I'm reading "Up in the Old House" for what must be the 30th time. I'm reading the parts about Old Man Flood and the Fulton Street Market. My company did pest control in the market for decades. I could never figure out what we did because at 8am they pulled up stakes and moved on. What exactly were we doing. Anyway, I like Old Man Flood and the parts about him make me want to eat oysters, which I hate. But they reminded me of old men and women I knew years ago in New Brunswick. They were old and drank too much (which is putting it mildly) and they were like Mr. Flood without any passion or joy or words.
Here is a poem I just wrote about my friend Tommy, Bang Bang, Barrowman and New Brunswick, circa 1982.
I meet other people in bars beside Mario.
Tommy Barrowman for instance.
Tommy was born to a well bred family in Skillman
His sister endowed a library in her will.
Tommy was a drunk.
He was small and he was incontinent.
He had spent his youth traveling the world.
One of the other men at the bar told me he and Tommy used to off load
vessels in Persia.
Tommy, Thomas, Tom Barrowman called himself Bang bang.
He’d say, “I’m Bang Bang Tommy Barrowman
what do you think about that”
He’d come into the bar off the short bus from the senior lunch program.
At the beginning of the month he and his friends drank like kings.
At the end of the month they drank like bums.
Really, all month long they drank the same.
Tommy listened to late night talk shows.
Tommy pissed and shit in his pants.
Tommy lived on the top floor of an SRO.
Tommy was blind and diabetic and a worthless hunk of shit.
Tommy said, “I’m Bang Bang Tommy Barrowman, what do you think of that”
Tommy’s friend Ora Nixon was a fat giant drunken woman.
She’d come into the bar shortly after Tommy.
Her family had been rich as well.
There is a part of Edison NJ called Nixon.
In the 20’s or 40’s it blew up in a horrible munitions accident.
Ora sabotaged the Nixon name in her own way.
So there we all are at the bar.
Tommy and Ora and me.
Tommy is banging his shot glass and talking and talking.
Ora is flirting with the bartender.
Which is scary because she shit in her pants and she
weighs easily 300 pounds.
I’m watching the rich scions of the 30’s wasting their lives
in an old mans bar in New Brunswick New Jersey.
I’d ask them to tell me a story but I know they can’t.
They don’t remember shit about Persia or Nixon.
They were young once and angry and all that youth and anger
brought them here.
Tommy writes me poems.
They all rhyme.
None of them make any sense.
Well, that's the poem. I used to have Tommy's poems but I think they're all gone. Like me or you in a few years.