Thursday, October 28, 2021


 “And so you see, Araminta, my goal in my writing is to make each sentence the equivalent of an entire thick book, to make it so, shall we say, reverberant, that the reader will…”

“Hey, wait a minute,” said Araminta, putting her hand on Gerry’s arm.

“Oh, dear, I’m boring you.”

“Oh, not at all! And anyway, if someone starts to bore me, I just pretend to listen and think about other things, or nothing at all. In fact I have spent some of my happiest hours thinking of other things or nothing at all while other people spoke. How ever do you think I got through all those dreary lectures at Vassar?”

“Heh heh, I confess, my dear girl, that I too have done the same through countless barroom so-called conversations.”

“Ha ha, but what I wanted to say is look at that street sign.”

They were stopped at a corner, and Gerry tilted his umbrella back and looked at the sign.

“It says MacDougal,” said Gerry.

“Precisely,” said Araminta. “We’ve just walked a dozen blocks out of our way.”

“I suppose,” said Gerry, “in the back of my mind, I was wondering why it was taking so long just to go around the corner to Bob’s. Should we head back?”

“Dash it all,” said Araminta, “the fates have led us here, and also the rain continues unabated; I say we go into this place.”

She pointed with her red-tipped finger at the café that was right there on the corner.

“The San Remo?”

“Yes. Have you ever gone here?”

“I never go anywhere except Bob’s.”

“Me neither. But let’s go in.”

“Why not?”

“There is no reason why not, Gerry, not a damn reason in the world!”

And so they went in through the open door, and it was indeed a café, a small restaurant and bar, like a million other bars and cafés in the world, except this one was at Bleecker and MacDougal, in the beating bohemian heart of Greenwich Village.

It was not quite five p.m., but the place was already almost full with men and women, many of them, like Araminta, wearing berets. A good third of the men were bearded, and a few of the women wore turbans. Several fellows wore Greek fisherman’s caps, some of them were in shirtsleeves of rustic flannel, or else in striped Breton pullovers, and a  quick survey through the swirling fog of tobacco smoke revealed that Araminta was far from the only woman wearing black stockings. For his part Gerry was relieved to see that he was not quite the only traditionalist dressed in a rumpled old tweed suit and a well-worn fedora.

“The bar?” said Gerry.

“Of course,” said Araminta. “I always prefer the bar when I am à deux.”

They found two empty stools, and in short order they had drinks in front of them, alas not the basement-brewed bocks they would have had at Bob’s Bowery Bar, but a bottle of Rheingold for Gerry and a house red wine for Araminta. There was a jukebox near the entrance and a song played which Gerry identified as probably jazz, although whatever glancing familiarity he had once had with that musical genre had faded away around the time of Bix Beiderbecke’s untimely demise.

“What were we talking about?” said Araminta.

“I believe I was droning on about my book,” said Gerry.

“Oh, please, continue to drone.”

“I feel I’ve lost the enthusiasm for talking about it at the moment.”

“Because you don’t think I was paying attention?”

“Oh, no, I’m used to people not paying attention to me, and I’ve never let that stand in the way of my expostulations when I’m in the mood, but, you see, every once in a while, I’ll be up on the crest of a tidal wave of grandiloquence when quite suddenly I’ll realize that I’m boring myself.”

“And this, Gerry, is why you’re not a true bore. Because occasionally you realize you’re being boring.”

“That’s very nice of you to say so, Araminta.”

“I never know when I’m boring. I just go on and on, and then suddenly I’ll realize my interlocutor had fallen asleep, or has idly picked up a book or a magazine and started leafing through it…”

“Excuse me,” said a man’s voice. Gerry and Araminta turned and looked over their shoulders and saw that the voice belonged to a big bearded man standing hovering there and holding an enormous pewter mug. He appeared to be in his fifties, and he wore a yellowed white billed cap and a thick grey turtleneck sweater. The flesh of his face was pink above his white whiskers. He almost seemed like an off-duty Santa Claus. He looked with furrowed brow at Gerry. “Don’t I know you from Paris?”

“From Paris?” said Gerry. “I haven’t been in Paris since, oh my, 1929.”

“Did you ever go to the Dôme?”

“Yes,” said Gerry, “among many other places, heh heh.”

“I knew I knew you. My name is Ernest.”

The big fellow transferred the pewter mug from his right hand to his left, and extended the right hand to Gerry.

“Pleased to meet you, Ernest. My name is Gerry –”

The man gave Gerry’s hand a powerful but brief grasp and shake, and then turned his gaze on Araminta.

“And this is your charming daughter?”

“Well –”

“Oh, I am far from being Gerry’s daughter,” said Araminta. “Gerry and I are amoureux!”

“Oh, I do beg your pardon,” said the man. “Please forgive my presumption.

“And do we call you Ernest or Ernie?” said Araminta.

“My friends call me Papa,” said the big guy.

“Then we shall call you Papa too,” said Araminta.

“It must have been the Dôme,” said the man, to Gerry, “back in the late 20s. Didn’t we meet and have a conversation one day? While it was snowing outside on the Boul’? I remember it so vividly. You were talking about Kant. You said you wanted to write a book of philosophical observations, and you were going to call it Kant Is Just a Four Letter Word.

“That sounds like me,” said Gerry, “but, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t remember meeting you.”

“Well,” said Papa, “you were quite drunk, you see. You had been drinking bière blonde, and I insisted you try absinthe, and, well, I suppose we both got a little tight. But I’ve never forgotten that snowy afternoon in the Dôme. I don’t know why. Did you ever write your book?”

“I’m still writing it.”

“And is it still called Kant Is Just a Four Letter Word?”

“Well, my current working title is Pensées for a Rainy Day. But I could change it back.”

For a few moments the conversation ceased, but all around people chattered and laughed, and the jukebox music played.

At last the big man spoke again.

“That’s what the French call an angel passing. Well, I don’t want to disturb you two lovebirds anymore. I’m sitting over there at a table with my friend Bill, who’s up visiting from Mississippi. Really great seeing you again, Gerry, and good luck with your book.”

“Thanks, Ernest,” said Gerry.


“Papa,” said Gerry.

“And it was lovely to meet you, Miss –”

“Araminta,” said Araminta.

“Araminta,” said Papa. “Lovely. You’re a lucky man, Gerry.”

The man called Papa went off, back to a table where a little fellow with a moustache sat.

“Wow,” said Araminta. “Who was that guy?”

“I have no idea,” said Gerry. “Papa something?”

“The very idea,” said Araminta. “What were we talking about?”

(Please click here to read the unexpurgated “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by rhoda penmarq…}

Thursday, October 21, 2021

“Les jeunes filles de Paris”

 The reefer had gotten smoked down to its last quarter of an inch, tinged red with Araminta’s lipstick.

“Go ahead,” she said. “Finish it off.”

“Well, that might prove to be rather difficult, actually,” said Gerry, “as its size has become so diminished.”

“You talk funny, Mr. Goldsmith.”

“Yes, I suppose I do. I think that’s because I think funny.”

“Yes, precisely, you think funny, ergo, you talk funny.”

Araminta proceeded to take the tiny butt of reefer from Gerry’s awkward fingers and then to stick it between the prongs of a bobby pin she had removed from her hair.

“Here’s how you do it,” she said. “Give me another light.”

Using the bobby pin as a holder, she held the stub of muggles between her red lips, and Gerry obediently struck a match and put the flame to the stub.

“Ingenious,” he said.

She said nothing, holding her breath, and then, after what seemed like several minutes, she exhaled a cloud of smoke through those red lips.

She held the bobby-pinned stub out to Gerry.

“Your turn, old chap.”

Gerry imitated Araminta’s procedure, Araminta providing the light.

“Now I think we’ve finally gotten all we’re going to get out of that little bugger,” said Araminta.

Gerry sat there holding the bobby pin and its smoldering cinder of marijuana and paper, searching the caverns of his brain for a response, and in less than a minute he came up with, “Yes, I suppose we have.”

“You can put it into the ashtray now, Mr. Goldsmith.”

“Ah, yes, of course,” said Gerry.

There on the coffee table was the ashtray in question, filled with ashes and cigarette butts. The ashtray was made of beveled glass, and in gold print on its upper edge was the legend


“Go ahead, put the bobby pin down, Mr. Goldsmith,” said a voice that was familiar to Gerry.

“What?” he said, but to whom?

“Here, give it to me,” said the voice. Was it his mother’s?

“What?” said a voice Gerry recognized as his own, or very much like his own.

“Oh, dear,” said Araminta, and she took the bobby pin and its blackened nubbin of reefer from Gerry’s fingers and dropped it into the ashtray. “You, sir, are high as a kite!”

“So this,” said Gerry, after another echoing pause, whether of a second of or several minutes it was hard to say, “is what it’s like.”

“Yes,” said Araminta. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Outside the windows of Araminta’s flat the afternoon rain fell and pattered gently, and automotive vehicles made whooshing noises in the street below.

“Miss Sauvage,” said Gerry, the words suddenly pouring from his brain into his mouth and out of it, “may I speak freely?”

“Oh, please do, Mr. Goldsmith,” said Araminta. She was sitting crosslegged on the divan, but her grey skirt hid most if hardly not all of her black-stockinged legs.  

“I think this is the most splendid time I’ve had in my entire life,” said Gerry.

“Me too,” she said.

There was a run in one of Araminta’s stockings at the side of the knee, and Gerry did his best not to stare at it.

“I shouldn’t want you to take what I say the wrong way,” were the words that tumbled out of his mouth at this point.

“Oh, I shan’t, I assure you, Mr. Goldsmith,” said Araminta.

“I realize all too well that I am middle-aged, my best days behind me, and, to be quite honest, even my best days were nothing to write home about.”

“Oh, I find that hard to believe, Mr. Goldsmith. Didn’t you spend a couple of years in Paris in your bounding youth?”

“Well, I don’t know how bounding it was.”

“But Paris in the twenties! It must have been marvelous. Tell me, did you know Gertrude Stein?”

“Well, I think I saw her a few times, you know, doing her shopping and whatnot.”

“How merveilleux! What did she buy?”

“Oh, you know, the usual: bread, wine.”

“Wine and bread!” said Araminta. “And cheese, I should imagine.”

“Yes, most likely there was cheese involved,” said Gerry.

“Oh, how les jeunes filles must have loved you, Mr. Goldsmith!”

“Oh, no,” said Gerry.

“Oh, but I’m sure they did. Dites-moi, did you break many hearts?”

“Oh, far from it. You see, I was a very shy young fellow.”

“Oh, nonsense, you’re being modest!”

“I’m afraid not, Miss Sauvage.”

“Dash it all, call me Araminta.”

“Of course. Araminta.”

“And may I call you by your given name?”

“I should be most pleased.”


“Yes,” said Gerry.

“Short for Gerald?”

“Gerard actually.”

“I shall call you Gerard.”

“No one has ever called me Gerard in my entire life.”

“I’m calling you Gerard.”

“So be it.”

“Should we go out now?”


“Let’s go at once. All of life is waiting out there.”

A mere twenty-five minutes later they successfully emerged from the building. It was still raining, and the afternoon was fading. The plan was to go around the corner to Bob’s Bowery Bar, but they absent-mindedly turned the wrong way, walking together under Gerry’s old black umbrella, and they had gone as far as MacDougal Street before realizing their error.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2021

“Rainfall Over the Bowery”

 “What do you think?” said Araminta.

“I, uh –”

“Be honest now, Mr. Goldsmith. Brutally honest!”

“I think they are beautiful,” said Gerry.

“Yes, fine, but is one bigger than the other?”


Quite understandably Gerry was finding it hard to think straight.

“I asked you,” she said, “is one breast bigger than the other?” 
“What? No, I mean, not that I can tell.”

“Not that you can tell? You’re not blind, are you?”

“Oh, no.”

“So they’re really the same size?”

“Yes, I think so.”

At last she lowered her sweater. Or was it a chemise? At any rate it was some sort of white silky material, and now her breasts were covered by it.

Gerry sighed, whether with relief or something else he had no idea. Outside the rain still fell, and inside here on Araminta’s divan he was sweating profusely.

“Damn him,” said Araminta.

“Pardon me?”

“Damn Terry for saying the girl in his stupid novel had mismatched breasts!”

“But –”

“But what?”

“But a novel is a work of fiction, by definition, that is, it has no intrinsic or artistic need to reflect any actual shall we say ‘reality’, qua reality –”

“Oh, pish, the girl in it is obviously based on me.”

“Well, you say that, and yet, the girl in the book apparently has, um –”

“One breast bigger than the other?”

“Precisely. And so, perforce, or perhaps ‘ipso facto’, or should I simply say ‘obviously’, she is not based entirely upon you, or –”

“Oh. I get it. You mean he’s being ‘creative’.”

“For lack of a better word, yes.”

“Also, he made the girl Italian, and I am not Italian.”

“Well, there you go, see? Creative.”

“So you’re saying she’s not based one hundred percent on me.”

“Well, I haven’t read a word of Terry’s novel, but I should hazard the opinion that, yes, perhaps the character is not entirely based on you.”

“You know who would make a good character in a novel?” said Araminta, changing the subject abruptly.

“Pardon me?” said Gerry.

“You, Mr. Goldsmith.”


“You would make a good character in a novel. Would you mind if I put you in my novel?”

“You’re writing a novel?”

“Yes. Do you want to know what it’s about?”

“Uh –”

“It’s about this girl named Arabella from New Jersey who goes from a private Catholic girls’ school to Vassar, and then she graduates and comes to the city to pursue a career as a jazz poet, and she moves from this dreary women’s hotel to a tenement at Bleecker and the Bowery, and she begins to write a novel based on her awakening into womanhood.”

“Oh. Uh, well, that sounds –”

“But then she meets this guy in a diner, who’s also writing a novel.”


“What do you mean?”

“I mean, the fellow in your novel, is he based on Terry?”

“The guy in my novel is named Kenny.”

“I see.”

“And he’s quite tall. Terry is not very tall.”

“No, of course –”

“Also, the chap in my novel is a lot smarter than Terry is.”

“I see.”

“Okay, maybe there’s some Terry in the character.”

“Um, uh –”

She picked up the Harvey’s Bristol Cream bottle, and upended it over her jelly glass.

“Damn,” she said, “we’re out.”

“Yes, well, maybe we should go down to Bob’s –”

“I don’t get my allowance until tomorrow.”

“I’ll buy.”

“Okay, but first let’s blow some gage, daddy-o.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Some weed. Reefer. Mary Jane. Muggles.”

“You mean marijuana?”

“That’s precisely what I mean.”

There was a carved wooden cigarette box on the coffee table, and Araminta leaned over, opened it, and picked out a crudely hand-rolled cigarette from among some factory-rolled ones.

“Isn’t it addictive?” said Gerry.

“Only psychologically. Light me up, man.”

With trembling fingers Gerry scrabbled a match out of his matchbox and scraped it against the striking surface of the box, igniting the match at last on his fourth try.

With two slender fingers holding the muggles in her pursed red lips, Gerry gave Araminta a light as the rain continued to fall outside on the Bowery.

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

Thursday, October 7, 2021

“What Is Art?”

 "Art is something made by someone that makes somebody else glad to be someone."

Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith gazed at the sentence which had been the sole bounty of his afternoon’s work.

Was it nonsense?

For that matter, was it any more or less nonsensical than any other sentence in his work-in-progress, his “volume of philosophical observations” with the current working title of Pensées for a Rainy Day?

And indeed it had begun to rain outside.

He turned from his old Royal portable and gazed out his window at the El tracks in the rain. He heard that familiar whirring and rumbling in the distance as the Third Avenue train approached, its noise growing louder and louder until it passed by on its way down to the Houston Street stop.

Inside the windows of the train were the faces of people heading homeward from their jobs.

The last car of the train passed, and now as its roaring receded Gerry heaved a sigh.

He very rarely composed more than one sentence in a day, but, seized by an inspiration, he turned to his typewriter again and quickly typed the following:

“For the philosopher the only truly noble work is the avoidance of work.”


And say what you would about Gerry Goldsmith, if he had accomplished nothing else in his forty-eight years on the planet he had managed never to have a job.

But who could accuse him of laziness when he had written not one but two sentences in one afternoon?

Well, he deserved his reward for a good day’s work, and soon, umbrella in hand, he was working his way down the six flights to the street.

However, on the landing of the second floor he heard a woman crying, sobbing, and, yes, keening.

As much as Gerry wanted only that first delicious mouthful of bock, he was still a good man, a gentleman as well as a philosopher, and so he turned into the hallway of the second floor. The crying voice sounded familiar, and as he walked towards the sound of the sobbing he suddenly knew who it belonged to, because he was standing outside the door of young Araminta Sauvage.

He knocked on the door.

“Hello, Araminta?”

“Go away!”

“It’s me, Gerry.”


“Gerry Goldsmith, from up on the sixth floor?”

“Oh, that Gerry. What do you want?”

“I heard you crying.”

“I was that loud?”

“Well, yes.”

“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.”

“Please don’t apologize. Are you all right?”

“Would I be crying if I were all right?”

“Oh. Good point. Well, if you’re all right, I guess I’ll be going along then.”

“I just said I’m not all right! You’re such a typical man, you never listen!”

“Now it is I who must apologize.”

“Wait a minute.”

Gerry waited. What had he got himself into now? All he wanted was a bock. All he wanted was to go out into the rain and around the corner to Bob’s Bowery Bar and order a bock. And then to drink it. And then to order another one and drink it, and so on…

Not a minute later, but more like four minutes (possibly five), Araminta’s door opened, and there she stood. Gerry was no expert in these matters, but he guessed that she had washed her face and re-applied eye makeup and lipstick. It would take a far more observant man than Gerry to tell that she had just been sobbing.

“Won’t you come in, Mr. Goldsmith?”

“Well, I –”

“Please, come in.”

“All right, thank you, Miss Sauvage.”

He took off his hat and entered, and Araminta closed the door behind him. Gerry had only been in here once before, the summer before last, when Araminta had thrown her housewarming tea party, at which he had gotten so drunk that the whole evening was like a dim memory of a memory in a dream, but a pleasant dream.

Araminta took his hat and his umbrella, put the umbrella in a large vase near the door, and hung the hat on a clothes tree.

“Please sit on the divan, Mr. Goldsmith. It’s really quite comfortable.”

Gerry sat down on the divan, which was covered with gaily colored scarves. In fact nearly everything in the flat was draped in gay dramatic scarves and shawls.

“Would you like some tea, Mr. Goldsmith?”

“Well, I was just heading out for a bock, actually.”

“Oh, you men and your precious bocks!”

“Okay, I’ll have tea, thank you, Miss Sauvage.”

“Bother tea! What is it with women and their precious endless cups of tea?”

“I, uh –”

“What about sherry?”

“Sherry is good,” said Gerry.

“You sit right there while I get the bottle and glasses.”

Gerry sat right there, and within a minute Araminta was sitting with her legs folded under her next to him on the divan, and they each held a jelly glass filled almost to the brim with Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

“You’re probably wondering why I was weeping uncontrollably.”

“Well, I admit I was, how shall I put it, concerned –”

“You may smoke if you’d like.”

What a question, Gerry nearly always liked to smoke, and so he took out his pouch of Bull Durham and his packet of Top papers.

“Oh, do please roll me one of those,” said Araminta, and Gerry duly did.

A half hour went by, and Gerry learned that Araminta had looked at her boyfriend Terry Foley’s novel-in-progress while he was out of his apartment, and there was a girl in the book named Annabella who was a poetess and who wore a beret and black stockings. Araminta wore black stockings even now, and she didn’t have her black beret on her head, but Gerry could see it hanging on the coat stand, right next to his own fedora.

“How dare he?” she now said. “How dare he put me in his stupid novel?”

“Well –”

“Well what? And don’t defend him!”

“Well, I was only going to say that writers, artists, they must get their material from where they will –”

“Yes, but he makes me look like an idiot, a pretentious little fool!”

“Yes, but, perhaps –”

“Perhaps what?”

“Perhaps he doesn’t see it that way.”

“Oh,” she said, and she paused. She stubbed out her current cigarette. “You know, you may be right, Mr. Goldsmith. You see, just between you and me, Terry is not as bright as he thinks he is. It’s quite possible that he thinks the girl in his novel is the cat’s meow.”

“I should think,” said Gerry, “that it might be flattering to be the inspiration for a character in a novel.”

“Here, have some more sherry.”

She emptied what was left of the bottle into Gerry’s jelly glass.

How long had it been since Gerry had sat in a woman’s domicile, alone with her, not to mention an attractive young woman, with the rain falling gently outside? 

Or was this the first time?

“Would you do something for me, Mr. Goldsmith?” said Araminta.

“Of course.”

“If I show you my breasts, will you tell me if you think one is markedly larger than the other?”

And here Gerry’s little world began to crash around his ears.

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