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New York Times/ N.Y. / REGION

 

Old Mariner, With Rhymes and Love for East Village

Character Study

By COREY KILGANNON JAN. 8, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The poet Phillip Giambri at Grassroots Tavern on St. Marks Place, one of his frequent haunts.
Photo Credit: Nicole Craine for The New York Times

 

It was after noon on Monday, so Phillip Giambri, 74, put on his pork-pie hat and walked from his apartment on St. Marks Place to Grassroots Tavern, a joint with low ceilings, cheap drinks and a pervasive tang of stale beer that smelled like tough, old New York.  A barfly-turned-writer who recites his stories at open-mike sessions in East Village bars, Mr. Giambri bills himself as the Ancient Mariner, being a Navy veteran and as relentless a storyteller as Coleridge’s salty narrator.  “Plus, it sounds better than The Old Guy, which is what people were calling me” at the open mikes, said Mr. Giambri, who is usually the eldest participant at such events.

 

He also tends to be the most colorful, being something of an illustrated man. Each of the 20 images tattooed on his arms and chest tells a different story he has written about a life spent carousing.   “It’s called self-publishing,” he said, and put down his vodka and cranberry and pulled his shirt off, to hoots from the regulars. “For years, no one would print my writing, so I started publishing my own stories on my body.”

The sexy woman reclining across his left forearm corresponds to the one about the female K.G.B. agent who he claims once tried to pick him up.

When he flexes his pectorals, a roaring 1949 Chevy jiggles to life, which leads to a retelling of the tale of Johnny Boy, his sister’s boyfriend who hot-wired a car using the silver foil from a cigarette pack. On his left forearm, there is the stripper from Pennsylvania, and next to her is another tattoo that refers to “Rosie’s Wool Knickers,” a story by Mr. Giambri about a long-ago fling with a Scottish prostitute.

 

“When people ask me about a certain tattoo, I can tell them to come to the next open-mike and hear me read the story,” said Mr. Giambri, whose material comes largely from dive bars. Their denizens serve as his sounding boards. He hones and revises his works-in-progress at open-mike sessions at local bars like the Parkside Lounge on Houston Street, Black and White on East 10th, and Three of Cups on First Avenue, where he runs a performance and session on the last Wednesday of every month, in addition to the other shows and sessions that he organizes.

As a longtime East Village resident, Mr. Giambri said he savors the few remaining real East Village dive bars that offer cheap drinks and no pretense, places like the Coal Yard, International Bar, Doc Holidays, 7B and his longtime mainstay, Grassroots.

 

After devoting most of his life to working and partying hard, Mr. Giambri said he has begun writing in earnest, and has cultivated a large group of friends and fellow writers, mostly in bars. His first book, “Confessions of a Repeat Offender,” is scheduled to go on sale next month.

“Life kept trying to make me a writer, and I kept trying to be a drunk,” said Mr. Giambri, who began hanging out in bars as a child growing up in South Philadelphia. “I grew up around nightclub owners and gamblers, and fell in love with bars as a kid,” he said. “The smell, the feel, the social life. They were mysterious, dark places that smelled like men.” 

 

By 16 he was drinking illegally, and by 18 he had joined the Navy, spending much of the next four years on nuclear submarines off the Russian coast, during the Cold War.  “I was a Sonarman, so I was listening to whale noises for three years, before it was popular.” 

 

After the Navy, he studied acting, and he came to New York City in 1968 to become a beatnik writer. But after moving onto St. Marks Place, across from the Electric Circus nightclub, he was swept up in the psychedelic scene. He drank, smoked and “did every drug except heroin,” all while maintaining his lifelong vegetarian status, of course. 

 

He supported himself by working as a sound and light technician for theater companies, and also as a prop man, which helps explain where he obtained the coffin that serves as a cabinet in the bedroom of his rent-stabilized apartment on St. Marks. Mr. Giambri also worked for Off Track Betting as an announcer, and as a computer technician, before retiring several years ago.

 

Mr. Giambri has lived on the block since 1972, and shared the place with his wife, Curly, who died last year.  Composing his ribald and poignant tales keeps him busy, and adds to his body art, he said at Grassroots Tavern, still shirtless. Chloe, the bartender, reached over to tuck a dollar bill into the waist of Mr. Giambri’s jeans, as if he were a stripper.  “Chippendale senior night,” Mr. Giambri yelled to his bar friends as they razzed him.

Then he turned back to his drink and said, “None of those guys are going to look this good at 74.”

 

EMAIL: character@nytimes.com

The Particulars

Name Phillip Giambri Age 74 

Who He Is : Poet, writer, open-mike impresario

Where He’s From South Philadelphia

Telling Detail: While stationed on a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, he wrote funny features for the sub’s daily newsletter, The Silent Service Breakfast News.

A version of this article appears in print on January 10, 2016, on page MB4 of the New York edition with the headline: Old Mariner, With Rhymes. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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JEREMIAH'S VANISHING NEW YORK

A.K.A. THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS: 
A BITTERLY NOSTALGIC LOOK AT A CITY IN THE PROCESS OF GOING EXTINCT

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2018

Boho's Lament: Filmmaker Dustin Cohen has made a poignant short film about the dying soul of New York with one of the last of the original East Village bohemians.

 

 

 

 

 

He writes: "I met Phillip Giambri at Grassroots Tavern (R.I.P.) on St. Mark's Place during the summer of 2016 after hearing him perform at an open mic in the East Village. He drank me under the table that afternoon, but not before we agreed to collaborate and bring his poem 'The Boho's Lament' to life."


Giambri was a Grassroots regular. He was written up in the Times a couple of years ago as "the Ancient Mariner, being a Navy veteran and as relentless a storyteller as Coleridge’s salty narrator."


As Cohen notes on the film's Vimeo page, Giambri "has been writing and performing in New York City's East Village since 1968," and you can find him "sipping cheap drinks and waxing philosophical at the some of the last remaining real East Village dive bars like Coal Yard, Doc Holidays, 7B, and International Bar. He hosts an open mic on the last Wednesday of every month at Three of Cups Lounge on First Avenue." (Which will also close, on April 1 -- so tonight, if it's happening, would be the last night.)
You can also find him online
Watch the video: The Boho's Lament from Dustin Cohen on Vimeo.

 

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pedigree activities during the dog days of spring

April 10, 2018 | Filed under: Arts | BY MICHAEL LYDON

 

"Late night East Village.

Rain glistens off shattered street glass

like fallen stars."

—from “Dancing on Razor Blades” by Phillip Giambri

 

Phillip Giambri is easy to spot, but doesn’t stay in one spot for long. | Photo by Michael Lydon

When the author of the above walked into Veselka (144 Second Ave.), his grin widened and warmed, and so did mine.  Phillip Giambri is the kind of guy you can’t help liking! He’s easy to spot, too: a small, bright-eyed man with the trim figure of a bantamweight boxer, a black cane in hand but barely used, a knowing grin on his face, and a baseball cap with “Ancient Mariner” stitched above the brim.

Born in South Philadelphia 76 years ago, Giambri has spent many of those years in the East Village — in bars, yes, but also at a bewildering number of jobs, including actor, hairstylist, janitor, drifter, recording engineer, hired hand, traveling salesman, submarine petty officer, barfly, banker, biker, bronco buster, announcer, mail-order minister, photographer, and computer guru. “I’ve always liked to figure things out,” Giambri said over a cup of coffee. “A restless mind, you could say that, I’ve got a restless mind. And now I’m working harder than ever. I know I’m in a race against time. I’m trying to get everything done.”

Giambri’s love of poetry has come to the fore in recent years — some call him the Muse of St. Mark’s Place — taking him from reading his work at open mics organized by others to open mics he organizes himself, including a five-year run of his “Rimes of the Ancient Mariner” reading series at the now-defunct Three of Cups Lounge. His first book, “Confessions of a Repeat Offender: Musings on a Life Gone Right in Spite of Myself,” came out two years ago. “Giambri has mastered the voice of the sad luck loser,” wrote one reviewer, praising his “moments of enlightenment” and his unique blend of “bitterness, humility, honor, and pride.”

“Reading my work for an audience,” Giambri said thoughtfully, “that’s the best way I can rethink what I’m trying to get listeners to understand.”

For much of the spring Giambri will be out of the city (“I’m going to Poland for the annual International Submariner’s Association Convention,” he told me) — but he’ll be back for a scattering of gigs in April and May, plus an evening at the Cornelia Street Café on June 18. For more info, pay a visit to ancientmarinertales.com. So all you landlubbers, prepare to go down to the sea in ships this June with the Ancient Mariner — Cornelia Street will gladly supply the rum, ho, ho, ho!

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EV Grieve

News about the East Village of NYC

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village. James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village.
By James Maher

Name: Phillip Giambri
Occupation: Storyteller, Submariner, Actor, Theatre Sound Tech, OTB Announcer, Computer Systems / Network Administrator.
Location: St. Marks between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
Time: 1:00pm on Monday June 17, 2013

I’ve been here a long time. I’m from Philadelphia originally. I was in the military when I was 18 and I got out at 22. I was down in a submarine. It’s a strange life. Then I went back to Philly and I went to a drama school for 3 years. Then I moved to New York for Summer Stock [Theatre]. I was passing through New York on my way to California and was taking some acting classes with Stella Adler and I kind of got sidetracked.

The first job I got was on 4th Street between 2nd and the Bowery. It was a good theater block. Cafe La MaMa was there and the Playwrights Horizons and the Fortune Theatre. There was a lot going on in that little neighborhood. So the first job I got was as an assistant stage manager, a sound man, and an understudy for Michael Douglas for the very first play he was ever in in New York, called 'City Scenes.' Dominic Chianese, the Uncle from 'The Sopranos' was in it as well as Raúl Juliá.

I got to move down here by way of the West Village. I moved in with a lady on Washington Place for awhile and when that ended I had nowhere to live. I was going to the School of Visual Arts for awhile and I slept in my instructors loft until he got tired of me, so I moved in with acting friends from Summer Stock on East 9th Street for a couple months. It was really awkward because there were four of us living in a tiny apartment. We had to smoke a lot of dope to stay sane.

So they helped me get the apartment on St. Mark's Place across from the Electric Circus — building number 26. In the ‘60s and early 70s, the Electric Circus was like the Studio 54. It was like a happening place. You would take acid or mescaline or mushrooms or something and go in there and the whole place was designed to make you go bizarro.

I only wanted to be an actor and at the time I erroneously thought that if I worked in the theater rather than doing some regular menial task that at least I would get to know people. Just the opposite happened. Over 3 or 4 years, I gained such a reputation as a competent technical person, who were hard to find outside the union, that it was all the jobs I was getting. I would audition for a part for a Broadway producer, who would know me cause I did his sound work and he would say, ‘C’mon Phil, actors are a dime-a-dozen. We need a stage manager.’

I wound up managing a recording studio that worked with the theater for several years, while I was still looking for acting work. I was the manager, but every summer I laid myself off because we did only theater recordings mostly, and rented sound equipment to theaters and there was no work in the summer. So we’d sit out front on the stoop and smoke dope and drink wine all summer. I did that for like 4 or 5 years in the early ‘70s. It was kind of like a four-year party. People were in and out all the time, crashing, the building was very liberal in terms of sexuality and drugs and stuff. That was around ‘70 to ‘75 or ‘76.

I started to grow up a little when I met my wife. We went on our first date to the midnight movie show at 
the St. Marks Theatre to see 'Reefer Madness.' It cost $1 and you could bring your own food in and your own weed in and you could sit there all night and nobody would ever hassle you.

In ’74, we formed a St. Marks block association. There was a very influential guy in the neighborhood, Jim Rose, who ran the The Eastside Book Store. He became the head of the block association and we were just overwhelmed with crime in the neighborhood. Once the hippie thing wore off, all that were left were drug addicts and opportunists. It turned from the Summer of Love in ‘67 and ’68 and started really getting dark around ‘73. We realized there were 17 Methadone clinics in the neighborhood and there were all these junkies going there regularly and supporting their habits by beating us up and taking our money. We had the men’s shelter on 3rd street where every crazy person in New York State that got out of a mental hospital or prison was sent to, who were going around killing people and beating people up. We had several cops shot in the neighborhood. It was getting ugly.

I was the police department representative of the block association, so I would get all the crime statistics every month and what a wake up call that was, when you’re actually getting the numbers. We also had fundraising street fairs to try and improve the neighborhood. We got gates and window boxes put in front of the ground floor apartments.

We succeeded in getting the police commander changed in the Precinct. I used to go to all the police meetings and this new guy came in named Gunderson, back in ’75, and he changed everything down there. The 9th Precinct had the reputation, if you got out of the Police Academy you had to learn to be a bag man, and they sent you to 5th Street to learn that. It was a very crooked place. That was part of our problem — the cops had their own thing going on and they couldn’t give a shit about what we did. So with a little muscle and a little politicking, we got rid of the commander down there and they brought this guy Gunderson from Staten Island. He was a hard case who didn’t smile. Nobody liked him over there. We loved the guy. He cleaned the whole Precinct up.

At the time, all the cops kept their windows rolled up and just drove by everywhere and didn’t get out of the car. So we fought to get a permanent foot-beat cop, which they never did in those days. Gunderson said he couldn’t justify one permanent person there since they were so shorthanded in cops, so a friend of mine and I went around at night and took pictures of all the cops, what they used to call cooping, when they’re sleeping on duty in their car and they’re supposed to be patrolling. We had a picture of about 25 cops cooping and we brought them in and said we either get a beat cop or somebody uptown is gonna see this.

So we got a beat cop named George and he lasted here almost 10 years. He was a really sweet guy who used to go to everybody’s birthday parties, christenings, Bar Mitzvahs, and that was at a time when everybody hated the cops. He was like a part of the neighborhood and I don’t think he ever drew a gun in his life.


Around then I needed a steadier job. How long was I going to go without a responsible pair of shoes? The actor’s union used to give you a free pair of shoes every year if you were unemployed and in the union — and I never missed a year.

So I got a job working for the city at the OTB [Off Track Betting] as an announcer for 15 years. I had benefits. It was in the Paramount Theatre in the middle of Times Square. It was still kind of in the theater so that was a good compromise.

The plus side of that was there was a bar right across the street on 43rd Street called Gough’s Chop House and The New York Times was right in the back of our building, so all of the writers and the photographers and the press room from the Times hung out in this old Irish bar in Times Square. I started hanging out there because I wanted to meet the writers from the Times. I thought they were really interesting. I hung out there off and on for 17 years.

I got my first computer job because of New York Times writers. My wife’s boss bought one of the first portable computers that weighed 55 pounds. It was a Panasonic and it came in a suitcase and I borrowed it and instantly got addicted. A couple months later he said, ‘Hey where’s my computer?,’ So I got this guy that I worked with at OTB and he built a PC for me for $2,000 dollars. I wasn’t sleeping at night, I was taking stuff apart and putting it back together.

At the time at OTB, the computer department switched from mainframes to PCs, and nobody there knew anything about PCs, so they said, ‘Go talk to Phil.’ So my friend who became the head of that side of the business asked me to come work for him as a network administrator. I was willing to take a pay cut to apply for the job and, of course, HR said, ‘You have no experience with computers, how can we hire you as a department head?’ And I said, ‘I’ve been written up in The New York Times numerous times as a computer guru’, and they said, ‘Yeah, sure.’

I pulled out these newspaper articles and they said, ‘Well, how do we know that you’re the Phil that he’s talking about.’ So I said, ‘Okay, wait a minute’, and I go downstairs and over to the Times to my friend Larry Shannon who wrote those articles. He was the first computer writer for the Times and he would always write, ‘My friend Phil the computer guru said we should do this.’ He kept quoting me. So he wrote a letterhead paper from the Times saying that I was indeed the Phil from the computer articles and they gave me the job. Thanks to Gough’s Chop House I got my first computer job. After two years of that, Giuliani came in and things got real bad over there, so I moved to the Hospital for Special Surgery as a network manager and worked there for 17 years.

From there, I decided to retire, get tattoos, and start telling stories. The other thing that I loved about this neighborhood was hanging out at the bars most of my life and swapping stories. I’ve closed so many great bars in this neighborhood that nobody even remembers or knows about. My favorite bar of all time was called Broadway Charlie’s on Broadway near 12th Street.

One of the other reasons that I moved to New York was because I wanted to be a beatnik, but I was about 10 years too late when I got here. I was going around in the West Village to all the places where the beatniks had written. I followed Kerouac and Ginsberg, and I was going around to all the places that they hung out. They were long gone, but I found this bar called Broadway Charlie’s where all the guys who didn’t become famous and weren’t dead hung out. They were all there.

It was an incredible place and every Friday and Saturday night they would have live music and all of the musicians who played in the Village would go and jam after they got off work. From midnight to 4 you would have great music and weirdo local bohos, old folks, and leftover hippies. It was a really strange, fun crowd. This was around ‘77 to maybe ‘81.

In the ‘50s, poetry was really big in the West Village. The beatniks brought it in and then it moved over as far as St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery, which still has the same poetry service that they’ve had for 25 years.

They had Corso and Ginsburg and all those guys leftover from the ‘50s still reading then. When the hippies came in the poetry kind of disappeared. It was all rock and roll, Fillmore East, Electric Circus. Coffee houses didn’t do poetry anymore.

And then all of a sudden in the last 10 years it started, slow at first, but in the last five years it’s felt like the ‘50s all over again. Every bar with a back room is fostering some kind of poetry. It’s amazing. These kids, they act like professional performers and they’ve never been on stage before. They’re reading things that they’ve written on their phone. They’re damn good. It’s a very exciting time right now. The East Village is alive with this stuff.

The thing I’m proudest of is the work we did with the block association. That was the thing we were most successful with that meant the most to everybody around here. Our lives improved dramatically. But then as soon 
as we did that the Gap came in and all of a sudden everybody else wanted to come in here. That’s the way it works.

 

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The Ancient Mariner is Going to Hell!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

The Ancient Mariner has been invited to join the devilish mayhem on the popular and funny "We're Going to Hell' podcast live on YouTube with comedians Caleb Barge and Mike Hernandez. It's a no holds barred show, so who knows what kinda' ass I will make of myself. Please join us and watch me go down in flames and burn in hell.

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A Writing Showcase of Two Heavily Decorated Writers From The Streets of NYC, Philip Giambri & Linda KleinbubAn Opportunity for Fredonia to Hear Vibrant Voices of Writers From Queens to the Lower East SideHosted by Professor, Vincent QuatrocheWhere: McEwen Hall Room 201When: Friday, April 27th5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

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A Talented New York City Guy

June 3, 2014 by Mickey Wyte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowhere in the world will you find more talent compressed in one place than in New York City. Now I’m not just talking here about the big celebrity names whose talent may be more hype than substance. No, I’m talking about the everyday men and women who inhabit this city of boroughs. One such talented man is my pal, Phillip Giambri aka “The Ancient Mariner”.

 

When Sinatra sang the line in That’s Life, “I’ve been a puppet, pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king,” he could have be signing about Phillip Gambri. He has been all those and more. Phil is a true adventurer. A product of the streets of South Philadelphia, he fled Philly at the age of seventeen. He served on a Navy submarine, has been an actor, hairstylist, stoner, janitor, hired hand, traveling salesman, broncobuster and even a banker. He arrived with the hippie movement to New York City’s East Village in the early 60’s and never left.His storytelling style is rugged streetwise New York. He stands at the microphone, speaking with a grizzled whisper, smoothed by a lifetime of Jack Daniels. It is the voice of man who has lived a life worth telling about. Phil produces Rhymes of The Ancient Mariner http://www.ancientmarinertales.com featuring stories by his troupe of Silver Tongue Devils and fifteen open mic performers.

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Confessions of a Repeat Offender: An Interview with “The Ancient Mariner” Phillip Giambri

Posted by: Linda Kleinbub April 13, 2016 in Interviews

Phillip Giambri’s debut book Confessions of a Repeat Offender: Musings on a Life Gone Right in Spite of Myself is filled with stories that illustrate his divergent perspective of life. Born in South Philadelphia, at eighteen he enlisted in the US Navy and served in the Submarine Force during the Cold War. He wrote anonymously about incidents his shipmates were involved in during long periods at sea for the sub’s daily newsletter, The Silent Service Breakfast News. Giambri left the military at twenty-two and then worked as a banker, actor, announcer, hairstylist, recording engineer, photographer, mail-order minister, and computer guru. His acting career led him to New York City.In his fifties he reconnected with friend and mentor Don Ulmer with whom he served in the Navy. He discovered that Ulmer, who also had written for the sub’s daily newsletter, was now a published author of many books. This inspired Giambri to pick up the pen and he began to write stories about his military experiences.This tome is composed of stories written over a period of fifteen years. When he began writing again, he searched for the innocence of his youth but discovered instead a grizzled creature that lurked on the fringes of his consciousness who revealed himself as The Ancient Mariner. It is The Ancient Mariner who Giambri credits for leading him on his writing adventures. He retired at the age of sixty-five, and began to attend readings in local bars on the Lower East Side. Giambri, 74, a self-proclaimed barfly, tells his salty, sassy tales with a rugged New York City attitude.Linda Kleinbub: How would you describe your book?Phillip Giambri: My book is a compilation of memories and life experiences filtered by time, age, and emotional or lack of emotional attachment. As the old sailor’s saying goes, “They might not be all true but I remember them well.

 

”Kleinbub: Would you say that your stories are true experiences from your life?Giambri: All of the stories are based on true incidents; some are retold completely true, some slightly changed to protect identities and locations, and some changed for dramatic effect or to make them a bit more interesting as “stories.” A very few were just taken from an actual incident or experience and greatly embellished and fictionalized to make a good story. All of my stories start with a true seed.Kleinbub: Are you ever concerned about protecting the identity of the people you are inspired to write about?Giambri: Absolutely. I go out of my way to alter stories to avoid embarrassing anyone. I want to entertain the reader and audience not take revenge on anyone or try to make anyone look intentionally bad.Kleinbub: Why do you call yourself The Ancient Mariner?

 

Giambri: People always mispronounced my name when I started reading in public venues. I was always one of the oldest participants and I didn’t like being called “The Old Guy.” I thought since my early work was based on my military experience, The Ancient Mariner would be a good fit and a literary tip of the hat. I developed an image of The Ancient Mariner as a salty dog who hung out in bars with hookers and strippers and it fit the persona of the stories I was writing.

 

Kleinbub: Some of your poems are about encounters with beautiful woman. In “My Spy” you open with “She’s stunningly beautiful. / She tells me her name is Anastasiya. / I ask her why she’s here. / She smiles seductively but doesn’t answer.”

 

Giambri: That is based on a beautiful blonde Russian woman I met while attending an annual international convention of former submariners. We met on a luncheon cruise out of Portsmouth, England she was so intriguing I wanted to capture that so I took her picture. My friend said she was probably looking for a green card. I’ve embellished a few things but it is mostly based on that encounter.

 

Kleinbub: In your poem “A Toast to Johnny ‘E’” you tell the story of a veteran who lives a tough life. You capture the language that an Army vet would use: “I was a door gunner on a Huey back in Nam, ya’ know? / Company A, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, / I lit up a lot of VC with that big 50’, man! / No retreat, no surrender!”

 

Giambri: This is based on someone I knew. I took certain incidents from his life, and made them more dramatic. He had a beautiful wife, who left him, his life fell apart, and he was never the same again. He drank too much. The facts in that piece are true but the details are changed to protect him. I wanted the language in the poem to be authentic. I researched the terms used by veterans during the Vietnam War. Instead of saying, “I killed someone,” they’d say, “I lit up.” I was just trying to show the plight of veterans. That guy died a terrible death, and I’ve seen many of my veteran friends in similar situations. I try to make the story a universal one that touches people. The actual person is not the important part. The objective is to show the plight of veterans. I’m not writing biographies; I’m writing stories. My friend based on Johnny “E” didn’t die on the street but he died alone in a hotel. No one claimed his body. I changed the facts and the location to shield him.

 

Kleinbub: The opening of your book describes your first bar experience. “As we get closer to the cabin door, / a small neon sign flashes ‘Charlie’s Log Cabin Inn.’ / Uncle Leon pushes open the heavy wooden door / I’m wild with excitement and have no idea, / that I’m about to fall down the rabbit hole forever. / The darkness blinds me for a moment, / but I feel the cool air of the room on my cheeks / there’s the smell of cigarette smoke, ashtrays, beer, and peanuts. / I hear a Phillies game on the radio.”

 

Giambri: I grew up poor. My mother worked as a seamstress. My father had tuberculosis and didn’t work much. During the summer my parents sent me and my sister to my grandmother’s house in Somerdale, New Jersey. It was a rural farm area, with cows and horses. As a city kid it was great. I got to be outdoors, ride horses, and tend cows. My uncle was my hero. I remember an August afternoon when I was six he took me to a bar for the first time, I immediately fell in love with the place. The bartender gave me a handful of nickels to play the pinball machine, and it was then I found my home.

 

Kleinbub: The largest chapter of your book is titled “My Life as a Barfly” and contains the piece “Cheap Shots” with the lines “Ghost voices / from all the bars / I ever hung out in, / call out to me, / to come home. / I know / I belong with them”

 

Giambri: I love bars. When I found a bar where the people liked me and I liked them I would go every day to talk and drink. They became my family. I remember every bar that was a part of my life. When I found a bar I liked I went there until it closed up or the owner passed away and the bar scene changed.

 

Kleinbub: The Lower East Side weaves its way through many of your pieces. You seem to have a true affinity with it.

 

Giambri: Within a year of moving to New York City I was living on St. Mark’s Place. When I moved there in 1971 it was the center of the universe, The Electric Circus was across the street, The Fillmore East was around the corner, and The Dom jazz club was still here. St. Mark’s Place was like a 24-hour carnival and was really exciting. I felt that I had found my people, forget Philadelphia; this is where I belong. Food was cheap, beer was cheap, I fell in love with the whole environment and I never wanted to leave. I hope to spend the rest of my life here.

 

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Phillip Giambri: Confessions of a Repeat Offender

DETAILSTime: 8:00 p.m. February 11, 2016

Barhopping - Literary Events - Talks

Parkside Lounge 317 E. Houston St.New York, NY

By Danny King

The 74-year-old Phillip Giambri has spent much of his life in the dark — frequenting dive bars and turning his whirlwind nights into stories he performs for watering-hole audiences — but he's about to experience something that amounts to a moment in the sun. Confessions of a Repeat Offender, his first ("and probably only," Giambri cheekily adds) book, is about to be released, an accomplishment that last month earned him a charming New York Times profile. (Some choice tidbits: Giambri has twenty tattoos, lays claim to "lifelong vegetarian status," and has lived on St. Marks Place since 1972.) As a writer, Giambri no doubt benefits from the endless autobiographical material at his disposal — his four years in the Navy marked the start of a professional life that has comprised more than a dozen different vocations — and his words are brought to a special kind of life when he speaks them: "Open mic is our training wheels, it's our mistress, and it's our siren call," he once told a sympathetic crowd of "open-mic gypsies." Giambri is the featured talent in this Inspired Word open-mic session, during which he'll read for an hour and then sign copies of Confessions.

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