The New York city lights


The New York city lights.

A Chapter by Coyote Poetry

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A new chapter. Please enjoy

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I left Iraq in the Winter of 1992. I was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey.  I took a leave after I arrived in the USA and I drove my truck to the base from Virginia.  I was given a job in supply. I was a numbers man and the Army used my time wisely. I re-enlisted for the war  to escape the suicide of two brothers. I believed I was seeking a good death. War taught me that life was okay. You can’t fix every problem or situation. Just listen and be kind. I had a lot of time to travel. I was waiting for orders and the military wasn’t  very quick.  My boss was a twenty five year Veteran. The Sergeant First class  released me early every Friday. I would drive down highway 95 to the city of New York. I never aimed at the city. Somehow I landed in the arms of New York weekly for two months.

Somehow I seem to land on the same streets and end-up in the same taverns. I remember the long streets. They felt ghostly and friendly to me.  I found my destination. Chumley tavern on Bedford street. The watering hole for the great Hemingway. This was point one for me. I decided on 10 locations to visit. I stood outside the tavern and I looked at  the lights of New York. The city had the ancient lived in feel.

I liked the Chumley tavern. My G.I Joe haircut and northern accent allowed me to be set out in the mist of the New Yorkers drinking, talking and enjoying their night, drinking their gin and tonic. I wasn’t looking for conversation or friendship. I was in the city where Cohen and Joplin had great talks. I was sitting in the bar where Hemingway drank and lived his way. I felt like I belonged.

I ordered a cold draft and shot of Jack. I watched the New Yorkers talk, laugh and drink. I caught the attention of a pretty woman in a business suit. She was in her late twenties, wore glasses and her long auburn hair tied tightly. She was surveying my face and haircut. She came and sat near me. She touched my shoulder and she asked. Did you just return from the war? I smiled and I told her yes. She was silent for a few seconds and she asked me. Are you okay? I told her. I’m okay and thank you for asking. She touched my high and tight haircut gently and she told me. My brother came back and he isn’t alright. He is locked-up now. I told her I was sorry. War can be hard on men. Hard to forget. She asked me. Is your head cold? These are the cold days of Winter in New York. I told her. I’m Michigan born and I’m used to the coldness of the Winter.

She smiled and laughed. I liked her smile and laughter. I knew she didn’t laugh too much. Her eyes held a sadness. She asked me. What are you doing in New York?  I remember her brown eyes looking deep into my eyes. I told her I left Fort Dix and was searching for the watering hole of Hemingway. The lights of New York and the place where Joplin and Cohen had their last talk. I needed the ancient city. The city make me feel okay. She held her smile for a few seconds than laughed. You missed 10 good cities to come here. Of all the damned places to go, you picked New York in the coldness of winter. She looked serious for a minute and she asked me. Where are you going to park your car? This is New York. No parking in the daytime soldier. I told her. I don’t know. I just wanted a large city tonight. No larger than New York. She laughed at my answers and her business suit seemed less dangerous. Now her eyes were more gentle and less fearful.

She told me. You are lucky. I have a empty spot to park your car. She asked me what my name was. I told her, my name is Johnnie, wandering soldier, and asked her name in return. She smiled and offered her hand and she told me her name was Dorothy. A Boston girl working in the city. I liked her face. A Irish shaped face with a firm body. She asked me, “Do you have a place to stay? New York city is very costly.”  I told her  I was going to escape the city after the bar closed, find a cheap hotel outside the city. She sat quietly for a few moments and she asked me, “Are you dangerous?” I smiled and I told her only to whiskey bottles and cans of beer.

She told me, “I live near by. 201st Street. You can have my couch. I don’t work till Monday. I will give you a grand tour of the city.”
I told her,  “You don’t have to. You have been very kind already. Talking with me. I do appreciate. I don’t want to be a added burden to you.”
She told me, ” I like your face. You have a good face. Please tell me a story. Why a good man would volunteer for war? And how you landed here in this tavern with me?” I told her about my two brothers who committed suicide and how I volunteered for war. War was very kind. Taught me life is better than death. Now I need a story my kind friend. She smiled and she told me she went to college and got her degree. “Now I’m a accountant for a big bank and I work 70 hours a week and I’m always tired.” I reached my hand to her and I told her. Glad to meet you Dorothy.

She took my hand and she held it firmly. I looked into her brown eyes and I asked her. Do you like to dance? She smiled and told me. I haven’t danced since college. I would enjoy some dancing. I told her. Drinking need dancing and dancing need drinking. We left the Chumley tavern at closing time. The city was still alive and lit up.  A lot of people were aiming at their nightly goals. We found my truck and she directed me to the parking structure. She found my writing journals and she read them as I parked the truck. She asked me with questioning eyes. Are you a writer? You didn’t tell me you like to write. I do also. I told her. They are just journals now. One day I will post and create the great novel. She looked sad and she questioned me. I shouldn’t have looked at the journals? I’m sorry. I told her. It is okay. My life isn’t so exciting. I use the journals to release pain, anger and joy.

Her apartment was nice. The apartment had the feel of a woman with good taste and class. Her bedroom door was open. I saw large pillows and satin sheets. She had a small couch and a small kitchen. The house was decorated simple. She had no extra items. A Television and small stereo sat on a small table. She had new art and waterfall on her walls. I liked her already. She had a small book shelf. She had my favorites. Kosinski, Jack London, Stephen King and Robert Schuller. I told her. I like your apartment. She smiled and she told me. I like the simple things. I could be a little tunnel visions with my needs. I like things in their proper place.

I found her cassettes. I requested a Cat Steven tape.  She put the cassette in. The good drink made me braver. I reached to her and I requested a dance? She smiled and she told me. Never danced with a Northern boy. Are you Northern boys safe? I brought her into my arms and we slow danced to the calm voice of Cat Steven. I felt her relaxing and feeling safer. I released her and I told her. Dear Dorothy, I’m tired and I would be thankful for blanket and pillow. I ‘m very thankful for her kindness. She held silence and whispered. Thank you Johnnie. We will drink coffee at 9 am and I will take to the Chelsea Hotel tomorrow. She came to me and kissed both my face-cheeks and she went looking for the blankets. She left me wishing for more.

I went to the couch and I was asleep very quickly. She came back and she put the blanket over my tired body. She kissed my forehead and she went to bed.

New York City lights

Central Park

A Chapter by Coyote Poetry

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A day in New York

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                    Central Park

I awoke smelling fresh coffee and pancakes/bacon being cooked. I saw Dorothy was busy in her kitchen. I found my traveling bag. Took out my toothbrush and razor. I went to the bathroom. I left the door open and she appeared and asked. Are you hungry Soldier? I’m sorry, I awoke you. I was trying to be quiet. I told her.  I didn’t hear a peep. I always awake early. The Army life liked the early morning. She smiled. What do you want to see today? I told her I have a list of things I wanted to do. I will bring the list to you at breakfast. She was a beauty. Her glasses lowered and her long reddish brown hair running free. She was wearing thermal pajamas for the coldness of the New York nights. She came to me and gave me a hug. She told me. I needed some company. I was getting lonely.

I looked at my list.
1.  Chumbley’s speakeasy
2.  Chelsea Hotel
3. Central Park
4. Yankee Stadium
5. Lombardi’s Pizzeria
6. See and walk the Broadway theater district.
7. See and walk Time Square
8. Visit and drink at the Whitehorse  Tavern Inn
9. Visit and drink at P.J Clarke’s
10. Visit and drink at the Kettle of fish

I hope I didn’t show a drunker. I wanted to visit the spots where the old and new writers gain reasons to live and write. A lot of taverns and speakeasy on the list. I went to the kitchen. She was listening to the local news. She told me. Not a bad day. Close to 50 degrees. Would be a good day for Central Park? I gave her my list and she gave me the eggs, bacon and pancakes. She poured the coffee and she read the list. She smiled and she told me. A good list. You have the best pizza place and some of the best literature hangouts. You have done your research Johnnie. She sipped her coffee and held silence. Her hazel eyes glowing with excitement. She told me. We will do some of the list. New York city is bigger than people know. The old truck is useless. We will use buses and trains. We can roam to Central Park than to one of the taverns. I believe you will like The Whitehorse Inn.  Very old and very cool.

I told her. I’m very thankful for your time. I hope I’m not a bother. I came out of no-where. You gave me your home and good company. She looked sad and told me. My brother came back from the war. Before the war we were very close. We had the great plans to discover the city of New York.  He came home and was very violence. The V.A is helping him. I don’t know if he can be okay?  I stood up and wrapped my arms around her and I told her. Just be his friend. Have concern for him. Love and kindness is all we can give and we must hope. He will find his way back again. She released me and she told me. Thank you Johnnie. Eat quickly and I will shower and get dressed, then you can shower Johnnie.

I sat alone in her kitchen. I saw on a table. Family pictures. Parent and children smiling. Picture of a boy and girl smiling. The happy days. I knew her sadness. I bury three brothers. It is sad when the family picture bring more sadness than joy. I knew many men and women who were mess-up by war. War is cold. Take the human spirit to the limit and leave emptiness. War didn’t effect me yet. My city of Detroit taught me death young. I was lucky I followed the tanks in war. Few enemies messed with the tanks. 50 cal machine had respect. She appeared in jeans and silk blouse. Her hair still wet and flowing to her shoulders. Her glasses were off. She was a Irish beauty who could steal a man’s heart if she willed. I told her she was the prettier woman I had seen in many years. She laughed and told me. Flattery will get you everywhere. Go take a shower. The day is being wasted.

We took the bus to Central Park. We arrived with a full bus load. First warm day in a while. Everybody was content. The park was filled with people eating lunch, feeding the birds and walking the dogs and kids. A lot of people were jogging and running. Enjoying this day. On the bus ride. Dorthy pointed out her favorite places. Describing each place. I loved the shine in her eyes. She grasped my right  hand and held it tightly. She told me, the best pizza for lunch at Lombardi’s Pizzeria for us. Tonight we will roam Time’s square. Today we got lucky. A warm Indian Summer day. Good for us to roam the park. I will show you my favorite places. I like the old bridges and statues. She looked sad and asked. Did I ask what you wanted to see? I kissed her face-cheek and told her. You are my tour guide. I will follow you anywhere.

She laughed at my comment and she said very good. I liked the park. Was a lot of old timers hanging about. The young people were enjoying the day. Having good conversation and drinking coffee. I told Dorothy. I need some coffee and to sit down. I want to enjoy the park and talk with you. She said okay. First some coffee and off to my favorite bridge Gapstow bridge. We bought two triple expressos and wandered the Gapstow bridge. It was a beautiful place. Even with Winter.  She told me. This is her favorite place. Quiet and beautiful. I come here to do my writing and find some peace.  I told her. A perfect place. Like the city is far way. She looked at me and she asked. Will you visit me again Johnnie? Are we friends? I’m glad to have met you. You helped me with my brother. I didn’t know what to do. I gave her a quick kiss and I told her. I will be at Fort Dix for awhile. If your want. I will come and see you while I’m here. I have no ideal where I will be stationed. Us Soldiers are pay-for and owned. Yes we are friends. You were kind to me. I needed kindness too. She said very good and gave me a warm kiss. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly by the Gapstow bridge.

She took me to her favorite statue. She had many. Her favorite one was Alice in Wonderland. I watched her look at the beautiful statue. She told me. It is sad we must become old in heart and spirit. Would be nice to have our wonderland somewhere. We took a taxi to Lombardi’s Pizzeria. The place was perfect. The smell of pizza surrounded the complete room. They seated us in the back. I felt a hand across my high and tight haircut. A older Italian woman was looking at me and said. Nice haircut. Did you serve in the war son? I told her yes. She got quiet for a second and told me. Thank you for your service. Please allow a old woman to kiss your cheek and buy you a glass of wine. I told her she was welcome to both. She kissed my cheek and walked away. Dorothy smiled and she told me. Did I thank you Johnnie? I do appreciate your company. I told her it was my lucky day to have met her. I was having a great time. A old Italian man appeared. He put two red wine glasses on the table and he gave me a bear hug. He told me. Good to have soldiers here. I told him. Thank you for the wine and the kindness.

He asked how did I find his place? I told him. Everybody know the best pizza in the USA. It is Lombardi’s Pizza. He laughed and he told me. Best pizza for you and the pretty lady. Thank you for stopping in my place. Dorothy sat and watched. I told her. Too much love for me today. I came to find quiet and peace. You saved me from the loneliness dear Dorothy. Thank you.  She reached over and took my hands and kissed them and she asked. I need a favor? I told her anything. She asked. Come with me to see my brother? I told her, yes and when?

The Chelsea Hotel

A Chapter by Coyote Poetry

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The third chapter. I hope you enjoy.

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                                   The Chelsea Hotel

We were served the Lombardi’s pizza. We chose the deep-dish pizza. Recommended by the dear Italian woman. She watched us taste the pizza. I told her. The best pizza I have ever tasted. She came to me and tapped my head and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. She told me. You are a good man and soldier. Thank you. Dorothy laughed and she reached over taking my hands. Told me, next stop will be your Chelsea Hotel. Some folks say the hotel is haunted by Joplin? I told her Janet isn’t here no-more. She is hanging with Morrison, Hendrix, Karen Carpenter and Elvis. Harry Chapin, Jim Croce and her are in a good place. Making music for the ages. Nothing left for Janet Joplin here.

Dorothy smiled and she asked me. “Do you believe in God? Heaven or hell? I see a man who believe in what he see and can touch.” I raised her hands up to my lips and kissed them both and I told her. She was right. Heaven or hell? I believe we create it here. We won’t know if the gods are waiting for us till the final road trip. I do believe in karma. I have paid in three-folds for my bad deeds and actions. I walk a polite walk now. Two dead brother taught me. Negative words and actions leaved you swimming in wishes you were kinder and a better human being.

She sat in silence for a few minutes and she told me. All of us walk on a silken thread. We will make mistakes and know many pitfalls. Love is a treacherous edge to be on. It will make us dance in joy and cry in great sorrow. I don’t believe you had anything to do with your brothers deaths. They just you with the sorrow of losing someone you loved.This is why I need you Johnnie. I’m scared. My brother won’t talk to me. I need you to make me stronger so I can face him. I told her. I will do what I can.

We left the Lombardi’s Pizza place and Dorothy flagged down a Taxi. We got in and she told him the Chelsea Hotel please. The taxi driver was a old timer with a Insignia of the Marine corp on his big arm. He turned and looked at at my high and tight haircut  and said. You ain’t no Marine. Did you serve in the war? I told him yes. He reached over his big right hand and shook my hand. He told me. Old Marine honored to have a Army man in my taxi. I told him. Glad to meet you Marine. He smiled and he told me. I’m glad you are home safe and sound, son. I thanks him.
He open up his glove box and he showed me his purple heart. He told me. I served in the Vietnam war. War isn’t no good. I agree with him. He got quiet and drove. He still maintain his Marine haircut and spoke to people with respect. We arrived near the Chelsea Hotel. He turned to me and he told me. I hope your wars are done. I’m tire of fighting wars. I want all our boy to come home safe and sound. He reached his right hand to me and he told me. Have some fun and be safe. I thanks him as he drove away. He gave me a half-salute and the taxi faded into the New York city traffic.

Me and Dorothy looked at the Chelsea Hotel. The hotel looked ghostly even with being very active. Her structure maintain a old fashion look. I wondered did Cohen and Joplin see the same place? I crossed the street with Dorothy following. I touched the hotel walls. She laughed at me and she asked. You are not going inside? I told her. No. I wanted a coffee shop or tavern near by. She pointed at a Deli/Coffee shop nearby. We went to the place and we ordered two triple espressos. I asked her. Dear Dorothy. You know my internal secrets and my sad story. Please tell me some stories of your life too? She smiled and she told me. Very little to tell. I was raised outside Boston. Good schools, good grades and I went to Boston University. I did have some fun. College life was fun and easy. I had good friends, danced and celebrated  being alive.Then real life took over. I came to New York five years ago. Good money, few friends and I’m trying to write. I told her. You are young. You have time to travel,test life and have some fun. You can’t take the money to the grave with you. She smiled and asked me.

You joined a war to escape? Not all people are fearless Johnnie. Some of us are locked-in. I reached over and I whispered in her ear. The quiet and the tamed are just hiding their fire. Just waiting for the excuse to leave their secure life. A captive life just need a escape route. She gave me a quick kiss and she asked. Do you see a woman ready to devour life and runaway to unknown destinations. I can’t dear Johnnie. I have heavy burden here.

Me and Dorothy are holding hands. We are looking at the Chelsea Hotel. I wondered did Leonard Cohen think of this place. Maybe just one of many deep memories and places implanted in his song.
Coyote/John Castellenas

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