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Playing Picasso

October 2012


It’s late.

I’m sitting alone at the bar,

working on my fourth

“double Jack.”

I’m feeling pretty mellow. 


She leans across two seats,

taps me on the shoulder,

stares me dead in the face,

and slurs out,

“You look like Pablo Picasso.”


She’s very pretty.

I’d guess late thirties,

or early forties, maybe,

sculpted cheekbones,

and a great body,

packed into tight black leather.

Her hair is long and straight

and dyed black,

with bangs, almost covering

those haunted, crazy eyes.

Exactly the woman

I’ve always been a sucker for!


“Pablo Picasso!  Yeah!

 I bet you get that all the time, huh?”


“No, not really.”


She spots my fancy camera

sitting on the bar.

“Hey, you’re a photographer?”


I say, “Sometimes. 

But mostly, I tell stories.”


She flashes

a broad Cheshire cat grin,

“Hey, me too!”

and she drifts off

into some rambling drug story,

with a couple of  lame attempts

at being funny.


“Ya know, everything you say,

seems to have a sardonic twist

of some kind,

like a comedian, or something.” 

She smiles suggestively.

“Well…I am a comedian.”  



What kind of comedy do you do?”


She says, “Da Da.”


A “Da Da” comedian?

(Could she really be that hip?)


She asks, “What kind of comedy do you do?”


I repeat, “I’m not a comic,

I tell stories.”  


She coyly replies, “Well ,

I’m sure that my stories

are a lot better than yours!”

as she slowly moves

her face and lips

up very close . . . .

to an attack position.


“Hey, I’ve got a Speedo at home that’s older than you!”


She dusts me off, saying,

“You couldn’t come close to my stories.

Have you ever done crack?” 


“No, I stopped

at Mescaline and Coke.  

You obviously didn’t. …”


She again ignores my comment and asks, “What comedians do you like?”


“Well, Sarah Silverman

and Any Kauffman,

but Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce are my all-time favorites. They

always took it to the edge and jumped off,

regardless of consequences.”



Ya’ know, everybody thinks

 I AM Sarah Silverman.”

“Really?  I can see that.”

(In a dark bar, with enough drinks, she actually could pass for Sarah Silverman.)


“and Andy Kaufman is my hero,

my role model.” 


She rests her hand on my thigh,

and my Cialis instantly kicks in,

telling my body

that I’m 40 years old again,

while Jack Daniels agrees,

and is whispering in my head,

“Go for it, man! You can do it!”


She’s seems pretty intelligent,

somewhat creative,


very sexy,

and very fucked up. 

Just my kinda’ girl!

I offer her my card

and invite her

to this show tonight.

“Hey Sarah, are you here?”

(Why do they still entice me;

these beautiful,

intelligent, crazies?

Do they see the leftover crazy

in these old eyes,

past the wrinkles

and the beat up face? 


Shouldn’t she be able

to see in me,

that it doesn’t work? 

I’m living proof.

I have the scars

of battles lost

with “crazy”


and “booze.”


 But more important,

why do I feel this incredible emotional

and sexual magnetism here? 

It’s an old feeling

that I sure miss,

and it feels good!

Is it just the Cialis

and the Jack Daniels;

purely a chemical reaction? 

I don’t think so.


I know better!  

But still….

I want to throw her on the back

of a ‘60 Triumph Bonneville

race to some cheap motel

and make hard bandit love to her.

We’re crazy. 

That’s what we do, ain’t it?

Feel bad tomorrow, right?


We’re both losers,


for a “Bonnie and Clyde” ending;

Pablo Picasso

and Sarah Silverman?

(Two fucked up souls,

irreversibly drivin’

into a head on,  dead on, collision.)

She leans in and hugs me,

way too tight.

I feel myself wanting

a lot more,

but ya’ know,

age sometimes

actually produces

bits of wisdom.

I grab my camera

and head for the door;


I hear her yelling behind me,

“Hey Pablo,

why are ya’ leavin’, man?”


I’ve been

in this same sad movie,

too many times.

I just don’t like the ending




Dive Bars

 February 2011


I’ve spent the best years of my life

in dive bars.

When I moved to Manhattan in 1967

I was amazed to find

there was an actual franchised chain

of dive bars.                           

They were named “Blarney Stone,”

and they were as common

as Starbucks are  now.


They catered to white collar executives

who didn’t want coworkers to see them

banging down six martinis for lunch,

blue collar workers, alcoholic housewives,

construction workers, bike messengers, hookers, pimps,

old drunks, and losers like me.

They had a steam table with mashed potatoes, string beans,

and the best corned beef, roast beef,

and roast pork sandwiches in the city.


You could always get away with using the excuse

that you were stopping by Blarney Stone to get a corned beef sandwich and then get smashed in the middle of the day.

But what really brought the hard core afternoon drunks to Blarney Stone was the cheap booze, bottom shelf shit.

What they politely call “well drinks” now.

They sold for $.25 a shot with a coke chaser,

or $.35 a shot with a short beer chaser.


I like to think I’m more sophisticated now;I

enjoy the taste of single malt whiskeyCalifornia wines,

French brandy, and aged bourbon.

But I gotta’ tell ya’,

I still have nostalgiafor Old Phildelphia, Corbys,

Schenley, and Three Feathers;

cheap shit, that bites at the back of your throat

and lets your stomach know it’s comin’ down.


When I think about good times,

when I think of good friends

all my best memories seem to come back

with the smell, the taste, and the bite,

of bottom shelf booze.

It makes me warm inside…

and wish I were young again,

and still had the stomach

for cheap booze.





A Toast To Johnny “E”
February 29, 2012​

“Hey, anybody remember Johnny “E”?

Didn’t think so.”

You could always find Johnny “E”
in the last seat,
at the end of the bar,
for “Happy Hour” at
The International,
over on 1st Ave.

“Three fingers Bushmill..…neat.”
Always “dressed to the nines”
with a carefully arranged
and shellacked “comb-over,”
and wearing the classic
powder blue, polyester sport coat
he got thirty-five years ago
back in ‘72
on his way home from “Nam”.

“Hey Johnny “E”,
haven’t seen ya’ for a while. 
How ya’ doin’?”

“Aggghhh, the ambulance took me
to Emergency at Bellevue,
instead of the VA Hospital.
Eight weeks there with pneumonia,
and they tell me I got a bad liver
to boot.

Goddammed landlord
rents out my apartment
to a woman with a kid.
‘Cause he hasn’t heard from me,
he thinks I’m dead.
Thirty-five years of my life
he throws in a fuckin’ dumpster.

My car’s missing.
I go down to the tow pound.
They auctioned off my car
for $75 bucks.
They said I owed $2,300 in
tow charges, fines ,
and storage fees.

I got $468 in my savings account.
I’m runnin’ outa’ fuckin’ options here, ya’ know?”

He spends “happy hours” at
The International for a few more weeks until his stash runs out,
just tryin’ to stay warm
and keep a little buzz goin’.

As the weather gets colder,

panhandlin’ ain’t workin’ for him anymore,

When I run into him again,
he’s sleepin’ on a heat vent
by the Chase bank on 2nd Avenue.

​I spot him a twenty,
and ask, “Hey, Johnny “E”, how’s it goin’?”

“Rejoice, rejoice, we got no choice….right?

Maybe I need to try the VA again, huh? 

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 fuckin’ VC with that big 50’, man!

No retreat, no surrender;  right  brother?

They owe us somethin’.”


I don’t see Johnny any more that winter;

on the street

or at The International.


Late one night

I’m over at the Black & White on 10th Street,

shootin’ the shit with Harry “The Hat,”

and outta’ nowhere, he says, “Hey, remember Johnny “E”? 

Frankie “The Cop” tells me,

they found him dead

in a room over at the St. Marks Hotel, back in March.

Yeah, he was face down in a Swanson TV dinner;

Mac & Cheese, I think,

still wearin’ that fuckin’ polyester sport coat .

Frankie says nobody claimed his body.

Can ya’ believe that shit?”


“Hey Billy, three fingers Bushmill….neat!

To Johnny “E”;

No retreat, no surrender.

Fuckin’ “A” brother!”


Are You Dangerous?

February 2014













He told you he liked your nose?

… and asked you if you were “dangerous?”

What kinda’ pickup line is that supposed to be?

I think I’d like to take that one on.


Its Sunday afternoon and you’re sitting alone

at the far end of the bar

chatting up my buddy the bartender.

I come in and take a seat at the opposite end.

The joint is empty except for the two of us.

When he finishes his business with you,

he strolls down and mixes up my “usual.”


We pick up our conversation

where we left off last Sunday;

The usual barfly bullshit conversation.

You’re eavesdropping  and you later tell me

you knew immediately that:

“A)” I’m someone who wouldn’t notice or remember you,


“B)” I’m someone whose skin you definitely want to get under.


Part “A)” not true;

I don’t make a habit of starting conversations

with strangers drinking alone

in an empty bar on a Sunday afternoon;

I figure they might be needin’ some space.


But what the fuck?

Let the games begin!

You open with Bukowski: Do I like him?

It becomes very apparent very quickly

that whatever replies I offer

will be immediately rebutted

with a deliberately opposite opinion.

“Devil’s Advocate?”

’m thinkin’ more like “Happy Hour” ball buster.


So, Part “b)”? True!

Someone is getting under my skin.

Ya’ pissed me off; mission accomplished.


You know how you get dog shit on your shoe

and you can’t seem to shake it off?

Well, call it fate or destiny

but I keep running into her

at all my favorite joints.

She’s on me,   

like a pit bull that won’t let go.

She challenges every fuckin’ thing I say,


what begins as a confrontational dual of wits,

slowly and imperceptibly grows,

into fascination, interest, respect, and finally,

a very challenging but enduring friendship,

flavored with Happy Hour whiskey,

and lots of stimulating conversation.


To the point, “Are you dangerous?”

I’m thinkin’ on this,


as you inhale long and slow,

on that American Spirit menthol,

your idle hand taping softly on the bar,

a dirge of broken hearts,

false starts,

and roads goin’ nowhere.


So, if dangerous means tangling

with some sexy, smart, lady,

who can go shot for shot with you,

while fucking with your head,

and you’re liken’ it,

then yeah! You’re dangerous, very fucking dangerous

.…….. and I like your nose too.



Cheap Shots

 May 2006

Most days

I feel like I’m dream-walking
through a life
that's a graveyard.


Ghost voices
from all the bars
I ever hung out in,
call out to me,
to come home.


I know
I belong with them,
yet I struggle to exist
in the “real world”.


I’ve spent a lifetime
“faking it” and do
what I have to do
to keep it together.
I’m really good at it,
but, still they're calling me.


In some dark corner of my soul
I know I was born

to be there,

with them,
destined to sit alone
forever……on a stool
at the far end
of some sleazy bar.


Somehow I escaped.
and managed
to have a real life

for a while,
on borrowed time,
thanks to a woman
who cares enough
to love me
in spite of myself……..


But they’re out there………
They’re waiting for me

to come back.


I wish I could escape
for good
but I know
it’s my real home,
the only place
I’ve ever really belonged.


I feel like I’m destined

to spend eternity
in a broken down
bus station bar,
in some shit hole city,
drinking bottom shelf
feeling lonely and sad,
and wishing for the life
I already have. 


Inertia Eve  

September 15, 2013


Inertia: “The tendency of a body in motion

to remain in motion.”


She oozes the seductive scent of Salome,

with body moves,

as flexible as a Russian gymnast.

She is the temptress Delilah;

armed and ready to shear.

(Thank god I don’t any have hair!)


She approaches slowly

like a stalking panther,

with the hypnotic stare of a snake charmer’s cobra;

body ever swaying side to side,

in a perpetual fluid motion.

She defines “Inertia!”


Taking the seat beside me at the bar,

the room is suddenly showered with pheromones,

like butterflies emerging from a warm cocoon.

Every man at the bar picks up the scent,

and feels hunted, stalked,

but becomes preoccupied with the thought of having her.


Every woman snaps to attention.

A gauntlet has been thrown down.

There is the sticky sweet smell

of blatant competition,

swirling in their midst.

Cold stares over crossed arms,

and sad, stern looks of resentment,

only add

to the heavy sexual tension

in the room.


She converses,

not so much with words,

but with gestures,

and casual touches,

and soft caresses.


I’m wary,

but intrigued, fascinated, and totally immersed,

in the pheromone frenzy she’s created

around our little corner of the bar.


Conversation requires few words.

Our minds spark an electric shock connection,

revealing a oneness of thought, emotion,

and experiences mutually shared.

There is a likeness of spirit and will,

that overshadows even the heavy sexuality.


Thoughts and feelings pass between us,

that have remained largely unshared until now.

We know that we are brother and sister,

of that same cosmic mother,

share the same imprisoned soul.


She is the incarnate female version,

of the troubled, joyous, intellectual demon

that was me,

on my journey of self-destruction

those many eons ago.


For Eve in the garden,

there is  only one possible endgame

to this  tangled, strange, encounter:


The fakir’s charmed serpent,

offers up the forbidden fruit.


This bar:  “The Garden.”

The onlookers: “The Almighty,” (who will judge),

and I: the decaying remnant of that very first Man,

am to decide the outcome,

of this timeless invitation.


The apple has been offered.

Adam must decide,                                  Painting by Janet Restino

if binding vows

previously spoken,

will now be broken;                                       o

Truly a conundrum of biblical proportion!



Hard Rain On 1st. Avenue After Midnight

June 27, 2013





















A broke down old drunk man,

stumblin’ down First Avenue in the rain,
tryin’ hard not to slide away,
held up mostly by his cane.
With his good arm
he’s supportin’ a girl
with a swelled up foot that hurts,
slow steps movin’ forward,
then jerkin’ and staggerin’ back, in spurts.
She hangs on tight, teeth clenched,
fightin’ to hold back screams of pain.
She hoists a broke umbrella
strugglin’ for cover from the rain.
Two poor lost souls,
who won’t make it on their own,
tryin’ hard together,
to find a way back home.
Just a broke down ole’ drunk man,
and a pretty young thing in pain,
lost forever in purgatory,
with this godforsaken rain.

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