SUNDAY QUIETUDE by Peter Nolan Smith

Ten years ago I took a young friend to see the Strokes at Saturday Night Live. The host was Miley Cyrus, the Disney teen sensation. The 19 year-old’s current worth is in the hundreds of millions and SNL’s producer followed the svelte brunette’s every move, as if he had plans for the perennial good girl. She wasn’t my type, but neither were the Strokes.

The New York indie group played two songs. My young friend was enthralled by their performance. He held tickets for their April concert at Madison Square Garden. I couldn’t visualize their impacting a 13,000 plus audience from a big stage, but decades spanned the chasm between our generations and I restrained from saying any derogatory comments about his favorite band.

We bid each other goodnight outside the NBC studio and I traveled south to Fort Greene on the D train. I made no eye contact with the other passengers. It was well past my bedtime. I exited from the Lafayette stop. Frank’s Lounge was packed with more young people. I hadn’t had a beer in several hours and thought about stopping in my local, until Chris Rock’s line about old man in the club resonated in my skull.

“He ain’t really old, just a little too old.”

As I crossed Fulton, the bouncers shouted out my name. I waved that I was done for the night. Henry and three of his girls crossed at the light. The old pimp’s skinny girl winked at me. Henry must have told her that I have money. I nodded, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I should have been safe, but LA exited from another bar. The Lakers fan wasn’t accepting my refusal.

“Fuck Chris Rock. You’re having a drink on me.” LA and I are basketball watching comrades. Lakers versus Celtics. Every other team in the NBA doesn’t matter to us. Gold/Purple and Green/Black are our colors of Spring.

“If you insist.” I retraced my steps to the door of Frank’s Lounge. The doorman and I exchanged a four-step handshake and then raised our fist in the Black Panther salute. Sandy the bartender poured a Stella as soon as she saw me. The Trinidadian was good to her regulars. LA and I spoke about the weaknesses of the Miami Heat and Duke’s loss to NC that afternoon. LA had to take care of some business and I dropped $10 on the bar to pay for LA’s next cognac, heading to South Oxford.

The brownstone was dark from basement to the top floor. Everyone was asleep inside. I crept up the stairs with my shoes in hand. It was a bit before 1:30am. I was out cold within a minute of laying my head on the pillows.

In the morning rain splashed against my window. I checked my watch. 7:30am. My usual hour to get out of bed during the work week. Today was Sunday, a day of rest, and I shut my eyes in hopes of remaining unconscious till noon.

I came close.


I read a little of Edward Rutherford’s NEW YORK. The segmented series of interconnected stories about the city has a wonderful way of dismissing any urge for action and the book fell on my chest for a good half-hour.

I reawoke and looked at my phone.

No calls.

My landlord/friend/architect’s two kids playing on the 3rd floor. The rain had been replaced by a drizzle. I opened the bedroom windows, despite recent reports of New York’s horrid air quality. At 58 I don’t have many fears about the impending doom of Earth and went into the bathroom to run a hot tub.

After a good twenty minute soak I was ready for the rest of the day. It had been over ten hours since my last spoken word. If I didn’t leave my top-floor apartment, the entire day might pass without speaking and I emailed Ms. Carolina, my love of the 90s that I would be incommunicado for the next 24 hours. She understood my need for quiet, but called anyway. It was good to hear her voice.

“Sometimes I think you’re dead when you’re reading,” she said one Sunday back in the last century. “You barely breathe.”

The blonde heiress accepted my shrug as an answer. We had one week a month together. She deserved more, but I gave only what I had to give.

One weekend I explained about the ‘vow of silence’ and was surprised when she retorted that the Trappist monks never really had a ‘vow of silence’.

“St. Benedict, their founder, had three tenets; stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. Benedict preferred the monks to exist in silence, because speech was disruptive to contemplation.” Ms. Carolina had been educated by the nuns and was as good as a nun. Her brush with wickedness existed with the lights out.

“He’s got that right, but I’ve been to the Trappists monasteries in Belgium. They brewed great beer. Actually not great, but excellent. I ever tell you how my ‘vow of silence started?” Like my Irish mother I have the gift of gab, although dampened by my father’s taste for quietude.

“No, but I get the feeling that I’m going to hear how.” Ms. Carolina was a repository of my vocal history. She had heard many on our road trips through Guatemala, Peru, and the Far West. Listening was one of her better traits.

“Back in 1979 the phone in my 10th Street apartment was shut off.”


“Good guess.” I had racked up a $700 bill tracking down the whereabouts of my blonde model/girlfriend from Buffalo. Paris, London, Milano, Hamburg, and points in between.

“My service remained cut for years. I never could get together the money to pay the bill. The phone gathered dust under the sofa. One Sunday I was watching a BONANZA re-run and a telephone rang. I thought to myself, “That’s funny, I didn’t think they had phones on the Ponderosa.”

“And they didn’t.” Ms. Carolina laughed at the image. She was my best audience.

“No, they didn’t My phone rang for a minute and then stopped. I picked up the phone. There was a dial tone. I tried a number. My parents. I hadn’t spoke to them in ages. It worked and not only that I could call anywhere in the world.”


“Even stranger was that the phone would ring the same time every Sunday.”

“During BONANZA.”

“Correct.” I liked the chemistry between Little Joe and Hoss.

“Did you ever pick it up to find out who was calling?”

“No and the phone stayed in service for two month, then died again. After that I never spoke on Sundays. At least until I met you.”

“You’re still quiet on Sundays.”

“I try my best. So please don’t get offended if I end our conversation now.”

“It’s Sunday. I have to cook dinner.”

“Give my best to Charles.”

“I will.”
And like that I was alone in the East Village surrounded by million of people. I liked the quiet. It reminded with of nothing, but at 4 BONANZA was scheduled to appear on TV and seeing Hoss always transported me to another time.


My youth.

I never talked about that in front of the Cartrights.

And neither will my silence.

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