A MAN OF SPEED by Peter Nolan Smith on Kindle

In early September of 1960 Hurricane Donna struck New England as a category 2/3 storm. The radio station WBZ announced numerous school closing. My primary school on the South Shore, Our Lady of the Foothills, was one of the first on the list following Beaver Country Day School in Newton. My older brother and I were happy to stay home. We were new kids in town.

That morning a raging gale howled against our split-level ranch house and the windows vibrated in their sashes. The electricity died at noon and my father lit a kerosene lamp, which he placed on the kitchen table. Our family of seven huddled around the flame like Neanderthals sheltering in a cave.
Several hours later the howling hurricane abated to a whisper.

“Where are you going?” my mother demanded with hands on her hips, her voice ringing with the authority of a woman, who had carried five babies in her womb.

“Outside to show them the eye.” My father loved a good storm and waves crashing over the sea walls.

“Hurricanes are not a joke.” My mother had experienced the 1938 hurricane. That tempest didn’t have a name, yet hundreds of New Englanders had died in its path.

“I know.” My father shrugged in weak surrender to the truth.

“You act, as if you don’t.”

Hurricane Edna in 1954 had destroyed his sailboat on Watchic Pond. The hull lay in our backyard.

Six years later he had yet to repair the damage to the mast.

My father was my best friend.
He’s been gone four years.
From this life.
But not from forever.

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A TRAIN STATION WITHOUT TRAINS by Peter Nolan Smith

A TRAIN STATION WITHOUT TRAINS is a collection of four stories set in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Millions of tourists come to view one of the largest open air interiors in the world and while I’ve traveled north from the station, I’ve also spent time eating and drinking at the fabled Oyster Bar and traversed the great floor of Tennessee pink marble countless times. My path is never the same and neither are these tales, because leaving the station is almost as pleasurable as staying there.

I love oysters.

EXCERPT

BAD MAN
by Peter Nolan Smith

In February of 2013 the president of a private jet charter service invited me to dinner at the Oyster Bar.

I accepted without hesitation, because I was a native New Englander and nowhere else in the city served a wider variety of oysters.

“You don’t mind if I my girlfriend and her daughter join us?” Enos liked to compartmentalize his world into separate entities.

“Why would it bother me?” I had met his lover once. Cheryll seemed a very nice woman.

“No reason. Just that I don’t want to hear anything about a diamond ring.” The portly fifty-year old executive was a devout bachelor

“Diamonds make women not so much happy as happier.”

Hurricane Sandy had killed business in the Diamond District, so I wasn’t working for my old firm, but any profit went straight into my pocket. With four kids I could use the money from a sale to Enos.

“They’re a girl’s best friend.”

“And a dog is man’s best friend.”

“That’s true.” My puppy Champoo had loved me more than fried liver.

“So no talk about diamonds. Especially in front of Cheryll. She’s dying to make me an honest man.”

“Not a chance of that.” The Oyster Bar is about oyster and lobster.” I won’t say a word about diamonds.”

I hung up and later in the day traveled by subway from Fort Greene to Grand Central Terminal. I spotted Enos at the entrance to the subterranean restaurant. My friend had gained weight and more than a few pounds, but his curly hair had lost none of its spring.

“Good to see you.” The big man was wearing a tailored suit. Business these days was good as long as you dealt with the rich. “I like the tan. How’s the family?”

Everyone’s good.” I had just returned from a month-long visit to my kids in Thailand. “How’s your dad?”

“Holding on?” Enos and his elderly parents had weathered the hurricane on Rockaway. “I thought we were goners, but the surge ended with the high-tide. The house is a wreck.”

“Any disaster from which you can walk away from is a good thing.”

“My pilots always say that about crashes.”

“True is true.”

We walked inside the restaurant. The Oyster Bar’s vaulted tile ceiling was a bastion of timelessness. Waiters in white apron were shucking Malpecs, Blue Points, Belons, and Hog Islands. Diners were happy with their meals. It was a good place to be.

“My father loved oysters. He used to eat fried clams from Wollaston Beach and wash them down with a chocolate milk shake without a belch afterwards.”

“I wish I had that stomach.” Enos tapped his bass drum girth.

“Shouldn’t we wait for your girls?”
Enos and I sat at the counter. The dining rooms were for out-of-towners and couples.

“Cheryll’s daughter is a vegan. She doesn’t eat fish.”

“No oysters either?”

“None.”

The waitress handed us menus, but Enos waved them away. While he came from a good Jewish family, nothing was too tref or unclean for his palate. “Mind if I order for us?”

“Not at all.”

“Clams casino to start and a glass of Riesling for my friend. I’ll have water.” Enos had stopped drinking and drugs three years ago. It was either cold turkey or a cold grave. He looked better above ground.

“Then an assortment of oysters and two lobster stews.” I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Enos had stopped drinking three years ago. He was fine with tap water.

“I have a question.”

The waitress brought an Austrian Riesling blessed by the sun shining on the Danube’s northern slopes.

“What?” Enos asked, as if I needed a loan.

“This is a dietary question of religion.”

“Meaning a Jewish question.” The waitress placed the clams’ casino between us.

“Yes.” I had been the Sabbath goy for two decades and considered myself a scholar of Judaica. “It’s a simple query. Bacon is tref and clams are tref, right?”

“Right.” Enos lipped the delicacy with pleasure.

“So in physics and mathematics two negatives make a positive, right?”

I popped a clam casino in my mouth. The combined taste of pig and shellfish was a sin of delight.

“Right.” The plate of oysters crowded the counter. They smelled of the ocean.

“So if bacon and shellfish are both tref and you eat them together, does that make them non-tref?”

“According to my calculations, yes, although my father would say no.”
Enos popped two oysters into his mouth. He might have stopped blow, but he was eating a little too fast for a man approaching 280.

“They’re a Fargenign or delight as long as we eat them before my girlfriend’s daughter arrives. She’s a vegan Nazi.” Enos loved interspersing his sentences with Yiddish.

“Vegans hate us.” We were omnivores and devoted the next twenty minutes to devouring the clams’ casino and a dozen Malpecs, and two lobster stews.

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MAYBE TOMORROW Chapter 1 By Peter Nolan Smith

CHAPTER 1

The November sun flashed off a West Village window and the wavering reflection stalked the Christopher Street pier to a lone youth tuning a battered guitar. His skin pallor rivaled the paleness of the rising moon and no suburban mall stocked his ripped black leather jacket, torn T-shirt, or battered engineer boots, but the blonde leather boy broke into a sly smile, as the sapphire shimmer transformed the twenty year-old into a fallen angel regaining his halo.
Nearly every mother and father in America would have ordered their children to avoid this aberration of the nation’s Bicentennial Spirit. Most teenagers were born to obey their parents’ command, but a few were destined to answer the divine temptation, especially once the guitarist slashed the steel strings of his Les Paul.

Picking out chords Johnny Darling repeated the song in his head, then shut his eyes to envision a small stage. The overhead lighting enveloped a drummer, bassist, and keyboard player. A teenage Lolita rasped words of love and no tomorrows in imitation of the Velvet Underground’s Nico. The imagined feedback of Marshall Amps buzzed in his ears and the audience almost materialized within his eyelids.

“Hey, man.”

A young boy’s voice shattered Johnny’s trance.

This time of night only gay bashers and leather freaks frequented the derelict docks. None of them were dangerous, but the guitarist waited for the last chords to fade before slipping his hand inside his jacket for his knife before turning to address the intruder.

It was Frankie.

The Puerto Rican teenager in a distressed leather jacket was two inches shorter than Johnny and his slanted eyes hinted the taint of Chinese blood and Times Square johns found Frankie Domingo pretty, despite the scars crisscrossing his seventeen year-old body.

“Thanks for letting me finish?”

“I been waiting thirty minutes.”
A gust of wind blew a shank of greased hair across Frankie’s face.

“That a new song?”

“Just three chords strung together.” Johnny thumbed his calloused fingertips.

“Doesn’t get more basic than that.” Frankie rattled off a drum roll with frayed sticks. “Snagged these from Jerry Nolan at Max’s Kansas City last night.”

“How were the Heartbreakers?” Johnny had skipped last night’s show to entertain a customer.

“Great and the crowd loved them.” Frankie hunched his shoulders with a shiver.

“They were paid a $100 each. When we gonna have a band?”


“Now I have my guitar back, we can audition for the other members.”

“Great.” Frankie stepped from side to side. A cold damp seeped through his sneakers’ paper-thin soles and he stammered, “Johnny, you have ten dollars?”

“I gave the pawnshop my last fifty.” Johnny slapped his guitar.

“Damn, I wish we could get out of here.” Frankie moaned like a runaway in need of a dime to phone home.

“To go where?”

“What about Florida?” Frankie glanced south, as if the Sunshine State lay beyond the New Jersey docks. “How far away is it? Five hours?”

“More like twenty–four by car.”

“What about by plane?” The young Puerto Rican’s teeth chattered at a 10/10 beat.

“Where we getting the money for two plane tickets?”

“We could hijack a plane. Tell them to give us a million dollars like in DOG DAY AFTERNOON?” Frankie had seen that movie five times on 42nd Street and pumped his fist in the air.

“Attica, Attica.”

“Aren’t you forgetting how the cops shot Pacino’s friend in the head?”

“Movies aren’t real.”

“DOG DAY AFTERNOON was based on a real bank robbery.”


“It was?”

“Yeah, and it didn’t have a happy ending.”

“Your parents live in Florida. That sounds like a ‘happy ever’ after to me. If you called them, they might wire you money to come home?”

“Yes, and tomorrow night we’d be eating my Mom’s homemade apple pie.”

“I love apple pie.” Frankie licked his lips.


“Only one problem.” Johnny gestured toward Manhattan.


“Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

“I’m not leaving this behind.”

“Fuck this city?” Frankie chucked the battered drumsticks into the river. “All I have here are hustles, an empty stomach and the smell of old man’s hands on my skin, and you don’t have it much better.”

Johnny stuck the guitar into its case and walked toward the elevated highway.

Frankie trailed behind him.

“I ran away from Florida for the same reason you want to run away from New York.” Johnny stopped on the curb of West Street and turned to Frankie. “Me and you will make it here as rock stars.”

“But not tonight.” Frankie kicked an empty beer can into the gutter.

“No, not tonight.” Johnny couldn’t lie to Frankie. “Tomorrow Max’s will serve a turkey feast for us orphans.”

“So what about tonight?” Frankie could handle anything as long as he was with Johnny.

“Tonight we go to work.” The uptown light on West Street was changing to green and suburb-bound cars accelerated to catch up with the synchronized signals.

“53rd and 3rd?” Frankie had had his fill of the sissies at those piano bars.

“No, we’re not competing with midnight cowboys tonight.”

“The docks?”

Across the street men prowled the sidewalks in search of nameless sex. A few lurked between the trucks parked underneath the elevated highway. How they were celebrating the night before Thanksgiving was no mystery.

“Never them.”

“So it’s Times Square?” Frankie sighed with resignation.

“The Strip is all about luck.”

“With luck being heads I win, tails you lose and never give a sucker a break.”

“That’s the game there and everywhere. How I look?” Johnny slung the case’s strap over his shoulder and pulled up the collar of his torn leather jacket.

“Like a prince.” Frankie blew on his numb hands.

“Where anyone from Jerome Avenue meet a prince?”

“My grandmother read me fairy tales. They really have princes and princesses?”

“Real as you and me, except they were born in a palace.” The chilled air scrapped over Johnny’s right lung like a boat striking a reef.

“You meet one?” Frankie was oblivious to his friend’s discomfort.

“Not this side of the silver screen.” Johnny fought off the shakes, figuring his ‘jones’ was knocking on the door. “Princes and princesses are like any suckers. We meet one and what we do?”

“We take them for everything.” Frankie snapped his fingers.

“And leave them begging for more.” The ache faded from Johnny’s chest and he draped his arm over the younger boy. “Just one more thing.”

“I know what you’re going to say.”

“Which is?

“For me not to trust anyone.”

“That’s survival rule # 1 in New York.” Times Square killed people who broke that rule and he turned to Frankie. “That means me too.”

“I’m a big boy.” Frankie’s childhood had revealed the worst of what the New York had to offer the young.

“Then let’s head uptown.” Johnny dashed onto West Street. “Watch out, Johnny.”


Two taxis swerved to avoid hitting the guitarist.

“For what? I’ll live forever,” Johnny shouted from the other side of the street, because believing in anything other than his immortality would have been a sacrilege, at least until he reached twenty-one and that birthday was more than a year away and a year was an eternity when you were only twenty.

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Women On Cash

The never-ending war against racism in America has denuded southern flagpoles of the Confederate battle banner and forced state capitols to store the statues of ancient slavers.

Nationally Americans agreed that Andrew Jackson, a die-hard slaver and Indian killer, better not represent the nation’s higher values and the US Treasury decided the replace ‘Old Hickory’ with Harriet Tubman, a black woman, who led over a thousand blacks from Dixie too freedom.

There was rumbling from below the Mason-Dixon line as well as north of the border, but Ms. Tubman was a true hero.

Tubman carried an old Navy revolver.

She was not afraid of using it.

No one under her care went back to a plantation.

She was not the first woman to grace paper money.

Martha Washington, another slave owner, was on the $10,000 bill.

We didn’t see many of those.

My favorite prior on the $1 coin to pistol-packing Harriet Tubman was Sacajawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific and back.

Without her knowledge and language skills the white men would have never reached their goal.

The remained in the Western Plains, alternatively dying of illness in 1812 or living in Wyoming to 1884.

I have been to her grave.

Amongst her people.

Harriet Tubman was buried in Auburn, New York.

Far from Dixie.

A good thing back then.

May she live on the $20 for ages.

Florence Foster Jenkins – American Songboid

Some people are just plain lucky.

According to Wikipedia Florence Foster Jenkins (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944) was an American socialite and amateur operatic soprano who was known and ridiculed for her lack of rhythm, pitch, and tone, her aberrant pronunciation, and her generally poor singing ability.

Her audience came to see her faults.

Her pianist tried to hide them.

It was an impossibility.

But she was loved and that’s not a small thing.

Not then.

Not now.

And this May the movie starring Meryl Strepp reincarnated Florence Foster Jenkins.

It see

She deserves nothing less.

To see the trailer, please go to the following URL