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Thread: A Call From the Belleclaire.

  1. #1

    Default A Call From the Belleclaire.

    Leo called the other day,smoking a doobie on the roof of the Belleclaire.

    "Eat your liver,sucker--I'm in New York",he laughed,knowing completely that I'd give a million to be standing up there looking down on Broadway with him,passing a fat one back and forth.

    He's one of the best friends I have ever had,a relationship that goes back 33 years.He's probably The Last Hippie.He has an old Chevy pickup with 300,000 miles on it and owns nothing else.Everytime he breaks up with a woman--and this happens annually--she takes everything he owns and vanishes,so he is dedicated to having nothing.
    Leo's a carny.He travels with the carnival all summer,often criss-crossing the country several times.He's been everywhere.In the fall,he gravitates back to Florida,where he spends his winters fishing and building tiki huts.He makes about $60,000 a year,spends it all.He rents a mobile home on San Carlos Bay for the winter,drinks a lot of beer and catches a lot of fish.I sometimes envy his lifestyle.

    Some of his carny adventures involve New York City--where he currently is,playing a week-long festival in Harlem.

    About ten years ago NY became one of his annual stops,and on four of those occasions I've been able to join him,sometimes working the Midway for grins,sometimes just hanging out.The first time I met him in NY I drove up,and I wound up spending two cheap weeks living out of my car,which was parked beneath the Verrazzano Bridge's Brooklyn anchorage,within the walls of Fort Hamilton.

    I lived in a sleeping bag in the hatchback of my Nissan and wouldn't have traded it for two weeks at the Plaza.Each day,I'd find my way into The City,or else I'd explore Brooklyn or Staten Island.
    At night,the only sounds,aside from the constant hum of traffic above,were the huge ships gliding through the Narrows,silently splashing a path to their berth or out to Europe.Often,a low,shipboard moan would roll across the waters and echo under the bridge's girders.

    The view on New York,from around the Battery to right up the East River,was priceless.Over the broad and busy Harbor,the Twin Towers shone in their aluminum shimmy.Out past Liberty,the whole East Side of Manhattan was a string of lights and building tops,bridges and parks.Brooklyn made up the rest of the tableux.
    It was way cool to watch darkness fall and see the whole City switch on the lights.

    One night,the entire Harbor got shrouded in fog.The pillars of the bridge above us got lost in the ether just a few feet above the roadway,and the Megalopolis disappeared.Sounds got mufled to nothing,and foghorns talked to one another out on the water.The eerie,swirling glow of nearby Manhattan held colors that even Mondrian couldn't find on his pallete.
    An extraordinary New York moment...

    The second time I flew into town,and Leo,who was working in Queens,met me at LaGuardia.Despite the odds of such a thing EVER happening again,Leo had managed to find a legal parking space for his battered pickup just FIFTY feet from the baggage claim area doors.Later,we went to Shea Stadium for a Met's game and he found a similar spot,just a few hundred yards from an exit.I don't know how he does that.

    The third time,2005,he and his current lady were playing a fair in Greenwich,but they took the time to come on down and catch the 4th of July fireworks over the East River.My daughter and I had just flown up from Florida.
    (She's known Leo since she was an infant).
    This was her first time in NY since she was 10,so it was a momentus get-together for everybody.From Brooklyn Heights,we watched the harbor light up,and as the smoke from the fireworks drifted across the water and got backlighted by fresh fireworks,it glowed in all colors.
    Leo and I just looked at each other and laughed,the personal memories of fog rolling back across both of us.
    "Just like Fort Hamilton" was all he said.

    They stayed two nights at the Belleclaire,and we partied all around The City,from the Battery to Harlem,staying toasted much of the time.On the last day there--an 88-degree scorcher--we found out how easy it was to get the the hotel's roof,so we rolled a few and went up top,where we got an unobtainable-to-anyone-else view up and down Broadway and over Central Park to the East River.The Hudson was so close we could almost toss our beer cans into it.A great slice of the West Side.It was even better after dark.

    I should add,that when he pulled his pickup up to the Belleclaire's entry (a few steps off B'Way on 77th) he parked it just ten steps from the door.There it stayed,in it's own personal spot,for three days.How DOES he do that???

    Finally,last Summer on my last trip to NYC,Leo and his new,old lady were playing the Meadowlands,and to spite an unfortunate injury that New York inflicted on me (I slipped and tore a muscle in my leg) they rattled into Manhattan in the old truck with the proper drugs and carried me out to New Jersey.I was able to get a preview of all the bands that played in the next day's Live Earth concert from the parking lot,fifty yards from the stadium.I sat in the bed of the ancient Chevy,pain-free,belting down beer and listening to music's best--Floyd,Bon Jovi,etc--do their soundchecks inside Giant Stadium until 1 AM,the green spire of the Empire State just over my shoulder.

    Always an adventure.

    This year,I wasn't able to get a trip coordinated in time to meet Leo.He has an old new girlfriend now,and we would probably have a hell of a good time partying around The City,but it's not going to happen.He's doing Harlem for a few weeks,then the 4th at Meadowlands,but this year I'll miss it..

    ...He found a parking spot that was free just outside the Belleclaire so he took it. The Chevy just fit.He walked through the lobby like a proper guest,tagged the elevator to the highest floor and stepped out onto the roof and the sticky blacktar that lay broiling under the hot sun.The tight little West Side panorama spilled out before him.

    A joint appeared,was lit,and with his free hand he called Florida.

    "Eat your liver,sucker.I'm in New York !!!"
    Last edited by Hof; June 25th, 2008 at 06:47 PM.

  2. #2
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    Hof, has anyone ever told you you're an amazing storyteller?

    Thanks for that. It was a delight to read.

  3. #3


    Another gem, Hof.

    There will have to be a book.

  4. #4
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Quote Originally Posted by brianac View Post
    There will have to be a book.
    And insist that the publisher produces it exactly the way you write your stories here.

    Wonderful, thank you, Hof.

  5. #5
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    Entertaining as usual, Hof. Did you fully recover from your torn muscle injury?

  6. #6


    Always a fan of those who cherish life and share that lust with such eloquence.

  7. #7

    Default Thigh Recovery

    My leg ultimately recovered,but not before the situation managed to ruin about half of my visit last year.
    One of my treasured pleasures is walking around New York,and there I was,on my first damn day in Town,crippled..

    Often,while I'm visiting,I'll have days where I walked 5-6 miles,easy,strolling through the Park or walking from Midtown to the Village or River to River.
    All that was nearly denied me in '07,but thanks to wonder drugs and a gritty determination I WAS able to almost satisfy my wanderings.I'd only walk around until the pain pushed through the medicine and poked its' nasty,"HERE'S JOHNNY" face into my awareness.Then,it would get unbearable so I'd find a cab back to the hotel...

    About 3 weeks after I slipped up on Broadway,all symptoms disappeared.
    Once,while swimming,the ghost of the pain reappeared,but that was it.

    Thanks for asking.
    Last edited by Hof; June 16th, 2008 at 08:04 PM.

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