Thursday, April 27, 2023

“Journey Into Destiny”

Polly Powell gasped as the brown liquid scorched its way down her throat, and then she exhaled with long breaths through her mouth, feeling this strange admixture of pain and pleasure, of excitement and confusion. What an evening this was turning out to be! She had never had more than one cocktail of an evening in her life, and never had drunk a straight shot of liquor, ever! But this must be the bohemian life of which she had read. Almost five years in the city, and now was she finally making friends, finally experiencing life?

She looked at the sheets of typescript on the bar before her, the thirteen-page poem that Milford had written for her, of which she had still read only the first few lines. Was he in love with her? He really must be if he had written a poem for her, about her, dedicated to her. And yet now he wasn’t even looking at her. He was standing over there on the other side of Addison, gazing at that magnificent woman Bubbles, and who could blame him? Bubbles, with her red coat and imperious demeanor, perched regally on her barstool.

Polly knew now that she would put all of them into her novel! Clever Addison, awkward Milford, beautiful Bubbles – of course she would have to change their names, just as she had changed her own semi-autobiographical protagonist’s name, to “Holly McDowell”…

But could she write a proper Bildungsroman, a proper epic of the bohemian life, if her protagonist were to remain virginal? Where was the drama, the romance, the tragedy in that? Too bad that Milford seemed more interested in Bubbles now, but, really, who could blame him!

But, wait, what about Addison?

“Tell me, Mr. Addison –” she forced the words to leave her mouth and enter the outside world.

“Oh, please, just call me Addison, and I beg you to dispense with any formal terms of address!” he said.

“Very well, ‘Addison’,” said Polly.

“And may I call you Molly?” he said.

“You may, if you wish, but actually my name is Polly.”

“Polly it shall be then!”

“Tell me, Addison –”


She suddenly realized she had forgotten what she wanted to ask him. Did it matter? She said the first thing that came to her mind:

“Is Miss Bubbles your inamorata?”

“In a sense, yes,” he said, after a short but thoughtful-seeming pause.

“May I ask in what sense?” pursued Polly.

Because of all the ambient noise of the bar, the laughing and shouting and the jukebox music, they were able to discuss Bubbles freely, even though she sat in the next stool to Polly’s right, with Addison and Milford standing squeezed in between the two young ladies, and in fact Polly and Addison were practically shouting just to hear each other.

“May I speak frankly?” said Addison, after another pause during which he had forgotten what Polly’s last question was, but then suddenly remembered it.

“Please do!” said Polly.

“The divine Bubbles is indeed my ‘inamorata’, in the sense that I worship her,” he said, “but I fear she only tolerates me, and barely.”

“Oh, how sad!”

“Oh, but I am not sad,” said Addison. “Gladly I accept the few crumbs she tosses me! You see, Molly –”

“Polly –”

“You see, Polly, you might not think it to look at me, but mine has been a lonely, and, yes, a celibate life.”


“Oh, yes, indeed. I’m not quite sure why, but I seem not to be extremely attractive to members of your gender.”

“I don’t believe it!”

“Oh, but it’s true. Why, even Bubbles, whom I adore, has been known to doze off in the midst of one of my monologues.”

“Perhaps she is only overworked, in her profession as an entertainer?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s possible –”

“Since we are being frightfully honest,” said Polly, “I shall tell you, Addison, that my life also has been a celibate one.”

Addison was hardly surprised, but, a gentleman even if he was now almost but not quite three sheets to the wind, he said, “Oh, but I can’t believe that!”

“No, it’s true. And I don’t know why, really. No, I know why, it’s because I am bookish and shy, what one might fairly call an introvert.”


“Yes. But now, now that I have had a scotch-and-soda and that one shot of whatever it was –”

“I believe it was Christian Brothers brandy.”

“Christian Brothers brandy, yes, now I feel, how shall I put it – expansive!”

“Scotch and brandy do have that effect.”

And suddenly Addison felt a wave of attraction towards this young woman who up until a minute ago had seemed to him rather a plain Jane. If she just dressed up a bit, applied a dash of make-up, put on something more flattering to her figure, might she perhaps be transformed into something as ravishing, almost, even as Bubbles?

The twenty-dollar bill Milford had arbitrarily given him, expressly for the purpose of purchasing a “throw” from Bubbles, which would still have left him ten dollars to spend how he wished – might he not after all keep in reserve all of that unexpected boon and pursue instead the virginal favors of Polly? Since she had no experience herself, perhaps she would not judge him harshly, as inexperienced as he was himself? He glanced to his right, and Milford appeared to be deeply in conversation with Bubbles, as one-sided as that conversation doubtless was, Milford gesticulating with his smoking Woodbine as Bubbles occasionally and half-heartedly stifled a yawn.

Addison turned again to Polly, who was still looking at him, and not yawning. True, she was not as beautiful as Bubbles, and not nearly as shapely, but then, if she did grant him her favor, most likely she would not charge him ten dollars, perhaps she would grant those favors freely and without any monetary charge, thus leaving Addison with Milford’s twenty-dollar bill to spend or not to spend on whatever – perhaps he would even (and this might make a good impression) buy a round, something he had never done in his life, but, as with losing one’s virginity, there must be a first time for every great milestone in one’s journey into destiny…

“Tell me, Polly –” he said, as simultaneously Polly said, “Tell me, Addison –” and they both laughed and begged the other to go first.

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

Thursday, April 20, 2023

“Enfant Terrible”

“And a brandy for the lady,” said the bartender. “Howya doin’, Bubbles?”

“I’ll be doing a hell of a lot better after I step outside this Christian Brothers,” said Bubbles, and she did just that.

“On my tab, please,” said Milford to the bartender.

“Thanks, pal,” said Bubbles.

“Oh, you’re quite welcome, miss!”

“Better give me another one, Louie,” said Bubbles, pointing to her emptied glass. “That one was just to warm me up.”

“Here ya go, beautiful,” said Louie, who still had the brandy bottle in his hand, and he refilled the little glass.

“Put that one on my tab, too, please,” said Milford.

“Thanks, again, big spender,” said Bubbles, and she took her Philip Morrises out of her purse.

“My pleasure, miss,” said Milford. “May I offer you my seat?”

“What a gentleman,” she said, and she climbed gracefully up onto Milford’s barstool.

The configuration of the little group was now Milford standing sidewise facing Bubbles to his right, with Addison squeezed in next to him with Polly perched over there on the stool to the left.

“Milford, Polly,” said Addison, trying not to sound quite as drunk as he was getting, two sheets to the wind by his reckoning, but bidding fare for a third, “I should like to introduce you both to my friend Bubbles.”

“Very pleased to meet you, Miss Bubbles,” said Milford, lighting her cigarette with his monogrammed silver-plated lighter.

“Hello, there!” called Polly, eagerly. She so rarely met anyone except the girls who worked at the automat. Who was this glamorous creature, and could they possibly become friends?

“Hiya, doll,” said Bubbles, after exhaling a great cloud of smoke. And who was this dweeber? She had the look of one of these would-be poets, the Village was crawling with them. But hadn’t she seen the frail pushing nickels at the change booth at the automat over on Bedford?

“What do you do, Miss Bubbles?” said Polly, speaking loudly to be heard through all the surrounding chatter and jukebox music.

“Let’s say I’m an entertainer,” said Bubbles, which was true enough.

Milford felt his brain abruptly lurch back in on itself, as it so often did, and although he was aware that Bubbles and Polly continued to pass words back and forth to each other through the smoky air, and that Addison was piping counterpoint sounds that might be construed as words, perhaps even words not utterly devoid of meaning, nonetheless they might all have been speaking Urdu for all that Milford knew, and he knew not a word of Urdu. Why was he here? Yes, to meet Polly, sitting over there on the other side of Addison, Polly who was now leaning forward and bending her small wide-eyed face in the direction of Bubbles, saying words to Bubbles. Milford looked to his right and there was the regal face of Bubbles, turned serenely in the direction of Polly.

Why, oh, why was Bubbles so beautiful, so full of life? Why was Polly so dull in comparison? How could he go from being in love with Shirley De LaSalle this morning, to being in love with Polly this afternoon and early evening, to now being smitten by this goddess who walked the earth with the name of Bubbles?

Was he, after all, in fine and at bottom, incontrovertibly insane?

And he sank yet deeper into his own private world, as the words and the music and the smoke and the noise of the bar became no more real than a background scene in a movie… 

All Milford had ever wanted was to be the voice of his generation. Was that too much to ask?

And what was his generation, anyway? Since being sent down in disgrace for conduct unbecoming in only his first year at Princeton he had hardly known anyone of his generation, or of any other for that matter. Was it his fault he was forced by cruel circumstance to live at home with his harpy of a mother and Maria the housemaid? Was he to blame that the only people he ever met were the dreary bores at Alcoholics Anonymous?

But, wait, could this – all this, this garishly-colored movie playing out before him and all around him – could this be his generation? Was this the equivalent of the Parisian cafés frequented by the artists and poets of the 1920s? Perhaps it was! And if it was (or was it “if it were”?) then there must still be a chance for him to be its voice!

But first he must find his voice, his true and unique voice. He must stop imitating Dylan Thomas, or, worse, Vachel Lindsay, or Robinson Jeffers. He must speak, and, more importantly, write in his own original voice. But what was his voice? His voice had always sounded so whiny to himself, and didn’t his own mother habitually call him (along with “l’enfant terrible”) a “mewling sniveling brat”?

What he must do, he must be a man, and then and only then would he find his voice, and, in finding his voice, he would also claim his manhood, and, indeed, perhaps, his immortality.

He would be the voice of his generation…

“Hey, pal, what’s your name again?”

Bubbles had jabbed his arm with her elbow.

“Milford?” said Milford, not at all sure at this point.

“All right, Milford, raise your glass.”

“Okay,” said Milford, and he picked up the small glass she had pointed to.

“Bottoms up,” she said.

“To friends!” said Addison.

“Yes, to all my lovely new friends!” said Polly.

Polly and Addison and Bubbles were all holding up small glasses of something brown, and they brought them in unison to their lips.

And Milford raised his own glass and drank it down, the old familiar fire coursing down his throat.

Yes, he would be the voice of his generation, God damn it. And then his mother would see who was the mewling sniveling brat, and who the real enfant terrible was!

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

Thursday, April 13, 2023

“Nothing If Not a Gentleman”


Nothing if not a gentleman, Addison climbed off his barstool.

“I am ever so pleased to meet you, Miss Powell,” he said, with a slight bow, and he took her proffered hand. “And my name is –”

“This is Addison,” said Milford, ungracefully getting off his own stool. “We just happened to run into each other here, but we – you and I that is – can get a table now if one is available.”

“Oh, but I should adore to have a drink at the bar!” said Polly, removing her delicate hand from Addison’s.

“Oh,” said Milford, “well, I guess we can do that –”

“Thanks, Milton.”


“I beg your pardon.”

“My name is Milford, actually.”

“Oh, for some reason I thought it was Milton. Perhaps because if I remember correctly you said you were a poet? And of course John Milton was a noted poet.”

“Yes, uh –”

“But your real first name is Mervyn?”

“Well, Marion –”

“Marion, yes, I knew it was something like that.”

“May I offer you my seat, Miss Powell?” said Addison.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t take your seat, Mr. Addison!”

“Oh, but I insist!”

“You can have my seat, Polly,” said Milford.

“Here, please, Miss Powell,” said Addison, “I quite insist.”

“Well, only if you insist,” said Polly, and she popped athletically up onto Addison’s vacated stool, while Addison slipped into the space she had just vacated next to Milford, who remained standing, awkwardly, as he did most things in life.

“So you two fellows are friends?” said Polly.

“Well, uh –” said Milford.

“Yes,” said Addison.

“I think it’s terribly important to have friends,” said Polly.

“So also I,” said Addison.

“What shall I drink?” she said.

“I can recommend the scotch-and-soda here,” said Addison.

“That sounds divine,” said Polly. “Usually on the rare occasions when I do imbibe I have a Pink Lady, or sometimes a Grasshopper, or perhaps a Brandy Alexander, but there’s something just so classic about a scotch-and-soda, don’t you agree?”

“Oh, I quite agree!” said Addison.

The bartender was there.

“May I help you, miss?”

“Yes, I should like one of your finest scotch-and-sodas, sir!”

“And what about you gentlemen?” said the bartender.

“Gee, I guess I could go for another s-and-s,” said Addison,

“Just another ginger ale for me, please,” said Milford.

“So what do you do, Mr. Addison?” said Polly.

“Just Addison, please,” said Addison.

“Addison it is then! Such an unusual prénom!”

“Well, actually that’s just what people call me, you see, because supposedly my manner is similar to that of the character played by George Sanders in the film All About Eve –”

“Oh, I loved that movie! What’s this?”

She picked up the sheaf of typescript lying on the bar.

“That’s Milford’s poem,” said Addison.

“You brought a poem, Milford?” said Polly, leaning forward so that she could address Milford past Addison.

“Um, yes, just a little something I dashed off this afternoon,” said Milford, still standing, awkwardly.

“May I read it?”

“Perhaps not now?” said Milford, suspecting that everything was getting out of hand, as it always did.

“Oh, but please!” said Polly. “When I first moved to the city this is just what I imagined, sitting in a Greenwich Village boîte, with artistic gentlemen, reading their poems!”

“Uh,” said Milford.

“Where does the poem begin?”
“Here, let me arrange it for you,” said Addison, and he took the pages, and began to put them in order, no simple task as Milford had not bothered to number them.

“Such a terribly long poem,” said Polly.

“Only thirteen pages,” said Milford.

“Isn’t that long?”

“Well, as I was saying to Addison here,” said Milford, with trembling hands picking up his pack of Woodbines, “this section is only by way of being a preamble of sorts, to what I envision as a much longer work –”

“Like Paradise Lost?”

“Yes, perhaps –”

“I always wonder why the epic poem has fallen into disfavor, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do in fact –”

“But don’t you think, Miss Powell –” began Addison.

“’Polly’, please!” said Polly.

“Polly it is, then!” said Addison. “Don’t you think, Polly, that the epic poem has been effectively supplanted in our time by the novel?”

“I do indeed,” said Polly, “which is why I myself am in the process of composing a novel!”

“What a coincidence,” said Addison, “as I am writing a novel myself –”

“Oh, you must let me read it!”

“Of course,” said Addison.

“Will you read mine?”

“I should be delighted.”

“It’s really in quite the inchoate form at present, merely a jumbled mass of notes, observations, disjointed sketches, aperçus –”

“But the novel of today,” said Addison, “has I think divested itself of the need for such impedimenta as ‘plot’ and the supposed ‘unities’, of burdensome lumber such as ‘theme’ and ‘character development’. I certainly don’t concern myself with such matters in my own work.”

“I so admire your confidence,” said Polly, “And dare I ask what your novel is about?”

“That’s a very difficult question to answer,” said Addison. “And I’m not terribly sure if I can answer it. Is it about anything? Or everything? And indeed, does it matter if it is ‘about’ qua ‘about’ anything?”

“Oh, but that’s exactly how I feel about my own novel! How can I know what it’s about until I write it? And, as you say, does it even matter what it’s ‘about’?”

Addison had handed the sheaf of papers back to her and she looked at the top of the first page and saw its title.

’The Angel in the Change Booth’?” said Polly. “Hey, I work in a change booth!”

“Um,” said Milford, who had put an as-yet-unlighted Woodbine into his lips, and who now removed it.

“’For P.P.’? Hey, wait a minute,” and Polly leaned forward and  turned toward Milford. “Is this poem about me?”

“Oh,” said Milford. “Well, since you ask, why, yes, I suppose the poem was inspired by you, in a sense –”

“Gee, nobody ever wrote a poem for me before,” said Polly, and she began to read, aloud:

The afternoon is dreary and cold as my soul.

Sleet patters against the windowpane
as I stare at my half-eaten jellyroll
and wonder if joy shall ever replace this pain…

She looked up from the page and at Milford.

“Did you really have a jellyroll today?”

“Actually, no,” said Milford, “I had cheesecake, but I needed a rhyme for ‘soul’.”

“Poetic license,” said Polly.

“Ah, the drinks at last!” said Addison, and the bartender laid them down.

“On your tab, sir?” said the bartender to Milford.

“Yes, please,” said Milford, and he reached for his ginger ale. How he wished he were not an alcoholic! If any time called for the sweet embrace of scotch, or bourbon, or rye, no matter, as long as it was booze, this was it…

“God, it’s like the North Pole out there,” said a young woman who was suddenly there. “Somebody order me a drink – brandy, and make it straight.”

“Ah, dear Bubbles!” said Addison.

“Hiya, Scooter,” said Bubbles. “Who’re your friends?”

What an extraordinarily attractive and vibrant woman, thought Milford, with a strange surge of respect and grudging admiration for Addison, and he raised his index finger to summon again the bartender’s attention…

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

Thursday, April 6, 2023

“Pretty Polly”

Addison had been around enough poets in his lifetime to know that the last thing any of them wanted was an honest opinion of their work, let alone “constructive criticism”. What they wanted was praise, lots of it, and the more of it the better…

He glanced up from the sheet of typescript at Milford, the young fellow’s tortured eyes peering through the thick round glasses beneath the newsboy’s cap.

“Have you finished yet?”

“Um, almost.”

Addison returned his gaze to the poem and forced himself to read its final lines:

The feral cats meow in the alleyways of doom,
and in the night the stray dogs howl,
but who will disperse this pervasive gloom?
None other than Polly, pretty Polly Powell!

Nuclear destruction threatens the world,
but, regardless, poets pale all now will
sing only of one particular girl,
and her name is Polly, pretty Polly Powell!

Addison looked up again.

“Wow,” he said.

“Wow?” said Milford.

“Yes, just, wow.”

“Just wow?”

“I mean, yes, decidedly. I mean, wow.”

“That’s all? Just ‘wow’?”

“Oh, no, there’s so much more I could say.”

“Yes? Like what?”


There was nothing for it but just to let loose with the bullshit, and let the devil take the hindmost.

“Certain adjectives spring to mind,” said Addison.

“Let’s hear them!” said Milford.

“’Stunning’ leaps to the fore.”


“Also ‘shattering’.”



“What else?”


“Incisive? Really?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“I never know what people mean exactly when they say incisive.”

It occurred to Addison that he felt the same way about the word. What the hell did it mean?

“It means, uh –”

“You mean like cutting to the quick?” said Milford.

“Yes, precisely,” said Addison. “Cutting to the quick.”

“To the bone?”

“Yes, right to the bone.”

“But it’s a love poem. Should a love poem cut right to the quick and to the bone?”

This was the problem with talking nonsense. It just led to more nonsense. But now that he had cast his lot with utter duplicity, there was no turning back.

“In this case,” said Addison, “yes, I think it is legitimate for a poem to cut to the quick and to the bone, because – how can I put this – I think you have, in this work, indeed cut to the quick, to the, uh –”

“To the bone –”

“Yes, to the bone, of the meaning of love.”

“Gee, really?” said Milford.

“Yes, to the essence,” said Addison.

“No kidding?”

“I kid you not,” said Addison.

“So you liked it?”

“Oh, yes, very much so.”

“It’s only a first draft. I just wrote it this afternoon.”

“Gosh, it sure doesn’t read like a first draft.”

“Dashed it off in the white-hot heat of inspiration.”

“And a damned fine job you did, too.”

“This is only the beginning by the way.”

“The beginning?”


“May I ask of what?”

“It’s only the beginning of the poem.”

“Oh. So there’s more?”

“There will be. I look on this as the introductory canto, merely the overture if you will, but I envision the work as perhaps a hundred pages upon completion.”


“Or more.”


“Yes,” said Milford. “Who knows, maybe two hundred pages!”

“Well, uh, you’ve got a swell start here,” said Addison.

“That’s only thirteen pages. Just scratching the surface of all I want to say.”


Need to say.”


“I hope the publishers don’t give me a hard time about a book-length poem.”

“Fie on them,” said Addison.

“Yeah,” said Milford. “Fie on them! What do they know?”

“Good question.”

“So I should show the poem to her?”

“To whom?”

“To Polly!”

“Oh, right. Well – I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Why shouldn’t I show it to her?”

“Well, let me ask you this,” said Addison, and he paused.

“Yes, go on,” said Milford.

“How well do you know Polly?”

“To be honest I only really spoke with her for the first time today.”


“What do you mean, uh-huh?”

“And may I ask how long you conversed with her?”

“In toto?”


“Perhaps five minutes altogether.”


“There you go again with that uh-huh! Say what you mean, man!”

“Okay,” said Addison, trying to choose his words carefully while lifting his glass and shaking the few slivers of ice remaining in it, hoping Milford would take the hint and offer to buy him a fresh highball. “Here’s the thing. This is going to be your first date, right?”

“I despise that term.”

“Okay, not date then. Your first planned meeting outside her place of employment.”

“Yeah,” said Milford.

“All right,” said Addison, “now, I may be wrong – I’ve been wrong before.”

“Of course you have, but, please, spit it out. I can take the truth.”

“This poem, as grand as it is, might – and mind I say mightmight be just a little too much to spring on a girl on your first date.”

“First meeting.”

“Your first meeting.”

“I don’t like ‘meeting’. It reminds me too much of AA.”

“How about rendezvous?”

“Okay, I like that better. Our first rendezvous.”

“Showing her the poem might just be a bit, um, de trop for a first rendezvous.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, it might just be a little overwhelming for her for your first date I mean meeting or rendezvous.”

“But I thought you liked the poem.”

“Oh, but I do,” said Addison, rattling the ice in his glass again. “I’m only saying it might be wise to wait until you get to know her a little better before springing a thirteen-page love poem on her.”


“You know.”

“Wait a while,” said Milford.

“Yes,” said Addison. “I mean, you don’t want to scare her off.”

“Scare her off?”

“Not scare her off, but, uh –”

“Make her uncomfortable?”

“Yes,” said Addison. “I mean, just wait a little while.”

“Like until the second date?”

“Uh, yeah –”

“I mean the second meeting.”

“Um –”

“Or second rendezvous,” said Milford.

“Yeah, or, who knows,” said Addison, “maybe even –”

“Wait until the third date?”

“Possibly,” said Addison.

Milford looked away, and Addison wondered if he had put his foot into it, and if he could kiss goodbye to any more scotches and Woodbines from this source.

“I mean, again, I could be wrong,” he said. “What do I know?”

Milford turned to face him again.

“You’re saying I don’t want to come on too strong.”

“Exactly,” said Addison.

“I shouldn’t overwhelm her at our first meeting. Date. Rendezvous.”

“Yes,” said Addison.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Milford.


“I know,” said Milford. “But possibly not. You know, it may surprise you to hear this, but I don’t have a terribly enormous amount of experience with the fair sex.”

“That is surprising,” said Addison, with a straight face.

“It’s all rather uncharted waters for me,” said Milford.

“It’s all rather uncharted waters for me,” said Milford. 

“Life is uncharted waters,” said Addison.

He rattled the ice in his glass again, but to no avail. Milford was too preoccupied. Sometimes you just had to come out and ask for a free drink, but, after all, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t earned it. And he was just about to mention another round when a mousy-looking young woman suddenly appeared in the space between him and Milford.

“Am I late?” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” said Milford.

“I said am I late. I decided to wash my hair and I had to wait until it dried.”

“Oh,” said Milford. And then, at last realizing that this was the girl with whom he was in love, “Oh!”

And suddenly Addison also recognized the nickel-thrower from the automat. She looked so different now that she wasn’t wearing her white uniform smock, and now she turned to him.

“Hi,” she said. “My name is Polly. Polly Powell.”

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