Bowery Time After Leaving Dave’s Place
Bottles And Cans Explode
Back at Sandy’s, I found the apartment door locked. I didn’t know
when Sandy and company would return, so I went to the East Village to hang out. When I got there it was around 10 p.m. and I figured I had at least a couple of hours before I could go back to the apartment. After I walked the streets for a while I went into a
greasy spoon and bought a cup of coffee with my last dime (money
borrowed from Jim). The greasy spoon bordered the Bowery, the area of N.Y.C that was home to a lot of homeless winos.
Inside, it was crowded with no place to sit. Occasionally, one or
two winos would come inside to get warm. I was standing directly in the path of the wind that came rushing through the door, so with my back to the door I found myself staring at three winos lying on the floor drinking from a shared brown paper bag. Through the window, I watched as another wino crawled on the sidewalk. I went outside to help him to his feet and when I tried to pull him up he came at me with every swear word in the book. When he pushed me away, I looked up and saw that the people inside were giving me dirty looks. I left the wino on the sidewalk and my coffee on the counter, and walked away. Out of view of the people inside, I stood and watched the wino crawl through the door and over to where the other wino’s were passing around their brown paper bag. He managed to get what he wanted without my help. As I walked away, inside, I felt terribly empty. By the time I made it back to the Village, I was chilled to the bone. I wasn’t alone though.
There were five of us standing around a fire that one of the Bowery boys had started when this pig pulled up in his black and white and made us put it out. Without a fire, everybody split except for the small, black man who started the fire and myself. After the pig left we built another fire. Actually, the black man took it upon himself to build the fire, but he made a gesture to me for some help. I was happy to oblige. Together we collected enough burnable material to light up the street corner once again. Standing close to the fire, the little man put his hands on me, and turned my body around. In hardly distinguishable English, he said, “Bottles and cans explode.” This fire was even larger than the one we had before, and it attracted a lot of attention. It even attracted the pig who made us put the last fire out. He must have sensed that more good was coming from the fire than bad because this time he ignored us. This fire was providing heat for some half dozen frozen individuals; true, it was built on a street corner, but it wasn’t hurting anybody. I spent the remainder of the evening appreciating that very old gift, thank you Prometheus.
When I got back to the apartment around 1:30 a.m. the door was still locked. Sometime after 2 a.m., the good time people came staggering home. As I suspected, there was a misunderstanding about the key, but it was soon forgotten. The next day, after I thawed out, I tried putting my feelings on paper. It turned out this way:
On a New York City cold night, under
not so bright lights,
amidst exhaust clouds, horns, and
on a snowy sidewalk,
I watched the San Francisco 49ers
get their asses kicked on TV
through a glass window.
Arms slapping arms,
feet shuffling and biting,
one black man and one white,
salvaged a healthy lot
Hovering over a street corner fire
with no spoken words,
a refuge was found and
a moment of great importance shared.