Friday, September 30, 2022

“Nothing in This Whole Wide World”

Waldo McGee stood with his wooden dummy Mickey Pumpernickel under his arm outside the “green room” (which doubled as a storage room), and he smoked one last Old Gold while he waited for Shirley and Tony and the band to finish their set.

“Listen, Mickey,” said Waldo, “There’s something I been wanting to say to you.”

“Spill,” said Mickey, or rather he communicated telepathically, on account of people looked at Waldo and Mickey funny when they had private conversations out loud.

“It’s this, pal,” said Waldo. “When I croak, I want you to find a new partner.”

“What do you mean, when you croak?” said Mickey.

Even though they weren’t talking out loud, Waldo’s lips moved ever so slightly when Mickey spoke telepathically, just like they did onstage in their act.

“I mean I ain’t gonna live forever,” said Waldo.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” said Mickey. “What’s with this morbid shit when we’re like two minutes away from going on?”

“Look, I’m sorry, Mickey, but it’s been like welling up in me. It’s like I got gas from eating beans on toast and I just gotta let it out, ya know?”

“I know I’m trying to get in the right frame of mind to entertain these punters out there who are paying good money to have a good time, and I don’t need you to be bringing me down, daddy-o! Now zip it.”

“How many years we been together, Mickey? Thirty?”


“Thirty-two years, and I ain’t getting no younger. You, you don’t age, but me, every day I get older, every day I feel more like shit, every day I get closer to that hole in the ground –”

“Oh, Jesus Christ, Waldo, tell it to the marines, will ya?”

“All’s I’m saying is I don’t want you sitting on a shelf somewheres. I want you to find a new partner, some good younger guy, to like keep the act going.”

“Don’t you worry about me, buddy. Worry about yourself. Maybe cut back on the booze and the smokes a little, you ever think about that?”

“Sure I think about it.”

“Maybe take a little exercise now and then.”

“I exercise.”

“You exercise your right arm lifting a glass to your mug.”

“That ain’t nice, Mickey.”

“I am only speaking the truth, Waldo. You try taking care of yourself you got a good twenty years left.”

“No way I got twenty years.”

“Fifteen then. Ten. Just watch the booze. And the smokes. Take a walk now and then.”

“I walk.”

“Yeah, you walk from the bar to the jakes to strangle the worm, and then back to the bar again.”

“That still counts as exercise.”

“Yeah, right, it is to laugh.”

“Just promise me.”


“That you will find a new partner when I croak.”

“Awright, awright, if it will shut you up, yes, I will find a new partner when you croak, all right?”

“Some fresh young kid.”


“You can teach him everything.”


“Everything we learned these thirty-two years.”

“Okay, sure.”

“Working all them dives. All them nights. All our jokes and bits.”

“Okay, Waldo.”

“But, look, you gotta tell him to work out his own material, too.”


“That is very important. That he finds his own, like, voice.”

“Okay, Waldo.”

“Promise me.”

“I promise, Waldo.”

Shirley was singing another one of her and Tony’s original numbers. The audience didn’t seem to mind, drunk and getting drunker as they always were, and Shirley and Tony and the boys would slip into one of the old warhorses every now and then just to keep the marks on their toes – “Starlight” or “Body and Soul” or “You Go to My Head” – but right now they were laying down one of their new compositions…
When I walk down this lonely street
every fella that I meet
says, "Hey, baby, trick or treat?"
but they don’t seem so reet to me
in fact they seem pretty beat to me,
so, "Scram, Sam," I says,
"and tell your story walkin’
because this jive that you’re talkin’
don’t mean nothing to me…"
She nodded over to Waldo and Mickey through the smoke. That meant she was getting ready to wind the number up.

Waldo took one last drag on the Old Gold, then stubbed it out in the sand in the standing ashtray there.

“You ready, Mickey?” he said.

“Ready as I’ll ever be, partner.”

“All right then,” said Waldo.

“Let’s kill ‘em,” said Mickey.

“Don’t mean nothing in this whole wide world to me,” sang Shirley. 

Tony tinkled out a final arpeggio and Zeke the drummer tickled the snare with the brushes. Some of the people clapped, and a couple of the drunker ones hooted approvingly.

“Thank you, ladies and gents,” said Shirley into the mike, “thank you very much. Tony and the boys and I are gonna take a little break to wet our whistles, but we’ll be back for two more sets! And now let’s hear it for Waldo McGee and Mickey Pumpernickel!”

Waldo grabbed the wooden chair at the side of the stage and carried it and Mickey up the two steps.

“Knock ‘em dead, Waldo,” said Shirley.

“Sure, doll,” said Waldo, and he set the chair down with Mickey on it while he lowered the mike stand. Then he picked Mickey up again and sat himself down in the chair, with Mickey on his lap. He looked out at the crowd.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” said Waldo into the mike, “and I use those terms of address in their loosest possible sense.”

This got a ripple of laughter, just like it usually did. It was one of Mickey’s lines, something he came up with at a Kiwanis gig in Sheboygan before the war, and for some reason it never grew old.

“My name is Waldo McGee,” said Waldo, “and this little guy here is my friend Mickey Pumpernickel.”

“And he uses the term friend in its loosest possible sense,” said Mickey, and this got an even bigger laugh…

I got this, thought Mickey. Even if McGee don’t got it, I got it, and as long as he don’t keel over dead in the middle of a joke I’m gonna keep on getting it. 

“Hey, McGee –” said Mickey.

“Yeah, Mickey,” said Waldo.

“I got a question for ya.”

“Shoot, Mickey.”

“My question is, if I’m the wooden dummy how come you’re the one puts away bourbon like you got two wooden legs?”

The punters laughed at the gag, just like they always did when they were drunk enough…

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

Thursday, September 22, 2022

“Tell Me, Murchison”

“So, tell me, Murchison,” said Farmer Brown to Addison, “what novels have you written? I should love to read one.”

“Well, in point of fact, Mr. Brown –”

“’Farmer’, my boy, please, call me ‘Farmer’. That’s what all my buddies call me, and I truly hope that we can be buddies.”

“Okay, ‘Farmer’ – well, as I was starting to say, I have not published any novels as yet, because you see I am still in the process of composing my first novel –”

“And a wonderful novel it’s going to be, I’ll wager!”

“Well, I hope so –”

“Is it perhaps an autobiographical novel about your wartime service in the parachute factory?”

“Oh, God no. I don’t think I could bear to relive those two-and-a-half long years of grinding tedium, let alone inflict them on the reading public!”

“A tale of a young writer in the big city then, struggling to complete his first novel, the subject of which is a youthful would-be author in the Big Apple, striving to compose his début novel, which is an epic of a young fellow, new to Gotham, and his bohemian adventures as he writes a sort of Bildungsroman about a young lad writing his first novel?”

“Well, no, actually it is a prose epic set in the American Old West of the 1870s.”

“Ah! Now we’re talking! A good western yarn, like Zane Grey or Owen Wister!”

“I was thinking more in terms of a psychological epic on the order of Proust or Joyce, but in the setting of the American frontier days.”

“Splendid! Now that’s something you don’t read every day, is it?”

“Well, I hope not.”

“But tell me, Murphyson, just between you and me, and I’m not asking you to give up any trade secrets, but – all that other stuff aside – Proust, Joyce, the Golden West – tell me, what is your book really about?”

“What’s it about?”

“Yes. I mean, don’t a book have to be about something? I mean on a deeper level, you get my drift? What’s its deeper meaning?”

“Gee, Farmer, that’s a tough one.”

“Take your time.”

“Okay, let me think about it for a second –”

“You do that, my friend,” said Farmer Brown, and he turned to Milford on his right. “How you doing there, Mimford?”

“What?” said Milford.

“How are you doing? I mean really?”

“I’m doing fine, Mr. Brown. I was listening to the music.”

“Ain’t she something, that Shirley De LaSalle?”

“Yes, she’s quite –”

“She’s a tomato all right,” said Farmer Brown.

Shirley was singing these words:
I’m just a lonely gal
in a lonely town.
All I want is a pal
who won’t mess me around…
“A real peach,” said Farmer Brown, and then he turned back to Addison. “So, what’s your book about, Mulligan?”

“Okay, I think what it’s really about –” said Addison, “I mean, at bottom, what it really deals with – is man’s search for some shred of purpose, some meaning, some ghost of meaning in this dream we call life, in this, this –”

“Do you know what Tommy Eliot once told me?”

“Tommy Eliot?” said Milford.

“Oh, sorry,” said Farmer Brown, “T.S. Eliot. But that one time I met him he told me to call him Tommy. This was after a few highballs you understand.”

“You met T.S. Eliot?” said Addison.

“Oh, yes,” said Farmer Brown. “You see he was in town for a publishing convention which the hotel was hosting, and he and I quaffed a few at this very bar. Really nice fellow, once he had a few under his belt.”

“What was it he told you?” said Addison.

“I had asked him what was The Waste Land all about. That poem was all the rage at the time, and I had attempted to read it. Attempted, because, well, just between you and me and the four walls here, I’m more of a Vachel Lindsay kind of guy. Or Eddie Guest – now there’s a fella who can write a poem! Anyhoo, so I asked ol’ T.S., flat out, just what that darned Waste Land poem meant. ‘C’mom, Tommy boy,’ I says to him, ‘cause by this time I was calling him ‘Tommy Boy’, heh heh, ‘tell me, Tommy boy, from one midwestern lad to another, straight from the hip, what in tarnation was that dang-blasted poem all about?’ And you know what he said?”

“No,” said Addison.

“’Farmer,’ he said, ‘one midwestern boy to another? It don’t mean shit.’ That’s what he said. ‘Don’t mean shit, Farmer.’ That’s what he told me.”

“Wow,” said Addison. “Okay.”

“’Don’t mean shit,’” said Farmer Brown. “That’s exactly what he said. But.”

“But?” said Addison.

“I ain’t saying that your book don’t mean shit,” said Farmer Brown.


“Nope. Ain’t saying that at all. Your book might mean a lot.”

“Well, I hope so –”

“A heck of a lot,” said Farmer Brown.

Addison was rarely at a loss for words, but at this moment he found nothing within his vast mind worth saying.

Shirley De LaSalle was singing again, coming in after a piano improvisation from Tony Winston:
Yes, I’m just a lonely girl
always wearing a frown
lost in a lonely world
stuck in an unkind town…
Milford was vaguely aware of Farmer Brown and Addison talking nonsense behind his back, but he only had eyes and ears for Shirley De LaSalle. Would she allow him to talk to her on her next break? Would he think of something clever or possibly even endearing to say to her? Would her eyes glaze over in boredom? He knew only one thing: he would write a poem about her, maybe many poems. What else did he have to write poems about? How many poems could anyone write about the meaninglessness of life?

And then Shirley seemed to be looking directly at him, through the clouds of cigarette smoke, as she sang…
I’m just a lonely dame
in a city that knows no shame.
Is there somewhere a lonely guy
who would care for such as I?

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

Thursday, September 15, 2022

“A Limitless Source of Wonder”

“Raoul,” said Farmer Brown to the bartender, “if you please, sir, another Cream of Kentucky with a small bottle of White Rock ginger ale for my new friend Madison here, and, what the heck, same again for me. Oh, do you prefer ice in your highball, Madison? I prefer not, but that’s just me.”

”I assure you it’s a matter of complete indifference to me,” said Addison, “as long as the Cream of Kentucky is not stinted on.”

“Spoken like a stout fellow of my own bold stripe,” said Farmer Brown, and, turning to Milford on his right, “and what do you say, Montfort, how about just a soupçon of Cream of Kentucky to liven up that White Rock of yours?”

“No,” said Milford, “thank you, but, again – as I believe I have mentioned no more than half a dozen times in our brief acquaintance – I am an alcoholic, and as much as I would like to quaff an entire fifth of Cream of Kentucky in very short order, I choose not to.”

“But another bottle of gingy ale is okay, right?”

“Okay, fine,” said Milford, “thank you, I’ll take another ginger ale, even though I’m about to burst with the stuff.”

“So that’s also a fresh bottle of White Rock for young Malfort here,” said Farmer Brown to Raoul, “and all on my tab of course.”

“Right away,” said Raoul the bartender and he went away.

“By the way,” said Addison, inclining his head to look past Farmer Brown and address Milford, “I wonder if you could spare one of those Woodbines?”

“I probably could,” said Milford, “but for your information there’s a tobacco-and-candy stand out in the lobby of this hotel, and I know for a fact that they carry Woodbines, as well as many other brands of cigarettes, both foreign and domestic.”

“Oh, but I’m so comfortable on this bar stool,” said Addison.

“Here, have one of mine,” said Farmer Brown, clicking open his silver monogrammed cigarette case and shoving it toward Addison. “I hope you don’t mind Old Golds?”

“Love Old Golds,” said Addison; indeed he loved any cigarette, especially a free one.

Up on the little stage Shirley De LaSalle had launched into a new song:
Why do I always choose a man who
doesn’t have a job?
Why do I always pick a chap
who’d rather steal and rob,
who likes to gamble
and run around
with every two-bit
Jane in this old town?

Why do I always pick a fella
bound to make me blue
Why do I always settle on
a ham-and-egger just like you?

Oh, I got no choices left to choose –
I got them ham-and-egger blues!
Addison was happy. He had a free drink on the bar in front of him, and in his hand a free Pall Mall, which had been enthusiastically lighted by Farmer Brown with his silver monogrammed lighter that matched his cigarette case. Or was it platinum? Regardless, the oaf had the air of someone with money, and Addison thought that someday, after his novel was published and became a bestseller, this is the sort of bar he would frequent. Nothing against Bob’s Bowery Bar, you really couldn’t fault a place where you could purchase a glass of the hearty basement-brewed house bock for a dime, but he could get used to a less shall we say demotic place like this Prince Hal Room. Oh, sure, he was sitting next to a madman, with a po-faced young bad poet on the other side of the madman, but the madman was buying, Addison was in love, and all was as well as could be expected in this most imperfect of all worlds.

“So, Madison,” said Farmer Brown, “have you read young Mordant’s poems?”

He tapped the sheaf of typescript lying there on the bar.

“Oh, yes,” said Addison. “Really, uh, marvelous.”

“We were just talking about this one poem here, what’s it called –” he lowered his head and his thick eyeglasses closer to the top sheet on the pile – “’Those Who Are Dead’ –”

“Oh, yes, wonderful poem,” said Addison, despite not having read it.

“Did you realize it was about the Rosicrucians?”


“I mean, not the Rosicrucians, I think it was the Knights of Columbus – isn’t that right, Morton?”

“My name is Milford,” said Milford, “and, no, as I told you, the poem has nothing to do with the Rosicrucians, or the Knights of Columbus, it’s about AA!”

“Right, you told me that,” said Farmer Brown, “AA, for anti-aircraft.” He turned to Addison. “My mistake, it’s about these meetings Milton goes to with his fellow veterans of the anti-aircraft battalions. He must have been so terribly young –  probably lied about his age to get in the service. I tried to enlist but they said I was too old. Did you serve, sir?”

“Alas,” said Addison, “I was declared 4-F – flat feet and knock knees – and so I did my war service in a parachute factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina.”

“And I’ll bet you made a darn good parachute, too, sir!”

“Oh, I did my best,” said Addison, not mentioning that his best was not much, and that he had been relegated to janitorial duties after his first couple of weeks, so clumsy he was with his hands, and so absent-minded when it came to even the simplest assembly-line work.

“Nothing but respect for our brave boys who fought,” said Farmer Brown. “Like young Merton here, brave lad.”

“Mr. Brown,” said Milford, “I was not even sixteen when the war ended. I was not in the military. I was in prep school.”

“Then how could you have been in the anti-aircraft batteries? Did they have one in your school?”

“Oh, Christ,” said Milford. “oh, Jesus Christ and all the saints in Heaven, please help me.”

“What is it, Mervyn?” said Farmer Brown.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” said Milford.

Farmer Brown turned to Addison, and leant his large red face closer to Addison’s thin pallid face.

“You know what I think it is?” Farmer Brown whispered.

“What’s that?” said Addison.

Shell shock. That’s what they call it. Or battle fatigue. These lads who went through the real barney while guys like you and me were safe at home, making whoopee with them Rosie the Riveters and Allotment Annies. The horrors these young fellers saw. And it comes back to them at odd moments. Just rises up from the depths, so to speak, like a bad plate of oysters. And poor Mimson can’t even drink to drown his terrible memories, on account of he thinks he’s an alcoholic. Ain’t that sad?”

“Yes, very sad,” said Addison.

Milford had turned to look at and listen to Shirley De LaSalle up there at the microphone. Damn it, he would stay here at this bar just until she went on break again, and then once more he would attempt to talk to her. He felt that he was falling in love, even though he had only spoken a few stumbling and awkward words with her. Could it be that she might care for him?

Shirley was singing another song now, a slow song rich with sadness:
I got them melancholy blues
from my head down to my shoes,
them mean old melancholy blues,
I think I’ll drown myself in booze…
“And you, Madison,” said Farmer Brown to Addison, “if I am not wrong, and I don’t think I am, are you also a poet?”

“Novelist, actually,” said Addison.

“Novelist!” said Farmer Brown. “I knew it! I only suggested poet as a gambit, as I didn’t want to seem one of those annoying people who are always pigeon-holing other people, but I just knew you were a novelist!”

“Was it my slightly threadbare brown serge suit?”

“It was that, yes, but even more so, those penetrating eyes, the hawklike eyes of a novelist – or perhaps a short-story writer? But nonetheless the keen eyes of a skilled observer of humanity and of the world.”

Farmer Brown’s eyeglasses were so thick, the eyes behind them hideously but dully magnified and looking like the eyes of a cartoon character in the Sunday funnies, that Addison wondered what if anything they did see, but all he said was, “Thank you, Mr. Brown. Yes, the world and its inhabitants are a limitless source of wonder to me.”

Tony went into his piano break, and Shirley gazed through the smoke at all the punters on the dance floor and at the tables, and there at the near end of the bar was that weird younger guy in the peacoat who had bought her a drink and tried to chat her up, stammering and sweating, and he was gazing longingly up at her now.

Yeah, another conquest.

What was his story? Dressed like a longshoreman, but he sure didn’t talk like one. Maybe he was one of these eccentric rich guys. Who knows, maybe he was her ticket out of this joint and six nights a week, four sets a night. A girl could dream, right?

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

Thursday, September 8, 2022

“Those Who Are Dead”

 “Now this poem here,” said Farmer Brown, tapping the sheet of expensive typing paper, “the one titled ‘Those Who Are Dead’. This one I think is especially – what’s the word? Moving.”

“Moving?” said Milford. “Really?”

“Yes. Moving. That’s the word.”

Farmer Brown raised the sheet closer to his thick eyeglasses and read aloud, repeating the poem’s title:
Those Who Are Dead

Those who are dead
but who have not sense enough
to fall over,
those who stumble into church basements
with their cigarettes and their bloodshot eyes,
sipping stale coffee from Dixie cups
awaiting their turn to stand up and whine
about their wasted lives –
why, oh why must I listen to them,
night after night,
screaming silently with boredom
while I await my own turn
to stand up and bore them –
is this what I have to look forward to,
for the rest of my dreary existence –
the church basements,
the cigarettes,
the Dixie cups of bad, stale coffee?
“Yes,” said Farmer Brown. “Really quite moving.”

“Well, thank you, Mr. Brown.”

“Please, call me Farmer. All my friends call me ‘the Farmer’.”

“Okay – ‘Farmer’.”

“And may I call you – what was it again? Marion?”

“I would really prefer it if you just call me Milford.”

“Milford it is then. Now, ‘Milford’, I was struck by this image of the ‘church basement’. And if it is not too inquisitive of me to ask, what did you mean by that? Was it a reference to certain subterranean sodalities of organized Christian religion – those dark secret brotherhoods kept hidden away in the nether regions of Catholicism, say, the ones that are not bruited about in popular films like Going My Way or The Bells of St. Mary’s?”

“No, it’s just a reference to the church basements where AA meetings are often held.”

“You mean Triple-A?” said Farmer Brown. “The motoring club?”

“No,” said Milford. “Just two As. AA.”

“AA – anti-aircraft?”

“No, Alcoholics Anonymous.”

“Ah! I see – and now the poem takes on an even deeper meaning. So it’s a veiled commentary on secretive societies like Alcoholics Anonymous?”

“Well, I wouldn’t call it ‘veiled’ –”

“And perhaps by extension to other sub rosa organizations like the Rosicrucians or the Illuminati? Y’know, back in Indiana my father wanted me to join the Knights of Pythias, but you know what? I guess I’m just not a joiner. I’ve always been a lone wolf so to speak. Forging my own solitary path through the uncharted wilderness of life. Do you have any other poems which deal perhaps with the Kabbalah?”

“Um, no, I’m not Jewish –”

“Neither am I. But I am fascinated by these mysterious cults and cabals and confraternities. For instance the Shriners always stay here in the hotel when they have their annual galas – now those are some crazy guys, I’ll tell you!”

“The Shriners?”

“Yes. Not bad fellows once you get a drink or two in them.”

“Well, as I’ve told you, Mr. Brown, I don’t drink.”

“Not even occasionally?”


“Not even as a shall we say social lubricant?”

“No. As I thought I made clear, I am an alcoholic.”

“But you’re so very young!”
“You can be young and still be an alcoholic.”

“Yes, I see your point. But tell me, to be an alcoholic, is it not necessary to imbibe shall we say over much of spiritous liquids?”

“Yes, I think that is a reasonable definition.”

“But – and I ask this in all simplicity – this would not include fermented beverages like beer or wine, is that not correct?”

“No, it is not correct. You can be an alcoholic even if you only drink beer or wine.”

“Even just beer?”

“Yes, even just beer.”

“But, surely, a glass of wine with a meal, or sitting at a café in the afternoon, and even a nice port by the fireside on a wintry wet night such as this one –”

“No, no, and no,” said Milford. “Have you never heard the term ‘wino’?”

“Ha ha, yes, of course, a delightful example of the American vernacular –”

“Well, do you think those winos sitting on the curbs on the Bowery with their bottles of Taylor port are not alcoholics?”

“Oh,” said Farmer Brown. “Point taken again! Yes, I suppose those unfortunates would fall under that general rubric, wouldn’t they?”

“They certainly would. I see them all the time at the meetings I go to.”

“And what meetings are these? The Knights of Columbus perhaps?”

“No, the AA meetings!”

“The anti-aircraft meetings? So you were in the war? You must have been awfully young. Was it very frightening shooting those machine guns up at the bombers?”

Milford sighed.

Onstage Shirley De LaSalle was singing again. He should just stop talking to this moron and listen to her, as she sang a song he had never heard before:
He’s my ding dong daddy
They say he’s not no good
He’s my big dong daddy
And he do me like he should…
“Oh, hello, Milford. Fancy meeting you here of all places.”

Milford turned. Who was it but that guy Addison.

“Oh, hi, Addison. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m very well, thank you very much. I wonder if I might join you?”

“Hi, there, fella,” said Farmer Brown. “Here, take my bar stool, I got it all warmed up for you.”

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t dream of taking your seat, sir,” said Addison.

“Heck, partner, I’ve been sitting all day! Now, please, take the seat.”

“Only if you insist.”

“Don’t mind standing for a spell. Tell the truth, after a few hours on a bar stool my rear end tends to get a bit tender, you know what I mean?”

“Yes, I think I do,” said Addison.

Farmer Brown heaved himself off the stool, and Addison sat himself on it. The old worn leather of the seat was indeed quite warm.

“Don’t mind standing at all,” said Farmer Brown, squeezing in between Addison and Milford, his shoulders abutting theirs, his beaming face turning from one of the younger men to the other. “So you’re a friend of Mumford’s too, sir?”

“Uh, yes,” said Addison.

“So also I,” said Farmer Brown. “We’ve only just met, but I already feel that I’ve known the lad all my life. Isn’t that right, Rumford?”

“Um, yes,” said Milford.

“Now some older fellows like me disdain the company of the younger generation,” said Farmer Brown. “But not me. You know what my motto is, sir?”

“I can’t say I do,” said Addison. “But I would like to know.”

“Listen to the young people,”
said Farmer Brown. “That’s my motto. Listen to the young people. Because maybe, just maybe, they might have something to say! Brown is my name. What’s your name, if I may be so bold?”

“Well, everyone calls me Addison.”

“Put ‘er there, Addison,” said the Farmer, extending his slightly pudgy soft hand, which Addison took in his thin soft hand.

“Very pleased to meet you, Mr. Brown.”

“Call me Farmer. That’s what they call me on account of my name is Brown. Farmer Brown my friends call me, and if you’re friends with Wilfred you’re friends with me.”

“All right then,” said Addison. “I’ll call you Farmer.”

“And I’ll call you Madison if I may.”

“Uh, well –”

“Let me buy you a beverage, Madison.”

Well, thought Addison, if this guy is buying he can call me anything he wants to…

“Thanks, ‘Farmer’,” he said.

“What are you drinking, Madison?”

“Whatever you’re drinking, Farmer.”

“Cream of Kentucky and ginger ale then,” said the Farmer.

Milford sighed again, and looked toward the stage. “He’s my boogie woogie papa,” sang Shirley De LaSalle, “and he knows how to treat me right.”
He’s my zoot suit cutie
Keeps me up all through the night…


{To be continued next week, et ad infinitum. Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

Thursday, September 1, 2022

“Two Bucks and Change”

It was true that Bubbles had given him a couple of Baltimore handshakes (at three dollars per), and that once before she had allowed him to kiss her (for one dollar), on the cheek, with her looking away if not perhaps quite askance, but this was the first time she had allowed him to kiss her on her ruby red lips – and she did not even ask him to pay for it!

“Okay,” she said after half a minute, pushing her hands against his chest, “down, tiger.”

“Oh, just one more, please, Bubbles,” said Addison.

“No, Atcheson,” she said. “I said one kiss and I meant it.”

“How about if I gave you a dollar? I still have two dollars and change. You can have it all. Just one more brief kiss. I promise I’ll be quick.”

“Save your money, Atcheson. What are you gonna eat tomorrow if you give me your last two bucks and change?”

“I shall go hungry. Gladly! And anyway, who knows, I might get an envelope from home. My Aunt Agatha is quite overdue to send me something.”

“You and your aunts.”

“Yes, they are quite literally life-savers.”

“Where would you be without these women in your family sending you money?”

“I suppose I should have to find a job.”

“What sort of job?”

“Oh, I don’t know. A lowly clerk in some sort of office perhaps. A modern day Bartleby. ‘I would prefer not to.’”

“I’ll bet you’d prefer not to.”

“The idea of wasting my life working at a job has always been abhorrent to me.”

“Well, we’re on the same page there, buster.”

“One kiss.”

“Ixnay. Like I told you, I need my beauty sleep. I can’t be standing out here in the cold and damp all night making whoopee with you.”

“May I call you tomorrow?”

“You can do whatever the hell you want to do, Atcheson.”

“Perhaps we can meet for a drink.”

“With your two bucks and change?”

“You forget, my Aunt Agatha –”

“Look, don’t push it, buddy. I’m gonna tell you a secret.”

“I love secrets.”

“The secret is everybody gets boring if you’re around them too much.”

“I could never get bored with you.”

“You haven’t been around me that much. Give it time.”

“I should love to give it time.”

“You want to know another secret?”

“Oh, yes.”

“I’m me every single second of every day, and it’s not as glamorous as you might think. Good night, Atcheson.”

She already had her key out. She opened the door.

“Good night, Bubbles.”

She glanced at him but said nothing and went inside, closing the door behind her.

Addison sighed, then went down the steps, turned right, and began to walk along the glistening wet sidewalk between the ridges and piles of soot-encrusted snow. The cold drizzly rain had finally stopped, and he kept his old umbrella furled. He didn’t want to go home. It was still early – early for Addison, who rarely went to bed before four in the morning. He wanted to walk, and to think about Bubbles, and that kiss, that glorious kiss.

Bleecker Street. And there was the San Remo, where he and Bubbles had dined and drunk wine, and she had picked up the bill – surely her paying the tab meant that she really liked him! Well, just wait until he got his novel published, then he would treat her. In the meantime, there was Aunt Agatha, and Aunt Enid, and Great Aunt Edna, and his mother, and his two grandmothers, and their envelopes…

Oh, would that an envelope would arrive tomorrow! If he got a twenty he could take Bubbles somewhere really swell – 21, or the Stork Club, or the Copacabana! Not that he had ever been to any of those places, but he would bet Bubbles would like them.

He walked and walked, through the cold and the damp, but he did not feel the cold nor the damp, not with this fire within. He continued to walk along Bleecker, passing bars and bistros and bohemians and bums, and finally he saw a sign that said Seventh Avenue and realized he had been walking in quite the opposite direction from where he lived just off the Bowery – but what did it matter? What did anything matter? He turned left on Seventh, for no good reason, for no bad reason, for no reason at all.

A few more blocks and then he saw that automat where he had eaten lunch with that pathetic young fellow Milford earlier that day – God, it seemed ages ago! Should he go in there and have some pie and coffee? No, fie on that, a drink was more like it, damn it! Across the alley from the automat was that old hotel, the Hotel St Crispian. Addison had been there once, months ago, when he had gone with the rest of the Bob’s Bowery Bar gang to see that broken-down ventriloquist Waldo McGee and his dummy Mickey Pumpernickel on their opening night at the hotel’s cocktail lounge, the Prince Hal Room. It had been quite amusing as far as that sort of thing went, and, really, Addison had to admit he was easily amused. As long as he had a drink and a cigarette, preferably both paid for by someone else, who was he to complain, especially now that he was in love?  

Idly Addison went over to the entrance and next to it was a sign, with Dutch-angled photographs, which read:

The Prince Hal Room

Entertainment Tonight!

Featuring the “swinging” sounds of

Tony Winston & his Winstonians

with the stunning
chanteuse Shirley De LaSalle

(fresh from her nation-wide tour in
Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Also, the Betty Baxter Dancers!

(as featured on the
Schaefer Beer Variety Hour)

No cover charge. One-drink minimum.

And there at the very bottom of the sign was

With your compères Waldo McGee and Mickey Pumpernickel!

So the old boy and his dummy were still working here…

Addison decided to go in. He still had his two bucks and change, and it wasn’t as if he had anything better to do.

An enormous old doorman opened the door.

“Good evening, sir. Welcome to the Hotel St Crispian.”

“Good evening to you, my good man. I’m just here for a drink in the Prince Hal Room.”

“Of course, sir. Right across the lobby there.”

“Thank you,” said Addison.

“You are quite welcome, sir.”

Addison headed across the lobby, with its potted plants and rubber trees and comfy-looking divans and armchairs, with old people sitting in them reading newspapers.

Two dollars and change. Enough for two or three cocktails and a modest tip, and as for breakfast tomorrow, well, that was tomorrow, and this – this was now…

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