Tuesday, June 30, 2015
You can feel New York City, on the verge of a holiday, begin to empty. At first, it’s almost imperceptible, like a slow leak in one of your rear tires. Then, after awhile, you began to notice. The car might pull a little to the right or left. Still not enough to get out and look, but slowly it creeps into your consciousness. Traffic patterns are off; pedestrians seem a bit more determined to get somewhere; there’s a slight suggestion that one or two people out of nine million are gone and suddenly a vista opens where before there were forms and flesh. The city becomes lighter; you feel lighter. Hmm, you say, somethins up.
Shit, of course, it’s the 4th. Am I stupid, or what? Get the hell out. Leave, and leave me my city. Mmm, Chinatown, the piers, ships, water, Chinatown, Cafe La Fortuna, espresso, cheesecake, mmm, yes. Life can be so grand. Fuck it, I’ll call in sick, fuckem, fuckit. Yes.
I felt “giddy,” if “giddy” was a word that ever could be applied to me. From the moment of my realization, to the moment of decision to call in sick, I began to cruise the streets of Manhattan without the usual compulsion and pressure that accompanied me. I had no particular destination, my eyes began to decompress and my breathing, aside from the heaviness of a lifetime of smoking, became easier. The passengers I picked up presented not a problem, even while their tipping conjured up images of torture and death of the worst kind, they were bracketed by my own good will and humor. Drivers still made the dumbest of moves, changing lanes without looking--almost as if they thought they were beyond physics and probabilities. (God bless them, I thought). They shot left hand turns from the extreme right hand lane. (Sure, go ahead); stopped in the middle of intersections and tried to creep next to the opposite curb before getting killed by some irate truck driver or greaser, (Good luck, brother); and then there were those whose heads barely came up to the steering wheel who were the most frightening. Am I in Florida? I asked myself. Connecticut, maybe? Death driven missiles going up and down the eastern seaboard and in dense, overpopulated areas-- but maybe not overpopulated for long! Yet nothing, short of a head on collision with death, would have altered the sense of joy I was feeling. Though, beyond the obvious, I couldn’t tell you why. Whatever place offered itself up to me because of this exodus, I knew I would be going and doing without the usual throng of New York City’s humanity.
I had just swerved to avoid a bike messenger who looked back at me like it was my fault. Maybe it was? It pushed me into the extreme left lane on Third Avenue, and into a fare. She was tall, a bit overweight, and fumbling with packages. She barely had her wrist protruding from her bags, but I saw her meaning easy enough. I glided to a stop.
“You want to put those in the trunk?” I asked.
“Yes, that would help,” she replied, a faint whiff of sarcasm in her voice.
I put my emergency flashers on, opened the trunk, got out and helped her unburden herself. The heat of the day had caused her to perspire to such an extent that her face glistened. Her blouse was darkly etched with splotches of sweat, mostly underneath her arms, and in the small of her back. I took one package after the next and put them in the trunk. She took one of her hands and shielded the sun from her eyes as she took me in. “Thank you,” she finally said, “not many drivers do that these days.”
I didn’t say anything as I closed the trunk, stepped around her, and got back into the cab. “Where to?” I asked, after she closed the door.
“Downtown, near Wall Street.”
“You mind if I take the F.D.R., it’s quicker?”
“No, by all means. Once we’re off the Drive I’ll direct you from there.”
“Sure,” I said. Even when I knew the address, I would much prefer them to direct me. This way, if there was traffic, construction, or anything that slowed us down, they couldn’t say shit. I was going crosstown, heading for the entrance to the Drive on 65th Street.
“Usually I have a driver. I mean, my firm does. But I forgot that this is the Fourth of July weekend and by the time my turn came, the big big bosses reserved them all.”
“I know, whatareyagonnado?” I replied. The more she talked, the less I liked her.
“You don’t look like a cab driver...Charles.”
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her craning her neck to read my name off the license that every cabbie was required to post, facing the passengers.
“Yeah, well, The world is full of shipping clerks who have read The Harvard Classics.
“Mmm. I like that Charles.”
“Me, too, I wish I’d written it.”
“Are you a writer?”
“I’m a writer--when I write. When I don’t write, I’m a cab driver, or whatever it is I’m doing at the moment.”
The streets and buildings whizzed by, dripping pellets of water from the air-conditioners that hit the pavement or bushes from on high. Soon we would be entering the Drive. Almost over, I said to myself.
“Bukowski wrote that, didn’t he?” she asked, but I knew she already knew the answer.
“Yes, Buk wrote it.”
“Which work was it from?” she asked, but I knew she knew that as well.
“It was an epigraph to a book of his poems, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.”
“Oh yes, of course. I always thought he was a better poet.”
So did I, but I didn’t respond.
“My name is Lilith, by the way.”
“Nice to meetcha, Lilith.” I would have preferred to be quiet on this ride. The water and movement of the car was all I needed to relax for a few minutes. It gave me time to think about nothing in particular, and everything in general.
“Who else do you like?”
Her question brought me back from my brief respite. “Huh?” was all I was able to manage to say.
“Who are some of the other writers you like? Where were you just now?”
“I never know how to answer that--either question. I just like who I like...and been where I was.”
“Me too!” she almost shouted out. “Maybe we’ll get to that other question later. But let me guess, and not only limited to writers alright?”
It was too late; I was trapped. “Fire away,” I said. I was in the left hand lane, doing about fifty, easing my way around the 23rd Street curve.
She was right on the money with most, but some of the painters she mentioned I didn’t know who the hell they were.
I turned off the Drive, below The Brooklyn Bridge.
“Make a left here and then another left on Maiden Lane. I’m a few blocks from there.”
I took a left.
“How old are you?’ she asked.
“Me, of course.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“I could take real good care of you for awhile, then you’d die and I’d still be young enough to go on, find another, maybe not like you, but find another I would.”
“That’s reassuring.” Her conversation was making me nervous, but I wanted company of the female sort and, from what I could see from my rear view mirror, she was not at all bad looking. Now, if I could somehow stem her flow of words... She directed me to her building, a big apartment complex that fitted in with all the other concrete monstrosities in the area.
“O.K. my dear, that will be fourteen seventy, and I’ll help you with your packages.”
“Have dinner with me tonight? Don’t say, ‘no’ because I know you’re not doing anything.”
“How do you know that?”
“Are you doing anything tonight?”
“No, I’m not.”
“I’ll pick up the check, I promise, and not for any feminine power crap, but just because I’m in a position to, and you’re not. No strings, either.”
“Where and when?” I quickly said.
She gave me the name of the place, address and time, paid the fare with a healthy tip added on, and left the cab. I opened the trunk, but by that time her doorman had come to assist her. I stayed where I was and watched her walk to the entrance of her building. Flat Jewish ass, I said to myself, my mother had one, most of the Jewish babes I knew growing up had one, most of the Jewish girls I knew, period, had one. But she was tall, even if a bit overweight, good-looking in this intense Jewish way, and she was picking up the tab. Hell, what the hell?
I put my OFF DUTY light on, feeling as if I had just resigned--at least for the next four days--from the world, and made it back to my cab company where I told the alternate dispatcher that I wasn’t feeling too well and doubted that I could make it in tomorrow. He mumbled that he was sorry, which was all the commiseration I could expect from him, but he was quick to inform me that he couldn’t give me back my eighty-five bucks for the shift. I asked whether he could apply it towards next weeks payment.
“No can do,” he stated.
“Chinese, huh?” I replied, but didn’t wait for his answer.
From my novel, THE TROUBLE WITH DREAMS
© 2015 Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
wear a thong,
bikinis, or Speedo's.
They should never
smoke a cigarette,
or drink anything
Without a doubt
should never be
able to pull
or anything else
that resembles a dick.
Keep them away
from the kitchen;
hide the pens
or pencils or
scrapes of paper;
they should never
to anything more
than the dark side
I say this
there will be
musings, but not
Greenwich Village, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
It’s a noble thing to drive a cab in New York City, unless you happen to be the one doing it. You haven’t really lived until you line up next to Hajjii and Sheik, Dominico, Lesbetina, and the rest of the world’s poor and beleaguered. They understood, as only the poor do, that they had to work twelve hour days, six or seven days a week, without falling down dead in order to survive the day to day, week to week, month to month, American grind; thinking in years, well, was unthinkable.
The smells of goat meat, red beans swimming in an unknowable meat mixture, and what might be some illegally fresh killed rooster, floated around my head as I waited for a cab to be assigned to me. Each of my fellow drivers held cell phones, and most were on them already, though their conversations at four fifteen in the morning were a mystery to me. Most things in this life had remained a mystery to me.
Here I was, a few years past sixty, parts of my body dead or in the process of dying, trying to summon up enough strength to turn the key in the ignition and get on with the day.
“Fortune!” the man behind the raised glass partition bellowed.
“Yeah, here, right here.”
“You drew her again, Fortune, ol’ number thirteen,” he said. He looked down at me and smiled. I could see the stain of a hundred thousand cigarettes and decades of bad dental care.
“Christ, that shit box is falling apart; you give me that car every goddamn time you’re on. Why is that? You got a hardon for me, or what?”
“Figure it out, Fortune. You want the keys or not?” He started to sing, Come Rain Or Come Shine: I’m gonna love ya, like nobody’s loved ya,... with as much gusto as he could summon. The others in the room barely noticed. Very few of them knew the song to begin with, but they, too, probably breathed a sigh of relief knowing that “ol’ number thirteen” had already been assigned to someone else.
I knew why Calloway, that mick cocksucker, gave me thirteen all the time: I didn’t grease him. I didn’t let any of the money I broke my ass earning, slip into his whiskey fingers. I knew most, if not all, of the other drivers, slipped him a few bucks, but I’d be goddamned if I’d give him a solitary cent. I’d rather die of bone cancer. I took the keys and the trip sheet from the mouth of the window, went over to a table, scribbled my name, social security number and hack license on it, then went into the darkness.
The fleet I was working for had about seventy cabs, but they never told you where any of them were parked. Your cab could either be in the lot--which was always highly doubtful--or anywhere on the block. It was especially fun when it rained.
You could no longer smoke in cabs, so I lit a cigarette once outside. I did better in 1972 when I first drove a Checker cab, and you could do just about anything in them. Back then you drove an eight hour day, got forty-nine percent of the meter, and all the tips you made. You just brought the cab back, filled out your trip log and split. You didn’t have to pay for gas, repairs, or anything else. Now, you had to buy shifts up front. You had to work either day on the weekends and any other shifts you chose. The tab was a hundred a day during the week, eighty-five on Saturday or Sunday, plus gas. The owners of the fleet pretended they were psychiatrists: you missed an appointment you paid regardless.
The weather was oppressive. My sneakers stuck to the sticky gravel and pebbles; pits the owners never bothered to fill as a result of rain, snow, traffic, or random killings. I scraped them off when I hit the street. My underarms had already begun to perspire.
New York City streets, even at this hour of the morning, still had a certain buzz to them. If you knew where to go, where the after hour clubbers and revelers never had enough, you’d make a couple of bucks between the hours of four and seven, when your regulars emerged.
“Hey Charlie, you lookin for thirteen?” our black mechanic said to me as I was crossing the street. He laughed and let loose a stream of spit from his mouth. He wore a black Fedora and a guinea t-shirt and greasy stained chinos held up by a pair of suspenders.
“What else, man?”
“She’s down the block, on the right. He sure stickin it right up your ass, man.”
“The only thing he’s gonna come out with is a hand full of shit. Maybe I’ll just kick his ass one day, just for the hell of it.”
“He nasty, that sonofabitch is.”
“So am I.”
I wasn’t nasty. I wasn’t near nasty. But you can’t tell too many people that. Besides, I’d grown up on the hard scrabble streets of Brooklyn, with a father who loved boxing and violence. I’d been no stranger to verbal intimidation and even though my first reaction was to choke and stew for a very long time, I’d erupted now and again. I’d also learned that your foes will either know or find out soon enough if you are to be feared or respected. Nobody had ever made another person or group cross the street because he was tough with his craft or his art.
“Have a good one,” was all Curtis said, as I shuffled off down the block. “You, too,” I called back over my shoulder as I made off to find my home for the next twelve hours. But it wasn’t really twelve hours. By the time you found your cab and began your day, until the time you had to bring her back, which usually shaved an hour off your shift, you really clocked ten hours and change. They had you by the balls.
My wife had me by the balls, too, even though she was no longer my wife. She cut out on me well over three years ago. “I can’t take it anymore,” was what she said. “I need to find out who the hell I am, but living with you and your problems, makes that impossible. I’m miserable. You’re miserable. We’re miserable. I’m going.” And she did. Quickly. But I still loved her. I thought about her constantly. There wasn’t a block I could go down, a corner I could turn, a morning, afternoon or evening that I didn’t think of the times we spent together and what she was doing now. I thought that driving a cab would help. To an extent it did. But there was a void in my chest that nothing would fill, and that was that.
I’d met her when she was a kid freshly arrived from Japan, with stars in her eyes and dreams in her heart. Over the course of many years living with me, I’m sure I’d extinguished quite a few of them.
When I’d seen that she was falling in love with me, I tried to tell her that this wouldn’t last. Our age difference was too large; I was too moody, too set in my ways, too much the fool, too many physical illnesses to fade, too many compulsions. But me, being the fool I am, let it go on. Let it go on--until I’d fallen madly in love with her.
Why don’t you eat my pussy? she asked me one evening. I looked up at her from the narcotic mist I’d been under for well over a year. I was taking legally prescribed percocets for a diabetic ulceration, but I had embellished just how much “pain” I was in, and was given an amount which far exceeded my needs, except my emotional ones.
Eat your pussy? I innocently asked. Well, it never crossed my mind.
Why not? I love how you eat my pussy. I love to cum when you eat my pussy. I know what you’re going through, but I’m going through hell, too.
Shit, I don’t know, it never crossed my mind, I repeated, wearing this glazed stupefied expression. I’ve never just satisfied a woman that way.
You mean you don’t want to satisfy a woman when you’re not being satisfied. When there’s nothing in it for you, then there’s simply nothing in it for anyone, is that it?
“Where to, folks?” I’d picked up a fare outside a famous lounge, Butterfield 8, the name of the bungalow that Howard Hughes had stayed in at The Beverly Hills Hotel decades ago, and the name of the movie with Elizabeth Taylor playing a prostitute. The three in my cab reminded me of neither. They were young, still smelling of piss. They also reeked from the vodka they’d consumed. It filled the cab with a sweet, sickly smell; it made me slightly nauseous.
“Can we smoke?” a chick in the back asked. A razor thin girl with bad skin.
“Sorry,” I said, “if I get caught, it costs me a days’ pay.”
“Don’t worry,” the kid said, “I’ll pay whatever it costs.”
“Hey, that’s cool,” I responded, “give me a hundred and ten up front and smoke to your heart’s content. In fact, if you do that, I might smoke one, too.”
He kept his hands out of his pockets and just gave me three different destinations for my passengers, but the hour was early, the traffic light. The fare came to twelve dollars and change. He gave me fifteen and departed. “Thanks,” I said. If he heard that, which I doubted, he didn’t acknowledge it. Most fares I’d picked up didn’t acknowledge much of anything, or make anything that could pass for conversation, unlike the first time I drove when people weren’t as isolated or removed from their immediate reality by cell phones, Walkmen, and iPods...
I shot back downtown to where the only action was at this time of day. You could line up at one of the major hotels and try to get a fare to the airport, if you were willing to wait on a taxi line. Waiting was never one of my strong suits. And, as far as waiting at an airport for a return fair: forget about that. That was torture. You’d wait up to two, three hours and then maybe, maybe, you’d get a fare back into Manhattan, rather than a “shortie” into Queens or Brooklyn. No thanks. Not for me.
The Meat Market. For years, besides being the distribution center for all the meat that gets into the restaurants, supermarkets, and specialty stores of Manhattan, it was the stomping grounds of transvestite and transsexual hookers who provided the quick back seat blowjob for the cabbie, truck driver, and the upper to middle class Joe on their ways home to their lock jawed wives in New Jersey. This neighborhood had become too trendy for the girls to freely market their trade as they had done in years past. Clubs, boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and a hotel with no name, had sprouted on the streets, and provided eyes that disapproved of the independent, but sordid business, of the girls. There were unarticulated parameters for “the hip” to step through the velvet rope. Only on the weekends during the summer, when the cognoscenti were safely sequestered in The Hamptons were the bridge and tunnel crowd welcomed.
Most of the streets were cobblestone and slick with the embedded smell of blood, of decades of livestock, hooked and spun into the fluorescent glow of the butcher’s cleaver. Wait long enough in New York City and it will all come to where you are, whether you want it to or not.
Second Avenue was empty. I sped downtown. In a few minutes time I stood before Lotus, a club known for its meat market “hipness,” and watched as a group of “new swells” hung out, near the curb. Puffing on cigarettes, puking, gazing into the neon ether of street lamps, they tried to decide where to go: home, to another party, destination, open stool, promise or hope? Just give me a fare, I thought. A fucking fare. Hopefully uptown. Ten to twenty bucks. Fuck the tip. Who cared? Each buck earned was mine, tip or not.
The manager--you could tell because he was dressed in “better black”--began to pull the steel shutters down. Before he was finished a kid came out lugging his DJ equipment and motioned for me to open my trunk. I pushed the button near my armrest and the trunk sprung up. I knew he didn’t need any help and I didn’t offer any. The benefits of age. I learned it didn’t mean a damn thing if I helped this kid or not. I hoped the fare would be to Brooklyn, the Bronx, shit, maybe Staten Island.
“I’m going to Baxter, off Broadway,” he said.
“Sure,” I replied. Maybe six bucks. Maybe. The traffic was still light and we got there in a few minutes. “What’s here?” I asked.
“After hours, man. Chinese chicks. Hot, man.”
“Five seventy,” I said.
“Here’s ten, keep it.”
He got out and I popped the trunk. After I was sure he got all the equipment he stored and the trunk was slammed, I put her in gear and cruised uptown. I’d known I’d picked up just about the last fare from the known lounges and decided on going to a gay club on 20th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. If nothing else, there’d be some cabbies, some of whom I knew, hanging around, and a porter who sometimes touted me onto some business.
There was one cab in front of me as I pulled up to the curb in back of him. I left the motor running, got out and lit a cigarette. I walked to where the first cab stood, wanting to find out if there was enough action upstairs to warrant me staying.
“How’s it going, brother?” I asked him.
“You got a smoke?”
I shook one out of my pack and gave him one. Cigarettes now were seven to eight dollars a pack, thanks to Bloomberg. Let the poor and addicted pay for the richly addicted. “I just got here, man. Where else you gonna go? The streets dead now.”
Hector had been driving for twenty-five years and was fried to a crisp. I looked up at the coming dawn. A soft wattage was breaking, which allowed you to see the geometric innocence.
I looked at Hector who looked at the burning cigarette between his index and middle fingers. The faces of all those who I knew and saw since I started my shift, came into focus. I tried to figure out why and couldn’t. Perhaps, I said to myself, because all of us essentially wanted the same things, even that mick prick, Calloway: get through the day, have a meal, a drink, and maybe get close to a woman’s haunches; we all just wanted a way to make it. Nobody, of course, was guaranteed any or all of that. Why some men suckled huge, giving, breasts night after night and others were locked-up like pet rodents was another mystery.
I had one eye on the strip club across the street. Maybe I’d get a fair to Queens. When money becomes as important, if not more important, than pussy, you know you’ve turned a corner in your life. A Mercedes was idling at the curb. I turned to Hector. “What time did you start?”
“I told you already, man.”
“Yeah, right, right.” I had nothing else to say to him. I never did. If he took the lead, I heard him out. Otherwise, we usually smoked in silence. I walked over to the door of the gay club. The porter was inside using Windex on the mirrors, the doors would be next. He smiled when he saw me. A diminutive man with skin the color of dark coffee, he wore a short sleeved white shirt and khakis; both garments had seen better days. I offered him a cigarette. He smiled, took it, and tucked it away in his breast pocket.
“Yeah, busy, busy. Least twenty or more people. A few I know go to Queens and one goes to Long Island. You wait.”
“Thanks.” I turned around and went out the door. It’s amazing, sometimes, what the least amount of kindness could buy, I thought. It ain’t “kindness,” it’s “barter,” that’s what it really is. How old do I have to be to get it straight? I laughed to myself and went back to my cab, which was now coughing up a storm.
“Better shut that fucking thing off, man,” Hector said, “if you want to see the end of the fucking day.”
I reached inside and turned the ignition key. The engine died and the car wheezed and choked before releasing it’s grip on life.
The end of the day. I’d get home fractured from the grind. And then what? For the briefest of seconds you’re happy handing over the keys and trip sheet, walk outside the decrepit office, light a cigarette and inhale, savoring the smoke that reached your lungs unencumbered by your next fare, your eyes readjusted to just seeing things and not constantly searching out people who either are, or might be, looking for a cab. Take a bus to your pad, climb the flights, open your door, and walk into...emptiness.
Not quite emptiness; if it were only emptiness it wouldn’t be so bad. It was over forty years of books, music, loves, half baked ideas, still born novels, rubberbanded rejections, a few successes framed, reams of poetry, pictures, papers, tumbling weeds, furniture that dated back to my childhood, pens, and more pens, a phone that hardly rang, (though sometimes I looked over at it as if it were about to), and her. She was all over the pad. In my towels, sheets, underwear, socks, sweaters, shirts, in the stones on my window sill and the ones in my stomach, cards in and out of my desk, the air. At times I felt I couldn’t turn my head, let alone turn around, without getting cut.
“Hey, Charlie, wake the fuck up, man, you got a fare,” Hector shouted as he eased his way into the street with one of his own. I looked over at him and saw him grinning from ear to ear. At first I felt a little confused coming out of the daze I was in, then I saw my fare. He stood at least 6’6”, weighed well over 250, white, black hair curled on his bare chest which was crossed with two, thick, black leather belts that tied themselves onto another belt, but thicker, and studded with silver studs, around his stomach. Under that he wore nothing, nothing except a black leather jock strap. Hmm, this should be fun, I said to myself, as he slid into the back seat.
“Where to?” I deadpanned.
“Thirty-fourth and Eighth Avenue,” he said in a voice that was much softer and modulated than I would have expected. “Do you know the hotel on that corner?”
“Know it, I do.”
“Thank you,” he said.
I took off through the darkness and went down Eighth to his hotel. He paid the fare, gave me a decent enough tip and got out. He entered the revolving doors, passed a uniformed employee and a person who manned the desk. Neither turned a head. I watched as he went to the elevators, punched the button and stood there, waiting, without the least trace of self-consciousness. I eased back into traffic. At one time that hotel belonged to a self-appointed Dr. No; a guru/minister of some kind of Asian faith. He had disciples that numbered in the thousands who stayed there. I wondered if my last fare would have been allowed to convert, given his appearance. I felt sure he’d be welcomed, if he had some dough.
Sure enough, not long after one, the afternoon sun blazing, humidity hanging off my rear view mirror, and the sweat clinging to my arms and back, “ol’ number thirteen” began to lurch and stall; the temperature gauge inched further upward, still within reason, but I knew, not for much longer. C’mon baby, I coaxed, a few more hours, just a few, baby, then I’ll take you home, get you some water. Try to relax, baby. Every time I tried to get downtown to Battery Park City and give her and myself a reprieve I was hailed somewhere in midtown. The passenger usually asked me to take him or her cross town, into the thickest, most fucked up, traffic. It seemed every main thoroughfare and side street had some kind of construction going on. You just stood, idling in exhaust fumes, going nowhere. The passengers these days usually were on a cell phone speaking to either their next appointment, broker, lover or, for all I knew, a suicide prevention worker. It seemed that if they weren’t speaking to someone it somehow would have diminished them in my eyes, but more probably their own.
A cabbie makes no money standing still, contrary to popular belief. If one was to just keep the meter running for a twelve hour shift it would amount to the cost of the cab for the day. You made money two ways: movement and turnover, plus tips. Going from the west side on 52nd Street let’s say, to 52nd and Second, the tab might be three sixty or so. If your fare gave you four bucks, (which was usually the case), you were royally screwed. That’s why a day driver usually averaged between eighty and a hundred a day, after expenses. There’s always a balance to whatever you do, especially for those on the margins.
After dropping off a fair near Gracie Mansion, I put my Off Duty light on and went down a dead end street and shut off the cab. She heaved and sighed and came to a rest. I took a pull from a huge bottle of mineral water I carried. I opened the hood and peeled myself out like a crippled tinker toy, and lit a smoke. The sun tattooed itself on my forehead. Even my polarized sunglasses struggled against the light. It felt good to stand. I began stretching my six foot plus frame as far as my ligaments and tendons would let me, which wasn’t much.
Some of those who came out of the building where I was double parked looked me over for a second. First they registered some apprehension and then saw my cab and felt better. Some nodded to me, asking if I’d take a fare. I nodded them away. I might be in the shit house, but it was my shit house. Besides, my pad, was rent controlled. Fuckem. I could be a sport for three twenty-seven fifty a month. Hell, it cost me over forty years of my life. They shouldn’t even charge me that. The bastards. Every time my landlord saw me, which wasn’t often, he’d asked if I’d contracted any form of fatal disease. He kept offering me money to leave. I’d always asked if I could move in with him, fuck his wife, or daughter and sit down to a meal. It didn’t sit well with him, but not very much did. It was a good thing I knew a thing or two about fixing crappers or else I’d have to find the nearest gas station in the middle of the night. Not fun in the neighborhood I lived in. At least that was the story until Julio moved in. Julio’s reputation preceded him. We began to run into each other in the halls, outside the building, in the corner bar, and became as friendly as we once were. When the landlord discovered that, all of his bullshit stopped. It stopped dead. In fact, he now went out of his way to be nice to me. I never asked what invoked such changes, but I didn’t have to.
This neighborhood had nice crappers, even in the park. The grass, brown and lifeless all over town, was green here, and moist. You could lie down in such grass. Daydream. The air was cleaner. It smelled salty from the river. I wondered if some of the expenses for the condos and co-ops was the price of air. It certainly seemed they chipped in and paid for it.
I flipped the cigarette toward the curb and got back into the cab. When the ignition caught, the temperature needle climbed further upward. Obviously, the rest helped neither of us. I shut off the engine and walked over to a phone booth on the corner.
“Service,” the voice on the other end said.
“This is Fortune. My cab is about to explode.”
“Yeah, fuckin explode. Whatdayawantmetodo?”
“How hot? Hot enough to fry your mother’s ovaries into dust.”
“You don’t have to be funny.”
“Who’s bein funny? Whatdayawant...”
“Bring her in. Where are you?”
I told him and he advised me to drive slowly to Fifth Avenue, the Avenue of least resistance this time of day, go down it “carefully,” and bring her to the service department.
“You’ll give me credit for some time lost?”
“We’ll see once we check her out.”
“Fuck it, I’ll drive and let her burn.”
“No, no, come in, you got three hours.”
“See ya later.”
Windows opened and with my Off Duty light still on, I made it back to the shop. The garage entrance was so narrow it seemed they never wanted to have a cab brought up there to be serviced. I didn’t care how many tries I had to make. I tooled the sonofabitch up the stiff ramp.
“What is it this time?” Rufus asked.
“Gonna blow, brother, any second. Better get your gloves on, flak jacket, goggles.”
I dragged my ass down the ramp and into the office. The air conditioner dripped with the regularity of a patient on diuretics. I handed the trip sheet to Tommy, a decent enough fellow.
“You owe me for three. I’ll deduct it from next week’s rent.”
“Sure. Take it easy.”
When I walked out into this wet horse blanket of a city, I had the stupid sensation of being free.
© 2015 Norman Savage
Part of my novel: THE TROUBLE WITH DREAMS--2007
Greenwich Village, 2015
Sunday, June 21, 2015
“You think about dyin?” I continued, “That cross your mind?”
“‘Every third thought is that of the grave.’ Sure I think about it.”
“Ain’t pretty, is it?”
“No, it ain’t pretty…Nobody dies with any dignity, the only thing we can do is live with some.”
“Who said that?”
“I just did.”
“My mom had a tough death, but I don’t think about her much; I think about my old man from time to time.
Him I still think about. My mother was like ice in her cardboard box, just as angry dyin as she was livin, but my ol’ man…”
“Yeah, your ol’ man was a prick, but he had some heart.”
“Yeah, he was a prick, but he did have some heart, and humor, and a whole lotta bullshit.”
“I still haven’t forgotten you not comin to my father’s funeral, man; I was all by myself…”
“I had a needle in my arm in those years…”
“Who the fuck cares how you got there, but you shoulda got there…but my mom went out wearing head-phones, listening to “Ruby, My Dear,” and sucking down Courvoisier.”
“No, not bad…I gotta get high now just listenin to you. Why didya take me there?”
He smoked as much weed as I did cigarettes.
“Ah shit, Brazzie: Fucking phone sales?”
“What’s the difference?” he said as he tried to hold down the reefer. “It’s about survival; that’s all it’s ever been about,” he said, as he let it out. “You do the best you can with what you got. Period. End.”
“How the hell do you do that?”
I wanted to be back on the massage table. I wanted to get high. I wanted Tina’s hands on me again. I wanted a spike in my vein. I would have settled for Hillary Clinton’s hands…no, no, not them, but somebody’s. Maybe a Percocet?…an Advil…Bayer, anyone?
“You’ll probably be good at it…”
“Yeah, Heller; you spent your whole life honing your bullshit and now you have those poor fucks who have no one to talk to, who’s dying to have a conversation with somebody, anybody, to listen to you.”
“That’s great, man, thanks for sharin that…Sure, where the fuck they goin?…I’ll tell ya where I’m goin though—I’m goin ta bed…I’m gonna lie down, put a period on this fuckin day.”
“It’s a semicolon, Heller. It’s only a semicolon.”
(39-40 of pages 539)
Friday, June 19, 2015
has lived on my block
as long as I have--over
forty years. I watched her
around the edges--
a bad thing.
I was drawn
to her stately
gait; she moved
much like a Lipizzaner;
she had a black-haired mane
that flouted and a knowing
irreverence that hinted
and announced. I would not
have been surprised
if trumpeters marched
in front of or behind
she was alone
in all her comings
I saw her today
as I sat & smoked
& thought about death
in the most kindly of ways:
How it's been good
to keep itself close
but not too close; how
at one time it screamed
& now just hums
a familiar tune.
down the block
toward me, her legs
moving like well-timed
on the balls
of her feet.
She did the same.
have you lived here?
Almost forty-two years,
she answered, slowing
to a stop.
She smiled. I know,
she teased,--May '74.
Norman, I said.
Alice, she replied.
Greenwich Village, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
A young mother
holding colored balloons
in one hand
& two skateboards
with the other,
came out of her apartment building
with two screaming toddlers
tugging on her shorts. It was hot
here in NYC.
And she was quite upset.
One blond haired daughter
grabbed a board
from a fist
& skated away: "wee wee wee."
the more petulant
of the two,
pouted, & didn't want
to go nowhere
except back up
into her mother's arms.
NO, her mother said.
SCREAMS issued forth.
NO, she said again.
The little darling
stamped her little foot.
Do what you want,
the mother spat.
The kid kept tugging
& wrapped herself
around mom's thighs.
Follow your sister,
The pretty, blond haired, colored ribboned curled coiffed kid
at any part of mom's torso she could get to.
I lit a cigarette.
be dating her in twenty years--
Greenwich Village, 2015
Friday, June 12, 2015
I admit it:
I stole a Milky Way
from Mr. Schwartz's candy store
every chance I got;
I pissed on the toilet seat
& didn't wipe it;
I diddled Mary
in my closest
when my parents weren't home;
I cheated off Joel's paper
on a Common Sense test;
I pilfered my father's Chesterfields
& my mother's Benson & Hedges 100's;
I lied to them
having all our best interests
I told girls I loved them
& didn't call the next day,
or the day after;
heroin saved my life;
there's no god
except the one
that makes me
I'm a fraud a phony a trickster
& a murderer
I did what I did
with what I had
to do it with.
I do not ask
only mercy, and
Greenwich Village, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Monday, June 8, 2015
at most things--
it's our nature
to get it
wrong; it breeds
comedy & tears--
the few things
we're good at.
I've stepped back
at our small
& gave up
for the suffering
with no rhythm;
can be no
victory; and without
there are no clothes.
in this roulette world
I'll get it
But my watch
and the clock
Greenwich Village, 2015
Thursday, June 4, 2015
& primping & cropping;
mass delusions & madness
surfacing with each
"like" & "post"
& "tweet" & tit
to be romanced
again. Nature knows
better than all
of all things social,
& plagues & performance
anxiety: all men want
is to see
under the hood. They want
how she drives?
How she corners?
How she excels
when the foot
is put to her
and pressed hard
around her neck?
They care not one wit
and who can blame them--
is the gas
that makes them
You can almost
touch her. Come
Greenwich Village, 2015
Monday, June 1, 2015
how it feels
to be there
& it's not.
Blink your eyes.
No, uh, uh.
will be better,
you tell yourself,
& it might.
I can only speak
for myself and
The words written
only look dead;
Greenwich Village, 2015