Monday, May 31, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 52: mystery

Buddy’s long days’ journey into night has finally wended its way back to Cordelia’s lovely room at the Hotel Vancouver...

(Click here to see to our previous chapter, or go here to return to the beginning of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A charming tale of the manifold mysteries of love and sex.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Field & Stream)

”Okay,” she said. “First we call room service, and then we’ll see what’s on the cable.”

The condoms were still on the night table.

“Y’know, I’d like to take a bath,” said Buddy. “I saw you had a jacuzzi.”

“Go ahead, Buddy. Oh, but let me pee first.”

He sat in the tub with a little bottle of Evian from her minibar. The jacuzzi bubbled and whirred, he could hear Cordelia watching some movie in the other room. It was good to be alone for a bit. No matter who it was, you had to get away from them sometimes.

She knocked, and spoke through the closed door:

“The dessert’s here, Buddy. I got one chocolate cake with crème anglaise and one chocolate mousse with raspberries, something-sauce.”

“You go ahead, sweety.”

“You don’t mind?”

“No, not at all.”

“I’ll just have some of the mousse, is that all right?”

“Sure, eat it all.”

“I’ll save you some.”

He put some more bubble bath into the water and watched the jacuzzi foam it up.


“Yeah babe.”

“Can I come in?”


She opened the door.

“I’ll turn the light out.”

He started to say she didn’t have to, but she’d already turned it off. She came in, backlit by the light from the outer room, carrying two flute glasses. She had on an Actors Studio t-shirt and floral pants that were like pajama bottoms, or maybe were pajama bottoms. She sat on the edge of the tub and handed him a glass.

“What the hell’s this?”

“Dom Perignon. I ordered it with the desserts.”

“Jesus Christ, kid -- this shit’s expensive --”

“I don’t care. I wanted to get you something nice.”

“All right then, let’s drink up.”

“Here’s mud in your eye,” she said.

“Down the hatch.”

They drank. The TV was still on out there, something old-timey.

“Hey, get in with me,” said Buddy.

“No, I better not. I told you, I don’t think we should have sex.”

“Ah, you’re wavering, or else you wouldn’t be afraid to get in the tub.”

“Fuck you.”

He touched her breast.

“Sex in a jacuzzi --”

She pulled his hand away.

“Yeah, how very 1980’s,” she said.

She wasn’t wearing a bra.

“Give us a kiss,” said Buddy.


“Just one.”


“Stick in the mud.”

“Okay, but just a kiss.”


She put her glass on the floor, bent down toward Buddy, and they kissed. At first he thought it really was just going to be a quick one, but then she did that thing where she put her hand on the back of his head and it got really good. Buddy still held his champagne flute in his right hand, he almost let it drop into the water. Finally she pulled away.

“Wow,” he said.


“That was like our best kiss yet.”

“Yeah, I know.”

She sat there a moment looking at him in the dimness, and Buddy looked back at her. She reached her hand down into the jacuzzi-ing water and touched him, he was hard all right.

“I knew it,” she said, and she drew her hand out.

“Oh, you love it.”

“You mean you love it.”

“Get in with me.”


“Well, okay,” said Buddy.

But, no one knew why, she got off the side of the tub, knelt down, leaned her right forearm on the rim of the tub, put her left hand back into the water, and began stroking him.

“Does that feel good?”

“Oh yeah.”

“This I can do,” she said, and she kept doing it.

The water churned and bubbled. Buddy lay back and sipped his champagne and let it happen. Cordelia’s breasts floated under her t-shirt. The Actors Studio --

“So you studied there?” he said, touching the first o.

“Yeah, at the New School.”

“That’s great.”


He almost asked her what James Lipton was like but decided not to.

A minute went by.

“So what were you watching in there?” said Buddy.

She blew some hair away from her eyes.

The Thin Man, but From Here to Eternity’s coming on soon. That’s supposed to be good, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s great. One of my favorite movies.”

“Oh, I really want to watch it then. Who’s in it?”

“Uh, Montgomery Clift. Um, Burt Lancaster. Oh, Christ.”


“Nothing. Uh, Frank Sinatra. Donna Reed. Deb-Deborah, um, Deborah Kerr.”

“Oh, I love Deborah Kerr.”

“Cool,” said Buddy.

She kept stroking him, looking down at the jacuzzi water.

“Wait,” said Buddy.





She stopped, although she still held onto it.

“Why do you want me to stop?”

“I don’t know. But it’s okay.”

“Aren’t I doing it right?”

“No, it’s fine. It’s just -- I don’t know.”

“I was doing it wrong.”

“No. You were doing it perfectly.”



“Well -- should I start again, or --”

“Um --”

“Or did you mean I should stop altogether?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Her grip loosened.

“I wasn’t doing it right,” she said.

“No, believe me, you were doing it fine. It’s just --
it’s --”

“You don’t feel like it?”



“Yeah --”

She pulled her hand out, shook the water off her fingers.

“And they say women are a mystery. Okay, finish your bath then, and we’ll watch the movie.”

She took her glass, got up, and walked out, in her bare feet, in the dim light, in those flowered pants. She forgot to turn the light back on, but left the door open, it was okay.

She lay on the bed in her pants and t-shirt, smoking a cigarette and watching a commercial. The champagne was in an ice bucket on the night table, right next to the strip of condoms. There was also a dessert plate with a slice of chocolate cake on it and another one with just a chocolate smear on it.

“Okay, the movie’s coming on,” she said.


She turned off the light by the bed, and he got in with her. He was wearing a fresh boxer shorts and t-shirt ensemble, and he had a definite case of blue balls, something he hadn’t experienced in about thirty years.

She stubbed out her cigarette, and then pulled the covers up over both of them.

“Oh, God, I love it when a movie’s just coming on and it might be a really good one,” she said.

“Yeah, me too,” said Buddy. “Do me a favor, hand me my glasses on the table there, will you?”

Montgomery said to Donna Reed, “We may look all alike. We ain’t all alike.”

“What is she? Like some kind of bar girl?”

“Yeah, sort of. She’s supposed to be a prostitute, but they couldn’t show that sort of thing back then.”

“Buddy, don’t you want your cake?”

“Oh, maybe later.”

“I want a bite.”

“Take it.”


Montgomery said to Burt Lancaster, “A man don’t go his own way he’s nothing.”

“Can I eat some more of your cake?” said Cordelia.

“Eat,” said Buddy.

When it got to Burt and Deborah’s famous beach scene Buddy glanced at Cordelia and nudged her.

“Hey, classic shot coming up.”

Burt and Deborah embraced on the wet sand, the tide rushing up over them.

“Oh, hot,” said Cordelia, and she held onto Buddy’s arm. It occurred to him that his blue balls had gone away.

Cordelia started to cry when Monty was playing “Taps” for Frank Sinatra, and so did Buddy. And after Monty handed the bugle to the other guy and walked away, Cordelia leaned her head against Buddy’s shoulder and fell asleep.

Buddy watched the movie for a bit longer, but after the scene where Monty kills Ernest Borgnine he started to get sleepy, and he clicked the TV off. He took off his glasses and put them on the night table on his side.

Cordelia lay curled up with her back to Buddy. He snuggled up against her, felt her hair in his face, he kissed her neck. She stirred, said, “Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry,” then settled down. Buddy listened to her breathe. He fell asleep.

He woke up, to blurry morning-light. He lay there on his side, his arm over her. Lifted his arm up, looked at his watch, 7:02. He felt hungover, not surprisingly, and it would get worse, but then it would get better, it didn’t matter. He also had a morning hard-on, pressing comfortably enough into her butt. And he had to pee.

He dragged himself out of the bed and then into the bathroom. He peed through his erection, a lot of pee, the erection went away.

He brushed his teeth, leaning one arm against the wall.

He came out of the bathroom, went to the mini-bar fridge, took out a little bottle of Evian, stood there and drank it all.

The empty Dom bottle stood at an angle in its bucket of water. Two chocolate-smudged dessert plates, the unused strip of condoms.

Cordelia slept peacefully on her side, peacefully-seeming, curled up under the covers. He went over and got back in bed with her, behind her. He ran his hand over her hip and down her thigh. He felt her and her warmth, he could feel her breathing, he breathed in her smell.

He closed his eyes and let himself fall back to sleep.

(Continued here. Alka Seltzer provided free of charge.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other previously aired episodes of Uncle Buddy’s House™; sponsored in part by Dom Perignon Champagne. “Please imbibe responsibly. Remember: you won't be able to enjoy our fine sparkling wine if you're dead or serving hard time for vehicular manslaughter.”)

Friday, May 28, 2010

My father's letters from WWII

(In honor of Memorial Day I'm re-running this piece I originally published a few years ago, and which I hope to continue to publish every year. The photograph above shows my father with his mother, before he went overseas. He would have been about twenty-one years old here.)

I've got this extremely fragile and yellowed page from the Philadelphia Bulletin, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1945. I keep it folded up in the back of a photo album. The page has a round-up of the latest military casualties: killed, wounded, missing, taken prisoner. My father is listed in there:

Sergeant Edward J. Leo, 22, son of Mrs. Rose Leo, 3651 N. 15th St., was wounded December 13 in Germany. An infantryman, he attended Roman Catholic High School and Simon Gratz High School. He was a truck driver, and boxed as an amateur as well as a professional.

About ten years ago my mother gave me a little greeting-card box without a lid, in a Ziploc bag. In the box are about thirty of my dad's letters home from the army in World War II. The earlier ones are written on small cheap stationery; most of the later ones are V-mail, single-sheet photocopies, five inches by four-and-a-half. (From Wikipedia: "V-mail correspondence worked by photographing large amounts of censored mail reduced to thumb-nail size onto reels of microfilm, which weighed much less than the original would have. The film reels were shipped to the US, sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the recipient, and printed out on lightweight photo paper. These facsimiles of the letter-sheets were reproduced about one-quarter the original size and the miniature mail was delivered to the addressee.") The letters are all signed "Bud", which was his family nickname.

Here's a bit from one dated 11/10/44, to my dad's Aunt Kate. He's stationed in England, waiting to get sent across the Channel:

I was glad to hear Franklin got in again, so were the rest of the Joes. You can see by the papers that things are going good with the war. The Nazis ought to be cracking up pretty soon...

Here's another one written on the cheap stationery, dated 11/13/44. (“Jack" is my dad's younger brother):

Dear Mother, Dad & Jack:

This is me again and I'm running out of things to say. The place is pretty much of routine.

I was on pass the other night with O'Melia and Will Hazlett. Will is from Philly, he lives out around 26th & Allegheny Sts.

We were in an English Pub (taproom) spending a nice quiet evening. Their beer is nothing like ours, its kind of warm and tastes flat. They've got a dart board in every pub, just like in Philly. Their boards are the same size but the no.2 ring is about two inches outside of the cork and their game is a little bit different. They don't have any dart boards in Boston so O'Melia didn't know how to play. Me & Will teamed up and played some English men and beat them every time. They've got everything but a juke box in the pubs...

This is from 11/28/44. (My dad's father had served in the army in France in WWI.):

I visited Le Havre what a beating that place took. I traveled all through France and saw some interesting things. I probly passed through a lot of towns that are familiar to Dad. I'm now in Belgium and have it pretty nice. Tonight I'm living in a private home its a break as its teaming rain and cold outside...

I was in the field in France but I still had a turkey dinner.

Well I have to get up early tomorrow. We're having Mass. Don't worry about me as I went to confession and communion on Thanksgiving...

Here is the entirety of a later letter, a V-mail. I can't quite make out the date :


Dear Mother Dad & Jack:

How are you? I am O.K. I went on a tour of the neighborhood with a guy last night, we went to the main part of town and its pretty nice. I even bought an ice cream sunday, the ice cream was good but nothing like ours. I bought four bars of candy for 100 franks ($2.28) they were about as big as a nestle “Babe Ruth". Cakes candy and cigarettes are about the only expensive things though. Apples are beautiful and a good deal of apple pies float around and you know how I like apple pies. There is nothing else new to say. I can use some air mail envelopes and stamps also soap. Well thats about all I have to say, I'm going to bed early to night and rest up. Write soon and tell every one I was asking for them.


P.S. Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary.

And that's about all you had room for with a V-mail letter.

This V-mail to his Aunt Kate is dated 12/1/44. He's quartered with a Belgian family:

...Another day is over and I'm in my house again. I'm getting to be one of the family. The family consists of husband and wife two grownup boys and the wife's brother. When that mob congregates with me and my two buddies (we've got a room on the 2nd floor with a double and a single bed) in the kitchen its a riot. Its an old fashion 3 story house and we sit in the kitchen and drink beer and talk. They speak flemish up here but we understand each other. The lady does our laundry for us also. They're all Catholics over here too and the church is about a mile from where I stay. I go to mass every morning I'm not too busy...


I'm spending a real quiet night at home.I'm sitting here in the kitchen and the two boys Jose and Victor are playing their trombone and trumpet for me. They're pretty good and know some American songs...

There is a big gap in the letters here. My father was wounded by a mortar shell, and his left leg was amputated. Besides getting the Purple Heart that every wounded soldier got, he was also awarded a Bronze Star, but I don't know what for.

The next V-mail I have is dated 1/15/45; It's to his Aunt Edna and it's from a hospital in England:

Dear Edna:

I just received a letter from you dated the 7th. I was glad to hear from you. Yesterday I was snowed under with the mail.

I haven't received any of the packages or old mail from the Company. Where they're at they're probly not receiving mail. If I don't have any reply by the time I'm ready to leave here I've written O'Melia and will give him the authority to get all my packages. If he's still alive they'll do him more good than me back in the States. We had that agreement anyhow, whoever got hit first got the others packages.

There's not much going on here, me and the guy next to me were out in the wheel chairs all afternoon again today. We took two of the walking wounded with us today to do the pushing, yesterday we went by ourselves but it was too rough going up hill.

There is a guy bothering me, I write all his letters for him. He's got a banged up arm, tonight he got his first letters in a long time, so I guess I'll be kept pretty busy. Say hello to everyone for me and keep writing.


This is to his mother, 2/1/45. He's still in a hospital in England:

They were talking about my outfit in a news broadcast today. They're really going to town now. I wish I was with them...

Here's the last letter I have, a V-mail dated 2/23/45:

Dear Mother:

I'm still here in the other hosp. and times passing pleasantly.

Bill O'Melia came to see me Thursday and stayed till Friday. He was surprised to see me in as good shape as ever. We had a good time talking over old times. His feet are pretty good now. I hope they don't send him up to the front again when warm weather comes. At the present he's stationed at a hospital about a hundred miles from me.

I ought to be leaving here soon, I don't know when, I don't think they know theirself. I don't mind waiting though. I kind of hate to go leaving all my brothers here.

Well I don't have much more to say, tell Dad & Jack, hello!


My father never bragged about his army service, he never complained about losing his leg. He died in a car accident in 1977. This is my tribute to him.

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 201: river

Our hero Arnold Schnabel has been exiled by the prince of darkness into the lurid pages of Ye Cannot Quench, a regrettably long out-of-print novel of love and lust in 1950s New York City. In his current role as “Porter Walker, handsome and romantic young poet”, he has just entered that Greenwich Village cynosure of Bohemia the Kettle of Fish with his neighbors Pat and Carlotta (along with Porter’s new “friend”, an unnamed but very talkative fly). Arnold (or Porter) had been trying to keep a date with Betsy, the apparent younger self of his inamorata Elektra, but somehow with one thing and another he is almost three-quarters of an hour late, and she is nowhere to be seen in the crowded bar. However, jamming furiously at the far end of the room Arnold sees a few of his old acquaintances from his previous life: the aged accordionist and singer Freddy Ayres, his almost equally-aged wife the saxophonist Ursula, and, tickling the ivories, Ursula’s granddaughter Magda. You now know as much as I do...

(The bewildered may click here to read our previous chapter; go here to return to that long-ago beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning and seemingly endless memoir. “One page of Schnabel packs more punch than fifteen rounds with Rocky Marciano.” -- Harold Bloom, in Boxing Illustrated.)

I made my way through the bar, closer to the band. Fifteen or twenty other people were standing there, listening to the music, nodding their heads, occasionally, yelling, “Go! Go!” or “Too much!” or “All the way, baby! All the way!”

Gabriel looked the same as ever, angels don’t grow old, so why would they grow younger? He had sunglasses on and what looked like the same sharkskin suit and porkpie hat he had been wearing the one other time that I had met him. Magda though did look younger, which of course she would have to be. But, strangely, Freddy and Ursula both appeared to be just as old as they had been (or would be) six years in the future. Magda and Ursula were both dressed much as they were when last I saw them, that is as if they were attending a formal banquet in ancient Rome; Freddy however was not wearing the gold tuxedo jacket which was the only thing I’d ever seen him wearing, but instead wore a tan summer suit and a matching Panama hat.

It had probably never occurred to me that I might be happy to see Freddy and Ursula and Magda again, but I was, and indeed I felt my heart leaping with joy and relief at the sight of Gabriel. As strange as it was to find this crew here, at least they were inhabitants of my other life, that life I persisted in thinking of as my real life, and perhaps their presence in this place was a further indication that, even if I couldn’t yet free myself entirely from the confines of Miss Evans’s novel, perhaps I could rewrite it more to my own fashion.

Ursula was in the midst of a solo, bending forward and leaning backward with her instrument, sometimes thrashing her frail torso from side to side as somehow her tiny withered lungs sprayed out cascades of screaming notes, Freddy watching her all the while and nodding his head as his ancient fingers scrabbled at the keys and buttons of his accordion. Magda seemed almost to be playing another song, striking staccato chords with her left hand as her right hand picked out its own subtle melody wandering dreamily through that thick cawing jungle of music produced by her grandmother’s saxophone. The large bass player thumped his strings with his enormous hand, producing a sonic boom with each thump that actually seemed to blow the clouds of cigarette smoke away from him as if he were a large oscillating floor fan. The bongo player, who seemed oddly familiar (or maybe just odd) played four times as fast as anyone else, pounding away in an apparent ecstasy, the sweat pouring from his face like rain and dancing off the skins of his drums and into the faces of the people in the front rank of the audience.

And Gabriel stood there silently, nodding his head, fingering the keys of his trumpet.

Then Ursula abruptly tore her lips away from her saxophone, almost in mid-note. The people standing around me all hooted and clapped. Ursula acknowledged the applause with a nod, then pointed to Gabriel who immediately raised his horn to his lips and began his own solo.

I stood and listened. I was quite close to the band, but I couldn’t tell if Gabriel had noticed me. Did he know who I was? That is to say, did he know I was Arnold Schnabel? His features behind the dark glasses were unreadable as his cheeks swelled and contracted with the music he now blew through his trumpet and into the room.

I hadn’t actually heard him play before, and I have to say he sounded pretty good to me, even though I’m not much of a jazz buff. The other musicians seemed to keep playing pretty much what they had been playing before, and in the same way, but unlike the volcanic squalling that Ursula had been forcing out of her instrument, Gabriel now produced a sad deep blue river of music that seemed to flow into my skull and wander around in the vast empty wastelands of my brain as if in search of some lost ocean of peace and calm.

Ursula had sat down on the end of the piano bench, facing away from the keyboard. One of her fans had offered her a cigarette and a light, which she accepted, and she sat smoking, her sax across her lap, staring out into the room, nodding her head slowly along with Gabriel’s solo. I half-heartedly raised my hand in a salutational gesture, but she didn’t seem to notice it, or me.

I don’t know how long I stood there, but I was happy, for the time being

Someone touched my arm.

It was Betsy. Elektra. Betsy.

“Are you digging Gabe’s blowing?”

“Yes, very much so,” I said.

She had changed her clothes. She had on the sort of dress that I think is called a shirtwaist, blue pinstripes of a soft-looking sort of bubbly material, no sleeves but with a white collar and a white cloth belt. She carried a wet furled umbrella, dark blue, and a dark blue purse.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “I went home to take a bath and change, and I fell asleep. I hope you don’t think me horribly rude.”

“No, not at all,” I said. “I just got here too I’m afraid. I thought I’d missed you.”

“So we’re both not very punctual.”

“No, I suppose not.”

She turned her head to look at Gabriel. I looked at her. Then I too looked at Gabriel, and listened to the music. Betsy stood next to me, her arm touching mine. Even amidst this dense atmosphere thick with the smells of smoke and sweat and beer and whiskey I could detect her fragrance, it reminded me of the smell of my aunts’ garden when I would sit on the porch reading crime novels on a rainy morning.

I realized that I was as happy now as I had ever been.

After a while we would have to talk some more, have a beer or two, but, for now, this was good…

Someone put a hand on my shoulder.

“Porter, old man, I take it that you are -- in your parlance -- digging that crazy trumpet?”

It was Nicky. Lucky. Nicky.

(Continued here, come hell or high water.)

(Please refer to the right hand column of this page to find a completely up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Now being broadcast live on Tuesday nights at 10:00 (EST) on the Dumont Television Network, starring Dane Clark as Arnold Schnabel, hosted and introduced by Oscar Levant, with music by the Red Norvo Quintet.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 51: the slap

Let’s get back to Buddy and Cordelia on this Saturday night at the Yaletown Brewing Company in the charming city of Vancouver. Several beers have been drunk. And this is on top of that excellent bottle of Barolo they shared earlier in the evening...

(Click here to go to our previous episode; newcomers may go here to return to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A paean not just to love in all its myriad forms but to alcoholic beverages.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in the Ravenhurst Review.)

Another beer, and Buddy faded away from what Cordelia was saying. To tell the truth it had gotten so loud in here that you really had to make an effort to pay attention. And anyway he was distracted, he was distracted by her and by the beer, and by her body, and by the fact that she wasn’t wearing panties and seemed to be oblivious of the fact and by that weird gurgly quality in her voice but he faded back in when she said:

“...and besides, Buddy-boo-boyo, let’s face it, you’re only really here because you like young chicks with big butts and big boobs.”


“If I didn’t have big boobs you wouldn’t be so interested in me.”

“Poppycock. And besides, your boobs aren’t that big.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Not by today’s standards.”

“Well, maybe you’re right. But you will admit my butt is big.”

“I admit nothing.”

“So you’re saying I do have a big butt.”

“No. No,” said Buddy. “No.”

“Ha. Okay, well, if it’s not big then would you say
it’s a --”

“It’s a nice butt.”



“But that’s what I’m saying, even if you are lying: boobs and butt --”

“Wait --”

“Butt and boobs. That’s all --”

“Cordelia, can I say something?”

“Boobs and butt.”

“Cordelia, look, be quiet for a minute.”

“Fuck you, I don’t think you have any right to tell me to--”

“Wait. Listen.” He put his finger up, and leaned a little closer. “I’ve met about a million people in my life. Half a million women.”

“Yeah, and you’ve fucked about a hundred thousand of them, you old lech --”

“But --”


“But I’ve never met anyone like you.”

This immediately sounded incredibly trite and corny to Buddy, but he couldn’t help that.
Cordelia looked at him, gnawing her upper lip.

“But you still wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like my body.”

“That’s true,” said Buddy. “But it’s also true what I just said.”

She continued to look at him, saying nothing. Then it looked like she might start to cry.

Buddy couldn’t think of anything to say. Except for what he’d already said.

Yeah, she was going to cry all right. And Buddy couldn’t help that either.

Then --

“Hey. Cordelia.”

This was said by some random young guy, standing behind them. Cordelia turned on her stool.

“Oh. Keith. Hi, Keith!”

Keith, who was smiling, glanced from her to Buddy and back to her again.

“We missed you at Fred’s,” said Keith.

“Oh! Fred’s. Why -- aren’t you there?”

“We couldn’t get a damned pool table, the joint was packed with some crew from a movie-of-the-week with David Hasselhoff and Valerie Bertinelli. So we came here for the pool tables. Hi.” Keith extended his hand to Buddy. “I’m Keith. Cordelia and I work together.”

Buddy shook his hand. Keith was good-looking, in a soap opera actor way. Well-built. But short.

“Hi, Keith. My name is -- Stephen.”


Cordelia pinched Buddy’s ass, hard.

“I’m Cordelia’s father,” said Buddy.

“No way!” said Keith.


Enormous relief suffused Keith’s bland young face.

“So you came up just to visit?” he said.

“Yep. Spur of the moment,” said Buddy.

Cordelia pinched him again and held on like a crab.

“That’s awesome. You’re an actor, too, right?”

“Oh, yes.” Buddy reached behind him and pulled Cordelia’s hand away from his ass. “Just another poor player who struts and frets his under-five upon the soundstage when he can get it.” He patted her hand.

“That’s not what I heard. Cordelia told me you have your own theatre, down in L.A.?”

“Oh, just a mere Punch-and-Judy sideshow by the beach. A petit Grand Guignol for the tourists from Peoria.”

“That’s awesome. Hey, do you know this is one talented daughter you’ve got?”

“I certainly do.”

Cordelia pulled her hand away from Buddy’s.

“Everyone loves her.”

“Of course they do.”

“And she is going to be a major star.”

“I certainly hope so.”

“Major star.”

“Right you are.”

“I know she will.”


“I know it’s going to happen for her. I know it.”

“Good, she can take care of me in my old age.”

“Hey,” said Keith, looking at Cordelia, but with a narrow little glance at Buddy, “would you guys care to join us, shoot some pool?”

Cordelia looked at Buddy and Buddy took a tiny beat.

“Perhaps,” he said.

“We’re just over there.”

“Okay, maybe we’ll come over,” said Buddy.

“Come over,” Keith said to Cordelia.

“Maybe, Keith,” said Cordelia. “We want to talk. My dad
and I.”

“Awesome. Well, nice meeting you, sir.”


Buddy offered his hand, and Keith took it.

“Nice meeting you, Steve.”

“I prefer Stephen.”


“And so very nice to make your acquaintance, Keith,” said Buddy, releasing Keith’s hand.

And off Keith went.

“You are too fucking much,” said Cordelia. Then -- “I guess you know, that was --”

“The first A.D.”

“Yeah. What did you think?”


“Oh, shut up. You didn’t like him.”

“Well, you know --


“I get bored.”


“Yeah, these upbeat motherfuckers.”

“Upbeat motherfuckers?”

“Yeah, you know -- these fuckin’ -- regular guys, nice
guys -- these fuckin’ --”


“These fuckin’ hail-fellows-well-met, these always so goddam positive, and sure everything’s gonna turn out great, and they always ask you if you saw some game or other, I don’t know. I hate 'em.”


“And you know what? These are just the sort of guys that secretly -- that pull out guns and shoot meter maids for giving them parking tickets --”

“Okay --”

“Meter maids who are just doing their jobs, who have families to support.”

“All right, shut up.”

“These guys -- they marry girls and then have affairs with the girls’ sisters.”


“They’re the kind of guys like at the gym they call the black dudes ‘bro’ but behind their backs they call them niggers.”

“All right, just stop it.”

“And then when Hitler comes to power they run and join the Nazi Party. They’re just -- they’re just -- what’s his name, Craig? Chip? Kip? Pip?”

“Keith, asshole.”

“Keith. They’re just -- it’s like if they were in one of my movies they’d be one of the first guys to get killed, y’know? And no one would miss them.”

“You really are an asshole.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, but I forgive you because you’re just jealous.”

Another chunk of chatty semi-drunken bar-time went by and suddenly Buddy realized he really had to pee.

Unfortunately she was in the middle of a discourse...ever since adolescence she had felt fat and inadequate, plus she had been emotionally stunted through trying to live up to her father’s expectations, and meanwhile she’d always felt like a weirdo because she really didn’t want a boyfriend the way all the other girls did because she thought boys were weird, and boring, because --

“Wait, Cordelia, listen --”

“What? You disagree?”

“No, not at all --”

“I know, I’m a ballbuster, I’m a neurotic, I’m a cockteaser, I’m afraid of sex, but you don’t know, Buddy --”

“Cordelia, listen, I have to pee. I mean I really have to pee. Really.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Buddy! I always think it’s all about me. Go pee then. Go.”

She waggled her fingers at him.

“Great. Be right back,” said Buddy.

And it was very good, when he finally found the men’s room, when he finally got a urinal to himself, it was at least as good as an orgasm. It didn’t have the psychological complexity and depth of an orgasm brought on by a woman, but as a discrete physical pleasure, well...

As he worked his way back toward the bar he saw Keith the first A.D. there, again, talking to Cordelia. The little slimeball. Well, what the hell, who was Buddy to stand in their way? He dawdled a bit to give them a chance to talk about whatever sordid shit they had to talk about. And then a wonderful thing happened. Buddy was hanging back about thirty feet away, there were a lot of people in between, but he saw it oh so clearly and wonderfully when she hauled off and slapped the smug little twerp right in the face.

It was glorious.

Buddy hung back a bit more, giving Keith time to go away and Cordelia time to calm down a little.

Finally --

“Hey, sorry it took me so long, there was a line.”

She smiled, she was a good enough actress that it didn’t look forced.

“Hey, I’m over this place,” she said.

“Me too. Shall we go somewhere else?”

“Let’s just go back to the hotel,” she said. “They have twenty-four hour room service and they have really good desserts. We’ll eat dessert and watch a movie on the cable.”

“Sounds cool to me,” said Buddy.

In the cab she snuggled against him and held his arm, but they didn’t make out.

“Hey,” he said, “if you don’t mind my asking, why’d you slap Keith?”

She looked up at him. Yeah, he’d seen it. She looked away.

“He insinuated that you weren’t my father.”

“So you slapped him?”

“Yes,” she said. “It was the way he said it.”

(Continued here. Aspirin available free of charge at the front desk.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™ a Jack Webb Production.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 200: kick it

It is now two hundred installments and nearly three years since we started publishing these complete and unexpurgated memoirs of the inimitable Arnold Schnabel, and yet still it seems somehow that we have only just begun our journey with him; at any rate Arnold appeared to me again in a dream this morning and asked me to thank everyone who has dipped even if only briefly into what he referred to modestly as “this endless river of drivel”.

So without further ado let’s rejoin Arnold -- in his present incarnation as “Porter Walker”, bohemian young poet -- as he walks through the rain up the Bowery with his high-spirited neighbors Pat and Carlotta and Porter’s new “friend” the talking fly...

(Click here to go to our previous episode; go here to return to the very first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 57-volume memoir. “Sometimes Schnabel seems to me the sole sane voice on a planet of madmen.” -- Harold Bloom, in The Ladies’ Home Journal.)

I followed the girls up the block a bit and they stopped at a battered dark grey Hupmobile sedan, twenty years old if it was a day. It was parked crookedly, partway on the pavement, facing us.

“Porter,” said Pat when I caught up, “go around to the driver’s side and kick the door right under the handle.”

“Kick it?”

“Yeah, the door key doesn’t work. You have to kick it. Hard.”

I went out into the street by the driver’s side. The area around the door handle and the lock was as dented and scarred as the face of the moon. Or, less poetically put it, looked exactly like a car door which had been kicked or banged with bricks and other hard blunt objects a couple of hundred times or so.

I stepped back and gave the door a kick. Nothing happened.

“Christ, Porter, really kick it,” said Pat.

Fortunately I was wearing my heavy work shoes. Making sure no cars or trucks were coming down the street at me, I reared back and gave the door another kick. Nothing happened again. If nothing can be said to happen again.

“Come on, Porter, give it a good one,” said Pat.

“Yeah, put a little oomph into it this time,” said Carlotta.

They were standing there on the sidewalk under their umbrella, lighting up cigarettes.

I kicked the door once more, hard, employing a roundhouse motion such as I recalled Henry Silva using in his big fight with Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate. This time the door popped open.

“It’s open,” I said.


Pat handed the umbrella to Carlotta and came around.

“Okay, get in and scooch over.”

I got in the front seat and slid over, and Pat got in and sat in the driver’s seat.

“Open the door for Carlotta, Porter. Jam the handle down hard, pull in, and then pound the the door hard with the heel of your other hand.”

She repeated these instructions three more times as I tried to follow them, and finally I got the door open and Carlotta got in next to me, closing up the umbrella and shoving it down into the footspace. In the meantime Pat had inserted and turned the ignition key, causing the old car to belch several times and then to emit a deep painful-sounding growling noise, much as one might expect an elephant to make after being shot several times with a high-powered rifle. She switched on the air-powered windshield wipers, they began slowly wheezing their passage up and down across the rain-dappled windshield, and then without further ceremony Pat yanked the car into gear, glanced cursorily over her shoulder, pulled out into a U-turn, and headed up the Bowery.

“Thanks for kicking, Porter,” she said, steering with one hand, holding her cigarette in the other.

“You’re welcome,” I said. “What do you do when there isn’t a man around to kick the door?”

“There’s always a man around.”

She wheeled the car onto a street to the left and I felt the fly buzzing in my hand. I opened it up and he flew up and landed on my shoulder. The girls resumed their chatter, taking only the briefest pauses to draw on their cigarettes. I still couldn’t follow their conversation, and as the old wet buildings slipped by us I found myself perhaps for the first time that day wondering just what I was doing.

I felt myself drawn as if inevitably to this meeting with the young Elektra, here known as Betsy, and I wanted to meet her, but now I wondered if this was wise, because I realized that I had fallen in love with her as she was or would be six years into the future and perhaps in another universe entirely. By pursuing a relationship with her in this world, a world in which I was not Arnold Schnabel but Porter Walker, I would in effect be rivaling myself for her affections, even if she had not met me yet.

On the one hand I would love her to like me as Porter Walker, but on the other hand I longed to escape this world and Porter Walker and to return to my own world, and to the Elektra I knew there. Would it be fair to her to start something up in a universe I wished only to escape from?

But then I thought, what if I were to remain in this world? Things could be worse. I had a book contract -- albeit for a bad book -- and a modest income, a place to live, I even had some friends in this world. But if I did remain I was faced with the foreknowledge that by the year 1963 Elektra (as she would then be known) would enter into a romance with a mad brakeman named Arnold Schnabel.

And then of course there was my poor mother to think of...

“So what do you think, Porter?” said Pat.

“About what?” I asked.

“About what we were talking about.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Just ‘Oh’?”

“He doesn’t have any idea what we were talking about,” said Carlotta. ”Do you, Porter?”

“Well, um, you were, uh -- um --”

“See?” said Carlotta. “What did I tell you.”

“Yeah, men never listen.”

“No, it’s not just that,” said Carlotta.

“What is it then?”

“We were talking Woman. He’s not meant to understand Woman. No more than if we had been speaking, I don’t know, what --”

“Ancient Sumerian?” I suggested.

“Ancient Sumerian, exactly,” she said.

And here I was assuming that I just wasn’t familiar with the people and things they were talking about, but maybe she had a point.

“You don’t speak Ancient Sumerian, do you, Porter?” asked Carlotta.

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Didn’t think so.”

The fly was buzzing near my ear and I could hear him chuckling.

“Goddam flies,” said Pat. “They’re everywhere.” Keeping her left hand on the wheel, she raised her right hand and swiped at the fly. “Shoo, you little bastard.”

The fly zoomed off into the back of the car.

Carlotta picked at the cloth of my trousers.

“You’re all wet, Porter.”

“He wouldn’t have gotten so wet if we hadn’t been stopped by those punks,” said Pat.

“I think that Terry kid likes you, Porter,” said Carlotta. “You having been a bullfighter and all. These kids have never been any farther than Coney Island their whole lives.”

“Except for when they’ve been at reform school,” said Pat.

“Yeah, except for that,” said Carlotta. “Poor saps, they’ll live and die in that crumby neighborhood.”

“Yeah, unless they get drafted. Then they’ll get sent to die in some stupid imperialist war.”

“The detritus of the capitalist system,” said Carlotta.

“And that poor punk thinks he’s gonna be a bullfighter.”

“Young Tyrone Power,” said Carlotta.

“He’ll be dead or in jail by the time he’s twenty-one.”

“If he’s lucky he’ll settle down in some factory job and a life of alcoholism and raise a brood of brats condemned to the same miserable existence.”

“Yeah,” said Pat. “Okay, here’s MacDougal up ahead, and I see a parking spot.”

She parked the car with a jolt but without hitting anything or anyone, she killed the ignition and we all got out. Pat slammed her door shut and quickly joined Carlotta under the umbrella. They set off along the sidewalk and I followed. As did the fly, who buzzed up next to my ear.

“Hey, pal,” he whispered, “ya don’t think these girls are communists, do ya?”

“I don’t know,” I whispered back.

“I mean, not that I give a shit really,” he said. “I mean, capitalism, communism, whatever, it’s all the same to a fly, ya know what I mean?”

“I guess so,” I said. “Now look, keep quiet once we’re in there, okay?”

“Sure, pal. Don’t want me to blow your play with this Betsy chick, right?”

“Well --”

“Don’t worry, pal, she’s all yours. Like I told ya, I got my eyes on that blonde babe, Pat. D’ja see the way she swiped at me?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I like a dame like that. With spirit, ya know what I’m talking about?”

“I guess so.”

“Hey, stick me in your hand again, pal, I’m getting drowned in this shit.”

I cupped my left hand and he flew into it.

The girls had gone into bar with a big neon sign indicating that it was a bar, and with a hanging sign indicating that this was indeed the Kettle of Fish. Jazz music blared out from the open door.

Before going in I raised my left hand up near my face, as if I were wiping a drop of rain away.

“All right,” I said. “We’re going in. Please don’t embarrass me.”

“Who, me?”

“Just keep quiet, okay?”

“You won’t even know I’m there. Come on, let’s get it on, we’re wasting valuable drinking time.”

I opened my hand, he flew through the doorway, and I followed him in.

I went into the bar, it was filled with people and smoke and music, Pat and Carlotta were already chatting with some people at the bar.

I looked around, and then looked around again. No Betsy. I saw a clock above the bar, a Rheingold Beer clock, and the time was 8:43. I was almost three-quarters of an hour late for our date. She had come and gone, and who could blame her.

Then through the billowing clouds of smoke I noticed the band playing at the far end of the room, not on a stage, but tucked into a corner. Sitting on a stool and playing the accordion was Freddy Ayres, and blowing her saxophone was Ursula. Playing a piano, her head reared back, smoking a cigarette, was Ursula’s granddaughter Magda. I didn’t recognize the large Negro man playing a bass fiddle, nor the hunched-over white fellow playing the bongos, but, standing to one side, nodding his head and silently fingering the keys of his trumpet, was Gabe, Gabriel, whatever his name was. Josh’s friend. The angel.

(Continued here, despite the continued snubbing of the Pulitzer Prize committee.)

(Kindly look to the right hand column of this page for a possibly current listing of links to all other publicly-available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Coming soon: The Arnold Schnabel Story, a Lifetime Channel original miniseries event, starring Montgomery Clift as Arnold Schnabel and featuring Phil Silvers as the voice of “the fly”.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 50: framboise

Let us rejoin Buddy and Cordelia at the Yaletown Brewing Company, in the city of Vancouver, on a drizzly spring evening in the faraway year of 2003...

(Go here to read to our previous episode, or click here to go to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A heartwarming tale of love and frustrated lust” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Redbook.)

The place was packed, so they told the hostess they were cool with eating at the bar.

“Oh my God,” said Cordelia, “I’m so hungry I could kill someone.”

So they ordered burgers and fries right away, the burgers rare so they wouldn’t have to wait so long. (This would be the first red meat Buddy would eat since that one meatball he had had at Locanda Luigi during his first dinner with Cordelia, what the hell.) Then Buddy ordered a pint of something called Red Brick Bitter, and Cordelia insisted on a Diet Coke.

“And don’t make fun of me, if I drink alcohol right now I’ll die.”

“Right on, baby.”

The drinks came, Buddy tasted his beer, and Cordelia leaned forward and sipped some of her Diet Coke through a straw.

“How’s your beer?”

“It’s pretty good. How’s your Diet Coke?”

“Diet Coke is always good.”


“Yes. You don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.”

“I’m sure I don’t.”

“We drink Diet Coke even though it doesn’t taste very good because the knowledge that it’s not fattening makes us feel even better than we would feel if we drank something that tasted good and wasn’t full of poisonous chemicals and produced by a corporation that owns half the universe.”

“I can see that. But I prefer my beer.”

“I don’t like beer. I like wine. Do they not have wine here?”

“Well, it’s a brew pub, which means they sort of specialize in beer --” and of course he had asked her if she would like to go to a brew pub, and she had said “Sure, great,” but then she was a woman, “but how about if I order you a beer you might like.”

“Go ahead, if you’re buying.”

They had a Belgian-style framboise on the list, so he ordered her a glass of that.

“I’m not going to like it.”

“Just try it.”

The bartender put the glass down. Cordelia made a face, but she picked up the glass, looked at it, nosed it, and took a sip.

“Oh my God, I like it.”

She was on her second one by the time the burgers and fries came, and she dug right in.

“Oh dear God,” she said, her mouth full.

“What?” said Buddy.

“This burger is so good. I was starving. I haven’t eaten all day except for one bagel with lowfat cream cheese and one whole-grain blueberry muffin and I did a whole hour on the elliptical machine at the hotel gym.”

Buddy was thinking that neither of them had washed their hands since the alleyway, yeah, well...

A band had come on, they were playing some kind of Latin music. It was very loud, and a gang of people were dancing. None of them looked like Latins and they sure didn’t dance like Latins.

“So,” said Cordelia -- she was finishing off the fries, dipping them in mayonnaise -- “are you glad you flew up?”

“Yeah, so far. Another beer?”

“Are you having one?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll have another.”

Buddy looked at the bartender, who was looking at the band, or at least looking in the direction of the band.

“But, look, Buddy, I don’t think I’m gonna have sex with you. Do you mind?”

“Uh --”

“Oh, right, we did sort of have sex, I forgot.”

“You sort of had sex.”

“Oh. Right. But I never said I would --”

“That’s true.”

Buddy kept his eye on the bartender. You couldn’t falter for a moment with these guys.

“Do you hate me?” she said.

“What? No.”

“Then why won’t you look at me?”

“Because I’m trying to flag down this bartender.”

“Oh. Sorry. But are you mad at me?”


“You should be mad at me. I led you on and now I don’t want to have sex with you.”

“Well, you know, I’ll live.”

“You don’t mind?”

Actually he was thinking there was still a chance they’d wind up doing it anyway, especially if she kept putting away the old framboise, but --

“Life is fraught with these little disappointments,” said Buddy.

“I know I’m weird about sex,” she said.

“Are you?”

“I am. I know I am.”

“So, who cares? It’s your business.”

“I know. But I care. It’s something I’m trying to work on. I mean, I talk to my shrink about it.”

“I’d love to be a fly on his wall.”

“Her wall.”

“Her wall.”

“But --” she said, and then paused. Buddy took his gaze from the bartender for a second and glanced at Cordelia. She was staring straight ahead with her lower lip twisted to one side.

“Yeah?” said Buddy.

She didn’t say anything, so Buddy returned his gaze to the bartender. Still no luck.

“It’s just that --” she said, and he cocked his head toward her to hear what she had to say but kept his eye on the bartender. When she didn’t say anything more Buddy glanced at her again. Her mouth was slightly open, as if she were about to say something.

But she didn’t say anything. He turned back to his bartender vigil, and, yes, the dude finally turned his Olympian gaze Buddy’s way and Buddy quick as a shot gave him the V-for-two-drinks sign.

“Never mind,” said Cordelia.


“Never mind.”

“Well, okay.”

“You’re not even listening anyway.”

“No, no, I’m all ears.”

“No you’re not.”

“No, really. Please go on.”

“I said never mind.”

“Well, okay.” But then he remembered: Conversation, Female. “But I wish you’d tell me --”

“But part of me says if you have to make such a big effort then what’s the point?” she asked.

“Of what?”

“Of sex, stupid.”

“Oh, right -- I agree,” said Buddy.

“I mean, all these sex advice columns, all these books, all the therapy and counseling, all the -- whatever. I mean, is sex that great?”

“Not really.”

“Is it really worth all this -- whatever?

“I wouldn’t say so.”

“You know what I mean?”


“You do?”


“I mean,” she leaned close in to Buddy, “I mean,” she said, as the bartender loomed above her with their fresh beers, “does it really make me such a terrible awful person if I prefer masturbation to fucking?”

The bartender put their beers down in front of them.

“Thanks,” Cordelia said, and she watched the bartender till he went away.

“He thinks I’m a pervert now,” she said.

“Who cares what he thinks?”

“You’re right.” She took a sip of her framboise. “I just think sex is weird.”

“It is weird.”

“You think so?”


“But weird enough that it’s okay not to want it?”

“I’d say that’s a reasonable point of view.”

“You’re such a liar, I’ll bet you’ve had loads of sex in your life.”

“Yeah, but I’m an idiot, don’t go by me.”

“So you have had loads of sex.”

“How much is loads?”

“Okay. How many women do you think you’ve slept with?”

“Hmm. Well -- let’s see --”

“Just approximately.”

Buddy was quiet.

“Come on,” she said.

“I’m approximating, don’t rush me.”


“Okay. I don’t know -- um --”

“More than thirty?”

“Uh -- yeah…”


“Um --”

“More than fifty?”

“Um, I’m trying to think, I mean, I started a long time ago, you know --”

“A hundred?”

“Um --”

“A hundred?”

“Well -- I don’t know, who cares, anyway?”

“A hundred women? You’ve slept with one hundred women?”

“Uh --”

“Oh my God.” She took a good drink of her beer. “Do you know how many guys I’ve slept with, Buddy?”

Recalling the Mariner’s vile discourse, Buddy said, “Two? Or three?”

Her eyes went wide.

“You really think that’s all? I’m that bad in bed?”

“No, no, not at all --”

“But then I’ve hardly done anything in bed with you, so how would you know?”

“Right, yeah,” said Buddy, and then he immediately thought, Uh-oh, wrong response -- “I mean, no, I think you’re great --”

“Oh, right.”

“No. I mean, I’m sure you, I mean -- you’re really -- you’re really very --”


“Uh -- sensual --”

“Oh, sure --”

“No, uh --”

He ran out of words.

“One,” she said.


“That’s how many guys I’ve been to bed with.”

“Oh,” said Buddy. So, the Mariner had got that one wrong. “Uh, that’s not counting me, right?”

“No, that’s not counting you. One. I mean I slept with a couple of other guys and fooled around sort of, but I only had full-fledged, you know, with one. And that was only like four times with him. Or three-and-a-half.” She took a bite of French fry. “What a loser I am.”


“What?” she said.

“Don’t stress about it.”


“Yeah. Life’s too short.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

“You don’t think I’m weird.”

“Sure you’re weird. Who gives a shit?”

“Okay,” said Cordelia. “Good. Let’s drink a toast.”

“Right on,” said Buddy. “What are we drinking to?”

She raised her glass.

“To masturbation.”

“Oh, I’ll drink to that,” said Buddy, and they drank. Now he wanted her more than ever. He looked at her.

“What?” she said.


“What are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about that alleyway up the street.”

“Oh,” she said. “Yeah. That was hot. But look, Buddy -- that was --”


She fingered one of his shirt buttons.

“That doesn’t count.”

“Oh, really?” he said.

He moved a bit closer to her. They were in one of those little two-person bar bubbles, surrounded by all the chatter and music.

“I mean --” she said, and she leaned closer, still playing with his shirt button. Now she spoke very softly, “That was different. You know what I mean.”

Buddy touched her thigh with his little finger.

“Um, well, you know, I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what you mean --”

“Oh. Well, I mean I didn’t mean to have sex with you.”

She took her fingers off his shirt button. She glanced at the French fry basket, but they were all gone. Then:

“Okay, granted, if we had had a condom, I guess maybe we would have had sex in the alley. But you know what I mean, don’t you?”

He leaned a bit closer to her, and now, even in here, he could smell her smell, even under the Chanel #5, and it was absolutely a better scent than the Chanel. And in there somewhere was her sex smell. He slipped his little finger under her skirt. She still had those insane stockings on. Oh, and the panties, still in her raincoat pocket --

“Don’t you?” she said.

“Uh -- yeah.”

Okay, he had no idea what she was talking about.

“Yeah what?” she said.

“Um -- yeah,” he said, as if to say, Yes, of course, I totally agree.

“So you do? Understand?”

“Sure. Absolutely.”

“No you don’t,” she said, and she pulled his hand away from her thigh. “Can we have more French fries?”


Luckily the bartender was right there, probably eavesdropping. Buddy ordered another basket of fries, and Cordelia added that she wanted them extra crispy and with extra mayonnaise.

She took a sip of her beer, holding the glass in both hands, and then she put the glass down. Buddy took a sip of his own
beer --

“That was the first time I ever came with a man.”

“Um, pardon me?”

“It was the first time.”

“What, in the alley?”

“No, not in the alley, stupid,” she said. “In my room.”

“That was the first time?”

“Yes. Jesus.”


“Look, I told you I’m weird about sex, and I am working on it.”

“Yeah, no, that’s, uh --”

“Look, don’t make me feel weirder than I already feel, okay, Buddy? Because you may not be aware of it, but, but -- some women never have an orgasm. And, news flash, women certainly don’t need men to have orgasms --”

“Oh, I knew that.”

“And -- I only did that time because you were touching me the same way I touch myself when I -- you know.”


“Okay then.”


“And --”

She paused.

“What?” said Buddy.

“I don’t know. Whatever.”

Buddy was remembering the way her face looked as she was coming -- that pale light from the rain-blurred window --

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she said.

“Like what?”

She had gotten a little loud, but now she spoke low again:

“You know.”

Buddy didn’t say anything. In fact for the time being he was unable to say anything.

“Okay,” she said. “Okay. But look, no more sex. I really mean it this time. It’s just --”




“I mean, I really really mean it,” she said. “I just don’t, um, it’s like, um --”

“No, it’s cool,” said Buddy.

“Yeah. I mean no. I mean, it’s, it’s just, I just, I just don’t, it’s --”

“Really --”

“No, wait, the thing is, listen --”

“Baby, it’s cool. Let’s just --”

“Buddy, will you please stop interrupting me? You men always do that. You’re always so sure you know --”

“Sorry. You’re right.”

“See, you just did it again.”

“Sorry, go on.”


“I’m sorry.”

“Fuck! What was I saying?”

“Um, uh --”

“See, and you don’t listen anyway.”

“Um, you were -- oh, wait, you were saying you weren’t going to have sex with me.”

“No, jerk-o, I was saying why I didn’t want to have sex with you.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“So do you want to know why?”

“Um, I’m not sure --”

“You jerk!”

“However I know you want to tell me, so please do.”

“I just don’t feel like I, I’m not, it’s just, I don’t, I’m not, it’s, it’s -- oh!”

“Baby --”


“It’s okay.”

She took a beat.



“You really don’t mind.”

“Well, I’d love to, you know, I’d love to --”

“Fuck me.”

“Right -- but, you know, if you’re not into it, that’s cool.”

She took a breather. Then:

“Why are you being so nice?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe it’s because you’ve slept with one hundred women. What’s one more?”

Buddy sipped his beer. He was getting buzzed, the crowd and the music were loud, he was having a good time, even if she wasn’t exactly talking about how she intended to fuck his brains out when they got back to the hotel. And in fact for some reason or reasons it felt pretty good this way, that sense of relief deep down inside when no matter how much you wanted a woman you realized you might not have to have sex with her after all.

“Do you know what my shrink says,” said Cordelia.

Now Buddy took a beat.

“What your -- shrink says?”

“Yes. We’ve been having sessions over the phone.”

“Uh --”

“She says -- well, no, she doesn’t say, but she always asks
-- she asked me if I thought you were like a father substitute.”

“Oh, God.”

“Oh God what?”

“Cordelia, you have a father. You’ve got so much father it’s not even funny.”

“Yeah, but look at him.”

“No thanks.”

“If you had a father like him, wouldn’t you want a substitute?”

“You’ve got a point. But you don’t make out with your father. At least I hope to God you don’t.”

“Oh my God, that’s so gross, take it back!”

“I take it back.”

“Okay. But that’s my point. If you’re my father substitute, I shouldn’t make out with you. Oh!” The guy was standing there with the new basket of fries. “Thank you!” she said. “Yum!”

“You’re welcome, miss.”

She started in on the fries, and Buddy waited till the bartender was well away.

“Okay, Cordelia, I’ll just say this: I don’t want to be your father substitute. And I sure as hell don’t want you to be my daughter substitute.”

“But it might not be up to you. It’s all about me working out my shit with my dad.”

“Okay. But you know what? You had the right idea on the phone the other day. You want to work out your shit with your dad, get away from him. Move back to New York. Fuck him.”

“Bad choice of words, Buddy.”

“Right, sorry. The hell with him I mean.”

“Well, okay, but if I do that, go to New York, I won’t be able to see you, either, you know.”

“Yeah, tough luck for me.”

They fell quiet now, Cordelia eating her fries and Buddy sipping his beer with all the noise of the place all around them. Then --

“Hey,” she said, chewing, and she nudged him with her elbow.

“Hey,” he said.

(Continued here, whether something happens or not.)

(Please refer to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™. Vancouver interiors filmed at Paramount Studios, Hollywood.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 199: which one

The time:

A rainy evening in the summer of 1957.
The place:

A tenement at Bleecker and the Bowery.
Dramatis personae:

Arnold Schnabel, currently inhabiting the corporeal host of “Porter Walker”, romantic young poet.

Carlotta, a stunning brunette in red.

Pat, a ravishing blonde in black.

A talking fly.

(Click here to go to our preceding chapter; go here to return to the beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 34-volume memoir. “We are all merely visitors on the planet called Schnabelia.” -- Harold Bloom, in Grit.)

Pat and Carlotta bustled down the hall to the landing, and I followed, not bustling. The fly remained on my shoulder. The girls went down the stairs, chattering about people and things that meant nothing to me, and I followed, looking down at Pat in the lead with her golden hair and black dress and at Carlotta and her dark hair and red dress and umbrella, looking down also I’m afraid at their décolletages.

The fly flew up to my ear and whispered, “Hey, pal, which one you want, the blonde or the brunette?”

This took me so aback that I stopped. The girls, still chattering away in what might as well have been ancient Sumerian, turned at the landing and descended out of sight on their clacking heels.

I swiveled my head and looked at the hovering fly.

“What are you talking about?” I whispered.

“Which one do you want, the blonde or the brunette?”

“Neither,” I whispered.

“So it’s okay I take the blonde?”

“But you’re a fly.”

“Yes. You keep bringing that up. What are you trying to say.”

“You’re a fly. Those girls are human beings.”

“Oh. So you’re saying just ‘cause I’m a lowly fly I am not worthy of mating with them.”

“You should find a girl fly.”

“You find a girl fly, buster, you like girl flies so much.”

“Porter!” This was Carlotta yelling up from the ground floor. “Stop talking to yourself and get down here or we’re leaving you here!”

“Hurry up, man,” said the fly. “They’re gonna ditch us and it’ll be all your fault.”

“What did he say?” This was Pat, downstairs.

“What did you say, Porter?” That was Carlotta.

“I said I’ll be right down,” I called. “I’m, uh, tying my shoelace.”

“Shoelace, that’s good,” said the fly. “Clever.”

“Look,” I whispered, firmly, “you really have to be quiet when other people are around.”

“Okay, sorry. So you take the brunette, right, and I get the blonde. I like ‘em kinda zaftig like that --”

“Look, I’m not taking either one, I’m meeting a girl, remember?”

“Hey, suit yourself, pal, but I’m tellin’ ya, these chicks are hot to trot, man --”

“Porter!” yelled Carlotta. “We’re leaving!”


I started down the stairs again, and the fly settled back onto my shoulder. Why go to the effort of flying when you could get a free ride?

Carlotta and Pat were standing at the open front door, the rain pouring down outside. They were still chattering away about God knows what and fortunately they didn’t seem too upset at my tardiness.

As I approached the foyer, Carlotta, still talking almost simultaneously with Pat, thrust the umbrella through the doorway, opened it up, and she and Pat stepped out under it arm-in-arm into the rain and turned left, still intently in conversation. I hesitated in the doorway.

Pat turned without stopping and called back, “Just around the corner, Porter, come on, get the lead out!”

The fly flew up to my ear again.

“Hey, pal, I’m gonna get drenched. Ask them to bring the car around.”

“But she said they’re just around the corner.”

“Well, all right. Look, open up your hand.”

“Which one?”

“It don’t matter.”

I opened up my left hand and the fly flew down into my palm.

“Okay, now just sorta cup me, but gently!”

I did as he asked. With my free hand I flicked up the collar of of my jacket, went out into the rain, pulled the door shut behind me, and followed the girls, who were just turning the corner to the left up ahead.

Hardly anyone was out, just a few dark slumped figures plodding through the rain, all of whom like myself had no umbrellas, old sedans sluiced slowly through the grey streets and a bus passed down the Bowery up ahead, its harsh yellow interior lights illuminating the forlorn faces of its passengers.

When I turned the corner myself I saw the girls had been blocked in their progress by six or seven young fellows wearing variously colored pastel cardigans over white t-shirts, and holding umbrellas. One of them was in a wheelchair.

“Get out of our fucking way,” I heard Carlotta say.

“Yeah, fuck off, punks,” said Pat.

“Hey, don’t be so unfriendly,” said one of the young fellows.

“Yeah, don’t be such bitches,” said the one in the wheelchair.

All this was happening in front of a bar. “BOB'S BOWERY BAR” was what the neon sign in the window said. The front door was open and in its dim smoky depths men slumped over a bar and a jukebox played an old Frank Sinatra song.

“Come on in and have a drink with us,” said another young guy.

“We wouldn’t be caught dead in that dump,” said Carlotta.

“Whatsamatter with Bob’s?” said one of the guys who hadn’t spoken yet.

“It smells like pee. It smells like dying old men,” said Pat. And it was true, the reek of the bar wafted out into the street and merged with the rich slum smells of the neighborhood which the rain had freshly awakened, as if every garbage can in every foul alley had been opened and stirred. “It smells like shit in there,” said Pat, “and everybody in there is shit.”

“Them’s our old men you’re talking about,” said another hetetofore unheard-from fellow. “And our uncles, too, some of ‘em.”

“Get the hell out of our way,” said Carlotta.

“Or what?” said the kid who had first spoken. He wore a pale blue cardigan and he looked a little like the younger John Saxon. “Who’s this, anyway?”

He was referring to me, as I had just come up abreast of where the girls stood under their umbrella on the sidewalk.

“He’s none of your business,” said Carlotta.

“He’s that guy who lives on Mrs. Morgenstern’s floor,” said one of the other guys, a smaller curly-haired fellow who looked like Russ Tamblyn.

“Oh,” said the John Saxon guy. “The poet. What’s your name again, pal?”

“Arnold,” I said.

“Don’t be wise. I know it ain’t fuckin’ Arnold.”

“Porter, I mean,” I said. “Porter Walker.”

“Porter, huh? I hear you’re pretty friendly with Mrs. Morgenstern.”

It seemed best to agree.

“Yes,” I said.

“You don’t look like much to me.”

I almost wanted to say that he didn’t look like much either, or any of his gang, with their cardigans and umbrellas, and one of them in a wheelchair. However, being outnumbered six or seven to one, I merely said, “I’m probably less even than I look.”

This seemed to give the fellow pause. He rubbed his chin.

“Is it true you was a bullfighter.”

“Yes,” I said. Who was I to deny the biographical background I had been given?

“That must take balls to fight a fuckin’ bull.”

“It’s not so hard,” I said, “after the picadors and banderilleros get through with them usually all you’ve got to do is just put the poor animal out of its misery.”

“I don’t understand them words you’re saying.”

“I’ll explain it to you sometime.”

“Why not now?”

“Well, it’s raining, for one thing, and I don’t have an umbrella.”

“Come on in Bob’s with us, have a beer.”

“Sorry, but -- uh --”

“He’s goin’ somewheres with the broads,” said the Russ Tamblyn guy.

“Two broads for one guy, it ain’t fair,” said the one in the wheelchair. I noticed he had a crocheted cushion on the seat of his chair. He looked like the guy who plays Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie Gillis. “How’s about sharing the broads with us, pal?”

“You got a lot of nerve, Stirling Moss,” said Pat.

“Don’t call me no Stirling Moss. It ain’t my fault I’m a paraplegic.”

“Strictly speaking ya might say it was your fault,” said a small boy with horn-rimmed glasses. “Nobody forced you to jump off that rooftop.”

“It was a matter of fuckin’ honor, Four-Eyes! Them guys dared me!”

“So somebody dares you to dive off the Brooklyn Bridge you gonna do that, too?”

“Hey, I might be crazy but I ain’t fuckin’ nuts.”

“All right,” said Carlotta. “You’re brilliant. Now let us pass, roller boy.”

“Why you gotta be so unfriendly?” said the paraplegic fellow.

“How about if I just shove you and your little go-cart right out in front of a bus?” said Pat.

Somewhat awkwardly, the crippled lad reached into his back jeans pocket and brought out a switchblade knife and flicked it open.

“Oh, brother,” said Pat, “you must be kidding me.”

“Hey, look, fellas,” I said, “give us a break. We’re friends with Mrs. Morgenstern.”

Five or six of the boys all said “Fuck you” or some variation thereof, but the John Saxon kid, who seemed to be the leader, rubbed his chin again.

“Shaddap you guys,” he said. “Look, Porter -- hey, what kinda name is that, anyway, Porter?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Awright, Porter, I like you, so we’re gonna let you pass.”

“What about the broads?” said the crippled kid.

“Shut up, Dizzy, and put that shiv away. The broads pass too. This time. But, you, Porter, I want you to get together with me sometime and give me the dope on this bullfighting racket.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Sometime soon.”

“Sure,” I said.

“How about later tonight.”

“Well, maybe not tonight,” I said.

“We’ll see,” he said. “Have a coupla beers me and you, maybe pop a benny or two. You like tea?”

“I guess you don’t mean the kind of tea you drink.”

“Ha ha, funny man. Awright. We’ll talk. Meanwhile youse can go. But be careful you don’t run into that Windbreaker mob. They might not be so fuckin’ nice.”

“We’ll watch out for them,” I said.

“You run into ‘em, you tell ‘em, they fuck with you, they fuck with the Cardigans.”

“So you’re the Cardigans,” I said.

“Yeah, and nobody fucks with us.”

“Well, thanks, guys, I appreciate it.”

I was getting soaked standing there.

“Awright. My name’s Terry by the way.”

“Hi, Terry.”

“Cool, now get the hell outa here and keep your noses clean.”

The boys made an opening for us on the sidewalk and we passed through.

Carlotta and Pat immediately resumed their conversation, hurrying through the rain under their umbrella, their high heels clacking on the wet cracked pavement with me a few paces behind. I felt a buzzing in my closed left hand, and I lifted it up as if to scratch my ear.

“Very well-played, my friend,” whispered the fly. “Very well-played indeed. But you didn’t have to worry, pal. I had your back all the way.”

(Continued here, and, at this rate, well into the next century.)

(Please refer to the right hand column of this page for a generally up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Coming soon: My Friend Arnold: a Personal Memoir of “America’s Poet”, Arnold Schnabel, by Gertrude Evans; foreword by Dr. Albert Schweitzer; a Fawcett Gold Medal Paperback Original, 50ç.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 49: no cigar, pt. 2

Buddy finally has an evening alone with Cordelia, even if he has had to fly up to Vancouver to achieve it...

(Click here to see to our previous chapter, or click here to go to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “So hot I had to take numerous cold showers while reading it. And I hate cold showers.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Cavalier.)

This time they took the elevator, and no one else was in it, which made Buddy want to kiss her, and he did. She hadn’t reapplied her lipstick, so they didn’t have to go through their usual wiping-off ritual. She’d kept her hair down and he ran his fingers through it. She drew back and looked at him. The elevator stopped at the ground floor and they separated as the doors opened. And here they were in this bright busy hotel lobby.

“So,” said Buddy, “where should we go?”

“Anyplace except Fred’s Uptown Tavern.”

“Ah, the first A.D. and the gang?”


They went outside onto Georgia Street, the rain had tapered to a light windy drizzle.

Buddy said, “Do you want to just walk till we find some place that looks good?”

“Not in these shoes,” she said.

“Ah. Dig it. Okay, let’s grab a cab, I know some cool places. Or at least I used to.”

“All right, but nothing too fancy this time. I just want like a burger or a pizza, okay?”

“You got it.”

“Do ya know this place called the Yaletown Brewpub, Brewhouse?” Buddy asked the driver.

“Yaletown Brewing Company?”

“That’s it.”

“Sure. Down in Yaletown.”

“Okay, take us there, please.”

“Yes, sir.”

They settled back. Cordelia leaned against him, holding his arm. Buddy watched the buildings pull by through the wet taxi window. Then she put her hand on his face, and he turned to her.

Some time later Buddy asked the driver to stop, and the guy said it was one more block to the place. Buddy said he knew that, but they would still like to stop here. He got out first and gave Cordelia his hand as she got out. She kept her hand in his as the cab drove off. It was a street of what used to be warehouses, converted into shops and apartment buildings.

“Why did you ask him to stop here?”

“Because of this.”

He brought her hand down to his crotch.

“Oh,” she said.

“I figured I better walk this off before I go into a public place.”

“I hope you’re able to walk,” she said.

“Oh, I’ll manage.”

But there wasn’t anyone else on the block so he put his arms around her and kissed her. He pulled back and looked at her. Tiny raindrops landed on her face and stayed there.

“Hey,” she said, “it’s not going to go away if you keep that up.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said, but then he started kissing her again. Her raincoat was open, and he put his hand on her breast. They were standing in front of some sort of fancy shop selling home furnishings, fortunately it was closed.

He drew away from her now just a bit, and he slid his hand down to her butt.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay what?”

There was an alleyway next to the shop, wet cobblestones and bricks.

“Let’s go in that alley,” he said.

She looked at him and one of her eyebrows arched up. They both just stood there for a couple of seconds, breathing more deeply than usual.

“Okay,” she said.

They walked in a little way, into the dark, he put his hands inside her raincoat. Her body felt really warm.

“I thought we were going to eat,” she said.

“Yeah, right. But wait a minute.”

They made out some more, and then he got his hand in under her dress, into her underwear.

“Oh, no,” she said.

“Do you mind?”


She groaned, and he kept doing it.

“Hey,” she said.


“I don’t know,” she said.

He pulled her underwear down off her butt.

“What are you doing?” she said.

“Get these off,” he said. “I mean, if you want to.”

She looked at him, then, putting one hand onto his shoulder she thumbed the panties down and off, stepping out of and back into each high-heeled pump in turn. She slipped the panties into the pocket of her raincoat and Buddy put his hands under her dress and onto her hips and moved her rearward a step so that her back was against the damp old bricks.

“Put your arms around my neck,” he said.

She did that, and wriggled against him and looked into his eyes. Her mouth was open and she was breathing hard.

“Have you done this sort of thing before?” she said.

“What, in an alleyway?”

“In public places?”

“Oh sure, lots of times.”

He unbuckled his belt and undid the button.

“In alleyways?”

“When I could find them.”

He unzipped and got it out.

“God, you’re such an old pro.”

“Yeah, lift your leg up, sweety -- you gotta help me out a little here or I’ll throw my back out and we don’t want that to happen.”

He had both his hands under her butt, and he lifted her up off her feet.

“Oh, no,” she said.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No,” she said, and one of her legs came up and around his hip and Buddy grunted and flinched as a high heel dug into his thigh.


“That’s okay,” said Buddy, and he really meant it, it had gotten him hotter, and he lifted her up some more and hitched her leg higher. “All right.”

“Wait,” she whispered, “you’ve got a condom, right?”

He stopped what he was doing.

“Oh fuck,” he said.

“You don’t?”

He let her down, her leg slid down the back of his leg.

“Oh, shit,” he said.

“You don’t.”

“I left them on the bed table. You don’t have any?”

“I don’t walk around with condoms, Buddy.”

“No, of course not.”

She put her head on his shoulder. They were both breathing almost as hard as if they really had had sex. Meanwhile it was still outside of his pants, and she put her hand on it.

“I should just give you a -- whatever.”

“All right,” he said.

And she continued to hold onto it, but she cocked her head up and looked at him. She was gnawing her upper lip again. Okay, the moment had passed --

“Wait, no, this is crazy,” said Buddy. “We’re going to get our asses arrested. Let’s go eat.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.”

“Yeah. Hey, turn around,” he said, and she did. He brushed off the back of her raincoat with his hand. “Okay,” he said, and she turned around again.

“Buddy --”

She glanced down to below his middle.


He looked down.


He put it away and zipped it in. It occurred to him that her panties were still in her raincoat pocket. Okay --

“All right,” said Buddy. “Let’s eat.”

(Thank God for beer, Buddy. Continued here, and until something does or doesn’t happen.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page for an unassailably up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart as Buddy and Audrey Hepburn as Cordelia; a Warner Brothers Production, directed by Michael Curtiz.)