Dad’s bread truck was the perfect cover.
Parked on 7th Street, east of Ave B and Tompkins Park nodding out at the steering wheel. I gave him an hour. From the length of the ash on his cigarette, I could tell he wasn’t going anywhere. Rockets Red Glare was working the copspot, so he let me in next door. Diz rolled loose joints for Crazy Larry, this kicking weed he had brought back on a transport plane from Nam. He filled his boots, his backpack and his helmet with the stuff. I told Diz about mom and he was impressed, he nodded.
It was turning into such a red letter day. I had never had so much money or only ever seen so much weed ever.
It was Diz who the night before dared me to go.
Saigon had fallen that year. Snow was starting to fall, little flurries at first.
In those days 7th Street was like the end of the world, the hippy thing was ending and the raw edge of punk was dawning. The winter of ’74 to ’75 is what we’re talking about.
Dad sold clean works for a buck and for an extra buck or a smoke would let the junkies tie off and shoot up in the back of his truck.
So when the shit was kicking there would be a bunch of Nods on the sidewalk and the stoop outside his truck. The best dope in those days was on 7th St. We were up on the 3rd Floor. Diz had a stack of twenty five joints in front of him.
Crazy Larry was high all the time. It was his mother’s apartment so there was always something to eat there. I had a meatball and some pasta with Italian bread.
His mother was right there I guess she was just glad he had come home in one piece and from what we all had heard of Nam you take what you get. My brother smiled. He has this curly headed fro while mine would be the same if I did not try to comb it. The comb was something I got from my dad and he has hardly given me anything in my whole life except whenever I fill up a composition book with writing he buys me another, a pretty cool thing.
I really wanted Diz to go with me. But I couldn’t ask. I got to my feet. Well I’m going to say goodbye to Dad, I said.
How long you going to be gone? Larry asked.
The concert’s tonight in Jersey.
You ever been to Jersey before? asked Larry.
He’s never been past 42th St! my brother laughed and got to his feet.
Are you going too? Larry asked and I felt the jerk in my throat.
My brother smiled. He had a real nice smile when he chose to use it. I would not miss it for the world, said Diz.
So I felt on top of the world when we walked together down the creaky stairs.
There was a lookout on each landing. That’s how locked up that dope spot was. But they all knew us. It was a Latino spot; they had Loisaida, Nuyorican for Lower East Side, locked up.
There was a pretty girl who her stopped and talked to on the stoop.
Man, it was cold and we both had sweaters and Levi’s jackets. Mine was jeans and his cord we used to switch off so we could each feel like we had a better wardrobe and we had this thing where he would wear the jeans pants with the cords and me the cord jacket with the jeans.
We did not trade sweaters but the undershirts we would. He was really good with the girls. He would just stand there. He was such a deep guy and so handsome.
The funny thing we were twins and I’m not bad, I’m not complaining but Diz was so much better than me. I never knew what to say and would stumble. He just stood there and let them sweet talk him.
It ended with a slow kiss. Diz seemed to be on slow kiss terms with half the pretty girls in the neighborhood.
Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.