Sunday, November 25, 2012

Existing in New York City: Poor as Job's Turkey

Foto by tgw, New York City, November 2012
Say Goodbye to: Mickey Baker of Mickey & Sylvia (Robinson) fame. "Oh, Sylvia, how do you call your lover boy?"  And, yes, Love Is Strange...and so is Life. Mickey Baker, 87, American guitarist (Mickey & Sylvia) and songwriter ("Love Is Strange")

Thanksgiving With the Pilgrims
I really was poor as Job's turkey come the approach of this year's Thanksgiving Day.  I was so poor, I was planning on perhaps experimenting with some cat food on Turkey Day, like maybe what some of the reservation-bound Native Americans up north were feasting on this fine great U.S.A. White Man's Holy Day.  Business had been lousy for the past month.  My income was suddenly pushing me off a cliff into a subbasement of what President Obama insists on calling the Middle Class when in fact it's the Lower Class, the on-the-brink-of-poverty class.  I think to President Obama, now a rich man, the Middle Class consists of anybody making less than $250,000 a year; otherwise, "Hey, Prez, there ain't no Middle Class no more."

I was so damn broke this Thanksgiving, that I went in my closet and started going through all my coats and trousers looking for perhaps money I stashed away in those myriad pockets and forgot about...with luck, maybe I had cached a twenty in some long ago unworn-in-a-while summer pants after stumbling home a little inebriated from a night out on the town.  No such luck.  I did find thirty-five cents in an old coat that was pushed way back in that corner of my closet where I keep my out-of-style or worn-out apparels just before I toss them out or Hefty bag them up and leave 'em on the street for the bums to find.

I was on the verge of getting out the coin wrappers and wrapping up some pennies out of the Pacifico beer bucket I bought on my last trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, yeah now decades ago, a six-pack-size bucket into which I now toss these worthless pennies I collect from change on a daily basis.  There are an estimated thousand pennies in that beer bucket, which comes to, what?  Ten dollars?  Even wrapping that many pennies besides being time consuming also involves putting my bank account number on each roll of 50 and then trucking them down to my bank on 14th, which means I'd need to scrounge up $5.00 for a round trip on the N Train.  Was it worth spending $5.00 to cash in $10.00 worth of pennies?  Even broke, I thought not.

As I was at my lowest, building up the courage to call an ex-lover and trying to borrow some money off her, up pops a "You've Got Mail" and I open it to find an email from an old drummer friend of mine.  "What the hell does he want?" I thought.  I hadn't heard from him since we did a gig together back in August.  So I clicked on his email and opened it up not expecting anything but perhaps a brag mail inviting me to come hear him play somewhere. And, sure 'nuff, it started off with the normal perfunctory greeting, "Hey, what the hell are you up to?  If you're not doing anything...."  I was writing it off to blah-blah-blah and was on the verge of closing it and keeping it to read later when I noticed in the next line the phrase "Thanksgiving dinner."  I read the whole damn email and lo and behold, this old friend was inviting me to join him at a woman's apartment on the Upper West Side where she would be feasting us to a Thanksgiving turkey dinner complete with all the proper trimmings.  All I had to bring was myself, everything else was being provided by this woman whose name I didn't recognize.   Turns out I knew this woman very well from back in the days when the drummer and I were in the annual New Year's Eve band at a restaurant in downtown Manhattan.

So it turned out I got a splendid Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, kasha, and desserts galore: a chocolate hazelnut cake, some pumpkin walnut chocolate chip bread, a sweet potato pie, an apple crumb pie, and several pints of various good ice creams, all washed down with Stella beers and a fine red wine.

And the company was right up my alley, too: the hostess a literary agent originally from Detroit; a native New York City Ukrainian lady and her retired Detroit fireman boyfriend (we discovered we had similar army experiences); a Frenchman bon vivant; a medical technician; my friend the drummer; and a successful writer who happened to be a transplanted Texan like myself (he's the author of a biography of Thomas Paine).  The drummer brought along a CD I made with his band 9 years ago on which I sing several tunes and he played me very loudly as he commented on my being the best vocalist he ever recorded with.  Bullshit, but the good kind of bullshit an old bullshitter like myself thoroughly enjoys.

After it was all over, the hostess packed me up three containers of leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce and the Ukrainian lady slipped me a paper sack containing one of her pumpkin-walnut-chocolate-chip breads.  And as I was going to bum $2.50 for the subway from my drummer friend, he said, "Hey, since I have a bum knee and don't feel like trudging down into the subway, let's take a cab...I'll pay for it."

After I got home, I didn't know which brace of gods to praise for bailing my poor ass out with such a splendid result.

So on Thanksgiving I was poor as Job's turkey but rich with the best friends a man can have...or should I say blessed with the best friends a man can have.

The wonderful thing about being a New Yorker...everybody you know has a bit of salvation of some kind in them.

for The Daily (Gobbler) Growler

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