The ‘One Mile House’ on Delancy Street opens like a Venus Flytrap at precisely 2:30 pm, although service from pretty bar maid Megan happens much later in the day, closer to Midnight, I suppose. The menu boasts of the best of food one can get in this artsy-fartsy part of the Big Apple– burgers decorated with clams and such– the perfect follow after experiencing a good buzz one may catch while bar hopping in this Jewish and Chinese infested part of Donald Trump America.

Megan, a girl from Florida with purple hair, is notoriously punctual when opening the One Mile House. “I live right around the corner,” she shared one winter day. She arrives at exactly 2:30 pm and expects to see me on the steps of the One Mile House with her paycheck. Being a messenger is like being a battered husband, I imagine.

It was extremely hot in New York earlier this week. I typically do not sit down while on my route; my legs often cramp like and old male pussy and it’s hard to get back up after walking for miles on the hot cement streets that seem to melt one’s sneakers. Since Megan was my last stop for the day, I deemed it safe to sit for 15 minutes and wait for her.

While watching a black cat sit on a window ledge five flights up at 195 Chrystie, I noticed from the corner of my green eye, three individuals crossing Chrystie Street in what seemed, in my cat-eye view, like too many clothes for a hot day in the city. Two nuns and a man, perhaps a priest, God only knows, but a man in any regard, approached me as I sat on the bench with my legs crossed like a queen. One of the nuns asked, “Would you like something to eat?”

I laughed like Lucifer in Hell’s kitchen and replied through dry lips, “I’d love some.”

The man of God was carrying a plastic container filled with what was obviously iced tea. Ice cubes had not yet melted. My tongue was on fire and despite all my sins, I pretended to be one of the homeless that mill about during the day in this area. I must have looked homeless, I pile a heavy coat of Banana Boat sunscreen on my face every morning and by later in the afternoon, I’m melting, and looking like a tramp delivering upwards of 60 paychecks a day, to Jews in this part of town. I really wasn’t hungry but desperately wanted some of what was not the symbolic blood of our Lord, but rather what I saw as a true blessing from the Catholic God, if there is such a thing.

The priest pulled out a small Dixie Cup and poured me some. I wanted to ask for more but decided to take what was offered and leave it there. For God’s sake, I thought, there is a warm water fountain just up the street. I drink from there almost every day. Who can afford $1 water when I get paid $1.50 to take Megan her check at 2:30?

Chrystie Street is no place for one to start confessing one’s sins, especially while thirstier than a Jew out of Egypt. One of the nuns handed me a sandwich– ham and mustard on white bread– almost enough to turns one stomach and faith on a hot day. There was enough plastic covering it to stretch from 43rd and 3rd, all the way to Chrystie, ten miles away I imagine with sore feet as I carry these paychecks like I’m on my way to be cruicified or something– and some God awful banana bread that I ate simply because the nun said, “God bless you,” as they walked away.

I requested discharge from the Army because I am gay. The look on my commander’s face was that of sloppy shock. His hairlip opened slightly and he chose his words carefully: “I have no problems with your homosexuality, Taylor. There is no reason why you cannot finish out your enlistment. Why must you go about bringing all of this out into the open?”

“It is not your decision to make, Sir,” I replied with a smirk on my face. I had just been topped by a black soldier stationed down in southern Germany. He drove three hours just to see me. We met at the gay disco ‘Construction 5′ in downtown Frankfurt. I was feeling pretty as hell and had the utmost courage when I handed my commander my typed statement that proclaimed my gay innocence and request to be discharged. My lover Gilly Wells had just been reassinged stateside and I knew I’d never get topped like that again, especially after permitting that queen from South Germany to get all up in my like that. I felt so dirty and alone. I wanted out. Why give my young life to my country when as a bottom there are but a few good years for one to find the top of one’s life.

Meme grew a tea garden. With a huge stash of powdery 10-10-10 fertilizer and a hoe she worked like a pastry blender, she planted her sacred herbs near her award-winning blue potatoes and the two rows of marijuana planted atop heaps of chicken droppings along the side of a hen house.

Dad claims the little tea garden saved her from a terrible bout of summer flu. Almost everyone catches this mysterious illness, no matter what time of the year. It is a sudden sickness that hits one hard, out-of-the-blue, and suddenly. “I feel like hell, Barry. I can hardly move,” Meme cried, her red hair matted along the side of her Irish face like the claws of a crow grabbing an ear of corn. “Go outside to my tea garden and clip two pieces from each of the plants and bring them inside. None of your pot, though.”

“We boiled all the little stems—the catnip, mint and everything else she had planted out there. There must have been a dozen or so plants,” Dad explained. “She was up and walking around twenty minutes later. I was scared when I found her insider her trailer looking so sick.”

Meme entered her blue potatoes in the Huntingdon County Fair and always won the blue ribbon, but the tea was for her own consumption. At the time, very few farmers in Huntingdon ever saw blue potatoes and already Lipton had destroyed nearly all tea gardens in Appalachia. She sent away for the potato seed from a garden catalog that also sold her an egg that she incubated in a little plastic contraption with a light bulb that came from the same manufacturer and distributor of the eggs. We watched the chick hatch and grow into a short-tailed hen that Meme called ‘Sally’. Sally laid eggs that were not brown, but rather slightly green on the shell, just as was advertised.

Meme’s cider was the better than her tea, I bet. I don’t remember the tea garden that Dad spoke of this morning nor the rows of marijuana that dad used to make many friends, but I remember making cider with my grandmother, the most beautiful red-head this side of Dublin. There was an entire orchard surrounding her trailer. My grandfather planted it. We used a juicer that required paper filters that Meme sent away for. Jug after jug was filled and every now and then I took another sip in a little glass with yellow flowers painted on it.

Meme was not impressed with marijuana, according to Dad: “I asked her if she wanted to smoke some one summer night. She took a few puffs and said, ‘I don’t feel a damned thing.’ A few minutes later she ate half a cold chicken.”

We grew so many potatoes in Pennsylvania that come April, we had enough left over to cut into pieces and plant next year’s crop. They went six inches under a rather chilly ground in what was, in retrospect, the best damned organic topsoil west of Hershey. Dad always hauled in several loads of cow manure from a local dairy farm.

Skin sides of the tubers went down with the white part sticking up. We planted only according to the “Old Farmer’s Almanac”. One year, my grandmother planted potatoes under a full moon, going against recommendations from that yellow paperback, and an old wives’ tale that warned against planting potatoes in the dark of night and not early in the morning. Meme awoke to find all those little white pieces of potato she had carefully planted six inches apart, had made their way, six inches below ground, to the top of the soil where they slowly spoiled under the warm rays of an early April sun. She must have blamed the incident on some sort of curse and not the realization that gravity from a full moon may have had something to do with it. They still tell that story back there this time of year.

We ate potatoes almost every night. On a blue moon, Mom sometimes made spaghetti. Most nights it was those potatoes we planted in April that lasted all year in a cellar that stuck off from our real cellar—a little hole dug underground from our double-wide, where the potatoes stayed cool all year, despite a woodstove just a few feet away. When Mom sent me downstairs after school in the evenings, I always picked the largest, so come April there were mostly wrinkled little potatoes with all those eyes looking up at you under a thin covering of lime dust.

Larry travels into the city from Newark every Friday morning. It has been weeks since his unemployment ran out. He hits his old co-workers up for money. There are lots of churches in Newark that will feed one like Larry, but cash is better than cold-cuts in a town where the rich got richer and the rest have been left to the hands of long-dead saints and their modern day followers who seem to think everyone who is homeless is also a drug addict and a sinner who let God down, and now they are paying dearly for it.

The church charities will rarely trust the needy with cash of their own – as if it is really possible to survive in this town on bread alone! Larry is not an addict. I know it pains him to have to depend on the church to survive. I wonder if he still has a roof over his head. He appeared somewhat haggard, almost desperate, as he stood outside the warehouse long before the sun started shining down 29th Street Friday morning.

Larry knows better than to ask me for coin, especially for trying to read me that day, years ago. I don’t get involved in those warehouse deals that many others there seem so caught up in anyway—who owes who how much? I don’t know how the ex-cons keep track of it all; between the loans and the football pools they are all in from week to week. If one does not pay they other come payday, then someone else’s loan fails that week. Larry had no job there now and none of my co-workers were dumb enough to give him another loan, except for Mike Day, the ex-heroin addict pulled from the streets by a nun in the East Village. Sometimes I think Mike is a saint. No wonder Larry comes in every Friday. It’s all so complicated and so much easier just to say you are poor and “I have nothing to give you.” Larry recovered from whatever it was he once was strung out on and made that fact very well known to others who worked as New York City messengers, back when Larry still had a job and before he got fired for refusing to deliver a few Amazon boxes that the floor manager wanted to go out that day.

“Good morning, Larry,” I said while exiting the place with a stack of fifty or so paychecks in my backpack and newspaper boy canvas bag strapped over my head and left shoulder.I swung the bundle on my hip like a purse as I said those words.

“Still working like a slave for Steve the slave master, is see,’ he whispered.

I didn’t say a word to the bastard. I just kept walking, swinging that bag like I was the queen of the industry or something

Tyrone lost a tooth today. He showed me the empty space.

“I need to go to the emergency room. I can’t walk around looking like this.”

“Why not? What happened?” I asked.

“It fell out today,” Tyrone shared, displaying a god-awful mouth full of semi-rotted teeth. They were all mostly still there, except to front one to my left, which seemed not all that important at all, because others had already started closing in.

I pulled out my wallet and showed Tyrone my new Obama Care insurance card that was sent to me only because Ameirhealth had updated its pharmacy services. “Look at the effective date closely. It reads ‘March 1, 2014’. I had a wisdom tooth pulled last March and didn’t even realize I had insurance at the time. I walked into that Jersey-Mendez illegal immigrant clinic and demanded that they back bill for the services I paid on a sliding scale. They wouldn’t answer my phone calls, so I had to walk into their offices in person and flash my new Obama Care card at them. It felt as though I just sneaked across a boarder or something.”

“Did they take it?”

“Of course they did. They seemed so shocked that I brought this matter to their attention. Do you have Medicaid like the Mexicans do?” I asked.

“No.. My black ass needs to get it though.”

“I don’t know if Medicaid will fix that, Tyrone. It may be considered cosmetic. I was told Medicaid pays only for preventive services.”

“This is preventive. Without that tooth I’m one ugly mother-fucker. I just want one of those teeth that clamp in. You know, they got those little metal hooks on them and you can take them out and put them in water at night.”

“Just be careful not to put it in your piss jug,” I suggested. Tyrone laughed. He informed me weeks ago that he is so old that he wakes up many times throughout the night having to pee. He keeps a piss jug next to his bed.

“I think I have that old man piss syndrome too,” I told Tyrone. “One time when I was out delivering Barnes and Noble boxes in Chelsea I had to pee so bad that I started pissing down my own leg, I picked up my clipboard and pretended to do some sort of inventory as I pissed on Bed Bath and Beyond. I helps to have a big dick.” I explained.

“You’re fucking crazy,” Tryone admitted, smiling widely and showing me his new gap that in my opinion gives the ex-con, crack dealer a certain charm.

B’s first job in life was at King’s County Psychiatric facility in Brooklyn. He worked there while still in high school. He shared many stories with me regarding what it was like working there. Despite the fact that he is a licensed undertaker, he left the field and now works at an out-patient mental health clinic in midtown Manhattan.

A new client entered the clinic on Monday. B assisted the woman with intake paperwork. They sat alone in the waiting room next to one another. Before the paperwork was complete, a case manger entered the waiting room and introduced herself to the new client whose name we shall call ‘Catrice’ due to HIPPA regulations.

Catrice, while filling-out one of many pages cried, “Ouch!”

“What’s wrong, Catrice?” The case manager asked.

“Someone hit me on the back of my head.”

B looked at the case manager and then at Catrice, whose head he saw from the corner of his eye, nudging slightly forward moments before she cried, “Ouch!”

The case manager looked at B. B, a true professional, didn’t make a face.

Last evening B couldn’t stop laughing after returning home. We sat on the bed and laughed for hours.

“I swear, I heard a slap before her head moved. It sounded just like someone getting hit on the back of the head, but no one was there but me. I’m not sure if the case manager heard it, but I sure did. Catrice was not all that upset. She acted as if she was used to it.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.