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November 15, 2009

I was recently introduced to an amazing and wonderful new collection of poetry on Smashwords. It is from Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, and is called Crazy White Devil. One of the poems, Old New York Love Story, brought me right back to my own days in the city. I was young, and had been living in chaos traveling around the south until I made the move to New York, like so many other young people do each and every day. I had never written a poem, in fact I’m not even sure if I had ever read a poem. I had been told by one high-school teacher that I should be a writer, but that wasn’t enough to break through the noise of my life.

When I arrived in New York I had eighty dollars on me, and a dingy couch to crash on until I found a job and raised the money to find a roommate and move into my own place. After getting there, I woke up every morning and hit an avenue, walking up fifty blocks before crossing the street and walking back down the same fifty blocks on the other side, going into every bar and restaurant with an unlocked door, and asking them to hire me with nothing but a few months experience waiting tables in a hotel bar in the Poconos where I wore a superior early nineties tuxedo top, bow tie, black shorts, black hose, and the most comfortable shoes I could afford. No one hired me. Not for days.

Eventually I kept walking downtown one afternoon into the Village, although I had no idea where I was other than a place where all my training in how Manhattan Streets work had gone down the tubes. I walked into what I had determined (my feet had determined) would be my last stop of the night. A place on a corner with a werewolf on the sign. I was hit with a funk of a smell when I got into the door. I said hello to the guy behind the bar and asked him if he was hiring. He smiled at me and said, “When can you start?” As I’m writing this, I can feel myself standing there, so young, so excited. “Right now,” I said. He told me to come back in the morning to start training on the floor for the brunch shift. Within months I was behind the bar, a favorite of all the guys from the Sixth Precinct.

My time in New York was spent in Greenwich Village and Chelsea where I lived on the edge of the meat market. I was Chelsea, when Chelsea wasn’t cool. Rarely did I ever risk a New York nosebleed and venture about 27th St.

I was finally condemned to freedom, and I spent my time with all of the people who worked in my bar and other bars in the neighborhood.

Just living. Just being.

Seeing Guy’s poem has got all this going in my head again. I think I need to write more about it. But it also made me want to post my own ‘New York Love Story’ which I wrote a few years ago, when I finally returned to myself and discovered poetry for the first time.

(Sorry if this is hard to read, I couldn’t deal with loss of format)

“There is no present or future, only the past,
happening over and over again, now”  ~Eugene O’Neill

On West Fourth Street 

Julie drops a quarter in the jukebox,
Some People Call Me a Space Cowboy.
      Dylan sits on the bench outside.
A homeless man wearing a giant condom
on his head, begs for another buck
and gets it.
Across from the hell hole
                 the Cage on Sixth pulses,
sweats, swooshes, hot concussion as players
play for keeps.
    People gather, Jack Kerouac talks in vain
on a stool in the tavern  snap snap    snap.
    The owner of the bar on Bedford gives
me a sweatshirt, red letters say Chumley’s.
I stumble over a dog, into another night,
dim lights, Fitzgerald sits and writes
in the corner, red light on the door blinking,
blinking. 

Pierogies at The Kiev, can’t hear faint sounds
Tat Boom Tat Boom    Boom Boom Boom Boom
Hendrix fires Machine Gun at The Fillmore.
      Standing on an island, Times Square, Jim
kisses me and nothing more, one moment
no anything else, anywhere.  Thanksgiving
dinner alone at El Quijote, everyone is
upstairs at The Chelsea.
                       A transvestite applies
lipstick in the reflection of my door on twenty-
second and tenth. No one minds the sharing.   

Inside
the railroad apartment, I collapse and feel
my old self slowly die.  And Kerouac is on
the road a couple blocks down snap  snap snap. 

At the bar, Krissana makes a chip butty before
the fryer is turned off, after work five of us pitch
in tips, to the west side to take a helicopter ride
around Manhattan at dawn, before finally
time to sleep.
           But first, drop another quarter Julie,
it hurts how much I wish
I had known about the poetry at St Mark’s church.

——————————————————————–

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2009 3:25 am

    Love the atmosphere of the poem.

    “A transvestite applies
    lipstick in the reflection of my door on twenty-
    second and tenth. No one minds the sharing. ”

    That’s the old New York I’ll always cling to.

    PS: Thanks for the flattering intro, and once again, for the amazing review!

  2. November 17, 2009 12:41 pm

    Thanks, and you’re welcome. I’m just glad I found your collection, and I’m looking forward to that novel. 😉

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