Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘where’ Category

Fun City

In memoir, Prose, Uncategorized, where on April 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

NY Street scene

NYC is a wretchedly wondrous place that can abrade the human spirit leaving nothing more than rue, misery, and existential scar tissue. You find yourself surrounded by tons of people but somehow an inveterate member of the lonely crowd.

My neighborhood changes yet retains its soiled, somewhat cosmopolitan essence. Back in the 70’s when I first entered this then-tattered urban wonderland of seemingly infinite and accessible possibility, my block and the nearby area was pretty much all mom and pop stores with the exception of a few places like Barney’s. The towers of the World Trade Center were also in pristine evidence. You could find an occasional vendor who sold hot dogs, falafel, or rice and beans. There was a pizza parlor on 8th Ave, owned and operated by a Puerto Rican family. At one point in the nineties, the laundromat below me had an actual variety show on Wednesday nights. You could see a comedian or catch a local band. There was also an occasional puppeteer or juggler. This diversity of people, activity, and optics is an example of the sort of thing that compels me to live in Manhattan despite attendant forms of adversity.

Nowadays it’s all Rite Aid, Subway, Walgreens, and Duane Reade. Back in the late 70’s an elderly gentleman dressed in cowboy drag sat on the corner of 7th Ave and 23rd Street while playing Western swing on his pedal stool guitar. Somebody told me he lived in the Chelsea Hotel, that redoubtable stronghold of bohemianism and artistic exploration.

Over the years, I’ve surveyed numerous other sights as I made my way through the neighborhood.

I saw Herbert Huncke, another Chelsea Hotel resident, on a corner near my residence. He was engaged in a heated conversation with a young woman. Despite his dissolute lifestyle he was an aging pretty boy with a wrinkled baby face.

I saw Art Pepper walking along 7th Ave. He was playing at the Vanguard that week. I noticed his paunch. I knew it was a hernia simply because I had recently read his book, Straight Life, a tragic, somewhat lurid tale about a musical career and life thwarted by the ravages of drug addiction.

Then there was Dr. John. I merely watched as he strolled by on a pleasant warm weather day with a child who was most likely his daughter. I read somewhere that he actually lived nearby. NYC makes you jaded about that sort of thing.

What about Nico sitting in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel? Like Pepper and the good Doctor she was a member of the Thomas DeQuincy fan club, a lotus eater who had difficulty foregoing her treacherous appetites.

No, I’m not judgmental; just commenting on what I see and know about what I know and see in this crepuscular nightmare we blithely refer to as life – an out-of-control chimera that initiates and then destroys hope and dreams in a painfully capricious, inexplicable manner.

Sonny was a painter who lived a few blocks down from me. He started painting after a serious motorcycle accident. Sonny was a somber yet affable working-class artist who smoked True cigarettes. I sat for Sonny in order to supplement my meager income derived from playing and teaching music. He talked incessantly while painting. Once he told me he would never allow his children to wear jeans. That sort of thing just didn’t make sense to him.

He talked about the time he visited Mexico. I did play in San Diego on a couple of occasions. On my second trip the other band members went to Tijuana while I spent the day in bed. Touring can take a lot out of you.

Joe, my next door neighbor, lost his right leg due to diabetes exacerbated by the copious, unrelenting consumption of Heaven Hill whiskey. Sometimes he would put on his artificial leg and try to walk down to the O&B on 23rd Street in order to place a bet or two. Judging from what he told me he once had a fling with one of the ladies who worked there.

There was a guy named Dennis. He was courtly, quite pleasant with everyone; when I first met him he was a handsome young man with a neatly trimmed moustache. He always said hello. I would reply in kind. Where did he live? As far as I could tell he was homeless. Often I would see him bob in and out of the liquor store on the corner.

Sleery was a tall, slender, black guy who lived across the hall from me. His girlfriend Linda was white, southern, and danced in little more than a wig and a Band-Aid in a bar on 8th Ave. Once or twice he stopped me on the street in order to converse. He knew I was a musician. He went on and on about his fondness for jazz. Once he even broke into Dizzy Gilespie’s vehicle and stole some of his wardrobe – the hallmark of a true fan.

I found myself stumbling over his unconscious body as I made my way to my room after a gig that had gone on for too long for far too little pay. Who knows? Perhaps he was his own best customer. From time to time he volunteered to provide me with samples of various substances to which he seemingly had easy access. I always declined in the most gracious manner possible.

One Sunday while I sat in my room going through my practice routine the building shook. There was a loud noise. I ran downstairs and discovered a car that had jumped the curb and gone through the front window of the hardware store beneath my apartment.

Years ago the 10th precinct station on 20th Street made a cameo appearance in a film called “Naked City.” How fitting that such an accident took place on a nearby corner.

-Bern Nix

 

Edward M’s Story

In how?, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times, where, Who on January 12, 2015 at 8:22 pm

edward-meares

Edward is a freelance commercial artist with an ample portfolio of comic book illustrations, some which he would like to use to develop a new video game. But, Edward’s been coming to the soup kitchen regularly this summer, as a second another round of economic troubles in the last fifteen years  has got him looking up to see bottom once again.

Edward developed a successful career when he first came to New York in 1975 as an aspiring freelance commercial artist. This came to an end 1999 when his wife was diagnosed with liver disease and he had to spend more and more time as her caretaker. By June of 2000, things had hit a crisis point with her health and for the next two months he wasn’t able to accept any work as he sat with her though her last days until she passed away in August of that year. Within a couple of weeks, while still dealing with the grief from that loss, he found himself out on the streets, looking for shelter. His wife had been the last tenant paying rent controlled prices in their apartment building. She had lived there before they got married, and it was her name on the lease. “I could have been put on an inheritance list but I didn’t know about it” Edward says.  With the primary tenant deceased, the landlord raised the rent and Edward found himself on the streets. That was his first time needing a hot meal and found one on a regular basis at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

Edward’s spirit prevailed and by 2005 he was once again working, earning money and back on his feet financially. He had also fallen in love with another creative spirit, a massage therapist. The two of them were married and enjoyed the lucrative income of two successful professionals.

“But we got sucked right into the housing bubble,” he says, “she wanted to live near her family so we found a place in Connecticut, near a MetroNorth station, where I could still come into the city to work.”  Things were only looking up when the housing crash hit.

“They had told us they could ‘make it work’ when we signed the mortgage papers.” he says, “what that meant was a floating interest rate. I just signed the papers but didn’t really understand. Our rate went from 18% to 58% in a couple of months and we were suddenly hundreds of dollars behind.” The next thing he knew, he was bankrupt with a broken relationship, and actually in prison for several months because of missed payments.

With his marriage broken, assets depleted, and now a prison record, Edward decided to come back to New York to work on his art career again, which requires new skills in digital graphic arts. Today,  he is in a men’s homeless shelter and is once again coming to the Soup Kitchen for sustainance.

An old friend of his volunteers at the soup kitchen as a counselor and, on top of giving Edward some much-needed company, the two of them share a spiritual connection with Buddhist chants.

How I Came to New York

In how?, where, Who on February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

San Francisco, CA, USA

Carol West

March 21, 2004

I lived in San Francisco for six months in 1979, when my husband was renting a seat on the Stock Exchange. Anything that could go wrong, did. The wind off the Bay never stopped, and I always had to wear a heavy sweater. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the coldest summer I ever spent was my entire stay in San Francisco.

That year there was a gas shortage nationwide and instead of visiting outlying areas, you sat in your car for hours in gas lines. For short drives to the beach or up the coast, if you had gas, you couldn’t find a parking space. My husband did not spend money. Not on eating out. No handicrafts or magnificent bottles of California wine. We drank water at zero cost.

I lived on New York time in California. My husband was at the exchange by seven a.m. and left at one p.m. when his day was over. We went to sleep at nine o’clock at night. I was always thinking ahead three hours. I dreamed of the East Coast.

We lived in a nice little garden apartment that many people mistook for the super’s place. My bell was always ringing. We averaged one earthquake a  month. One night while I watched TV on the futon, the floor gently shook. It was like touching a bowl of Jell-O – 1.5 on the Richter scale. It was the last straw.

I got up, packed everything, sold our furniture, and within three days I was ready to move back to Manhattan – with or without my husband. He saw how serious I was and started packing our cream-colored Camero. We left at four the next morning, the last thing we did on California time.