anguish on the ride home.

another curiously breezy August night in New York

City. i’m on my way home from a wine and cheese fete’

with some friends out near Corona. i had just gotten

off the E train and managed to catch the last Q83

before they stop going up the hill every 25 minutes.

as i get on with my ears full of a Ghostface Killah

mashup, i notice this one woman with her head down

on a huge black plastic storage container. her two

boys sat next to her, staring off into space. i move

to get a seat in the back since this bus usually gets

crowded.

the bus jerked slightly. the reason being that this

older woman in a red and white striped sundress that

would’ve gone over well in an MGM musical had darted

in front of the bus to try to get on. the driver hit

the gas and proceeded down Archer Avenue to the front

of the bus stop area. she ran as fast as she could

and managed to get on, gasping for air.

a few minutes later, i look up from my book and i see

that the other woman with the container and the kids

has her head up. and she’s sobbing uncontrollably.

the tears gathered like rainwater under her eyes. she

was dressed in a sweater and black nylon pants. she

stared ahead, her lips not moving but her the rest of

her face was a mask of anguish. that is real pain. the

kind of despair that you don’t give a rat’s ass if

anyone sees. the kind of anguish that makes your heart

hurt with each gust of air into your lungs. it dawned

on me…she must be without a place to live. it would

make sense with the two boys next to her and the large

container. she must be going to the women’s shelter

over by St.Pascal’s church.

at that moment, the woman in the striped dress tapped

her on the shoulder. from where i was, i saw something

that i’ve seen so many times before in these New York

streets that other folks don’t believe happens often

here. and sometimes, even i can forget it does. it was

compassion. as the mother cried, the lady in the striped

dress spoke with her. calmed her. hugged her and gave

her strength. these are the moments missed once you

plug into your iPod, or your phone or disappear into

the pages of a book or newspaper. i couldn’t help but

stare at them.

as the bus reached the stop on 202nd Street and Murdock

Avenue by the church, the mother got off, edging her

kids in front of her. i saw that she also has a giant

red piece of luggage. my heart sank again. she must’ve

had to make a mad dash. who knows what – or who – she

left behind. and the two boys had this look on their

faces. it was a numb look, one that gives off the idea

that nothing in the world really could move you anymore.

the lady in the striped dress helped her with the black

storage container. as the bus pulled off, i saw them all

make their way down the block towards St.Pascal’s and the

PAL shelter. and while it saddened me, i’m glad i was

able to see it. just so i can keep reminding myself not

to be oblivious to pain because i don’t feel it.

that image stuck with me all of last night. it’s only

now that i’m able to write about it without a heavy

sense of sadness. because today, this mother and her sons

have a new day to start over. they’ve got a shot. one

that other mothers and other kids in cities and towns

throughout this country…hell, the world…may not

have. someone said something in a lecture i heard years

ago at a video engineers’ conference: “you beat the odds

just by showing up.” and that’s what they’ve done.

wild irish rose.

the barkeep glanced up briefly from the racing

form on the rich mahogany bartop to view a few

people rush towards the stairs to the subway above.

it was 3:30 in the afternoon, and aside from the

three or four patrons who sat inside and shrunk from

the light like B-movie vampires coming in from

the window, Abel Geraghty was the only one in

the place. but he would rather have been at the

track. he’d been tending bar here at Flannery’s

for close to 30 years. he’d seen the neighborhood

change in tone from Irish brogue to southern drawl

to even a touch of Hindi and Spanish. but Boyd

Avenue still held the same charm. and for this

son of The Marble County, it was good enough.

Abel poured himself a pint of Guinness and peered

over at one soul who was slumped over onto a table.

“Hey!! You wanna sleep, go home!!” he bellowed.

The gentleman stirred, blinking eyes set deep

within pale skin as wrinkled as a lizard’s feet.

He tugged at his jacket and rose slowly to his

feet. As he walked close to the bar on his way

out, he mumbled, ‘No..no way to treat a body…’

pathetically shaking a bony fist. “Gwan home you

old salt miner.” Abel countered, bringing laughs

from the other three at the table nearest to the

pool table. As the old drunk walked out into the

sunlight, a blur moved past him into the bar.

Abel caught wind of the person before they stopped.

He couldn’t help it; their aroma was a mixture

between cheap wine and perfume. “Hiya Abel!! Set

me up a martini willya?!!” she yelled. A low

groan went out from the group at the table. Abel

sighed with all the wearniess his 50 years could

muster. “Rose, Rose..are ye daft? I’m not givin’

you any booze. You’ve probably got no more’n a

dollar to your name.” he replied simply.

Rose was a neighborhood fixture. A broken one at

that. She had grown up a few blocks from the bar.

Half Italian, half Irish, and all wild. Whatever

beauty she had once was slowly dwindling away. Her

dark hair bounced around her shoulders with each

turn of her head. She had greenish eyes, not unlike

the color of copper exposed to water. She wore

a denim jacket over a thin gray sweater blouse

that matched her tight jeans. She swayed on high

heels that had been repaired twice over. “C’mon

man, I’ve got money.” she said, pulling out a wad

of crumpled bills. “Here, money. Gimme my martini

you codfish!! HAHAHAHA!!” Abel sighed, and took the

bills into his pudgy, hairy hands. He counted until

he had about 5 dollars. “Y’know, I ougtha wash my

hands after this.” he said bluntly. “Whaddya mean

by that? I WORKED for that. Don’t TELL me it’s dirty.

WHO d’ya think you ARE?!” Rose yelled as she stepped

closer to the bar. “All right, all right.” Abel said

as he fixed the martini. Rose took the rest of the

money up as she sat down clumsily.

Her lips kept forming a half-smile. Rose had about

6 pills of Valium in her breast pocket. She had

downed 3 prior to coming into Flannery’s. After

this she was off to go earn money at a video store

peep show in Brooklyn. it was a desperate but viable

hustle for a woman down on her luck with no real

skills. she felt her stomach bubble, but paid it

no real mind. Abel walked over, all 6 feet 3 inches

of him. “Here,” he said as he nudged the martini

over to her. Rose grabbed the glass and took a sip.

“AHHHHHH…’ she exhaled loudly. “Do you KNOW how

long I’ve been WAITING for that?! THREE HOURS!”

Abel said nothing and leaned back against the shelf

near the register. “You know, I need a new gig. This

one is too much for too little…I mean I SHOW my

TITS for CRUMBS…” Rose began, and she rambled on

for a couple of minutes, her loud voice rising on

every third word as she drank the martini. All the

while, Abel nodded. and Rose kept talking. but as

she talked, the bubbling in her stomach kept getting

worse. she began to belch, and Abel stood in shock.

without a word, he ran around the bar towards Rose

in a hurry.

just as he reached Rose, she began to vomit. she

lurched forward and the waste spewed onto the bar.

it was as if she spat up watery cornmeal. “FOR

CHRISSAKES!!!” Abel yelled. Rose simply wiped the

front of her face and sat back down. “Lemme get

another drink, hic, and an olive.” Rose said in a

calmer voice. “GET UP FROM THERE!!!” Abel yelled,

and grabbed her by the arm. She had managed to not

get any vomit on her clothes, but it had hit the

bar and dropped onto the floor. “Wait – what about-

waitasecond-” Rose said as Abel brusquely guided

her to the door. In one swift motion, he opened

the door and flung her out onto the sidewalk. “AND

THIS TIME STAY THE HELL OUT!!!!” he bellowed before

slamming it shut. The other patrons, who were up

in arms laughing before, had gotten silent quick as

Abel stomped back inside. Rose could be heard crying

outside. “You sonuvabitch!! You dirty, potato-fucking

sonuvabitch!!!” she yelled. Abel went to the back to

grab the bucket and mop.

One of the group shook his head. “Wild Irish Rose, that

one is.” he said before taking a swig of Glenfidditch.

The other two nodded as they sipped from their mugs.

stumbling romance by the pool table.

it was a chilly evening in november, the kind that
lets you know winter’s coming to collect on all that
fun you had in the summertime. i was in Europa bar
once again, waiting on my boy Rah once again(this
was kind of a running gag somewhat; Rah lived all
the way down by August Martin High School, yet would
always tell me “yo i’ll be there in 15 minutes” yet
wouldn’t show for an hour or more). Europa Bar on
Sutphin Boulevard was one of those places where women
young and old danced for dollar bills in lingerie.
this night, i sat and drank with Tatiana, a lusty
Dominican lady and watched the clock and my drink.
all of a sudden, behind me, loud voices erupt.

“don’t come near me!!” that came from one of the
dancers over in the corner where coats would be
hung up. i had seen her once or twice before. her
eyes were coated in bluish eyeshadow, which did
nothing to take away from the sheen on her face
brought on by ten minute sets and about $20 worth
of Cuervo. she was Brazilian, pale-skinned with
blonde hair that could do with a Grand Concourse
wash and set. she wore a one piece outfit that was
a cross between a polo shirt and skirt, and would
have done her well 10 years and one beer belly ago.
at the moment, she was trying to fend off this guy
who was hammered. he had the look of a construction
worker, dusty boots and all. he looked to be from
Mexico at first guess, and the moustache added to
it. he stumbled towards her as if to grab her up
in his arms. henrique, the owner came from behind
the bar and in one motion put himself between the
dancer and the drunkard and steered him out the
double doors. as a final motion, he got the guy’s
coat and lightly tossed it out. after about a minute
or so of laughter, i finished my drink and got out
of dodge. i know a cue when i see one.

the kid and the Big C.

as if the New York Mets and their fans didn’t have
enough to worry about this season.

Gary Carter, better known as ‘The Kid’, a catcher
who was one of the more popular members of that
1986 World Series team the Mets had, found out this
past weekend that he not only had four brain tumors
in his head, but that surgery was not an option. for
me, Carter was as much a cool customer as Doc Gooden
or Daryl Strawberry was. when i started following
baseball, i noticed that i didn’t root for a team,
but i was behind certain players all the way. and
Gary Carter was one guy who i liked to watch as a
catcher back then. even as i wound up being a Yankees
fan in the early ’90s, i had a special place in my
heart for those ’86 Mets ’cause they were what the
city missed since the Bombers’ last title: winning
with grit and style. i hope he beats the big C just
like he did against opposing base-runners in his
Hall Of Fame Career.