Drowning in a Pool of Monday’s Rain

The weather man on Channel 2 is a red haired fella with black horn-rimmed glasses. He’s a dapper little fella and always makes a crack pertaining to the previous news announcement from the charming presenters on the morning show. He is introduced with such regularity; it would be impossible for him to not be annoying. It may be every 7 minutes or something as ridiculous as that.

This Monday morning I turned on the T.V at the once unthinkable hour of 7.30 a.m. Now I have to admit that it’s become very thinkable, ever since Clare introduced me to morning T.V. The announcer who reads the news was on, a likeable fella with slicked back hair and some kind of sinus problem, I always look right into his face to see where the sound problem is coming from. I can clearly hear the squeezed pressure in his voice, and yet he shows no visible tightness in his nose. After his brief update on the latest news he made his usual announcement – “And now over to Billy Elliot for the latest on the weather”. I thought to myself “here we go”: Billy seemed to hover in under a bleak fog and cloud swamped concrete shot of Manhattan skyscrapers.

“Take a good look at this, and get used to it” he perked with a wobble of his head and a smirk.

“This is what it’s going to be like all week l…o…n…g.”

This is Wednesday, and I’m way behind on my Monday morning blog. I have been so incapacitated by the weather, I found it impossible to write. This evening we were so exasperated, Clare and I looked at each other and both blurted HELP!!!!! We called up our friend Carol downstairs and said “where can we go?” She suggested this place over on 14th Street – 5 napkin something – and we went there for their happy hour. Six glasses of wine later (for two) and 2 sliders (small burgers) and some sushi yokes, we came out of there $60 lighter, and braved the Irishy sea fret back home.

On the street there was a lot of tension, people were arguing. A tall, sixtyish black woman, sat on a stoop beneath a scaffolding arguing with an angry man with an Eastern European accent. He shouted in a heated rage.

“When you gonna gi-me dat durty fy dollahs you owe me?”

They both looked like they had a few, and a white male friend looked on with bemusement.

“you neva gonna let dat go are you?”

“How many times I godda ask?” he shouted, his small nose now curled up in anger above his six o’clock shadow.

“We made a arrangement dat you seemed to forgot, but you aint neva gonna let me foget are you, no never!!!”

“Why should I fo-get, you neva paid me back, it’s durty fy dollahs, you got no principle”

Soon their blood pressure voices trailed off behind us, Clare linked me as we headed home towards First Avenue, in the cold fog.

New York’s not normally like this. Bad weather of this description, usually tails off after a day or two. But this is hanging in there, and according to Billy Elliot, the weather man, it will be like this until Friday.

And then I recall my 19th year in Dublin, walking through a leafy park in the soft afternoon rain, a small park designated to the memory of some old wealthy west Brit, paid for so that the likes of me could have a place of green to daydream in away from the traffic, a place of green for me and a memorial for them, so that the world would remember they once had been here. I, almost hallucinating from the lack of meaning and direction in my life, with the regular companionship of rain and weather mixed with teenage pain, the desire for love, for success, for meaning, for an answer, felt it was such a potent cocktail that it rendered me numb and beyond the ability of intellectual appraisal. I may have been severely depressed half the time, but didn’t know about that kind of thing really.

Now, here I am moaning about five days of rain, after living with fifty in a row, repeatedly in my Irish youth.

New Yorkers are ripping each other to pieces because of it, in Ireland we turned it into art. What else could we do, there were no therapists.

Why do Italian restaurants make such a big deal out of pepper?

pepper photo for blog

Why do they keep the pepper off in a sacred place? They make such a big deal out of it. The table has a little white porcelain holder with sachets of brown sugar, white sugar, fake sugar – two different types of fake sugar actually, and salt, and of course ominous in its absence, the star of Italian cuisine PEPPER!

If there was no salt and I asked for some, I would get my own salt cellar or a small dish with an unhealthy helping of that historically relevant powder. But if  I should ask for pepper, there would be a “one moment please” reply, and a disappearance into the back to procure the precious spice. It feels like we should almost genuflect when it is brought out, a large wooden phallic-shaped device is maneuvered above your food and the large knob at its head is turned two or three times, if you look hard some tiny motes of dark dust will have landed on the food, the waiter appears to be saying “surely that’s enough?” and you reply to his tacit expression “That’s good, thank you” even though I would like some more, the guilt is too great, I don’t want to be greedy do I?

But wait a second, it’s just pepper, it’s not truffle. It’s a big yoke with a dollar’s worth of pepper corns inside of it, I bet those sachets of fake sugar cost more. And at this rate of usage, it must last for a week. You can buy these pepper corns anywhere around here, with great ease. They aren’t sought out by special pigs in deep leaves at the base of a swollen tree!

When my sandwich arrives – a small spinach omelette type of thing in a heated croissant – it’s pretty good. This is an Italian café at the corner of 10th Street and First Avenue, it is run by real Italians and the latte is authentic with a rich brown coffee cream on the top – it sets me up for the European vibe of the sandwich, it’s small and I’m fine with that, not that hungry anyway this morning. My eyes immediately scan the table and the ominous absence of pepper only leads to its greater importance. I don’t want to annoy the waiter, it’s breakfast, it feels inappropriate to ask him to bring it out into the sun from its resting place to the sidewalk where I listen to two New York women bullshitting each over-affectionately, and with rap music pouring out of every car stopped at the traffic lights; it seems sacrilegious to bring the pepper out here, just for my breakfast. So I just eat the bloody thing as it is, all the while thinking that it’s good but could use a sharp flavor to cut through the buttery croissant and add colour to the neutral tasting eggs. And you know that the waiter is holding, it’s written all over his face, he’s like an undercover cop, you know he’s got the power, you know he’s got a gun behind there, he doesn’t need to show it. He will only produce it if he has to.

The two women finish their espressos and leave, they kiss and hug, one of them would be honoured to be involved in whatever it is that the other one was proudly proffering, they walk away.

Five minutes later one of them returns and orders my sandwich. The pepper remains in its sanctuary though, awaiting the evening worship.

Madama Butterfly

Met Opera House Madama Butterfly Pierce Turner Bloig

The flu came on Friday afternoon, my sister Bernie and her son Gareth arrived in New York on Sunday afternoon. We planned to prepare a nice Sunday roast for them as a New York welcoming. But I was a pale version of myself that day, the shivering had ceased, and the muscle pains, but I was limp and incapable of expending any energy. So we regrouped and decided to have a very New York delivery of pizza from Stromboli’s on the corner of St Marks Place. It was a good idea, and with a nice salad, we weren’t too glutenised. It was Gareth’s first visit to NY so he got a bit of a kick out of the large pie box sat in the middle of the table with its Italian motif.

On Wednesday we continued the Italian theme with an evening at the Met Opera House for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – I adore Giacomo Puccini’s orchestration, and we sat way up high where (cheap seats) I could watch the orchestra following the masterful direction of the conductor. Puccini had come from a musical family, they had dominated the area – Cattedrale di San Martino in Lucca – where they lived for over 120 years, all church organists, one after another, and when Giacomo’s father died, his talented son was in line to do the same, but he was only six.

However, in his early twenties after going through the conservatory he did take over the organ for a while. As I said, I have always loved his work, but it’s been a while since I last witnessed one of his operas live. Many thoughts came to mind, firstly that the original Met had been built by the same man who created the church where I recorded my new album. Secondly, I could hear the organ in his orchestration, sometimes it sounded like a huge organ, with more moving parts of course. And then I thought about how I may have been sub-consciously seeking this while recording in the church, through the organ! It has such a human quality, with the wind blowing through its pipes, it can sound like flutes, or trumpets, or like a full ensemble.

This Friday morning, I took my family to the church to show them around. Madama Butterfly was still ringing through our ears when I sat at the organ and played an improvisation using an array of sounds, I was inspired, Puccini was in my heart. I believe that there is another album in this church. Madama Butterfly finally chased away the cobwebbed flu residue. Music has saved me once again.

If you are in New York maybe you can come share the love with us this Sunday 17th at the Harp 45th st and 3rd Avenue-6pm. It will be a special night I believe, after the Church and Puck Fair, there is magic in the air.

Love px

 

Forty dollar cup of coffee

N Y Skyline

The house is creaking like an old ship; I hear a woman’s voice that I don’t recognize in the apartment up above, she is talking to a higher-pitched male voice than the usual tenant who lives there. Could it be Airbnb or just visitors from out of town? It’s definitely someone who is experiencing new things to speak about, I can hear the relish in their voices. A truck beeps its reversal warning somewhere in the cavernous collection of random sounds that siren, shout and scrape out there in world behind this house. Even though that world back there – referred to as Alphabet City – has transformed from drug-addled poverty to upscale restaurants and valuable real estate, I still think of the front of the house as the place the important stuff happens. The front is where the numbered Avenues begin, First through Tenth, as opposed to A to D.

“Is that the phone?” My heart raises.

“Oh, it is the same ring but muffled, must be the next door phone.” Disappointed, I sink back into the mattress, wish the bell would ring or something; even the postman would be a lift. I never knew raindrops could be so loud, and the tick of that big old secondhand clock that we bought on the street, there goes a church bell, the hoo hoo of the turtle doves that come to our window to eat the flowers, a fire engine scream, a staccato truck brake, and the building never stops creaking! What the hell is that about? It seems to be groaning at the weather, it is a miserable grey wet day, very reminiscent of Ireland, the building seems to wince at every raindrop.

I’m lying in the bed on Monday morning with the flu. I went to the gym on Friday morning and worked a little harder than usual. Instead of just riding the bike for a half-hour aerobic I ran for 15 minutes too, at a fair pace. And then I did a little extra on a few of the weight yokes, came home, had a hot bath, and was feeling a bit sore. Thinking that it was because of the extra stuff at the gym, I dried off and sat on the bed to put on clean socks and felt the urge to just lie down for a second afterwards. About a half hour later I woke up feeling really sore, a bit confused, I dragged myself out of the bed “God I’ve got to get going, I’m wasting time here… I know! I’ll go across to the Italian café and get a latte to go, that way I’ll get some fresh air and some caffeine”. It was bizarre weather on Friday, the temperature soared to 78 degrees, so I put on a t-shirt and shorts. Boy, everything hurt; just lifting my leg to shove it into the shorts was a strain. I decided that I would take forty dollars with me for the coffee, on the way there I would amble past that Korean massage place and see if that bloke was in there, maybe I would get one of their half hour deals for $24.99. The bloke was the best, I had tried it before and got him by accident, he had been sitting behind the counter while the other ladies stood around, I talked to him because he seemed like he worked there, not knowing that they all did too. He worked on my shoulder knot and was getting somewhere when I heard a bloke come in and ask in a booming voice “Is the man here?” They answered in subservient broken English, next minute a woman’s voice is whispering furtively through a slit in the makeshift door behind me, he whispers back, and I can feel the hands change on my neck, I could hear the men talking in the reception as she continued the job with her small hands. That’s how I knew he was the best, he came back in five minutes and the hands changed again, and the difference was huge.

Once I got outside into the blaring sunshine, I felt that coffee was not an option and proceeded to the massage parlour. Mike was there they said (found out his name) and he came out from his lunch to sort me out. But when I left there I was even worse and was only barely able to walk home, I got in bed and my head was on fire, it dawned on me then, that I had the accursed flu.

So here I lie in my empty apartment, Clare is at work, the world is in school. Watching the television or reading gives me a headache, so I listen to my mind having a field day with my …. mind? Apparently I’m a complete fuck-up and no matter how good my new album is, no one will give a shit (according to it/me /him) I can usually shut the bugger up, but maybe that’s why we get the flu, so that he can a word in. Every inch of me hurts, even my hands! How fondly I remember last Thursday, of course I didn’t know how well off I was then. Where did I catch it? That ould one behind me at the gym sneezed countless times all over me and never covered her mouth, I even threw her a look, she looked puzzled, she was always a cantankerous prat, is this house sinking to the south? Can you get the flu from a sneeze? I’m falling asleep once again, zzzzzzzzzz

Last Night I Had a Dream

A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner's performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he

Last night I had a dream.

I had a dream last night that I wrote the perfect hit song. I was able to look at it objectively and decide that it had all the necessary content to be a hit. It had a catchy melody, but not obvious, it twisted slightly just when you thought you knew where it was going, and after turning that mysterious corner, just as you were feeling a little lost, it returned to a hook that looked and felt like home, like the familiar wallpaper of my parents sitting room, it made me feel at ease, a hand in glove, and it broke into groove with slight edge making me want to dance. Remember this was a dream, so there were no practical issues that could interfere with the appointed outcome, also, because it was a dream it may have begun with the outcome before it started, so it could be pre-designed to not fail. Maybe I wished that I could write a hit song and then dreamed that I did, so therefore I knew what I wanted before I began, so being that it is a make believe world anyhow, there was no reason for my wishes to have any obstacle to impede their conclusion.

However, there was a snag. I sat there looking at the song for a while and thought of what the consequences might be if it was a hit, or should I say “when” it was a hit, in the dream there was absolutely no doubt, I just needed to put it out there. It was all very clear and exact in the dream. If I put the song out it was going to be a huge hit, it would be all over the radio, it would have millions of hits on YouTube, instead of booking venues that hold 100 to 300 people I would be playing in six thousand seaters like Radio City Music Hall. The newfound wealth that would come with this played no part in the dream at all by the way.

A cold plastic feeling came across me, I could see the song as an island of architectural precision, it was like a ship or a spacecraft, everyone wanted to get on board it, and it was clear to me that it would sink, crash and burn pretty soon after it was launched with all my present friends on board , some new ones would die too, when it was over there would be no-one left, and no new ones interested either. It was a one hit wonder, I would live in the world of novelty for the rest of my days. It was horrifying to me. When I woke up, I lay there on my back staring at the ceiling fan stood still with a cobweb reaching across to my signed Angela’s Ashes in its zip-locked bag on the shelf above my head, one day it might be worth something? Money! Fame, fortune, I believe that I once assumed those things would come my way one day, lately I have become more and more skeptical about that outcome. But I have to say that dreams can straighten out this kind of confusion. I woke up this morning with a slightly clearer idea of what it is that I want, and a little more sure that I may have known all along. Just like the dream, I planned the outcome before I began.

Either be there or you’re a putz!

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

I may be digressing, or maybe this is progression. One time I played five times a week, and had a team of roadies to set up my gear, all I had to do was get in and out of the bus. They even strung my guitar. And all the rehearsal and preparation was to perform in front of thousands of people a week, albeit, usually as an opener for someone else’s audience, often the wrong one, still it seemed to make commercial and artistic sense to everyone.

Now I am spending all my time rehearsing and preparing to perform in a church for a one-off performance on March 12th that is purely for the sake of art and the repair of a stained glass ceiling. Is this nuts? I am carrying amplifiers up and down stairs, turning on the speaker on the left of the church and running around the horseshoe balcony to the other side to turn on the right. Setting up the mike stands, plugging in the pedals and the keyboard, arranging rehearsals time with the pastor, the sacristan and all the musicians who are working for free, the sound man and the videographer, screaming for publicity and …oh figuring out the set list and memorizing the songs and arrangements for myself. A couple of rehearsals ago everything was perfect as we ran the set, we were cruising along through “You Are Leaving” when suddenly I realized that I had forgotten how it went! So much time is going into all the other stuff, including with a capital A ..administration! So I went home and began to rehearse MYSELF – put myself staring at the wall and performed for the pictures. I was sure that all these songs were embedded in my brain, but when we are rehearsing, at first, we tend to focus on the tricky parts for other musicians to pick up, and sometimes things have to be tailored differently for live performance or a different line-up. It’s very important stuff, but it can mean forgetting to focus on just singing a song from beginning to end. However, if one keeps an eye on it, it’s a process that comes back to my awareness that I have to start singing to the wall if I have to. This week I know it will all come together and I know that artistically it is far superior to what I did before tens of thousands when I was on the road – including the sixty thousand at Glastonbury unfortunately – it’s exciting to know how special it will be to perform in the perfect acoustics of this church, I hope you are there to witness it. The audience will have a natural surround sound. Behind them, Nic on the grand organ and piano, and in front guitars, bass, vocals, trombone and drums. I wish we (and wonder if) we could perform there more times (residency in a church, yikes) it is so much work for one very special evening. If you are in New York or nearby and you have a paltry excuse for not being there, you are a putz.

But I still love you, Pierce x

 

The Blog! I nearly forgot the Blog, the album has taken over!

Battery Park photo

The blog, the blog, jays I nearly forgot about the blog. I’ve been watching the Oscars all night, the back of my head is embedded into this cushion, it’s not comfortable, and it hasn’t been all night for some reason. And yet I insist on continuing watching and keeping away from the computer. I swore last night that I would take the day off today by hook or by crook, and that I wouldn’t go near the computer, because it is sucking the eyes out of my head.

Yesterday, Saturday, I rehearsed in the church, our first full rehearsal with the organ and the full ensemble. It was by and large a great success, but hard work, we didn’t have a sound engineer yet, so I had to run up and down from the altar to the organ loft a lot. When I got home Clare had made a very nice meal and she had gone to Trader Joe’s to get the shopping alone, she was looking exhausted after working all week and commuting back and forth in the over-crowded subway. I felt bad that she was working so hard on her day off, and was worried that I was turning her into a musician’s widow.

So I decided to take today, Sunday, off (which really means, no computer) and to be willing to do whatever Clare wanted to do. It turned out to be a sunny Spring-like day, and a good plan. We went down to Clare’s favourite restaurant by the water looking over the Hudson River towards New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty. Ferries criss-crossed in the gleaming sun as we sipped wine and split caprese salad and dipped Italian bread in peppered olive oil. Clare deemed it a perfect day and her face glowed with radiant evidence. We got speaking to a beautiful couple with their 18 month old son. His mother was a high-spirited French woman with that certain open smile French women can possess, and a natural beauty that defies the use of make-up. She and her Argentinian husband live in Williamsburg Brooklyn and were doing what we were doing; pretending they were in Spain on holidays. They asked us what we did, and when I told them I was a musician, they wanted to know “What kind of music?” I dodged the impossible reply by giving them a card for the album launch at the church on March 12th. Who knows maybe they will be there, Clare swears that they will.

Then we came home and started watching the red carpet stuff before the Oscars. I thought I would lose my mind, it was so boring looking at all these beautiful women, ruined by shit over the top make-up and sparkling dresses that promote the designer above their wearer; interviewers telling them that were gorgeous!! By the time the actual Oscars came on, Clare was so tired she went to bed, and I forced myself to watch it without ever once picking up the computer. After two and a half hours of pure shite, I decided to go to bed myself. I started turning off the lights, and just as I was about to don my long white sleepy shirt, I realized that I hadn’t written my blog. So here I am on the computer after all.

The response to the album so far is very exciting, it feels special. If you have a favourite D.J please tweet them about it. The album hasn’t gone to radio yet, but it would be great to have them wondering about it ahead of time. Please don’t burn it, but don’t keep it a secret either, in this day and age, the internet word of mouth is all powerful.

Love Pierce x

Give the dog a trombone

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

We started minding dogs through a website that offers boarding jobs for animals. At first we did it for the extra dosh, but right away we realized that it would be good for us as an animal fix too. But nine times out of ten when a dog is offered to us, we are unable to take them for one reason or another.

By the way, if you are in Europe and you didn’t get your Pledge CD yet, it’s because I made a miscalculation and didn’t send enough to my pal Paul in Dublin who is sending them out for me. He will have them very soon, and yours is on the way – sorry!

So where was I with the dogs? So, yesterday, a woman firefighter got let down, and at the last minute asked us to mind her dog Carla. I had a rehearsal planned at my apartment for the same time, but went ahead with it anyway. Fred Parcells arrived from New Jersey with his trombone, Andriette Redmann brought her skills to play bass and sing, John Rokosny brought his acoustic guitar with the built-in tuner (both came from Brooklyn where they live together), Mark Brotter brought some skins for percussion from around the corner. Kath Green had to see her mother in Pennsylvania and Nic the organist needs the church organ, so I will see him separately (we are rehearsing for the Premiere in New York of “Love Can’t Always Be Articulate” on March 12th – 7.30 pm). We went through “Billy Sunday” to get the tambourine part and the bone going. Then we hit “Life’s a Gas” with Mark on the sticks (claves?) then applied bass, skins and bone to our guitars on “Sorrow is a Solid Feeling”. It all feels so fresh and inspired to me, there is nothing conventional about it to bore. And then the dog arrived; it’s a big dog! A sweet friendly one that wants to play all the time. Straight away she discovered the tennis ball under the couch.

“Will someone throw this for me?”

“Not right now, Carla”

I sing: “I am Billy Sunday and this what I do”

“Pant, pant, can you just throw this once, please?”

Clare came in and took Carla to the kitchen.

This is going to be a slow burn; we will release this CD to the world at the pace of my life, the scenic route to the summit. Beginning with a very special experience at the The Gustavas Adolphus Church on 22 Street and the corner of 3rd at 7.30 p.m. on March 12th. Spread the word and lets pack this event, we have some really big shots coming, including Martin Mills, may be the most important indie record company executive on the planet, owning XL (Adele, Prodigy) 4AD (The National, Bon Iver, The Pixies) and many more. He signed me to Beggars Banquet originally and still likes what he hears, ye never know. And Ireland!!!! Are you ready? June 11th at the Unitarian Church Stephen’s Green Dublin tickets now on sale – details HERE

Remember lads I need you, word of mouth is powerful, but even more so now because we can reach the world through the Internet. Please encourage your friends to strike a blow for us, the man on the street, the un-superstars, share, tweet, spread the word. Order the album from us HERE.

Love Pierce x

P.S. Carla goes back today, she’s lovely.

To Kiss a Man

First Avenue

First Avenue

We went to our favourite restaurant in the village the other night. Our friend Chris came down from Westchester for his birthday and we went together to Pylos over on 7th Street to celebrate it. Pylos serves gourmet Greek food, the kind of Mediterranean food that they say makes you live longer. It’s the kind of place that you need to book in advance, once you have been there once you’ll go there thrice. And all those thrices add up to backed-up, it’s always good, and people always go back, so it gets booked up.

The owner, Christos, is Greek as is his manager Alex and many of the staff. Christos greets me with a kiss on both cheeks, I’m getting into it, but I’m always a little reticent. I come from Ireland, no actually I come from Wexford, and that’s not the same as coming from Dublin. A Dubliner might give you a kiss, but you won’t be getting one in Wexford.

The other night Alex was on duty and I greeted him as vivaciously as possible, I was ready for him, and threw myself at him immediately, offered my upheld hand for a hi-five while he offered me a hug on top of it, we got a little mangled and I lost my bottle when it came to the kiss. He knew what was going on and retracted a little, it’s extra complicated because Alex is gay and I worried that he thought that that was why I was hesitant, I also thought that he was being sensitive to the fact that I knew he was gay and might think that I, like an idiot, thought that he wanted a kiss for another reason. I felt bad that he was uncomfortable and the whole thing was ridiculous, not a big moment, but I wanted to kick myself. Alex is such a nice bloke.

The Ireland that I grew up in wasn’t very kissy. And it wasn’t hand shaky either. You only shook hands with someone if a close relative had died. And you only kissed a woman if you were courting, or making out, as they say in America. When I returned home after my first three years in America (I wasn’t allowed to leave while I was applying for a green card), my mother met me at the airport with my brother Paddy and his wife Kathleen, I kissed them all except Paddy. That was the first time I had kissed my mother since I was a baby, babies got and gave plenty of kisses of course. What surprised me was how easily it came to us, it was a motion that I had picked up in America, and she liked it.

Now of course there is a lot more social kissing going on in Ireland. But not man to man very much. And some women are uncomfortable with being kissed too. I tend to adjust to the situation very quickly. My sensors are on from the moment I enter someone’s home, I am ready to kiss or shake hands, or bid good day from a distance. But my wife Clare insists on kissing everyone, regardless of who they are, so I have to kiss em too. One woman was so uncomfortable she blurted out with restrained annoyance “of course you love kissing, you have to bloody well kiss everyone” I was thinking “jays, no I don’t” I wanted to cancel the action entirely, but Clare was already halfway around the room kissing big red-faced men and shuffling women, they were only too happy when I stopped short with a wave.

I have to say that there is something lovely about a man greeting another man with a kiss. My friend Pat McGuire, the great Irish-American singer, always greets me with a kiss, and I feel genuinely that it is about deep friendship and affection, he is a very warm person, and it seems that shaking hands just doesn’t cut it. It never feels uncomfortable because he has no hesitation, and right away we know that we are really glad to see each other, there is no uncomfortable small talk, we have already knocked down the wall.

Maybe European men experience this all the time, it certainly seems that way from here.

Henry and Delores Part 3

Back-yard-photo-2

That evening I told Clare about what happened, and she was sympathetic, seeing that I was plainly upset. She had no answer however, and was just as confused as me, and surprised. I found myself searching through our recent encounters, looking for instances when I might have accidently blanked him during a walking daydream, or done something that he witnessed and disapproved. But it was a futile exercise, because we really didn’t know each other properly, and to boot, I wasn’t close enough to him to bring up such an intimate discomfort. We knew each other to see, and to exchange frivolous pleasantries, but we weren’t “in” enough to fall out. I just had to suck it up and hope it wouldn’t happen again. But it did! The next time he was talking to the Puerto Rican guy that owned the Bodega on the corner. Before it had closed he ran a pretty successful business there with his brother Peppi, however their replacement renter had made a mess of it and had to quit, leaving it boarded up for the best part of a year. Ironically, I knew Peppi’s name but not the name of his much friendlier brother. Henry was always pally with the friendly brother, and here they were having a right old laugh about something outside the now busy Bodega. “Goodnight” said I with the wave of my hand, doing the best I could to not seem hesitant – they both looked at me as if they were saying “do I know you?”

Now this is where you may begin to question this writer’s character: Henry’s second blank was a shock to me, but not the friendly brother guy, he had blanked me a couple of years ago after several years of charming exchange. I was so offended I didn’t bother with him again, he had always seemed like he loved himself too much – but not Henry, he was special. What in God’s name was going on?

The next time I saw Henry, I didn’t have any choice but to blank him too. Every time I saw him from then on was horrendously uncomfortable, and the hurt stayed with me for hours beyond. We continued to be friends with Delores however and I wanted desperately to talk about it to her, but couldn’t. The years went by, the cats grew older. Alice died at the age of nine; her genetic weakness had caught up with her. She was panting her last breaths on my lap when the young vet Jana arrived in her skintight checkered slacks, she kneeled down to look at Alice with compassion and on her way up she caught a glimpse of my escaping emotion. At first I hadn’t cared much for Alice, she was too scrawny with big ears and a rat’s tail, but with time I stopped being an asshole about her, she was just an innocent animal after all. Prejudice, as usual, was just an outlet for sanctimony. After living in New York for a few years Alice’s kidneys had begun to fail and the vet instructed us on how to give her dialysis. Every day we would hang a bag of saline water from a hook that I had screwed into a wooden shelf above the bed, and Clare would bravely insert a large needle into the folded skin on the back of her neck, going through this with Alice raised my affection for her considerably. Now I sat there rocking her as she reached for her final breath, extra torn because of my previous callousness towards her, her tiny life was slipping away on my lap.

Jana the vet gently laid Alice out on our bed where we had shared our fearful routine for a couple of months, however this needle was to be her last one. Jana was a sensitive generous person, and we became friends with her after that, bringing Frankie up to her at the Animal Hospital for his booster shots and any other ailments that he might have. One day we noticed that he was limping and hesitant about jumping up to the back window where we kept his cushion. Jana had him x-rayed at the Animal Hospital where she worked uptown. She had grown very fond of him over time, he was a strong gentle animal, and never caused a fuss, a sort of Zen presence.

The Animal Hospital is a very slick place, geared up for effortless financial intake. They take your animal with one hand and credit card with the other. An assistant in blue medical overalls took Frankie away while we sat on the red enamel chairs in the large waiting area akin to the waiting room in an upscale private clinic. It can be an entertaining place to sit if you are not worried about your reason for being there. If your attention is not taken by the sniffing of a large dog or a terrier, your curiosity is aroused by the site of exotic birds or something small like a gerbil or a budgie, cats, snakes, mice, rats, you name it, all carried delicately by their concerned owners.

I needed to call my manager about a meeting that was proposed for the following day. Things weren’t going well between he and I, he had recently handed me over to an assistant manager, and another artist with a squeaky wheel mentality seemed to be taking precedent over everything. I was speaking to his assistant when Jana sheepishly came over and softly pulled me by the index finger towards an enclosed room. Clare was already inside the small room sitting on a chair facing me as I entered, Jana seemed nervous and her sad brown eyes betrayed any professionalism that she projected behind her white coat. With a shaky hand she took a large negative out of a folder and clipped it into a box light up on the wall, She pointed at the black negative line of Frankie’s rib cage, inside it there was a cloudy mass of white, Jana pointed with a shaky finger “This white stuff is not normal, I’m so sorry to show you this, but this is – she stopped to take a deep breath and gulped – some kind of cancer” We stood there, all three of us, staring up at Frankie’s rib cage, hoping to stare it away. Normally in a situation like this, the doctor is the hard ass that keeps a check on reality, but Jana was not only a young vet, she was also a friend now, and as she had put it, had a crush on Frankie. Clare had said more than once that he was the love of her life (I didn’t mind, he’s a cat after all) and I loved the little bastard too, he had been sleeping on my head for years. But I hadn’t time to get emotional; the two women beat me to it. Clare started to cry,

“Isn’t there anything that we can do at all? I love him so much, he’s the best pussycat that I have ever had” now sounding like she was about six years old. Then Jana lost all control of her composure, I knew she had been holding it in, And I was holding on to mine for dear life in case….just in case.

“Well all I know is if it was my kitty……..” exploding tears like a burst water balloon, her face and frame now small and shaking. “I would give him chemo …. to … try and reverse the damage…or at least slow it down”

I tried to hug the two of them, as sad as the situation was, Clare and I caught each other’s eye and shared the hilarity of what was happening. Jana showing this kind of humanity meant that she was in with us for life, especially with Clare, vulnerability is the key to her heart.

Delores noticed that Frankie wasn’t out on his cushion so much anymore, and asked Clare one day on the street if he was all right. We were sitting in our kitchen when Clare told me, I had just received a box of new albums that Beggars Banquet had released called The Compilation, a “best of”. We reminisced on how long we had been aware of Delores and Henry, I had made around ten albums during that time period, and this was technically an eleventh, but why did Henry stop speaking to me? It was still a bewildering mystery. Clare said that I should go to him now and reach out by giving him a copy of the album.

“Just go down the fire escape and say hello to him, give him the album”.

Our kitchen window was wide open, it was a lovely summer’s day, and Clare had just waved at Delores, seeing her put a mop out to dry outside her own kitchen window. “Fuck it”, I thought, and swung my feet out through the window landing on the old wrought iron fire escape with its peeling green paint (the iron is thin and rusty and it crossed my mind that it must’ve been challenging enough for it to hold my two hundred pounds). I stepped over my next-door neighbor’s portable barbecue, dormant and unused, and held on to the railing as I veered past the old flowerpots with dead plants. I peered down into the dark kitchen, inside Delores was cleaning the small narrow stove with a brillo pad, and Henry’s sallow eyes looked up with incredulity from behind the newspaper in the corner by the back wall. Delores said “Hi” but he said nothing, just crackled the paper. The austere apartment harked back to a different time, linoleum floor, white enamel Kitchen table, with matching chairs, no music, no TV,  just a small Panasonic fan, dignified silence and cleanliness with available daylight cutting sharp lines in the shadow. I threw some words together with great discomfort and handed over my album as a peace offering.

“ I have no idea why we stopped talking, maybe I can just give you my new album as a token and we can be friends again”

Delores smiled her cute smile and reached up to take the album from my hand, she was sympathetic and maybe amused, but loyal to her man too, I could hardly believe what I was doing, it was a big gesture that fell to the ground like a drunken sailor in a strange port. Whatever I was talking about – and I’m presuming that she knew as little as Clare – she was not going to intervene. Henry said absolutely nothing, and I scooted back along the fire escape feeling even more of a fool now than before.

A couple of winters after that Henry died – Delores told Clare one day on the street that he had been hospitalized for several weeks with lung cancer. She carried on with great dignity and, amazingly, found a reason to keep her smile handy. She still maintains her apartment over Neptune (rent stabilized I presume). I occasionally see her buzzing around, if I don’t stop she doesn’t seem to be aware of me, but when I do she still has that cute smile and always seems to be going somewhere seeming to have plenty to do.

I will never know now what I did to turn Henry away, I knew of him for thirty years, but of course I never actually knew him, the most intimate thing we shared was falling out, that was as close as I got to knowing him. Maybe he was a friend after all, only friends fall out. You can’t fall out with someone you don’t know.