Day One

DAY ONE
I wasn’t new to cities, I had learned how to survive in a couple of them, but Manhattan in 1982 would take everything I had learned from a year and a half of traveling and living on the street, chew it up, mix it with some depravation, cum and blood, spit it back at me then lick it’s lips and sneer. New York City was a dragon.
I was nineteen years old, grooming Standard Bred Harness Racing horses along the east coast, in Florida at first, then up to North Carolina and finally to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. I quit the day I arrived because, from the Parking lot looking across the river, I saw the New York City skyline that stretched as far as I could see from north to south. I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t even unpack my Korean War ruck sack that I had been traveling with for about a year and a half. I just left.
I found my way to the Lincoln Expressway and started hitchhiking to The City. A passing Yellow Cab pulled over and when I ran up to the passenger side door he shook his head and pointed to the back. I had never been in a cab, but I knew it cost money. I had about seventy dollars on me and I knew it wouldn’t go far.
“Man, you can’t hitch on this road. These Jersey cops don’t play nice. Got any money?”
“About thirty dollars.”
“Oh, man. Do you know anyone in the City?”
“I don’t know anyone here. I just want to see Manhattan. Central Square I think.”
He just looked at me then. He seemed stunned.
“Nah. A kid like you, with practically no money, you gotta go to the Port Authority and find a locker for your shit, then you won’t look like some Midwest new fish.”
“I’m from Minnesota.”
“Jesus. Keep your money, kid, you’re gonna need it. I’m headed to the garage anyway. Out of service. I’ll take you to the Port Authority. Once you stow your gear and go out to the street, don’t look up. All the tourists and new-fish runaways walk around looking up at the big buildings.”
“I’m no runaway, I’m 19.”
“Yeah whatever, kid.”

I put my pack in a locker at the Port Authority, stepped into a Deli that was accessible from inside the station that had a bank of plate-glass windows facing 8th avenue. I got my first bagel and “just a regular coffee.” Turns out some animals have been fucking coffee up for so long that they consider a coffee with cream and sugar not only something that you could put in your mouth but “regular”. They don’t unfuck your order, so I just watched it go cold and untouched, which is the only proper response, and ate my bagel.
I spent the rest of the day finding landmarks that I’d seen from movies – Penn Station, Grand Central, Times Square, Park Ave., Fifth Avenue, and 42nd Street – where in every other doorway was hooker, dealer, cop. The cops didn’t see larceny and sex, they only saw violence- muggers and purse snatchers.
I made my way back to the Port Authority, which is a transportation hub for buses and subways and started thinking about which seat near the departure doors looked the most comfortable spot to nap later. I still hadn’t made it to Central Park and Rockefeller Center yet and was thinking about that, just relaxing from walking around. I had been there for about 10 minutes, sipping a coffee and leaning against a pole, when a young preppie kid stopped and answered a ringing phone from a long bank of payphones about 20 feet from me. He talked, listened and then turned and looked directly at me and motioned for me to come to him. I shook my head and he said,
“It’s for you.”
“Nope can’t be, nobody in this city knows me.”
“It’s a woman, she says she wants to talk to the good-looking boy behind me, that’s you, man.”
I stepped up, took the phone form him, told him thanks as he walked away and then said hello to a stranger.
“Hi there cutie, do you want to party?” She sounded older, sexy, and had a heavy New York accent. I looked around at all the other pay phones, trying to figure how she could see me.
“Yeah, I always wanna party.”
“Oh yay, well listen darling, I saw you there but I had to rush away, but my brother is still there. Do you see him waving by that door on your right?”
I saw him and told her so. He was tall and wore a tight white t-shirt over a lean muscled rock- hard torso. He looked like he threw engine blocks across the yard for fun. He had mean lifeless dark eyes, an olive complexion, and jet- black hair greased up into a James Dean look complete with a pack of smokes rolled up in his shirt sleeve. He saw me nod at him with my chin, stopped waving and stuck his thumbs in his belt loops, waiting.
“I’ll see you soon darling, go by Jimmy’s place and pick up some booze and then he’ll bring you here.” Her voice was dripping with promise.
I followed Jimmy out and he pointed to a crappy cream-colored rust-bucket Volvo and I got in. He reached back over the seat, grabbed a cold beer from a cooler and handed it to me, but stayed stone cold quiet during a quick 15 block drive. He was big in that seat. I started to feel a cold dark thing gnawing at my subconscious, but I followed him up the stairs to the top of the three-story brownstone.
A black and white Quasar was on in the large studio apartment, but the sound was turned down and hard punk rock played low from a stereo under the television. Jimmy motioned for me to sit down, handed me another beer and a blue pill.
“Eat that. My Sis wants you to be on the same level as she is when you get to her.”
I ate it, drank beer and watched as Jimmy started cleaning trash up around the room. Ten minutes later M.A.S.H. was on the T.V. and the Psychedelic Furs were screaming out of the stereo and I couldn’t move. I was completely awake, but I didn’t have any motor control. I couldn’t reach up to scratch my itchy nose. I started slipping off the couch and I couldn’t stop myself. I passed out for a moment and woke up to Jimmy pulling me up to my knees, forcing my mouth open with his fingers, and sticking his cock in my mouth.
“ If you bite down, I will snap your fuckin’ neck.”
He used my mouth until I passed out again. I woke up in agony. Jimmy had me on all fours and was ramming into my ass. There was no lubrication. It was agony, I could feel tissue ripping but my arms and legs were useless. He was holding me under my chest because my arms wouldn’t support me. I passed out again and woke up in the passenger seat of his car. He had carried me down three flights of stairs.
We pulled up to an apartment building on Christopher Street and I was just getting control of my limbs again, but I was shaky as a lamb. He came around, pulled me out of the car and walked me over to a stoop and sat me down. Jimmy just walked away then and drove off. I couldn’t really talk to try to ask him anything and I didn’t try. The demon was gone. Something was leaking through the back of my jeans.

Day Two…

marquis

Eddy Cook

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You Ain’t From Here

 

By Eddy Cook

 

 

Chris and I made our way to the Kansas City Southern rail yard and caught a southbound. We were broke, hungry, and were in no mood for the derailment we got caught in later that day. I t was a super low-speed accident. Some tracks were out of alignment and caused the slow-moving train to derail right in the middle of a small town. A crew came out and used a hydraulic lift to raise the three derailed grain cars one at a time as they rebuilt the track beneath them. We laid low and smoked in the back corner of the open box, deep in the shadows so as not to draw attention.

It was some hours later when the train started moving south again. We rode into the night and decided to jump off at Garnet, Kansas, the first town that the train moved slowly enough through to leap off. We figured that maybe hitchhiking was a better option, in which case we would be able to talk our way into a little cash.

At first light we made our way out to the south- bound county road and stuck out our thumbs. Chris and I had hitched before – across the country from Minneapolis to Manhattan, but we had never done it this far south before. We could see right off that salt and pepper was too exotic for Garnett, Kansas. If looks could kill, Chris would have died four times an hour and me maybe just three.

Some local boys in an El Camino came from the North and swerved so close to us that we had to jump in the ditch, and then fantailed dirt on us from the shoulder of the road while the driver tried to keep it on the pavement. They weaved up the road and took a right onto a dirt road. We figured they’d be back, so Chris found a baseball sized rock and I got hold of a stump that I could swing like a mace into their windshield. We put our weapons in the grass nearby and tried again to catch a ride. Traffic was sparse and not having us. Then the El Camino came squealing and spitting back towards us again from the North.

They weren’t playing with us this time – the boy in the passenger seat struggled his way out the open window to get a shot off at us from a sawed-off and Chris and I took three steps and a dive into a heavy bramble of bushes, heavy thorns ripping at our flesh and clothing. They fired but they must have shot high, we didn’t catch any of the scatter shot, and then they were laughing and yelling

 “Nigger Lover!” As they blew by and out of distance.

We discovered that tracks ran parallel to the south bound road right behind the bush line that we jumped into, so we stayed on them and headed back North until we got near and intersection were a train would have to slow down on it’s way through town.

Chris’s eyebrow was gouged and an earlobe was streaming blood. Thorns had driven through the webbing of two of my fingers. We were a sight when the local law rolled up and crooked a finger at us when we neared the crossing.

“Passing through?”

I nodded,

“We’re trying. Figured we’d get off the road and try the train.”

“I’ll bet. Heard about that. I could round up those yahoos if you like.”

“No, but we sure would appreciate it if you would come by and check on us now and then while we try to catch out.”

“Will do. Stay off the road.”

“Will do.”

 

                We built a small fire near the tracks, between a crossing and a short bridge that crossed a river, and turned our backs toward the couple houses in sight, just to set them at ease. We were trying to stay off everyone’s radar. Broke, hungry and nearly out of Bugler tobacco.

                A train went by soon after we made camp, but it was going about five miles an hour too fast to catch while we were running with gear. After dark, another Kansas City Southern blew through and we realized that they were all too fast. We got off in this town, but it didn’t look we would be able to catch out.

                The slowest mover came at around 2 a.m. and we were ready. I would catch one and then roll by Chris, reach out to him, and help him on. I let half the train go by before I decided that there wasn’t going to be an open box and I was going to have to catch a ladder and get in the end compartment of a grain car.

                I ran to keep pace with the iron horse, timing my grab on the ladder. My pack was heavy but I was going to make it. Then the ground dipped about a foot deeper just as I leapt for the ladder and I was stuck holding the bottom rung.

                The train spun me and dragged me, snapping one of my backpack straps – the pack banging off the side of the car as I came into Chris’s view. He yelled and then covered his face. My shoes ripped off my feet, my heels were shredding on the coarse railroad rock and the shining screaming steel wheels were less than a foot away from my head. I remembered the bridge when I saw Chris cover his face, and I turned to see that it was about 30 yards off and coming at me fast. I had one shot, so I bunched up muscles and sprung as hard as I could away from the grinding wheels. The back pack, one strap still on my shoulder, softened my roll a little and I landed about 5 feet away from the bridge abutment.

 I was fucked up. I laid in the rocks doing a slow damage assessment. No breaks. My heels were in agony and I caught gravel and road rash on both cheeks and my chin. I hurt everywhere and just laid there. Cussing. Moaning.

Chris had been looking for me along the tracks and tripped over one of my feet.

“You dead, Soldier?”

“Negative. Got a smoke rolled?”

 

 

Chris helped me up and half-carried me back to where we had been camped, found my shoes along the way, and started a fire. He left with a plastic jug that we used for water, filled it at the restroom in the Sonic down the road, and brought it to me to bathe and doctor my feet. He’d also bought two cigarettes for a quarter from a teenager, and the teenager got a “I sold two cigarettes to a black guy” story. We had a good long smoke and cooked the last of some coffee we carried. I bathed my feet, pulled the rocks out, and then ripped a t-shirt in half and wrapped each foot. I could put them in shoes if I didn’t tie them. We slept hard and hungry that night.

The next day Chris and I spent staying off the street and waiting patiently by the tracks for a slower train. But we were hungry, out of smokes and feeling mean. If something didn’t change soon, we were going outlaw. We needed wheels.

At about five in the evening, we heard the screen door on the back porch of the nearest house slam shut. We watched as a father, a little boy and a little girl each with a container of food, started a slow march through a little field toward us. Dad carried a crock pot, the little boy was in charge of a big salad, and the little girl hustled toward us with a pan of corn bread.

Dad was explaining to us about how his wife couldn’t watch two transients go hungry while they ate so well, but both Chris and I were openly bawling and hardly heard him as each kid left food in front of us and said,

“God bless you, Hobos!” and Dad said to put everything over by a tree when we were done. We spoke of God and so did he, and they went back to their house.

We ate pot roast with potatoes and carrots, and corn bread, and salad, and we wept thankfully and bitterly. We didn’t go outlaw in that town. A train stopped there in Garnet, Kansas that night and we went on to New Orleans both feeling closer to human.

ONCE WERE MEN AND STRONG

I was six years old when we gathered in the living room to watch  Neil Armstrong walk on the moon on our black and white Zenith in 1969. It was just four years after the Watts riots, a year after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam was happening, and Woodstock, and a little later in the early seventies was Helter Skelter, the fall of Saigon, Watergate and Wounded Knee in ’73 and every man that I grew up around were MEN.

My Father’s generation-men who fought in the Korean War, sat at home waiting for their sons to return from Vietnam, and the young men of that war set the standard for my generation as far as what a man is. But the ones who took over after we stepped back dropped the ball.

The door was wide open for books, movies and music to step up, and they did. Hard boiled movies like Death Wish, Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry, Vanishing Point and Walking Tall and Dirty Harry, Foxy Brown, Mr. Majestyk, Billy Jack, Shaft and Jeremiah Johnson, Hang ’em High, The Sting, Serpico-  all had what the public was hungry for, and then there were the fiction writers like Mario Puzo, Leon Uris, Kurt Vonnegut, and  Norman Mailer. Bold essayists were on the scene like Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelo, Charles Bukowski, and Susan Sontag and they were breaking all the rules.

Men handled their disputes with other men toe to toe and women handled their business face to face. We were strong, a spiritual movement was emerging in Christianity, Buddism, Hindu, Tao, Wicca and we were waking up as a nation again.

Since then, it is my contention, there has been a drought on every level. Somewhere along the way women got therapists, and spent time getting in touch with their inner child and wrote about it, while the men were shaving their chests and doing their hair while they developed politically correct scripts and novels, being careful not to offend. Anyone. Until now.

Women are making movies, fighting in wars, pastoring churches and running multi-million dollar companies. Men are becoming men again, but now it’s okay to be a whole, well rounded and intelligent badass.

There is a resurgence of historical fiction in film and books and it’s a violent history portrayed in every film and series that appeals to both men and women, and I believe we want back what we’ve lost in the last couple decades. There is no truth on pages or in conversations if the words don’t evoke passion. I see us evoking passion again. I am encouraged.

E.A. Cook