Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Wife is like Lenin in our house. It's her way or the gallows. One of these days the proletariat will rise up against her tyranny, but right now we are biding our time, growing strong on potatoes and vodka. For now, however, the Number One Rule is No Smoking In The House. When she goes out of town I feel like a kid in high school, throwing his first keg party. I fire up the VCR and put in High Fidelity, open a bottle of JD and get out the ashtrays. That one moment when the fire touches the white, virgin paper of my Parliament Light is like heaven. Sinking into the couch and inhaling is better than sex. When she is in town I am confined to the front stoop, four whole flights downstairs. And Brooklyn is hot in the summer. Really hot.

I have, however, found that smoking in front of our building is not only culturally enriching (like the time I helped a very drunk Russian guy parallel park, receiving as my reward a kung-fu grip handshake and some very loud commendations in Ringlish), it's also a nice way to make friends in the building. There are two old men who I regularly speak to--one who "works in construction in New Jersey," and who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life, and one guy who has never exactly said what he does. I've been invited to come to their bar a number of times, but deep down inside, I'm an old man too, and I'm very stuck in my ways, so I keep going to the bar where I'm a regular. Saturday afternoon around one o'clock I was standing outside the laundromat (because you can't smoke in there, either) minding my own business and they both walk by. They started giving me a hard time about doing laundry and we started talking.

"Come on! We're on our way to O'Sullivan's. Come have a drink."

"No guys, I have to do laundry. See. She's in there. I can't go."

"Come on! She's supposed to be doing laundry."

"(nervous laugh) I drink at Grattan's, anyway. That's why I never see you guys."

And with one of the most serious looks I've ever seen the taller guy leans over and says: "That bar ain't really Irish."

And we part ways. Jovial, but a little nervous.

Later that evening before going out I was downstairs again. The tall guy walks up and says "Hello" and we talked about the weather or something equally meaningless. All of a sudden, he asks me, "Do you like cigars?"

"Not usually," I say. "I mean, now and again, but not regularly."

"Well, my son, he works up at the cigar shop around the corner. Tell him I said you was okay if you want some cigars. He's a good kid." "Great," I said. "But, watch yourself in there. That's the most dangerous store in Brooklyn. Just watch your P's and Q's, and you'll be alright."

And then he said "good night" and walked inside.

I haven't gone to see his son about getting any cigars yet.

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