Tag: Grand Central Station

Black python

Guido Michelini showered in the basement of Grand Central Station. Two quarters in the turnstile for a torn towel and a piece of soap with hair on it.

He wasn’t a bona fide bum. The night before he had $400 in crisp new $100 bills in his wallet that he had just withdrawn from an ATM. Alas, his last. He lost them to a  black whore in the Cavalier Hotel on East 36th Street. A black python of pure sex. She charged him $100 for a blowjob, and while he was still recovering, she lifted the crisp new $100 bills from his wallet and skedaddled out of there. He heard her yelling “Taxi!” on the street below. That’s when he looked in his wallet. She hadn’t taken any of his ID and had left him with a few $5 and $10 dollar bills, which he thought was very thoughtful.

It turned out to be a damn expensive blowjob, but almost worth it, in fact he’d say it was worth it, as he showered in the basement of Grand Central Station while men crapping in toilets without doors looked on. He had to laugh.

He had no credit cards with anything left, but he had girlfriends, and when he was cleaned up and was back in his Giorgio Amani suit, he phoned one of them collect in Los Angeles. He told her tearfully and with appropriate desperation that he had been robbed by a couple of thugs who held a knife to his throat and took his $400 in crisp new $100 bills.

She said, “Oh, baby, come on home,” and said she would put an airline ticket to L.A. on her American Express card. He used part of the cash the python had left him to take a cab to LaGuardia. Then he was on a plane heading for the City of Angels. Oh, baby, come on home!

Guido had several such “homes.” He was a loser, but in many ways he was a winner.


 

Astonishing possible reunion at the center of the universe

SOMETIMES I THINK I SEE MY FATHER. In crowded places. Grand Central Station. Port Authority. Belmont Park Racetrack. I hurry through the crowd to where I think I see him, but he’s not there.

He was a regular at the track. Brown fedora, binoculars bumping on a barrel chest, getting the bookie’s eye, a nod is all it took, five hundred on the nose of a long shot, not a chance, said the odds. Damned if it didn’t win.

He drove a silver Jaguar Mark VII. Mahogany dash, red leather interior, jaguar emblem leaping from the hood. He was always speeding. Racing time. I was the little boy sitting next to him.

Thirty-seven years is all he had. My mother’s brown eyes cried with the rain. The casket was lowered into the earth. I was nine years old. Standing on the edge. Looking down.

Hah! That’s when it hit me. My father was not down there! I don’t know how he did it but at some point in the dreary proceedings he had given oblivion the slip.

This was funnier than hell. My mother was crying and I was laughing. “What’s the matter with you?” she said.

“Daddy’s not down there,” I told her. I couldn’t stop laughing.

She knelt down and put her arms around me. I inhaled the aroma of wet wool. “You’ll be all right, darling. We’ll be all right. We’ll muddle through.”

I muddled through elementary school and the bullying, and through high school and the bullying, and through two years of college to make my mother proud. Then a car crash ended her life at forty-five and I said Fuckit.

I wandered away. No fixed address. I kept a suitcase in a locker at Grand Central Station before all the lockers were ripped out because of terrorism. I showered in the men’s room in the basement of Grand Central. Fifty cents in the turnstile for a torn towel and a piece of soap with hair on it. A procession of hapless men, washing away misery, trying to clean up their lives. Didn’t bother me. It was all life and I was alive.

When the lockers were removed, I adapted. My safety net was a limited legacy from my father. If you were to see me then, you’d see a clean, groomed guy in a designer suit. The best dressed bum in town.

I’m back in New York now, walking east on 42nd Street. I amble with the ease of a carefree man into the main concourse of Grand Central Station. I look all around. I love this place. People with destinations, hurrying to the ticket windows, the information booth, the balcony bars and restaurants, the bookstores, the trains.

Commuters and tourists and students and young and old, waiting for friends and family beneath the astronomical mural of the cathedral ceiling. Humanity coming together. Hugging in reunion. This is the center of the universe.

I look all around. I do a classic double-take. Holy Christ! Sitting at the bar in Cipriani Dolci’s on the west balcony. It’s him! Astride a stool with a drink in his hand. Nothing like a shot of bourbon, he used to say.

My heart speeds up. I walk across the terminal, keeping my eyes on the balcony bar. I climb the stairs slowly. My heart is racing.