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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 5

The flurries turned to big wet lazy falling snowflakes that we caught on our tongues as we walked. Diz lit a bone, hit it and passed it to me. The next thing I knew we were walking up on Broadway and I was looking at all the windows as the buildings got taller as we moved turned uptown and crossed 14th to imagine that exponentially I could take on the lives of the people behind each of the windows. It was the thing that always tripped me out about New York, all the possibilities, all the opportunities for life to take a turn. Just stay open and you never knew what was going to happen.


photograph by Ted Barron

We had no bags. Diz wore one of those Vietnam field jackets with the bulging side pockets. At some point I handed him the weed and he stashed it away in some inner pocket. We wore bandannas around our necks and pulled them up over our mouths to ward off the howling wind. Something about the wind in New York that it always howls louder and blows harder down Broadway like a great out of control train came out of the tunnel at Penn Station and just barreled down the great wide way. I had one of my dad’s old tweed coats that was cavernous on me. Something you can grow into, he said. I suspect he got it in one of the Rocket trades.

I wore a jeans jacket underneath, a real Levi’s that had been scored the same way. The only new item of clothing our mother ever brought us was Froot of the Loom white crew necks. We wore them religiously. She acted like she was nominated for mother of the year whenever she slapped a three pack or two on the bar for us to share. Everything else came dad and his deals. It was a great billowy pillowly walk uptown as the snow kept coming down. You could look up and watch the flakes floating down and see a world with no end up above us and the mighty cavern of New York city architecture.

As we crossed past the statue of Horace Greely and Macy’s, we tacked to the left so as not to lose Broadway for Sixth Avenue. At the Deuce we turned left and my brother disappeared. I stoppd there in the mess of snowy commuters with rubbers on their shoes, winter coats, scarf wound faces, slowly revolving there in place on the wide sidewalk of 42nd Street when I saw him waving to me from a bar. He slapped the two id’s on the counter and ordered glasses of whiskey. The bartender, a short wide man with a red cherry face and his own drink that he quaffed from behind the bar, laughed out loud at the picture we made, completely covered with snow, frost on brows.

Take your bandannas down and lemme see your faces. He scanned us and scanned the IDs. You must be Harry, he said and laughed again. He put his head back and his belly shook.
So y’all are a couple of mil-a-trary re-croots? His accent was both a ridicule of us and somehow at once an encouragement and admiration for the audacity of the fake.
Yes sir, I answered and offered my best salute. Diz racked me in the stomach and the bartender laughed again.
He fingered a couple of water glasses, poured them half full with brown whiskey and pointed us toward the door. If you can drink these on your way out you can have them. Diz nodded thanks left a five dollar bill on the bar wood wet with spilled drinks. Drink it all at once, Diz said. It won’t taste so bad. So I did what he said. I wanted to barf but there was a bus driver by the door in his Ralph Kramden blue jacket and pants who coached and coaxed me through it. I swallowed, staggered to the door met by a round of applause by all the nearbys who had been watching us, the two snowmen come inside for fortitude.

I did not feel anything at first. It was like everything went silent. This is nothing I said to Diz. Next thing I knew I had slid to the sidewalk and he was yanking me to my feet under the watchful eye of a cop who intoned Move Along Fellas, Move Along. He had a mustache and he was smoking and he winked at me like you let me and I will let you and it was then I remember that moment even now it was then that I realized that we did not live in a system of laws but in a gathering of humans who if you didn’t fuck up too bad and cause a scene would give you enough rope to hang yourself. Port Authority was a circus or a circle of hell depending on your disposition and since we were buzzed and fortified we joined in and watched the clowns.

Wall to wall people. All the buses were socked in. We need one to Wayne to the campus of Paterson State College where Gene Clark and the Sliveradoes were scheduled to appear in the campus theater. I followed Diz he was good at making plans and following them through a born soldier Dad and Rockets called him. Did I mention that Rockets was my uncle? Did I mention that one of the weird stories that dad told me when he was high had Rockets as our dad and not him? That they were both seeing our moms at the same time. It somehow seemed a lot more likely that he would have the connection at the Idiot that he could call on to get her a job that weekend sixteen years ago when everyone’s life turned when she came home from the Ladies Infirmary with a test positive for pregnancy. Now it was turning again today.

I could tell that Diz had something up his sleeve. It was he who had dared and shamed me into actually making this trip. I would have been happy to imagine doing it all in my head. He was the literal twin; I was the dreamy eyed one. The lines were backed up all the way from the windows but Diz just walked all the way up to the front. He made a gesture to an office manager you can just tell who these people are. A mark. He pointed at me. She sighed and said. Boys, I am so glad you made it and there we were at the front of the line. There was some beefing from behind us but the office manager stared him down.

Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.


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