New York City—8/8/84—Day to Night
Mark wanted to see how fast he could burn through the 10,000 dollar inheritance from Grandpa Dave, who sold schmatta to Hendrix on St Marks, and who despite his gnomic wisdom – Never eat at Katz’s they serve horse meat – What, you want horse meat salami? – did a dry dive out of his 22nd floor co-op window. So Mark’s plan was to burn through the 10 grand and get addicted. Basically see how much a ticket to Junkiedom would cost and how fast, using himself as a lab rat, he could get there; but the project got accelerated like hadrons in the Stanford Particle Collider, when Mark, whose loft on D and 10th, which was like a fucking Foreign Legion outpost, ended up only a block ( C and 9th) from where the P.R s set up shop selling 20 dollar foil wrapped ( like the inside of a stick of Wrigley’s) packages of extremely potent cocaine. Coke was so cheap in the early 80’s, that even after it got shoveled from Cali Carteland to Alphabet City, that five dollar bag of GOOD ‘N PLENTY or SMURFS stepped on mucho mucho times, selling across the street, or next door to, or alongside of, various dime bag dope operations, would hurtle your ass to Hoboken and back. Two dime bags and a nickel of coke for a speed ball that as the old saying goes: Well, if God made anything better, he saved it for himself.
SMURFS and Good ‘N Plenty, now that was portion control, but not the Silver Lining tin foil, which could’ve been thrown in a communal cooker and have at least four cats draw off, since it was good as at least five SMURFS or GOOD ‘N PLENTYS. But now it’s not like Mark was splitting it up 4 or 5 ways. He’d just dump it in the spoon with his “D” or without, and he’d be back on the street to cop 20 minutes later.
Now everybody talks about how “good” coke was in the old days and by that they are generally referring to how strong it was, not how “fino”– another matter entirely, but what they don’t account for, is how fast it was, cocaine in them days. Well a molecule of cocaine is so small and so speedy, that nothing impeded its race to the brain. It was the Muggsy Bogues of drugs – it dribbled around any particles blocking it, and was hitting your pleasure centers in 1/12 millionth of a second, but once it got there, it wasn’t sticking around too long. Hence the 20 minute turnaround time for Mark to get back on the Ave. This was done between changing diapers and making sure his wife, Pat, wasn’t on the nod so badly she would let the bassinette get cold, boil the formula. He had already built up a tolerance from the Croaker Collection, and so the end of the $10,000 and his Major Jones happened at the same time, which meant at 22 he had to go on the program or hustle.
Cookie was leaning out the window into the sultry air, looking out the past the Ottamanelli & Sons butcher sign, keeping an eye for Mikey, who theoretically was walking down Bleecker delivering a package of MDA. Why not, “Ask Doctor Cookie?” Ready for the resurgence of the Love drug, she thought of Janis stringing laundry in the Haight and waving hello to Sharon and her. Well someone went back in that Haight Cookbook and came out with a big batch of MDA that made you feel beatific. No Hare Krishna freak ever loved Krishna no Jesus freak ever loved Jesus more than you loved your neighbor on the bar stool at Grass Roots, twenty minutes after you asked, Ask Dr. Cookie? The sun was burning its way down down down, but there were still hours to wait, hours to package, hours to sell, hours to pick out some clothes, put on makeup, get pretty. Hours to make it to 8 B.C.
Rockets was waking up, throwing off the sheet, reaching over to the bed stand for bottle four of methadone, the max they would let you walk out of the program with, even on the honor system; so he’d have to return the empties and re-up tomorrow. Looking around on the bed for some tinfoil with a little coke residue on it – build up an appetite – then down to the corner for a foot long sub, his special sandwich, six eggs and Swiss cheese, scrambled in butter, topped with home fries, ketchup, on a soft sub. Pretty much didn’t have to put his dentures in for that. He didn’t even have to ask for it. Nacho started scrambling the eggs when he walked in. And always a bottle of Yoo-hoo, never the carton, cause particles of wax dissolved into the drink. On the way out of the apartment, Third and 13th, he stopped at the freezer, took out the magnum of Stoli and tipped it back, humming the Mr. Softee jingle in his head. When the jingle was done, he took the bottle from his mouth. As soon as that 80 mg. of juice kicked in, he’d be nice.
Cherokee was just finishing the 4am to 8am shift at the La Casa Grande on 8th and D. She was working both White Horse for her part time boyfriend, El Gato, and I LOVE NY (sometimes sold under the brand name Dom Perignon – same shit) for La linea.
Deal was she’d stand on the corner of D near the phone booth – a line would form across the street – at that hour mostly white truckers, cabbies, chicks: some Spanish and a few Black working girls who were calling it a night before the 8-4 cops came on shift. She had her regulars. (A lot of them – you can’t burn the same guy twice, so she didn’t burn them at all.) All it took was a nod from across the street; they’d walk over to the booth, stuff some 10’s and 20’s in the change receptacle, then she took it out, went back to Casa Grande, picked up from either crew chiefs, Chepo, (I LOVE NY aka Dom Perignon) or Pachanga ( White Horse – muy bueno) who packed and delivered for Gato and La Liñea, and put the correct bags back in the change receptacle. It depended on who had re-upped last and who was giving her a play, but she generally got 3 bucks for each bag, so sometimes she even threw in an 11th bag play on a bundle for a regular. No contact with the customer. Like a sex show behind plexi-glass, the customer got off, but didn’t touch her. Of course occasionally some rogue culero of a cop would take either the money (going on a date) or the bags (copping for a snitch) but that’s life. Either way the customer took the loss. Everybody understood that. But no bust. No getting processed through the system, no puking in the Tombs. Yeah, 4 am to 8 am was where the money was being made. Everybody needed a wake-up, no one wanted to start the day sick. Then, shift over, upstairs to her room in Ma’s flat.
Water Moccasin was sitting in bed there, her feet over the side. Put some Nescafe in the bottom of the glass with some raw cane sugar and canned milk, boiled water on a Sterno and made her a cafe. Cherokee laid down next to Water Moccasin. Water Moccasin put a porous bag with tea leaf poultice on her eyes. Pulled off Cherokee’s sandals which she had gone to bed with and started massaging her feet until she fell asleep.
Gregory had a morning of bad shots. Couldn’t find that vein in his ankle for the wake–up.
Had to skin pop, thereby cutting potency…considerably.
First attempt out had slipped 20 under the wrong door on 5th between A and B. Nothing came out the other side, but White Cindy’s neighbor had a nice surprise when she came home from the bodega.
Thought about going for the shifting La Tuna Gang location, but to get that he had to walk six flights, then cross a 2x 4 plank to the next roof top, go down one flight, then cop, then make it back down to the street. Noooooooo Waaaaaaay. Besides, lots of outfits selling La Tuna dummies Fucking kid had gone back to La Tuna last time and said something like, What’s the matter can’t you fuckers even sell drugs straight – with your fucking straight money straight money, straighten you’re shit out and don’t let gyppo outfits sell dummies.
Where’d the fuck the kid go to?
You wake up smelling the Russian girl who’s left her bed. The imprint on the mattress slight, almost imperceptible. You look for a note, a drawn heart, an earring. You never know, man, you never know, you never fucking know. Maybe her shift at St. Mark’s Bar had already started. But save some for the morning – that you know – you remember that. Gregory was forever telling you, and you had done just that this time. Two lovely bags of I LOVE NY and a bag of SMURFS. Perfect start for a perfect day. Don’t blow the shot, knock over the cooker, clog the fucking apparto. You feel like three minutes until 3:00, on the last day of school before summer vacation: You cook up, tie up, shoot up The smell of sex fading and the smell of drugs coming on, and you can taste it from your stomach to the back of your throat – it tastes like pleasure and then bam, sweet dreams are made of this, a circus mind that’s running wild, butterflies and zebras, fairy tales, Krazy Kats and bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit Pepe le Pew chasing Penelope Pussycat chasing Speedy Gonzales. Muchos Locos! You had to laugh about the poets: The Artauds and Cocteaus and Rimbauds and their bloody flower of evil bullshit blasting your back brain (You’re thinking even Jim Carroll was a bit, um, unduly a downer on the subject) when in reality you was in Looney Tunes Land. The… The… The… That’s All Folks.
You gotta call Rockets, get his fat ass in a cab. At 5:00 Linda will open up, 5-9, a four hour day, business hours in reverse. Pick up money, cop, deliver. Get fronted, deliver, pay back money. Finally, cop, deliver, pay yourself. How many times can you walk those six flights? How many times can you get Linda to let you up before she starts to think it looks suspicious? Rockets had the customers and you knew he wasn’t going to walk up without a lot of huffing and puffing, breathing and wheezing on each landing. Not that Linda was going to let him up anyways. You needed each other, a relationship of mutual inconvenience. You want to touch base with Mark. You wonder if you should stop by and see Gregory, see how he’s doing. He works up a sweat when you’re gone too long. You feel a little bad about blowing off Cookie. You grab your sports coat from under the bed where you kicked it the night before, feel for the small shopping bag half filled with the Lambs Bread collie herb, you stuffed in the sleeve. (You figure Reagan’s right about one thing: Russians – fuck them – don’t trust them.) Go down stairs and get yourself un grande café leche, PortyRican style, light and sweet.
As the afternoon faded, La Casa Grande on 8th and D started to light up. Coils of wire snaked from a city owned building, jacking the Con Ed juice, the plant just over the other side of 14th street. No one’s paid rent or utilities here since Columbus landed, Ma thought, as she came down and collected eggs from the chickens in the court yard. La Casa Grande been on a rent strike so long, no one left to strike against. No Jew rent collectors coming ‘round ahora. Not that she had no respect for them. Her father, Herman, was a Jew, muy rico, from Ponce, with a business up in Brooklyn. Her mother a girl, que linda, from the country – Guanica. A couple of chickens to the gods, a couple of chickens to the pot. Chicken schmaltz. Ma even kept a goat named Sammy, after a restaurant on Chrystie St. that Herman had liked. The City talks about moving. Porque? Donde? This is it. Protect la familia, make dollars. Almost all 24 apartments, six floors, were ocupado, making money: bagging, cutting, dealing, sleeping, resting, crews working in shifts around the clock.
What was it that Cherokee blanquito tecato called La Casa Grande? – The Tet Hotel. The teat hotel, a big joke because it’s run by women. The big tet hotel. It’s kind of funny, somehow, maybe.
She shrugged her shoulders. A gato strolled by content. Plenty of gatos and Trey Reyes. Not too many ratones. The only building in Loisaida where you no need an exterminator. She and Gato lay down enough Trey Reyes arsenic and boric acid and roach bombs to kill every rat and roach for half a block, and the chicks – any baby roaches move in, they think are crickets.
Hang a sign: The Tet Hotel. No Bugs. No Rats. No Hot Water. It’s kind of funny somehow, maybe.
Aye, either way, making money in Loisaida is like making mangos fall from the trees. But even picking up mangos — achaques. At 62, social security check should come, but the postman don’t come to the Tet Hotel.
Mark changed a diaper and gave the kid a bath. Nodded and thought he was sleeping on a subway bench on 42 St. and that he had to wake up and go home. That the 6 trains were rumbling by and he had to get up and catch one, but in reality, his hands in filmy bath water, cradling the kid’s head. It was time to go for the Silver Lining.
Cookie squeezed into the bath tub and thought about what happened last night at Hell Fire. Why was she so obliging? It didn’t matter. No more sticking balls of opium up gay men’s tushes. No more pee peeing on police men. Just take Max and move back to P-town. Stop getting high so much; be a better mother. Grow a garden. Marry an Italian, do a little summer stock. But it didn’t matter. Mikey had been there and gone. Weigh, package, finish the column. Take Beauty for a walk. Call Sharon. Go see Linda.
Rockets, bulbous in his tank top, had slung dog tags around his neck. He was wearing the red bandanna that William Dafoe had given him, the one Dafoe used on the set of Platoon. The dog tags had some Mr. Potato Head ears laced through. He got in a cab.
But you need to go back asleep, Water Moccasin said to Cherokee. Don’t make me laugh, mami. I’m going to sleep. I count all the money, 600 dollars like White Horses. Well tonight’s another day mija, let me rub your back make you nice and good. Water Moccasin massaged the palm of Cherokees hand took out some juju and put it under the pillow. Put her hands under her shirt.
Gregory figuring it was going to be an unlucky day invested four bucks in a pint of Stoli 151, hardly feeling he had his amber gris gris, his grigri on, his gerregery, his gregory, losing hope his luck might, could, would, change.
And on top of that, where’d the fucking kid go?
So you’re having one of those good afternoons. People are calling, people are showing up, people have money; when you get there, people are home. Some days are like that. It’s like going to the track and every horse is in the money. Not paying much, OK, not much, maybe Show not Win, but you’re cashing tickets.
Mark scored two more packets of Silver Lining and walked as quickly as he could with pointy black shoes and socks, Bermuda shorts, pushing a stroller with nothing but a Cabbage Patch Kid in it, back to the loft.
Cookie had finished wrapping the M.D.A. in snow seals and writing on each one personally, Ask Dr. Cookie? Business was brilliant. A quick walk around the corner to Linda’s. When she got back, she walked Beauty down Bleecker. She buzzed at Leroy St. Gregory answered. Yeah, she told him, I saw Linda, come down, we’ll go to my place, then maybe go out tonight. Go to B.C.
Cherokee woke and said to Water Moccasin: Dame un sipi the Nescafe, mami. I want to go on the street, un poco bugaloo before I go back to work. I’m going to go down to B.C. Tu sabe?
Mark had gone back out for his fourth? Silver Lining run, baby stroller (inspired, right?) and all. The baby was sleeping at home. Pat was on the nod, and some cute punk girls were walking towards 8 B.C. He followed them.
Ma lit the candle for the statue of La Virgen…
8/8/84—Night to Day
Hey Rockets, I went to a Mensa whore last night. Rockets is nodding, chin falling into his boobs and his cigarette embers, drooping, starting to burn a little whole in his tank top. I push his shoulders back until his head hits the rear seat cushion and his eyes open staring upwards.
So I go to this Mensa whore, Right Rockets, and she says 50 a throw or 200 all night. So I said all night, so we go to the Breslin and she starts explaining Noam Chomsky to me.
He cracks a grin. Use that in your act, Rockets. I mean you don’t even have to attribute it to me.
We were getting closer to Linda’s.
Maybe, he says.
Alright I got another one. What do you get when you mix an agnostic an insomniac and a dyslexic? Huh?
Rockets is lighting another cigarette, running his hand through his slicked back hair, prematurely greying, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose, futzing around, mopping up his sweat with the Platoon bandanna draped around his neck
I wait six seconds: Someone who stays up all night wrestling with the existence of DOG.
Better, he nods his head, rolls it around a few times to stretch his neck muscles. But more like this: Where did the Mujahideen go when the bomb blew up? Beat beat beat. Everywhere.
Too political. I don’t dig politics, Rockets. What am I, the fucking Belz?
OK, Rockets goes: What would John Belushi be doing if he were alive right now? beat beat beat. Scratching on the lid of his coffin.
We’re here. Again. The cab stops on 6th Ave in front of Silvano’s. OK I’ll go up. Beat beat beat, obviously.
15 minutes, I say to the cabby: Keep the meter going. I get out, hand him a ten. Just so you know we’re not going to burn you, and my friend here is not running off – I use a hitch hiking gesture, my thumb hooking towards Rockets, to indicate the obvious. Rockets rolls down the window, throws his cigarette towards me and shouts – and I’m no fucking Mork and Mindy! I ignore him and go on. On the stoop, I turn around and scream: Hey did you hear this one? A Jew, a Polish guy and a guy from New Jersey walk into a brothel. The Jew said, do you have a red-headed one? I stop and turn around to ring the buzzer, pause, then turn back towards the cab. Rockets stares at me. Yeah, he yells, go on…
That’s it, I said.
I don’t get it.
New kind of joke, all set up, no punch line.
Oh, he mouths. I ring the buzzer and listen for the click.
It’s been a long afternoon’s journey into night, my man. One last fast one, see if we can score two bundles of that beat-ass Robin Hood from Popo’s old lady, you know, White Cindy, on East 5th, before it hits the streets. Throw in our rapidly dwindling supply of Que Linda’s (our private joke) whack it from here to Hoboken with a little mannitol and repackage it in the original Snow Seal. Plus, we can make it to Adrians’s for some Puro Fino for me and you, upgrade from this street shit.
Hoboken is too close. We’ll whack it from here to White Plains. Make it go father. Then hit Adrian’s.
When you’re right, you’re right, Rockets.
How we doing?
(All the mixing and measuring, the skimming and scamming, the conning and kibitzing. Answer – Not Bad.)
(And then the weed: a lid, a half a lid, a lid and a half of Lambs Bread – schlep and shtick, our specialty: “Bob’s fave mon”, “Natural Mystic mon”, “Rasta mon vibrations positive mon.” The shit was flying off the shelves like discontinued Betamaxes out of Crazy Eddie’s. After a while, I wasn’t weighing, stopped measuring and was just grabbing a handful and throwing it in a baggie, eyeballing it.)
Counting the grass, which is mine Rockets so … aghh.
Your drugs, my customers…
We’re doing well. Very well…
Up about 900 bucks, little more – that’s after expenses. Plus whatever you’re holding out on me – fuck it- I’ll chalk that up to breakage.
The only thing I got is this Keith Haring Swatch. The guy begged me.
Fucking worthless Rockets, a Mickey Mouse watch maybe…
What can I say? I’m a soft touch.
What are you going to do with it? You’re not even going to be able to wrap it around your thumb. Give it to me, Rockets.
He dropped it in my palm.
The baby with the lines sticking out. It’s for little kids, Rockets. Let me have it. I’ll give it to Cherokee tonight.
Alright, keep it. But let’s call it after the Robin Hood move. White Cindy, Adrian, that’s it. Then we go to The Kiev, fucking famished. Then we’ll go see Sudden Impact a couple of times, then show up at 8 B.C.
We’ve seen it like 27 times, Rockets. Every two weeks, whatever, for a year; it’s been running longer than the fucking Fantastiks.
“Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog.” Fucking love that line.
Fine, OK. Kiev too. Perogis and an egg cream. Sounds good. Let’s go.
On the way up to Times Square, we ran into a traffic snarl. Some black woman smashing her high heel on the front windshield of a taxi, with a cop trying to haul her boyfriend out of the back. Rockets lowered the window pumped his fleshy scar ridden arm, his fist clenched. and screamed, Let the Brother Go! Let the Brother Go! A crowd gathered. The light turned; we wheezed off.
After Sudden Impact viewings #28 & #29 we went to Nathans, had hot dogs with mustard, sauerkraut, relish – no ketchup, and then to an arcade for a couple of hours, while Rockets played the new Bruce Lee Atari game, while I sat and stared at the swamp of sin and took notes for a future novel. Finally it was late enough to split.
Me and Rockets were pulling up to B.C. when we saw Cherokee walking down the block.
Cherokee people, Cherokee tribe,
So proud to live, So proud to die.
Every time I saw Cheri, I sang a riff from that Paul Revere and the Raiders song – great – classic, but she was just a kid, so young, too young to know it, and Rockets just grimaced – Hi Cheri.
8 B.C. was a storefront club with a plywood exterior on a block that looked like the setting for Slaughterhouse Five, a band called HYPO-CHARGE was on a stage about four feet off the floor. Mark was at the bar with his baby carriage and Cabbage Patch Kid, telling some punk chick that he was so potent, she would get pregnant if she looked into his eyes. In the bathroom stall, Cherokee had dried snake skins in a jar. She gave one to me and told me to crumble it up in to dust and rub it on my cock. I asked her to do it for me and she said if you like. Mark came into the stall, buggergyating against Cherokees’s ass. Cherokee gave him a vial of powdered snake skin, lined it up on the back of the toilet for him, and he snorted it. I laughed my ass off to the point where I thought I might have to reattach it, but Mark looked at me with a sparkler in his eye and said his dick will soon be hard like broken arrow ( which didn’t exactly work as metaphor, but I got the idea) and bolted out of the stall. Rockets was in the stall next to us and I could tell, free basing, the smell sweetly industrial.
Save the Robots, Rockets said.
Fuck you Rockets, and get that glass dick out of your mouth. No. Let’s go to The World, I said.
I grabbed Cherokee’s hand and walked back up to the bar to grab Mark. I looked at Mark, then looked at the punk chick, and then looked at the Cabbage Patch Kid in the stroller. Look, I said to the doll, I found Mommy, now let’s get the fuck out of here.
Mark grinned. Chill your jets, he said.
Me and Mark and Cherokee and Rockets walked out just as the cab with Cookie and Gregory showed up. Gregory, with a long white scarf almost down to his whites shoes and for his whitening hair, a papier-maché tiara Cookie had fashioned, stepped out and yelled back through the open window at the driver – aggh, here’s your tip, Shifty Sheik – tomorrow at ‘toga in the Fifth.
He turned around.
Ohhhhh My Mark is here. Look at me, I’m Herme’s Messenger Boy.
Yoo Gregory, I said. I thought Hermes was the messenger boy.
Stop with your dumbass shit, you blew your shot. Hermes was the messenger of the Gods.
I’m the messenger of Hermes. And what does Hermes have to say. He says Bacchae! Bacchae!
Yes! Gregory grabbed Cherokee around the waist and squeezed. No doubt people will say an old man dancing like me with ivy in his hair is a disgrace. He sat on a milk crate with Cherokee on his knee like old Silenus and adjusted his tiara. But I say fuuuuuuck them, bring me some thyrsi and some fawn skins, my fawn. Cherokee smiled and wrapped her arms around him. I wrapped my arms around Cookie who was laughing so hard that her mascara ran, and kissed her cheek where she had put a butterfly bandage to cover a tiny mole she had removed. She tucked two Snow Seals of Ask Dr. Cookie? in my shirt pocket. I took one and slipped it in Cherokee’s bra.
Gregory readjusted his tiara again: I’m not getting ripped to pieces like Pentheus, no way man.
How you going to die Gregory? I asked.
You, fucker, where’d you disappear to? You left Gregory to his own devices. And I gave you Cookie and she has to take care of me? He pointed to Rockets: And you, you watch your ashes. I know your ass.
Cherokee playfully nuzzled his neck and he got back on track.
Aghhh like Gary fucking Gilmore. In front of a firing squad. Blood Redemption. No fucking blindfold and a cigarette. He clung to Cherokee’s waist with one arm and shook out a cigarette and flicked his bic, then gestured the blindfold away. Fire away motherfuckers. Now Gary Gilmore; Oh man I dig that fucker. You know what the last thing he heard was?
Fire? I said.
No that’s dumbass. He heard the bullet. Man, you can hear the fucking bullet because the speed of sound is faster than the speed of the bullet. First you hear it, then you feel it, dig?
Yeah, did I no Gilmore. He was running his hand up Cherokee’s legs. I did Jean Val Jean… I stole bread because I was afama.
A few people lined the sidewalk to get inside.
Aghhh, fuck all this shit. What I want to know is, who was the first aborigine that dreamed of snow? Bring that fucker to me.
Hey Rockets, I said, did you hear that Aer Lingus is going to merge with Continental Airlines. It’s going to be called Cunnilingus.
Stop it already, he said: The only funny bone you ever had in your body was last night when I had my dick in your ass.
Mark laughed. My tuches hurts! Hey you want to go to Save the Robots?
Nahh, Gregory waved his cigarette back and forth. I’m not about saving any robots. When they change the name to Save Pithecanthropus Erectus, I’ll go.
The World? Cookie suggested.
Hey Rockets, What do you get if you cross a rhetorical question with a joke?
You get a fucking paradox, said Gregory.
You see dig this, you take your humor shot, joke right? And you throw in the philosophy bag. And what do you get you get? Paradox. The fuckers cancel each other out.
Yeah said Mark, this place, there’s nothing going down at all. Not at all.
The World, decided Cookie.
Oh yeah that’s where I want to go, Gregory nodded his head. That’s what I want, the World, thy whole fucking world.
Mark stashed the stroller against a stoop – Even a Puerto Rican wouldn’t steal a baby stroller, he laughed. I mean what could he get for it? Better take the Cabbage Patch Kid, though.
We walked out into the milky air and made a right and headed down to 2nd St.
It was 8/8/84, and the molecules of schmutz in the air seemed to hang like a gel that we were wading through. The gel reached up to our breasts, and then above it there was a layer of smoke that circled our heads, the kind that hung in the air like after a firefight or a fireworks display on a muggy night. And if you listened real closely, in layers (normally you either hear things in sequence or all at once, but you can hear things in layers, an auditory version of when you stare at a painting for a long while and you can see all the layers of paint the artist used) you could hear traffic on the East River Drive and the whoop of war cries over Avenue C, ricocheting from block to block like some call and response chorus in some dim play or pageant.
Open and Smoking Open and Smoking Open and Smoking
Bajando, Bajando Bajando
‘ta bien ‘ta bien ‘ta bien
Out of the bodega needle shops it smelled like small waves of isopropyl alcohol, open cans of sweetened condensed milk, baby laxative and slightly rotten plantains. I ran into one bodega and grabbed two bottles of Yoo–hoo and caught up with everyone.
So we waded through the deluge of gel and smoke and saw Mark stop and stand near a mail box for U.P.S. packages. Watch this he said, and slipped 20 dollars into the slot and a Silver Lining packet came out. I was laughing, convulsing – What do they have, Cousin It in there? My tummy hurt. Mark laughed more and said, no el perrico, the little birdie that sings, and doubled up. Fucking put the money in the wrong slot, said Gregory, shaking his head.
I dumped my packet of Ask Dr. Cookie? into the Yoo-hoo. Retrieved the other packet from Cherokee’s bra and did the same for her. I put my arm around Mark’s shoulder and we hitched forward. We got to the World and I was wearing a white shirt, a small detail that I remember because in the light ebbing out of the club, I noticed brown Yoo-hoo stains all over the shirt, which must’ve come from chugging it as we walked. Inside The World there were people in their underwear, people in fetish, men in dresses. Renee Ricard and Taylor Mead were at the bar drinking Negronis. Jean Michel and Mark dragged some redhead into the bathroom. Billy Idol was singing White Wedding a capella. There were a lot of people, a lot of stuff going on around me, but I was suspended in time, just moving effortlessly, a bird unaware of flying, a fish unaware of swimming. (Perhaps they knew they were part of something and perhaps that’s what separated me from them.) I had my 3/1 pack (three parts uncut Que Linda, one part uncut Adrian’s Puro Fino) that I had mixed earlier for private consumption, snorted a pop, gave some to Cookie, put my arm around her waist and down to her hip bone.
And it was at that moment, in that moment, that I felt -no was – for one moment of my life, neither regretful nor nostalgic for the past, nor hopeful or fearful for the future. I saw, as they danced, everyone in the club coalesce disassemble deconstruct disappear. And so like a trapeze artist letting go and with only circus mind running wild, I said – Fuck the World. Let’s go to The End of the World.
I got general acclamation. By the way, where is the end of the world?
I know where it is. We just have to walk down to D, then up to 8th St. – and everybody nodded in agreement. And as we dingle-dangled down 2nd to D, as we ambled, the sky was turning from dark black to blue black, not so much a change in color as a change in quality.
We were almost at the end of my world. I mean think about it, it was about as far East as you could go and when we made it to 8th street which ran like a meridian, an axis point from the Hudson across lower Manhattan to the East River, we’d be, basically, if you calculated correctly, halfway between the northern exposure of 14th street and the Rio Grande which was Houston Street. We’d be smack in the middle of the end of my world. So we went, the troupe, madcap and motley, minions of the moon, and hooked a left on Avenue D, which breathed out the night air like the taste of menthol cigarette on your tongue after a kiss, warm, cool, and off putting at the same time: The 24-hour Laundromat breathing out Clorox, the 9th precinct Narc squad breathing out scorn, the pigeons on tenements, like doves on cathedrals, squawking, shrieks from seagulls flickering off a barge on the East River, the oily deep river itself murmuring.
Gregory shouted at the river: Be the white whale agent or be the white whale principle, I’ll wreak my love upon him.
Hey Ancient Mariner, good Gregory Peck imitation. Rockets pulled out his dentures and started imitating Gregory: What be yer name, shipmate? Gregory turned to Rockets and yelled, but dig, I changed the shot, right? Wreak love not hate, that’s poesy, man.
My hearing got magnifico. Faint whispers of the Mafioso at the Fulton Fish Market were making their way to me; the scraping of sharp edges of the iced crates of flounder and yellow perch being dragged across concrete by hooks to the Chinese Oblong Jade Association trucks.
There’s no high road to the muses, screamed Gregory. There is no high road to the muses, saith I.
A slight scent of pan dulce beginning to bake whetted appetites and suddenly everybody was hungry and piled into a bodega to buy packaged sweet bread and smear it with butter and bottles of root beer were tossed by Rockets to everyone; we continued yo-yoing up the block and then there was a glitch in the grid, a little brown-out along Alphabet City and the low electric hum of the Con Ed above 14th Street went still and you could hear again, all of a sudden, but this time all at once, the whoops and shrieks, the war cries, cascading over Avenue C. And Cherokee, chimerical, was collapsing in drugs and delight, laughing, launching about, laughing and gyrating: spinnin’ spinnin’ spinnin’ spinnin’ like a spinnin’ top. Cheri, Cheri ooooo, Cheri Cheri; Cheri Cheri, ooooo Cheri Cheri, and I put my hands on her taught gracile belly and purloined a radiant kiss.
And when the lights went dim, besides the haze of Queens- only the Tet Hotel lit up by generators gleamed, workers running in and out, and on the inside lobby wall; there was the hand painted sign, and underneath the wooden plank that said Tet Hotel was scrawled THE END OF THE WORLD.
Ma came out and looked us over with maternal scorn, then put her hand on Cherokee’s forehead. Acho que fiebre!
Gato looked at us with curiosity and jealousy. Si Ma, she’s burning up with like a puta’s fever!
No fiebre Ma. Coño. Estoy bien arrebatao! Fuck, how high I am! No Ma we want to go to the sixth floor. Tenemos mucho dollars, mami. Ah Ma, estoy bien arrebatao, she said again.
Gato was down for us going up: Mango bajito – my punk ass friends, I’ll take you. And we got in the elevator, one at a time, and the workers pulled us up with pulleys.
For Rockets they whistled on the streets. And los ‘chachos came running, four of them to pull him up.
We got sucked by the witch they said; there was no way out. I don’t know what they meant by that – I suspect they might have been translating a Puertoricanism directly into English.)
Ah, ‘dito, Ma said to Cherokee. Your tecato friends, mucho drogas – los blanquitos nada chota?
They no snitch Ma, if they do it’s on me. She looked at the sign and giggled. No rats at The Tet.
Ay banditos, mija, Ma said with that scornful smile.
But yeah, we all made it to the sixth floor (The Tier, Gato called it.) and there were a couple of castaways, orphans like us, already there. There were wires running, Christmas lights strung around cheap plaster saints, a boom box and bugaloo playing, I remember.
I never go back to Georgia
I never go back no more …
I threw Gato a baggie of Lambs Bread to chill his ass out and he rolled a joint and lit it, hit it, appreciatively.
Tato, Gato said smiling. He cupped his hand to his ear: Mucho static, I’m hearing man, like the static on the TV on Rikers, static coming from all the way like from the Bing Bang, and he slapped me on the shoulder, coughing and laughing. But one of Gato’s caco friends started hassling, calling us avacatos. I mean, what I think he meant by that was that we was easy pickings, but Cherokee started yelling at him, saying something like you a mama bicho, but no bichote. Since my entire Spanish vocabulary came down to little more than “dame dos”, I nudged her.
I tell him he might be a dick sucker but not the big dick in charge, OK?
But the mind fucker of it all up there, was that at least half of the wall facing East was disintegrated, just crumbled down brick and chipped lead painted plaster, crumbled like smashed ruins, a broken sacristy, that smelled like wet sheetrock. I took a can of red spray paint from one of the kids and sprayed Tet Hotel – The End of the World Club – on a big piece of plywood.
Fuck man, said Rockets. They did away with the fourth wall.
But the view, the view was fanastico, because with Alphabet City still brown, you could make out between the project towers, millions of little ant like lights scurrying on the East Side Drive and then the dark void of the East River, beneath whose currents flowed molecules of man and matter, and then over on the other shore, Queens, in a muted hazy glow, like a radioactive fetus wrapped in a smoggy placenta, and everybody except Rockets who was propped on a folding chair, and Gregory who was leaning against one of the three remaining walls, started to do some combination of the Funky Chicken and salsa.
While the box blasted:
I never go back to Georgia
I never go back no more…
I’m trés old and I’m trés bored, said Cookie, imitating some movie star line. I can feel the camera on my face.
Fellini said to me, You are not the pretty boy, Rockets. Fellini said that to me!
Bachee! Gather me my Bachee! Bring Gregory his Bachee!
I never go back to Georgia
I never go back no more…
Rats in the front room/ roaches in the back/ junkies in the alley with a baseball bat…
So me and Gregory go sit down and dangle our feet off the ledge, light cigarettes and I lean back on my elbow.
And he kept jabbing, first a finger, and then a random car antennae, inexplicably lying on the floor, jabbing it like a rapier into the air particles that broke like a small ripple into the building, breaking off of the larger wave particles which had collected into a field six floors above D.
To me, he said: How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?
Count of Monte Cristo? I guessed.
Noaaadumbass, the whale man, the whale, the white whale is the wall. Don’t you get it? Count of Monte Cristo? That’s fucking embarrassing.
Gregory’s hectoring elevated me even more because like Cherokee – who had come and laid down with her head on my thigh and lit up her own cigarette – said, I was arrebatao, bien arrebatao. And I said to Cherokee, I am arrebatao, arrebatao baby and I don’t even know what it means. And she said; I don’t know how you say the word in English, like, we say like, arrebatao di amor, filled with love- something good that’s inside you – shaking and bursts out and floods you, like you know, the feeling La Virgen felt when the Holy Ghost told her she was pregnant with God’s baby, Jesus. It means like that, you know….her voice trailed off as she nodded, her head soft on my thigh.
I laid on my back, my head on a pillow of old magazines and twirled her hair in my fingers, and looked up at the sky, normally a starless haze, now, the lights of Alphabet City dimmed, beaming a 25 cent peep show of heavenly objects.
I sat up and put my hand on Gregory’s bony shoulder. Ain’t life grand, I said to him.
It’s a delicate crystal, Vinchenzo. He pitched the ember of his cigarette out of the wall less wall and you could trace it going down to D, fading out on the way.
Don’t drop the crystal, Vinchenzo.
Me sitting up made Cherokee open up her eyes and smile.
Oh yeah Cheri, I forgot. Give me your hand. I dug in my jeans pocket and dug out the Haring watch and looped it around her thin boned wrist where it draped. It was broke and stuck on 11:11 but she didn’t notice. She looked at it, raised herself, and slung her arm around my neck and put her cheek next to mine. It’s muy precious and it’s got the baby Jesus on it; it’s the baby Jesus right?
Yeah Cheri – it’s baby Jesus.
And then I don’t know, I was just transfigured somehow, suffused, and in this very moment, slipped into a state of sinlessness. I became a droplet poised on the side of the tip of a needle – the side opposite this earthly life of perpetual anguish caused by freely choosing something other than God; I was poised instead on the other side of the needle – the other side of this earthly life – endless and endless happiness and total fulfillment in eternal life, like Sister Loretta Gerard taught me – caused not by our acts but by the grace of God. And yeah, so maybe it had something to do with the White Horse plus the I Love NY plus The Smurfs plus The Good ‘n Plenty plus Cookie’s, Ask Dr. Cookie? Love Drug plus a little bolstering from the Lamb’s Bread collie herb and the old 3/1 mix made with autentico uncut Puro Fino and Que Linda.
But so what?
Because through their transubstantiation, I sank into into a state of sanctity, where I suddenly realized that that gel that I felt like we were walking through was really gluon particles that were making us all exist, all of us, Me and Mark, Gregory and Cherokee and Rockets and Cookie and even Ma and Gato, and that we all loved each other well enough and good, and that we were all sanctified, and through that sanctity I was allowed to see that the smoke that on the street that I delusionally thought was some noxious fume hovering from our breasts to right over our heads, was really coming from like a swinging unseen censer of incense, emitting all the Higgs-bosons that were giving us mass and allowing us to lovingly collide with each other over and over again, and when I closed my eyes, I could see photons and electrons and different quark flavors- these super cool sideways quarks, lucky charm quarks and mutant magneto anti-color quarks, and even super-strange dark quarks and all kinds of fantastic voyage sub atomic shit, see it unimpeded, bumping together in cartoon like collisions like, at 99.99 % the speed of life.
And when I open them and see past where the wall once existed this is what I see…
I see Queens like a gauzy white leviathan hump across the East River, then see further East across Long Island City, and Maspeth to Lefferts Blvd in South Ozone Park where I play skully, stoop ball, swing on swings, and then further back, further East, further down – down the Van Wyck to Jamaica Hospital, where I see my birth eyes in dumb blankness, now on this side of the wall, full of forgetting, void of the knowledge, blind to the butterfly cheeks of young girls, the charnel house within, see how those milky birth eyes could see when my mother holds me first time to hospital window to see, see now as I could see then, the blankness on blankness of it all, with just peepholes of light, needle pricks of traffic going off further down the Van Wyck to Idewild Airport and spawning from there to Eel Creek to the Howard Beach Bridge to Jamaica Bay to the Sea.