The sounds of the street below are redundant. The horns, the rush of traffic, the
metallic clanging of trucks driving over
sheets of metal placed over swollen and
decrepit areas of 1st avenue
desperate for repairs. The neighborhood uninterested in
changing its old ways,
driven to despair. Tenets in the old tenement putting in their
time. The daily
grind. Making love and severing ties. Un-walked dogs bark from
and seclusion. Park benches worn. There are no stars to be scene,
chaos. Chinese food sits heavy in bellies. Strong drinks lighten the mind.
Weary souls wander the streets like rats. The stink of summer air. The
bitter winter. Cold pavement and snowy rooftops. Lonelieness
isolation like a leper. Love the disillusion, the grim
fantasy. The hysterically laughing
bum, high on cheap bourbon, rotten teeth and
rotted dreams. Tenement life. Tortured
life. A writer’s life. A long time ago.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
I’ve never been to a place that was more haunting and eerie in all my life, then Gettysburg. Tucked into the farmlands of rural Pennsylvania it is one of the most well known and bloodiest battlefields in U.S. History. It saw around 46,000 casualties, over 7,000 of those killed in three days of fighting and it is said that the place is crawling with ghosts. I have always believed in spiritual entities or energy living on as a soul after a person has passed on, but the idea of ghosts walking around in the clothing they wore and looking as they did around the time they perished has always been difficult for me to believe because I have never seen it with my own eyes. The paranormal aspect of life that so many people claim to have seen, for whatever reason, has failed to reveal itself to me. The most realistic supernatural visual I have seen that made me look twice was captured on a video at a New Mexico police station. The camera captures a figure walking and passing through a closed and locked gate as if it wasn’t even there. I don’t know if some kind of trick photography was involved but the apparition is hard to write off as a glint of light or a rolling fog. It truly resembled a person walking. One thing I have noticed about so-called ghosts captured on film is that never do you see any overweight ghosts.
The overwhelming sensation of spiritual energy in Gettysburg is unmistakable.
At first it will give you the goose bumps but the more you experience it the more
you realize that there were once people there that had real lives and real feelings. It is
in the writings of people alive then and the photographs by Matthew Brady and
Timothy O’Sullivan that give us a visual into the war and the people who lived and
died during that time.
I have always been intrigued by the possibility of ghosts wandering around carrying
on lives in bizarre repetition as if they were still alive. It seems nearly everyone I
know has seen a ghost with such clarity they describe their encounters in detail and
then shrug as if its as normal as a baloney sandwich. I press them for more details
about the encounter, "Did you talk to it?"
"No," is always the response.
"Well why not?"
"Dunno. Didn't think much about it at the time." The responses I get baffle me more
then an actual ghost sighting would baffle me I imagine. I just can't understand the
indifference. Ever since I was a child I have welcomed the appearance of a ghost, but
alas, I wait.
I have a friend that told me about a ghost who regularly would walk up and down
the stairs of their house. He said he'd be laying in bed and the woman, dressed in
cloths from the early 1900s would walk down the stairs. He said he would just lay
there and watch her. She was an apparition. He said he could see through her and he
told me all of this with a straight face in such a matter-of-fact way I couldn't see any
reason on to believe him other then the fact that I have never seen one for myself and
I have yet to see a photograph or video that I have found convincing other than the
New Mexico police video. But one thing we all have learned about the modern
world is that magical tricks can be accomplished with the camera using computers.
I'd love to believe that ghosts are for real though at the same time I don't know how
keen I'd be to ending up a ghost. What then? Are there other ghost friends near or do
you take that journey alone. Are ghosts people's souls that haven't convinced
themselves that they are dead yet. Are they waiting for someone? Are they in
purgatory because of wrongs committed in life? I am convinced there are certain
things that God didn't intend for us to completely understand and figure out.
There are people out there that believe ghosts are nothing but a hoax that caught on
over time. Others believe they are real. But one thing is for sure, the world will do it's
best to keep it's secret. You can bet on that.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I remember standing in the emerald green jungle with screeching monkeys swinging and dancing on tree limbs. Colorful parrots of reds, blues, greens and yellows watched me silently, suspiciously, as if a gold toothed conquistador. Beautiful flowers grew wild and free, like the ones in the hair of young girls on Sunday mornings down there, with red dusty bare feet and honest smiles. The roar of the gigantic falls reverberating across the gorge, thundered as a cranky old lion bothered by flies. The chilly Brazilian night left us shivering under llama wool blankets, warmed by dry red wine, sustained by thick bread and rich cheese. On my strolls through the bush I must have been like Fawcett in search of some place or something like Z. Whatever that may have been?
Story of wise guys formerly from New York who are part of the Biloxi Mississippi Mob. They set out on a trip to Mexico to collect a debt and while there find themselves in trouble with Mexico's most dangerous drug kingpin. They flee Mexico and hide out in Florida. Before long the Mexican drug cartel begins to hassle the Biloxi mob looking for them. The mob feels the gangsters are stirring up too much trouble and put out a hit on them. Soon they are hunted by the Cartel, the mob and the authorities and have to think up a quick score so they can disappear. While reading the newspaper one of the gangsters formulates a get-rich-quick scheme which completely backfires on them. All along there has been a wily twist developing that leaves the reader with their mouth hanging open when "it all goes down." This is a fast-paced read with twists and turns like Thunder Mountain going at 150 miles an hour.
BY GREG EVANS
Available on amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle
It was one of those Fridays, perfect in every way, just before lunchtime in early June. The sun was out and a warm soft breeze rustled the leaves of the hawthorn and honey locust trees. Italian and Puerto Rican mothers in short skirts and tight jeans were out strolling along the avenues of the Belmont section of the Bronx, pushing carriages gossiping and throwing salivating glances at the shirtless construction workers hanging from scaffolds. Teenagers were being cool at the basketball courts, ditching school, sipping cheap beer and smoking cigarettes, and wise guys were running numbers, doing rackets from lawn chairs parked in front of Sole O Mio’s, a Sicilian joint known for its caponata. That’s the way it was in early summer. The young kids scampering around the streets playing games of stick ball and there was Jimmy, ordering a hit, a cigar hanging out of his mouth, the first of a Yankee double header blaring from an old boom box.
Jimmy had bribed a young wise guy to whack one of his girls who he suspected was getting in good with the fuzz. You see, Jimmy “the Sticks” Solero ran broads for a living and was damn good at it, but in the state of New York that is a felony offense. Jimmy wasn’t about to serve no time because one of his quiff had a hard on for some Mick cop. Guy said he had it all set up, strangle the bitch and bury her upstate, north of Westchester, in Ulster or Dutchess. Claimed he’d done it a half a dozen times before, even had an old timer from Bensonhurst vouch for him but the Grandpa turned out to be a schmuck doing a favor for the punk’s uncle and didn’t even know the damn kid. He had never heard of Jimmy the Sticks who at the time, was still pretty much a nobody outside Yonkers and Belmont. Well the punk took the money Jimmy had given him in advance of the hit and spent it and never got around to plugging the bimbo. So Jimmy had to whack the prick which pissed off the goombah uncle in Brooklyn. It took months to calm everybody down. Jimmy thought about leaving the area. He also thought about knocking off the uncle but that would have started a new Ginzo war and both sides would lose more than gain so they called a truce and Jimmy was exiled from the Tri-state area for life. Before leaving town he paid the escort who caused all the trouble a little visit and years later in Biloxi Jimmy would tell his wise guy buddies, “That broad was my first hit, took her into a basement on Oak Point Avenue, down in Fort Apache and beat her to death with a tire iron, Christ whatta mess. Her body was found two weeks later by a couple kids in Yonkers. Her foot was sticking outta the dirt. The cops never were able to pin it on me.”
“Jesus, when are we landing?” Johnny said glancing at his watch.
“Hour or so,” Jimmy said flipping the page of his novel. Johnny stared at the seat in front of him feeling sick from inhaling the illegal quantity of gas station perfume reeking off a large woman across the way. The tension was like an itch, like a guttural howl and Johnny could feel his toes curling in his shoes. He had always been an edgy person and the banning of smoking on airplanes made travel sheer torture. Johnny felt himself slipping.
The two wise guys stood up after the plane ride from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport to Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City. Jimmy stretched his back which cracked in about four places. Like Johnny he found flying commercial disagreeable, being scrunched into tiny seats, forced to sit next to tofu eating HR hacks for a large CPA firm.
As they exited the plane, walking down the portable staircase, a blanket of heat and humidity sucked the breath out of them both like a blast of napalm. It felt like Biloxi in the dead of summer. The tarmac was full of armed soldiers shirking about, congregating in the areas of shade where they sat playing cards, smoking and checking out the skirts.
Jimmy stretched his back again and said, “Let me tell ya, every time, airplanes fill every bone in my body with aches.”
“Damn perfume on that saddle bag across the aisle got my head pounding,” Johnny said.
The men moved through the poorly ventilated cavity which masqueraded as a terminal, the air smelled of sugus candies, fried pork, and thick diesel. They passed easily enough through customs. Customs officials in third world countries are notoriously unscrupulous and venal and their faculty for pilferage, legendary. The trick is to either simply leave everything home, or mail it to a P.O. Box and pay some street kid to retrieve it.
“Hey, you want a drink, I need a drink,” Jimmy said.
“No I don’t want a drink,” Johnny said.
“I’m a get one,” Jimmy said.
“Just meet me at the baggage claim,” Johnny said and wandered off in the direction of the arrows on the sign pointing toward the picture of a taxi-cab yellow suitcase. Johnny wore a black Armani suit, black wing-tipped shoes and white medium starched shirt.
Jimmy was wearing a blue suit, brown Prada shoes and white lightly starched shirt. He didn’t have to wander far before coming upon a bar. It was a bar that had an old-world quality to it, no gaudy neon or lacy pantyhose peculiarity. He pulled out his cigarettes, lit one and placidly seated himself on a stool resting his right arm on the cherry wood bar. The Mexican airport was much different than any in the states. The security seemed lax, everyone was smoking anywhere they wished and nobody seemed to give a damn that there were stray portly cats roaming the filthy hallways. A cost-effective method for dealing with rodent issues.
The television had a soccer game on which interested Jimmy about as much as cows fornicating in a field, and instead turned his attention to some American college girls at the end of the bar, probably changing planes for Cancun or Puerto Vallarta on their way to spring break. The young girls giggled and drank mixed drinks the color of truck stop condoms. They were attractive, well kept, no visible tattoos, probably from affluent homes and all had long either bleached blond or brown hair with blond highlights, firm bodies, fake tans and fun breasts like juicy plums.
The bartender walked over and spoke listlessly, “My friend what can I get you.” He was a light skinned Mexican with fair English speaking skills wearing a blue button-down tucked into jeans and cowboy boots. A thick dark moustache hid his thin lips and thick dark hair was parted with obvious care.
Jimmy said, “Finally someone who speaks English, I thought the language was extinct?”
“Twenty years the whole world’ll be speaking Chinese,” the bartender said.
“Not on my watch,” Jimmy said.
“What’s your pleasure?” The bartender said lighting up a cigarette.
“Twenty-one and blond,” Jimmy said and the bartender cackled.
“Gimme a scotch on the rocks, whatever you got,” Jimmy said inhaling smoke from his own cigarette and exhaling slowly.
“How about Glenlivet?”
“Make it a double,” Jimmy said.
“Coming right up,” the bartender said. To Jimmy’s right posing on a barstool like a concubine in a merchant window he noticed a petite Mexican woman giving him a once over. Wealthy looking Americans weren’t hard for the poor hustlers of Mexico to identify. He kind of glanced at her and gave a little nod. He wasn’t sure but suspected that she had returned a wink. She had long dark hair and was wearing a leather mini skirt, a white tank top and black high heels. In third world countries, unlike the states, staring at the legs, cleavage or rear end of a woman created not a row or ammunition for a harassment lawsuit but instead lustful sparks and for some, a day’s wage.
“Your double sir,” the bartender said and Jimmy tossed him a few pesos. The man was pleasant enough but far from the over enthusiastic salesman. Years of living below the poverty line in a wrought-iron world had made him bored, though with the college girls he was flirty and offensive. Jimmy put down his scotch with a giant gulp and ordered another double. This trip might not be so bad after all.
Jimmy found Johnny at the baggage claim still waiting for the luggage.
“You wet your whistle?” Johnny said.
“Bourbon?” Johnny asked.
“Scotch, twelve years,” Jimmy said, “No bags?”
“Damn third world airports,” Johnny said. Jimmy didn’t respond.
“Pretty soon I’m a take this conveyor into the back and split a few heads,” Johnny said lighting another cigarette.
At a little over 5’10” with dark, greased back hair, Jimmy the Sticks Solero and Johnny Flowers Giacomo looked like fraternal twin brothers, both handsome, well built old school New York hustlers, gangsters known for numbers racket, skimming, money laundering and breaking knee caps and in Johnny’s case a free ticket to the bottom of the ocean. They continued to wait impatiently for the luggage, Johnny reading a brochure about ruins over on the Caribbean coast and Jimmy focused on brown cleavage protruding from a white button down blouse. Johnny on the other hand was married to a sexy blond, a Norwegian former B-movie actress who reveled being married into the wise guy life.
They were on their way to deal with a diamond cutter named Mel Kyle who owed Jimmy 80 grand on bad bets but Kyle skipped town without paying. Oddly enough Jimmy suspected he fled to either Canada or Mexico because he was too stupid to go somewhere nobody could think of like St. Helena or Vanatu. Two days earlier Jimmy overheard a friend named Dominick “Numbers” Longo, who had been in Mexico on vacation with his broad, say that he ran into Mel Kyle down there in San Luis Potosi at a cantina playing the eights. He said when Mel Kyle saw him he turned white as a ghost,
“And I says to him, whatta think I’m a cop or somethin’? He only smiled at me lookin’ around funny like, you know,” Dominick then showed them his best imitation.
“You saw that Suzanne down there?” Jimmy said. The gangsters on the Mississippi used the term “Suzanne,” as someone who takes the money and runs.
“Yeah what about it, he owe you? He seemed nervous, on edge you know,” Dominick said.
“He saw you and figured I was there too. He was watching out for me cause he owes me a suitcase full of cash,” Jimmy said.
“Well it looked like he had plenty,” Dominick said.
“That son-a-bitch, get clip to the back of the head,” Jimmy said.
“Hey, tone it down,” Johnny said. They were sitting in a local Italian restaurant in Biloxi run by the son of a mobster named Ignacio.
“Promises to pay me with interest and then jets,” Jimmy said.
“When was this?” Johnny said.
“A couple months ago when we were at the Caroline Club celebrating Marcy’s birthday,” Jimmy said.
“Yeah I remember,” Johnny said.
“I’m a go get my money and deal with this Suzanne,” Jimmy said,”
“Mexico ain’t no place to mess around. While I was down there, Christ, talk about gun fights, lit up the night like Baghdad. Them cops were armed with automatic weapons, RPG’s, still got shot to pieces. I watched the shit flying from a patio of this little restaurant eating a pork taco on the floor under a table, damn good pork too. They say your not supposed to eat pork down there because they feed the hogs trash. For-get-about-it.
“Mel Kyle will find himself in a hole in the desert, let the scorpions eat out his eyes,” Jimmy said.
“You don’t want to be having no problems across the border, you hear me. Kyle ain’t never won a bet anyhow. He’s a great jeweler, but he ain’t no gambler and you think he’ll have any money to pay them bookies down there? I heard stories about them gangsters there. They’ve been known to skin a man alive, have crows pluck out your eyes, or toss you into a barrel of acid. Nasty business.” Dominick said.
“I’m going down there, get my money or get even, forget-about-it. It’s about respect now. Thinks he’s a tough guy? I’m a tough guy. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I tap him on the shoulder.’”
“Right there in the bar you’re gonna whack him, in front of all those people? You think the cops, the hoods down there will like to be shown up like that? Huh? By some schmuck Gringo? You think you can go down there and play the wild, wild, West? Better believe someone runs that turf.” Johnny said.
“Who you calling a schmuck?”
“Lighten up,” Dominick said and took a long puff off a cigar.
“I’ll figure that out when the time comes. What was the name of that place you saw him?”
“Leave it alone,” Johnny said.
“The bar, Dominick, what’s it called, I don’t need no Goddamn lecture Johnny,” Jimmy said.
“For Christ sake Jimmy,” Dominick said, “Quita No Mas, it was called Quinta No Mas. A tourist trap.”
“What’s it look like?” Jimmy said.
“Big neon blue sign out front can’t miss it, Cidrule,” Dominick said.
Johnny thought Jimmy was a smart enough business man but too much of a tough guy, wannabe Al Capone, always trying to prove how hard he was and never even did time in a real clink. All he ever had in terms of “experience” was fifteen days in county for DUI. The stupid guido sideswiped the broad of the Sheriff of Pascagoula. Jimmy claimed the reason he never went to the joint was not because he wasn’t hard but because he was too smart to get caught. Before he was exiled Jimmy was running a small escort service out of Yonkers, New York and actually filled out tax returns. On the forms for profession he put down pimp. Apparently the IRS never contacted the police or FBI, all they wanted was their cut, Jimmy gave it to them and they turned the other cheek. Johnny said that it took balls for Jimmy to do such a thing and showed that he had brains.
“So Dom, find your self a young Mexican Zoccola down there?” Jimmy said raising his eye brows.
“I was with my broad. She thinks I’m cheatin’ on her as it is,” Dominick said.
“But you are,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, but she don’t know that for sure,” Dominick said.
“Johnny here won’t cheat, he’s the straight and narrow,” Jimmy said.
“One woman your whole life. That ain’t living,” Dominick said pulling out a second cigar from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“You both think the world owes you something,” Johnny said.
“We work hard, we get a little on the side, so what?” Dominick said.
“Not my game,” Johnny said.
“Hey, why don’t you come with me?” Jimmy said to Johnny.
“Where, to Mexico?” Johnny said.
“No, to Alaska,” Dominick said.
“I don’t wanna go to Mexico,” Johnny said.
“Come on Johnny, it would be a blast, just the two of us, whack a Suzanne, drink some Mezcal like the old days in Rosarito before you married that Swedish broad.”
Johnny let it slide and exhaled a long breath. “For Christ sake, let me talk to Beatrice.”
“Ah, forget Beatrice,” Dominick said.
“Hey this don’t concern you Dom,” Johnny said.
“Forget-about-it,” Dominick said.
“Come on Johnny, who wears the pants in your house, Jesus?” Jimmy said.
“All right, all right,” Johnny said.
“So you’re coming?” Jimmy said.
“That’s what I just said,” Johnny said.“You’re a true gangster Johnny,” Jimmy said. The problem was that when Jimmy’s father was dying of lung cancer back in the 80’s, on his death bed he made Johnny promise that nothing would ever happen to his stupid son. How could Johnny say no to a dying man, a mentor at that? So now whenever Jimmy asks Johnny to tail along on some idiotic idea of his, Johnny goes because he fears retribution from the old man’s ghost if something happens to Jimmy and he wasn’t there to make an effort to protect him.