Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “the blues”



We left our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the crowded and smoky Bob’s Bowery Bar in the company of “Nicky” (aka the prince of darkness and the angel “Gabe”...



(Kindly click here to read last week’s thrilling episode; if you would like to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume memoir you may go here to purchase
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book or as a six-by-nine inch softcover old-fashioned actual “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“Nowhere in the vast world of literature do we find such a vast panoply of memorable characters (including both the son of God and the prince of darkness) as in the roiling and profuse canon of Arnold Schnabel.” – Harold Bloom, in the
Seventeen Magazine Literary Quarterly.






“Ha ha,” said Nicky, although he wasn’t laughing. “People. Pathetic, man. I hate them. I really fucking – fucking –”



He paused, and his body swayed forward a bit, his head drooping, but then he abruptly straightened up again. His mouth was agape, and his formerly pearly white teeth now looked as if they were coated with old and peeling yellow house paint. He licked his pale lips with a grey dry pointed tongue. He looked around as if wondering where he was, and then his gaze stopped on his fellow angel.

“So, Gabe,” he said, suddenly, “how’s it going, old buddy? It’s been like fucking millennia. Or was it yesterday, or even earlier tonight? What difference does it make. What is time?”

“Time don’t mean shit to such as you and I, my brother,” said Gabe.


“Ha ha,” said Nicky, but with little apparent mirth. “But, no, seriously, how is it going, man?”

“Going good, man,” said Gabe.



“You still blowing that horn I see.”

“Still blowing my horn,” said Gabe.



“Blowing that, blowing that – hey, like, how is it, like –” he pointed upward – “up there, man?”

“Beautiful, baby,” said Gabe, “beautiful.”

“I don’t want to hear that shit,” said Nicky.

“Then don’t ask the question, my brother.”



“I really do not need to hear that shit.”

“Sorry, dude.”

“Hey, pal, you may be a hotshot horn player in heaven and all, but I reign in Hell, motherfucker!”

“Good for you, daddy-o.”

“It is good for me. It’s great. Everything is great with me, man. Couldn’t be better. I’m fucking great.”

“You don’t look so great, my brother.”



Nicky paused again, staring at Gabe. I’ll be honest, I was glad he was talking to Gabe, and ignoring me, and I even entertained the idea of trying to slip quietly away if an opportune moment presented itself.

“I don’t feel so great,” said Nicky. “I’ll be honest with you. I feel like shit.”



“Maybe you need some rest, man,” said Gabe.



“Rest,” said Nicky. “Rest. Sleep. Oblivion. That would be nice. Oh, but hey, you know what they say, Gabriel? No rest for the wicked! Ha ha. No rest for the you know whatever. Hey, tell me something. The big guy, does he ever talk about me?”

“Uh, well,” said Gabe, “you know, man, he don’t talk a whole lot, you know how it is.”

“So he don’t talk about me.”

Gabe didn’t say anything. He had been holding his trumpet in his left hand, and he raised it up to chest level and began pressing the keys with the fingers of his right hand, nodding his head as if listening to a tune in his brain.

“Hey, well, fuck him!” said Nicky. “I don’t give a shit.” 



Suddenly he fixed his gaze on me, as if he had just remembered that I was there.



“Oh. Hey. Arnie,” he said. “I forgot. Because of that reefer you gave me. I was going to drag you down, down, down, to the everlasting, you know, whatevers –”

“Did you smoke it all?” I said.

“Yeah, smoked it all, finished it right there at the bar. The bartender didn’t even say anything.”

“He probably thought you were just smoking a hand-rolled regular cigarette,” I said. “And, hey, it’s so smoky in here, who’s going to notice a little reefer smoke?”

“Y’know, you’re absolutely right, Arnold,” said Nicky. “It’s so fucking smoky in here. I mean, not as smoky as you know, down there –”

He pointed to the floor.

“Hey, Nicky,” I said. “Look what I have.”

I took the partially smoked reefer that Gabe had given me out of my shirt pocket, and I proffered it to Nicky.

“Another reefer,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Take it.”

“For free?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is it the same like wicked shit as that last one?”

“No,” I said. 



“Fuck it, man,” he said. “I want some of that wicked shit!”



“This shit is even better,” I said.

“Even better?”



“Much better. They call it Winged Stallion.”

“Winged Stallion?”

“Yes, because it’s like a great winged stallion soaring through the canyons of your mind.”



“No shit.”

“No shit,” I said, and Gabe chuckled.

“Gimme,” said Nicky.

He took the reefer, stuck it in his lips, began tapping his various pockets looking for his lighter, but Gabe was right on it, clicking his gold lighter alight in front of Nicky’s face.

“Oh, thank you, man,” said Nicky, taking the reefer away from his lips just long enough to say those words, and then he put it back into his mouth and let Gabe light him up. 



He "toked" deeply, once, twice, thrice, then held it in, staring bug-eyed at me with those bloodshot eyes, and I saw that they were in fact rimmed with blood, or something that looked like glistening bright red blood. Then he took his bloody gaze away from me and transferred it to Gabe, who had made his lighter disappear, and now held his trumpet higher, the fingers of his right hand dancing on the keys.

The jukebox was still playing through all of this, it was Cab Calloway now, singing “Minnie the Moocher”. The crowd of drunks surged and thronged mere inches from our little group.

After what must have been a full minute Nicky exhaled the reefer smoke, another great cloud, but I must report that it had a very unpleasant odor, like burning cow dung.

He went into a coughing fit, and specks of blood sprayed from his mouth. He pulled the filthy handkerchief from his suit-coat breast pocket, wiped his lips, I could see smeared blood on the handkerchief. He shoved it back into his pocket.

“You chaps want a toke?” he said, and he held out the reefer. The unlit end was wet with blood.

“No, thanks,” I said.

“I’m good, man,” said Gabe.

“More for me,” said Nicky, and he put the reefer to his bloody lips again, and drew deeply.

As he held in his smoke he gazed at me with those blood-rimmed eyes again. I wanted to get away, but I was afraid to move. I knew how volatile he was, I had witnessed his volatility on many occasions, and I didn’t want to get him upset if I could help it, or to do anything to remind him of his stated intentions towards me, that is to drag me screaming down to the everlasting fires of hell. Could Gabe help me? He was an angel after all, wasn’t he?

But then a very strange thing happened.

“Minnie the Moocher” ended, and in the relative quiet that followed with the absence of music – although drunkards continued to laugh and shout, but now as if they were far away, or as if they were in the background in a movie – Nicky slowly exhaled another great cloud of noxious smoke, and as it did he seemed to grow thinner, as if he were expelling his own inner corporeal host transformed into this foul exhalation. 

He looked at me, he was coughing again, spitting blood again, and I was afraid, because somehow I knew that if he was going to take me, then this was his last chance.



“Take another ‘toke’, I said. “It’s really wicked, you know, shit.”

“’nother toke,” said Nicky, his voice now sounding far away.

“Yeah, take a good one,” I said.

He took another good one, and then another, and another, and now the reefer was only a tiny red glowing stub. He popped it into his mouth. His Adam’s apple made a gulping movement. He stared at me, holding his breath.

“Hold it in as long as you can,” I said.

He held it in. 



I heard trumpet music, and I turned and it was Gabe, blowing on his horn, his cheeks billowed tightly, his brown skin shining through the smoke haze. 



I turned to look at Nicky again, and now his face had turned from urinal-pale to the color of ash. He was still staring at me, or at least in my direction, but then his coal-black eyes rolled up into his head, and the whites of his eyes were now all the color of blood. 



He exhaled, finally, another great cloud stinking of burning cow dung, of burning dirty underwear, of fields of rotting corpses, and through this cloud I saw Nicky fade away, into nothingness.

Gabe continued to blow his horn straight at the empty space where Nicky had stood, long, long, thick sad notes, the saddest music I had ever heard.

I guess it was what they call the blues.




(To be continued next week, unless there is no next week...)



Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “brother”


Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in that fabled caravanserai Bob’s Bowery Bar, on one of the longest rainy August nights in the history of this or any other universe... 



(Please go here to read our immediately preceding episode; those who are interested in beginning at the beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 71-volume memoir are invited to click here to purchase
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, either as a Kindle™ e-book or a six-by-nine inch softcover tangible “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“An honesty surpassing even that of Pepys, a spirituality more than the equal of St. Augustine’s, a ready wit rivaling that of David Niven – Arnold Schnabel brings all of the above and more to the hearty table of the chroniclers of the self.” – Harold Bloom, in the
Soap Opera Digest Literary Supplement.


“Arnold, my man,” said, shouted, a vaguely familiar voice, over and through the noise of the drunkards and the music of the jukebox, which was now playing, if memory serves, Anita O’Day singing “Kick It”.

Great, I thought, now what, and turning to my right I saw a slim Negro man, with a goatee and porkpie hat, wearing a sharkskin suit, and carrying a trumpet under his left arm. 


Gabriel,” I said.

“’Gabe’, daddy, don’t be so formal.”

“Gabe,” I said.



“Slide me some skin, man,” he said, and he held his hand up, palm forward.

I remembered seeing a gesture like this in Johnny Staccato or maybe Peter Gunn, and so I awkwardly raised my own right hand.

“No, daddy, on the down side.”

“Down side –”

“Hold your paw down, daddy, palm up.”

I did what he told me to, and he brought his own hand down gracefully to mine, palm to palm, and then slid his hand and fingers slowly off of mine, causing the skin of my palm and the insides of my fingers to tingle, but in a pleasant way.

“I saw you at the booth over there,” he said. “Sitting with Josh and your crew. How’d you like our set?”

“Your ‘set’?”

“Our set, man. Our music. How’d you dig it?”

“Oh,” I said, the veil lifting, “that was you playing in the combo?”

“Sure was, man. How’d you dig it?”

“I, uh,” I said, hesitating, because even though I hadn’t disliked the music I hadn’t been paying much attention to it either, and I was hesitant to dissimulate to an angel, “I mean, yeah, it was really, um –”

“How’d you dig the canary?”

This term I had heard in the movies and read in the trashy novels I like to read about regular Joes trapped in a spiral of degradation and despair.

“The lady singer?” I ventured.



“Yeah, man, how’d you dig her?”



“She was really, uh, good,” I said.

“Just really ‘good’?”

“I mean, no, really great, fantastic,” I said, my scruples disappearing as they usually did when faced with the slightest resistance.


“That lady’s got more soul than a shoe store.”

“Heh heh,” I fake-chuckled, although I didn’t really actually understand his play on words at the time, in fact I’ve only just now figured it out.



“You want to smoke some muggles, man?”

“Muggles,” I said.

“Reefer, man.”

That had been what I suspected and feared he had meant.

“Oh, no,” I said.

“’Oh, no’? Come on, live a little, Arnie.”

“Here’s the thing, Gabriel –” I started to say.

“’Gabe’.”

“Here’s the thing, Gabe,” I said. “I just smoked some reefer. In fact I’ve been smoking a lot of reefers lately. Also drinking a lot. Also I had some laudanum. And I had this bock beer which was laced with the nectar of the gods. I even took some LSD earlier today.”

“All this in one day?”

“It’s been a very long day, Gabe. It’s lasted for what seems like, uh, six and a half years.”

“I’ve had days like that.”

I didn’t doubt that he had.

“So,” I said, “I think I’ll just pass on the, uh –”

“The muggles.”

“The muggles,” I said.



“Well, you won’t mind if I light up?” he said.

And just like that there was a big fat reefer in his hand, I didn’t even see him take it out of a pocket, and maybe he hadn’t. He was an angel after all, probably one of the top angels there were. He probably had lots of other tricks he could do, too. He put the reefer in his lips, and then there was a lighter in his hand, a gold lighter, what else, or at least the color of gold, and he lighted himself up.

The lighter disappeared somehow with a flick of his fingers, he took several deep “tokes” on the reefer, and then proffered it to me.

I don’t know why, but I took the reefer, and, worse still, took several deep “tokes” myself.



Gabriel nodded, smiling, and then he exhaled an enormous cloud of reefer smoke, a cloud which enveloped most of my current corporeal self. I in my turn released my own cloud of reefer smoke from my lungs, which merged with and expanded Gabriel’s cloud, so that we both stood there in our big bubble of gently roiling marijuana smoke. None of the drunken dancers seemed to notice our reefer-smoking, or to care if they did notice.


“So how’s it been goin’, daddy?” said Gabe, taking the reefer from my fingers.

“May I be frank, Gabriel?”

“’Gabe’, man, ‘Gabe’.”

“May I be frank, Gabe?”

“By all means, Arnie.” He began toking again, and speaking between tokes in a constricted toking voice, added, “By any – and all – means – my brother.”

“I don’t know if you’re aware of it,” I said, shouted, “but this world we’re in right now is a fictional world, the world of a not very good novel called Ye Cannot Quench, written by a madwoman I know named Gertrude Evans. This world also contains a myriad of other fictional worlds, and I keep wandering into and out of them, but all I really want to do is to get back to my own world.”



Gabe nodded, holding in the smoke, and handed the reefer back to me. Once again, and once again I don’t know why, but I drew heavily several times on the reefer, held it in for half-a-minute, and right after Gabriel exhaled his smoke I exhaled mine, and once again the two clouds merged and swirled together.

“’Your’ world,” said Gabe.

“Pardon me?”

“You said you wanted to get back to your ‘own’ world.”

“Oh. Yes,” I said. “My world. Reality.”

“Heh heh.”

“Okay,” I said, “I get it. What is reality. Who knows. Everything is reality. I know. Everything is not reality. Everything that is not reality is reality, too. But let’s just say I want to get back to what I think of as my reality.”



I took another toke.

“Okay,” said Gabe. “I dig, man. How you like that reefer?”



“’s good,” I slurred, toking again. “I think.”

“Very special and rare strain of weed, my brother. They call it Winged Stallion, on account of it’s like a winged stallion sailing through the canyons of your mind.”

“Wow,” I said. And I took another toke.


“I can’t smoke that cheap skunkweed, man. Call me a snob if you want to.”

“No, not at all,” I said, forcing down yet another toke.



“You better exhale, man, you hold it in too long you might pass out.”



I exhaled, another great cloud merging with the lingering wisps of the previous reefer cloud.

There was something I wanted to say to Gabe. What was it?

I suddenly remembered.



“I want to get back to my life in Cape May, Gabe.”



“Cape May, New Jersey?”

“Yes. Back to Cape May.”

“Well, excuse me for saying so, but, can’t you just like take a bus?”

He reached out to take the reefer from me, but too late, I was already taking a toke, and he waited until I finally took the reefer away from my lips before he grabbed it out of my fingers.

I exhaled again, and said the single word: “No.”

“No what, man,” said Gabe, toking away.



“No, you forget, Gabe, this is a fictional world I’m in, we’re in.” I gestured grandly to the drunks dancing away beyond our cloudy little two-person reefer world. “All these people. Fictional. This world. Fictional. And so you see the Cape May in this world would be a fictional Cape May.”

“If you say so, daddy,” said Gabe, after exhaling.

“Well, I do say so.”

“So how you gonna get back to this ‘real’ world?”

“I’m going to get a piece of paper or a cardboard coaster or something and write myself out of this world.”

“Wow.”

“You think that’s crazy?”

“No, man. I mean, not necessarily.”

“You think it’s crazy.”

“Arnie,” he said, and he took another toke, and then another. He handed the reefer to me, and I took a toke, and another. Once again we both held in the smoke, and I sportingly held mine in until Josh exhaled his after a minute.

“Arnie,” he said again, taking the reefer from my fingers. “You want any more of this, by the way?”

“I think I’m good,” I said, the understatement of the century.

He nodded, and pinched the fire from the tip of the reefer with his fingertip and thumb.

“Here,” he said, “for later.”

And he held the extinguished reefer out to me. I suppose I was an addict by this point, because I took the reefer and put it into my shirt pocket.

“Arnie,” he said for the third time.

“Yes?”

The single syllable felt as if it had floated up through my body from my toes to emerge of its own accord from my mouth.

“I am angel, man. Dig it. An angel. Very little seems crazy to me.”

“Okay,” I said. 



“You dig?”

“I –” as “stoned” as I was on the reefer I still hesitated to say the word.

“I mean you dig, right?”



“Okay,” I said, surrendering – I was a real beatnik now, like it or not, if only my fellow ushers at St. Helena’s church could see me now, “I dig.”



“Oh, like, wow,” said Gabe. “Look who the cat must have dragged in.”

He was looking past my left shoulder. I turned. Sure enough, it was my nemesis Nicky again. My first thought was that he sure hadn’t stayed away long this time, but then on second thought I realized it had probably been a good five minutes or more since I had last seen him, with me saying, lying, that I would join him shortly, so it was my own fault for standing here smoking reefer and getting “high” with Gabe.

Nicky had looked bad before, but now he looked much worse, almost as if he were about to have a stroke or a coronary. His nose was running freely and disgustingly with a thick greenish snot streaked with tiny rivers of scarlet blood. As hot as it was in here the skin of his face was perfectly dry, and the color of an ancient urine-stained urinal.

“Hey, Arnie, man,” he said, “what’s taking you so long? I drank your double boilermaker. Plus I drank the one I ordered for myself. So I ordered two more, and I drank them, and – oh. Hi, Gabriel.”

“Hiya, man,” said Gabe. “What name you going by these days?”

“Oh,” said Nicky. “My name. In this particular world. I’m going by – Nicky! Ha ha. Nicky. Ha ha. Y’know, Gabe, people look at you funny if you tell ’em your name is Lucifer.”



“I imagine they would, brother,” said Gabe.



(Continued here, if not in this world then in some other...)