EAST SIDE CONFIDENTIAL part two, Confusion on the Heels of Chaos

EAST SIDE CONFIDENTIAL part two, Confusion on the Heels of Chaos

part two: Confusion on the Heels of Chaos

"I was once, if I remember correctly, present at a gathering of madmen."
– Roberto Bolaño

Conjoined twins sharing a vital organ are destined to die simultaneously. Frank "Turk" Jaworski and the Open Kitchen took the same exit. Their departure marked the end of an era, one that was an anachronism by the time of its disappearance. The Open Kitchen was a small space unaffected by linear time. Within the confines of its walls, time sputtered and stalled somewhere in the mid-fifties due to a defect in the time/space continuum. The Open Kitchen was a unique experience. It could never be duplicated. No one in their right mind would even attempt such a folly. The bar was the three dimensional manifestation of Turk’s personality. Bill Curry opened the Copabanana not long after the Open Kitchen closed. Change was inevitable after so many years of stasis. Only one element remained the same. All hell continued to break loose at the same address.

The Copabanana was entirely different from the Open Kitchen. It featured a fully stocked bar, not just cans of Schmidt’s and cheap booze. Every element of Turk’s bar was completely erased by the new owner. The Copa yanked the clock violently into the present. Unlike the dictatorial reign of Turk, Bill Curry preferred a laissez faire approach toward running his bar. As long as the behavior of his clientele didn’t jeopardize his liquor license, he was quite tolerant of borderline behavior. It was easier and more profitable to ignore everything but major transgressions. All Curry required from his customers was a modicum of discretion and no blatant acts of lawlessness. Considering the clientele and the staff, even this small concession was a challenge. Society was changing in the late seventies and early eighties. These changes were responsible for a more open sexual atmosphere. The birth control pill was in widespread use and sexually transmitted diseases were not yet identified as being permanent or fatal As a result the sexual revolution was in full swing. South Street swung a bit further than other neighborhoods. The area had a reputation for embracing creative, eccentric and marginal behavior. It consequently attracted a diverse range of humanity, all bent in some fashion. Styles that attracted attention uptown or in the suburbs were met with a jaundiced eye on South Street. The bizarre was not only accepted, it was embraced on South Street. Normal became weird. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." If we weren’t professionals, we were damn good amateurs.

No one went to the Open Kitchen to meet women. There were none. Turk didn’t ban them, he just did nothing to encourage their patronage. He didn’t really encourage anyone to frequent the place. He was more interested in making sure that irritating people stayed out. If they irked him he kicked them out with alacrity. These exclusions had nothing at all to do with race. Most of his clientele was black. He banished people from all walks of life with equanimity. The limited drink selections offered, Turk’s brusque manner and the fact that the kitchen was never open at the Open Kitchen discouraged errant tourists. It attracted a loyal clientele of cynical and grizzled veterans, all male. Anyone that frequented the place played by Turk’s rules or went elsewhere. It is only logical that women would avoid a bar owned by a proprietor with a reputation for jamming a chrome-plated 45 in someone’s face on a fairly regular basis. The Open Kitchen was an acquired taste. It was Turk’s personal fiefdom and he didn’t seem to be interested in profit. Bill Curry was primarily interested in running a profitable business. He realized that tolerance was profitable in this fringe neighborhood.

This specific evening exceeded the standards of chaos in a chaotic time period. A large group of us attended an art opening that night. I forget the exhibition and the name of the gallery but it doesn’t matter. We all agreed to meet at the Copabanana afterwards. In hindsight it was a questionable decision. Some of us had to work the next day, me for example, but immediate gratification almost always overruled good sense. The entire crew was on the charming side of drunk by the time we left the gallery. That state would prove impossible to maintain as the night wore on. Collectively we lacked basic impulse control on a good day. The odds were against this unfolding as an evening of quiet reflection considering the cast of characters and the quantity of alcohol consumed. Although we operated in the shadows of the culture industry, this was not a group of gentile aesthetes and dilettantes. Drunk, our behavior was reminiscent of orangutans on unauthorized leave from the zoo. Any gains we made within the art system were immediately erased by transgressive acts. We repeatedly snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. If good behavior was the price of success, it was much too high a price to pay given our disinterest in the game and our contempt for rules.

Our tactics were more street than salon. One night in the Khyber I was at the urinal taking a piss and some fucking idiot said to me, "Oh, you’re Michael Macfeat, the guy who paints the crazy things and does the crazy things." I punched him in the mouth, zipped up and returned to the bar.

Most of the exhibiting artists and our friends went to the Copabanana that evening. My father and his friend Rocco were at the exhibition and they decided to join us for cocktails. It was not unusual for Al to socialize with us. He was always up for a few drinks and the pursuit of pleasure. In fact pleasure was his sole motivation in life. To their credit, none of my friends’ fathers behaved like Al. He was a unique individual and often not in a good way.

My father was fun to go out with although growing up with him was a nightmare. He was good company and charming. It made it easier to forgive his faults. On the other hand he was also a larcenous bastard. If it wasn’t screwed down he would steal it. If it was he brought a screwdriver. He could be quite entertaining and he was generous when he had the means. Al would never let any of us pay for anything when we went out. Considering the limited funds at my disposal it would have been self-defeating to refuse his largesse. He wouldn’t come around if he didn’t have cash. As is often the case with gamblers, his finances were tied to his luck so he wasn’t around much. His absences lasted long enough to ensure he would be welcomed back.

His friend Rocco was no stranger. Rocco always carried a pistol with him although I was never sure why he felt the need. He was a rather large man and quite capable of handling himself without it. He made no display of the weapon but the gun sometimes created an unmistakable bulge under his clothing. Hanging around with Rocco taught me to look for signals that a man was armed. Despite the firearm, Rocco was gregarious and a fun to be around. His gun was an accepted fact, like his size. Certainly no one had the balls to question him about the pistol.

Once inside the Copa, Rocco and my father insisted on paying for everyone’s drinks. It became an expensive night for those two spendthrifts. A rather large entourage followed us to the bar and took full advantage of the offer. From experience, I knew that these displays of wild extravagance usually meant that a scam or a bet had born fruit. Apparently they both reaped the benefits of some lucrative caper since they were squandering money like drunken stock brokers with expense accounts. I knew that these windfall profits often came at some else’s expense. Some unseen loser was probably back in New Jersey, licking his wounds and cursing his bad luck. Fuck it. Free drinks were free drinks. I learned to ignore the source of Al’s funds. It wasn’t worth wasting time thinking about it.

Funded by their (presumably) ill gotten gains, multiple cocktails began piling up on both floors for our pleasure. Free cocktails might sound lovely in the abstract but in reality they almost always prove to be a mistake. Paying for drinks sometimes helps one keep excessive spending in perspective; not always but sometimes. Considering the Rogues Gallery in the Copa that night, excess was preordained. The drinks were free but they certainly did nothing to promote good behavior in this group of errant primates.

Fueled by the seemingly endless flow of alcohol, the evening began its slow descent into anarchy. People went between floors in search of some anticipated but indefinable amusement. Both floors had multiple cocktails at our disposal so these migrations weren’t for entertainment purposes only. Fortunately I had a good relationship with the manager of the bar so she left us to our own devices. She had incredible eyes, large and mesmerizing. Granted, I was easily mesmerized back then.

One of the women from our group took umbrage to something or another (either real or imagined) and noisily stormed out of the bar. She had a reputation for pulling a Houdini when drunk. We had all seen this routine before and knew that pursuit was an exercise in futility. I wish I could forget who she was. She later claimed to walk back to New Jersey over the Ben Franklin Bridge. An attractive woman surviving an evening stroll through the city of Camden was unimaginable. Camden led the nation in per capita murders. At the time it was one of the most lawless cities in America and it remains so. Whether this trek actually happened or not was irrelevant. Fact and fiction blurred on evenings such as these. At any rate, no one batted an eye about the sudden departure. It was old hat and it meant more free alcohol for the rest of us.

My father, quite inebriated by this time, got it into his thick skull that one of our friends was pregnant. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. She was just a big-boned girl. Understandably, my father’s comments horrified her. At an early age men are trained to avoid asking about a woman’s weight and age. It wasn’t as if Al didn’t have extensive experience with the opposite sex. His success with women was legendary. Unfortunately his common sense and discretion went south this particular evening. Either he forgot or he just didn’t give a fuck, I am not sure which. Al didn’t stop at one comment about her perceived delicate condition. Oh no, he went on and on about it. If only he made these comments behind her back it would have been less embarrassing for everyone. He was quite direct in his interrogation and he was relentless. Al spent an excruciating amount of time trying to get her to confess to being pregnant. It was the height of absurdity for a man who would confess to nothing, even when caught red handed, would have the audacity to demand a confession from anyone else. Whatever his motivation, he was tenacious. With the singularity of mind that drunks often exhibit he was fixated on the subject. This horror-show went on for what felt like an eternity. Graced with the attention span of a two year old, Al tired of the game and moved on to the other equally absurd delusions.

To deflect the poor girl’s attention away from my father’s abuse, a close friend asked the girl for her telephone number. Her mood brightened at the prospect of potential romance with this handsome rake. I knew that this bastard had no intention of ever calling her (in fact he never did) but she felt a bit better about herself, however fleetingly.

Cocktails flowed without end, an alcoholic version of the nearby Delaware River. Whatever decorum we could muster was simply to ensure that it continued unabated. Kevin, our friend Mike and I retired to the upstairs bar. It was less crowded up there and I needed a break from my father’s lunacy. It was obvious that our luck couldn’t hold out forever. As inevitable and unwelcome as my hangover the next day, my father and Rocco were bound to notice our absence. In much too short a time they did.

At the opposite end of the bar was an attractive woman sitting by herself and wearing a white fur coat. She was a few years older than Kevin and I but that was irrelevant. Her style wasn’t right, it was much too flashy. Her wardrobe was all shiny and sparkly, like a human disco ball. Her clothes identified her as a South Philadelphia native. Their style signified a certain attitude and told us that we couldn’t get there from here. From across the bar it was obvious that it was a clash of sensibilities. The stylistic soundtrack was the Clash’s White Riot at our end of the bar and It’s Raining Men at the other. She looked like a materialistic pain in the ass. Never one to fight battles that I couldn’t win I settled into my Tanqueray and tonics and let sleeping dogs lie.

Unfortunately not everyone followed my prudent example. Rocco and Al gravitated to her. They still lived some low rent Rat Pack version of the past. Contemporary clues held little meaning to them. Even if they understood the clues, as far as they were concerned they were free to ignore them. In that sense they were anarchists. They did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted as long as their funds held out. They began chatting her up as if either of them had a chance with her. The fucked up thing is that from a cursory glance it appeared that they might. Either she enjoyed the company which was hard to imagine or she was plying them for drinks, a more likely scenario. It was impossible for me to care. These two clowns were on a mission and it was best to leave it alone. I kept one eye on the conversation as one does passing an accident on the other side of the highway. I didn’t really want to see the carnage but it was fascinating on some morbid level. I was disinterested in hearing the actual conversation. It was bound to be all lies and I had heard enough of the sound of my father’s voice for one evening. She was physically fit so at least Al wouldn’t ask her if she was pregnant. That provided me some small comfort.

My father could be exceptionally charming when he saw fit to make the effort. His guile with women was legendary and taken for granted. It was unthinkable to leave my girlfriends with him for any length of time. Even if he didn’t snake me it was in the realm of the possible. He was that charming, that devious and his wiles with women were unaffected by any wide age discrepancy. The woman had as much chance as a wounded zebra run to ground by a hyena. Al could never be trusted with women or money. He was treacherous on both fronts.

Kevin, our friend Mike and I were at the near end of the bar still practicing our drinking. It was going pretty well if oblivion was the goal. We were regulars at the bar so we were familiar with the bartender. He and I had a mutual interest in Soldier of Fortune magazine. We had little else in common so the discussion usually began and ended on that topic. He wasn’t a bad guy but he was wound a bit too tight. If I remember correctly he was also in a twelve step program, which at the time I perceived as a symptom of insanity. His interest in the magazine far exceeded my own, however. He was short but he actually aspired to become a mercenary. That seemed nuts to me but it didn’t matter. He took care of us, we took care of him and if the conversation lagged we could always discuss the engineering merits and dependability of the AK47. Even drinks on the house have a price. My curiosity about Soldier of Fortune concerned the international politics that kept mercenaries employed. I also used the magazine as source material in my artwork. Occasionally an article about the Irish Republican Army would appear but I had no fucking desire to join them. It never hurt to have a friendly bartender in your corner so I finessed the conversations as best I could. I did suspect that he was nuts and that one day he might explode into a one man orgy of violence so I kept a respectful distance.

He came over to our end of the bar but not to bring us drinks or talk about Soldier of Fortune. As an avid gun enthusiast he probably noticed the tell-tale lump under Rocco’s shirt. He said quietly, "You know the woman that those two older guys are talking to? She isn’t what they think she is." We weren’t entirely sure what he meant. In my case I was drunk and my powers of deduction were as impaired as the rest of me. She looked presentable from a distance if you could ignore her sense of style. If the implication was that she was a prostitute, I doubted that either Rocco or my dad would perceive that as a negative. Perhaps things would be less complicated for the three of them if they had crime in common. "Is she a working girl?" He replied in a whisper, "No, she’s a transvestite." Kevin and I swiveled our heads to our right in unison. A more critical analysis of this changeling confirmed his assessment. Curiously, these two drunken reprobates seemed completely oblivious to the situation at hand, despite having a closer view of her. This could not end well. As was often the case with Mike, he was in the Men’s Room at the crucial moment and missed the bartender’s warning.

In the process of writing this, I considered the possibility that Kevin and I had overreacted and had misread the threat assessment. That doesn’t explain the two pirates chatted her up but God knows what the fuck they were talking about. It didn’t look to us like they knew the score but maybe they did. Perhaps Al and Rocco found the conversation comical. It seemed plausible. I am so often wrong that I never discount the possibility. The situation seemed to us to have all of the ingredients of a perfect storm.

I brought the subject up with Kevin recently for the first time in years. I asked him for his general impression of the evening. He said, "Fuck, I was just glad that no one got shot." My later and more benevolent analysis of the situation began to crumble with his answer but I pressed on. "Kevin, is it possible that we were overreacting and that Al and Rocco knew that they were talking to a transvestite?" "No man" he said, "not a fucking chance." I asked him a question that I knew, if answered contrary to my revisionist theory, would collapse the whole theoretical house of cards that I hoped to construct. "You don’t really think that they would have shot her, do you?" "As drunk as those two idiots were that night? I’m certain of it. There is plenty about that evening I don’t remember but I do remember being relieved that no one got shot." His view reinforced my original fear that we had been staring into the dark abyss of violence.

Despite being hedonists, both Al and Rocco were old school and ignorant of the subtler developments in contemporary social mores. We decided that it would be wrong to withhold the truth. There was a possibility that nothing would happen if we left them to their own devices but we didn’t trust fate. I hoped that no one would get shot but on the other hand they were quite drunk. Getting hit over the head with a gun or thrown down a flight of stairs would be enough of a disaster. Rocco was always sociable but an underlying violence lurked beneath his affable demeanor. He was a criminal, after all, or he would not have been running around with my father. He was also quite large, drunk and armed. If the shit hit the fan with Rocco there was fuck-all Kevin and I could do about it. We were experienced at fighting in tandem but there was nothing two hyenas could do against a drunk and armed mastodon.

Our friend Mike was useless in violent situations. He had a quick tongue, a bad attitude and nothing to back either quality up. He was also a functional junkie. His indiscretions may have been the result of his habit or an inability to maintain it at times. It wasn’t unusual to get drawn into fights due to Mike’s rapier wit and his inability or unwillingness to fight. Just a few weeks before he stood idly by and watched a close friend of ours take a hellacious beating at the hands of four men. Michael could watch his friends get pummeled but his friends couldn’t, even knowing that he was wrong and deserved a severe ass kicking. It ran contrary to code, whether he ascribed to it or not. Although he was smart and funny, he was a liability at worst and no help at his best. He couldn’t be trusted so our only option was to leave him out of it.

My father’s temper was inescapable growing up. He never hit me until I was sixteen and I returned the favor by hitting him over the head with a lamp. He did act violently toward others, however. He was 6′ 1" tall and rangy. Once he dove across the bar at Hannigan’s (at 69th and Ludlow, across from the Tower Theater) and strangled a customer until the man croaked an apology. Al was in his fifties at the time. His speed and brutality amazed me. I never heard what precipitated the attack but it may have been a gambling debt. The poor bastard had no chance. He was probably as shocked as I was. I couldn’t trust Al not to be violent if he felt provoked.

Kevin and I were aware that our intervention might have a negative effect. They were behaving themselves at present but the truth could potentially upset this convivial equilibrium. Al and Rocco were very drunk and past the point of reason. Two drunken reprobates, a pistol and a transvestite seemed a recipe for disaster.

We got a lucky break. Rocco and my father lacked focus in their drunken state. They eventually headed downstairs in pursuit of new and improved entertainment. Had the transvestite had lost her luster? There was no way of knowing. Kevin and I weighed our options and we decided that they all sucked. We felt that the situation needed to be addressed before they reversed field. With any luck they would be too drunk, too complacent and too lazy to go back upstairs after getting the news. By the time we located the two bastards their condition had noticeably deteriorated. They were talking and laughing loudly and it was hard to get a word in edgewise. We eventually found an opening and explained the situation as diplomatically as possible. To our horror they rebuffed us. They acted like we were nuts! They told us to fuck off and dismissed us like insolent children. Is it possible that they knew that they were dealing with a shape-shifter? These two hooligans were inscrutable at the best of times so it was difficult to determine what they knew or didn’t know. People whose professions demand deception learn to present a blank expression.

We truly had no qualms concerning the sexual predilection of the transvestite. We lacked morals ourselves so her morality was not in question. No one faulted her for running her game for free drinks if that’s what she was doing. Each to their own. Live and let live. The problem was that these two drunks were capable of losing their minds and we were unable to influence them. The other problem was my own inebriated state. It made my threat analysis (and everything else) a bit suspect.

After our failed attempt at disaster control we returned to the upstairs bar. Perhaps we would have better luck with the third party in this bizarre triangle. Once upstairs, the first thing that we noticed was that our buddy Mike had changed seats. He was now at the far end of the bar and engaged in witty repartee with the transvestite. We did not fucking need another complication at that moment. Now we had to explain the situation to this ass-clown before we approached Miss Thing with a plan. We went to the far end of the bar and shoehorned ourselves into their conversation. At close quarters her artifice of deception paled considerably, maybe it was the Adam’s apple. One of us distracted the transvestite while the other debriefed Mike. He took the news surprisingly well. He took it too well in fact. He said he didn’t care what she was, he was having fun and that we should leave him the fuck alone. That was the third person to tell us to fuck off in ten minutes and it was getting a bit tedious. Imparting the truth to these three fools was a thankless job. It was not unusual for a quiet evening on the town to turn into a three ring circus. This night had no hopes of being a quiet evening from jump street considering the personnel. Kevin and I were not very experienced at calming situations down. We were much better at escalation. Everyone else in the equation had by this time made it very clear that they thought we were assholes. Of course they were right. We were assholes, just not for the reasons that they thought we were assholes. We had good intentions even if our analysis and strategy sucked ass.

With Mike (somewhat) sorted or at least informed, we turned our attention to this obscure object of desire. We explained that her lifestyle choices were of no concern to us. We applauded her courage to pursue her dreams. We had no issues with transvestites whatsoever. Our only concern was that the two mature gents might not act so maturely if push came to shove. All we wanted was to avoid trouble, trouble that could result in the expulsion from a favored watering hole and/or arrest. She smiled slyly and cooed, "I can take care of myself." We retorted, "Uh…no you fucking can’t." We explained that these two old gents were not exactly docile and at least one of them had a concealed weapon. They were much too drunk to expect even semi-rational behavior from them. Rocco and Al weren’t exactly enlightened individuals. We strongly advised her a change of venue, at least temporarily. After a brief period of resistance she agreed to leave after we offered her cash. How much cash it took to get rid of her is lost in the black hole of memory. She exited through the door on the first floor, still resplendent in fur and glitter. She was a spectacle, an artificial Christmas tree walking in high heels. Despite the small size of the bar, Al and Rocco were too plastered to even notice her flamboyant exit.

We had no further contact with the Al and Rocco that night and the subject was too bizarre to bring up later. They were so drunk that it is possible that they forgot by morning. I am surprised that I remember as much as I do about the incident. After our objective was reached I lost interest in the matter. Problem solved. It was as if she never existed. At least we thought that was true until we spoke to Mike again.

He berated us for causing her to leave. "I liked her," he whined about his loss like a Catholic school girl with skinned knees. Kevin and I just looked at each other in disbelief, shook our heads and walked away. Actually, we didn’t give a fuck if Mike left with her or not. That was his business. He was an odd bird anyway. We were simply trying to protect her from the other two fools. Their breed of dinosaur was nearly extinct but they were still dangerous. Neither of them were particularly forward thinking in the realm of sexual politics or any other politics for that matter. We solved the problem by paying her off but now Mike was bitching. Fuck him. I fought enough fights for that little bastard that he should have been more appreciative of our efforts, even if he disagreed with the results or our approach. I repressed the urge to backhand him.

There was nothing left for us to do now but resume our cocktail consumption. Memory abandons me beyond this point. The trip home is a complete mystery. I am quite sure that I didn’t walk. It was enough of a challenge to remain upright in that state. I was so drunk that I had as much chance of flying as I did driving home. I would have crashed the car before I ever got in it.

Defying even my own optimistic and delusional expectations I reported for work the next day, late and hungover as fuck. If I wasn’t still drunk I might have called out sick. I was usually in trouble on this job for various serial indiscretions. It must have been pretty damn important for me to show up or I doubt I would have made it. Although drunk on the morning drive I negotiated it without incident.

When I got near the job I stopped at a roadside stand for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a long roll. It was my Saturday morning ritual. My boss always brought his shit-bag dog to work, an untrained an intact male Vizsla. It was red and it had a pronounced knot on the top of its head that made it look as stupid as it actually was. I love dogs but I couldn’t stand this fucking cur. If you didn’t protect yourself it would jump up on you and smack you right in the balls. I spent the majority of every working day with my hand covering my crotch. It isn’t a good look and it makes a lousy first impression. People familiar with the dog understood. Most of our regular customers came in holding their packages as a defensive tactic. It must have looked weird seeing everyone standing around clutching their yarbles. The dog was relentless and would jump up if you made eye contact. It happened all day long. I smacked it on multiple occasions. With no one else reinforcing the discipline and partly due to the dog’s sub-par intelligence it had no affect. Training the useless piece of shit would have helped but my boss felt that training and spaying a dog violated its freedom. He preferred his dogs in a near feral state. I can only think of one other dog that I hated this much. I preferred dogs that bit me to dogs that punched me in the testicles on the regular. But the dog was the least of my problems that morning. I was hungover and insanely hungry. I proceeded to unwrap my sandwich and attack it voraciously. While taking an order from a customer, I foolishly dropped the hand holding the sandwich to my side. The Vizsla swiped it right out of my hand! I lost it!

I am not proud of it now but I punched the dog as hard as I could, right on its bumpy noggin. It fell to the floor as if shot. It remained unconscious for a few seconds. Until that moment I had no idea that it was possible to knock a dog out. Fortunately my boss was in his office when this happened. He eventually came out to investigate the clamor but he was on the phone with a customer at the time of the incident. When he finally got to the counter the dog had recovered enough to stand up but it was wobbling on its long, skinny legs. Although vertical it was still on queer street. I admitted that I smacked the dog but I didn’t tell him that I knocked it out. He knew that my version of the story lacked credibility but, to the Visla’s credit, the dog never ratted me out and I did not get fired. Not two minutes after things had calmed down the dog jumped up and tried to smack me in the nuts. I was beginning to feel besieged. As the day droned on the hangover escalated. It was unbearable. I was too hungover to even eat lunch. Unlike large chunks the previous twenty-four hours, the memory of the hangover remains quite vivid.

Around 11:00 the business phone rang and I reluctantly answered it. I had no interest in speaking to anyone, let alone our bone-head customers. It wasn’t a customer though, it was a collect call from a jail in Atlantic City. I accepted the charges. It was difficult to predict the morning getting any worse but it did. My father was on the phone. He was still so fucked up that it was impossible to understand a word he said. It literally sounded to me like he was speaking Chinese. Al was laughing maniacally through the entire unintelligible conversation. There was no laughing on my end of the phone at all. I was hungover, irritable, hungry and I had just knocked a fucking dog out. I didn’t need any more challenges to my patience. These two clowns were a pain in the ass. The old man really pissed me off by speaking in tongues. Gibberish was totally unacceptable in my fragile condition. Without pointing out his linguistic failure, I asked him if Rocco was available to speak. Fortunately Rocco got on the phone and was slightly more coherent than my father. He said that they had been arrested in Atlantic City. I shuddered to imagine their long drive there. They were both post-verbal before they left the bar! How could either of them have driven for an hour in that condition? Now they had a plan and to my horror the plan involved me. They wanted me to leave work, drive to Atlantic City and post bail for them. The idea was ludicrous. I had no desire to see either them anytime soon let alone be responsible for their release from jail. I felt sick. I also had no ready cash after the previous night of debauchery, despite the fact that the drinks were free. Either I was a very sporty tipper the night before or I gave all of my money away in tips and bribes or I lost all of it on the barroom floor. The reason for my poverty was a moot point. It didn’t matter why. I was flat broke. I spent my last few dollars on a sandwich that had been scarfed up by a dog as useless as tits on a bull.

There was only one option as far as I was concerned. I told them to go fuck themselves, sleep it off in the drunk tank and come up with a plan that did not involve me. I had neither the desire nor the wherewithal to pick them up. I had no compassion for them whatsoever. I was penniless. They got arrested on their own merits. They could get themselves bailed out the same way. Jail seemed like a swell place for those two jerk-offs. Fuck you. No.

Later I asked my father about the arrest. Neither he nor Rocco would talk about it. To this day I don’t know what happened. It didn’t make sense that they would stonewall me over a simple DUI. They were quite open about far more scandalous matters. The only thing they volunteered was that Rocco’s uncle bailed them out. Whatever the reason for their incarceration, there was never any talk of a court appearance and neither of them ever became long term guests of the state of New Jersey. Perhaps Rocco’s uncle had connections. It is useless to speculate. They are both dead and the truth died with them.

Every once in a while I would ask Al about it, just to see if he if he would let his guard down and come clean. Sometimes I brought it up just to break his balls. My father discussed the events preceding the arrest but never directly about the arrest itself. It amazed me that he had any memories of the night at all. Over a period of years he steadfastly refused to give me a straight answer. This was no surprise, Getting the truth out of my father was like collecting rain water with a sieve. It was an act of abject futility.

Obfuscation and evasiveness were my father’s forte. He was impossible to pin down. It was useless to pursue a topic with him once the nonsense started. He would give you irrelevant answers as long as you had the stamina to ask pertinent questions. Lying was a tool to him, like a weed-whacker or a hammer. I am sure that the Atlantic City police quickly tired of his machinations and found his bullshit annoying but their contact with him was relatively brief compared to mine. I grew up with him and share his DNA. Both of these concepts are sobering.

Michael Macfeat 12/24/12