söndag, februari 26, 2006

"My 8th avenue kings"- part 4

Lisa is one of the bartenders at Walter’s. She came to the States in 1989, at twenty-two, from a working class family in Manchester, England. She ended up in New York by chance. Left home at twenty, hitch-hiked through England, worked her way, went to Israel, to Florida, met people from New York, came here, and started working at Walter’s right away. She and Rick used to be a couple but now they’re just friends. She used to work here every night, living at Rick’s place. Now she’s been married for two years. Lisa beams when she tells me what her husband does. “He’s a professional wrestler. We do well. Live in Queens. Maybe we’ll have kids.” At one o’clock at night the bar is packed but I have to go home. First I have to go to the store. Suddenly Rick pops up behind me. “Want me to walk you home?” “No, I’m fine.” “Need anything from the store?” “Just some coffee.” “I wanna pay.” Rick moseys into the store and tells me to get anything I want. A small tin of coffee isn’t enough. “Have some more, have some more!” So the sum is, finally, thirty dollars, and Rick pays. “Thank you so much, Rick. You are a good man.” Next morning, I call Helena who worked here as a bartender for many years, but who now lives in Las Vegas. She’s known Rick for a long time. “He’s such a sweetie”, she says. “He is like your big brother. Once I worked at this restaurant and got into an argument with the Yugoslavian head waiter who grabbed my arm really hard, leaving a bruise. When Rick saw the bruise he went straight there and talked to the guy. Like, touch Helena one more time and I’ll fuckin’ kill you. That’s Rick. He cares.” Eric Clapton plays in Madison Square Garden tonight and the Estoril Sol is full. Glenn the waiter quit last Friday, so George has called the agency for unemployed waiters and gotten a new star who has just started. This guy looks really old. White hair, glasses, and the black suit and bow tie you would expect. Nick is his name, and he’s definitely under stress. He makes mistakes, stumbles, forgets to serve water right away. I hear George bellowing from the bar, “Stupid!”. George rails against the old man who looks completely confused. He hunkers down as if he’s expecting a blow. George’s oldest son Jimmy tends the bar tonight. He’s twenty-seven and has a law degree from Cambridge, England, the pride and joy of his father. But a good degree doesn’t automatically get you a good job, so Jimmy helps out at the restaurant. He joins in his dad’s wrath, hassles the old waiter when he’s nervously about to stick a straw in a glass. “Don’t forget the lime”, he snarls, and Nick nods submissively and rushes out among the tables, arms windmilling. Being new isn’t easy. Tonight I have a date with Garbage Mike. He’s wearing a dark grey polo jumper and a pale grey classic-cut suit, his grey hair is plastered back from his hairline and a large ring is on his left pinky. Born in 1939, grew up on Coney Island. “Beautiful place. Nice, clean and safe back then.” Garbage Mike looks like a 50s movie star: David Niven, Clark Gable or even better. Unreal. His smile is dazzling and his temples are charmingly grey. A tattoo on his arm is from the 50s when Elvis was the King and all the cool kids drove motor bikes and got married early to girls they didn’t love. Mike didn’t miss out. “We were married for five years. It was hell: no sex, no love.” “So why did you get married?” “Everybody did. It was simply what everyone did.” “Is that her name you’ve got tattooed on your arm?” “No, thank God, it just says MIKE.” Mike runs a couple of businesses. A garbage collection firm (explaining his name) with a couple of trucks collecting waste from restaurants and private businesses. He owns two apartment houses in Nyack: “No pets, no kids”. Most of the tenants are old retired New Yorkers who want to live by the Hudson. Then he lends money at high interest to people who can’t get bank loans. According to George, Mike’s best friend since 25 years, Mike goes around collecting the interest weekly: borrow a thousand dollars from Mike, and you’ll have to pay forty a week until the money is returned. Mikes fiancée Beatrice passed away two years ago. She had cancer and had been sick for five years when she died. They lived together for twelve years. She was a waitress at a restaurant in the Upper East Side and Mike was crazy about her. “She let me do my thing, I could do business, and when she was sick and couldn’t have sex she was OK with me seeing other women. You know, when she was getting really sick and lay in bed all the time and couldn’t make love, right before she died she waved for me to come to the bed, pulled my pants down and she, you know, did it for me with her hand. That’s what I call tenderness!” Mike started coming to this neighborhood in the 70s. The fur trade was booming back then and there were lots of Greek nightclubs on the block. The Egyptian Garden on 8th and 29th Street, where there’s a fruit and grocery store now, had belly dancers and was open all night. It was on the second floor and you had to scale a really steep staircase. Mike reminisces about the bouzouki music and the prettiest belly dancer of them all, Jemima from Egypt. “She used to come up to your table and dance, snapping her castanets and driving you crazy”, Mike says and laughs happily at the memory. “I drank Dewars and water. Any number of them. Good times!” Twenty-five years ago, you could see Anthony Quinn shake his booty at the Egyptian Garden. His real name was Rudolph Oaxaca and he was a Mexican. “Afterwards you’d weave down those steep stairs and go to the Karate Club, an after hours bar on 3rd and 87th Street. We’d stay up all night. Didn’t do drugs, though. Just liquor.” Mike shifts to his favorite topic: women. “It’s really hard to meet someone it works with. I’ve seen a few women since Bea died, but it never really works out, you know.” “Maybe you’re not done yet with Bea?” “No, maybe I’m not, but look: I’m fifty-nine. What am I doing with my life? I’ve got a country house, I’ve got money, I can travel wherever I want, but it’s no fun doing that alone. I’m lonely. If I hadn’t come here tonight, I’d have gone home, drunk a few glasses of red wine, ended up in front of the TV and fallen asleep. What kind of life is that? I want to share life with someone. Share ordinary days. And I’m in a hurry! In five years I’ll be sixty-five! Things happen to your body, it won’t get any easier. I’m really longing for someone.” “Don’t you think you may have a hard time finding a new wife because you’re looking to replace Bea? That you’re looking for someone like her?” “I don’t know… You know, Bea was tall and skinny and flat chested and had great legs. I’ve always been a legs man, looking at their legs, I like them tall and beautiful. That’s my type. The women I’ve met who are my own age, they’re old ladies! And you know what? I went on a blind date a few months back. A lady friend of mine had set me up with a date. I pick up this woman and I’m totally shocked! She was short like a midget and wide like a bus! Being a gentleman, though , I kept smiling. I took her to a restaurant in New Jersey where nobody knows me, I was polite and well-mannered and, you know, but for heaven’s sake, I suffered! Never again!” “So are you seeing anyone now?” “Well, yeah, I see this wealthy dentist who owns a four story building in Gramercy Park on the east side.” “Is she any good? Are you two happy?” “Not really. She’s a career woman. She has her own summer house in Long Island, she’s got lots of friends, things to do. She doesn’t need me. I want to meet someone who needs me, someone to wait for me when I come home from work, you know. And nothing much is happening sexually either. No spark. We’ve dated a few times but we still haven’t had sex.” to be continued... Andra bloggar om: ,

3 Comments:

Blogger - CFH said...

haha, av en slump såg jag ditt namn idag i en gammal tidning jag och några kompisar gjorde för sjukt länge sen. INK hette den. du hade skrivit där! (vet att du skrivit mycket annat också). lustigt hursomhelst.

2/26/2006 11:50:00 em  
Blogger Morelli said...

snackar vi södra latin tidning? tyyp tidigt åttiotal...jag skrev ngt om erotik DÅ ringer det en klocka...

2/27/2006 07:02:00 fm  
Blogger - CFH said...

nej, fel av mig, du fanns med i redaktionens efterlämnade papper som tänkbar redaktionsmedlem. det här var en slags konst/designtidning som såldes i några få ex på moderna museet. jag tror det var min vän fredrik schollin som kände dig på nåt sätt? jaja, det var 1991 och väldigt länge sen. sorry.

2/27/2006 11:22:00 fm  

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