Thursday, January 27, 2022

“Perino del Vaga”

It was four flights down from her little apartment, and outside the snow still fell on Bleecker Street, thick fat flakes falling relentlessly, and the sidewalk and the parked cars had been blanketed with an inch more of the white stuff in the half hour that Addison and Bubbles had been upstairs.

“Jesus, I should’ve worn my galoshes,” she said.

“Do you want to go back and put them on?” said Addison.

“No, we’re only going up the block,” she said, “but keep that umbrella over me.”

She put her arm in his, and off they went, back towards the San Remo on the corner.

How odd, thought Addison, to be walking arm in arm with a woman, and it occurred to him that before this night he had never walked with a woman’s arm in his unless the arm belonged to one of the elder females in his family – his mother, one of his grandmothers or aunts or great aunts. Bubbles had her arm in his right arm, the one that held the umbrella, and it was slightly awkward trying to keep the umbrella over her head with its red fur (or was it faux fur) pillbox hat and her somewhat broad shoulders in their black fur (probably not real fur) coat. Could this be the beginning of a new chapter in his life? Or could it possibly even be the first chapter of a whole new volume in the heretofore dreary and tedious roman fleuve of his personal history? A volume in which our hero finally experienced social relations not only with women who were not related to him by blood, but indeed sexual and, yes, even romantic relations? True, he had had to pay three dollars for the “Baltimore handshake” Bubbles had just given him, and had also agreed to buy her an unspecified number of cocktails at the San Remo, but did these transactional factors preclude a deeper friendship, or any sort of friendship?

“You’re awfully quiet all of a sudden,” she said.

“Yes, I was only musing, Bubbles. You see, I was pondering, oh, perhaps unjustifiably, I’ll readily admit, but, yes, I was wondering, you see –”

“Okay, we’re here,” she said. They had reached the entrance to the San Remo, its tall neon sign overhead tinting the falling snow orange red. “Now listen, we can sit together and have a good time and all, but if I give you the high sign, you’ve got to act like we don’t really know each other.”

“The high sign.”

“Yeah. What I’ll do is, I’ll like give you a pinch on the leg.”

“Oh my. I hope you won’t pinch me too hard.”

“I won’t hurt you. Just a little pinch, and then you act like we’re not together.”

“But may I ask why?”

“Why do you think? I got to try to make a little dough. How far do you think that three bucks you gave me is gonna get me?”

“Oh. Yes, uh –”

“If you had gone for the sawbuck for a throw it might be a little different.”

“Yes, I see.”

“But no, you had to be a cheapskate. Wouldn’t even cough up a fin for a BJ.”

“Yes, you’re perfectly, uh –”

“All right then, long as you understand.”

“Yes, of course. I, um –”
“Okay, now that we got that settled, let’s go in.”


She tugged on his arm, but Addison stood there.

“Come on, buddy, what’s the hold-up?”


“That’s what they call me.”

“Bubbles – what if – oh, how shall I put this?”

“Try plain English.”

“What if we just sat together, had some cocktails, perhaps even a bite to eat, and if we just, you know, if you didn’t have to give me the ‘high sign’ –”

“But I told you, I want to make a little money tonight. I got rent to pay too, y’know.”

“Yes, but, what if I buy you drinks and dinner, and then whatever money I have left over, you can have that?”

“So how much money do you have left on you? Fifteen bucks?”

“Yes, fifteen, but I also have some change. Maybe fifty cents.”

“So you want to have like a date with me?”

“If it isn’t asking too much.”

“But you told me you had your rent coming up.”

“I was fibbing actually. My rent is paid through the month. And usually I get something from one of my aunts or great aunts or my mother or one of my grandmothers every week or so.”

“Your aunts and mother and great aunts and grandmothers send you money?”

“Not a lot. A ten here, five there. Maybe a twenty for Christmas or my birthday.”

“And you live off this money the ladies in your family send you.”

“I live very modestly. I hardly eat, and normally I drink at this place called Bob’s Bowery Bar, where you can get a glass of very good basement-brewed bock for a dime.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“Yes, I suppose I am.”

“Me, I like to eat.”

“As well you should!”

“They got a good cheap spaghetti dinner in this joint. It comes with salad and Italian roll. Will you buy me one of those?”

“I certainly will!”

She paused, looking away. The snow falling all around her, the snow tinted orange red by the neon sign, made the skin of her face look like a lady in a Renaissance painting Addison had once seen at the Metropolitan Museum. Was it a Botticelli? Or a Perino del Vaga?

She turned and looked at him again.

“All right,” she said. “But you have to eat some spaghetti too. I’m not gonna sit there and eat while you sit there staring at me like a sad hungry puppy.”

“I should love to eat some spaghetti,” said Addison.

And so they went back into the warm and crowded and noisy bar. Addison realized that unless he got an envelope from home in the next morning’s post that he might not be able to eat tomorrow, not to mention having any bocks at all at Bob’s, but all that was in the future, and this was now.

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

Thursday, January 20, 2022

“Baltimore Handshake”

It was a small studio apartment, just slightly less cramped than Addison’s own tiny place. The narrow bed had brass rails, or, if not brass, then brass-like…

“You know what’s interesting,” said Addison, “I live on Bleecker also, but a bit farther to the east.”

“Yeah?” said Bubbles. “How much farther to the east?”

“Oh, right at the corner of the Bowery, actually.”

“Jesus Christ, is that the best you can afford?”

“Well, you see, Bubbles, I am a man of letters, I suppose you might even say a bohemian, and so –”

“I don’t care what religion you are. Take your coat off.”

She removed her own fur or fur-like coat and hung it on a clothes tree near the door.

“Where should I put my umbrella?”

“Try sticking it in that priceless Ming Dynasty vase there that already has an umbrella in it.”

“Oh, is it really a Ming Dynasty vase?”

“Yeah, they had a sale on them at Woolworth’s.”

Addison inserted his umbrella in the vase, making a mental note to keep an eye out for the sales at Woolworth’s. Bubbles went over to the bed, and he removed his fedora and topcoat and hung them up on the tree.

“May I ask what you pay for this place, Bubbles?”

“What do you care?”

“Well, you see, I’m writing a novel, a prose epic of the Old West actually, and after it’s published I plan to move to more spacious quarters, in a less shall we say colorful neighborhood, heh heh. My ideal location is Sutton Place, but, who knows, perhaps a nice garden flat or even a small townhouse here in the Village?”

“Yeah, perhaps,” she said.

There was a short bookcase on the other side of the doorway, and Addison had wandered over to it. He always liked to see what books people read, if any, and along with a lot of movie and fashion magazines, Bubbles did have some actual books on her shelves.

Forever Amber. Did you enjoy that novel?”

“It was okay.”

The Fountainhead. So you’re a Randian?”

“I never finished it.”

A Rage to Live. How was that?”

“Look, buddy, I don’t have all night.”

Addison turned, and she was sitting on the bed wearing only a slip, a brassiere, and stockings, which latter she was in the process of rolling down.

“Oh, my,” said Addison.

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, nothing. I just –”

“Just what?”

“Well, I thought we were perhaps going to have a cocktail.”

“A cocktail? What do you think I’m running here, a speakeasy?”

“Ha ha, well, no, but, gee, this seems somewhat precipitous.”

“What does?”

“You divesting yourself of your garments.”

“Would you prefer I left them on? Get them all wrinkled? Are you gonna iron them for me?”

“Well, ha ha, I’m afraid I’m not a very good hand with a clothes iron –”

“Then what’s your problem?”

“Well, I simply thought we were going to have a bit of a chat, you see, and if not a cocktail, then, oh, I don’t know, perhaps a cup of tea, or coffee, a sandwich –”

“Does this look like Horn & Hardart’s to you?”

“A hot cocoa?”

“Look, enough fooling around, buddy. Now pay up first. A sawbuck like we agreed.”

“A sawbuck.”

“Yes, ten bucks, just like we settled. A sawbuck a throw, a fin for a BJ.”

Suddenly it all came clear to Addison.

“Oh, dear.”

“Oh dear what?”

She had removed her second stocking, and she draped it with the other one on the foot rail of her small bed.

“I misunderstood,” said Addison.

“What did you misunderstand.”

“I misunderstood your invitation.”

“You what?”

“I didn’t realize, that you, um, you see, that is, I didn’t quite grasp that you are, uh –”

“A hooker?”

“I was going to say a lady of the night. Or perhaps a demimondaine is a better term.”

“If you’re trying to get out of paying the ten bucks, guess what, you got another think coming, pal.”

“Oh, it’s not that,” said Addison, not quite truthfully, “it’s just that, gosh.”

“I know you’ve got it. I saw it. You paid for those drinks out of a double sawbuck, and the bartender gave you eighteen bucks back. And when we left you dug in your pants and left him a quarter tip.”

“Do you think that was not enough?”

“I don’t care if you’re a cheapskate with bartenders. I only care that you’re trying to get out of paying me my ten clams.”

“But –”

“No buts. You’re wasting my time here when I could be making money. There’s a sap in my purse on that night table, and don’t think I’m afraid to use it.”

“A sap?”

“A piece of springy steel wrapped in leather for bashing wiseguys and welshers in the head. You want to see it?”

“No, thank you.”

“Ten bucks. Put it on the table and let’s get this over with.”

“But, excuse me, what was that other, uh, choice you mentioned?”


“Something about a fin, for a J&B, or –”

“A fin for a BJ?”

“Yes, that. A fin is five dollars?”

“Five bucks, yeah, for a BJ.”

Addison wasn’t sure what a BJ was, but he didn’t let on.

“Well, that certainly seems very fair,” he said. “However, I wonder, are there any other even more reasonable options, and I only ask because you see my rent is due soon, and –”

“Jesus, you really are cheap, aren’t you?”

“Well, you see, it’s just that I’m on a budget until my novel is finished.”

Bubbles sat there staring at him.

“All right,” she said. “I can let you have a Baltimore handshake for three bucks, but then you gotta buy me some more cocktails down at the San Remo.”

“You want to go back down to the San Remo?”

“I don’t intend to spend all night in this dump listening to Amos and Andy and Fibber McGee and Molly on the Philco, that’s for sure.”

“And you’d like to sit with me at the San Remo?”

“Until some other high roller comes along. Why not? You make me laugh,” she said, although she hadn’t laughed yet.

Addison paused.

“How many cocktails do I have to buy you exactly?”

“Jeeze. Look, just come over here, buster, and let’s get this show on the road.”

It didn’t take long. 

And when it was over, Addison wondered, did this count? 

Did a “Baltimore handshake” count as losing one’s virginity? 

He decided that it did.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2022

“A Woman Called Bubbles”

 “Anybody sitting here, buddy?”

“Why, no,” said Addison, “in point of fact I do believe that this seat currently has no claims to proprietorship.”


It was a woman, a tall woman with dark hair, and wearing a red fur (or fur-like) pillbox hat, dusted with snow. She seated herself at the stool vacated by Araminta and put a red purse on the bar top. She wore a black fur (or furrish) coat, also whitened with snow. She opened her purse and took out a pack of Philip Morris Commanders.

“Still snowing out?” said Addison.

The woman put a cigarette in her mouth and looked at Addison.

“No,” she said. “This white stuff all over me is just your imagination.”

“Heh heh,” said Addison, if one can be said to say heh heh.

She continued to stare at him, and suddenly Addison realized she was waiting for him to give her a light. Quickly he dug a book of matches out of his coat pocket, and after only three tries and two matches he succeeded in putting flame to her cigarette.

She blew smoke in his face. She wasn’t exactly attractive, in fact she seemed rather hard and mannish, the sort of woman one might perhaps describe as handsome, but not pretty, and Addison made a mental note to use this observation as soon as possible in his epic western novel-in-progress, Sixguns to El Paso.

“I haven’t seen you in here before,” the woman said.

“Yes,” said Addison, “I came in here simply by chance. You see I had been heading for my usual watering hole, when I was accosted by a certain –”

“Are you going to buy me a drink or are you just going to tell me your life story?”

“A drink?”

“Yes. A drink. Something liquid you pour into your yap and then swallow.”

“Ah, yes, a drink! Of course! Well then, what would you like?”

“Get me a Pink Lady.”

“A Pink Lady?”

“You heard me.”

The bartender was standing there, and Addison duly said, “A Pink Lady for the lady, please.”

“You want another Rheingold too, pal?” said the bartender.

With his practiced eye he had noticed that Addison’s bottle was indeed empty.

“Why, yes,” said Addison. “Thank you.”

“What about another Cream of Kentucky?”

Addison hated to buy shots of whiskey for himself. In fact he hated to buy anything for himself, but a little voice told him to cast his parsimoniousness aside for once, because he just might need the Dutch courage the Cream of Kentucky might provide.

“Yes, and a Cream of Kentucky, too, please.”

The bartender went away. The woman took another drag of her Philip Morris and then slowly exhaled, staring at Addison through the smoke. She tapped her cigarette ash into the same ashtray Addison had been using.

“What’s your name, buddy?”

“My name?”

“No, the man on the moon.”

“Heh heh, well, you know, it’s funny, because everyone I know calls me Addison, after the character played by George Sanders in the film All About Eve –”


“Why do they call me Addison?”

“Yeah. You don’t look like George Sanders to me. Dan Duryea on a bad day maybe, but not George Sanders.”

“Ha ha, yes, well, I do believe they call me Addison because I am known as something of a wit, you see, always ready with a bon mot or a scathing sally of rapier-like –”

“I get it. You’re a regular card, aren’t you?”

“Heh heh, um, yes, I suppose so, but in fact my actual Christian name is –”

“I’ll call you Addison.”

“Yes, but –”

“Addison is what I’m calling you.”

“Okay,” said Addison.

“It better be okay, because that’s what I’m calling you, Addison.”

“Ha ha. Um. And may I know your name?”

“Call me Bubbles.”

“What a most unusual name.”

“I like it. It’s not my real name either, but that’s what they call me. And you know why?”

“Is it because you have a bubbly personality?”

“No. They call me that because I’ve got the opposite of a bubbly personality.”


She turned away, smoking, and staring in the direction of all those colorful bottles behind the bar.

Could this be it? Would Addison finally make a connection with a female who was not one of his aunts, or great aunts, or grandmothers? He must not blow it. If he were truly going to make his novel a classic he would have to know something of the female gender, something that he didn’t just get from novels and movies. And if he were to write a believable scene of furious or romantic (or both) lovemaking, then it would only help his writing if he could experience sexual relations in his own life.

The bartender came back with the drinks, laid them down, stared at Addison.

“Two bucks, pal,” he said. “Put the money on the wood and make the betting good.”

“Oh!” said Addison, and he scrabbled out his old Cub Scout wallet. Fortunately a belated Christmas card from his Great Aunt Agatha had arrived that day with a twenty-dollar bill in it, and he handed the bill to the bartender.

“Thanks, Addison,” said the woman called Bubbles.

“Oh, entirely my pleasure!”

She took a sip of her Pink Lady.

“Hey, Addison, let me ask you a question, and I don’t want you to be offended, but if you are, tough.”

“Oh, please ask away! I assure you, Bubbles, that I am not easily offended,” said Addison, speaking the truth for once. He was a man who had been so often insulted, and had been since his earliest schooldays, that he had become almost completely immune to verbal injury.

“My question is are you a fairy.”

“A what?”

“Are you a pansy.”

“Do you mean – am I a homosexual?”

“You’re pretty quick on the uptake, fella. So are you a homo or not?”

Addison paused for just a moment. Wasn’t a homosexual someone who had sex with men? Well, except for that one incident during the war when that drunken sergeant had brutally rubbed up against his backside at that urinal in the men’s room of the Sow’s Belly Tavern in Fayetteville, North Carolina, if you could call that sex, then, no, he had never “had sex” per se with a man…

“No,” said Addison.

“You don’t sound too sure.”

He realized that if this was going to go anywhere he would probably have to appear more forceful.

“I assure you I am quite sure,” he said.

“Great,” said Bubbles. “Then how's about we get outside these drinks and then blow this popsicle stand and head over to my trap. I’m just down the block on Bleecker.”

“You mean you want to go your place?”

“Am I speaking Chinese?”

“Ha ha, no.”

Never in his life had Addison been invited to go to a woman’s place who was not an aunt, a great aunt, or a grandmother. What an evening this was turning out to be! He wondered if Bubbles would offer him a drink, a highball, perhaps some sandwiches –

“So,” she said, “you up for it, big spender?”

“Why, yes,” said Addison. “Yes, damn it. Full speed ahead, Gridley, and damn the torpedoes.”

“You slay me.”

Two minutes later they were outside the bar in the thick falling snow, under Addison’s old umbrella, a gift from his Aunt Enid upon his graduation from Episcopal.

Bubbles put her arm in Addison’s.

“Look at these cotton balls comin’ down,” she said.

“Yes,” said Addison, “I think the city looks so beautiful in the snow, don’t you?”

She stared at him for just a moment.

“You sure you’re not a fairy, Addison?”

“Oh, quite sure, Bubbles.”

“Great, on account of I wouldn’t want to waste my time. By the way, just so you know ahead of time, it’s a sawbuck for a throw, a fin for just a BJ. Your choice.”

Addison had no idea what she meant.

“Tell you what,” he said, trying to sound gentlemanly. “Let’s make it a ladies’ choice tonight, Bubbles.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll go for the sawbuck for a throw then. I could use the exercise.”

What ever did she mean? Well, Addison supposed he would find out soon enough, and already he was thinking of how he would “use” this experience in his novel, transposed, mutatis mutandis, into the milieu of the Old West…

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

Thursday, January 6, 2022

“A Theory About Faulkner”

 “And now,” said Addison, “if you two good people will excuse me, I must visit the little boys’ room. Please save my place.”

Araminta and Gerry both waited until Addison had gone off into the crowd, and then they looked at each other.

“I’m sorry about this, Araminta,” said Gerry.

“Yes, he is a bit much, isn’t he?” she said.

“I want to escape, but I know if we ditch him he’ll be crushed.”

“Yes, and we would never hear the end of it.”

“There’s never an end to anything with Addison. He just goes on and on.”

“He’ll bury the both of us,” said Araminta.

“What should we do? We’re never going to get rid of him now.”

Araminta paused for just a moment, gazing toward all the bottles of various colorful liquors on the shelves behind the bar, and then she turned to Gerry.

“Leave it to me,” she said.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’ll handle it.”

“Please don’t hurt his feelings. I know I shouldn’t care, and yet I do. It would be different if he didn’t consider me his best friend. His only friend.”

“I shall be diplomatic,” said Araminta. “Now here’s the plan. When Addison gets back, I want you to get up and go to the men’s room yourself.”

“Okay. I guess I could go.”

“Just go, whether you have to go or not.”

“I think I do have to go.”

“All the better. Now drink your beer.”

Drinking his beer was what Gerry was doing anyway, and so he continued to do so.

What was Araminta’s plan? Gerry had no idea. He may have been a philosopher, but the workings of women’s brains were a complete mystery to him.

The place was packed now, the laughter and the shouting and the jukebox music was a world in itself surging and pulsing all around the little world of his consciousness and the slightly less little world which included Araminta sitting to his left. They were both smoking Bull Durhams which Gerry didn’t even remember rolling, although he now remembered rolling one for Addison, who so rarely had his own cigarettes, and who, even if he did have his own cigarettes seemed always to prefer smoking those of other people.

As he sat there drinking his Rheingold and smoking his cigarette, Gerry thought a few times of saying something else to Araminta, but each time he stopped himself, and he didn’t really know why, except that maybe he felt he should leave her to concentrate her thoughts on whatever she was planning on doing.

And then Addison was back.

“I feel so much better,” he said. “Where was I? Oh, yes. Faulkner. Let me tell you two my theory about Faulkner.”

“Before you start,” said Araminta, “where’s the men’s room?”

“What?” said Addison. “Why would you want to know where the men’s room is?”

“Because Gerard has to go. Right, Gerard?”

“Oh, right,” said Gerry.

“It’s just in the back there,” said Addison. “Where men’s rooms always are. It has a sign saying Gentlemen, but I don’t think they’ll mind if you use it, Gerry.”

“Ha ha.”

“Just kidding. But hurry back, because I want to get this Faulkner business off my chest.”

“I’ll just be a jiffy,” said Gerry, and he got up.

“I’ll keep your seat warm,” said Addison.

Now it was Gerry’s turn to go off into the crowd.

“Listen, Addison,” said Araminta, “Gerard and I have to go when he gets back from the men’s room.”

“Oh, but I told you, that Maugham movie is a crashing bore –”

“We’re not going to a movie. We were never going to go to a movie.”

“You weren’t?”

“No. When we said we were going to a movie we were speaking euphemistically.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When we said we were going to a movie what we really meant was that we wanted to go back to my place.”

“Go back to your place. Why?”

“Can’t you guess?”

Addison took an honest moment, guessing, and then he said quite abruptly, “Oh!”

“Yes,” said Araminta.

“You mean you want to, as it were –”

“Yes. We want to make love.”

“I see. But I did so want to tell you my theory about Faulkner –”

“That’s going to have to wait until the next time, Addison.”

“Oh. Okay. I understand.”

“Do you?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think I do. Yes. You two should obey the shall we say exigencies of the biological imperative, I suppose.”

“I’m glad you understand, Addison.”

Less than five minutes later Gerry and Araminta were out on the sidewalk, under Gerry’s umbrella, as the thick snow fell all about them white and gently in the light of the corner street lamp.

“What ever did you say to him, Araminta?”

“I dealt with him.”

“I hope you didn’t hurt his feelings.”

“Oh, no. Now where should we go?”

“Another bar?”

“Sure, but let’s get something to eat.”

“Yes, I could eat. In fact I think I better had eat something.”

“Which way?”

“I don’t think it matters too much,” said Gerry.

“This way, then,” said Araminta, pointing up MacDougal Street, and she slipped her arm in Gerry’s.

Back inside the San Remo, Addison sat on the stool vacated by Gerry, Araminta’s words still ringing in the caverns of his brain.

What did a beautiful young woman like Araminta see in a guy like Gerry? It was a mystery. Women were a mystery.

But then if Gerry could attract a good-looking woman like Araminta, maybe there was hope for Addison.

The seat Araminta had been sitting in was now empty. Maybe a woman would sit in it. Maybe she would be attractive. Maybe – who knew? – just maybe she would want to hear his theory about Faulkner…

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