Thursday, May 27, 2021

“Even Oscar Wilde”

 “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all bores remain bores their entire boring lives.”

Sighing, Gerard (“Gerry”) Goldsmith, known to his companions in Bob’s Bowery Bar as “the Brain”, gazed at the sentence he had just typed on his ancient Royal portable.

Once again it had taken him an entire afternoon to produce one sentence of his professed life’s work, his “book of philosophical observations”, tentatively titled Pensées for a Rainy Day, Volume One. But it was a good sentence, hang it all, even if he did say so himself!

He stubbed out his latest Bull Durham of the day. Best to quit work now. Gerry did not believe that anything good came from forcing creativity. The trick was just to put yourself in the chair in front of the typewriter, roll yourself a cigarette, and see what came out. Nearly always, after an hour or two, something would come out, as it had today:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all bores remain bores their entire boring lives.”

And wasn’t that the truth!

Not that Gerry considered himself a – what was the word for someone who was not a bore? A non-bore? An “interesting guy”? A “charming, amusing chappy?” Maybe there wasn’t a good English word for the opposite of a bore because everyone was boring after a certain point. Maybe even Oscar Wilde had worn out his welcome after a couple of hours of his constant and unrelenting wit.

Well, these were questions he could delve into tomorrow, unless of course he found them too boring by then.

Gerry glanced at his watch. Four o’clock! Good God, time to get over to Bob’s before all the barstools got taken –

But that very second Gerry heard something he so rarely heard: a knocking at his door.

“I say, Gerry, are you in there?”

“One moment, please.”

Gerry heaved himself up from his chair and traversed the six feet to his door in not quite a minute.

He opened the door (unlocked as usual, he had drunkenly lost his key just one too many times), and, speaking of bores, who was it but the fellow everyone called Addison the Wit, not his real name, but no matter, he was Addison the Wit for life now, and surely one of the most crashing bores Gerry had ever known. Addison lived down on the fifth floor, and he had been up here to Gerry’s tiny apartment a few times when Gerry had been too drunk to know any better and had a bottle to share, but this was the first time he had ever knocked on Gerry’s door out of nowhere.

“Oh, hi, Addison. What’s up?”

“I do hope I’m not disturbing you.”

He had a thick sheaf of paper held in both hands.

“Not at all,” said Gerry. “Just getting ready to run down to Bob’s for a bock or two.”

“I wonder if you would look at something for me.”

Oh, God, no.

“Uh,” said Gerry.

“Just a little something I’ve been working on,” said Addison.

He raised up the bulky mass of paper.

“If you would cast your discerning eye on these pages. Just let me know, you know, if you think I’m on the right path, so to speak.”

“What is it?” said Gerry.

“It’s a novel.”


“A western novel.”


“It’s called Sixguns to El Paso.”

Sixguns to El Paso?”

“Yes. But I am not married to the title, you understand. Don’t you like it?”

“Oh, no, Sixguns to, uh –”

El Paso.”

Sixguns to El Paso? Sounds like a good title for a western to me.”

“It’s a tale of vengeance.”


“In the old west, of course.”


“I wonder of you could, as it were, just sort of leaf through it, just to see, um, oh, how shall I put it –”

“If it is alive?”


“If it breathes?”

“If it breathes?”

“Yes, I think that’s what Emily Dickinson asked that editor guy Thomas Wentworth Higginson to tell her, when she sent him his poems. If they were alive, if they breathed.”

“Good God, I hope my novel breathes.”

“Oh, I’m sure it does, Addison.”


“Uh, yes.”

“That’s all I ask,” said Addison. “That my words breathe.”

“Well, isn’t that all that any of us writers can ask?”

“Shouldn’t it be any of we writers?”

“Maybe so, old boy, maybe so.”

Already Gerry knew that Addison’s novel would be dreadful, but of course he could never tell him that.

“So you’ll read it, Gerry?”

“Sure,” said Gerry, meaning he would glance through it just enough to pretend that he had read it.

“Gee, thanks, pal. The thing is, though, do you think you could read it tonight?”


“Yeah, it’s only two hundred and forty-eight pages, really just the introductory section of the novel, sort of a prelude or overture, like Proust if you will, but you see I want to get back to work on it first thing tomorrow, and so I’d like to have the pages back by the morning.”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“Yes. Also it’s my only copy, and so I feel nervous about not having it to hand, so if you could read it tonight that would be great.”

“Uh, okay.”


Addison handed Gerry the great floppy sheaf of typescript.

“You’ll take good care of it?”

“I certainly will, Addison.”

Gerry went back to his writing table and put the mass of paper down, next to the much smaller pile of his own work-in-progress.

“I guess that’s your own book on the table there?” said Addison.

Addison had stepped into Gerry’s little apartment.

“Yes, that’s it,” said Gerry. “Such as it is.”

“Well, if you ever want another point-of-view on it, I should be, uh, glad to look it over for you, Gerry.”

“Oh, the horror,” thought Gerry, but what he said was, “Well, I’m not quite ready to show it to anyone just yet, Addison, but, maybe someday –”

“Yes, of course,” said Addison, seeming patently relieved, and more than ready to change the subject.

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021


 “Some days it’s like walking along the edge of a cliff,” said Edna, out of nowhere.

“Yeah,” said Philip, after only a slight pause. “I know what you mean.”

They were lying in bed in Edna’s new apartment. It was a Sunday morning in May and her second-floor windows were wide open onto the Bowery.

“It’s like there’s all this empty space out there, and all you have to do is jump off,” she said.

“Or fall off,” said Philip.

“Or get pushed off,” said Edna.

“Uh-huh,” said Philip.

“But we’re safe in here,” she said.

“Relatively,” said Philip.

She turned and faced him, with her her chin on her hand.

“Do you miss it?”

“The booze?”

“The boozing.”

Philip paused before answering.

“Well, yeah,” he said.

“What do you miss about it?”

“I think I miss the oblivion.”

“The oblivion.”

“Yeah. I would be going along, going to the office every day, living a relatively normal life, and then I would start to miss the oblivion.”

“The whoop-de-doo.”

“The call of the wild.”

“The edge of the cliff,” she said.

“Yeah. All of a sudden it would be time to step off the cliff.”

They were both silent for a minute. They were thinking about the cliff.

“Do you think we’ll ever jump off the cliff again?”

“Who knows?” said Philip.

She lay back on her pillow. The sounds of the street came through the windows. They were both reformed drunks, and there were probably two dozen bars within a two block radius of this building.

“Maybe we’d both be better off living in the country,” said Edna.

“Maybe,” said Philip. “But I like it here.”

“Me too,” said Edna.

“Samuel Johnson said that when a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life. I think I kind of feel that way about this town.”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” she said, “it took me about one month to get tired of the suburbs.”

“Do you think that’s why you started drinking?”

“It was one way to forget I was in the suburbs.”

Again they lay silent. The Third Avenue El came roaring by above the windows, rumbling down toward the Houston Street stop.

“Do you want to take a walk?” said Philip.

“Along the edge of the cliff?”

“Not too close to the edge. And maybe we can stop for brunch somewhere.”

“Hold the Bloody Marys?”

“Yeah, maybe hold the Bloody Marys,” said Philip.

She turned over on top of him and looked down into this face.

“I like not being hungover,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s pretty nice,” said Philip.

They made love one more time, and later they went for a long walk through the Village, then came back and had pancakes and sausages at Ma’s Diner.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

"It Ain't Nothing"

Father Frank, known as “the whiskey priest”, finished up his three-month jolt at the Tombs, walked up the Bowery to Bob’s and took a stool at the bar on this fine day in May.

Bob let him have a Cream of Kentucky and a bock on the arm, and all was well in the world.

Gilbey the Geek came over and sat on the stool to the father’s left. He had a greasy-looking glass in his hand with about a quarter-inch of flat bock in it

“Hey, Father Frank, d’ja hear the news?”

“What’s that, Gilbey?”

“I seen God.”

“Did you now?”

“Yeah. It was really something. He came to me one night when I was laying in the dark in my room. It was like this big shiny light. He stayed there for like a minute that seemed like forever, and he didn’t say nothing, but he didn’t have to I guess. And then he went away. But it was God all right, Father. I seen God.”

“That’s swell, Gilbey.”

“I guess you seen him plenty of times, being a priest and all.”

“Well, no, Gilbey, not per se.”

“I don’t know what per se means, Father.”

“It means, well, literally speaking I have never seen God.”

“I don’t know what literally speaking means, Father. I don’t got book learning like you, Father Frank. But I seen God.”

“Well, I should imagine that seeing God is much more important than book learning, Gilbey.”

“You think so, Father?”

“I do, Gilbey. I think you’re a very lucky man, my son.”

“Gee. I ain’t never had no luck before.”

“Well, you’ve got luck now.”

“It was only the oncet.”

“The oncet?”

“It was only the oncet I seen him.”

“Oncet is about one more time than most people have a chance to see the good lord.”

“You think so?”

“I’m pretty sure, Gilbey.”

“How was jail?”

“It was okay, Gilbey. A spot of jail now and then can do a man good, I think. Cuts down on the all day drinking, plus you’ve got the three meals and a cot.”

“That’s what I thought whenever I been in jail. It ain’t so bad. Except you can’t drink all day, like you said. It ain’t no worse than the flophouse.”

“No, it isn’t, Gilbey.”

“And you don’t even got to pay nothing for your meals and the cot.”

“This is true, Gilbey.”

“You think I’ll ever see God again, Father?”

Father Frank hesitated just a moment before replying.

“Yes, Gilbey, I think someday you will.”

“I see him I’ll say hi for ya.”

“Why thank you, Gilbey.”

“I’ll put in a good word for you. Tell him you always been all right in my book, even if you do get drunk and disorderly and sent down to the Tombs sometimes.”

“That’s – that’s –”

“It ain’t nothing, Father.”

“No, I think it’s something, Gilbey.”

“Well, you should know, Father Frank, you being a priest and all.”

“Yes, I suppose I should,” said Father Frank.

He signaled to Bob, and when Bob came over he asked him for another bock, and one for Gilbey. It was the least he could do.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by Sister Rhoda Penmarq, S.S.J.}

Thursday, May 6, 2021

“The Misunderstanding”

 “Nothing is as great as you how you remember it, but many things were worse than how you remember them.”

Gerry “The Brain” Goldsmith stared at the sentence he had just typed. It had taken him all afternoon to come up with the sentence, but, hang it all, it was a good one!

His work-in-progress (currently titled Pensées for a Rainy Day; Volume One) was coming along apace. Almost ninety-two double-spaced pages completed in just over a year and a half, ever since he had decided to get serious about distilling the work of two decades of ruminations collected in those stacks of schoolboy copybooks piled on his shelves. It was true that he only averaged one completed sentence a day (Saturdays and Sundays off), but Gerry firmly believed that it was far better to write one good sentence than ten pages of nonsense.

For a few brief seconds he considered moving on to the next sentence, but quickly decided not to push it. Always leave some gas in the tank for the next day’s work, that was Gerry’s motto, or one of them.

As usual he left the page in his old Royal portable, one of his little methods for achieving a continuity from one day’s labor to the next.

Outside his window the Third Avenue El roared and rumbled on its way to the Houston Street stop.

Gerry leisurely rolled another Bull Durham, and then lighted it with a Blue Tip kitchen match.

Soon he would have his reward for his day’s work: a glass of the delicious basement-brewed bock around the corner at Bob’s Bowery bar. And after that glass, another, and so on…

Yes, his days held little apparent variety, but what was so great about variety? A philosopher (a man of letters, yes, say it, an artist) needed stability, a routine, and not to be running around madly all day and night. And, after all, didn’t each day bring something new, if only you kept your eyes and your ears and your mind open?

He gazed at his day’s production again.

“Nothing is as great as you how you remember it, but many things were worse than how you remember them.”

His youthful two post-collegiate years in Paris, living off his Harvard graduation money and his fifty-dollars-a-month remittance courtesy of Grandmother Goldsmith, that glorious time of – but, wait, had it really been all that glorious? No, let’s face it, he had been a shy young man, and he would go days at a time without speaking to anyone but a waiter, requesting another glass of wine or beer.

That first summer, sitting in the cafés, watching les jeunes filles stroll by. Why had he never attempted even once to pick one up? Well, it was too late now, and, really, what had he missed? He would never know of course, but, after all, who’s to say that even if he had had an affair, even once, if it would have been a good memory to have? And he was only forty-nine now after all, he still had time, perhaps, to have concupiscent relations with a woman, at least once, before he died.

No doubt when his book came out his publisher (he had his eye on Smythe & Son, although he had not yet approached that august firm) would arrange a “release party” for him. For once in his life he would be the center of attention, and perhaps a likely bookish woman would approach him, a copy of his volume in hand, requesting a personalized inscription. One thing would lead to another. She wouldn’t mind his pot belly, because she would be attracted to his mind…

Anyway, time for a bock!

Gerry put on his tie and his old Donegal tweed suit coat and his fedora, and left his tiny flat, not bothering to lock the door, as usual.

Gerry lived on the sixth floor, and he was just about to turn down the fourth-floor landing when he heard the scream.

What was that?

Again the scream, a woman’s scream.

Good God, was someone being murdered?

The noise came from behind him.

He turned, his head cocked, listening, and the scream sounded again. It seemed to be coming from the door one down to the left. That was the apartment of that nice young fellow Terry Foley. Could it be that Terry was in fact a murderer? Who would have suspected? Terry was another literary fellow, working on a long autobiographical novel (or so he said), but was he in reality a modern-day Raskolnikov?

Again the scream, a scream. Frightening.

Gerry was no hero, but could he just continue on down to the bar while some poor woman was being butchered?

No. If only for once in his life, he must take action in the physical world.

He walked, legs trembling, over to the door as yet another scream rang out.

He raised his fist, took a deep breath, and then pounded on the door with the heel of his hand.

A scream had just started again, but suddenly it halted, almost as if the woman had had her throat slit, or crushed.

He pounded again.

“Yes, who is it?” called a man’s voice, Terry Foley’s voice.

“It’s Gerry Goldsmith, Terry,” said Gerry, into the wood of the door. “I can hear you in there, and I warn you, I am not afraid to go find a policeman!”

“What the devil are you talking about?” said Terry’s voice.

“You know damned well what I’m talking about, Terry, and I’m not leaving here until you open up and let that woman out of there, provided she is still alive.”

“Are you insane, Gerry?”

“I assure you I am quite sane, Terry, but perhaps the more apposite question is, ‘Are you a homicidal maniac, Terry?’”


“You heard me, man. Now open this door at once!”

Gerry heard padding footsteps. Would Terry have a knife, or a gun? Would he, Gerry, pay for being a good Samaritan by becoming Terry’s next victim?

The door opened a few inches.

Gerry could see thin young Terry standing there, clad only in boxer shorts. Behind him in Terry’s bed with the sheet drawn up to her neck lay young Araminta Sauvage, from down on the second floor. She was lighting a cigarette.

“Oh my God, Terry,” said Gerry, “I am so terribly sorry.”

“Jesus Christ, man,” said Terry. “You scared the shit out of us.”

“I am so terribly sorry.”

“Yes, you said that.”

“Hello, Mr. Goldsmith,” called Araminta.

“Hello, Miss Sauvage,” said Gerry. “I am so terribly sorry.”

“Yes,” she said. “I heard that.”

“Can you both please forgive me?” said Gerry.

“Jesus Christ, man,” said Terry, again.

“I forgive you, Mr. Goldsmith,” called young Araminta.

“Thank you, Miss Sauvage.”

“Can I close the door now?” said Terry.

“Yes, of course,” said Gerry, “and I do beg your pardon, but I thought –”

“Okay, fine, good day, Gerry.”

“Yes, and good day to you, Terry, and Miss Sauvage, and, please –”

The door closed.

“Carry on,” said Gerry, quietly.

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