Why I am not a vacuum cleaner salesman*
Some people sell vacuum cleaners, door to door.
I do not. I was out late last night, celebrating
my 15th birthday with Richard Levine1. We
set all the garbage cans behind the apartments
on Hegemon2 Avenue on fire. Today,
I skipped school and wandered the odd streets
of Brooklyn, seeking mischief. No luck. At noon,
I met Jacob G.3 and we had lunch up on the avenue
at Joe’s deli4. I had a couple of franks with sauerkraut
and a potato knish. I told Jacob about Rachmaninoff5
playing in Irkutsk6 for Elizabeth Taylor7. He looked at me
funny. Perhaps he hadn’t seen the movie8.
After lunch, I ran into Jackson P9 and agreed
to meet him at the Livonia Ave. train yard10 that night.
Jackson P. is painting IRT cars. I’m often his look-out and
assistant—I shake the cans of dayglow paint. I met my
cousin Peter11 and we took the train uptown to see
the Yankees play. We didn’t have the dough so watched
from the elevated station12. Mickey Mantle13 hit one
home run right handed and one left handed. I grabbed two
franks with mustard, at Nedicks14, before heading home
I stopped off quickly at Pier 41 to see my Uncle
Frank15. It was deserted down by the piers and the ship,
The USS O’Hara, did not look that shipworthy. Frank was
deported to Ireland16 today, although he is Rumanian17.
I waved but no one appeared. I waved again anyway.
I made it home before the others. My mom sells stuff
at Mays18 downtown, my dad pushes a cab around
Manhatta19. My sister’s studying somewhere to cut hair.
They trudged in tired and more tired. My older brother20
came in after 8. He was carrying his vacuum cleaner sample
—it is heavy by 8. He didn’t sell any at all today, or yesterday
for that matter. He didn’t have much to say. We settled
down to franks and beans for dinner and tried,
blind tired, to find a warm spot to sleep in.
1 Childhood friend (CF), Commissioner of Police, NYC, 1978-1982. 2A street in Brooklyn that the trolly cars ran on. 3 CF. kia, Vietnam, 1969. 4 Pretty ordinary NY deli. 5 Pianist and Composer. 6 City in Russia, territory in the game Risk. 7 American actress and great beauty. 8Rhapsody (1954).9 African American graffiti artist, mia Vietnam. 10 Where the subway trains go to rest at night. 11 Forger and passer of bad checks, currently witness protection program. 12 Jerome Ave. stop of the old IRT. 13 Yankee great and Hall of Famer. 14 Famous for hot dogs and orange drinks. 15. Frank ran with Abe (kid twist) Reles and Murder Inc. 16Country that is sometimes in Europe. 17 Country that may someday be in Europe. 18 Department store in downtown Brooklyn. 19 What Frank O’Hara called manhattan, after first blaming it on the Indians. 20Barry, one true thing, RIP 2009.
* After, I am not a painter, by Frank O’Hara