The Longest Night

The Longest NightThe Longest Night

Stonehenge has endured time. This morning the sun rose in the east. Light passed through the massive portals to cast a path marking the winter solstice. Beer and mead were ready for drinking after the season of fermentation. Both were served as food through the winter. I have always called the Winter Solstice the holy day Beermas.

I celebrated it often during the cold months.

Modern historians paint a bleak portrait of the Bronze Age.

They called the time after Meán Geimhridh as the famine months.

Few of them lived amongst the poor of Now and even fewer understand the nutritional value of beer.

I woke this morning to the sun rising over Brooklyn.

The light was gold on the tall buildings to the west.

They told me the time and honored the day.

I drank beer with friends.

I drank Irish whiskey.

It was a good beermas.

Now begins the longest night.

My pillow waits.

Brionglóid milis or sweet dreams.

11:59PM

A little before midnight.

On the Friday before Christmas I stopped by the diamond exchange on 47th Street. There are no customers before the booths. Only the rich have money and the vast majority had fled south for Florida or St. Bart’s. Richie Boy was working with a wealthy friend. He was asking $260,000 for a magnificent sapphire in an exquisite platinum and diamond mounting.

“Burma no heat.” The best stones came from that country.

“I’ll give you $150,000.” The banker had squirreled away a fortune during the 2008 financial collapse. He had escaped the face-saving investigations into the multi-trillion dollar scandal and well understood that having money at a time of capital scarcity bestowed a wicked power of leverage, however Richie Boy stood firm at 260K.

The banker stood up and left the store, saying, “If you change your mind, give me a call.”

“You’ll be calling me before I call you.”

The man’s wife loved the ring.

I watched the door close.

“Bastard,” Richie Boy muttered, putting the ring in the safe. “I’m making 6% on this sale. 6% and he wants to steal it.”

“How do you think he got his money? From Santa Claus. No, he stole it like every banker in America stole money.”

“I don’t need to hear your bullshit about only three ways to be wealthy.”

“Be born into it, marry it, or steal it.”

His octogenarian father was snoozing in the corner. A smile was on his face. He had to be reaming of better times.

“Your father worked sixty-five years. Is he rich? No, you’ve worked almost thirty five and while you have a nice life, you ain’t rich.”

“What about you?”

“For the last two years I slaved in the steel factory cutting beams for a salary of $800/week and I was glad to have it, but now I’m working with Jeri on 3rd Avenue.” Our store was close to Bloomingdales.

“How’s business up there?”

“About the same as here.” There wasn’t a single customer in the vast exchange. “I sold a fancy yellow diamond for $40,000 and the profit was $4000.”

“A luxury, although the other day i sold an emerald for 14K and made 7K on it.”

Sounds like the good old days. I’ll see you later.”

I picked up some diamond eternity bands for a customer. I returned to the store. Jeri was sitting with her pugs, while going over her bills.

“Anything happen?” It was a stupid question.

“The dogs slept for an hour.”

“Lucky them.” Samson and Delilah were old pets. I liked them, but they weren’t buying any jewelry this or any year and neither were the disappearing middle class. Only the rich had money for gems and they were bargaining like Gypsies with a Minnesota roll of $1 bills.

Jeri’s client arrived on time and picked out the best ring. The Palm Beach blonde was in her 70s. Her husband wasn’t healthy. I wished that Simon passed over the New Year, so I could marry Elaine. It was a dream too good to come true.

At 5pm we shut the store. It was already abysmally dark on 3rd Avenue. Thieves targeted stores daring to stay open in the shortest days of the year.

“I don’t need another theft.”

“Sorry about that.”

A thief had hit me for an expensive bracelet in my first month.

I didn’t trust anyone anymore.

“What’s done is done.”

Jeri magnetically locked the front door. The pugs work from their sleep. We gave them thin slices of apples. Their happiness had nothing to do with money.

“You close safely.” Jeri put on her coat. It was fur. Warm too, but like Richie Boy and me she wasn’t rich. No one who has to work is rich no matter how much money they have. The real rich don’t have to work at all.

After closing the safe and locking the door I took the Q train back to Fort Greene. I bought a very good bottle of wine for $41. The staff of Green Grape applauded my escape from single-digit priced wine.

After arriving home I drank the bottle with my landlord and his wife. They had given me gave me a bottle of Jamison’s for the winter’s solstice. I toasted them and my staying them. It’s been over five years. I babysit their kids. I don’t make a mess. My bedroom has a view. My bathroom too.

After we finished the wine, AP and I retreated to my floor to listen to music. I opened the bottle of whiskey. We drank a few glasses and AP descended into domestic ‘for better or worse’ bliss. I readied for sleep, listening to Jefferson Airplane’s SURREALISTIC PILLOW.

COMING BACK TO ME.

11:59PM

It was time for bed.

Because tomorrow I have to be to work at 10AM.

Jeri asked me to come early.

She had a customer for an emerald.

The store needed money.

Jeri needed money.

I needed money to send my kids in Thailand.

Only a minute remained in the day.

Within sixty seconds the clock would tick into Saturday.

Tomorrow was filled with twenty-hours.

One of them had to be lucky.

The Longest Night

Stonehenge has endured time. This morning the sun rose in the east. Light passed through the massive portals to cast a path marking the winter solstice. Beer and mead were ready for drinking after the season of fermentation. Both served as food through the winter. I have always called the holy day Beermas.

I celebrated it often during the cold months.

Modern historians paint a bleak portrait of the Bronze Age.

They called the time after Meán Geimhridh the famine months.

Few of them live amongst the poor of Now and even fewer understand the nutritional value of beer.

I woke this morning to the sun rising over Brooklyn.

The light was gold on the tall buildings to the west.

They told me the time and honored the day.

The snow melted in the yard.

I drank beer with friends.

I drank Irish whiskey.

It was a good beermas.

Pagan Winter Solstice

This coming Saturday will be the winter solstice.

The shortest day of the year.

On December 21st I will wake at dawn and climb onto the roof of the Fort Green Observatory to bathe in the distant sun’s light. The frost on my skin will the only human sacrifice within sight. After 30 seconds I will retreated to my bed and shivered myself to sleep for another half-hour before heading into Manhattan to work in the Diamond District.

Few people in the modern age and even fewer Christian realize that Christmas was lifted from the ancient pagans celebration of the winter solstice as the rebirth of the sun. This last chance to feast before the months of winter starvation coincided with the final stages of fermentation of wine and beer.

My friend the ex-model from Paris abhors Christmas as an orgy festival. Brigitte is a devout fundamentalist. The Bible is fact and she recently wrote on Facebook.

“Christmas is a disgusting pagan holiday that comes from Roman orgies where they would choose a scapegoat torture them by forcing them to eat and indulge in all sorts of excess and then brutally murder them.”

She later added, “Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reported before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators.”

Sounds like a good time had by all.

So happy solstice one and all.

I’ll be drinking me some beer and not a little either.

The SS Showboat Mayflower Nantasket

Throughout the early part of the 20th Century a fleet of side wheel steamers plied the waters of Boston harbor. The flotilla was reduced to one by a fire in 1919, but the Mayflower ran to Nantasket Beach until 1948. After its decommission its new owner hauled the white-hulled ship close to shore and opened the Showboat for business as a nightclub. An extension to the club’s parking lot landlocked the ship, which became an iconic greeting sight for thousands of family intent on spending a summer day on the long stand of sand, followed by a seafood dinner along Nantasket Avenue, and the amusement rides at Paragon Park.

My father gave a quarter to the first one of his six children to spot the Mayflower. ship.

He was a Mayflower descendant and we joked that the Pilgrims came over in the Showboat.

We never stopped there.

Nightclubs were for adults.

As a teenager the Surf Nantasket superseded the attractions of Paragon Park and every Saturday night we sped down Route 228 to dance to the Techniques, the Mods, the Chosen Few, and the main band the Rockin’ Ramrods, who scored a regional hit with BRIGHT LIGHTS BLUE SKIES and SHE LIED. Sometimes bigger groups like Steppenwolf and the Doors played special concerts for teenagers on the South Shore.

In the fall of 1969 I drove to the ballroom in a VW Beetle that I shared with my brother. He was in college and normally got first shot at the car, but Frunk chose Friday nights to date his girlfriend.

One evening I loaded the car with my sister, her friend, Chuckie Manzi, and a friend just back from Marine boot camp. We drank beers en route, since the Surf only served soft drinks. That evening we danced to the top hits spun by the DJ from WBZ and then watched the band, Shocking Pink. After the Surf closed, the five of us got back in the car for the ride home.

It was 11:30 and traffic was light on Route 228. I sped up to 50 around the curve by the roller coaster. The Mayflower was on the right. The parking lot was empty.

Passing the darkened ship I spotted oncoming headlights. Without any turn signal the big Olds crossed the four-lane state highway. I stamped on the brakes.

Too late.

Time was radically accelerated by the force of the head-on collision whipping the VW into a spin.

Glass shattered in my face.

impact buckled my door and flung me onto the pavement. Car wheels rolled by my head and then the speed of the present returned to normal.

I sat up.

The steering wheel was in my hand.

The front of the VW had been crumpled by the accident. I ran to the door and peered inside. My sister, her friend, Chuckie, and the marine were cut by glass, but no one was badly injured.

I turned to the Olds. A disheveled woman sat behind the wheel. She was trying to start the engine. I walked over to the car and rapped on her window. She shouted at me to go away. Her voice sounded drunk and strangely mannish.

Several cars stopped to help us.

A young man pulled open the door of the Olds and took away the woman’s keys.

Rubberneckers stared out the window.

Sirens neared the scene of the crash.

“I need to go.” She wobbled after the young man in high heels. They were too small for her feet.

“You’re going nowhere.”

“But I’m late.” She was taller than the young man and me.

“There’s no one in the Showboat. It’s closed.”

“Oh.” Her voice was almost a baritone.

“So you almost killed us to meet someone who wasn’t there.” I had a temper.

“You’re all alive.” The young man pushed me away from the Olds. “That’s the important thing.”

“You’re right.” I looked back at my sister. She gave me a smile. We were alive. The ambulance took her and our friends to the South Shore hospital. The police drove us to the station. They wanted our statement.

“The woman drove into us head-on. No lights or nothing.”

“She said that you drove into her.” The officer was a veteran to teenage crashes on 228. Not a summer passed without a fatality on the road.

“She’s lying.”

“That’s what another man said.”

“Can I go to hospital now?” I wasn’t saying anything more without a lawyer.

“Okay.”

Everyone was okay, but later I told my father that there had been something strange about the woman.

“Strange how?”

“Like she was strange.”

“How?”

“Like she could have been a man.”

“A woman that could have been a man.” My older brother laughed. “She must have been some kind of ugly.”

“I guess she was.”

Without a car the Surf was too far away from my hometown. That spring I graduated from high school and in the fall attended Boston College. In May my long-haired college friends and I visited Paragon Park for the seasonal opening. We rode the rides and saw the Techniques at the Surf. Both were fun on reefer. None of us went inside the SS Showboat and it burned down in 1979.

This year I searched for any information about the club on Google. There was just a few photos like the rest of my past, but I learned that the Showboat had been a tranny bar, which explained the Olds driver’s strangeness, but she might have just been a mannish woman. Boston was a Navy town back in those days and those Marine nurses were very masculine.

“Strange, but the truth is always strange, when we revived the old memories of things gone by.