigh remains twice as believable as the Immaculate Conception, especially considering that the Virgin Mary gave birth four months after her impregnation.

If I were a god-worshipper Santa Claus would be my man. The ho-ho gift-giver was based on St Nicolas of Smyrna, the original St. Nick, who is also the patron saint of beer, which is why my friends and I celebrated Beermas rather than Xmas, however I don’t play Scrooge during any holiday and neither do the Thais.

Christmas lights decorated Pattaya’s shopping mall to lure western consumers and curious Thais. Buy Buy Buy. Tis the season to spend your money.

On Walking Street go-go bars were splashed out in red. Dancers wore cute caps and nothing else. Jingle Bells played everywhere. Whiskey bottles were cracked open by my friends and gifts were exchanged amongst our Thai neighbors on Moo 9.

All this despite there being no chance of a White Christmas.

Neither were people fighting over nativity scenes, because the War on Christmas doesn’t exist anywhere, but the UK and the USA and as much as I avoid Bible-thumpers I feel that everyone should be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ as much as ‘Happy Holidays’ or nothing at all.

Santa will sort out who’s good or bad.

The Bible-thumper's God in the mumu gave up that job a long time ago.

My daughter wanted to see the lights and we got on my scooter, happy to be a family, because Christmas in Pattaya is lights, fireworks, red caps, and a good time.

Friends, family, and a good laugh.

It even got cold at night.

15 Celsius.

And atop Doi InThanon, Thailand’s highest peak, there were reports of frost. Maybe one year there will be a White Christmas in the Land of Smiles.

So Happy Beermas one and all.

Peace on earth and good will to men. Women too.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bad Santa And Worst

This time of year brings out the best of people, but not necessarily the best out of Santas.

Some drink too much and end up in alleys after selling their outfits in a crack den.

Others are arrested for holiday heresy.

Indecent exposure.

And they get nailed to the cross by holiday buzzkills.

Like the filthy police.

No one knows how to ruin the Holidays better than the NYPD.

The Last Christmas Tree

After Thanksgiving Christmas trees crowd the sidewalks of New York.

On the corner of Fulton and St. Felix Streets the holiday franchise has been run by Laurent and Amy, who have transported evergreens from the northern forest of Quebec for the last six seasons. We spoke in French with their accent a provincial Quebecois and my r-less speech betraying my Boston roots.

Last year they gave me a small tree for my bedroom at the Fort Greene Observatory. I called it Ole Tree.

I thanked them with a bottle of wine, which we drank together right before they returned to Canada.

"Merci." I was sad to see them go, but they said, "Next year."

We hugged good-bye and I returned home to adorn the two-foot tree with Buddhas, ribbons, and a silver star.

Most of our neighbors tossed out the drying trees after the New Year.

I kept water in the small bowl beneath the severed trunk and Old Tree remained green throughout the winter. AP's kids liked Ole Tree. We ate cookies in the Observatory, while I told them stories of the north woods. Lizzie and James liked my tales of lumbermen along the St. John's River. I had heard them from my grandfather.

The winter was a cold one and I told my landlord and his kids about burning Christmas trees on a lake in Maine.

"The ice is a foot thick and everyone brings out their orange-dry trees to pile them high. Someone tosses a match and the trees go up in the whoosh of flames. I wish they did that here."

Instead the city mulches the dead trees with a wood-chipper.

"Just what the city needs. A bonfire to burn down all of Fort Greene." AP was a good dad, but I had the feeling that Lizzie and James wouldn't have like to see Ole Tree in a bonfire.

"When are you throwing out your tree?" asked his wife.


January became February with March rolling into the city with a vengeance. April was also cold. Finally winter relinquished its grip in May.

Ole Tree seemed comfortable in my room, despite its needles turning orange.

"It's time for it to go." AP rightly considered the tree a fire hazard.


"You've been saying that for months."

"What if I burned it in the backyard?" A good fire was an honorable ending for Ole Tree.

"Not a chance. Those trees burn hot." AP had gone to RISD. He knew New England and New Englanders. People from cold climes are into flames.

In May I traveled to Thailand and visited my children.

Upon my return AP said, "My wife wants the tree gone. Actually she wanted it gone long ago."

"Ole Tree's a ghost of Christmas past," protested James. He was my good friend.

"Christmas was six months ago. Get rid of it."

I didn't want to say good-bye and a few more weeks passed, then the summer turned up the heat. AP was worried about instantaneous combustion and I had to admit Ole Tree presented a clear and present danger.

On a hot July morning I apologized to Ole Tree and carried it down to the street on my way to work. I didn't want to leave my old friend in the trash, so I walked to the corner and poised the tree on the wall of a church.

"You be good."

"I walked away, expecting never to see Ole Tree again, but upon coming back from work at the diamond store I discovered Ole Tree had moved to a stump on the sidewalk. James and Lizzie went outside to speak with Ole Tree. AP thought I was crazy, but he was a New Yorker and not a New Englander.

A week passed before Ole Tree hit the road and vanished forever.

It didn't leave a forwarding address, but winter will be back and so will Laurent from Quebec with a new crop of firs. A new tree will become this season's Old Tree, but I still think about the old Old Tree.

I love thee for a long time and will love the Son of Ole Tree just the same.

Bien Sur.

AN XMAS EVE TALE by Peter Nolan Smith

Three years ago the holiday sales plummeted to near-zero in New York's Diamond District 47th Street. The Greater Depression had robbed the middle-class of their imagined wealth and jewelry purchases had been sacrificed to pay mortgages and credit card bills. America as a nation continued to suffer from the banking debacle, the collapse of the car industry, and the two wars in Asia. Thankfully Richie Boy had rich clients and two days before Christmas we toasted our survival at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central with his wife.

"Well, we squeaked out another year.”

The three of us clinked glasses and a platter of freshly shucked shellfish arrived at our table. The wine was Austrian and the oysters had been harvested in New England. His wife was happy with both.

“A million-dollar ruby sale, a couple of rich guys buying big items, and a few lucky sales off the street.” I had sold an Italian suite of pearls and sapphires to a Swiss couple and the ruby to a woman from Boca Raton.

“We were lucky.”

“And we showed up to work every day.

“90% of success is showing up on time.”

“Or not too late.”

The next day was Christmas Eve. I arrived at the diamond exchange fifteen minutes after the opening time of 9:30 . Tardiness was my one perk after working there for twenty years.

"Morning, Manny."

"What are you so happy about?" Richie Boy's father came to work on time.

"The end of another holiday selling season."

"Bah." Richie Boy’s father shared none of our positivity. Operational costs and bills from his son arrived faster than our profit, but Richie Boy deserved every c-note.

Without him the firm would be another dark window on 47th street.

"Did you see this?" Manny brandished the print-out of the bill from the Oyster Bar. He must have had my work wife check the credit card expenditures. Deisy shrugged innocently. She was just following orders.


The dinner had been Richie Boy's treat. He walked into the store and his father asked the same question.

"Yes, I signed for it."

“$4 for an oyster? They sell them at Doc’s for $1 at Happy Hour.” Doc’s was his local bar on 34th Street.

“Happy hour ends at 7 and we were here until 7:30. And only two of them were $4. Willapas as big as your palm.” Richie Boy had been disgusted by the size. “The goy loved them.”

“Almost as much as the clams casino. Oysters wrapped in bacon.”

"A dozen oysters was $20?” Manny hated spending money on luxuries.

“Maybe more.”

“And you had to have them?”

“We were celebrating getting through another Christmas,” answered Richie Boy.

“Now is it not the time for celebrating.”

“We saved the firm.”

“By luck. Maybe next year we won’t be so lucky.”

“Why are you so miserable?” Richie Boy wasn’t allowing his father to ruin his holiday. He was heading up to Vermont and then off to St. Bart’s with his wife for the New Year’s. Richie Boy had a good life and his father ruined every success with a bucket of Grinch.

“I’m not miserable. I’m running a business.” Manny reviewed our sales, as if each was a dead loss. He pointed a finger at me. “You should have got more profit for the jewelry suite.”

“I’ll take $20,000 on a $50,000 sale any day.” The commission would pay for a flight to Thailand to see my kids.

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

"Better something than nothing."

Richie Boy and I sat at our desks and ignored Manny's gloom, as the old man schlepped every dealer to the last minute. He chided my co-workers for every supposed fault. I told Richie to give us our bonuses before his departure to Vermont, otherwise his father would divine some way to stiff us.

“I’m out of my here at 2:30.” Richie Boy distributed our pay and Xmas bonuses. He had wanted to give me a G. Manny cut it down to $800. I thanked them both. The previous year Manny had given me nothing.

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

“I’ll let them go at 7.” The exchange closed at that hour from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.


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

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

“She’ll go home at the normal hour.”

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

“Fucking mean old shit.”

And I started pulling the back showcases.

“It’s not seven yet.” Manny tapped his watch.

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

“Since when did you become my boss?”

“I’m not the boss. I’m a goy and we celebrate Christmas.”

“You’re a non-believer.” Manny remembered my many rants against the Church.

“Not today. Deisy start pulling.” My work wife didn't move. She obeyed who paid her.

“Deisy, don’t do anything.”

“Manny, give it up. We’re going home.”

“Why don’t you go home and don’t come back?”

“I can’t, because Richie Boy asked me to look after you.”

“I don’t need anyone looking after me.”

"Really?" All his friends were dead and his girlfriend lived in Miami.

"I have my work."

"Is that what you call it?"

"Yes. I come to work, so you can come late. I come to work to manage my son's spending more than we make. Without me there'd be no work, so we are staying to the last minute."

"Not today." I opened the jewelry case and loaded the necklace and rings into a tray.

"I can't believe it. My name's on the wall, but no one listens to me."

"Like I said 'not today'."

Deisy joined me. She had a young daughter. Her family was coming over for dinner.

"Fine, pretend I'm not here."

"Will do."

After closing the safe Deisy left for New Jersey. I got my coat and wished my longtime boss a good holiday.

“That wasn’t right, you closing.”

"Yeah, but what's done is done."

Outside shoppers were heading home for the holiday. They had families and friends waiting for them. My wife and kids were on the other side of the world and I asked, “You feel like a drink?”

"Why not."Manny got up from his papers and I handed him his coat. It was cold outside.

“Down the street?”

“Anywhere as long as they had wine and maybe some oysters, but no $4 oysters” He didn't stay mad at me long.

“Sounds good to me.” I was still pissed at the old git, but Manny wasn’t that different from me and neither is everyone else. We all have a little bit of the Grinch in us this time of year, for as Manny likes to say, “There is no season for giving.”

"Your treat?"

"When wasn't it?" We left the exchange.

"Always the same, my man," I answered, because while Manny might have been Scrooge, he was my Scrooge and my Bob Cratchit was his.

At least for Xmas Eve.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pagan Solstice

Six years ago I woke at 3:33 am. I remembered reading in the New York Times that there would be a lunar eclipse. The first to occur on the winter solstice in over 400 years. I looked out the window and saw the shadowed moon. A sliver of silver atop the Earth's satellite. I stripped naked and went up on the roof of our Fort Greene brownstone to bathe in the light of the sun off the moon. The frost on my skin was the only human sacrifice within sight. After 30 seconds I retreated back to my bed and shivered myself to sleep.

Few people in the modern age and even fewer Christian realize that Xmas was lifted from the ancient pagan celebration the rebirth of the sun. This last chance to feast before the months of winter starvation coincided with the final stages of fermentation of wine and beer.

My friend the ex-model from Paris abhors Xmas as an orgy festival and wrote on Facebook.

"Christmas is a disgusting pagan holiday that comes from Roman orgies where they would choose a scapegoat and then torture them by forcing them to eat and indulge in all sorts of excess and then brutally murder them."

She later added, "Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, "Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators."

Those crazy Christians.

The Xmas Drunk

Last holiday season I had a great part-time job being invited to office parties as the Christmas Drunk. $500 an appearance and all I could drink. Bad behavior was a must. Insulting the boss was a showstopper. Punching out the hated brother-in-law was most requested extra. $100/punch. Insulting a wife's obesity was a secret request of many husbands. I refused this boon. Punching a jerk was one thing. Hurting a fat woman's feelings was bad taste.

It was a good deal and the only downside was that I had to be drunker than anyone else at the party, so the family members and guests and co-workers could say the next morning, "At least I wasn't as drunk as the Christmas drunk."

Big Dave from the diamond exchange served as my back-up in case a situation spun out of hand, but I knew the limits and Big Dave never had to save my ass.

None of my clients knew my real name. Most guests asked at the end of a successful performance. "Who was that drunk guy?"

"The Xmas Drunk," the host would answered with pride and my popularity increased as the shopping days shrunk to single digits. I couldn't handle the demand. I boosted my rate to $200/hour. No one complained about my performance and by December 21st I was at the top of my game.

At a Hedge Fund soiree atop a skyscraper I ambushed the ruling CEO in the bathroom. I pointed a gun at him. Actually my weapon was a finger in my suit pocket. The capitalist fool was drunk enough to not question me.

Either that of very guilty.

I accused this czar of finance of impoverishing the world. He swore that he was simply doing his job and pleaded for mercy.

"I'll give you a check for a million if you let me go."

"Money means nothing to the Christmas Drunk." I grabbed him by his tie and dragged him into the main office, where his fellow execs ridiculed his surrender to a besotted revolutionary. I bowed to their applause and Big Dave escorted me out of the office.

"I was getting started."

"That CEO was calling 911."

"Fuck him.

And I superglued shut the doors of the office. They didn't get out until 3am.

The next morning I received a complaint from the banker who had hired me.

"What do you expect from the Christmas Drunk? Emily Post manners. Fuck off." I had a wicked hang-over. I probably should have apologized, but he had paid me in cash. Everyone did, because there's only one person worst than the Christmas Drunk and that the guy seeking revenge by stiffing me, so I'm a strictly cash enterprise dedicated to being naughty and not nice and nothing says asshole better than the Christmas drunk.

MOVEABLE XMAS by Peter Nolan Smith

Christmas 2014 belongs to the past.

That year I was too sick to travel to visit my family in Boston and I passed Christmas Eve hacking clear my lungs like Doc Holiday on his last legs at the Hotel Glenwood. Reputedly the tubercular gun fighter looked at his bare feet and spoke his last words, "Damn, this is funny."

Doc didn't die with his boots on and my condition worsened on December 26, but on the 27th I attended a soiree with longtime comrades. Our departed friends haunted the gathering and we drank hard liquor with the abandon of the wicked. Old Evil David lanced me with insults. I smiled back with a glass of gin in my hand and ignored his barbs, however one of our friends. Suzanne, was having an affair with a born-again reprobate. The tortured painter deserved happiness, but her beau's high-pitched dialogues were dotted with Jesus and he had bad words for us sinners.

I have been a devout atheist since the age of eight and hate Bible-thumpers, so I avoided born-again Ben throughout the evening.

After a venerable cinema professor recounted his parents' curtailing his possible baseball career with the New York Mets, I went to a table laden with deserts and bottles.

Ben stood before the chocolate cake. His lips moved in prayer and a knife quivered in his hand. Every sinew attached to my bones shivered a warning to shut my mouth, however the gin spoke for me.

"You look like Adam the first time he saw Eve, but a chocolate cake is not Satan." I pushed down on his hand.

The knife pierced the chocolate.

"I know that." Ben cut himself a miserly slice.

I cut my hunk and raised the richness in the air in my bare hand.

"To another Christmas to come." I hoped to spent 2015 with my family in Thailand. My children meant the world to me. Every parent in the world shared the same feeling and I stuffed the chocolate cake in my mouth. It stuck in my craw and I washed the crumbs down with gin.

"But there's one thing that bothers me about Christmas."

"Such as?" Ben shut a small pice of cake in his mouth.

"I worked every day of the holiday season and I'm not complaining since the one thing worse than too much work is too little work."

I had relearned that lesson through 2014.

"So what is the problem?"

"This year Christmas fell on a Thursday, which meant I couldn't take off Friday." My boss had cut out to Florida, the Holyland for the Chosen Tribe. "Not that I had anyplace to go, but millions of workers would have benefit, if Christmas was a moving holiday."


"Yes, like Labor Day, so it creates a three-day weekend for the workers."

"Christ was born on December 25."

"Says who?"

"Says the Bible."

"That date isn't mentioned in the New Testament, besides God knocked up Mary on August 8, which means that Jesus was probably born on May 8 as a Taurus."

"Jesus' birth was recorded by the Romans. He is God. His birthday is December 25th."

"What did you give him this year? An iPad, a tie, a blowjob?" I really hate Jesus freaks.

"Shut up, you old git." Old Evil David interfered with my fun, knowing I was about to get ugly.


"But nothing, you wicked sinner." David swung his fingers over my head in a Picasso sign of the cross and led away, whispering, "Our friend like this guy. Leave him alone."

I turned my head.

He was right.

Suzanne was in Ben's arms. They were a happy couple in Christ. Ben gave her a bite of his cake.

"Thanks, Dave." I gave my friend a hug. He looked out for me and I looked out for a change as would any atheist on the days after Christmas. God could take care of himself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy XXXMas

Bordelle, the high-end lingerie line, came out with Christmas delights. One 18K-plated girdle dress will cost over $7000 in London's Selfridges department store.

There are less expensive options for a rich man to offer his mistress.

Fashion stylist Sasha Lilic asked, "Would you spend $7000 on lingerie?"

My answer was simple.

"I'd spent it to take off lingerie."

But I only have $200 in the bank, so for now I have to be happy with looking at $7000 on the flesh.

I have a good enough imagination to furnish the pleasure of giving and taking.

Plus I've been nice than naughty this year, although more out of laziness than choice.

Hard Labor Xmas

I've been working hard labor this week.

Like an inmate cracking rocks.

Every night I returned to the small house of the Greenwich estate and chase down three aspirins with a little vodka. My body was as weak as Superman encased in a igloo of kryptonite and I wish I could spent the day in bed, but I have a horde to feed and I wake in the morning telling myself, "This doesn't look anything like Christmas."

Tomorrow I return to New York.

A holiday party.

dance and drink.

I'll be better tomorrow.

Christmas on Walking Street 2007

My 4 year-old daughter had a long Christmas Eve.

Gifts in the morning.

Khao Khio Zoo at noon and then a swim at the Shaba Hut pool. 

By 7pm her eyes drifted together and weary muscles refused to support her weight. I carried Angie into the bedroom and laid her on the mattress. She fell asleep within 30 seconds.

I cracked open a bottle of Chardonnay and poured two glasses. My wife took a sip. It was a little off, but I drank the wine while listening to Serge Gainsbourg's BALLADE OF MELODY NELSON. Not really Christmas music, yet still is the best 27 minutes of music ever produced by France.

I wandered back into the main house and my wife was putting on make-up. This was not a good sign.

"Where do you think you're going?" I slurred in my Boston-accented Thai.

"We're going to Walking Street. My mother will take care of Angie."

"We?" My wife hated the nightlife and I avoided the popular destination during high season like an Ebola-infested Congo village.

"Yes, we." Nu glanced at my clothes.

My twenty year-old shirt and torn jeans didn't make it on Walking Street, the Champs-Elyees of Pattaya..

"Go get changed and look handsome."

"That'll be easy."

After a bottle of wine my reflection in the mirror resembled a young Rock Hudson. I changed into a white Armani shirt and Versace jeans with Gucci loafers. None were a copy either.

My wife waited in the garden. She was in a new dress. I kissed her on the cheek. "You look beautiful. What about we go to the bedroom first?"

"No." Nu wasn't buying this trick to not go to Walking Street.

Nu's mother waved tonight. I had 2000 baht was in my wallet and I surrendered saying. We hadn't been to Walking Street in years and . At least not together. "Okay, let's go."

We got on my motor scooter and I drove to Soi Diamond. My wife didn't want to go to any go-go bar. Neither did I. They were packed with sex-starved Western men and there was no telling what they wanted from man or woman. Instead we wandered through the throngs of sweating Russians, wide-eyed Indian men, and giggling Chinese tourists to the Hot Tuna bar.

Pi-Ek, the owner, sat on a stool. A glass of whiskey was on the small table. He wai-ed my wife and we sat down for a few drinks. My wife didn't take long to ask about my mia noi.

"Only time I see your husband here, he is always alone." Pi-Ek was telling the truth and I wouldn't ask him to lie, because I wouldn't be caught dead on Walking Street with another woman, because my wife would kill me and I have full intentions of living out my natural span of life.

After a 3rd drink my wife was enjoying herself. She laughed at our jokes and made fun of the passers-by, but by 11 we were ready to call it a night and headed back home. She kissed me before falling asleep and I laid on the bed ready for dreams of sugarplums.

Everyone wished us "Happy Christmas."

THe Thais love a good time.

Tonight everyone was all smiles and I drove back to our house with my wife's arms around my waist.

There was no telling what Santa Claus would do in Pattaya on Christmas Eve although neither would I tell Mrs. Claus and neither would any of his reindeers, if they didn't want to end up as reindeer stew.

And I knew the same.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

ONLY A GAME by Peter Nolan Smith

Argentina beat West Germany in the 1986 World Cup of Football. The victors had reached the finals thanks to an unexpected quarter-final victory over England thanks to a goal off the fist of striker Diego Maradona. The media have since labeled the controversial goal ‘the Hand of God’.

Few people in the USA were aware of this infamous goal.

Soccer was a sport for foreigners.

Our national pastime was baseball and that June the two best teams in the majors were the New York Mets and my beloved Boston Red Sox. The Damn Yankees with a veteran lineup of Tommy John, Joe Niekro, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ken Griffey, and Rickey Henderson struggled to catch the surging Bosox, while sell-out crowds flocked to Shea Stadium to cheer on their beloved Mets.

Later in the month a madman attacked passengers on the Staten Island Ferry. NYPD arrested him without a shot. The murderer was incarcerated at Bellevue Hospital. A psychiatrist friend was medicating the Zorro of mayhem.

I was working the door at the Milk Bar on 7th Avenue.

On a June night Doctor Bob showed me the cocktail of drugs suppressing his patient.

"They'd kill you or me, but a smaller dose would only impair your ability to operate heavy machinery."

I gave the concoction a try.

Scottie the nightclub's owner sent me home at midnight in a cab. I barely made it home alive.

While discos dominated the dance scene, none of them recaptured the thrill of Studio 54 better than The Milk Bar, which dominated the night from 12am to 4am.

The triangular triplex’s decor had been designed by the legendary Arthur Weinstein and his wife Colleen to replicate the futuristic bar frequented by Alex and his sociopathic droogs from the movie CLOCKWORK ORANGE.The plastic furnishings were a smooth throwback to the 60s and the white plexiglass walls were backlit by color-gel lamps.

Sometimes red, other times pink.

Never yellow.

“Yellow makes everyone look like they have the plague.” Arthur was a master of light.

Our door policy was simple.

“I don’t wanna see any suits or ties.” Arthur told me at the door. “No Wall Street at all.”

“Not a problem.” I did as I was told, although a $100 cuffed into my palm allowed in the occasional exception.

Griffbag the DJ played an eclectic musical melange of Art of Noise, Michael Jackson, James Brown, the Cure, Run D.M.C./Aerosmith, Berlin, Bananarama, Pet Shop Boys, Run DMC mixed with 50s R%B, 60s garage, 70s punk and disco, and 80s new wave, rap, and pop.

Paul McCartney, John “Cougar” Melloncamp or Lionel Richie were banned from the turntables.

Dancing was forbidden by the cabaret laws of the State, but the West Village PD ignored toe-tapping and soul-grinding in our basement lounge. They liked Arthur. He spoke their language.

Most nightclubs were hell for anyone living near them, except the Milk Bar treated to its neighbors good.

The club had been sound-proofed by experts. Rejects were dispersed before they congealed into an unruly crowd. Customers were asked to be quiet upon exiting the club. Cops got in free as long as they were off-duty. Neighbors were comped two free drinks a night and we were even let in some of the bridge and tunnel crowd.

Griffbag liked girls with big hair.

Everyone had a good time and everyone consisted of models, ballerinas, artists, rappers, film and TV crews, pro athletes, doctors and nurses from St. Vincent, restaurant staff from near-by restaurants, and neighbor people.

The dress code was the color black.

The blacker the better, but the color had nothing to do with the bar's popularity.

The Milk Bar had a reputation for luck.

Men and women, women and women, and men and men left the club together.

Couples fell in love.

Drinkers got drunk.

People had fun.

There was a cover on the weekend.

I collected the money at the door and only a little of the take stuck in my pocket. Arthur and Scottie trusted my greed. We three went back to the Arthur’s Jefferson Theater and that mythic after-hour club had been all about coining cash.

My partner at the door was a giant Haitian bouncer.

Every midnight Big Joel and I gazed at the Empire State Building. The tower lights were extinguished at 12.Neither of us caught the turn-off. We were too busy taking care of business.

The Milk Bar escaped the attention of the media. Word-of-mouth was the Milk Bar’s PR. Our max capacity of 250 was exceeded every evening, but we rarely topped 300, because the fire marshals enforced that life-or-death restriction without exception and the manager insisted on obeying their unspoken edict.

Kilmer was their friend.

The FD liked blondes from Tampa.
With the neighbors, police, and fire department on our side The Milk Bar had a strong run throughout the summer, but we weren’t loved by everyone.

O’Sheas farther up 7th Avenue had been serving drinks to the artists and locals since the 50s. Museum-class paintings hung on the wall. Famous writers had carved their names on the bar. Faithful regulars were granted reserved stools, but the new crowd of Wall Street bankers and lawyers had invaded the legendary tavern like a flock of crows picking over the bones of a battlefield. They shouted to each other about million-dollar deals. Their ties hung halfway down their chest. I wouldn’t have let one of them into the Milk Bar.

Five top-of-the-line Sonys TVs hung over the long wooden bar. The expansive projection screens featured sports and more sports. The good-looking bartenders were ex-college jocks. The attractive night waitresses worked days as aspiring models and actresses.

It was a formula for printing money, but The Milk Bar had been hurting his till and Old Jim was saying things about us. None of them were good and only a few of which were true.

“Fuck em,” Arthur said to Scottie one July evening before opening for the night. “They’ll be here long after we’re gone.”

“I don’t like bad blood.” Scottie was Arthur’s best friend. He usually followed the older New Yorker’s lead.

“So don’t drink it.”

“I’m going to talk to them.”

“About what?” Arthur was an expert at letting people stew in their own sauce. “Baseball?”

“No, about live and let live.”

“Suit yourself, but don’t tell me later that I told you so.”

Two nights later Scottie and I walked over O’Sheas. A drizzle in the 70s chilled the early summer night. Our antagonist’s bar was crowded with Yankee fans.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I never drank at O”Sheas. My team was the Red Sox.

"I hate people badmouthing us.

"I wouldn't expect anything less from this crowd.

"Do me a favor and keep your mouth shut." Scottie hated my mouthiness. He liked peace and quiet.

"I'll try."

We entered the bar and sat at the bar.

Robert Palmer’s ADDICTED TO LOVE boomed on the sound system. The bar's softball team was celebrating a victory in the dining room. Every TV displayed the Yankees playing the Os. Not a single TV was turned to the Mets. We ordered cheeseburgers, which NEW YORK magazine had called the best in the neighborhood. I ate mine in less than ten minutes.

“What do you think?” Scottie signaled the blonde bartender for the bill.

“The cheese was barely melted.” I favored McBell’s on 6th Avenue or the Corner Bistro. “And the meat tasted of nothing.”

“The reviewer must have an open tab here.” Scottie paid with a twenty and told the square-jawed bartender in the Hawaiian shirt to keep the change.

“Is Old Jim around?” That was the name of the owner.

“Who’s asking?” the young man asked with an aggressive tone.

O’Sheas was a $200/night gig. The suits and ties tipped heavy to make people not hate them. Good-paying jobs were hard to find for struggling male models, ever since AIDS had closed the hustler’s block on 53rd and 3rd.

“Tell him the owner of the Milk Bar.” The Charles Manson look-a-like smiled with disarming charm. “Just wanted to say hello.”

“Sure.” His sneer revealed long hours of acting lessons, although the depth of his expression suggested his teacher was a mime.

The bartender motioned to a slim blonde waitress and whispered in her ear, then attended to his bar. The customers were two deep. I recognized a number of faces. They drank at the Milk Bar too.

“Here he comes.” Scottie spotted the waitress leading a beer-gutted man in his late-30s to the bar.

"He doesn't look that old?" I was 34.

"Older than us." Scottie was four years younger than me.

"Forever young." I finished my beer.

Old Jim introduced himself with a firm shake, which was a little too strong for my tastes.

“What can I do for you boys?” The mustached owner drawled the word ‘boys’ with a derogatory insinuation, denoting Old Jim traced his roots way back beyond Peckerwood City.

“We wanted to come over and let you know that anyone working here gets in for free.” Scottie wasn’t offering them free drinks. O’Sheas had a huge staff.

“That’s mighty white of you, but my people don’t frequent pick-up joints and drug dens.” Old Jim was several inches taller than me and stared down into my eyes. “Fag bars either.”

“Really?” At 5-11 I weighed 185. I played streetball five times a week in Tompkins Square Park. Three hours a day.

Old Jim had a soft gut.

“Fags aren’t allowed in here either.”

"This is the wrong neighborhood to say ‘fag’." I had lost more than a few friends to AIDS.

Two of the softball players quickly took the owner's back. They weren’t twins other than in size and weight. 6-2 and 195. I figured them for Diversion 2 football benchwarmers and slid off my stool.

“Slow down, Rudie.” Scottie hated my temper and he turned to Old Jim. “I’m sorry if we got off to a bad start.”

“Don’t be sorry about anything. I know your history.”

The raids on our two clubs had been in the newspapers.

Internal Affairs had busted the doors of the Jefferson and the FBI had closed the Intercontinental as part of an investigation into police corruption.

“I have nothing to hide.” Scottie stood a solid 5-9. His nose had been broken as a kid. Boxing was his sport, not baseball.

“Midgets rarely do.” Old Jim confirmed that bridging this gap was a lost cause.

“Midget?” Scottie was a native New Yorker and had to say something to show that no one threw his father’s son out of a bar. “Good luck with your softball team. They are good-looking boys.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Old Jim’s face tinted red at the contrary insinuation.

“Nothing.” Scottie pointed to the numerous softball trophies on the wall. “Looks like you’ve been lucky over the years.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it.”

“If you say so.” My boss turned to walk out of the bar. I had his back.

“You think your lowlife bar can beat us?” Old Jim twisted the waxed tip of his mustache. He was no Rollie Fingers.

Scottie looked over his shoulder with a 'fuck you' smile.

“Only one way to find out. There’s a park next to the bar.” The field had real grass. The base paths were at least 80% dirt. The right-field fence was at most 150 feet from the plate. Deep left was no more than 200. It was a hitter's paradise.

“Jimmie Walker Park is our home field.” Old Jim hefted his chest like a rooster ready to fart dust. “So you dopefiends want to play a baseball game?”

“It’s only a game.”

“It’s never only a game to us.”

“We’ll flip a coin for last bats.” Scottie took out a quarter and flipped the coin in the air. “Call it.”

“Heads.” Old Jim leaned forward to watch the result. His nose was red from drink. I hoped that the old sot was the pitcher.

“Tails.” Scottie showed the coin. Old Jim plucked the quarter out of his palm. Scottie snatched it back with the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard jab. “Got a heads and a tails. You get to set the date.”

“Teams are staff and customers only.” Old Jim had his rules. “And no ringers.”

“Whatever you say.” Scottie handed Old Jim an invite for an Elle Modeling party. “Call me at that number. We’ll be ready whenever you are.”

Scottie and I walked out of O’Shea’s. I didn't say a word until we were down the block.

“You know that they’re the best team in the Village? They haven't lost in four years.”

“And we’re the best bar.”

“But can we field a squad of nine?”

"Can we?

"Here's the line-up

I named players by position; Arthur had pitched for St. John’s. Nick the Dick was at 1st. I couldn’t stand the low-level coke dealer, but at 6-9 his wingspan could snag any errant throws and line drives. Scottie could cover 2nd. Ray Wood from Park Avenue was a sure shot for short and the buck-toothed DJ, Griffbag, was an eager beaver on 3rd, while Georg Rage had the arm to chuck home from centerfield. Tommie White Trash, our barback, was quick on his feet for left and Doctor Bob wouldn’t hurt us in right, plus he possessed a wondrous stash of magic from the hospital.

“And what about you?”

“I’m catcher, but nine men on a field were nine men on a field and not a team.”

“Art can be the manager.”

“Isn't he a little anarchistic for that role.”

Arthur believed in every man for himself as long as we worked together.

“You want to do it, because I certainly don’t.” Scottie was a firm follower of Arthur’s modus operandi.

“No.” I was no leader and I wasn’t much of a follower either.

“So we have a make-up team versus the best team in the Village.”

We stood on the sidewalk across from the Milk Bar. The traffic on 7th Avenue was running murderously fast. Half the cars bore Jersey plates headed for the Holland Tunnel.

“The squares against us will be a classic.” Scottie liked long shots. They paid better odds. “Plus anyone is beatable on a given night and we have a secret weapon.”

“We do?”

“Big Joel.” Scottie pointed to my 6-8 partner at the door of the Milk Bar. The Haitian giant sat on my Yamaha 650cc XS. His arm was draped around the mother of his baby. Darlene was the love of his life. All the other girls had merely been practice.

“Big Joel is from Haiti. Just cause Rawlins wraps their baseballs there, doesn’t make him a ballplayer. You ever see him throw a ball?”

“No.” Scottie didn’t hang out after hours. He liked going home to the Chelsea Hotel. I couldn’t blame him. 14 hours a day at a club kill any desire for more.

“I have. He has a vodou zombie arm. One morning after work we sat in the park smoking a joint. An abandoned softball lay in the dirt. I underhanded it to Big Joel. He fumbled the toss and then tried to chuck it back to me. His throw barely made 30 feet."

Big Joel was no baseball player.

“Don’t worry, I’m going to teach him how to swing a bat.” Scottie crossed the street through the rush of traffic. Jaywalking was a very New Yorker thing to do and so was playing softball.

“You have your work cut out for you.” I waited on the sidewalk until the ‘white man walking’ gave me the go. I was reckless, although not with cars versus flesh and bone.

Scottie was speaking with Big Joel. A broad smile beamed from his face.

“Man, we gonna play baseball.” He was as happy as a kid getting his first glove. “Scottie gonna make me Dee-H.”

“Do you know what DH is?” asked Darlene. Her family had emigrated from Port Au Prince two generations before Big Joel.

“Dee-Ate. Why is the number 8 something?”

“Stupid.” Darlene was tough on her man. They fought at the front door in stiletto jabs of patois. The dialect was French only in name.

Ten minutes later Kilmer the bar manager announced that O’Sheas had scheduled a softball game for a week from tonight.

Kalline, Tommie White Trash’s girlfriend, poured Arthur a vodka screwdriver. Her barmate, Sunny, was cutting up limes, lemons, and oranges with a sharp knife. They both dressed like runaways from a biker gang; tight leather pants and Daisy Mae white cotton shirts tied above their midriff.

This look earned them big tips.

"I heard you're playing a softball game." Kalline didn't give Arthur his drink.

"Yes. Against O'Sheas."

"I told you not to go there." Arthur glared at Scottie.

"I was just trying to be friendly," the part-owner of the bar swiftly explained the confrontation at O’Shea’s. The bar staff muttered swears upon hearing how Old Jim had insulted the Milk Bar.

"The cocksucker said all that?" Arthur put down off his glass. The right-handed curve-baller didn’t care what Old Jim said about him. The scandal behind the Intercontinental had been published in the New York Times.

"Every word." I was no snitch, but Arthur had to know the opposition.

“We are who we are and I am who I am.” Arthur admitted to us. “But you ain’t me, so this beer-belly Buddha has a lot of balls to say anything. We’re gonna kick their ass one way or the other.”

“What’s the team?” Kalline demanded, suspecting the worst.

I ran down the roster.

Everyone groaned with the mention of Nick the Dick.

“I know, I know, but he can cover the base like no one else.”

“And what about us?” Kalline came from a trailer park in the Everglades, where they grew girls ‘gator tough’. She picked up the largest lemon on the bar.

“What us? This is a man on man game.”

“Really? Says who?” The skinny blonde wound up from the stretch.

“Shit.” I ducked and the lemon whizzed over where my head had been to smack into the wall. The light went out behind the plastic panel. Kalline had an arm.

“My father didn’t name me after Al Kalline for nothing.” She picked up another lemon.

“Girls get to play.” I raised my hands in surrender. The best player in my Maine hometown had been a girl. Darlene had been banned from playing Little League. My father had fought for her right to wear a uniform, but Maine in the late 1950s was not ready for a girl on the bases. “Sorry for being so macho.”

“Macho is first nature for most men, which is why I love Tommie. He’s a pussy cat.”

Her reformed car thief sulked in the corner of the club. Nobody was lazier when there was nothing to do, but girls came to the bar to stare at him. The half-blood Sioux looked like Paul Newman playing a sullen Cochise.

“Everyone gets to play,” Arthur declared putting on his leather jacket. The AC in the Milk Bar chilled the basement to arctic temperatures, which our clientele loved on a hot summer’s night.

“Even me.” Big Joel clomped down the stairs and lowered his head through the door. Darlene was right behind him. Her belly was larger than the last time I saw her. Big Joel had been at her again.

“Even you, big man.” Arthur was on the same mind as Scottie. “You’re going to be our secret weapon.”

“I’m not hitting no one with a machete.” He shook his head. Like Scottie and Arthur he was a man of peace. I was the troublemaker.

“You’re my special project.” Scottie lifted his hands together in a batting pose. “Let’s see your stance.”

Big Joel planted his size 15 feet on the floor and bent his butt out in imitation of Scottie. He swung his fists through the air. The whoosh of their passage would be scarier with a bat in his hands.

“I am going to kill the ball.”

His words sent shivers to the bottom of my feet. The girls cheered his threat. Arthur scheduled a practice for tomorrow.

“Nothing early. Six ‘O’Clock. I expect everyone there.”

He gathered us into a huddle. Scottie was embarrassed by the intimacy, but put his arms around me and Sunny.

Kalline led us in cheer.

“Milk Bar 1-2-3 Kick them in the knee.” She thrusted an Olive Oyl thin leg in the air and her heel thumped into Big Joel’s head.

He fell to the floor in a half-daze.

Everyone laughed at him and he rose to his feet like Michael Spinks rising from the canvas after Mike Tyson KOed him in the 1st round.

It was going to be that kind of a game, because that was the kind of game at which we could beat O’Sheas.

Later that night Big Joel and I stared at the Empire State Building. The tower was shrouded by fog. The lights glowed through the mist. It was slow for a Saturday night, but the Milk Bar was against slow before midnight.

“You think I will be able to hit the ball?” Big Joel blew in his hands. 70s was winter weather in Haiti.

“It’s easy. The pitcher throws it under-handed. The ball can’t be traveling more than 50 miles per hour.” Tris Speaker had said that it was useless trying to explain successful hitting to anyone and I was far from a good batter.

“50? How fast you think I throw the ball?”

“20.” I changed the number seeing the hurt on his face and lied to save his soul. “30. Maybe 40.”

“I like that speed better.”

I looked back at the Empire State Building. The lights were out.

The neighborhood heard about our grudge match with O’Sheas and wished us luck in the upcoming game. They liked drinking at O”Sheas, but few of them cared for Old Jim. He was a piece of work.

My live-in guest Elena showed up at 2. The twenty-year old from Madrid had danced three shifts at Billy’s A Go-Go. Crumpled $1 bills filled her pocketbook.

The raven-haired seductress danced a solo flamenco for the latecomers at the bar.

Several men offered her money.

The Spanish girl rejected them for me.

We drove home on my motorcycle to East 10th Street.

In bed we pretended to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Each of us was too wicked to believe the lie past the dawn.

The next day I had a hard time waking up. My bedroom with drawn curtains was as dark as midnight. Elena wasn’t through with me either. It was almost 5pm by the time I crawled out of bed.

“Where are you going?” Elena lay with a sheet wrapped around her ballerina body. The early evening light bounced off the living room floor and she shielded her sleepy eyes with a lazy hand.

“To practice and then come back here.” I threw some water in my face and grabbed my baseball glove from the closet. The leather was stiff from disuse.

“Beesball?” Elena laughed aloud. “You never play beesball.”

“I am tonight.” I pounded my fist into the glove and swung my right arm over my head. Several shoulder muscles agreed with Elena and promised pain, if I pushed them too hard. I kissed the dancer on the lips. Hers were bruised from last night. Mine were just as sore.

“I’ll see you later.”

“If I am not practicing dance.” She taught an afternoon class next door in the art school. Normally I watched her from my rear window. Elena traced a finger down the side of my face. “I want to see you look at me.”

Shivers flashed down the marrow of my spine. Elena was getting under my skin and the slender girl was trouble, because being faithful to one man wasn’t in her gypsy blood.

"I'll see you later."

I left my apartment.

Sunday's weather was a repeat of Saturday. A cold drizzle slicked the streets and drops of rain dotted the sidewalks. I arrived at James Walker Park expecting to be the only one there, but was surprised to find the whole crew. This game was becoming serious and I crouched behind home plate.

Arthur pitched batting practice. I hit five balls off the fences. Georg snagged my grounders with ease and Nick the Dick snatched errant throws with his condor wingspan. Scottie coached Big Joel with the bat. Kalline hit the ball where they ain’t on the field. Doctor Bob struggled with high flyballs. Kilmer and Ray Wood made out in the stands. Sunny had a bet that they were in love. She was so right that no one took her odds at 5-1.

At 7:30 Arthur called it quits. The doors of the Milk Bar opened at 8. I was glad to be off on Sundays and headed back to my apartment and bought Chinese take-out. I sat on the window sill with a bowl on my lap. Elena swirled across the floor in school across the alley. She was a better show than TV.

For the next few evenings the Milk Bar team practiced on the ball field between other games. Arthur bargained for the time with free drinks to the teams scheduled to play. 30 minutes wasn’t much, but it was more productive than drinking at the bar.

On Thursday night the pseudo-twin bartenders from O’Sheas scouted us. Both ridiculed at Scottie’s batting lessons with Big Joel.

When I pointed them out to Arthur, he walked over to the pair with my partner. Big Joel's vodou scowl dissolved their mirth and they fled the park in a hurry.

“Milk Bar, Milk Bar,” the girls shouted from the dug-out.

Our game was in five days.

The next night Georg and I rode uptown on my motorcycle to catch an O’Sheas away game against an Upper West Side bar in Central Park. Both teams wore on spotless uniforms and cleats. The Milk Bar would be playing in sneakers.

Their curvy cheerleaders belonged in DEBBI DOES DALLAS. Old Jim walked over to us with three players behind him. They had bats on their shoulders.

I stood my ground.

“You’re the little runt’s sidekick. Robin, Batman’s fag.”

That line earned a good laugh from his players. I wasn’t thinking about a funny come-back, but grabbing a baseball bat and smacking his head into the outfield.

I counted to 10 instead.

“What’s wrong? Can’t speak.” His hand went to the mustache. Old Jim actually thought that the pussyduster looked good on him.

“Nothing wrong,” I spoke soft and slow, eyeing the tallest of his team. A boot to his knee would put him on the permanent disabled list.

“I did a little research on your boss. Not the runt, but the real one. I read that he wore the wire against the police. A lot of them lost their jobs. In my book we can him a snitch.”

After the murderous reign of the Westies had been broken up by the arrest of Jimmy Featherstone, a gang of twisted cops assumed control over the Irish gang’s territory. The uniformed arm-breakers had been involved in protection, loansharking, and robbery. Every bar and nightclub on the West Side had donated to their weekly fund. They were not good people. Arthur did what he had to do. I didn’t have to make any excuses for him to a man with a silly mustache.

“You weren’t there.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you don’t know shit.”

A loud thonk broke the tension and Old Jim turned his head to the field. The ball was soaring in the air. It disappeared into the trees. O’Sheas was up 3-0.

“I know one thing, Robin. That boy played in the Cape Cod league. He can hit the hell out of the ball. What position are you playing?”

“Catcher.” My knees were shot from the decades of basketball on the city courts.

“Then Robin will have a good view of the game.” Old Jim cocked his head and returned to the dugout. One of his players pointed his finger at me. It meant 'after the game'.

“Tough team.” Georg knew his baseball.

“You think we have a chance?”

Another thonk of the bat and the score was 4-0.

“On a scale from 1 to 100 with 100 being the best.” Georg could call pitches without seeing the catcher’s signals. “I have to give us a 5.”

“Don’t tell Arthur or Scottie or any of the girls about this.”

They deserved to live in hope. Despair would come soon after the first pitch on Sunday. It was only three days away.

Friday and Saturday were peerless days of summer in the high 80s.

Arthur’s wife surprised us with tee-shirts and hats. They had numbers on the back. I grabbed # 4 for Bobby Orr. I was a Boston fan in all sports.

Saturday night the bar was packed with anyone who didn’t have a place in the Hamptons. Those people out East weren’t our crowd. The girls poured double-shots. Elena and her fellow dancers from Billy’s arrived in cheerleader outfits. Victory was a dream for tonight, but the agony of defeat loomed large for tomorrow.

I had already inked an L on my permanent record.

The next afternoon Elena shook me awake. I didn’t remember coming home. My head felt like William Tell had missed the apple and the arrow was stuck in my forehead.

“What time is it?”

“5:30.” Elena was in her high school cheerleader outfit. Without make-up she passed for jailbait. “You have to get up.”

“We’re not going to play in that.” I looked out the living room window.

Thunder boomed out a homage to Rip Van Winkle’s bowler along the Hudson River and rain slobbered down from a coal black sky.

“It will stop raining soon.” Elena threw me the Milk Bar shirt and my glove.

“How do you know?” I had fought too many fights. Flexing my knuckles predicted the weather. No cracking indicated that Elena might be right.

“Because I feel it in my blood. Get dressed.”

Arguing with a gypsy about nature was a losing proposition and I climbed out of bed. Elena practiced her cheerleader routine to ROCK ME AMADEUS. She tapped her wrist. She wasn't wearing a watch, but I got the message and showered in three minutes. We were out the door in ten.

The rain was a drizzle by the time we reached the West Village and the clouds cleared for the evening sun, as we arrived at the park on Leroy Street.

the clock tower of a nearby church rung six times.

It was game time.

O’Sheas had commandeered the home-field dugout. Their team resembled a casting call for a soap commercial. Each of them was better-looking that the other and a self-absorbed narcissism beamed from perfect teeth. Their cheering squad consisted of Stepford Wives versions of the boys on the field with lustrous Farrah Fawcett hair shining in the sunset light. The stands behind their dugout was packed with regulars, who waved signs saying GO O’SHEAS.

The Milk Bar team sat on the right-field bench.

Sunny and Kalline had shredded their tee-shirts. They were bra-less underneath. Arthur's wife and very young daughter sat in the stands. Dahlia begged her mother to let her do the same to her shirt. Colleen said no.

Arthur had torn the sleeves from his tee-shirt. Ray-Bans hung off his nose. Someone had to wear the pants in the family.

Elena kissed me and joined the girls from Billy’s a Go-Go to lead a cheer laced with curses.

Coolers of beer lined the wall. Kilmer handed out ice-cold Heinekens to our supporters. Ray Wood made sure none of them went to the O’Sheas backers. Georg was the only player with cleats. Griffbag had a boombox set up with speakers and popped in ROCKAWAY BEACH by the Ramones.

“Oh, oh, here comes trouble.” Griffbag looked over my shoulder

Big Joel strode up to the end of the bench. A thick-ended bat rested over his shoulder. He wore a straw porkpie hat, dark glasses, and a blue denim shirt over the Milk Bar tee-shirt. The uniform was pure Ton Ton Macoute, the death squad of Papa Doc.

“Joel, what are you doing?”

“I am the secret weapon.” He glowered at the nearest O’Sheas player. The Calvin Klein model wannabe dropped his eyes to the ground.

Big Joel laughed from his chest.

“Vodou not voodoo. I’m Haitian, remember.”

I checked his outfit for dolls with pins. His girlfriend lifted her bag. There was no telling what Darlene was carrying in it.

“Heads up, boys and girls, it’s game time.” Arthur walked onto the field and the referee from the Parks Department called for the captains. Old Bill met him at home plate. His mustache drooped in the humidity.

“Visitors get the call.” The ref had been at our bar until closing. His eyes were a nice color red.

“What call?”

“Who bats first.”

“We’re the home team.” Old Bill whined in protest.

“This is Jimmy Walker Park. Beau James was my kind of mayor.” Arthur surveyed the park. “I don’t see your name anywhere.”

"You lost the coin toss the other night. Heads."

The ref caught the quarter and turned to Arthur. "Heads it is. What you want?"

“We’ll bat last.”

“You heard the man.” The ref hiked his thumb over his shoulder at Old Jim. “Batter up.

Our team scattered over the field.

I crouched behind the plate and pulled on the catcher’s mask. Arthur underhanded a few practice throws. They struck my mitt with force. He nodded to the ref and O'Shea's 1st baseman strode to home plate. It was the guy with the finger.

“Hello, Batman. Suck Batman’s dick lately?”

“Keep it clean.” The ref warned him and said to me, “And you don’t lose your temper. It’s only a game.”

Arthur’s pitch tweaked to the left or right and he sent the first batter down on two swings. The second batter popped up to Griffbag. The third batter swung at the first pitch. The ball screamed off his bat into centerfield. Georg caught it with both hands. He wasn’t a showboat.

It was our ups.

Kalline led off for the Milk Bar. Old Jim underestimated her. It wasn’t hard with her wearing a torn tee-shirt and black leather hotpants. She banged his first pitch into deep center and Kalline reached 2nd base standing.

“Milk Bar, Milk Bar.” Our crowd cheered in the stands.

“You’re next.” Arthur clapped my shoulder.

I picked up a bat designed for speed of the swing. I planted my feet in the dirt and studied the defense. They were playing back and to the left. Someone had seen me hitting in practice and I adjusted my stance to hit into the right-field gap.

The first pitch was a strike. The next two were called balls. I lined up a low toss between 1st and 2nd. The 1st baseman leapt to his right and snagged it by the tip of his glove. I was out.

Elena yelled something in Roma.

It wasn’t a love call.

“Way to go, Robin.” Old Jim punched his fist in the air.

“What’s with the Robin shit?” Arthur grabbed the bat from my hand.

I explained in twenty words or less and Arthur mumbled, “Forget about it. We’ll make him pay somewhere down the line.”

Old Jim struck out Griffbag and Tommie White Trash squibbed the first pitch to short. He was out at first.

“I told you not to swing at the first pitch.” Kalline cursed him for not driving her home. She was tougher than she looked by a long shot.

“Keep it down. The score is still 0-0.” Arthur cautioned in the dug-out. “We got five more innings to go.”

We celebrated the score with beer. O’Sheas was playing straight. We ran onto the field with beers in our hands. The temperature lingered in the high 80s and the evening air was muggy as a weight-watchers’ sauna.

The ball didn’t travel far off the bat, but Old Jim had spotted our weakness in right. Doctor Bob had finished a double shift on the psycho ward and his eyes were at half-mast.

They scored three runs in the top of the 2nd. The bases were loaded and their rally could have become a rout, except the their man on third tried to steal home. Georg peppered the ball to the plate and I tagged out the runner. Old Jim challenged the play, but the ref pointed to the black polish on the ball.

“Old Jim.” I tossed him the disputed ball.

“What?” He was playing with his mustache like it was a giant hair sprouting from his nostril.

“You ain’t no Rollie Fingers.” His mustache was a homage to Oakland’s ace reliever. “Wait till my next at bat.”

“Fuck you. Robin.”

“Nice language, loser.” I was under his skin and continued the verbal assault throughout the next two innings.

Arthur’s pitching kept us in the game, but they scored another run off a long shot to left. Nick the Dick saved the inning with a graceful gazelle leap off the bag to snag a sharply hit ball.

We returned to the dugout with empties. Griffbag cued up AC/DC. Old Jim complained about the music. Sunny told him to shove it. Passers-by floated into the park and sat on the Milk Bar bench. Free beer bought their loyalty. The cheerleaders from O’Sheas were glomming beer too. The night was sucking sweat from everyone with a vampirish thirst.

Old Bill tried to stop them.

“No beer-drinking during games.”

“This isn’t for the league. It’s just a game,” said one of the pseudo-twins.

I handed them two cold ones.

“Let’s play ball.”

Sunny ran out a punt and Tommie swung on the very next pitch. The short bobbled the play and we had runners on the corners. Arthur came to the plate without taking off his shades and pointed to the right-field fence.

“You think you’re the Babe.” Old Jim directed his outfield to shift to right.

“I’m a Yankee fan. I could be anyone. Maris, Jackson, or Bucky Dent.”

I groaned at the mention of that name, but Arthur caught them off-guard and hit a zinger over the 3rd baseman into left.

Sunny scored easily with Tommie and Arthur stuck on 2nd and 3rd. Scottie popped up to the catcher and Doctor Bob struck out.

“I’m shot.” He retired to the beer cooler.

Scottie signaled for Ray Wood to take Doctor Bob’s place in the next inning, as he stood in the batter’s box.

“Batman the runt.” Old Bill was feeling good about himself. No one had ever called him a bad name.

“Batting with the scoring run at the plate.” Scottie dug into the dirt and spit in his hands. He looked like he played every day. “Let’s see your stuff.”

The next two pitches were called strikes, then Scottie fouled off three pitches. The count was full. Elena and her girls chanted, "Batman, Batman."

Their outfits were wet with perspiration and it was obvious that none of them were wearing anything, but tattoos underneath their uniforms.

The next pitch railed straight down the pike and Scottie struck the ball with the sweet of the bat. It missiled direct back at Old Jim. He put up his glove a little too late and the ball smacked him in the forehead. He dropped on his back and the ball fell to the ground right before the 2nd baseman. Tommie and Arthur crossed the plate and we were within one run.


Old Jim was a shadow after that at-bat.

He walked Kalline and me, but Nick the Dick tried to be too much of a hero and the 3rd baseman caught a sky-high foul.

Still it had been a good inning.

Maybe too good, because the next inning was a debacle.

O’Sheas ran the batting order and we were down 9-3. Our bodies were sapped by the 4th inning's final out and Big Joel said, “Now time for me to do magic?”

“Not yet.” Arthur was massaging his right shoulder.

“When, man, when?” Big Joel's hands clenched the bat hard enough for sawdust to seethe from his grip.

“I’ll let you know.”

The ref called us to the bat. It was three up and three down with two innings left to play.

O’Sheas prepared to celebrate and their players came over to get some beers. Nick the Dick wasn’t going to give them spit, but Doctor Bob said, “I’m a doctor. These boys need some liquid or else they might get heat stroke. I have to obey my Hippocratic oath.”

“Bullshit.” Nick slammed his glove on the ground and left the park to score blow in Soho. He was the kind of asshole that nobody cared enough about other than Arthur.

“It takes all kinds.” Arthur handed the beers to the opposing players.

They thanked him, saying they would take it easy on us.

“Get away from those fags,” Old Jim shouted at the top of his lungs.

His players muttered under their breath and returned to their dug-out.

Arthur turned to Big Joel.

“Looks like it’s your time, big man.”

“Oh, man, I am going to kill that ball.” Big Joel strode to the plate.

“Not yet. You have to bat in order.”

“Seys who?”

Scottie explained the rules to Big Joel. The Haitian didn’t take the news well and broke the bat before storming toward the ref. Darlene grabbed his arm and he stopped like a bull with its nose ring stuck on a stump. She waved her finger at his face and s he sat on the bench, she winked at us and said, “Everything is going to be all right.”

We lucked out with a run in the 5th. Doctor Bob and Elena brought more beer to the O’Sheas dug-out.

Old Bill drank two.

It was so hot that I felt like the marrow had been ironed out of my bones.

Doctor Bob offered me a little cocktail.

“What’s in it?” President Reagan’s wife had been telling America to ‘Just Say No’. She was preaching to the wrong section of the choir, for we all sang alto.

“A little this and a little that.”

“Just what the doctor ordered.” Arthur nodded with appreciation. If he liked it, so would the rest of us.

We ran onto the field with a renewed spirit.

Old Jim wavered at the plate and popped up to me. The next two batters reached base, but Arthur caught the one from the Cape Cod League napping at 1st and walked over to the bag to tag him out. The next at bat was the guy who pointed his finger at me. He slurred out something indecipherable and I looked over my shoulder to the ref at the plate.

“Too much beer.”

Arthur put him out of his misery in three pitches and the O”Sheas team lurched off the field.

Elena’s girls from the go-go bars put on a show to WALK THIS WAY by Run-DMC and I sidled up to Doctor Bob.

“What did you put in their beer?” Poisoning was a felony.

“A little of this and a little of that.” Doctor Bob eyed the tall redhead from Billie’s A Go-Go, who beckoned to him with long fingers. “Nothing dangerous. They’ll live.”

“Will they finish this inning.”

“As long as you make it quick.”

And quick was how we scored our runs. Kalline bunted to the 3rd baseman. He slipped on the grass.

“Old Jim, anyone tell you that mustache is out of date?”

“Fuck you, Robin.”

“No, fuck you.”

I stroked a shot to centerfield. It was going out of the park until hitting a tree. The ref called it a ground-rule double.

I wasn’t Robin any more.

Ray Wood knocked in Kalline. Sunny was called out on strikes. Old Jim was throwing batting practice. Tommie hit the first home run of the game.

The score was 9-7.

Arthur and Scottie reached base.

With men on 1st and 2nd Arthur pointed to Big Joel.

Old Jim shook off his torpor and shouted, "No batter."

"I not bat. I break the ball." Big Joel stood at the plate like a man waiting for the subway to Brooklyn.

“All we need is one out,” Old Jim called out from the mound, almost losing his balance.

“Big Joel,” I shouted from the dug-out. “This one is for your babies.”

Big Joel threw off the hat and glasses. He ripped the denim shirt from his chest. He wasn’t playing for Papa Doc, but the Milk Bar. Darlene screamed at him in patois. He was her Bondye and she was his Euzulie Freda. Griffbag cued up BURNIN AND LOOTIN’. He didn’t have any Haitian mizik rasin in his cases.

“Easy batter.” The O’Sheas cheerleaders chanted in Haitian patois. “Him so big.”

I looked to Doctor Bob and he shook his head. No one was getting lucky with those two girls tonight, unless the girls wanted to be lucky.

Old Jim regained his form.

The ball zinged across the plate.

Big Joel watched it without moving.

“Strike one.”

“Big Joel, just swing the bat,” Scottie shouted from the dugout.

“I know how to swing de bat and I know when.” Big Joel sat on the next pitch.

“Strike two.”

The Milk Bar was down to one swing and Big Joel turned around to blow a kiss to Darleen.

“This one is for you.”

Old Bill threw the fastball and Big Joel swung his bat.

No one saw the ball leave his bat.

No one saw it clear the trees or soar over the buildings across the street.

No one saw it land wherever it landed.

It was like the Empire State Building turning out the lights.

Something that happened whether you saw it or not.

We swarmed onto the field and greeted Big Joel crossing home plate.

"We win?"

"Yes, we win."

“Drinks at the Milk Bar,” Arthur shouted with his arms raised over his head.

“Half price,” Kilmer added, but nobody heard the blonde manager. It was a night for deaf ears.

The players from O’Sheas confronted Doctor Bob about the beers.

"All is fair in love and baseball."

They accepted the loss, since it wasn't on their permanent record.

Kilmer and Ray Wood disappeared for an hour.

When they returned red-faced, we had the answer where.

Kalline and Sunny served double shots. Tommie drank straight bourbon. Griffbag spun SEX MACHINE by Sly Stone and James Brown back to back to back. Big Joel left early with Darlene. The bat went with him. Scottie and I toasted each other with tequila.

He wasn’t a drinker, so I downed them both. The police came downstairs in uniform to congratulate our victory. Two of them worked the door for me and let in everyone, even Wall Streeters, but only for a price. My cut was 30%.

Arthur sat in the back with his wife. He looked at us repressing a smile.

Somehow the Damned Yankee fan had pulled out a miracle and I went over to him.

“Good win.”

“All wins are good and so are some of the losses. Now get back to having a good time, before I say something about your Red Sox.” Arthur could be a hard man when it came to the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. That comment about Bucky Dent hadn’t been aimed at Old Jim, but me.

“Sure, Arthur, sure.”

I walked away to join Elena, because Arthur understood not one game is only a game.

They all are just a game.