Honestly, I think that it was my fault when I got kidnapped from Uncle Charlie’s. There was a patron who would find out I was working and make sure that “he was there”. I started to see him every night I was working. This went on for several months, at first causing me to think that he was just always there. Uncle Charlie’s had its regulars. Afternoon and night, you could rely on the same people to be there nightly hanging out drinking.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
One of my first jobs in NYC was working at a Gay bar named Uncle Charlie’s. Uncle Charlie’s was located at 55 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. It was a quiet storefront located on a neighborhood street. Seth would often call you into the office and try to intimidate you. The office was in the basement and you had to walk down long crooked stairs (well actually half stairs/half slide for booze). He was usually on the phone when you got there and he would signal you to have a seat. Then, in between pauses with whomever he was talking on the phone, he would tell you what he expected of you that night. That way he rarely had to come upstairs and make an appearance during the evening. When he was done with you, he would wave you away with the flip of his hand and continue his phone conversation.
One of my favorite bartenders who worked there was Steve. Steve was sweet and kind, and usually drunk by the time the night was over. He would also overpour a drink so you could join him in his drinking. He loved to make B52s and Mind Erasers. Steve looked like an L.L. Bean model, and was actually an actor on the side.
Another one of the bartenders was named Joe. He was also an actor, but unlike Steve, most of the patrons had seen his work. He was the star of “The Pizza Boy: He Delivers” and yes it was exactly what you imagine it might have been. He was the guy in the film who ordered the delivery. We were warned that if you ever wanted Joe to give you drinks or not make your night really bad, you were not to mention his film resume anywhere around him. He was this big Italian jock with a crooked smile and a thick Brooklyn accent. He was also one of the dumbest people I have ever met.
Every now and then someone would run out of liquor and whoever was not doing something would go get it from the basement. On the way, there was a maze of beer boxes of stacked to the ceiling. One of the favorite games of the employees was to toss glass bottles of beer at each other as someone would enter the maze. If you got to the end of the maze first, you would grab loose beers and throw them over the boxes into the maze. The beers would hit the floor and explode like mini grenades, showering whoever was in the way with sticky foam.
Also living in the maze were rats. Now, I’m talking NYC rats, smart, cunning, and scared-of-nothing NYC rats. They would dive at you on your way through the basement. The cellar doors opened onto the street so our busboy David could bring the garbage right outside. Rats seeing a good thing would scurry inside and set up home in the basement.
David the barback (a runner who stocks the bar with ice and alcohol) was nice but a little odd. He was my age, but told everyone he had fought in the Vietnam war. He dressed every night in army fatigues and carried a large knife. The knife was for the occasional waiter threatening and rat beheading. Our manager Jeff actually had been in Vietnam and would have “flashbacks” during work. These usually caused him to stop working and stare blankly into space.
Our front door was protected by John; he was a really nice guy who modeled his look on “Super Fly”. He sported a large Afro and had a black belt in Karate. John refused to show us any tricks because in his words, “Karate is no joke.” During the fall and winter, we would add Alan to our family. He would set up a coat check in a little cubby across from the front door. The word was to never go into Alan’s booth unless you wanted to get felt up and believe me, no one wanted to be felt up by Alan.
One time while I was working a shift, a patron who had been coming to the club for several weeks decided that he was going to take me home. He took my tray, threw it to the floor, tossed me over his shoulder, and made a run for the front door. This guy was 250 pounds 6'3'', and had the thickest Russian accent I’d ever heard. Everyone thought it was a joke until I started screaming and he pried my fingers off the door jamb as he dragged me out the door.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Don’t get me wrong, I honestly love New York City. However, I think that I liked it better when it was scary and full of crime. Not like it is today. Today it is clean and full of safe things to do. What I’m talking about is back in the 1980s. 1984/1985 to be exact. Back then New York City kept you on your toes.There was a time when you used to run across Times Square, quickly weaving in and out of hookers on the stroll. You would see dealers selling drugs. Marijuana, Crack, Whack, Speed, and Smack was dealt out in the open. Every now and then someone would get ripped off and buy the occasional bag of oregano (so I hear) or packet of sugar and a fight would break out. It didn’t matter, cops wouldn’t show up. Various peep shows lined the main strip and had plenty of visitors in and out of their doors. They would advertise with a broken blinking sign that for 50 cents you could see a (dandy) show. Now it feels like that was a hundred years ago.
Back then you would spend every minute of every day looking over your shoulder to see who or what might be lurking in the shadows.
Back then, if someone was running towards you, it was usually a sign that they were going to snatch your bag, or stick a knife into you, or worse. These days when someone is running towards you, they are doing just that, running — running towards you wearing sneakers that are probably worth more than your bag. When did jogging become such a big thing? When did working out become such a lifestyle?
Since this was the ’80s, I had the look of the time. Everything was big and overdone. I had what I would call a “Flock of Seagulls” hairdo, named for a band who was known more by how big their lead singer’s hair was and less for the quality of their music. To achieve this look, I would take a hand full of Dippity Doo hair gel, slop that on my head and pull it into what I can describe as a large unkept birds nest. Then I would spray it with half a can of Aqua Net Hairspray to keep it in place. For clothes I wore t-shirts, leather jackets, and tight pants with a short black boot. I was totally in style.
My first apartment in New York was located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This was one of the scariest neighborhoods I have ever lived in. My apartment was 36 blocks from the subway and one block from the projects. We shared the building with a taxi service. My roommate was a modern dancer; I almost never saw him. He was always in his room and rarely came out. By rarely, I mean every couple of days or so he would run out to use the bathroom or grab something from the fridge. I would often hear him moving around in his room, but I would rarely see him.
I found the apartment through The Village Voice. Turned out it actually belonged to a friend of a friend of a friend, but I found the initial listing in The Village Voice.
It was a small two-bedroom with a kitchen, a bath, a park around the corner, and when I showed up, plenty of homeless people lying on my stoop.
It was a busy neighborhood, and I would see so many people just hanging around, not working. People knew my name without my telling them and would scream greetings to me out the window on my walk to the subway (along with various other phrases).
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