That’s how Sarge described our little boarding house this morning.
We were ascending the stairs together, to the upper floor, where we live.
We had gone downstairs to mix with the boys.
I will tell you , in time, how he came up with that savvy descriptive phrase….
Lately we got a good crew of guys downstairs.
There are three ‘rooms’ down there.
A few weeks ago, a middle aged fellow--- a ‘recovering substance abuser’---moved in, and bought himself a 51 inch widescreen newfangled hdtv. “I hadda give myself a reward for gettin sober, yknow?” he said.
He is a lean character, Bill.An oldschool kiddo.
My experience in dealing with this ‘type’ of guy is that all ridiculous prejudices regarding race religion and sexual politics has been erased by hard experience , as it has with me. He looks like a dumb honky to an unascerning eye, but he is nothing like that if you start talking with him. His age? Indeterminate. His story? A cornucopia of spiritual , streetwise development in the head.
A joy to spend some time with.
That what is happening these days. Guy is up at the crack of dawn, playing the local news on his big fucking tv. Sarge is drawn down there, and that is a complement to the guy. Sarge hates just about everyone, not me though.
A deep Georgia boy, Vietnam vet, a 30 year resident in this very house. He is the landlord’s “handyman”. He helps out next door, at the “Ladies’ Sober House”.
So: We got Bill, and we got dear young Collin, living downstairs.
(We also got a very loud African American gentleman from Brooklyn, who is not around much, but when he is, the floorboards vibrate with his voice)
At 6 am the doors open down there. I suppose Sarge drifts down....
The voices drift up to me. Up here. In the upper chamber.
I admit, sometime the rowdy boy talk intimidates me, especially after a night of awful dreams when I feel like a squawling babe needing his (long dead ) Mama’s comfort. I usually turn on my own tiny tv, watch some Law & Order, and get my confidence up to go downstairs, past the boys, sayin maybe “Good morning boys”, as I make my way to the shower.
This morning was different.
I felt like an outcast,
I felt haunted by hideously humiliating dreams, yet I woke at 6 am feeling…confident. Odd.
I heard the boys bullshitting downstairs and wanted in, goddamit.So I threw on my bathrobe and made my way downstairs.
Bill and Sarge sitting at a tiny fold up table with an ashtray fulla butts.Colllin the kid?
In his room, but door open.
I said, “Hey well now. You guys got a breakfast thing goin on now, I see.”
Sarge looked up & winked. “Yessir we do.”
(Odd: everytime Sarge and I run into each other upstairs, heading for the bathroom, we both say the same damn thing: “oh excuse me, sir”. It is a weird dance.)
“Aha,” I said , fulla bold manliness. “And I see why! This fuckin bigass tv!”
Bill piped in: “And the coffee too! need some? help yerself....”
“Ah, but this tv, man! How big be it?”
“51 inches, man!”
“Damn . Thing is mesmerizing. May I come in…?”
“Ya don’t gotta ask, “ Bill said fulla bonhomie.I pulled out a smoke. We watched the news. It was a Sunday morning show about some famous divorce attorney, the one who represented Madonna’s husband, and Giullani.
“Guy got 92 million for Guy Murchie from Madonna!” Bill said.
We watched awhile and rapped easily , smoking. Making butts.
Collin, who looks like a young Caeser, came in, fancy phone in hand.
Sayin: “Hey! Any you guys know how to call for unemployment? They told me start callin today. “
“On a Sunday?”
“Yeah,” said Collin. “ I dunno. They said start callin the 21st.”
Collin lived in a storage closet. I mean it.
It is big enough for a bed, a bureau, and a tv. The landlord used to keep extraneous shit in there then started renting it out. No wonder Collin’s door is always open.As is his face.
“Call now. Bombard those fuckers with calls,” was the summary of what we older fellows told him.
“Uh ok.” We started talking about phones.
Bill told us his phone plan.
Sarge was smirking.
I said, “unlimited, yeah, man, that is the only way to go,” as if I fucking knew. We all conconcurred, in a haze of deadly smoke .
I was spritely and said, “Well I am on a phone plan with my buddy. He got some fuckin fancy phone. A droid? An android?”
Collin said, “yeah yeah man. Check it out. I got that. Movies? In the palm of my hand. Google some kinda shit? Palm of my hand.” He paused for effect, and said, “every fuckin song in the world?...in the palm of my hand.”
“wow, “ I said, standing there with , uh , my boys. All of us sucking down cancer sticks.
“Ah, man,” I ventured, “Aint it all kinda small, there, in yer palm? Waching movies?”
He wasn’t fazed. “Well, yeah , “ he said, pulling down his short hair over his forehead. “It’s smart, man. Only thing I cant figure out is ..... uh, how to get a ring tone.”
Utter spontaneous Uproar. Sarge fuckin started it.Hilarity.
“Yeah well yknow, yer phone is smarter than u, man, you at a disadva…d.. (laughter all around, the kind they don’t write about , the laughter of men in a pack…?) advantage, yo! “
Oh it only went better from there.
Collin was working ‘’under” but also over the table for some goddamn asshole who might mess up his unemployment claim.
Sarge said, “it’s a crap shoot, man”, after we had dispensed various advice, ranging from blackmailing the goddamn boss cuzza the under the table shit, to sucking up to him, to just….throwing a hail mary to the State.
So me & Sarge were trundling up the old crooked narrow staircase to the “upper chamber”.
I said faux-mournfully, “ah sarge. Such an early age for poor Collin to learn how it is.”
“Yeah well we all gotta learn it.”
“The earlier the better I guess”
“Earlier than us, I spose,” he said, pulling out the southern drawl he commanded at whim.
“Yeah look where we ended up though! Here!” I said, hopefully.
I am always trying to imbue the old bastard with hope.
“Yuh. Crack of Butts Hotel”
I laughed and said, "alot worse places, man. Take care"
"You too Jim"
Our doors thumped shut. In the upper chamber.