So I just got off work and was headed for the subway. It was starting to get light outside – I’d been in the club for hours. I call myself the bouncer, but I’m really the guy who decides who gets in and who doesn’t. The boss has a couple all-muscle, no-brains guys he lets in free, and I call them if somebody starts to act up.
I was headed uptown when I saw this place that offered a free breakfast. Can’t beat the price, I said, and walked in. Big building, stone and wood and stuff. They were still setting it up and told me I could sit down. I grabbed the best chair and had to move some book out of my way. I’m not much of a reader – the club keeps me busy, then there’s the guys I hang with. But I had a girl once who was into poetry, and if she was into poetry, I was into poetry, know what I mean? So I ain’t stupid.
This book that was gonna make sitting uncomfortable had the title on the front. THE MESSAGE. Ha! That’s one message that won’t fit in no bottle. The setup guys are still busy. If I crash now I ain’t waking up until tomorrow, ya know? So I open it up. Wish I had a place to prop my feet up.
I crack it open to the middle and I see another title – no message. This one says P SLAMS. Poetry slams – that’s cool. I went to a couple with that girl. To me it sounded like people just getting up and talking about whatever they wanted. I mean, it was okay, but how come I couldn’t do that? I got thoughts and stuff.
So I start reading. If this message dude was good enough to get a book published, it might be worth reading. First off: “How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon”. Well, sure, I guess God likes me – I’m a pretty good guy, and I don’t got no long rap sheet or nothin. But I do hang out at Beyond – that’s the place I work. Never been called a saloon before.
Read some more. Blah, blah, chewing on a bible, blah, dust in the wind – I remember that song! It was like from the eighties – something ancient.
The poem ends up “God charts the road you take. The road they take is Skid Row.” I been down to skid row before – Bowery bums. I ain’t gonna end up like them. I’m smarter than that. I know a good thing when I see it.
I look into the second poem. “Earth-leaders push for position, demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks’. I don’t know what that dema-whatever is. Sounds like politics. Pass.
Man, ain’t that food ready yet? Fifteen minutes? If I’m not wrapping myself around something warm and breakfasty in sixteen minutes, I’m outa here. Free’s good but it ain’t everything.
Next poem. Hey – dude’s name is David! That’s my name. That gets him some props in my book. I’ll have to see if I can look him up somewhere, catch one of his readings or something.
Starts off “God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me”. Man, I been there. Some of the Bloods and Crips – exports, shoulda just stayed home – was having a turf war right near my club. Those dudes was everywhere, flashing signs, wearing colors. Mushrooms, that’s rich. This David guy’s alright.
Little bit farther down: “I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady”. Yeah, I’m just about ready for some of —
Dude walks over. He’s finished setting up stuff. “Good morning, sir! I see that you enjoy reading the Bible.” “Nah, I’m just checking out this dude’s poetry. Not bad. Does he still do readings and poetry slams, or did he get all high and mighty since he put out this book?” Dude sat down, confused look. Asked to see the poetry book. I showed him the poem I was reading, by my man David. He didn’t laugh, but he wanted to. That burns me – dude’s laughing at me like I was a kid or something. I’ll be twentytwo in a month – I ain’t no baby. Dude caught on real quick that he messing with the wrong guy, apologizes. Takes me over to the food line.
“Let’s sit down over here and talk about David a bit. I have a few updates for you about him.” Cool – maybe I can score some tickets.
We sit, and we talk. Dude’s alright – he didn’t mean to laugh at me. Turns out his name’s Paul, and he showed me in the poetry book (it’s not a poetry book) where his man Paul wrote some stuff. Paul (the dude eating breakfast, not the other one) told me that there’s a whole lot more in the poetry book than poetry. Sounds like stories, and self-help stuff, and some fantasy end-of-the-world stuff. He explained how both David and Paul (the other ones, not us) were dead, but I could hear some readings from the poetry book if I stuck around a little bit – turns out this free breakfast place is a church.
So I hung around, getting tireder and tireder. They had a band – not bad, but not as good as what my club has. And the crowd was different. All ages, instead of young and happening. But there was something else – these folks paid attention while Paul got up and talked. They weren’t like the crowd at the club – desperate for the next drink or hit or body. The people here were like happy, not up and down all the time. They had problems – I recognized a dude that used to come to the club before he got sent upstate for a visit. And one lady talked about how her old man beat her and threw her out – but she was smilin instead of cussin. And not just because they took up some collection to help her find a new place.
So Paul came down and said he had two surprises for me. I mean, I’m old and stuff, but I still like surprises. He told me I could keep the poetry book (he called it a bible), and that was cool. I want to read some more about my man David. And then he drove me home. That was cool – more free stuff, and even his old Impala was better than a subway car. Took me across the Brooklyn Bridge then down Henry Street to Remsen. All these funny-looking guys in black with some hair curls. Said they were Orthodox Jews, whatever that means. He told me that my man David was one, but he probably dressed different. And his man Paul started off the same way. And he told me about Paul changing his name, and how this Jesus dude he talked about had the Jewish name Joshua. I got some friends named Josh. This is getting real.
When he dropped me off, Paul told me that they were doing the breakfast and talk thing again next Sunday (I told him it was still my Saturday), and I could come back. That’s cool. Friendly dude, and nice.
I’m gonna read me some more poetry.