I’d consider myself a shy person, but somehow, I became fast friends with a 60-70-year-old man as I caught up with an old friend tending bar in Williamsburg. This scene illustrates how special our hangout was: we filled a bowl with water, peppered it, built a paper boat and watched it all swirl around with a stoner-like curiosity. We were sober, but just crazy enough to have a blast. Here are some excerpts of my conversations with Jack.
Convo 1 (made us friends)
Me: So, I’m kinda crazy. I howl sometimes.
Jack: Oh, have I got a howling story for you! I’m crazy with a capital C. Got arrested for being naked out in the middle of the street and knew that the only way I’d get out of that jail cell was to howl all night. So that’s what I did. I howled until they institutionalized me. I was in the looney bin for a few years.
Convo 2 (made me cry)
Jack: …so that was one of the two most generous things anyone’s ever said to me.
Me: What was the other one?
Jack: Well, back in the 70s, I was becoming friends with a guy who’d just gotten back from Nam. He’d done a lot of terrible things to stay alive. I started telling him the story of how I dodged the draft, and he interrupts me and says, ‘Hey Jack, you don’t need to explain to me how you got out of the draft.’ Yeah, that was the most generous thing anyone’s said to me.
Convo 3 (made me laugh)
Jack: Do people ever call you Tina?
Me: Nah, they call me C more.
Jack: Why do they call you Seymour?
So that’s how Jack and I became friends. I gave him the book of 20 stamps I had in my purse for him to mail me his poetry. The next day, Jack called to ask if he could drive me to the airport so we could spend a bit more time together. I thought, what the hell… we both howl, he’s made me cry with happiness, and 5:30am is a perfectly good time to hear glory stories. My sister and friends were concerned with my decision to take a ride in the dark with a stranger who’d spent years in a mental institution. But Jack arrived from Long Island early; we chatted about my caring sister, his crazy sister, Herman Melville, and he told me that we’re all made up of the head, the heart, the groin and the soul (and that yeah, I for sure had a soul). After hugging at the airport, we made plans to stare into a peppery bowl of water the next time I’m in Brooklyn.