I don’t remember anything about the day before. It was a long time ago, but still if you try hard enough your mind can usually concoct some sort of memory–real or imagined. I know I was 29. My least favorite age. I was supposed to have made my claim on the world already and I had done shit. Still haven’t. I do know that it was the old man’s birthday. The Giants also lost a football game. And it was a Monday.
My hours at the time were 11 to 7. The upgrades to the IBM AS/400 had turned my close of business data center ops job at Banco Comercial Portugues into a pretty easy gig. The end of day processing flew by and I was like a master chef when it came to running all the procedures. I had it all down to a science and I knew how to fix almost any glitch, or at least realized what I could leave for my boss in the morning without fucking up the bank’s end of day run. Those P & L reports don’t run some executive with twelve Portuguese names and a diabolical sounding European accent would be on you like cod fish on an Ironbound restaurant menu. If those SWIFT messages didn’t go out the head of IT–a fat and cowardly bully of a man who looked like Wally Walrus–would leave us with tread marks on the backs of our starched dress shirts from the school of buses he would toss us under. Even if the problem was some schmuck in the back office that forgot to authorize the messages and nothing could be done on the tech side. After all, even CIOs had families to support. It was nothing personal, he would say as he intertwined his fat sausage fingers and air dried coffee on his dumb, stupid Swedish Chef mustache. Like all bullies, he claimed he was just teaching you how to be tough. He was also the brother of one of my best friends and I owe him everything in my current career.
Funny how that shit works.
I often think of him whenever I see the revenge scene in Sleepers when Kevin Bacon is about to get what is coming to him. I understand Ron Eldard studying his face in the bathroom of that bar as Witchi Tai To is mystically chanting on the soundtrack. The movie might not be a masterpiece, but that scene is. Life changing moments. We all have them. Even pieces of shit can be wronged and deserve justice. Good people can also be taken out without warning or provocation.
With my easy work schedule I should have written three best sellers by the time I was thirty. I decided to spend much of that time chasing skirts in between beers in the strip of bars in Long Beach. Fuck it all, it was a fun time, even if it wasn’t terribly productive in the creative area. After all, I had those “good rejection letters” from literary agents and publishers that I could enthrall drunken bar pigs with. Even those were from ’94 and ’95 and in the rearview mirror. They were actually letters, done up on a typewriter with the various, important seals and watermarks on them.
Tarmac’s Trophies of Failure.
That Tuesday morning my boss had to take his car to get inspected in the morning, or some fucking thing like that. He would be in late. Awesome!! I would work from 7 to 7 and I could pick up some overtime. I was saving for a house and the extra money would really help. Umm, yeah that isn’t quite right. The Long Beach Irish Fest–always the first Saturday in October, was only three weeks away. The extra coin would help for beer money, or one more hit of Ecstacy(that is what us oldtimers called Molly). I am sure there would be some Trust Fund coke slut that wouldn’t want to dip into daddy’s millions for a few lines, so I would have to pay up for that, as well. Those girls from the North Shore of Long Island were a demanding crowd, but their wonderfully smelling panties protected the sexual equivalent of Johnny Walker Blue Label. The cost of doing business. I always tried to write these expenses off come tax season.
I took the 5:35 from Long Beach that morning. I loved the 5:35. It was the first train of the day and filled mostly with construction workers who spent the hour commute getting that last bit of sleep or checking the baseball and football news. The Yankees were on their quest for a fourth straight World Series win and the Jets and Giants’ seasons were just getting underway, all that hope ahead of the fan base. Well, the Jets season may have been over already. I don’t recall. What I liked about taking the train with mostly construction workers was that they were quiet. Since cell phones had started to become more and more commonplace, the lovely era of the quiet commute had come to an end. You had to deal with listening to people spouting their importance to unseen people on the other end of some flip phone that looked like a communicator that Shatner used for his booty calls with alien broads.
I was still recovering from a very long and festive wedding the previous Saturday. I had been eating like shit the last two days to soak up the remaining alcohol in my blood stream and my gut felt like it was loaded with cannonballs that should have been on a Spanish galleon and not inside of me. I still had that annoying drinker’s sweat going and my light blue dress shirt was already matted to my back. As I loosened my tie I realized I didn’t care if I had massive swamp ass because there were never any good looking women on the 5:35. As the train yawned into Penn Station, I stood up slowly and casually adjusted my underwear as my sweaty ball bag was clinging to the hair on my inner thigh. I looked down at the ratty vinyl seat and saw that there was no puddle of sweat.
Maybe it would be a good day.
I loved coming out of the Subway for the 2 and 3 trains on Wall Street. As you peered down the thin canyon of concrete buildings–mostly banks and brokerage houses that contained thieves in league with government scumbags who did all they could to make the free market not so free for the average Joe–you could see the beautiful Trinity Church. It seemed kind of out of place among the heavy hitters in three thousand dollar suits whose only thought of God was His mention on printed money. There was also an entertaining and sleazy strip club a block away from that. I had been inside that many times with the my buddy Ali–the Iranian Dean Martin– and lost many a dollar bill, but had never put one in the collection box at the Trinity Church.
I tithed to a different god.
Did I feel different on this day? Was my exit from the subway on that Tuesday like the surreal dream Father Karras had of his dying mother in The Exorcist? The one when we briefly see the frightening face of evil? The Financial District was still rather quiet right before 7am. I could hear the chirping of birds and the whirring of a massive street sweeper somewhere in front of the Stock Exchange. The sun was shining off the sides of some of the buildings and it made them look like a king’s golden treasure. I wonder if this was by design? I bought a coffee and walked into my job at 2 Wall Street. I mumbled good morning to one of the building guys and when I got into my office I am trying to remember if the shadow I cast on the wall was twisted and mangled on this day, like a body crumpled up in a car accident?
TO BE CONTINUED………………………