Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2004 / 18 Kislev, 5765
Pushed by a ghost
Laura and I walked past the Village X store within a few feet of Gem's Spa at St. Marks' Place in New York. I was animatedly recalling to her for the nth time the glories of my rebel youth at this very spot and how I learned everything I knew from Ted Berrigan who used to stand here giving lessons in poetry with a Pepsi in one hand and a lit Chesterfield in the other, when a ghost blew on us and we both fell down.
What happened is that Laura tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and went down, and I reached over to stop her and I landed next to her on my typing finger. It was all in slow-motion like a dream.
Normally a crack like that, which probably dated back to 1967, wasn't enough in and of itself to trip her, nor was my attempt to grab her enough to bring me down. The only possible explanation was the breath of a ghost and there were plenty of candidates: There was Ted himself, gone now for over two decades, a gentle man who wasn't beyond a practical joke now and then; or maybe this guy I knew named Maurie who used to work this corner stoned on acid shouting poetry; or the dozen or so other violently-hued personages who haunted the end of the Sixties with pre-angelic fervor.
Come to think of it, where else would the ghosts of such a time and place go? Nowhere else because there is nowhere else more interesting, even now when it costs a fortune to look hued.
In any case, the reason why the ghost was even provoked to shove us was that the nth time he heard the story he went out of his mind with boredom and just had to do something.
We were both OK, but went to the 2nd Avenue Deli for matzoh ball soup just to make sure. Over the fluffiest matzoh balls in New York all my Yiddish came back to me and I remembered the difference between tsuris and chaloimas. The first is pretentious blather, the second is just regular b.s. The people I knew back then could stand plenty of chaloimas because they were kind and tolerant. But for tsuris they had little patience. When my tsuris reached them for the nth time they must have gone ballistic.
Too bad Laura had to be caught between. She never knew these people and she's pretty patient with both my tsuris and my chaloimas.
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JWR contributor Andrei Codrescu is a poet, commentator and author, most recently, of "Wakefield". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
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© 2004, Andrei Codrescu.