Thursday, September 9, 2021

"The Meeting"

Had Addison ever been so hungover? No, goddammit, this time was the absolute worst. And it was all Gerry’s fault, buying him so many bocks. It was true, Gerry was Addison’s friend, his only friend, but a true friend would have forced him to go home hours before he got so abysmally drunk. Oh, but Addison had so wanted to talk to Gerry about his work-in-progress, Sixguns to El Paso, which Gerry had been so kind as to read – and he had liked it! Gerry had honestly liked the work. That was all Addison wanted, a little validation, a little encouragement after a lifetime of failure upon failure.

The whole episode was a blur. All the thousands of words Addison had spoken to Gerry in that day and night of drinking, all those insights which had seemed so brilliant and inspired at the time, he could barely remember any of it, all of it lost, lost forever, down the drain of drunkenness.

Oh, when would he learn?

Still lying in his narrow bed, Addison glanced at his watch. It had stopped. He had no idea what time it was, but, judging by the dirty light that oozed through his window, it must be late afternoon, perhaps even early evening.

He was hungry, but would he even be able to eat without vomiting? Well, there was only one way to find out. And anyway, he couldn’t bear lying in here in this tiny sweltering apartment any longer. He must go out!

There was no need to get dressed, because he had never undressed, he hadn’t even taken his shoes off.

About a half hour later Addison finally emerged from his building. There across Bleecker Street was Ma’s Diner, and the dollar and seventy-six cents in coin that Addison had scrounged up from various pockets and drawers and the change tray by his door would be plenty for a nutritious breakfast at Ma’s. After standing on the hot sidewalk for a minute he summoned up the energy to fling himself across the street, and, fortunately, the garbage truck that was passing at that moment just managed to avoid running him down and ending his troubles forever.

When he reached the opposite curb he could smell those delicious smells wafting from Ma’s as some other bum opened the door to leave the diner, but these odors triggered an internal chemical reaction inside Addison’s half-poisoned corporeal host which caused  him to double over with nausea and then to stagger to Ma’s window, where he rested for two minutes, the palms of his sweating hands and the side of his unshaven cheek pressed against the warm plate glass.

No, he wasn’t quite ready to eat, and he gathered himself and reeled off to the nearby corner of the Bowery, where he turned right, and continued to walk and weave, trying not to fall. 

Yes, a walk was the thing! Just walk a while, and then after his stomach settled, find someplace to sit and eat and have a cup of coffee. Or, and maybe this was not so bad an idea, maybe he should stop in at one of the many inexpensive drinking establishments in the neighborhood, and have a hair of the dog? But only one, maybe two, tops, and then, perhaps, a bite to eat, some pretzels maybe…

Addison didn’t know how long he walked, it was almost as if he were walking in a dream, but somehow he found himself passing a large church on his right, on the other side of an old brick wall. Up ahead were a group of men and a few women standing around smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk by the gate of an iron railing.

“Hey, there, fella,” said a smiling chubby man as Addison approached.

“Hello,” said Addison.

“You remember me? Jack. They call me Smiling Jack. I used to see you up at Bob’s Bowery Bar all the time.”

“Oh,” said Addison. “I think I might vaguely remember you.”

“Ah, but I remember that dry cutting repartee of yours! Your name’s Addison, right?”

“Well, that’s what they call me,” said Addison.

“Addison the Wit! Ha ha! I’m so glad you’ve come round, Addison, old fellow.”

“Let’s go, Jack,” said another guy. “It’s time.”

“Well, come along then, Addison,” said this Smiling Jack, and he took Addison’s arm. “This your first time?”

“First time for what?”

“First time for the first day of the rest of your life, my friend!”

“What insanity is this?” said Addison.

“There’s that rapier Addison wit! Now come along, buddy. You’re doing the right thing and you won’t regret it.”

Addison was too weak and confused to resist, and he found himself being herded along with the group through the iron gate, across a courtyard to an entranceway to the right of the main entrance of the church, through the doorway and across a dim hall and down some stairs to a large basement room.

Smiling Jack handed him a Dixie cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar, and then a Lucky Strike (although Addison preferred his Philip Morris Commanders), and soon enough he was sitting next to the jolly fat man, in a folding chair. Someone said a few introductory words at a facing table, and then people began to talk about their drinking problems. How tedious! 

Addison finished his cup of coffee and cigarette, and then another cup and another one of Smiling Jack’s Lucky Strikes, and at last he felt he had the strength to get up and leave.

He stood up.

“Go ahead,” said Smiling Jack, “don’t be afraid, Addison.”


“No judgment here, my friend. Just go right up there and tell your story.”

“Tell my story?”


“But – where do I start?”

“Just say your name, say you’re an alcoholic, and then start talking.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all, brother. Here, have another Lucky Strike. It’ll help!”

The next thing he knew Addison was sitting at the table.

“Hello,” he said. “They call me Addison.”

“Hi, Addison,” said a couple of dozen voices. “Hello, Addison. Welcome, Addison!”

Of course Addison wasn’t his real name, but then, wasn’t this outfit supposed to be anonymous?

“I suppose one might reasonably say that, among my other thumbnail character descriptions – exempli gratia: intellectual, critic, flâneur, wit, and, yes, also, and perhaps most importantly, the author of a western prose epic-in-progress – I am an alcoholic.”

To Addison’s surprise, this introductory remark elicited a smattering of applause.

These people were listening to him. To him! Unlike all those bums at Bob’s Bowery Bar who always told him to clam up, to dry up, to stuff a sock in it, to shut his fucking trap, unlike even his only friend Gerry, whose eyes (let’s face it) occasionally glazed over as Addison descanted on the superiority of Jules Romains over Proust, and who sometimes even covered his mouth with his clenched fist to stifle an obvious yawn, no, these good people were all looking at him, wide-eyed, waiting politely to hear what he had to say.


And Addison began to tell his story.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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