Walking to Work, New York City

So the sun came out today. It had been afraid to show its face around here for a very long time. And when that happens, well …let’s just say it is not good news, and leave it at that.

The snow is finally all melted, and the leaves left over from last Fall are beginning to dry out, spreading a mild musky odor all over the neighborhood, a mixture of plants decaying in the presence of cate excrement. Those alley cats who survived the Winter – not all did – are rutting again in the alley outside my bedroom window, raising quite the racket. Almost like a person being tortured. And as far as those cats that did not make the cut, the superintendent of the apartment house across the way found the bodies of two of them, flat and stiff as if they had been ironed, and he put them right at the sidewalk curb for pick-up. Surprising that the rats hadn’t gotten to them, but maybe it was too cold for the rats to venture outside when their ninth lives faded out, and then they just got frozen solid and were no longer an appealing meal.

Or perhaps rats just avoid cats as a matter of instinct, regardless of the health of the feline in question.

Sometimes, I cut through the alley on the way to pick up the 101R. Usually I’m late because I’m not too swift in the mornings, so I try to hustle as usually the next bus isn’t for about fifteen minutes and that makes me late and then I have to make up the time after 5:30 and by then, tell the truth, I’m pretty well spent. But this week, I’m planning on walking. It’s Spring! I’ll stick with the sidewalks, although it costs me another five minutes. No sense shuffling through all the leaves and wet trash now that it has been racked and shoveled out of the corners of that alley.

Not that you get a seat on the 101R. It’s always full of all those millennials who ought to give a gray-haired guy a seat, but they’re all too busy reading their cell phones or, more likely, playing some game.

The streets, unfortunately, take me past Lousy Louie’s corner, were he sits on his upturned milk crate and rattles his metal cup. I swear he uses a small, beaten-up metal cup to scare up donations to the Lousy Louie Living Lame for Liquor Fund, if you catch my drift. He rattles it real hard and loud, so you know to get your change out of your pocket well ahead of time. He will shake that cup right in your face and, if you wince, he will tell you through rotting teeth “don’t blame me, ya know that folding money don’t make no noise if you get my point.”

On the job I’m on my feet nine hours a day on the factory floor, so like I’d ever give that lazy piece of shit a dime!

If the regulars don’t contribute, he’ll try to crack some lame joke to get their attention, to ingratiate himself. Like yesterday, I’m ignoring him and Louie, he sees me coming and he calls out, “hey, Harris, whaddaya get when ya cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?”

So I’m walking past, not making eye contact but with Louie it doesn’t matter. He’s yelling out after me his lame punch line: “Half way.”

That’s just a sample of what he calls his sense of humor, ya know? A real weird guy, some days he’s whacked out or hung over, all red-eyed and smelling from his own piss, sticking his cup in your face and the smell could just kill ya.

Anyway, today I am in a good mood because my daughter called and she wants to see me. Doesn’t happen too often, and usually she wants something, but she knows I ain’t got much and am a few years from retirement so what she asks for is something I can afford, mostly. She knows not to see me if she’s been fighting with that dickhead husband of hers, because once she showed up with a shiner and I had Tony, from the barbershop that Tony ya know, had his kid visit dickhead and explain how sometimes eyes get black but sometimes when you’re not a good person, they also popped right outta yer head. Dickhead, he’s not too stable but he isn’t stupid, or maybe it’s just my daughter now knows when not to come around, but either way what I don’t know I don’t know – ya know?

Riley, he’s one of them shanty Irish graduates, raised in the Church as an altar-boy, learned to look down on those that didn’t make Mass very much, had this real superior air which didn’t get better when the Jew made him foreman a few years back. So now he smiles a lot and, for the good old days when we pitched pennies in the alley, he’ll cut me a break once in a while, but basically he’s always pissed off at something I didn’t do, he’s got me back in shipping which is not a kindness for someone who’s 63 and has spent the last 45 years working on his feet. I’m not going to say anything, wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, but I am hoping he puts me back on the inspection bench, and near the front where the lighting is better so I don’t miss any unfinished edges which end up being sent back by a customer.

And I’m thinking how I tell Rosa I’m going out tonight. Rosa doesn’t exactly get along with Leena, that’s my daughter, so it’s probably not a great idea to tell Rosa I’m meeting with the girl, but it’s still probably better than lying some excuse because, face it, what else can I say? I’m going out drinking with the guys tonight? I got a girlfriend? I’m taking in the opera at the Met? I just can’t have Leena come to the house, or to McGraw’s where everyone knows us. Maybe the hotel bar near the plant – full of people just passing through, though it is in the City and the beers cost double.

So what was I saying? Yeah, Riley. I am thinking I could talk with him, make a deal. I could do what he asked me to do a long time ago, tell him or Goldfarb anything I hear from the other guys in the factory that the boss might want to know, and in exchange he puts me back in inspection. Before they offered me twenty a week under the table, but now all I would like is to be able to just sit down for the nine hours, stay off my feet and avoid the 8pm shift every fourth week also, that would be good. A man my age needs to adjust, you know. Only maybe now Riley found another snitch?

It’s just that most of the guys on the floor, they’re new. All these guys, they replaced the guys I started out with. All my buddies, they retired except for Renehan who just dropped deal right on the loading dock while loading the Model 4s. Heavy bastards, those model 4 units. I don’t feel any loyalty to these young guys they got now. They’re all just marking time until something better opens up somewhere else. No one’s got my loyalty any more, ya know? I wouldn’t blink, reporting what they’re talking about and how they’re ripping off Goldfarb, they deserve to be reported. Yeah, well, ratted on if that’s how you think about it.

There’s the place. Over there, across Thirty-Second. Yeah, it looks like shit. I call it “old school” but no one cares what the factory looks like, only if the parts we ship are machined right. And I’ll give it to Goldfarb, he’s pretty good at keeping up the quality. Greedy little Yid, but Goldfarb machined parts, everyone knows, they’re the nuts.

Hey, glad you came along. Good talking to you. Maybe we can come into town together some other morning also. Makes the time pass, ya know.

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