Me Padre, la Cucaracha

Henry was naked and sitting cross-legged in front of his IBM electric typewriter, the windows in his Queen’s apartment were wide open and the curtains blowing wildly. It was noon, sometime between 1970 and 1980, springtime in the New York City. City earth was thawing, becoming pulpy as waking seeds that would grow into flowers broke open. 

He remembered reading Hemingway in high school. Hemingway a true grit writer, manly, a guy who spend hours on a fishing boat reeling in a Blue Marlin, the father of the short sentence. 

Reading in high school and then college he became familiar with opening paragraphs like the one in Farewell to Arms.

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

Henry sips on a Jack and soda as he reads Hemingways opening paragraph, wondering if it was a teaser? 

He picks up a copy of Phillip Exley’s A Fan’s Notes to look at Exley’s opening paragraph. 

On Sunday, the eleventh of November, 196—, while sitting at the bar of the New Parrot Restaurant in my hometown, Watertown, New York, awaiting the telecast of the New York Giants—Dallas Cowboys football game, I had what, at the time, I took to be a heart attack.

Exley’s opening paragraph a stunner, it roused Henry, it was truly marvelous—short and succinct. He tells you where he is, what he is doing and what kind of guy he is. The heart attack which turns out to be a nervous breakdown is an event he builds his story on.  

Hemingway’s opening paragraph speaks of the natural environment he lived and of the soldiers marching by, not much more. Henry thought the paragraph was vague, giving you just enough to spark your interest. 

He wonders if his opening paragraph was like Exley’s, or like Hemingway’s and Exley’s, or unlike both.

This proving that a writer is dumb-fucked when it came to critiquing his own work.

Reading all three of the opening paragraphs and not knowing who the authors were, you might say they were all on par. You might like Henry’s paragraph more than Hemingways.  

It was 8 PM, Henry still naked, puts on a pair of baggy khaki shorts tied at the middle with a rope instead of a belt because he didn’t own a belt, a Met’s t-shirt with a Hawaiian shirt over it and an old straw hat that was ruffled at the rim. 

After walking a few blocks he reaches Chaim’s Deli. The deli occupied the corner of a single level brick building, the entire corner was windowed. Henry sat at his usual booth which had a good view of the street. Ruby his sometimes woman and regular waitress comes to his table and says,

Henry, not bein cheeky or nothin, but you look like a clown. He says,

yeah, a clown trapped in the body of a male stripper, they both laugh and Ruby says,

whataya have sexy? Henry says,

in honor of clowns everywhere, I’ll have a head of stepped on and dirty old lettuce, some rotten bananas, and a large multicolored sucker on a wooden stick to hammer other clowns with, Ruby says,

Henry, you’re such an ass! And he says,

OK, babe, how bout a pastrami sandwich on toasted rye with mustard, some well done french fries, cole slaw and a Jack and Coke.

After eating he says goodbye, pays his bill and leaves. 

It was a spring night in New York City, pure magic. You could smell a mixture of barbecue, burning incense and spilled beer in the air.      

Henry on his way to Manhattan, thinking to himself—

Everybody in the city is going to get laid tonight except me.

It takes him an hour to walk to Lower Manhattan, he goes to Chinatown. He sees a three-story brown brick building with a bar on the first level. The joint has no name, no sign, he can see dim red light inside. 

He walks in thinking it might be a whore house and sits at the bar next to a few resident barflies. They are drunks full of regret, down on their luck, boozing for whatever reason. He sees a printed sign taped to the mirror that reads


He orders a beer and a shot, thinking—

I feel like one of the three lost souls in Sartre’s No Exit, it is eerie here. 

The bartender a middle-aged Chinese woman with a day-glow purple wig on her head, wearing a pair of black polyester pants, slippers and a white t-shirt serves him and says nothing.

After a few drinks, feeling lonely in the creepy dim red light ambiance of the place, he lays six large lines of cocaine on the bar and asked the bartender, 

mamasan I’m Henry! How bout some blow?   

She lights up like a slot machine that hits jackpot, and says,

May love coke Henry, you handsome boy, May suck your cock Henry, make you hot baby! 

They snort the coke and Henry has another drink, then leaving the joint without saying much, no sucky-sucky, it was midnight. 

The bar with no name or sign was queer, grey and existential. 

Henry was attracted to people and places on the edge which occupied an unmapped and hidden world lost in the cracks and crevices of the city.

Henry walks to Midtown Manhattan and goes to a local bar near the Chelsea Hotel called Billymark’s West. It’s a friendly neighborhood bar, he walks in and sits at the bar, the room is filled with locals. 

Billymark’s had a great jukebox— whole albums, the Stone’s Exile on Mainstream, the Beatles Revolver and Merle Haggard. One of the owners, Mark would occasionally say through a bullhorn,


People dancing on the barroom floor, alone and together, men with women, women with women and men with men, it was anything goes New York City. 

A woman that looked to be Henry’s age 43, with a mountainous head of curly hair comes up to him at the bar and wraps an arm around him, saying,

I know you, you’re Henry Lucowski, I have read your short stories in the irrelevant underground rag, Headbanger. I’m Marie Howe, perhaps you’ve heard of me, I’m the poet laureate of New York and I teach at Brooklyn College. Henry says,

the poet laureate of New York huh? Some call me the poet laureate of Chaim’s Deli, regardless, your one hot piece of tail babe— before you start in on me, I’m not sexist, but I do speak with a forked tongue at times, I yearn for the old days when a man could still be a man. Marie says,

OK, Henry, I’m reading this month at the New York City Zen Center, stop by, ok gotta go, bye now!

That was it, Marie gone in a flash! Henry often tested women by making overtly sexist remarks to see if they were cool, well, Marie didn’t pass the test.

It was 1 AM, Henry pays his tab at Billymark’s and decides to go back to Chinatown. As he walked the dark streets and alleyways he has an epiphany—all the booze, drugs and sex in the world can't fill the black hole in your soul. BUT, smoking opium would fill your soul for a few hours anyway.

He reaches Sam’s Laundry and walks to the side door in the alleyway, he knocks hard on the door and an elderly Chinese woman who was always there opens it, saying,

Henry, not see you long time, careful dark in basement!

She leads him to a mat on the cold basement floor, he lays on the mat and she hands him a pipe with a padded mound of tar opium in the bowl. It didn’t take much, he lights it and takes a deep draw.

He dreams he is walking in a field teeming with red flowers as far as the eye can see. He sits down to rest and hears the sound of something thrashing through the flowers, wanting to hide he sits motionless.  

A bug-size man, like a cockroach standing on its hind legs, pushes his way through two flower stems, coming up to Henry. In awe, he sees it is his long-dead father Benny Lucowksi
in miniature. Benny doesn’t waste any time and starts shrieking at Henry, going into a tirade, saying, 

you’re a drunk like your mother Helen, you’re no good, you’re lazy, you sit on your ass all day, get a job!

Benny continues yelling at Henry, his voice stomach-tuning and munchkin-like. Henry stands and looks down on his father, then following an urge he steps on Benny, squishing him into pus. 

Henry wakes up feeling relieved as though a thousand pound gorilla had been lifted off his back. He walks back to Queens, smiling all the way. 

The following week he had an appointment with his shrink at the welfare office, Dr. Hiccup. Henry recounted his dream in the session, Hiccup all ears and very excited, talking about the Oedipus Complex. 

When I waked, I cried to dream again.  

                                         William Shakespeare


Nothing Good or Bad

There are twenty-million things in this world that folks want, but you only need a few.

Give me some weed, wine, easy women, and song.

Chances are you wanted the world and you didn’t get it.

Give me some weed, wine, easy women, and song.

Henry up at noon, singing in the shower, then drying himself and wrapping up in a towel, walking a few steps to his IBM Electric typewriter, still wet, ready to work.

It was sometime between 1970 and 1980, a crisp fall day, the sun doing his job, beaming bright, smiling down on his little brother, Earth. 

Henry up all night reading Deer Park by Norman Mailer. Written in 1955, a wild book about the moonless underbelly of Hollywood— a world full of commies, pimps, cocaine, ganja, booze, fucking for fame, fun and dirty money. 

An environment in which— the mob fucked the police over, the rich fucked the poor over and McCarthy fucked the celebrities over. 

Reading Deer Park you get the feeling that  Hollywood Babylon and the world was going to implode at any moment, birthing an apocalyptic cloud of Palm Spring’s desert dust that rises into the sky. 

Norman Mailer a sundry genius, a Zeus-like figure with a head full of curly electrified white hair, big ears, and king-sized brain. 

He was an enigma, the hipster who couldn’t bear homosexuals, a hipster who could be a mother fucker.   

When he ran for mayor of NYC in 1969 he described himself as being to the left and right of everyone else in the race, a left-conservative. 

Later that year when asked by the New York Times in an interview to describe himself using one word he says— improvisational. 

Winging it as he went along kept his tuned up his mind. In a state of hyper-awareness, Mailer divined which way the wind blew in the American century, thankfully he wrote about it.

Later in the afternoon, Henry took a break from writing— he stares into space for a few minutes, then turning his radio to 99.5, WBAI, NYC blues. Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder playing Statesboro Blues, Muddy Waters singing King Bee.  

He lights a joint and takes a deep drag, high and going deeper into the blues, feeling grand, on cloud nine. 

Seeing scenes of Jack Kerouac, breaking open a Benzedrine inhaler, taking out the speed-soaked cotton strip and putting it in a cup of hot coffee—Kerouac on fire, hearing jazz like he never heard it before, multi-colored-rhythmic notes taking flight into Elysium Fields. 

9 PM, Henry had worked enough and he was hungry. He cleans up and puts on a knee-length brown leather coat and wraps a red and white silk scarf around his neck.

Hunter S. Thompson said, 

breakfast is the only meal of the day!

With that in mind, Henry takes a taxi to a 24-hour breakfast place, the Time Deli Cafe in Times Square. He orders a stake of Buckwheat pancakes, three eggs over-hard, bacon, grits and coffee mixed with Sabra liqueur to wash things down.

After a kingly 10 PM breakfast, he walks around Times Square, looking for anything and everything, wanting it all.

He notices a notices a neon sign, Olga’s Therapeutic Massage, somehow he new the joint was anything but therapeutic. 

He walks inside and eyeballs a garishly furnished room. Behind a small bar is a beefy Russian woman with weaved hair who says in a heavy Russian accent, 

would you like some wadka darlink? 

Standing at the bar he asked Olga for a double shot, she pours the shots and says,

My name is Olga darlink, there are six ladies here tonight, all from Ukraine, vat you want darlink? Full-service massage, fifty-fifty, coffee and cream, two on one, humpty-dumpty? 

Henry says, not knowing because he had never heard of fifty-fifty, coffee and cream or humpty-dumpty of all fucking things! 

full-service I guess,

Olga rings an electric bell and six stunning women, dressed in high heels and second-hand fashion dresses walk into the room and and line up, posing model-like. Henry then says,

How about the gal in the green dress on the left? Olga says a few words in Russian and the gal in green walks up to him saying,

hello dear, I’m Svetlana, I’ll be your hostess tonight. 

She takes him by the hand, leading him down a long dimly lit hall that was lined with flower patterned wall-paper, they reach a red door and walk inside.

Henry surprised to see a full sized bed and a leather sofa, not a massage table. Svetlana lights some candles and then takes off her dress—she is wearing a garter belt with black stockings, a push-up bra, and underpants open at the crotch. Turned on he sees that her bush is shaved in a heart shape. 

Svetlana pours two shots of vodka and hands one to him, they are sitting next to each other on the sofa in front of a coffee table and she says,

Oh, darling I simply hate this life, I’m so bored with it, night after night I cater to old and sweaty fatsos, I just close my eyes and pray the pigs will cum soon.  

Henry surprised Svetlana has bared her soul to him lays a dozen fat lines of cocaine on the table, rolling up a dollar bill and saying,

Here you go doll, this should raise your spirits!

She pours two more shots of vodka and they snort the lines. 

Svetlana tilts her head up, leaning back on the sofa, her eyeballs rolling upwards into her head, she says,

Oh, I’m so high darling, Henry you're a life-saver, a guy like you is an easy lover. 

She then unzips his pants and licks his cock and balls with her tongue for an eternity, then swallowing all his cock deep-throat style. 

They strip down and fall into bed, fucking like wild animals, then settling into more romantic love, deeply kissing french style later coming together. 

They lay back in the bed and Henry rolls a joint, Svetlana says to him,

during the day I study cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education, I have another year, I can’t wait to finish so I can stop selling my pussy to the fucking pigs that come here!

Then, a bell rings in the room and she says, 

oh, times up baby here's my phone number, I want to see you again soon, not in this dump though. 

They get dressed and walk down the hallway to the small bar at the entryway. Svetlana does a kind of a curtsy and turns around and walks out of the room. Henry asks for the bill and it's a stunner, over 500 Dollars!

He didn't carry that much money and didn’t have a charge card. So he asked Olga if he could go to an ATM? She says, 

OK, Bruno will valk with you to make sure you not run on us! 

A mean looking Russian with a Bratva tattoo of Saint George on his neck walks in and grabs Henry's leather jacket with both fists, pulling Henry towards him so the two are face to face, Bruno simply says, 

don’t get smart with me motha fucker! 

Henry goes with Bruno to an ATM, withdraws 500 Dollars, knowing that he will have to eat canned beans for the rest of the month because he is broke, luckily he has a few bottles of Jack and some blow stashed away.

He gives Bruno the money and walks back to Queens, wondering if Svetlana’s hot pussy was worth the bucks. 

The next day he calls her and hears a recorded message saying that the number is out of service. 

It was a woeful experience, getting lied too by a Russian hooker and blowing 500 Dollars! 

In the end, what could one do but seek out the wisdom of the wiser man? 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare


The Teahead Bishop of Queens

Henry working as usual through the day, sipping Budweiser in a mug filled with ice, soul-searching as he typed on his IBM Electric typewriter— wondering if he could write? 

It was summer, sometime between 1970 and 1980.

More than a few, but not a swarm of so-called friends had told him he was good, but was he good? 

As an unknown writer—  you wrote because you had to, or wrote because you loved it, or wrote as an addiction, which after the math was a cop-out because everybody who writes wants to be publicly known and lionized by world literati. 

The story of the hungry artist, as often told on the written page and in film, how the artist struggles, broke and hungry, sending manuscripts everywhere, auditioning and such, going through the motions day after day until the exercise backslides into sleepwalking. 

And finally, the day comes for the chosen few— the day they make it. Making it always followed by romps in the hay with hordes of hot-bodied groupies, endless phones calls and offers, walking down the street and being mobbed by people who forcibly put felt-tipped pens in your hand, asking you to autograph body-parts or clothing. 

Buying a house in the suburbs, a new Cadillac and joining a country club.  

You know the scene? Most have seen or read about it many times in film and on written page, and we just can’t get enough of it.

Henry pads down a mound of hashish into a Moroccan hash pipe, lights it and takes a deep draw of smoke and holds it in, exhaling slowly.  

Standing on the small balcony of his Queen’s apartment, looking at the ant-sized people walking the street below. He waves his hands in the air as he recites passages of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl, screaming the lines—

Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

Who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,

Henry blessing everybody in the world from high—for the moment he was the teahead bishop of Queens. 

The day gone in a heartbeat as the sun falls into the night. 

A summer night in New York City— people letting go, seized by a collective buzz that could be felt all over town.     

Henry walking to Chaim’s Deli, smiling as he looked up at the night sky, happy to be part of it all.  

At the deli, he sits in his favorite booth. Ruby makes her way to his table real sexy-like and says,

Hi doll, I was reading your short stories in the irrelevant underground rag, Headbanger, you know the two, Asian Swamp Rats and The Monkey Gods, Henry you are really good, I love your work! Henry says,

what did you like about the stories? Ruby says,

when I read your stuff I feel like I’m hovering on the ceiling looking down at you, close to you and all, you’re dreamy baby and you have literary insight. Then Henry says,

does reading my work make you feel horny?  Horny enough to bring Sheila your hooker friend to my apartment for a threesome?  Ruby says,

oh yes darling, yes!

Ruby and Shiela Henry's groupies— 

It was a sign that being publicly known was in the cards for him, just a crap-shoot away.  

Ruby says,

whataya have doll?  Henry says,

just liquid today Ruby, a bottle of Jack Daniels, some ice and bring the soda siphon too. 

Later, Ruby brings him a bowl of pistachio nuts to munch on, he drinks for an hour or so, half a bottle of whiskey, leaving the rest of the bottle for next time. 

Henry decides to walk to Lower Manhattan and places some lines of cocaine on a police box outside of the Chaim's Deli, snorting the lines.  

Once in Manhattan, he goes to The Black Cat Coffee Shop, a place with old-time atmosphere— brick walls framed with wood-beams, full of antique lounge chairs, sofas, and wood tables. 

Henry orders a poor-boy sandwich that is bigger than the plate it is served on and some black coffee, he nods off, going into a dream. 

Waking in a few minutes, he sees a women sitting at his table, staring at him and smiling. An attractive blonde, her hair is in a milkmaid’s braid, Nordic and Germanic looking. She says to Henry,

are you Henry Lucowski the writer? I have read your stories in the irrelevant underground rag, Headbanger, I love your work, he then says to her,

yes, I’m Henry, who are you and why are you sitting at my table staring at me?  She smiles and says,

Oh, I’m Uma Kline, I’m an actress, I’m in an Off-Off-Broadway play at Here Theater called Skin Tight. I sat here because I had seen your picture in Headbanger and I like your face. Henry thanks her and she says,

Henry shall we go to my place and have a drink?  It's not far, we can walk there. He says,

OK, coffee shops bore the hell outta me.

As they walk Uma grabs his hand, her hand is warm, her warmth is appealing. 

They reach the Chelsea Hotel, Uma lives there, Henry hip to an A-list of literati who have lived there over the years—   Mark Twain, Herbert Huncke, and Quentin Christ to name a few. 

They ride a cage-elevator up to the 11th floor and get off, he follows Uma to her room and they go inside. 

It is a rectangular room with a black and white tiled floor, purple patterned wallpaper, lush red velvet curtains and an antique desk against the wall. 

Henry sits on her bed, Uma pours Jack Daniels out of the bottle straight up into high-ball glasses. She hands Henry a drink, then she strips down and places a mat on the floor and starts doing naked yoga. 

She goes into the Happy Baby pose, lying on her back opening her legs into a y-shape and holds the position, deep breathing dramatically. 

Without hanging-back Henry goes down on Uma's well-plummed muff and tongues it in bonafide fashion.

Uma the sex-meister knew every position in the book, she twisted Henry's body about as he banged her rhythmically, then losing control and blowing his nut. 

The sex hounds done-in, fall asleep arm in arm. 

Henry wakes up at noon and sees a note Uma has written in lipstick on her full-length mirror saying— 

See you tonight at Here Theater madman, tickets on my desk, kisses Uma.