LETTER THIRTY-FIVE

November 4
_______ Cafe, Bronx

DEAR FRIEND

I have no sympathy for Honest Ed’s—and hasn’t it been closing for like a fifteen years now? The entire Honest Ed’s building reminds me of the colour of over-washed grey long johns and florescent lights. I know Ed’s is all big and red and colourful and covered with those lights, and I know it’s a tacky overblown spectacle of a building, but it still reminds me of grey long johns and florescent lights. And, like I said: no sympathy. Every time I’ve ever been dragged there it was by my father. And every time the experience was always miserable. And every time we only went because he was poor. My father was often, but not always, pretty poor. Among the many jobs my father did at one time or another he was a sign-painter. In fact, I’d say before anything else I’d say he was a sign-painter by trade. Back when that was still a job and not just a novelty-job, he used to scratch a living doing signs—shop fronts, vans, political banners, stuff like that; this’d be years-and-years before I came along—and he was a talented letterist. Ed’s has always used sign-painters for those hundreds and thousands of signs advertising stuff like: “Hot Deal: Ladies Special Hats 9 for $1.97!” Nearly seven decades of signs on white paperboard. All made by a couple guys in a little room, with oiled squirrel hair brushes (round or filbert, depending on how big the letters were supposed to be), markers and red and blue paint. I can’t remember if my father ever worked at Ed’s—he might’ve, maybe for just an afternoon sometime in the mid-70s—but I know he knew the big shot sign-painter there, Wayne-something.

You know that coffee shop right across from Ed’s—like right kitty-corner to it? No, wait, maybe not kitty-corner. Maybe just across? Yeah, that's it, just right across from Ed's, on the south corner there at Bloor and Bathurst? I’ve been to that coffee shop a million times. I used to see this girl there, cause whenever she’d be in town for a visit she’d stay right around that neighbourhood. She really likes the Annex, so we always went there. I hate that coffee shop. It’s too busy and too expensive! And I hate that it reminds me of seeing someone while they’re visiting, cause no matter what that’s always sad.

 

I like that you have your routine. It’s good to have routine. And I like that you talk to bus drivers. I don’t hardly ever take buses, but even when I did—and I did for years!—I never talked much to the drivers. I should have. I think that’s a problem with me, I don’t talk much. I ought to talk more. There’s another party tomorrow night, and if I go I’m gonna to try talkin’ more, promise. It’s another hip party. Truth is, I’m not sure I can take it. These hip parties always turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth. A few hours of listening to strangers and a few too many glasses of wine, then there’s a round of tequila and I wake up with a headache and my mouth tasting like salt. Still, it’s the New York dream, right?—Oh, speaking of the American Dream, I tell you I went to another football game? Yeah, buddy, I’m making it a tradition. One football game a year—that makes me both a real man and a patriot! Homecoming again. Lions versus someone. It rained. I left after fifteen minutes to go hunt down a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee and I never looked back. At least I tried though, right? And I’ll try again next year.

 

Henry