Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to Work

Back to work this week.  To cheer myself up, I've been reading Joseph Mitchell's My Ears Are Bent, as I chug through Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens on the F train.  The pieces in this collection were written in the 1930s, when Mitchell was a young journalist, and conjur up a New York I long to have experienced.  Every line is gold.  Here's Mr. Friedman, an "extraordinarily fat" patron of Dick's Bar & Grill, down near the Brooklyn Bridge, "one of those places with a twitchy neon sign", where "there are a big bowl of fresh roasted peanuts and a bottle of mulligan on the bar, and the tile floor is littered with peanut hulls and cigarette ends and balogna rinds from the free lunch":

   The place was full the night he died.  He fell off his barstool and began to gasp.  The House ran to the booth and called the police.  An ambulance doctor examined him while he was stretched out on the tile floor.
   "You can hardly call him a man," said the young doctor. "He is just a living barrel of beer."
   Just before he died he looked up at the customers gathered around him with drinks in their hands and said, "I drank thirty-two beers tonight."  Those were his last words.

I could ride the train forever reading this stuff.


Marty Wombacher said...

Loved that section! I have to get that book for sure!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Joe Mitchell is the reason I came to NYC! I first read his work years and years ago, before I ever set foot here and remember just aching to know the seaport and gritty places as he did. I also envied his job - didn't he sit in his office, supposedly doing nothing, for the last 30 years of his life? And, no one ever questioned him!

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Yes! I read Up in the Old Hotel many years ago, but I hadn't read this (what a fool). The best writing ever. Just this afternoon I read the section (Don't Talk When the Red Light is On) about The Reverend G. Spund, & his "million-dollar nuptial palace" at 130 East Third, in the First Houses. Hah!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Ah! I will need to re-read that - I had no idea there were any references to the First Houses!

Anonymous said...

"a living barrel of beer"

put that on my tombstone, in Edminster Cemetery

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Anonymous - OK, will do so!