Saturday, August 10, 2019


jangly fireworks dogs gone berserk
clashing like an ice breaker in sensory hell
i don’t mind on a hot summer night
when the wolf is gagging on red roses
and I don’t mind phil spector
creeping in his creepy way to the
center of my heart’s disclosures
not tonight

blending like a taste of paradise
wine in water glasses cherries in tin bowls
i’ve been blind and cherish that
still I want to run away from my home
cruising down the river revved up
crying all night and in the alligator light of day
keep on telling you
there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna leave you.
not tonight

i’ll keep on telling you keep on telling you keep on telling you.

cold and lonely in the deep dark night
bodies close and going all the way
he’ll slide in first with his holy cow shouts
STOP RIGHT THERE
no let me sleep on it
will you make me break my promise
will I forget my time with you and your waiting heaven
don’t you hear me crying
in the middle of nowhere that I can stay

i’ll keep on telling you keep on telling you keep on telling you.

i want you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


cat people

lonely means
spaces dark and wonderful
paths apart from 
underfunded you
lonely means
a cat with eyes so blue
snaking round the corners
of your heart
when a kiss goodnight
holds everything in its grasp
until you find me
out of reach
like a stingless wasp
lonely means
the music that I understand
poetry of a mindful land
where sentiment 
has not forgotten
hail still crushes streets
of Manhattan
oligarchs are so uncertain
when the question
bends the endgame
when the first thing
leads to something
alone and uncertain
the cat lifts its head
like a regal curtain
this is you
your stage
that unending dissertation
of all that has failed you
i am mindful of the 
great exertion
pay heed and retreat
like my wounds and repeat
lonely means
spaces dark and wonderful
paths we tread
together toward extinct
i am yours
you are mine
until the near end of time
in spaces dark and wonderful
you are mine
i am yours
forever divine 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019






MY FANCY CAR

Living part time in the south field lot
If yer lucky then the showers are hot
Warm is good I don’t need a lot
Part time living is all I got
Part time living is all I got

First step love
Next step mercy
Cops came around
Lookin’ for Marcy
Came back back around and
Hauled away Tommy

Put your finger on the exit wound
Put your finger on the exit wound

I heard about those hobo kings
Sleep rough now it’s a criminal thing
Savin’ my money for a crib straight up
All I want is a door that locks
All I want is a door that locks

First step love
Next step mercy
Put a dollar down
On the state-run lottery
Banks came around
Took my home

Put your finger on the exit wound
Put your finger on the exit wound

Never buy a car you can’t sleep in
Homeless life gotta be a sin
Put my money on a trusty van
Make your bed wherever you can
Make your bed wherever you can

First step love
Next step mercy
Thoughts and a prayer
Won’t feed my family
Dinner in the front seat
Homework in the back

Put your finger on the exit wound
Put your finger on the exit wound

Who’s the boy gonna save the world
where’s the girl with the winning plan
Ain’t no bum just down on my luck
I know that no one really gives a…

Put your finger on the exit wound
Put your finger on the exit wound

Words & music Paul Fairall and Linda Danz © 2019 BMI


https://soundcloud.com/paul-fairall/my-fancy-car

Friday, July 12, 2019


i leave detritus
an old friend with breathless views
some throb and some don't

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


aging

then her bones were
all about escape
untied choked without
clever marrow
bloated and unseemly
drinking in
a thing or two 
the fiction that follows
each truthful denial
a misdirection
that craven fear of words
stoked by inflection
bigger than she
revealing the personal
angry in place
cross-eyed kittens she cries
it is time to get drowned
a moment before
she laughs out loud
when her teeth collapse
those mad fucking dancers
free with the questions
done as well with the answers
she takes stock of herself
fakes shedding a tear
it’s like fucking Gray Gardens in here
she is literally downed 
by the park of reminders
wanting isn’t always doing nothing
hanging never solved a problem
crosses come and go in tandem
when her bones are all
about escape
untied and without
clever marrow
she will climb the cross again
quietened no doubt
by discomfort from the razor’s edge
she will climb the cross again
she will no longer pledge.
She will climb the cross again
waving from the edge.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


cormorant commute
morning western rush cross town
east at twilight time

Friday, May 24, 2019


Whiskey-ripped somewhere
Between Bukowski and the I-don’t-fucking-know
Star struck downed beware
I am not speeding to the red angry in place
Cats mouth their warnings
you are a bit of a bell end right in your face
Late night detachment
Bourbon enchantment
I am not wobbly and I don’t fucking know
this is the bit in the cartridge you must replace
Late night decampment
Late night revampment
Between Bukowski and the imaginary place
Is all the rest of I don’t know.


Sunday, May 5, 2019



Here the perceptive 
Weight beside me.
I don’t glance up 
from the book.
Reading slowly for
The loneliness.
Washed dry nose
Explores my fingertips.
This dull cold day
Light happens into
And defines a room.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Who is in danger?
Me and U says the pointy-headed horse
Of the Medieval cloth
For a second you were the pegging thing
For a life time I was the withdrawal thing
We are both in anger
Wrapped in inexplicable danger
Disguised as only
the last true stranger
When the mask is discarded
Revision lasts only
Until the gun is reloaded
For the second you thought
Though I knew better
I dribbled the court
Around a facebook letter
Though we both understood
what makes things better
I am drunk now
And I will sink the basket
you will retrieve and unasked
roll down the court
eye on the prize
I am drunk now
To you a good night
To you who appears in my wandering gloom
To you now I invite to my insular room
Unicorns, like ghosts
offer magic in anger
My pen pal friend may we write for longer
Than life or death
Hunger or strangers
Who arrive at our door
Who sidestep the angel
For we are humans
Glad to entangle like
Deep ocean squids
Knowing the angels
That keep us alive
That make sure we thrive
This poem sucks
It’s late
This poem sucks
Don’t care if I’m late
This old heart rusts
A unicorn opens the gate.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019



















blood taps on the keys
murderous words of regret
night rain washes clean

Sunday, April 21, 2019


EASTER
She traces her skull under the skin
This is the cage or the home
She was born to live in
Her instincts are buffering
In an aged moment
She’s just waves rolling over
A storm ravaged torment
Beach-side she’s planted
Before a horizon
You know who you are
Screams the gull overhead
She does and she doesn’t
While her feathered friend grins
Like a bird in the know
Like a strong undertow
This is gorgeous she says
This captured existence
Collecting clues in a literary manner
Hedging her bets
Getting ready the spanner
She picks up smooth stones
Slides them into a pocket
Saved for the day when
She needs to unlock it
This life this lesson
This something missing
Graves are an insult
For whatever that’s worth
The dead should never pollute the earth
Quick as she can
She skips over the sand
Quick as she can she
Reboots life now stalled
This ongoing lesson
Of who are the ones to
Tear down the walls
It is gorgeous she says
This wounded existence
Gate crashing it seems
Never ends with the wishing
I’m here now she cries
I don’t need permission
I’m here now she whispers
I have got a mission.

Saturday, April 20, 2019


CLOTH
Of the same cloth
Wrath and warp
Cross stitch and hemming
Button holes unhinged
Basting remembered
Onto a pattern that
Weaves into the notion
Of independent right
Cross stitch the banner
Smoke dope
Eat challah in the middle of the night
Weft and warp
Take care of the loom
Beware of the pick
Single threads lead an army
To judicious beginning
Zippers are meant to
Openness not anger
Weaving is lonesome
Until it clothes a stranger

Wednesday, April 10, 2019



KK

Don’t take my picture
Don’t tell me your problems
Don’t be messing with me
I’m gonna tell you
From time honored wisdom
I don’t have long for this world
So stay close mind the bowls they
Tip when we fill the trolley
Watch out for that guy
this girl the most
She’s psycho and racist
But you know this faggot
This what?
I whisper already alert
This you know what I mean
I do Mister Negro
I do you jerk
And he laughed
While I trembled
He had that power
Like an owl perched
In a dark window
Above the sandwiches
To be slipped into bags
He knew everyone’s story
But mine where he lagged
Though I told him everything
In increments like rags
Like bloodstains that glow
Under the forensic blues
He was there in the morning
He was lizard eyed and broken
He was eternally in the
Dark moments we harkened
Over crates of sandwiches
Delivered by tokens
Boys with inheritance
From the first words they’d spoken
Boys who will own
What we leave as tokens
We were all there to feed them
The undefined forgotten
My meager salute this reminder
Of you
It’s all that I have
With a handshake, adieu

nyc April 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


nights i whisper this
boil an egg without burning
an old building down


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I used to be quite wild
Skulking the underworld
Wielding paint like a weapon
I used to be quite wild
Dangerous and then some
Awakened by night
Fucking everything in sight
I used to be quite wild
When poets and madmen 
charmed the fuck out of me
I followed their aim
shot carelessly
At me in my room
I knew what women meant to me
I spent a lifetime arguing
the best of me
I used to be quite wild
Older now in glove soft love
We watch telly from
Under the duvet
Close and regretful
Of all we were meant to be
The cats come or go as they please
I used to be quite wild
Nothing turns out like the dream
A man comes along like a flag unfurled
We eyeball the world
My bayonet is lowered
I think about hurling the last
Unrestrained blow
and I don’t
It’s marriage it’s love
it’s divine capitulation
I used to be quite wild
Instead I’m a nation
Of two undecideds
Wild or tamed it is
Us who are riders
Side saddle
Bareback
I used to be quite wild
Braying songs and drunk stories
We are in this world
Quite wild and tamed
At the same time
 Like a bomb just waiting
For the very best time
Like a warrior remaining
In love and in rhyme

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


I took a path today
Led by a curious dog
I took a path today
Out of my furious fog
I took a path today
Wrong shoes in the mud
Angry at not being prepared
For the evil as well as the good
There was a man who called me
He knew me and wanted a hug
I am holding a bag of shit I said
You know I walk the dog
He laughed
I walked on
I took a path today
And as always I found god.
For CA

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


WINGS

Born old and alone
Like a wizened gnome
Eyeing the terrain
Looking for the home
That takes me in 
Chucks me under my chin
Sit be listened to
Sit be included
Sit have a say
Sit you are home
And I spread the wings
Crippled at birth
For the dangerous road
The search for the mirth
History of art
History of begging
Self-harmed in a way
That embraces forgiving
Toothless old women 
taught me that living has
wings of its own
that I may be forgiven
for flying too high
for finding my feet
for once trying to die
I am old now and younger
Than I have ever been
A staircase descends
A staircase grows higher
Heaven or gutter
No matter how far
Like a wise man once said
I can still see the stars. 

David Hammons
Bag Lady In Flight
Shopping bags, grease and hair 1975

Saturday, January 26, 2019


For Carmen, in space.

I think of you
In the low moments
The space between torment.
I think of you
Like a list for the market.
I have that. Don’t need that
I must stock that soon.
I think of you
Eyeing that bloodline of
The red, red wine.
The glass like a broken marker
Of unsaid regret.
Coffee beans in Sambuca
Dark and perfect.

I think of you
I think of you
Fingers crippled into caves
Of unsure revenge
Covering the keyboard
Folded, dilated, saved.
Crossing the Rubicon.
Wearing the wrong shoes
For a miscalculation.
Does it count
When I am up late
Betraying those decisions
I made to choose.

I think of you in revisions.
I think of you
In stories once written.
The page like a nightmare
On its gentler way
Flying down slowly
To save a dark day.
Who makes the incisions
When friendship is torn
You think I’m wrong
I know
I know.

Does it matter
This blue unintentional
This sudden redeemable 
This this uneventual
Collision of disregard.

I think of you even now
Conniving inspiring rewiring
Despairing on cue.
Foolish me foolish you
I know
I know
It’s battle fatigue.

Embraced at the airport
Like long lost friends.
You left me no choice but
To choose in the end
The history of one over
Small angers of another.
I thought you were bigger.
I thought you were tougher.

I’ll miss you for now
Never forget your voice.
It’s stuck in our song.
You have no choice.
Make the most of your secrets
skulls piled under lampshades
Rugs pulled from the eaves
of regrettable he said she saids
Another conquest will come
In a while.

Be safe little monkey
Think longer and harder. 
Beware the pedestal
Reject the martyr.
Beware of the longing.
Remember the embrace.
Love yourself try harder or
You will lose the race.

I think of you often.
That will not be erased.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Bloodless

Just after eight on a seasonably warm Sundayevening in late September, Dan Muehler left his stopgap digs on East Ninth Street. The gathering outside The Migrant, directly across the street, was still hardly more than a sober smokers’ collective. 
Dan worked at The Migrant and would be back at the retro-chic bar the following morning to prep for the daily opening. He stopped for ten minutes to gauge the effect on those waiting outside for the lunar eclipse of the so-called Super Blood Moon. Irritating cloud cover had momentarily dulled “moonthusiasm,” sending most of the watchers inside. When the star of the show reappeared, iPhones lit up as if they’d been signaled, hurrying Instagrammers and FaceTimers back into the street. 
Dan re-shouldered his guitar, clicked the off button on his e-cigarette and headed west for the weekly jam session across town. The rabbity unease that sent believers scurrying to rapturous predictions from religious leaders of all stripes was not evident in Dan’s crowd. Music, alcohol and pot pitched them—at most—into gauzy, freewheeling what-if scenarios. Dark humor poured from them like the rich, chocolate-colored pints of Guinness that went down so easily. 
He sauntered across Bleecker—the street where music used to spill from every crevice—now awash in the kinds of shops that made New York City the Big New Anywhere. Who didn’t enjoy battling tourists jostling for position outside the artisanal gelato shop, or need fresh baked cookies delivered at two in the morning? 
The former home of Phil Ochs was still a soulless cavity between tenements the color of blood. Choga, now shuttered at the top of a steep flight of stairs, had been a gathering place where musos, oiled by multiple rounds of sake and Japanese beer, spilled their stories in song. The Gaslight on MacDougal Street had finally given up the ghost of Bob Dylan. The stage was gone. Shiny red banquettes lined the narrow, bloodless interior. Anemic international sorts crowded the bar, looking both wounded and entitled. The menu boasted signature snacks. Cocktails had names that sounded like book titles written by terribly hip grown-up children: “False Witness in the Old Fashioned Flask” and “Vampire Attack.”
The Bitter End would hang on until the bitter end. Owners of most venues still standing had mastered the art of making the artist pay to play. “Just a reminder,” they’d scold. “This is a business, so bring your hungry and thirsty friends and have a few rounds, or the music goes away.”
Omar—a black-suited refrigerator of a man—emerged from the doorway of The Red Lion. He nodded to Dan. “What’s up, bro?” His head swiveled left to right and back again like a cannon, scanning for potential troublemakers on a drunken lark in Greenwich Village. “Good crowd tonight.”
“Hey, man,” Dan replied, ducking past him. 
The Bitter End and Terra Blues had nostalgia cachet on Bleecker. At the Lion drinks were cheap. The menu was non-threatening. The bar had a steady roster of musicians who played to regulars, students, tourists, and the homesick, who felt mercifully at home with a properly poured pint soaked up by battered fish and chips. 
On Sunday nights, Dan played in the jam at the Lion. There was no metal, thrash or stand-up on those nights. Folkies slid in alongside a familiar gang of seasoned blues musicians. Among them was a spirited blonde. She was a looker, right out of a Raymond Carver story—forty-something and ballsy everything. She sang with a voice that stopped seasoned hearts in their rutted tracks. For those in the audience who knew how to holler back, Dan always covered a Hank Williams classic, “Mind Your Own Business.” He followed that with more crowd pleasers, growling through “Shine on Harvest Moon” and “Walking Stick.” 
Old Jack was a regular who wore a battle-scarred, mouse-colored Stetson and shamelessly channeled Bob Dylan onstage. He needled Dan with the same damn accusation, every damn time. “You ain’t old enough to know who Redbone is.” 
Dan was old enough. He knew who Leon Redbone was.  No one at The Red Lion gave a shit about the moon. 
The text came in at 2:00 a.m., while Dan was play-flirting with the blonde. “Need u now. get a cab!!!!!!”
“Everything okay?” she hummed, warm and promising like freshly poured whiskey.
“Yeah,” Dan said. “My boss, Ari, old-school jerk. Trust no one. Hate everyone. Stab them with exclamation points.” 
She laughed huskily. Score for him.
Still sober—because that was his life now and had been for a decade—Dan re-scanned the text. He decided to walk back and make a pit stop at the rent-controlled apartment. He’d been saved—again—when his girlfriend had kicked him out and Mike, his magician friend, had taken him in. 
He trudged up three prehistoric flights of stairs. He dropped off his beloved Epiphone Blackstone. Magic Mike was in rehab. He needed someone to stay at his place—rent-free—and take care of the cat. “Be careful, if you do see her,” Magic Mike warned. “She’ll act all chill and purring and then wham, she’ll draw blood.” 
“Kind of like a knife fight at a Buddhist picnic?” Dan suggested. 
“Yeah, that,” said Magic Mike.
Magic Mike’s greeting was still on the machine. It blinked furiously in the darkened room, like a demented spy with Tourette’s.
“Ari here. I need you, now! Chop, chop! Unless you’re the one in fucking rehab.” Twelve seconds of Ari’s hacking cough tore through Dan as if he’d been violated. “When can you get here?” Ari wheezed. 
At eight-fifty an hour, Dan mused. Never.
His job at The Migrant usually started at seven in the morning. Dan erased Ari’s message. At just after three in the morning, he dropped some dry cat food into a bowl in a kitchen that would have been frightening if it was any bigger, but was merely disheartening. On his first night in the apartment he’d discovered the gory aftermath of beet borscht stored in a glass jar that had exploded in the freezer. 
Dan sloped downstairs into the still-dark morning and ran across the street to the bar. 
The first thing he noticed was the chalkboard, still on the street. It should have been brought in at closing. Last night it was lettered in colored chalk, listing the drink specials: Bloodberry Mojitos, Blood Orange Margarita, Blood and Sand, Bloody Bull, Blood Red Sangria, Bloodberry Fizz, Bloodsucker and Bloody Sunday. Now it looked as if the drunken ghost of Jackson Pollock had stumbled by and created another masterpiece. The stench of urine clung to it like snail slime on a leaf. Cigarette butts—little grave markers—stubbed the outdoor planters flanking the entrance.
Dan dragged the offending chalkboard aside. He pushed the front door open to the barely lit interior of the storefront bar. It smelled as if a thousand clowns had died slow, unfunny deaths.
Emerging from behind the bar, a pit bull in pants, Ari threw a ring of keys at Dan. “Get this shit cleaned up,” he growled. “Bartender quit last night. Last fucking time I hire a fucking hipster with his fucking hair in a fucking man bun!” 
“Pay me,” Dan said evenly.
“What? What the fuck!”
“Pay me now, Ari, for today, too,” Dan said. “I’m in no mood.”
Dan tailed in Ari’s wake and locked the door. He pocketed the damp wad of bills thrust at him. He threw a switch and surveyed the scene. The place was a shambles. It was going to be a long fucking day. He closed his eyes and summoned the Zen his girlfriend—ex-girl friend—went on about. Apart from conscious awakening, Shawna was fixated on death. She was the only person he knew who had memberships to morbidity. In Philly, where she was from, there was the Mütter Museum. She belonged to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, where she lived and he had once lived. She was the kind of person who had unabashedly delayed opening curtain, calling for security when she spied a coat and bag left on a theater seat still empty five minutes before show time. “This is New York City in 2013,” she’d announced. “If I’m right, you’ll thank me for my concern.”
They’d met at the city’s only school for Appalachian flatfoot clogging. For a native New Yorker like Dan, stomping to Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo was not exactly a play-it-again-Sam moment.  He was there by invitation from a friend. “Come,” Edna said. “I want you to meet someone.”
He fell in love. Or dependency. Shawna was tightly drawn. She biked everywhere in the city, helmeted as if for battle. She stared him down with her joyless observations. Shawna had a job. He did not. She scared him a little. Love at first fright.
It lasted for almost three years. 
Shawna would say to him, “You can sit at home and be annoyed or you can go out and be annoyed.” He preferred to sit at home and re-watch New York characters tough it out in the neo-noir of Cassavetes’ films.
Shawna was twenty-four when they met. Aging with a still fertile female. Not a thing to look forward to. So he ended it. Well, she did, but he’d agreed.
He wondered what Shawna would make of the drama. It would be eighteen years before a Super Moon happened again, putting Dan at an inconceivable eighty-one years old. Pundits, soothsayers, and end-times websites thrived like leeches on the blood of news junkies and the shamelessly panic-stricken. Forget about greeting 2016 any time soon; the end of the world was at hand. 
On the other, more rational hand, the world was not going to end. NASA knew of no asteroid or comet on a collision course with Earth. Dan’s hopes were pinned on the asteroid.
Like much of the year’s headline screamers, Super Moon hadn’t lived up to the hype. Bruce Jenner scored a Vanity Fair cover as scantily clad Caitlyn, but she was still a Republican. “Deflategate” was actually an nflscandal over softer balls, and another royal baby was just another welfare cheat. For all the hoopla surrounding it, the Super Moon had been kind of bloodless. 
Shawna dismissed the “fake moon shot” and “9/11 was an inside job” and relegated Dan’s favorites to the conspiracy trash heap. At their first meeting, he mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis, prompting silent age-guessing on her part. She urged him to write his own songs, but he resisted. There was a blues song already written for every emotion. Even for the guy on Facebook who cried when he had to euthanize his fish. Muddy Waters had that covered. “Catfish Blues, back down the road I’m goin’.” Suicide bomber songs were a bit more challenging. 
He forced his eyes open. Still here, he thought, taking in The Migrant’s interior. It was a cozy space in a historically incommodious tenement building. Brick walls, properly scarred. Old-fashioned cash register, for display only. Milky-white globe lights and backlit etched glass panels. Depression-era framed photographs. Latter-day prices. 
Carmine-colored clots spilled over the floor, the bar, and the few tables in the back. He started with the broken glass. What horror lay behind the bathroom door filled him with dread. The hidden nook at the back of the room would stay hidden for now. He imagined bottomless Bloody Marys sliding down the throats of dark-haired, marble-complexioned, spectral young women. 
Dan powered through the carnage. Black trash bags slumped at the door like unidentified bodies. The mats were washed. Supplies listed. Wine stocked. Condiments and snacks were prepared and refrigerated. 
“I actually cut cheese,” he thought and laughed out loud, cracking the deadly quiet interior.
Outside, raw-skinned, bone-tired and practically narcoleptic, Dan forced his lanky, sixty-three-year-old frame from the curb, shallow-breathing the stench of fetid gutter debris. Clutching a broom, he traipsed back to the open cellar doors of the bar. He ran a hand through still thick, though graying, hair that capped his scalp like a colony of edgy bats. 
Does it get any worse than this? 
Dan was the only kind of mess you could be after not having steady employment for a decade, at least. He’d worked five hours a day for three days a week at this job. Twenty-one days of paid work. He laughed, but he was still a mess. 
Every nerve ending in Dan’s body telegraphed displeasure. His flesh clung to him, fearful of sliding off bone and diminished muscle into the oily gutter. If he were bloodless, he would not be surprised.
He dropped a bright yellow floor stand at the top of the cellar stairs. He hated the cellar. When he was still drinking, he’d needed a shot of amber-in-a-glass for moments like these, and he needed one now. Caution. Watch Your Step. Alcohol was the minefield he no longer traversed. He saluted the sign and dragged the hose as far as it would stretch from the cellar. 
A trash tornado on legs emerged from the pre-dawn gloom. The old woman glared at Dan as if seeing him for the first time. He continued hosing the pavement. She reared back.
“Don’t fucking spray on me, you four-eyed shrimp!” she screamed.
Dan adjusted his eyeglasses and contemplated the hose. Tool? Weapon? It was a conundrum.
He turned off the water. The woman had not moved. 
“I don’t mean to be a shallow jerk,” Dan said. “It’s my job to clean—.”
“Find something else to do, jerk.” 
Does it get any worse than this? Why yes. Yes, it does. 
He watched her scuttle down the block like a sack of angry crabs. He wondered how she knew he was earlier than usual. He wondered what she did to survive, where she lived and if she was alone. Every morning. Same thing. She screamed at him. He apologized. 
It was a pissing contest that had started on his first day at the job. She’d cracked a new retort every day since then. 
At first it amused him. When he’d ask how she was doing, she’d say, “Mind your own business, you nosy bastard.”
When she noted he had a shitty job, he replied, “No big deal.” 
“I got bunions bigger then your dick,” she cackled.
Dan let the hose drop to the pavement. He felt for the mini-vape in his pocket. He wondered how he had gotten to this place.
One of the kitchen workers arrived. Ari must have called him in earlier. Francisco stopped, flicked a cigarette butt into the gutter and nodded. Dan nodded in return. The only reason I have a crap job at a place called The Migrant, Dan thought, was because Ari didn’t trust the Mexicans. He wondered if the Mexicans got the joke.
Dan pocketed the vape. “Hey man. Door’s open. How’s it goin’? Could I…uh…bum a cigarette?” 
Francisco half-smiled and shook one from the pack. 
Alone again, Dan dragged deeply on the cigarette. Dan knew exactly when he’d finally quit the addiction to the rat race. There had been a few half-hearted prison breaks before then. The first time was when he left school. He set out for San Francisco with his guitar and a girl who’d claimed she’d slept with Salinger. His disgusted father bribed him to return. “Go to art school, at least,” he said.
He’d been an artist once, a painter—large canvases full of a quiet angst. He guessed the really heavy drinking had started around then—and the drugs. When he quit drinking, he quit painting. Dan knew he was not the next Jackson Pollock. For one thing, coke was no longer an inspiration and he didn’t want to die. And then he’d gotten un-sober. It was a bloodless white wine for him, a lot of it. And pot. Which wasn’t really a drug. Gateway meant nothing if you had nowhere to go. 
He’d taken courses in graphic illustration and design so that he could earn a living. He was comfortable doing graphic art. He made his own hours. Deadlines got harder to meet.
Then, after some years of persuading himself that he would eventually get back to the canvas and paint as a sober man, he realized he’d never be able to produce anything more than small, dull abstract paintings with ridiculously pompous titles for vanity galleries in Chelsea. He took up the guitar again. 
The final bloodless escape happened on a night in June, ten years earlier, when America was still shedding its craven innocence. Some underpaid, neophyte magazine editor had insisted he redo an illustration multiple times. She’d hung up on Dan twice. Finally he just went to the midtown office, threw the illustration down, and walked out. 
He’d been sorely tempted to make his way downtown, find a connection and just end it all with a nice warm overdose. Instead, he found the nearest Irish bar in Hell’s Kitchen.
Dan had spotted her right away. She was older than the crowd she was with. Experience fell off her like a molting caterpillar. She was dark-haired, dressed well and all in black, with the air of the recently released. She was at that age when women are at their most vulnerable and most heroic at the same time. She was not wearing a wedding ring.
He’d stood at the bar and telegraphed his desire. She motioned him over. It was her going-away party. “Leaving what?” he’d asked. “Manhappened,” she laughed. “No, I’m a native. I’ll stay until the bitter end. Out with the old. In with the will-work-for less,” she said. “I’ll be a real writer now.” “
She nodded to her co-workers and whispered to Dan, “I’ve lost my joi to their vivre.”
He laughed, and she said, “Why aren’t we all born laughing?”
They traded stories of a city that was once a heady farrago of excitement and danger. She remembered when poison pen letters were written with a proper fountain pen on good stationary. 
“What’s your story?” she asked.
“The names have been changed to protect the humiliated,” he said. “Thank god we finally have 7-Elevens.” 
“And bourbon!” she cheered, lifting her glass. “Lots of bourbon.”
He still felt the guilt of letting her leave on her own. He remembered her name was Trudy and that she would be heading west soon to hike to a reservation at he bottom of the Grand Canyon. “I’ve got new wings,” she said. “I’m gonna commune with the Great Spirits. I’ll be fine.” He raised his glass to her. It was his last drink.
A high-pitched duo shrilly announced their presence, bringing Dan back to his place outside The Migrant. The young women careered about on spike heels, tugging the hems of their leather mini-skirts, waving water bottles like distress signals. 
Heading home from an all night rave, Dan guessed. He overheard one of them say, “This area of town’s like, a lot more youthful, like a younger crowd, because, like, nyuis here.”
Dan stepped out of their way. 
They giggled like conspirators. “Don’t give him any money. He’ll go away.” 
The old lady sprang out of nowhere. “He’s not bothering you. He’s just occupying his fucking space!” 
“Occupy whatever,” one of them drawled. “What’s your problem?” the other one said.
“I got this mother hen thing for the dope.” She pointed to the water bottles. “What’s that?” 
“Asparagus water,” they cheered.
“How much?” she demanded.
“Too much for you,” they sang.
“I’ll eat some asparagus and piss into a bottle for free.”
They wobbled, gagging, to the other side of the street.
“Just die of dehydration and do the gene pool a favor!” she yelled after them.
“I’ve lost my joi to their vivre,” Dan said.
A smile cracked the old lady’s face for the first time. “Good one, shithead.” 
Dan waved at her retreat. He coiled the hose loosely around his shoulder and headed for the cellar. There was still the bathroom and the nook at the back of the room.  When he’d complained about the job to his buddies, one of them suggested he do a GoFundMe. “Why would anyone give someone like me any money? I’m already in Stage 4 of incurable life.” Buy some time, his friends said. “I don’t have an album,” Dan said. Make one up, they said.
Francisco stepped around Dan, extending a pack of cigarettes. 
“Thanks, man.” Dan drew a cigarette from the pack. The rest of the kitchen staff would arrive soon. Someone else could tackle the mess before Ari returned and found him gone. He dug the keys from his pocket and handed them to Francisco. “I’m done. Finished. Terminado.”
He’d get some sleep and then wander over to Washington Square Park. He’d meet his pals for a jam by the fountain, and pick up a few more bucks from the tourists. He patted the still damp wad of bills in his pocket. He might call Shawna. He’d ask her to dinner, maybe see a documentary, her favorite genre. There was a new one on the Ukraine at Film Forum. Dan had a hard time letting go. She might one day need a transplant or a bit of his bone marrow—or he, hers. Already the air smelled fresher. Today was going to be his lucky day.