Thursday, August 26, 2021

“The New Day”

 Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith came suddenly awake and realized he must have left his desk lamp burning. He turned his head to his right and saw the little man sitting at the writing table.

“Excuse me?” said Gerry.

“Oh, the sleeper awakes!” said the man. He was a shabby little fellow, wearing a flat cap and with the stub of an unlighted cigar in his mouth. Despite the warm weather and Gerry’s lack of air-conditioning, the man wore an old grey overcoat and a faded muffler. Gerry fixed the man’s age as somewhere between a rather decrepit fifty and a reasonably spry eighty.

Gerry tried to sit up, but somehow he couldn’t.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“You mean on this planet?” said the man. 

Gerry noticed that the man held a sheaf of papers in his hands.

“Well, more particularly,” said Gerry, “I was wondering what you’re doing here in my digs.”

“How are you feeling, by the way?” asked the fellow.

“I believe that I am very drunk,” said Gerry. “And I am finding it difficult to sit up.”

“So don’t sit up.”

“I feel awkward lying here, looking at a strange person sitting at my writing table.”

“Life is awkwardness,” said the man. “I should think that you,” he flicked a fingernail at the sheaf of papers, “a philosopher, would know that by now.”

“Point taken,” said Gerry. “You seem oddly familiar.”

“Oh, you’ve seen me around, my friend.”

“Wait!” said Gerry, and now, with a surge of willpower, in one graceful movement, he tossed aside his covering sheet, drew his legs off the bed and sat up. “You’re the little guy I gave a quarter to a little while ago on the front stoop.”

“Bingo,” said the man. “Hey, I’ve been reading your work-in-progress here. This stuff is hilarious.”

“Thanks,” said Gerry, “I think.”

“Like this line,” said the guy, and he ran his finger along the uppermost page of the sheaf of papers he held in one hand. “Here ya go, this: ‘If you’re listening to someone talk and he’s boring you, rest assured that your interlocutor will be just as bored once you start talking.’ Ha ha. That’s some good shit right there, my friend.”

“Thanks,” said Gerry. “I try.”

“You got a name for this little oeuvre?”

“My current working title is Pensées for a Rainy Day.”

Pensées for a Rainy Day?”

“I’m not married to the title.”

“Oh, I like it.”

He laid the papers on Gerry’s little writing table.

“I’m also considering Thoughts Like Falling Leaves,” said Gerry.

“I prefer Pensées for a Rainy Day,” said the man. “But what do I know?”

“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here,” said Gerry.

“You gave me your last quarter.”

“Only because my friend was being so rude to you.”

“Your friend, the one they call Addison the Wit.”


“What a hopeless drip that guy is.”

“I know.”

“Then why do you put up with him?”

“I don’t know. I guess I feel sorry for him.”

“You’re a saint, my friend.”


“No, you are. Literally. A saint. And I should know, because I myself am an angel.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“My name is Bert by the way. They call me Bowery Bert, on account of I’m the guardian angel for this neighborhood.”

“I didn’t know neighborhoods had guardian angels.”

“You’re a human being. It would take a billion Encyclopedia Brittanicas to cover all the shit that human beings don’t know.”


“Anyway, it’s official, you’re a saint.”

“Does this mean I’ll go to heaven?”

“Well, no, not necessarily. However.”

The little fellow paused.

“Yes?” said Gerry.
“Okay, I ain’t supposed to interfere in human affairs, but here’s what I’m gonna do, and it ain’t just because you gave me your last quarter.”

“It ain’t, I mean, it isn’t?”

“No, it’s partially that, but it’s mostly because you spent the better part of yesterday afternoon and all last night humoring that ass Addison, listening to him talk about his horrible novel, and buying him five bock beers for every one he bought you.”

“He is a little tight with his nickels and dimes,” said Gerry.

“So here’s what I’m gonna do for ya. And I really shouldn’t do it, but I guess this once won’t hurt. I’m gonna remit your hangover for your present load.”

“Remit my hangover?”

“Yeah. Just this once, mind you, so don’t get used to it. But you’ll go back to sleep, and sleep long and deep, and when you wake up you’ll be as fresh as a daisy.”

“No hangover?”

“Not a trace.”

Gerry woke up.

What day was it?

The sun shone through his window.

He felt strange. He hadn’t felt this way in years, perhaps decades.

What was it?

And then he realized: he wasn’t hungover.

How odd.

He must have slept through the entire day after and ensuing night. And now it was a brand new day.

He tossed aside his sheet, lowered his feet to the floor.

A new day, and he hadn’t felt this good in years, in decades. He got up to go to the bathroom, and on the way he noticed that he had left the lamp burning on his writing table. He switched it off, and in the ashtray, along with all his usual Bull Durham butts, he saw the stub-end of a cigar.

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

Thursday, August 19, 2021



Suddenly, as if he were bursting to the surface of a dark and turbulent ocean, Addison came awake.

God! He was drunk. Had he ever been so drunk? Yes, of course he had been, but all those other times were then, and this was now, and he was deeply, abominably drunk, and, yes, tomorrow he would pay.

He was in his bed, his narrow little bed, and outside his lone window he heard the screeching of the Third Avenue Elevated hurtling down toward the Houston Street stop.

A faint glow of streetlight came through the window into his tiny shadowed flat.

He lay there, the roaring in his head now louder than the fading roaring of the train, and the stained old ceiling seemed to be breathing, pulsing.

Good God, when would he learn?

On a heroic impulse he threw his legs off the bed and sat up, the palms of his hands on the edge of the bed. This was a good position, in case he felt he had to throw up, and then he could launch himself the six feet to the bathroom, and maybe he would even make it.

He looked down at his feet. He was wearing his shoes, his scuffed, worn brogues, and he was also wearing his trousers, and then he also realized he still wore his suit jacket, his shirt and tie. He wasn’t wearing his hat. His hat was by his feet on the floor. His body oozed with sweat, and he could smell himself, and his unlaundered, damp clothing.

How had he got here?


Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith, his one friend, had dragged him up here and put him to bed. Stout fellow! A true friend. His only real friend. His only friend of any description.

His only friend.

They had been sitting on the stoop downstairs, and he must have passed out.

But there had been something else.

Something else before he had fallen into oblivion.

The little man.

The little man, with the cloth cap and the dead cigar, that shabby little man, trying to bum a nickel.

The little man.

He knew that little man.

He knew him.

But from where?

And then with a chill Addison remembered. 

Last January, that bitter cold horribly bright day when he stood on the Brooklyn Bridge, looking down at the grey cold river, trying to muster the courage to throw himself off –

And the little man!

That same little man had appeared, and had spoken to him. What had he said? Some nonsense about being an angel. Ha ha! An angel. And what else? Something about how it was true that Addison would never be successful, and that he would die alone and unloved, but nonetheless think of all the little things that made life worthwhile, like a doughnut, a cup of coffee…

A doughnut and a cup of coffee, not much to live for, and yet Addison had not jumped. For a moment there it felt as if he had fallen, and but instead of dropping down into the cold river he had flown above it, he had sailed through the air like an eagle, flying upriver, and the moment had stretched into a moment that lasted five, ten minutes, sailing along through the cold clear air up over the river all the way to what must have been the Long Island Sound, and then he had made a great curving turn and sailed back downriver, back to his place on the bridge, and then he had walked back to Manhattan and walked and walked all day and night in the freezing cold until it started to snow and then he had walked home, to his building, and he sat down on the top step of the landing between his floor and the one below, and then he broke down into tears, with great heaving sobs as he had never sobbed in his life.

And then Gerry had appeared, and sat with him, and rolled him a cigarette.

Gerry had lighted the cigarette for Addison, with one of those wooden kitchen matches he used. It wasn’t much maybe, just a cigarette, a little thing, but it had meant the world to Addison at the time. And then, that time too, Gerry had dragged Addison up to his tiny apartment and put him to bed.

What a pal. What a friend. Addison’s only friend.

But what about the little man? What had he said his name was? Bowery Ben? Bowery Bill?

That little man. Bowery Something-or-other, and when he’d asked for a nickel just now, what had Addison said? He’d told him to fuck off. But what had Gerry done? He gave the guy a quarter, probably his last quarter.

Addison thrust himself to his feet, and he swayed, the whole room swayed, but he managed not to fall.

He stuck his hand in his pocket, took out his old Boy Scout wallet. He had a single one-dollar bill left in it. It had always been an article of faith with Addison not to spend his last dollar until he had gotten his next remittance from home. Better to cadge some coins from the other bums at Bob’s Bowery Bar, or to go without cigarettes or even food for a day or two than to face the stark reality of complete pennilessness.

He lurched to the door, and went out, not bothering to lock it behind him, and then he went down the hall to the landing and started down the stairs.

The little man had headed across Bleecker with Gerry’s quarter toward Ma’s Diner, to order biscuits and gravy, a jelly doughnut and coffee. With any luck the fellow would still be there. Addison could take the stool next to him, apologize for being drunk and rude earlier, offer to buy him something, a piece of Ma’s apple pie maybe, something, maybe even a hamburger, and maybe if he had enough left over Addison would have a cup of coffee, maybe a doughnut as well…

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

Thursday, August 12, 2021

“The Little Man”

 “No, seriously, old chap,” said Addison. “I mean seriously. Old man. Old fellow. Stout fellow.”

As Addison had gotten drunker and drunker his accent had lost nearly all of his native nasal Pennsylvania twang and had become vaguely similar to that of George Sanders or perhaps Ronald Colman.

“Well, maybe we should head up now, Addison,” said Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith.

They were sitting on the stoop of the Bleecker Street tenement building in which they both resided in tiny one-room flats. It was sometime past four in the morning. Bob had finally ushered them out of his eponymous Bowery bar around the corner, but Addison had insisted on one last cigarette before they called it quits for the night. When Gerry tried to demur, Addison, for the first time ever, had offered Gerry one of his Philip Morris Commanders.

“You just don’t know what it means to me,” said Addison.

Well, you’ve already told me about a hundred times, thought Gerry, but, being the kindly philosopher he was, he said, “That’s quite all right, Addison.”

“You don’t know,” said Addison. “You can’t know. You’ll never know.”

Gerry thought, No, I do know, sadly enough, but he said nothing, because he also knew that only an idiot argued with an idiot. He would finish his cigarette, and, knowing Addison, the man would be too cheap to offer him another one. And then, at long last, Gerry could finally climb those six flights of stairs to his narrow little bed.

Suddenly a shabby little man lurched up to them out of the shadows. Another bum in a neighborhood teeming with bums. He was a very small man, roughly between the ages of fifty and eighty, maybe eighty-five. He had thick round glasses, a cloth cap, and an unlighted stub of a cigar in his mouth. He needed a shave.

“Spare a nickel for a cup of coffee, buddies.”

“Fuck off,” said Addison.

“Maybe a dime so’s I can get a cup of coffee and also one of them nice jelly doughnuts acrost the street at Ma’s.”

“You heard me. Take a hike,” said Addison. “Can’t you see my good friend and I are attempting to have a conversation?”

“Well excuse me for breathing,” said the little man. “Asshole. Maybe someday you’ll be hard up, pal. Maybe someday you will be reduced to cadging nickels and dimes.”

“Scram,” said Addison.

“I’m going,” said the little man. “I wouldn’t take a plug nickel from the mean likes of you, nor would I piss on you even if you was burning in the everlasting fires of hell, which someday you probably will be. See ya later, asswipe, but not if I see you first.”

The little guy spat on the pavement and turned as if to go.

“Wait, buddy,” said Gerry. He reached into his trousers pocket and came out with a quarter, his last quarter. “Here, ya go, pal. It’s all I have.”

“Wow,” said the little man, and he took the offered coin. “A whole quarter. Now I can get a couple of them nice biscuits smothered with gravy at Ma’s.”

“Yes, her biscuits are very good,” said Gerry.

“And I’ll still have enough for a cup o’ joe and a nice jelly doughnut for dessert, and a nickel tip, too, ‘cause I ain’t no piker like some guys I could name.”

“Well, enjoy,” said Gerry.

“You’re all right, pal,” said the little man. “I ain’t so sure about your friend though. See ya round. The both of yez. And if I don’t see you round I’ll see you square.”

And the little guy jaywalked across Bleecker and went into Ma’s Diner.

“This neighborhood,” said Addison.

“I kind of like it,” said Gerry.

“Once my novel gets published I’m out of here,” said Addison. “Sutton Place for me. Maybe a summer cottage in the Hamptons. And you can come and visit whenever you like, Gerald.”

“Yes, that would be nice,” said Gerry, whose actual Christian name was Gerard.

Addison’s still-burning cigarette butt fell from his fingers to the step below the step his worn-out brogues were on, and rolled off that one to the step below it.

“I suddenly feel very sleepy,” he said. “I think maybe I’ll just doze here for a while.”

Gerry tossed away his own butt, got to his feet, and then reached down and grabbed Addison by the arm.

“Lemme sleep,” mumbled Addison.

“Addison,” said Gerry, “you can’t sleep here on this stoop.”

“This is the Bowery. Lots of guys sleep on stoops.”

“Get up,” said Gerry, pulling on Addison’s arm.

Five minutes later he managed to get Addison into his flat on the fourth floor, and into his bed, fully clothed, because even Gerry, as kind as he was, drew the line at undressing Addison.

He closed the door behind him and made his way up to the sixth floor, to his own little apartment. He undressed, tossing his clothes onto his one chair, and got into his bed.

He felt he had learned something on this long boring day and drunken night, but what that was he was not so sure of. And then, as the room rocked gently back and forth, he fell into oblivion.

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

Thursday, August 5, 2021

“I Love You, Man”

Once again Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith was deeply ensconced in what he called “the valley of drunkenness”. Oh, sure, he would pay for it tomorrow, but that consideration had never stopped him before, and it certainly wasn’t going to stop him this time. But tonight he had an excuse, not that he needed an excuse, because for the past five or six hours he had been sitting here at Bob’s Bowery Bar with the crashing bore they all called Addison the Wit, despite the fact that he was not a wit and his name was not Addison.  

A lesser man would have told Addison to fuck off right from the beginning.

A lesser man would have refused even to pretend to read Addison’s novel-in-progress.

A lesser man would certainly not spend all afternoon and evening sitting with Addison at Bob’s and listening to Addison talk about his horrible novel and his theories of literature and his thoughts on the parlous state of American letters, and himself.

Or was Gerry a lesser man for not telling Addison to fuck off from the beginning?

But no, Gerry had not told Addison to fuck off. And why? Because he felt pity for the poor jerk.

Father Frank, the bar’s resident “whiskey priest”, had once explained to Gerry the Roman Catholic concept of “offering it up”: instead of weeping and wailing and gnashing your teeth in the face of unpleasantness, you “offered it up” to Christ, and thereby shared in your own way the redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross, and all his stations approaching that cross. And thus you achieved grace, and possibly even time off from Purgatory. Father Frank had quoted St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…”

Gerry was not quite able to rejoice in his suffering, but the thought that his suffering contributed to another living soul’s lack of suffering was some small consolation…

“Gerry, my man, a penny for your thoughts?” said Addison.


“I’ve been going on and on, and you’ve been listening so politely and attentively, and, yet, I detect a slight furrowing of your brow. Is it that you disagree with my theory?”

Gerry had no idea what theory Addison was talking about, nor did he care.

“No, not at all, Addison, in fact I think you make some very good points.”



“Because, you know, I sent an article adumbrating this very theory to the New Republic and I got it back with the words ‘absolute twaddle’ scribbled on the rejection slip.”

“Well, I would have to disagree with that assessment, Addison.”

“Thank you, Gerry, I appreciate your saying that. There’s only so much rejection a chap can take. And, quite frankly, that’s all my whole life has been: a serious of humiliating rejections.”

“Oh, it can’t have been that bad, Addison.”

“No, it has. And this is why it means so much to me that you really think my novel is good.”

“Well, uh, you know, hey –”

“May I say something I’ve never said to another man in my life?”

“I’m not sure,” said Gerry.

“Yes, how could you be sure? So, dash it all, and as Admiral Peary said at Chesapeake Bay, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes, you may fire when ready, Smedley, I’ll just out and say it.”

Here Addison paused, and Gerry concentrated, as always, on enjoying one of these rare intermissions in Addison’s never-ending monologue. Gerry noticed that his glass had become empty again, for perhaps the twentieth time this night. Bob was right there, his head cocked, that small ironic smile on his face, the smile of a man who had seen it all, life and death and everything in between, all of it all around the world in his twenty years in the marines, and now saw it all right here in his bar on the Bowery.

“Sure, Bob,” said Gerry, to Bob’s silent question, “and one for Addison too.”

“Thanks, Gerry,” said Addison, after Bob had headed down to the taps, “but I think it was my shout, actually.”

“You can get the next one,” said Gerry.

“I love you, man.”


“That’s what I wanted to say, that I have never said to another man before in my life. I love you, Gerry.”


“I love you.”


“Not in a queer way.”


“I speak platonically. I love you, man. If I may address you as such. Perhaps I should say rather, ‘I love you, buddy.’ I suppose it does sound less queer that way. I hope you don’t mind.”


“And I have decided just this moment that I am going to dedicate my novel to you, Gerry.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary, Addison.”

“I think, dear Gerry, that you’ll grant me the right to be the judge of whom I should dedicate what stands to be my magnum opus to. My only question for you is should I use your full name in my dedication, i.e., “Dedicated to Gerald Goldsmith –”

“Well, it’s Gerard, actually.”

“Gerard, yes, of course, should I use your full name or would you prefer the partial anonymity of just your first name? You see, those who know will know who it is, anyway.”

“Okay, then, thanks, Addison,” said Gerry. “Let’s just go with the first name then.”

“So, just, ‘Dedicated to my best friend, Gerald.’”

“Sure, that’d be great, Addison,” said Gerry, and fortunately Bob was standing there with their two glasses of bock.

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