Tag: New York City

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 The night before he had $400 in crisp new $100 bills in his wallet that he had just withdrawn from an ATM.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.


Loneliness, a beginning

He travelled a long way to get here. Ten thousand miles on a cargo ship. He was twenty years old. He waved goodbye to his mother and his friends on the dock. His mother was crying. She turned and walked quickly away. He wanted to run after her. The gangplank was up. What had he done? He cursed the chief magistrate.

The dock became smaller. It slipped away. All the people disappeared.

He shared a cabin with a religious fanatic who read the Bible day and night. The religious man looked at the shabby paperback the young man was reading: A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud.

“We are all going to hell,” said the religious man.

“Go alone,” said the young man.

He went up on deck. A large beautiful woman was leaning on the railing. He stood next to her.

“Hello,” he said.

She looked at him with contempt.

“Beautiful ocean,” he said.

She sneered and walked away, fat ass swaying.

“For god’s sake,” he said to her fat ass, “say hello for god’s sake, we’ll all be dead soon.”


On the second day the boat steamed into a storm. He had been told when he boarded that the boat had no stabilizers. He didn’t know what that meant until now. The old boat tipped over one way, almost all the way, and then it tipped the other way, almost all the way. People stayed in their cabins and threw up.

The religious man read the Bible aloud: “I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest…”

“A pox on your throat, you bawling dog,” said the young man, remembering his Shakespeare.

He lurched from the cabin, staggered along the pitching passageways and clambered up on deck.

It was daytime but the sky was black. The rain hammered the deck. The wind screamed. He gripped the railing. The boat tipped over almost all the way and then for some reason righted itself and came back the other way.

He was swallowed by the waves crashing over the deck, but he hung on. He wasn’t scared and he wasn’t seasick. He was invigorated. He didn’t worry about the outcome. He lived in the moment.

No one died and no one went to hell and the boat pulled into New York harbor and the young man bade a flourishing farewell to the large beautiful woman, with regret that he would never have the opportunity to unfold her prodigious labia; and flicked an extravagant wink at the religious fanatic, with the hope that he would get to heaven—and then, canvas suitcase in hand, he walked to Times Square.


He was six feet tall and 160 pounds with light brown hair. He was wearing a blue cotton shirt, black leather jacket, blue jeans and black Alfani loafers, all of which had weathered several storms.

He stood in the center of the great city. He had seen it so many times in movies. The packed sidewalks, flashing neon, stunningly beautiful women, rubbernecking tourists, endless streams of yellow taxis, men in hardhats ripping up the street with jackhammers. He was riveted by the noise of it all, the exotic, erotic, overwhelming madness of it all.

He didn’t want to look like a tourist. He kept walking, a man with a destination. He walked to Ninth Avenue and turned right. He had arranged lodging before he left and secured it unseen with an international money order. A furnished room on 48th Street. A third-floor walkup. Number 3C on the door. And inside, a wooden floor, double bed, chest of drawers, black and white television and a tiny bathroom.

He put his suitcase on the bed and unpacked. He opened one of the drawers. A cockroach was already living there. He put his clothes in another drawer and sat on the bed. He looked out the window at the fire escape landing. His own private balcony.

He was alone in the city. He knew no one. He didn’t care. This was his room. This was his address. He was in New York City. He would never leave.

“I’ll never leave New York, brother,” he said to no one, perhaps to the cockroach.

He walked to Times Square. It was now the center of his soul.

“Hello,” he said to a wild-haired girl who was looking all around. “What’s in the knapsack?”

She looked him up and down. He looked all right.

In his room she put the knapsack by the bed. Her body was warm and strong. She was about eighteen. She was hungry with need. He was hungry with loneliness. Afterwards, they slept. When he woke up she was gone.

A week later he received a post card of a print of Picasso’s “Guernica.” It was from the girl with the knapsack. On the back of the postcard she had written in a childish hand, “This is how I felt when I left your room.”


The Art of Homelessness

NEW YORK—Rainbow Johnson lives in a room in the Cavalier Hotel on 34th Street. The bathroom is down the hall. He has a hot plate for boiling water for tea. He eats his meals in the coffee shop downstairs.

Before moving into the Cavalier Hotel, he was homeless in several cities across America.

He was a multicoastal bum, from east to west and north to south. He rated the cities in terms of his experience. New York was a killer; Miami Beach was survivable; Chicago was brutal; Los Angeles was tolerable; Boston was a bastard; and San Francisco was miserable.

It was chiefly a question of climate, both meteorological and sociological. Miami Beach, according to Rainbow, with its sun, beaches and flotsam and jetsam personality, was the best place to be homeless.

“You don’t need much clothing and you can use the showers on the beach that are put there for swimmers. Every day you can scoop up enough change left on the tops of bars to buy something to eat. The bar owners and customers don’t mind.”

Depending on his take from the bars, he could buy a Macdonald’s hamburger or a Subway sandwich with all the veggies, sufficient nourishment for a lean man of no means.

“I managed fairly well in Miami Beach,” he said. “In New York City I nearly fucking died.”

But New York is home to him, and when he received a small annuity from a distant uncle, he came back home. The sum he received allows him to live frugally at the Cavalier Hotel. What would be a lousy life to many people is a sanctuary to a man who hasn’t had a permanent roof over his head for fifteen years.

In that room, on several legal pads, he wrote “The Art of Homelessness,” a slim volume of reflections that was published in New York to good reviews and modest sales.

Appearance is the first order of business for a homeless person, the book begins.

Beg, borrow or steal a decent set of clothes, he advises — another reason favoring warm cities like Miami and L.A., where you don’t need as much clothing as in New York or Chicago or San Francisco.

“An old school friend who became a stockbroker gave me a designer suit he had grown too fat for,” he said. “I wear that suit everywhere I go in New York City. Man, let me tell you, I’m the best dressed bum in town.”