Selasa, 27 Desember 2011

Bowery Boxing Day

Boxing Day has been celebrated on the day after Christmas mostly in the UK and host of occupied nations dominated by the British Empire such as Australia, Canada, Ghana, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Kenya, Guyana, Trinidad , Tobago, and Jamaica. For years I thought 'Boxing Day' was traditionally the holiday on which the rich gave the poor their ornate boxes in lieu or a gift, however it was actually the day when the tithes from alms boxes were distributed to the needy of the parish.It sounded like a dumb holiday to most Americans, who considered December 26 as 'left-over' day.From 1952-1985 I had permanent attendance at the table of our split-level ranch house south of Boston. My mother cooked a 20-pound turkey, I mashed seasoned potatoes, and my sisters set the dining room table with yams, creamed onions, turnips, peas, stuffing, and all the fixings for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, friends, cousins, sisters, and brothers. Grace was said with bowed heads. Our plates were swept by forks and knives. Conversations were dominated by the retelling of old tales. Gifts from under a brightly decorated tree were exchanged before dessert of apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies. A fire burned in the fireplace. The wood came from Maine. We were one big happy family.

There wasn't much to do once the china had been cleared from the table, the pots were washed, and the silverware packed into a velvet-lined cedar box. My parents lived in the suburbs. A paradise for a teenager and a purgatory for a young adult in his 20s, especially since I was without a car.

On December 26, 1978 I thanked my parents for another superb Christmas and caught the train from Route 128 to Penn Station. My hillbilly girlfriend was down in West Virginia. She wouldn't be back until the weekend. I called Anthony Scibelli as soon as I reached my East 10th Street apartment. The photographer was a native New Yorker. We were both weary from pretending to be good boys and planned to catch Suicide at CBGBs later that night.

Few bands say Christmas is over better than Suicide and we drank beer at my house until a little before midnight. It was a short walk to the Bowery. Most of the trip was on 2nd Avenue to avoid the wind tunnel o 3rd Avenue. The night was cold. Snow flurries trapezed beneath the street lights. Few people were on the sidewalks, until we reached the Palace Hotel on the Bowery. A crowd encircled a man sprawled on the concrete. According to witnesses the 50 year-old derelict had stepped out of the third-floor window of the SRO hotel.

The drop was a short flight to earth, but the man looked like he might survive the fall. The A sheet was wrapped around his naked body. Blood pulsed from where a broken bone protruded from his leg. His chest heaved with rapid breaths and he said with a pained voice, "Damn, where am I? Please tell me that I'm not on the Bowery."

"Where else you think you are, you dumb drunk." A fellow misfortunate immediately answered from the huddle of broken dreamers.

"Not the Bowery, please tell me I'm not going to die on the Bowery."

His tormentor readied to set him straight, but I lifted a warning finger for silence. A distant siren filled the air. Help was on the way. I knelt over the man and tucked the sheet under this wasted frame. He couldn't have weighed more than 130 pounds. I had been a math major in university and calculate his impact with Newton's gravity equation.

"You're not going to die, old man." The mass and speed didn't add up to a fatality.

"Maybe you ain't gonna die, but you look like a used condom." His heckler was relentless and Anthony's kick to the shin put the quiet in him. The bums laughed at the comment. They were a tough crowd. The police from the 9th Precinct showed up a minute before the ambulance. They cleared space for the EMS crew and told me to step back from the busted man.

"If he ain't family, then move on. Same goes for the rest of you."

I surrendered my spot and we walked into CBGBs. Merv the doorman let us enter without paying. We were regulars. Allison bought us a round of beers. Suicide was on stage. Martin Rev standing impassively by the droning keyboards and Alan Vega smacking the microphone into his face between stanzas of CHEREE. 19 other punks were in the audience. Anthony handed me a vial of poppers. My head exploded on the first inhale.

It was Boxing Day, but not on the Bowery.

To see a live performance of Suicide playing CHEREE please go to this URL

This video was filmed Merrill Aldighieri at HURRAH in 1980.

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