Monday, December 31, 2012

An Arnold Schnabel new year's...

As a special holiday treat, here's a classic Arnold Schnabel poem, first broadcast here four years ago. Originally published in the
Olney Times for January 4, 1963; two weeks  later he would be in a padded cell at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

If the present poem appears particularly gloomy even for this time of the year, please remember that this particular new year's eve was a mere two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the destruction of mankind suddenly loomed as a very actual possibility, and concerning the horror of which Arnold Schnabel had already versified so beautifully.

(The “Chew Avenue” of the title refers to the location -- on the corner of Chew and Lawrence -- of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, now sadly defunct.)

New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue

It’s New Year’s Eve, it seems we’ve made it,
If only barely, through another year;
The terror, if not gone, has abated
Into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
So I go to the VFW,
Shove to the bar of this drunkard’s heaven,
And say, “Pat, if you please, I’ll trouble you
For a Schmidt’s, backed with an Old Forester,
And keep them coming till I say not to,
Or until you throw me out; whatever;
Do what your conscience says that you’ve got to.”
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
“Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year.”

(Republished with the permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to many other fine poems by Arnold Schnabel, many of them suitable for recitations and toasts at family, business or social gatherings, weddings, and funerals during this holiday season. Be sure also to visit our ongoing serialization of Arnold's classic memoir  Railroad Train to Heaven.*)

*"I read a page or two every night before retiring." -- Bertrand Russell

Saturday, December 29, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 327: doors

Once again our hero Arnold Schnabel is on a mission, or, perhaps more accurately put, a mission within a mission within a myriad of missions, to wit, to make it to the men’s room of a curious Greenwich Village bar called Valhalla, and there to relieve himself, if only temporarily, which really is the most that any of us can hope for in this world, or, in Arnold’s case, in whatever world he happens to be in, which at this moment is that of the sadly-obscure novel Ye Cannot Quench (Alfred A. Knopf, 1960) by Gertrude Evans, author of such other unfortunately out-of-print novels, such as Keep the Crock Pot Simmering, A Girl Called Fortunata, and Passion’s Pristine Promise.

(Kindly go here to read our previous episode; the young and the young at heart may click here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 62-volume masterpiece.)

“A day without Arnold Schnabel is like a day without food or drink.” — Harold Bloom, on
Last Call With Carson Daly.


I should have guessed.

The men’s room was packed, just as packed as that front barroom was.

There were lines of coarsely muttering and chattering guys waiting to get into the urinals and the stalls. It looked like there was barely even room enough to squeeze into one of the lines. The air was hot and thick, like hot dirty vaseline, a dishwater grey from tobacco smoke, and it looked like practically everybody in here was smoking — cigars, cigarettes, pipes, and even, unless I was mistaken, reefers. Oh, and yes, the place reeked, and not just of tobacco and urine and anal excretions and exhalations, but of a thick stench of what could only be called desperation. And, crowded near the two sinks, on the side closest to the door, were those four dodgy men I had seen in here earlier, what were their names? Mel, Nat, Ralph, Something Something-more — it all seemed so long ago, and in a sense it was. And all four of them came right up to me at once and huddled in a tight half-circle around me, all of them trying to shake my hand at once.

“Mr. Walker!” said the one guy, the one with a big beard, “so jolly to see you again!”

“Um, uh, hi,” I said, “uh —” 

What was his name?

Herman,” he said. He was pumping my hand in both his hands. “You remember me, right? But call me Mel. Everybody calls me Mel. Short for Melv—”

But right then this other guy, the one with a big droopy moustache, I was pretty sure it was Nat (but then maybe it was Matt?), pulled Mel’s hands away from my hand and replaced them with his own.

“Are you having a splendid time, Mr. Walker?” he said, looking in an earnest way right into my eyes. “Despite what society and the laws of man might dictate?”

“Uh, yeah, pretty good, um — Matt?”

“Nat,” he said, and I couldn’t help but notice that the whiskers of his moustache were a little wet with spittle on their ends. “Not Matt. Nat. Short for Nathaniel.”

“That’s what I meant to say,” I lied.

For the first time really it dawned on me that all four of these guys were dressed in a very old-fashioned way, like the way men used to dress in Civil War days, or even earlier. (Not that I was an expert in these matters, but I had seen movies like Gone With the Wind and Young Mr. Lincoln.)

“You remember me, don’t you pal?” said the one guy whose name totally escaped me. Nat wouldn’t let go of my right hand so this guy took my left and started shaking that in both his hands. This one was clean-shaven, but he needed a haircut. They all needed haircuts.

“He doesn’t remember you,” said the fourth guy, this was the one with the bushy long sideburns. “Do you, Porter?”

“No, uh, I remember you,” I said to the third guy, trying to seem like I wasn’t lying, and hoping he wouldn’t challenge me to actually say his name.

Then this fourth guy, I was pretty sure his name was Ralph, but I wasn’t entirely sure, he put his arm around me and put his hand on my right shoulder, I suppose because I didn’t have a free hand for him to seize and start pumping.

“Good old Porter,” he said, kneading my right shoulder with his one hand and then grabbing the biceps of my left arm, and practically hugging me to his chest. “Tell him his name, Porter.”

“His name?” I said.

“Yes, you said you knew his name — go ahead, say it!”

He was smiling broadly as he said this.

“Um,” I said.

“Go ahead, Porter. Tell him his name,” he said.

“His name is,” I said.

“Yes, go on,” said this guy Ralph, if that was his name, still smiling as if merrily, but in this way that didn’t show his teeth. He had a very long nose, and its tip almost touched my cheek.

“I fear he knows not his name,” said Mel, who looked like he was trying to figure out an opening to try and get closer to me again, what with two of these guys hanging onto my hands and this guy Mel massaging my shoulder vigorously with one hand while squeezing the biceps of my other arm like a clamp with his other hand. “I fear the name has been lost, as a piece of flotsam sucked into one of the great whirlpools of the chill waters of the Bering Sea.”

“Is it Barrymore?” I said.

“Ha ha, Barrymore he says! Barrymore!” said Ralph.

“Barrymore’s close!” said the guy who was obviously not named Barrymore. He shoved his face quite close to mine, looking into my eyes, and he said, “Fenimore. That’s what you meant to say, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I meant to say that. Fenmore.”

Fen-i-more,” he said. “With an i."

“Right. Fenimore,” I said. “I, um, made a, uh —”

“A mere slip of the tongue,” said Fenimore.

“Slip of the tongue my fundament,” said the Ralph guy.

“Fuck you, Emerson,” said Fenimore.

“And fuck you if you can’t take a joke,” said the guy who was apparently named Emerson, so I guessed I had been wrong and he wasn’t Ralph after all.

“How’s this for a joke?” said Fenimore, and suddenly he let go of my left hand and swung a quick right hook at Emerson, who was still holding onto my arm and shoulder. The punch must have hit him solidly on the jaw, because he fell straight backwards, pulling me with him, and with me dragging along this Nat guy, so that all three of us fell back against the inside of the men’s room door and then we all fell down to the floor in a thrashing pile.

My bad right knee hadn’t been hurting me so badly the past few minutes, or perhaps it had been hurting the same all along, but the pain had been eclipsed by the discomfort arising from my need to urinate; now, however, as I fell to this knee, once again I felt a sharp stabbing pain, much as if a rusty old railway spike had been driven into my kneecap. I couldn’t help but let out a shout of agony.

“Nice one, Fenimore,” said Mel. “Real classy.”

“Rafe here asked for it,” said Fenimore. “He’s always acting so high and mighty, him and his transcendentalism, but he’s also always ready to stick the needle in just because a fellow has a slip of the tongue and gets my name slightly wrong.”

The other two men and myself were all trying to stand up again, and getting in each other’s way, but finally I managed to grab onto the door handle with my right hand, and haul myself up, trying to keep my weight on my left leg. This Rafe or Ralph guy was still hanging onto my left arm, but with both hands now. I gave him a pull to help him up, but as soon as I did he just shoved me back against the door and stepped forward and said to Fenimore, “I used to pronounced my name 'Rafe'. But people thought that was pretentious, so now I pronounce it 'Ralph'.” He was rubbing his chin now, where Fenimore had punched him. “Ralph, like R-A-L-”

“No matter how you pronounce it, you're still pretentious,” said Fenimore.

“Pretentious, huh? How pretentious is this, wise guy?” and with that he took another step forward and threw a roundhouse right at Fenimore, who managed to duck back before the fist could hit him.

“Hey, Porter,” said Nat, who had made it to a kneeling position, and was holding a hand out toward me. “Little help?” He was smiling under his droopy moustache, but I knew he just wanted an excuse to grab my hand again and never let go.

I’d had enough. I ignored Nat’s extended hand, stepped around him, and pulled on the door handle. The door opened, although I could only get it open a foot or so because Nat was in the way. I started to squeeze through the opening.

“Hey, wait, Mr. Walker,” said Mel, “where are you going?”

“Yeah, don’t go,” said Nat. “They always carry on like this.”

I went out the door, with all four of them yelling after me.

I had two ways I could go, to the left, towards the back room, or to the right, back the way I came. I went right, limping badly, still in pain, the men’s room door closing behind me, the voices of those four losers suddenly muffled as the door closed.

I hobbled back down the narrow hallway, past the door marked “Ladies”. My first inchoate idea was just to leave this place entirely. I could run (or shamble, since I was unable to run in my present condition) across the street to one of the two bars that I knew were on the other side, or, perhaps even better, and safer, maybe just find a dark alleyway or areaway that I could pee in.

But then I turned the corner at the end of the hall, and I saw the door with a sign that said “Basement No Admittance”.

I don’t know why I stopped and turned the knob on that door. It clearly said “No Admittance”. Maybe it was because of all the music and noise coming from that front barroom, and I just didn’t want to have to face all those people again. And maybe, just maybe there was a staff restroom down in the basement. Or a sink, a drain, a dark corner, something or someplace into which or in which I could relieve myself before I wet my jeans. If the door was locked, well, then so be it, I would just fight my way through that mob in the front bar, go outside, and take it from there. But in the meantime there was no harm in just turning the door knob, maybe. So I did. I turned it, there was a satisfying click of a bolt, I pulled, and the door opened, onto a staircase lit only by a bare lightbulb in the low ceiling at the foot of the steps.

I took a deep breath and started down, holding onto the worn wooden rail that was there and taking it one step at a time, favoring my bad leg. It didn’t hurt quite so badly now. It was more like someone had pulled the railway spike out. 

At the bottom of the stairs was a space not quite as small as a coffin, with two closed doors, one directly ahead, one to the left. On the right was only a bare old brick wall. The door ahead had a hand-painted sign on it that said “Sub-Basement”, and suddenly I remembered what Sam Clemens had told me about that place, that it was where the really boring writers were condemned to, and from which they were only allowed to come out of to loiter in the men’s room an hour or so every few weeks, writers like Emerson, and Nat, and Mel, and Fenimore. In fact this was probably where I, as a boring writer in my own right, was going to end up as a permanent resident someday. I definitely didn’t want to go down there, not yet, not until I had to, so I tried the knob on the other door. It wasn’t locked, and I opened it. It was dark in there, but, I thought, that might be a good thing. If it was dark that meant that no one was in there. So I stepped in, keeping the door open with one hand, and felt inside the doorway for a light switch. I found one, and another bare ceiling bulb came on. This was just a small room, it looked like a broom closet, and in fact there were a couple of brooms of different types in there, some brushes and a dustpan, a mop and bucket, some rags in a pile on the floor, some bottles and jars of cleaning products on shelves, some lightbulbs, boxes of toilet paper and paper towels. But there was another door, straight ahead, a closed door. I thought I could hear music and voices behind it, but I figured the noise might be coming from the barroom which was directly above. I closed the stairway door behind me, and put my hand on the doorknob of this other door. I turned it. it wasn’t locked.

I thought about it for a second. This could be trouble. But then crossing the street could be trouble. Getting out of bed in the morning could be trouble. It was just a door. And I really had to go to the bathroom.

For a second I considered just going ahead and peeing in this little room, this broom closet or whatever it was. But that wouldn’t be very nice for whoever came in here next, probably some poor old Negro man who had already had a hard life. He didn’t need to deal with something like that when all he wanted to do was to come down for a broom or a mop or something.

So I opened the door.

(Continued here, now that the Mayans have been proven wrong, indefinitely.)

(Please turn to the right-hand column of this page for a frequently up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s
Railroad Train To Heaven©. Now also published in the Collingswood Patch™: “South Jersey’s beacon of the arts.”)

Friday, December 28, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 89

"the best theater"

by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas,   rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

editorial consultant emeritus: Prof. Dan Leo

for complete episode, click here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 88

"it had come to this"

by Horace P. Sternwall 

edited by Dan Leo*  

illustrations by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

*Associate Professor of Ancient Greek and Latin Literature, Assistant Table Tennis Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Say Hello to All the Gang: the Prison Letters of Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press; made possible in part by a generous grant from the Reliable Floor Covering Company of Philadelphia PA: “Our Name Says It All!”

And so it had come to this.

Landon (unfortunately nicknamed “Rooster”) Crow waited with Alice “Sniffy” Smith in a booth at the back of Bob’s Bowery Bar, waiting for “the two Bills” (Grey and Leighton) to return from God knows where with an ounce of marijuana, an ounce which Rooster and Sniffy hoped to parlay into a twenty-five thousand dollar profit.

Rooster sipped his tepid flat Rheingold beer, then he stubbed out his Philip Morris, and quickly lit another one, not so much because he wanted a cigarette, but because this bar smelled like the interior of the most vile men’s room in the world. If it smelled like this in the barroom, what could it possibly smell like in the bar’s actual men’s room?

(Kindly click here to read the entire sordid chapter.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

“Christmas Among the Damned”

As a special holiday treat for the fans of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven, we present today a never-before-published poem by Schnabel, only recently discovered in a cardboard box under a stack of copies of The Catholic Standard and Times in the basement of the house formerly owned by Arnold’s mother at B and Nedro, in the Olney section of Philadelphia, right across the street from where the Heintz metalworks factory used to be before it was demolished and turned into a shopping mall. This is one of the very few poems of Schnabel’s to exist only in his holograph — written, as was his custom, with a Bic pen in a black-and-white marble copybook. The poem is undated, but carbon dating of the paper indicates that the poem was probably written sometime during his stay at the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry in early 1963, following his complete mental collapse in January of that year. The poem is probably unfinished, lacking as it does the formal perfection of the great bulk of poems that Schnabel published on a weekly basis for some thirty years in his neighborhood paper, The Olney Times, but nonetheless we feel it worthy of sharing with his many readers, even if he chose — undoubtedly for his own good reasons — not to submit it for publication.

“Christmas Among the Damned”

Their eyes blear,
their voices coarse,
they wander from tavern to bar,
full of fear
and cheap remorse;
they know death is not far,
and that the Lord on high
will not come for them;
He would rather drop
a bomb on them;

He does not heed their grumbling,
He does not hear their curses,
He does not hear them mumbling
as they scrabble through their purses
and their wallets made of plastic
for the price of a glass of Ortlieb’s
or, tripping the dark fantastic,
perhaps also a shot of Schenley’s.

These are the damned, these
who seek but know not pleasure,
damned once,
damned twice,
damned thrice,
and damned once again for good measure.

Their eyes bloodshot,
their noses bulbous and red,
their flesh carbuncular,
where it is not the color
of the belly of a week-dead
these are my friends.

I see them at Pat’s,
at the Huddle,
and at the Green Parrot;
I see them at the VFW,
and at the Knights of Columbus;

some of them even have wives
or husbands as the case may be;
many of them have children,
even grandchildren
(unlike bachelor me);
they all have homes of some sort
a rowhome, apartment, or rented room,
most have jobs of some kind,
working at the Heintz factory
or at Philco or Tastykake,
but this is their real job,
sitting in a bar, staring at
the TV playing I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster,
sitting silently,
or talking petulantly,
this is their calling
and their place,
in the legions of the damned.

Yes, some sit silently on their stools
but most will talk at the slightest
provocation, or even if there is none,
even if they have nothing to say
which is nearly always,
because the hell they carry within
loves to overflow into the hell
outside them.

At last the bartender, last call
long called, stands in his coat by
the door. “This is not a hotel,”
he yells. “You don’t have to go
home, but you can’t stay here.”

One by one they shuffle through the
door and out into the cold,
into the night, from one hell
into another, and off they stumble,
to rowhome, apartment or rented room.

Gay colored lights are strung 
outside the windows of the modest homes,
and along the shops on Fifth Street,
for it is Christmastime,
the anniversary of the birth
of the Savior, of someone’s savior,
but not theirs, not these,
who are beyond saving;
It’s Christmas on the streets of Olney,
and a gentle snow begins to fall,
on these the damned who have
nothing to look forward to
but another hangover.

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve,
the cold wind licks their faces,
the snowflakes find their way into
the collars of necks whose scarves
have been left in the sawdust of the
barroom floor.
A shortcut is taken through Fisher Park,
but the scrubby grass is slick and wet;
a fall is taken down Dead Man’s Hill
where the children love to sled
on their Flexible Flyers:
down, down he tumbles, down and down,
until finally he lands at the bottom,
in the slush and jagged ice,
where, in pain,
which means at least not dead,
not yet, he lies on his back,
howling at the universe,
the snow rushing down
heedlessly into his face,
and somewhere among the rowhomes
on Nedro Avenue, a dog replies,
howling also, and then another on
Sixth Street, and yet another on Spencer,
and soon a whole chorus of dogs join in,
drowning out the screams of the human,
or of what once was human.
Yes, it’s Christmas,
for God and man and dog,
for those who are heaven bound
and for those forever banned
from paradise.
This is Christmas,
Christmas among the damned.

And now a cheering word from Miss Ruby Murray!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 326: go already

Our hero Arnold Schnabel has assumed the corporeal host of “Porter Walker”, a preposterous young poet in Ye Cannot Quench (Houghton Mifflin,1960), a sadly-forgotten Bildungsroman by Gertrude Evans, author of many other unfortunately out-of-print novels, such as A Handful of Infinity, Night Bus to Tallahassee, and He Said His Name Was Gerard.

Let’s rejoin Arnold and his deific friend Josh just as they are about to re-enter a peculiar basement bar called Valhalla, on Greenwich Village’s MacDougal Street, on a hot and rainy night in August of 1957...

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; the morbidly curious may go here to return to the misty beginnings of this Gold View Award™-winning 53-volume memoir.)

“I keep telling myself it’s time to go back and re-read Proust in the original just one more time before I kick the bucket, but all I do is read Arnold Schnabel. I know, I’m crazy.” — Harold Bloom, in
The Cape May Star and Wave.

I pulled the door open, and, a gentleman to the end, I waved at Josh to go first, and he did, and I followed him.

Somehow the barroom had gotten yet more crowded, more noisy, even though no one new had entered while Josh and I had been talking outside. Perhaps people had come in from the back room, or from the sub-basement, or from hidden doorways I knew nothing about. I didn’t care. I just wanted to make it to the men’s room before I peed myself.

The small dance floor — or rather, that small space between the booths and the bar in which people were dancing to the juke box music, or not so much dancing as thrashing against one another — presented a packed churning mass of humanity, and within it I could see the dark airborne hair of Carlotta and her face and her almost bare shoulders and the thin straps of her red dress, and the blond hair and the face of Pat in her black dress. They were dancing side by side, and then I could see first Sam Clemens and then those other two guys Walt and Edgar, all of them dancing, if not exactly with the girls, then at least very close to them.

And finally — although I knew who Sam Clemens was, because he had told me — it dawned on me who this Walt and Edgar were, somehow I hadn’t quite put it together when I had been here earlier this same night which felt to me like approximately twenty-seven months ago — the bearded grey-haired guy was none other than Walt Whitman, the poet they named the bridge after, and the other dark-haired guy with a moustache was the famous poet and author Edgar Allan Poe. I must admit here that I was not familiar with the work of either of them, because even though I am addicted to writing bad poems myself, I find the reading of poetry, even my own, especially my own, to be well-nigh intolerable. I know that Poe wrote short stories also, but the few I had attempted to read struck me as just as boring as the few of his poems I had glanced at, although I did enjoy that movie The Raven with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, which I saw at the Fern Rock shortly after my release from Byberry.

Thurgood and that fat guy Henry were standing with their drinks at the end of the bar right near the entrance.

Henry. Henry James was it? Yes, and now I got it, finally, another one of those famous dead authors I had never really read, although I did get through a few pages of The Turn of the Screw one time in the army because it was available in one of those free Armed Services Editions paperbacks and the other guys had already grabbed up all the good ones about guys trapped in webs of passion and betrayal and violence. I had thought this Turn of the Screw book wouldn’t be so bad because at least it was short, but I was wrong.

All these thoughts passed through my brain in a matter of perhaps two seconds, during which Thurgood and Henry James saw me and Josh and descended on us.

“Porter,” said Thurgood, “you simply must try some of Henry’s private stock fine malt whisky!”

“Where have you two been all this time?” said Henry. He pronounced “been” bean, even though I think he was American, but what do I know, that’s the way Fred Astaire and Bette Davis used to talk in old movies, so maybe it was just an old-fashioned way of talking. Or maybe it was pretentious. I didn’t really care either way, I had to go to the bathroom.

Then things got very complicated. All of a sudden there was a shrieking, a dual shrieking over the shrieking of the jukebox music, which, if memory serves, was “Good Golly, Miss Molly", and Carlotta and Pat were pushing and elbowing their way ruthlessly through the crowd toward us, with Sam and Walt and Edgar in their wake.

Carlotta kissed me on my cheek, while she looked past me at Josh, Pat kissed me on the other cheek while she looked askance at Thurgood who was leaning close in to me, maybe trying to get a free kiss himself.

I won’t even attempt to transcribe the dialogue that now transpired. Everyone was talking at once anyway, except for me, the words and the surrounding music and noise lapped up against me and around me and into my ears, making little intelligible impression, as has so often been the case in my life, in any of my lives, in all of them. 

I suppose I was rude, but I really did have to go to the men’s room, and so after a minute of this babble I said, “Well, look, everybody, I really have to go.”

“Go?” said Henry. “You just got here!”

“Yeah,” said Thurgood. “Don’t be such a wet blanket, Porter. Wait’ll you try this private stock fine malt whisky of Henry’s!”

“No —” I said.

“Mr. Dramatic Poet,” said Carlotta. “Always gotta be someplace, huh? What is it, a date with another swooning frail?”

“Porter’s a dog,” said Pat. “Bow wow wow.”

“Where are you goin’, Porter?” said Sam Clemens. He had a cigar in one hand, a glass of what looked like private stock fine malt whisky in the other, and he was sweating profusely, well, everyone was sweating profusely, more or less. “Maybe I can string along. I’d like to see what the young people are up to nowadays.”

“I should like to come, too,” said Walt. “That is if I may. Might I suggest if you have no other destination in mind a stroll down to the docks and to one of the taprooms down there which cater to hearty stevedores and seamen and the bold strapping barge boys of the great river Hudson?”

“Ya know what’s a good stop?” said Edgar. “That Bridge Café over to Water Street. Many’s the late night I whiled away there absorbing endless drams of hot spiced rum back in the good old days.”

“But,” I said.

“Look,” said Thurgood, “before you go, I wonder if you could spot me a tenner?”

“But —” I said.

“A fin’ll do,” said Thurgood.

“Listen,” I said.

“Anything at all, really,” said Thurgood.

“But,” I said.

“He’s not going anywhere,” said Josh.

“He’s not?” said Thurgood.

“No,” said Josh.

Suddenly the song on the jukebox ended, and into the attendant silence he spoke loudly and clearly:

“He has to urinate.”

“What?” said Thurgood.

“He said he has to urinate,” said Henry.

“Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” Thurgood said to me.

“I, uh,” I said.

Another rock ‘n’roll song came onto the jukebox, and Pat let out a shriek, and then yelled, “Train kept a-rollin’!” She jumped up and clapped her hands, and the black shiny purse she had on her arm hit me in the belly, but it didn’t hurt, too much.

Carlotta grabbed Josh’s arm.

“Let’s dance!” she screamed.

“Who’s gonna dance with me?” yelled Pat.

Sam and Walt and Edgar all shouted in unison: “I will!”

I didn’t stick around. I followed my alleged friends back into the crowded tiny dance floor, and shoved my way past them and through the mass of other dancing people, getting elbowed and kicked several times, and in turn elbowing and kicking some other people, not necessarily the ones who had elbowed and kicked me. When I got to the far side of the room, where the cigarette machine was I almost bumped into the waitress, Harriet Beecher Stowe, carrying two pitchers of beer in one hand, and a tray of drinks in the other.

“You again,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Where are you rushing off too?”

“Um,” I said.

“Hotshot. Always in a big hurry to get some place, aren’t you?”

“Um,” I said, again.

“I know your kind. I’ve seen you come. And I’ve seen you go. Sure you’re young and handsome now, with your first book coming out with a fifty thousand dollar advance, but just remember, bub, your day in the sun is fleeting. Before you know it you’ll just be another tired old has-been dreaming of his glory days over a dirty glass of Carstair’s whiskey.”

“I have to go to the men’s room,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “Great. Thanks for sharing. That news really made my night.”

“Hey! Harriet!” yelled some skinny guy with a droopy moustache at the nearest booth, sitting with some other people. “Where’s our drinks? It’s like the goddam Gobi Desert over here we’re so dry!”

“Keep your goddam shirt on, Crane,” she yelled right back at him. And then to me: “Stephen Crane. He used to be a hotshot, too. Used to be.”

“Uh,” I said.

“You said you had to use the men’s room,” she said. “So go already. You’re hopping up and down like a three-year-old.”

Without another word I went, past the cigarette machine and the back of the last booth and the door marked “Private” on the right and the one marked “Basement No Admittance” on the left, then right into that narrow hallway, past the pay phone and the  door marked “Ladies” on the right and finally to the one marked “Gentlemen” on the left.

I pulled on the handle and went in.

(Continued here, without shame.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Now also appearing in the Collingswood Patch™: “South Jersey’s crying voice in the wilderness.”)

Friday, December 14, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 87

"instinctive player"

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas  and  rhoda penmarq

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for complete episode, click here

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 86

"looking sharp"
by horace p sternwall 

illustrated by roy dismas, rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

but it's like old max jacob used to tell me...

(click here to find out what max used to say.)