A Million to One Shot

Henry at home thinking about writing, writing easy for him, he didn’t get writer’s block— every week he would turn the music way up, pour some drinks and write a short story. 

As he began writing the story would unfold, as if it had a life of its own— it was like opening a can of worms, letting them out, following the little buggers around and then chucking the can. 

He would write every day, in the evening he would wrap it up, finished or not and then go out to eat. Later walking the streets of New York City, open to all of it, weirdos, those on the fringes and junk poets especially welcome. 

It was a fall night sometime between 1970 and 1980, winter coming on like a mean old man.  

Henry ready to go out, his hair uncombed and uncut, starting to grey, his face pale and drawn— wearing a knee-length black leather coat, pegged chinos, and low-cut red Converse All-Stars. 

He was 43 years old, out of hand and cool, he wasn’t going to make the cover of GQ anytime soon, that was his charm, not giving a shit. 

He leaves his Queen’s digs around 8 PM and walks to Chaim’s Deli, sitting alone as usual in a booth, his regular waitress Ruby walks to his table and says,

Why Henry, how you doin palsy? I’ve missed you, let's get together soon? He says,

How about tomorrow morning at my place? Ruby says,

Ok Henry, see you there!

She would clean his apartment and do his laundry by hand then hang it out to dry on his small balcony. 

Ruby a nice girl, motherly, an angel to boot.  

He orders dinner, 

Ruby, I’ll have some brisket, some hash browns, a bowl of chicken soup with dumplings and some green beans. Ruby writes down his order, winks at Henry and turns around, walking to the counter, shaking her money maker all the way to heaven. 

After noshing Henry says goodnight to the folks at the deli, walking out into the cool night air, going somewhere, anywhere.

He sees Siam Massage in the distance, not far from Chaim’s Deli, and goes inside, the place dimly lit with a black light for mood, there is a white plastic sofa, some cheap chairs, and a fake bamboo tree in a pot on the floor. The woman at the counter asked Henry, speaking in a heavy Viet Namese accent,

Hey baby, you cute, you want nice girl sucky, sucky, make you happy, happy? 

Henry would pass this time, it was the end of the month and he was short of cash, he laughs and then turns around and walks out.

Back on the street, he goes to a punk bar on the Lower East Side in Chinatown called Clockwork Bar, in the early days they booked the Ramones and Debby Harry—Henry liked blues mostly and could give a tinker's shit about Harry or the Ramones. 

In Manhattan at Clockwork Bar, a cramped place with a small stage covered everywhere with stickers and graffiti, dimly lit with red and blue lights. 

Henry sits at the bar and orders a Budweiser and a shot of whiskey. 

A tall and thin guy with red hair parted in the middle, his face drawn, he had eyes that pierced your soul, wearing a sports coat that was too large and of all fucking things a Ramones t-shirt, sits next to Henry. It was the poet and musician Jim Carroll, who introduces himself to Henry, Henry says, 

I’m Henry Lucowski, I’m a writer on welfare who is addicted to most things, Jim Carroll says in a quivering and fragile voice,  

nice to meet you, Henry— I'm reading later tonight, I hope you stay. 

Jim Carroll then going into to an extended rap saying,

You know Henry junk is a monkey run wild that has taken a big size bite of my potential and spit it out, ravaging my body and soul. I got junked up in my teens and never turned back really, it gave me a vision and blinded me at the same time. It is sad that getting vision required such great height, I would have rather been on the ground with others, everyone really, those I deeply care for. 

Jim Carroll buys Henry a drink and Henry lays some lines of cocaine on the table which they promptly snort. 

Soon it was time for Jim Carroll to read, he walks up to the stage and the music in the Clockwork Bar stops and then the crowd shuts up as though the Gods just walked in. 

Standing at a small podium on a small stage, he simply begins reading his poem The Distances without introduction. 

Henry amazed as Carroll reads his poem, not Beat or punk, more like the Romantic Poets or Yeats. 

of still another morning, mornings which are
always remaining behind for one thing or another
shivering in our faces of pride and blooming attitude.

in the draught of winter air my horse is screaming
you are welcoming the new day with your hair leaning
against the sand, feet dive like otters in the frost

and the sudden blue seems to abandon as you leap. 
O to make everything summer! soldiers move along lines
like wet motions in the violent shade’s reappearance.
Henry loving every bit of The Distance, its validity, the ancient and eternal quality of it, knowing now that Jim Carroll was the most underrated poet of any century, and one of the great poets of the 20Th Century.

After the reading people in the crowd rushing the stage with copies of Basketball Diaries for Jim Carroll to sign. 

It was clear that he didn’t like the attention, fame for him a burden, an unwanted golden cloak that was forced on him. 

He walks over to Henry who is still at the bar and says,

Let’s get outta here Henry, let’s go somewhere, anywhere! 

The two leave Clockwork Bar and get a taxi to Siam Massage in Queens. Carroll relieved to be free of the unwanted attention at the Bar. 

As they talked and laughed in the back seat of the taxi, it was clear they had bonded— two junks who lived to write, two junks who took the untraveled road. 

They walk into Siam Massage, the same Chinese woman is at the counter, Henry says,

We want a couple of gals that can suck the knobs off a hubcap.

Two lovely Asian girls appear and the four of them walk arm and arm down a dimly lit blue hallway to separate rooms. 

Henry falling asleep as he is getting massaged, wanting to go home and go to bed, it was 4 AM.

He leaves the massage joint and walks a few blocks to his Queen’s digs, wondering how it went for Jim Carroll at Siam Massage? 

Henry never saw Jim Carroll again. They—two overly sensitive souls, connecting at the heart for a night. 

It was a million to one shot alright.  


Only the Gods Know for Sure

Henry needed music to write, he liked all kinds of music, mostly blues and rock. Bukowski would write into the night listening to Brahms and Mahler, Buk fueled by drinks. 

Hunter S. Thompson would wake up at 3 PM in the afternoon and start the day with a screwdriver, a Dunhill cigarette, then snort some cocaine, then another cigarette, blaring loud music, rock & jazz from an oversize set of Bose speakers, assorted music, whatever moved him—  Miles Davis's album, Sketches of Spain, The Rolling Stone's album, Let it Bleed or the Brewer and Shiply's song, One Toke Over the Line. Typing away on an IBM electric typewriter, he had busted out a long time ago, breaking new ground as he went along.  

Henry had his own style, he didn’t write like anyone else. The books he saw on Twitter were unreadable to him, romance novels, spy books, mysteries and the like. 

 The joy of writing for him was reading his own work. He figured truly bonafide writing ended sometime in the seventies, there weren’t any— Raymond Carvers, Phillip Exeters, Charles Bukowskis, Jack Kerouacs or Hunter S. Thompsons out there anymore.

It was the same reason, and only the Gods know the why or how of it, that today's culture wasn’t producing any Jesuss, Abraham Lincolns or Gandhis—maybe it was a gradual and insidious dumbing-down of culture from the seventies to the present.

Henry would stay wasted and keep writing, he would write drunk and edit sober. Editing sober on rare occasions only, when the liquor store was closed or wouldn’t deliver.  

Maybe the Gods had a plan for the world— They would send Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln(and Elvis too) back when they were good and fucking ready. Face it, it was something that had to be left in Their hands, Man never got the shit that needed to be done right anyway, Man always fucking up in this way or that, even though the Gods put everything Man needed right in the freaking bread basket.

And so it goes, Henry looking for a quote that summed it up, the stuff of the Gods, the stuff of Man, the disappearance of real and original in the Twenty-First Century. But, there weren’t any quotes out there that nailed it down—one thing for sure, if the Gods knew they weren’t telling and Man didn't have a fucking clue. 

Enough of the sh—iittt, anyway

Going forward—

It was one of those days, a spring day in New York City, a day when people of all kinds were brazenly falling in love all over the place. A day to smoke dope on a quilted blanket, have a picnic and get wasted in Central Park—a drop-dead gorgeous and beauteous day, a day for anybody who tuned into it and turned up the volume some.  

Henry writing in his Queens apartment with the windows open, the fresh spring air electrifying, tantalizing his senses. 

Sitting in front of an open window, looking out at nothing, waiting for the evening to go out into IT, wanting to meet IT head on. IT, the stuff the Gods were broadcasting in the sky, the love musk seeped through the clouds into the springtime air.        

Finally out the door at 8 PM, thinking of Hunter S. Thompson saying—breakfast is the only meal of the day, he walks to the Lucy's Cafe in the Bowery for some cheap eats. He orders eggs, toast, fried grits with maple syrup, kosher hot dogs, and spam. He washes the fair down with some brewed coffee and cream mixed with whiskey, all in all, great stuff. 

After eating Henry goes to Times Square lookin for cheap thrills, love out for Henry tonight, he didn’t feel wired for it regardless of what the Gods were seeding the clouds with.

Henry pays 9 dollars at the ticket booth of the last burlesque club in Times Square, a place called The Strand Arts Theater. It was a theater setting without a live band, the music was chosen by the strippers, piped in by the same guy who did the lights. 

Henry sits in the back row, the place was well, musty and mildewed, wet somehow, the painted cement floor seemed sticky.  

He breaks out a flask filled Jack Daniels and takes a few hefty gulps, then snorting some cocaine from a small bottle with a spoon, retro style —up for the show as they say. 

The first act was a gal who called herself Ivy Madison, a tall blond who wore her hair Marilyn Monroe style, she had oversized tits and nice legs,  she wore a red outfit with easy open and close seams and fishnet stockings.  She stripped to an album by the Tijuana Brass and some music from a Spaghetti Western, the music added drama. 

The shoes were the first to go, kicked backstage somewhere, the dress taken off in parts, and finally the gee string and nipples covered with pasties. As she exits the stage she tosses a key into to the audience of a few and Henry catches it.

He felt like the bridesmaid who catches the bridal bouquet, attached to key was a note written with a felt pen, come backstage to room 6.

The next act starts, a gal called Gypsy Daniels does a pole dance to Motley Crue. Henry walks backstage to room 6 and knocks on the unpainted metal door. Ivy opens the door, she is dressed already and says,

Let’s get outta here and go have a drink,

Henry says sure doll,

the two walk out the alley exit of The Strand Arts Theater.

They go to a joint called Rudy’s not far from the Strand Arts. Ivy orders a Seven and Seven and Henry a double Jack and soda. As they begin to talk he can tell that Ivy is educated and bright, he asked her,

why are you stripping? She says,

oh, it’s a long story baby, but after a bad marriage I was left in debt big time, I had to take the first job I could find and it happened to be at The Strand Arts, the pay is good and it’s easy. When I’m on stage it’s a turn on, my nipples get hard because I know guys are looking at me, horny for me, I don’t really focus much on the audience but we have a full house on the weekends and at the end of the month when guys get paid.  

After talking over a few drinks, Henry realizes that he likes Ivy, and says to her,

whatcha say we get a room and shack up for the night baby, she says,

Henry, that would do me just fine doll.

They get a room at a place called the Park Nightly Hotel not far from Rudy’s Bar, you could pay by the hour. 

In the room, Ivy says to him, 

I’m not a hooker Henry I like you, and he says,

I like you too baby, and maybe this can be a regular thing with us, not just a shack up for the night. 

Ivy takes off her black jeans and unzips her knee high fake snakeskin boots, not stripping really, Henry strips down as well to his boxer shorts.  

They lay in bed half-naked and talk for a while snorting cocaine and drinking Jack Daniels from a bottle, feeling warm, then Henry kisses Ivy on the lips, a deep nasty wet kiss, they ball for a while, it was semi-hot sex. 

Later, Ivy hands Henry a paper with her  phone number on it and says, 

I  gotta get some rest baby, let’s hook up in a few days and hang out, he agrees saying 

Ok, babe, I’d like that. 

Henry takes a taxi back to Queens, feeling drained, the next day he goes through his pants pockets and notices he has lost Ivy’s number.

That night he is back in the audience at the Strand Arts Theater, when Ivy comes on stage she looks at Henry and waves.

Maybe the God's had spritzed Henry and Ivy with some of that love musk, who knows? 


She Blind-sighted Him

Henry sick allot, almost everyday— it was one of those things, one thing or the other, headaches and joint pain, feeling powerless on a summer evening, somewhere between 1970 and 1980.  

Henry, 43 — years of daily drug and alcohol abuse had takin its toll all right. Laying in bed with his curtains shut tight, writing on an electric IBM typewriter, sipping Jack Daniels out of the bottle for medicinal purpose, all day into the evening. 

Then, when the sun goes down he can go out— because, the sun and any source of bright light made him feel uncomfortable, photophobic, which isn’t a phobia but is a sensitivity of the eyes to bright light. 

At any rate, in the evening he would take a hot shower and force himself to go outside and walk the city, working through his pain, ignoring his pain—oddly thinking if he missed a night of walking the city streets he would die, clearly death anxiety or as Freud called it Thanatophobia. 

And yes Henry had childhood issues to boot, he was raised by a deaf nanny, didn’t know who his father was and didn’t see his mother Helen Lucowski much because she would disappear on drunk benders with any bum who could keep up with her.

His deaf nanny, Nil could speak, but not clearly, she could read lips though, so when Henry wanted to make a point embracing this or that issue he would put his head in front Nil’s and exaggerate his lip movement and shake his head to make sure that Nil knew he meant business. 

Nil was in her thirties and attractive. Being deaf and having to stay at home with Henry most of the time limited her life, and she was a virgin. 

When Henry was 12 he tried to fuck her, but she fought him off.  He never hit on her again, but he drilled a small peephole into her bedroom through his bedroom closet and would watch her undress at night. She would masturbate from time to time, he enjoyed the show but wondered why she wouldn’t fuck? It was obvious she liked the feeling, maybe it was some kind of moral contention. 

Henry didn't know what made Nil tick, she did what was expected of her but not much more. She took care of Henry until he left home at 16. He never saw Nil or Helen Lucowski again. Later in life by chance he saw Helen’s obituary in the Queens Gazette—the only details given in the obituary were that she died of Psoriasis of the liver in Little Sisters of Poor Queens, Henry not surprised and thinking she was lucky to die in a warm bed and not in a Bowery dive.  

He often wondered if Nil popped that lovely cherry of hers, sure that she got laid eventually, wondering who the lucky guy was who got it?     

After leaving home in the late 60s Henry shipped out with the Merchant Marines, this was a period of liberation for him and he took full advantage of the ship's library and exchanged books with other readers aboard— reading everything he could get his hands on, Henry Miller, The Buddhist Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, Lawrence Durrell, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Jerry Kozinski, Shakespear, Coleridge, Yeats, Whitman and allot more. Reading the Beats turned his world upside down. 

That’s some of it, the sordid and odd stuff of how Henry progressed into what he is— a sexist, underground, cult-hero who was too lazy to publish his work, hanging on to life, in constant pain, fighting-off the shit coming his way.  

Finally out the door of his Queen’s dig, needing to go anywhere, hungry and heading to Chaim’s Deli to nosh. 

Sitting at his regular booth his waitress Ruby greets him saying, 

Henry, you’re a sight for sore eyes, if you don’t show up to eat regularly everybody here thinks you have croaked in your apartment or something. 

Henry says,

I’m on my last breath all right Ruby, death is my constant companion, if I don’t keep on moving I will die in place, I think if I stop drinking Jack Daniels my heart will stop as well.

Ruby says,

I don’t know Henry I haven’t given up on you, and I love you doll, even though you’re not long for this world, hahaha!

Ruby’s laughter nervous and confused, the laughter of a half-truth spoken without much thought.   

Henry says,

How about a Kosher meal to bring a nearly dead man back to life? I’ll have some Gefilte Fish, Borsht, some brisket and a Bialy, and how about a tall Seven & Seven to wash it down. 

The meal brings Henry to life, walking out of Chaim’s Deli he says hello to everyone in the place on the way out, feeling like the world was his for the moment. 

After eating Henry walks the streets,  then lighting and smoking a joint. He reaches the Bowery, a bum, a guy they call Fried-liver smells the pot and says,

that shit doesn’t do nothin for me, why I’d take me a re-rolled butt and a big ole bottle of rotgut any ole time. 

He keeps walking thinking Fried-liver might have a few brain cells left but like Henry or any chronic boozer, Fried-liver could drop dead any moment. 

It was the Freudian thing surfacing again—nobody knows when they are going to die, it is impossible to calculate but everybody has a death and survival instinct, sometimes as in the case of chronic boozers and bums, the instincts are out of sync and balance. 

Anyway, Henry needed a drink and he found himself in Chelsea at a dive called Billymark’s West, EST 1956, a dark cave-like place with a jukebox, the walls covered with stained wood and framed posters. The regulars a weird tribe of folks, most of whom had been there drinking since noon, of course, Henry felt at home straight-away. 

Henry was drinking shots of Mescal, not hallucinating yet but feeling pretty good. He notices a MILF type slash X cheerleader type blond women walking in the door alone, she sits at the bar. He buys her a drink and she some comes over and sits next to him, he can see she is built from the floor up and looks as though she could be a Playboy Bunny, she then says,  

I’m Cindy Sherman I’m a Photographer, I have been putting together a show at MoMA, hanging my pictures, working all day and I need a drink dear, what’s your name? 

He says,

Henry Lucowski, I’m a soon dead underground cult figure and writer.

As Cindy Sherman talks on about her new show, Disasters and Fairy Tales, Henry could tell that she was more than just sexy, she had an intriguing face, like a Beat woman of the fifties, shrew-like.  She goes on to talk about her work to Henry and says,

You know in my portrait work, I photograph myself dressed up and made up in odd ways, wearing wigs, different type poses in other-worldly environments using diverse lighting. My goal is to deflect the gaze of the viewer and to turn them on to their own societal conditioning. 

Henry says, 

That’s really marvelous kitty cat, hahaha, just looking at you reorientates my sexual conditioning. 

Cindy Sherman gives Henry a nasty look and he senses things that things have turned bad quickly, she then says,  

Henry your very existence and who you are is everything wrong in the world that I'm trying to expose in my work. A sexist man in the world of oppressed women— the 60s pin-up girl who was supposed to be a good girl but still put out, the ambivalence and impossibility of the role that men have forced women into. 

Cindy Sherman then knocks him off his bar stool onto the dirty tiled floor and stomps on his face, breaking his nose, saying, 

That's from every woman in the world for every fucking sexist man in the world!

Everybody in the bar cheers and applauds.

Cindy Sherman the liberator then walks out the bar.

Henry gets up and the bartender hands him a bundled up towel filled with ice and says,

Well, champ you better get your nose looked at, 

Henry pays his bill and walks out of the bar, trying to hold his head up as his nose drips blood into the wet towel, humiliated and feeling awkward. 

He gets a taxi home to Queens, as he sits in the back seat he thinks to himself,

I didn't see it coming, that bitch stomped me good, she blind-sighted me all right!


A Million Dollars Worth of Wisdom

It was one of those days, a summer day, you know the days, the peak days when everything feels like love, love is everywhere. 

The smell of Jasmine Flowers blooming in Central Park flowing through the city mixes with the scent of diesel fumes and smoke from barbecue pits in Harlem. The whiff engulfs you, it is the unshakable smell of summer magnificence sometime between 1970 and 1980.      

Henry up early, 9 AM nursing a gallon can of German beer, unable to get the hang of it, trying to suck it down but missing allot— unfiltered beer (whatever the fuck that means) agonizingly drip, drip dripping on his bare chest, leaving him feeling sticky and awkward. He then eats leftover ginger fried rice from a to go container with chopsticks from Ho’s, in Chinatown. 

Lost on booze and ganja, thinking about LSD, Orange Sunshine to be more specific, Orange Sunshine an other-worldly story. Henry a Puck-like half naked Beat, AWOL from the Air Force enters the sacred acreage of Yasgur’s Farm at the Woodstock Festival without a ticket walking leisurely, not thinking much. Then out of no where, and I mean no where man— a lovely wood nymph hugs him and gives him a hit of Orange Sunshine —Orange Sunshine a kind of eternally happy happy to the end of the Universe and back again dope, synthesized by the happiest man in the universe, Tim Scully, a Canadian chemist with an eternal smile who has happy hap-pied his way into the hearts of some of the best pussy in Canada. 

Aside— Figaro Lucowski

Dear reader— you are reading work that is all the way bonafide, take it any way you want, take it the way you feel when you read it, it doesn’t belong anywhere or to anybody.  

Henry losing this story, it was lost from the beginning. Lately, every story an attempt go further out. 

Losing his mind was on-going for Henry—the shrinks at Queens Welfare Office wanted to lock him up at Riker’s Island. He was intuitive and knew the shrink’s game, he frustrated the shrink’s at every turn, vague and making a joke of it all. They couldn’t figure out what made him tick, he was enigmatic. 

It was known by most on crazy pay in Queens that the shrinks hated anybody who was smarter than them and many a smart ass found their way to Riker’s Island.

What was happening at Queens Welfare Office and on Riker’s Island—the crazy pay folks versus the shrinks stuff, was the stuff Ken Kesey wrote about in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The shrinks humiliating the crazies in muted ways, Kesey says it like this.

It wasn't the practices, I don't think, it was the feeling that the great, deadly, pointing forefinger of society was pointing at me--and the great voice of millions chanting, 'Shame. Shame. Shame.' It's society's way of dealing with someone different. 

The difference between Henry and the character Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was—Henry could slip under the cracks, he was invisible and would do everything in his power to stay out of the joint or nut-house. McMurphy seemed to be powerless over his fate whereas Henry felt very much in control of his. He was no hero and didn’t want to be a hero, he saw American Heroism as a myth that needed to be repeated over and over for whatever reason. He was an antihero as was Randle McMurphy. 

It was 8 PM and Henry needed a break, he had been writing all day. 

He was thoroughly wasted on beer, so he snorted some cocaine in the bathroom as he washed up. 

He leaves his Queen’s apartment and gets a cab at street level. The cabbie a black dude says,

You like poetry brotha? James Baldwin is reading at the Harlem Academy tonight, it's a fundraiser! 

Henry says, 

take me there! 

Baldwin was known in the black and white world for writing the truth. He wasn’t afraid to expose the skeletons of racism and oppression in America. He wrote about the physic damage suffered by blacks and how they dealt with it.  

When he moved to Paris in the 50s it brought him out of the trapped feeling of being black in America. It also freed his mind to look at the world as a whole, writing about the higher values that all of humanity, people of all colors share became a theme of his.  

Henry paid the cabbie and thanked him, the cabbie says,

I’m parkin my taxi and going to hear Baldwin read myself. 

Harlem Academy was a brown brick school building and the reading would be in the auditorium, Henry paid 10 dollars at the door which was donated to a scholarship fund.  

Henry is early so he sits up front, he takes a few swigs off a pint of Jack Daniels he has in his breast pocket. The auditorium fills up quickly, a mix of black and white people, mostly intellectuals. 

A black women wearing a green Boubou, an African dress, with weaved hair, says, 

The Harlem Academy thanks everyone for coming here tonight in support of scholarship. James Baldwin is a man of America letters who needs no introduction in Harlem—ladies, and gentleman James Baldwin. 

He walks out to the middle of the stage, he has horn-rimmed glasses on, a black suit and white shirt, no tie. He is surprisingly short, but he face reveals a huge intellect. 

He says in Swahili,

naomba kupiga picha?

He takes a few snapshots of the audience with a Polaroid camera. 

He then says, 

I would like to read some poetry tonight, I rarely get a chance to read poetry in public. 

He shuffles through some papers and begins reading a poem called, Staggerlee Wonders.

I always wonder
what they think the niggers are doing
while they, the pink and alabaster pragmatists, 
are containing 
and defining and re-defining and re-aligning 
nobly restraining themselves, meanwhile,
from blowing up that earth
which they have already 
blasphemed into dung: 
the gentle, wide-eyed, cheerful
ladies, and their men,
nostalgic for the noble cause of Vietnam,
nostalgic for noble causes,
aching, nobly, to wade through the blood of savages—

Oh, noble Duke Wayne, 
be careful in them happy hunting grounds.
They say the only good Indian 
is a dead Indian,
by what I say is, 
you can't be too careful, you hear?
Oh, towering Ronnie Reagan,
wise and resigned lover of redwoods, 
deeply beloved, winning man-child of the yearning Republic
from diaper to football field to Warner Brothers sound-stages,
be thou our grinning, gently phallic, Big Boy of all the ages! 

Salt peanuts, salt peanuts,
for dear hearts and gentle people, 
and cheerful, shining, simple Uncle Sam!

Nigger, read this and run!
Now, if you can't read, 
run anyhow!

Henry realizes James Baldwin is the hippest man in the world, and his truth-saying is cutting but not without humor. 

The last reading is from his book The Fire Next Time, which is a suggestion that black and white people should transcend what they think they know, fear, understand and believe for a higher idea, and that America is both a country and an idea that is handicapped by a narrowness of thinking. 

Blown away by it all, wondering how James Baldwin got so connected with the truth? 

Henry takes a taxi back to Queens at 1030 PM.

10 bucks at the door of Harlem Academy gets you a million dollars worth of wisdom he thought


The Gods were in Town

It was one of those nights, a summer night, a Saturday night, a sexually charged night when those who could shut themselves away in red-lit rooms and balled like there was no tomorrow— they had to do it you see, the Gods were in town spraying sex musk all over New York City. 

Henry horny, he called Ruby and May his massage girl on the phone, feeling left out of the city-wide love fest. 

Ruby answers her phone, she’s at Chaim’s Deli and she says impatiently,

Jesus, Henry you ass-hat, there is no way I can come over and fuck you now, we are really busy and I’m bustin my ass.

May at Siam Massage had bookings the rest of the night. 

Henry showers and grooms himself with extra care, dousing himself in a designer cologne that would send-off a hunky sex scent.

He would go to Manhattan and find a woman. 

Walking through the Bowery he passes a group of bums, one of them a guy they call, Shit-can, who says, 

holy fuck Henry, that perfume you got on is makin me thirsty, you got any with ya? Give your ol buddy Shit-can a hit will ya? 

He waves off Shit-can and keeps on walking, insatiable, on a mission, his balls driving the car. 

Up ahead he sees the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan beyond— a blue haze rising up into the sky from Manhattan. The sex-Gods cooking up a witches-brew no doubt, Henry would dive into the fucking soup head first.  

He goes directly to the Rudy's Bar, a dive by Manhattan standards with an unpainted, termite-eaten exterior and a neon sign, red lights and rusted, from the 40s. He sits at the bar, the place filled with folksdumb kids, Walmart shoppers and over the hill bikers. Henry leaves without ordering a drink. 

He goes to Lucy’s a few blocks away, walks in and sits at the bar, in need of a drink. Lucy’s looks like a place Charles Bukowski would drink in, the grey ceiling tiles moldy and warped. A few barflies were there, their heads in their hands and their elbows on the bar. Henry orders a triple Jack and soda and goes to the toilet, locking the door, spritzing himself with musk and snorting a few lines. 

He goes to the jukebox and puts a quarter in, playing Walk Right In, sung by the Roof Top singers, Honky Tonk Women by the Rolling Stones and In the Pines, sung by Dave Von Ronk. Praying for mojo he sits at the bar for an hour or so, taping out rhythms to the music on the bar counter.

Then an absolutely stunning women walks in and sits at the end of the bar. Henry gives her the eye and says,

could I buy you a drink doll? She says,

you smell like a Tijuana pimp, whatever it is you bathed in today, the cologne or horse piss, whatever— it’s bloody awful, the answer is no, not interested and don't call me doll, asshole.

Henry thinking— I guess that means no,

he finishes his drink and leaves Lucy’s, going out the back door, not wanting to walk pass the she-monster at the front of the bar, fearful that the scent of his cologne might send her into a violent rage. 

It was 2 AM and everybody in the city was balling their brains out in hot red-lit rooms everywhere except for Henry.

He takes a taxi to Chinatown feeling defeated, deciding to give his passions over to the opium-Gods. He pays the cabby and walks a few blocks to Woo’s Laundry. He knows the drill, he knocks on the front door and a 50 something Chinese women dressed traditionally lets him in and says,

hi Henry, come in!

The basement dimly lit, full of addicts, some puffing and some in dreams, a few Chinamen and a few black dudes. Helen, who let him in takes his hand and leads him to a dirty mat on the concrete floor. She tells him to lay down and relax and fills a pipe with tar, Helen lights it and he puffs, soon he is off into a dream. 

He is sitting in lotus position in a red circus tent, Tibetan prayer flags, every color of the rainbow waving wildly from mountain air coming in through an open canvas flap. He sees a group of Berber's spinning in place as they play JouJouka, Sufi trance music, he is getting higher and higher and he hears a voice saying,

slow down Henry, slow down, you can’t come in.

Then the Hindu spirit-God Vishnu appears walking out of a cloud. Vishnu a man and a woman, with long black hair, made-up, wearing earrings, dressed in a flowing red blue silk Gagra Choli, Henry could smell Jasmine flowers, Vishnu says to him,

Henry, you can't come into Bkuha Luva, the good kingdom, you are chained to earth, you live in the Black House of carnal lust and material pleasure.

Vishnu disappears into the same cloud, he, she or it, gay for sure, came in on. Henry feeling sheepish, happy he kept his mouth shut. Vishnu— pure as pure and true as true, white as rice too. 

Then he feels a cold wet cloth on his forehead and Helen says,

Henry you ok? You were sweating and your eyes went back into your head, I was worried about you.

He wakes up, shaking it off, stung some but back to life. He pays Helen, walks upstairs and goes out the front door of Woo's Laundry, getting a taxi home to Queens.

Henry thinking in the taxi on the way home that he was happy on earth and loved sex, dope, booze and food, all the earthly pleasures.

Surely, he was doomed to spend an eternity in the Black Housewith everybody else in New York City.  


You Aint no Errol Flynn

Henry was a contrarian similar to Bukowski—who reveled and laughed all the way to the horse track at Santa Anita as he sipped beer wrapped in a paper bag and watched the working stiffs driving the opposite way on the turnpike to work in the City of Angels.

Henry lived off of crazy pay and a small inheritance from an uncle who owned a coat hanger factory in Pencil Dick, Pennsylvania. He would write all day and go out at night. The opposite of Bukowski who would write, drink and listen to Brahms late into the night.

Fritz, a regular reader of Henry’s work @ Busted on Empty, had been encouraging him to send his work to some publishing houses. Henry dumb-fucked and lazy, seeing it as busywork. 

Writing for him was more about the process than the end result. 

Creative people, the unknown ones, all think their work will be unearthed from their graves and discovered as the posthumous work of a genius— as if it made any difference in the scheme of things.  

As far as Henry was concerned people could piss on or burn his work if they liked, any reaction was better than no reaction at all. 

It was 8PM and he was hungry, so he washed his face and went out for some fresh air and a meal at Chaim’s Deli. 

The year was sometime between 1970 and 1980, it was fall.

The night air was chilled, there was a thin crescent moon in the blue sky, radiating a flat feeling.    

Henry at Chaim's Deli sitting in a booth. Ruby his regular waitress comes over and greets him with a  smile on her face, saying,

Hi sexy,

Henry smiles and orders a Rueben Sandwich, coleslaw, cream soda and a double shot of Southern Comfort. 

After finishing his food he walks out the back door of the Deli through the kitchen into the alley. 

Ruby joins him and they smoke a joint and snort a few lines of cocaine. 

Henry kisses her goodnight and walks outside, going any direction, ending up in Harlem. 

He can hear a belly full of blues coming out of a juke joint up the street and he sees a blue neon sign— Pineu’s Place.  

Henry pays a few bucks at the door, not surprisingly he isn’t the only white in the place. 

The headliners are two Chicago players, Mike Bloomfield and Junior Wells. Bloomfield a junk and a genius, Wells played with Buddy Guy allot, playing from time to time at the Chess Club on the Southside of Chicago. 

Henry sitting at the bar drinking Jack and Coke, getting way down into the music, the guys playing staples like Killing Floor, East-West, Stormy Monday and Sweet Home Chicago.  Bloomfield was a genius, a guitar god who had played with Dylan and Paul Butterfield. Henry had never heard anybody play quite like he did, he had a style of his own, all kinds of blues.  

At intermission, Henry walks backstage to the break room like he owns the place, the security guard, a 500-pound black dude thinking Henry was a musician lets him by. He goes into the break room and Bloomfield is laying on a sofa, his face is flush, he has a hangdog look on his face—he is strung out and needs a fix. He says to Henry, 

can you help me brotha? 

Henry says, 

Hey man, I know where you’re coming from, give me 20 minutes, no big deal. 

Of course, scoring  junk in Harlem was nothin, Henry walks 50 steps out of Pineu’s Place and sees a black dude standing in an alleyway, the brother says to him,

you got a itch man? Henry says, 

you bet I do!

He scores some brown Mexican junk and goes back to the break room of Pineu’s Place, handing the packet to Mike Bloomfield, who takes it in his hand, looking thoroughly relieved. He cooks the shit and shoots it as Henry watches. After he settles into the fix he stands up and cooly walks back to the stage, getting down to business and playing one amazing set.

Henry never fixed, it scared him, he snorted dope.  

Sitting at the bar again, banging down Jack and Coke, enjoying the head on set, a tall black girl in a red dress, built from the floor up with long legs comes up to him and grabs his cock, saying, 

you got some stick for me white boy and, I’ll have a Seven and Seven. Henry says, 

what’s your name baby?  She say’s 

my name is Queenie doll, but you can call me Flo, he knew Flo was a pro and he says, 

I’m Henry.

Flo says,

Let’s go out back and I’ll suck the juice out of your cock baby, 50 bucks. 

Henry goes out back with Flo, they snort a few lines of coke, she loves it. Then he powders his cock with cocaine from top to bottom like Errol Flynn did in the 50s. Flo sucks him for 20 minutes and nothing happens. The cocaine had a numbing effect, the Errol Flynn story was bogus he thought. Well, no difference, he gives Flo her money and she walks down the alley and onto the street, shaking her ass and holding her head up high.

He goes back into the bar and sees the show is over— Bloomfield and the rest of the guys had split already, there were only a few drunks left in the house, Thelonius Monk, Straight No Chaser was playing on the Juke Box, he walks out onto the street. 

It is 1AM in Harlem, you can smell barbecue cooking and there are a lot of black folks walking about, the men and women are arm in arm. Harlem was alive at all hours, it never slept. 

Henry still loaded and jacked up, goes into a soul food restaurant called Mary & Lou’s Red Hot Soul Food. He sits at the counter and orders a sweet potato pie to take home and a standard plate—  beans, rice, okra fried chicken, cornbread. It’s 130AM and the place is packed, Lou comes up to Henry and smiles saying,

how you doin brotha? Would you like some rice puddin? On the house! Henry says,

why thank you Lou, May and Lou’s Red Hot Soul Food— best fried chicken in town. 

Then Flo the hooker walks in making a big show of it, shaking her whopping black ass— she has the attention of everyone in the place and she says in a loud voice, looking right at Henry,

why it’s the little white boy with the little bitty stick, Henry you aint no Errol Flynn!