Table of |
East 110th Street, 1971
It was your first day back after a three-month bid at Rikers.
I was glad to see some meat on your bones, your body clean
from Devil Dope.
I was glad to do shots with you: Bacardi, Don Q, Palo Viejo,
glad to do a hit of coca, and take turns dancing with the bare-
foot barmaid with a tongue tattooed between her breasts.
When a half hour went by and you didn't return from the can,
I found you on your knees among crumpled hand wipes, tid-
bits of toilet paper, a syringe stuck in the center of your arm.
I shook your shoulders until a black goop like fish roe
ran out of your nose, then dug out a dime from your
change pocket and went to make a phone call.
WEDDING AT THE PEOPLE'S CHURCH, 1975
West 4th Street, Manhattan
The bride's father is a colonel in the Marine Corps.
His daughter, wears Viet Cong pajamas, reads from
the pulpit a 15-page excerpt from Friedrich Engels'
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
The groom's father is a Jewish wholesale meat
salesman specializing in pig livers and pig bellies.
His son dons a Mao suit and puts out Hawaiian
Punch, quarts of Old Milwaukee and Gallo Port.
The Colonel pulls out a bottle of Chivas Regal
from under a table for his family and fellow officers.
The groom goes into the streets and summons
members of the destitute classes to join the party.
A homeless wino spits out the punch, spraying the
bride, when he realizes it's non-alcoholic.
I don't know how Jason stayed sober. For years he'd been a falling-down drunk, and co-workers at the mental hospital would find him passed out on the grounds even before his shift started. Fed up with his chronic lateness and absenteeism, the hospital administration was about to can him. Then, without AA, rehab or even detox, he quit drinking and never touched the hard stuff again. Keeping his room above the Patriot Bar, he still hung out with all his former drinking partners below. He laughed, threw darts, shot pool while sipping his ginger ale. After he died from a sudden heart attack, I went to the Patriot to ask his buddies if they knew a place Jason really loved where I could scatter his ashes. "Sheepshead Bay," they said, "Jason loved to go fishing there." They told me to come to the bar at 4:30 Sunday morning and they would drive me. I got there on time and these guys were already knocking back boilermakers—to them it was breakfast. They drove me to Sheepshead Bay, baited my hook and showed me how to cast. I sprinkled Jason's ashes onto the receding tide. Then I caught a flounder, which the guys gutted and I ate for dinner. It was like my brother gave me a tasty filet to remember the day.