“Madness at Midnight” — Graveyard Shift Redemption at “The Abbott” — Part 1

The First in a Series

By A Tortured Redemptionist

Redemption does not follow from a lack of resources. Not having the means to sate your temptations might prevent you from falling to them. That’s “temporary” redemption, and there’s no such thing. Redemption happens when you want it to happen, not because you can’t afford the actions from which you seek redemption.

Can redemption arise in the wee hours at single-digit dollars an hour? In a monk-brown gold-trimmed jacket and pants? As a doorman in a religious residence gone secular – “the Abbott?” Condos and rentals. Some rentals, rent-controlled. Will spending clear-eyed time now in contemplation make up for years where contemplation was as scarce as realization? Or will, needs met, temptations again become actions, and actions failings?

Monday, March 26, 2007 – Midnight

Yawn. For so many reasons, including the conventional: fatigue. It’s not that bad, I’m being overly dramatic which many people who know me, recognize is not one of my faults? Nonetheless, on waking at 10 p.m. just a few hours ago, I had a momentary lapse of reason – what time was it? – and fantasy, “oh, waking is a bad dream! Back to sleep!” Reality trumps fantasy on Redemption Road. Here I sit in the Pulpit of Penance, The Abbott of Absolution. The Confining Confines of Contrition. At 7 pm, when I arrive home this evening, “right out, baby!” I love that twelve hours I get Monday evening into Tuesday a.m. That long-off rest is some friggin carrot in this game. The stick is the generalized beating I give myself for reasons fair and foul – considerably fairer these days but I’m not lying.

Belmont Lounge: Temptation – Den of Iniquity

Saturday evening started fun. Several young drunks of both sexes stormed off the train from Newark and came across the Journal Square platform to board the Hoboken/33rd Weekend special. They command- eered the center side-facing seats and proceeded to behave as if they were in someone’s living room. One couple began some rather groping frolics, and two of the broads were screeching incomprehensibly at each other.

One noticed the book I was reading and screeched out, “I’m a history major!” I smiled demurely, I don’t mind banter but screeching dames on the workbound PATH is tolerated, not encouraged. Another dame in the group, who was previously groping, was checking me out after her friend’s pedagogical outburst. Why? I guess I look a little out of place with my shoulder bag filled with newspapers and briefcase with some other-job work. The PATH-riding Redemptionist. He has a bag on, but it ain’t the booze bag. Who can complain on that score?

It’s getting warmer, so there is increasing skin evident. Young dames today frequently adorn their lower backs, just above their ass-cracks, with tattoos. Why do that if you can’t display these often curlique-ish scrawls? So you’re always getting looks there in warmer days, and warmer days beckon. The PATH especially as it boards in Hoboken promises to be a voyeur’s delight, at least so far as I do have a habit of watching the passing scenes in all their depravity.

I’m in Week 3 of the grinding labor trifecta. Earlier this week, my girlfriend’s buddy, and my friend, JD passed away; liver failure. He was sick, we didn’t think he would pass so quickly, but she found him, dead, on his kitchen floor. I was there when the funeral staff arrived and bagged-him up. Sad, yet, JD having seen combat in Vietnam, who is to say that our friend didn’t get many many more years than he might have? That some luck postponed his final em-bagging til just last week, instead of 1969-70 when he was fought in that divisive war? There was the wake Wednesday evening and a mass at St. Paul of the Cross, Thursday. Then off he went with his family to be buried in Calverton, Long Island. We will miss our gentle friend. Like many, he struggled and made his struggles self-worse. Didn’t make him a bad person, although he kinda threw the towel in over the past year. He had lived with us for a while, a convenient, low-key paying roommate. At the end, the last time I saw him, he was upbeat and made me feel better, a stand-up guy for that. He didn’t go out in pity poor me mode. But then he always was classy and stand-up, if low-key about the details of his life. On this somber, reflective note, I’ll close.

Monday, March 19, 2007 – Midnight

Just about in the middle of the long Saturday noon to Monday 6pm slog. So far, so good, but I suspect in a few hours a dreamy, trying-to-keep-my-eyes-open state will descend into my pulpit and I’ll droop a little, never to the point of falling out; just a momentary loss of awareness, a nod, and a jerking awake. My body telling me we’re tired, my mind telling me we’re crazy. My soul seeking redemption.

Was blind, but now (I think) I see.

For this “stretch run” I’m putting myself through, I’m being careful about what I’m eating and when, avoiding big meals because they will surely “weigh” on me and my metabolism. Too, I’ve given up coffee because I suspect the caffeine jolt, while always fun and helpful, only precedes a corresponding crash. I want to avoid too highs and in so doing prevent some too lows.

It sounds like I know what I’m talking about? Not only a redemptionist but a nutritionist, too? So tea for me, it’s a milder hit and crash, if any at all. I zap up some water and plop a teabag and it’s a mild middle-of-the-dark-cold-night gentle pick-me-up. I will need this overnight here soon.

St. Paddy’s Day has come and gone, I woulda thought on arrival in Hoboken on my way over on Saturday evening, it would be a rowd crowd. If anything, it was quieter than usual, maybe because people were already over in NYC, the loud crowd was coming in the opposite direction, back to New Jersey. A few green plastic hats and some other green expressions, but I was on the wrong train at the wrong time, at least so far as “good times rolling.” Wrong places and wrong times are a tradition, and now a stone necessity.

And on arrival in NYC, again, I was expecting boisterous, pedestrian-laden big city streets. Not so. Even Union Square, often very lively when I’m passing through at 11:30 p.m. or so, was somewhat subdued. Northwards through the trees in Union Square Park, the magnificent Empire State Building shone a blazing, lovely green tower in the night sky. There seemed a few more people than usual out and about on Third Avenue but not the swarming East Side hordes I envisioned. Granted the colder temps discouraged outsiders but it’s been a very chilly winter and I’ve seen plenty of people on colder nights. I did see one young guy passed out in an alcove next to the Irving Plaza music hall entrance, sleeping jacket-less in short-sleeves, not a care in the world (lucky guy!). Three young ladies stood nearby smoking and chatting on their cell-phones, I think one was getting ready to click Mr. Sleepyhead’s picture. I suspect he’ll be the Next Big Thing passed around the ‘net?

I’m a walking, “waking” paradox: so loyal and true to petty labor but to my own thine self, not true. Temptation beckons, and to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “The best way to get rid of temptation is to succumb to it.” What a phrase, what a guy, what a hard truth, and there is only truth on any genuine Redemption Road.

Monday – Midnight, March 12, 2007

“Haze gray and underway,” is a naval term, denoting, I think, someone who has been too long at sea, then returns to land. That traveler is a little baffled perhaps at the transition from sea to land and back again. When a person goes back out to sea and settles into a long-cruise mindset, they are “haze gray and under way.”

I am “Clown brown and going down?” “Clown” denoting my overall can’t-take-it-serious demeanor, “brown” the color of the doorman jacket and pants (with gold trim) I’m wearing. I cannot in good conscience call this get-up a “suit.” It’s a jacket and pair of pants. And it doesn’t really fit, since I haven’t bothered, yet, to put the company that owns the Abbott through the expense of getting me my own jacket-and-pants (which might actually fit). I’m wearing a former doorman’s set that is a “close” but by no means stylish fit. A couple of weeks back I was standing officiously in front of the Abbott, on the porch, lording it over some people who were congregating on the sidewalk before the Abbott’s tall glass doors. I was being a presence, and giving them an opportunity to move of their own accord rather than shooing them away. (Turns out they were guests of an Abbot resident, so no shooing needed.) But one of the ladies, noticing me with my high-water trousers, and, I guess, my incredibly underwhelming self-important sentry-ism, giggled. Hers wasn’t a cruel gesture. I just must have struck her as…silly. Clownish? That may be too harsh an appraisal, and though it’s not a ridiculous outfit, I still refer to it as my “clown suit.” So Clown Brown.

“Going down,” refers to my considered but challenging attempt to hold down three jobs, at least until May. I slept until 7:30am Saturday, and did some chores until 11am. Then I went to St. Peter’s College for my first day of being what in effect is identical to this Abbott job: door security. There, as here, it’s mindless work but it does offer the reading and/or laptop time that in effect is paid time for reading or spewing from the laptop. The “down” side is that here on what I’m going to be calling “Zombie Monday,” I could use a little sleep (a lot?).

After I left SPC Saturday (a little before 6pm), I power-walked up to the Heights and was lying down and asleep probably just before 7pm. I slept a little under 3 hours before getting up and coming over here to the Abbott. I left here at 8am Sunday and power-walked over to the 14th Street PATH. Got a train pretty quick, to JSquare, and power-walked home by like 9:15am. Lay down and got maybe a little more than an hour’s sleep, before popping up and heading down the SPC at 11:45am.

Only I drove to SPC so that when I got off I could get home faster, which I was. I was home last evening by 6:15pm, and lay down. Was sleeping nice pretty quick! But it was short dreams, as I was up before 10pm to…get here. So it’s 3am on Monday morning. In five hours I’ll leave here and head directly to the “real job.” If I have the slightest inkling my boss will be late, or, better yet, a “no-show,” I can scam an hour “chair-sleep” which could hold me until 6pm, to head home by 7pm, to instantly flop down, and sleep: perchance to dream? Of having to do it all again, next week, the week after, etc. Until May. I can do it, it’s an interesting challenge and one, having committed to it, that’s a “done deal” so long as I’m Clown brown and going down. I would love very much to be on soft surface, horizontal, with about 12 obligation-free hours in front of me. This I will get, about 15-hours from now. And I would note, I “gained” an hour in all of this because the clocks were moved ahead this weekend. Next week, one more hour of work; one less of sleep.

Monday – Midnight, March 5, 2007

Third straight graveyard at the Abbott. Feeling pretty good; it’s deceptive I’d bet. Leaving here at 8am, it’s off to Lower Manhattan for a conventional tour of duty, and fatigue will beckon at some point. Not yet, but it’s “early.” Presuming I start at SPC next week, things will get interestinger and interestinger in the wake-sleep-wake cycle. Ho-hum and/or yo-yum….yaaaaawwwwwnnnn.

We have an interesting elderly resident of the Abbott. The first few times I saw him, he was going out in the early morning lugging a bag. I figured he was some eccentric old guy. I was a little worried about him, so as he headed out walking down towards Stuyvesant Square where some of the homeless congregate, and who knows who else among them, I’d watch him. Turns out he has an office on the 2nd floor here at that Abbott, and he doesn’t see many patients, but is a “consulting” cardiologist. He sometimes sleeps in his office. Very nice fellow, quiet. Don’t ask me why, but he just left here in the middle of the night with his bicycle. Out the door, he hops on the bike, glides down the ramp in front of the building, and off he goes towards Stuyvesant. This remorseless sentinel watching his blinking tail-light until he makes the left around the front of St. George’s Church. What a long-lived life, you think, what an accomplished fellow still bike-riding rowdy Manhattan at 2am! I wonder how much he could reveal not just about the heart, but “heart?”

There’s a female lead singer for a hard-rock band resident here, too. I’m completely, as in totally, unfamiliar with her band and music. However, I think she just went on the NYC 24-hour deli equivalent of the midnight refrigerator raid, going out briefly and returning. People who know about these things inform she has a “great” voice. I imagine, she’s attained some success, but my experience is she seems a happy, friendly type. I’ll be her fan if just for that. Not my “type” so far as appearance, but I’m “redeeming,” so we shouldn’t go there. I will say for a “les artiste” (musician), I don’t get a strong party-vibe from the young lady.

On the other hand, the Goth Girl was a bit sheeted being dropped off in front from a stylish black auto, her Goth Guy friend giving her some leaning support. It’s an odd thing now seeing middle-of-the-night behavior through completely coherent (perhaps tired) eyes. You wonder how your sheeted self appeared to others though their coherent eyes, and you figure you came up “drunk.”

Passing the Belmont, a white/black pair (the sista was smokin) of well dressed, booted young ladies entering, reggae strains emanating from within. Here it’s Sunday evening at 11pm, a “school night, Monday looming like the bitch work tower it is. And yet these gals were steppin’ out late, into the late, midnight Manhattan nightscene. They’re looking for what everyone else in theirs shoes, or boots, is: fun. Life’s tonic, infinitely definable, definable now, here, in redeeming fashion?

Sunday – Midnight, March 4, 2007

It’s “funny” for a guy who likes/used to like/used to be able to party to wander around at Midnight completely free of intoxicants. When I first started at the Abbott, I walked to Hoboken, since the weekend (unlike the weekday) PATH JSQ-to-33rd Street train doesn’t go directly across to NYC, but stops in Hoboken. I figured I might as well board in Hoboken and go straight over. Turns out Hoboken is a hassle. There’s usually large crowds of NYC-bound celebrants on the platforms, and why bother being among them in my clear-eyed workday mindset? It’s bemusing in its way, but tiresome. It’s quieter to go to JSQ and the little extra time it takes to go through Hoboken is no big deal, especially since I get a seat at boarding at JSQ.

Although tonight I gave it up, being a little gallant. On arrival at Hoboken, large hordes of slightly “baggier” (buzzed) than usual NYC-bounders boarded. Several were wearing o’ the green. Ah, yes, Hoboken had their St. Patrick’s Day parade today. A bit early, but towns around NYC do that because March 17 itself is reserved for the Big One up Fifth. Hoboken tipped their hat to St. Pat today; next week it’s Jersey City’s turn, on Sunday, March 11. One young green-o-wearin’ couple, dopey, was quite bagged. The guy was more lucid, but the broad was tanked and foundering. I took pity and gave her my seat. Which I will do under a needy scenario.

Saturday, Midnight, March 3, 2007

I got a call from The Abbott super at work. I figured correctly that he wanted me to do an extra shift this evening. The question was 8pm to midnight or midnight to 8am. Well, it’s midnight, so we know what time it is; what shift it is. It was an odd day today. I received an email from the head of St. Peter’s College “gym” building. That would be what St. Peter’s call it’s Recreational Life Center. I remember them building it as I took the # 10 South Boulevard bus down to Starr’s restaurant in 1974, my first job. It was opened in 1975, so it’s over 30 years old, what the heck does that say for me?

But I had answered an ad some time back for some kind of weekend work/desk attendant. I had already taken this Abbott job, made the commitment to the Abbott’s owner. But I did an email exchange with the RLC Director and discovered that the work would be Saturdays and Sundays 12pm – 6pm. So Saturday’s aren’t too bad. I sleep Friday evening, and even sleep a little late now that my library “obligatory” volunteer time is finishing up. I go to SPC, come back home @7pm, take a 2.5 hour nap, and up and over here to the Abbott. Sunday is where things get tricky. I get home from the Abbott Sunday morning at 9:30 after being up all night. I “nap” for 1.5 hours until 11am and walk down to SPC and do the six hours there. Come back home @7pm, “nap” until 10pm and get up and come over to the Abbott. Work the Abbott until Monday 8am and off to “the real job.” Writing this, it’s madness.

Why will I do this? The first reason is the real reason, the extra money. However, I’m taking the SPC job because it only goes from mid-March until the end of May – let’s say 10 weekends. It’s a tough call: is the extra money worth that long sleepless drag from Saturday 10pm until Monday 7pm? That’s a good stretch with only 5 hours “maybe” of sleep. I’m going to give it a shot. I had the interview at SPC today, after a little adventure due to some heavy rain knocking out the PATH, so that’s a done deal. I think I’m going to have to “sleep late” on Saturday, that is until 10am or so to get as much sleep prior to “the long haul.” I’m a little intimidated by this schedule, but I’m going to try it.

One advantage of my new-found schedule is that I’m getting some serious walking exercise. I am walking EVERYWHERE. Partly it’s to save money, and partly because it’s the exercise, and partly because I get around good on foot. Just this week I’ve walked a few times to and from the Abbott from Lower Manhattan – a 45-minute jaunt at a good pace. I like the places I pass on my walks, I draw energy from all over. I’m a walking machine. And this time is time along thinking, I call it “brooding” it’s not brooding it’s me being with me as I fight my challenges.

Different tone here at the Abbott on Friday, a bit more activity around the building. A bunch of people including some smoking hot slinky-dressed chicks going to some party in the building; I suspect the “Goths.” The Goth girl is really pretty, my type for a white girl, brunette with large expressive eyes, lustrous good hair, sharp knowing features, and a quiet sweet voice. (No the party is not the Goth Girl’s party; she’s out Gothing elsewhere. A- gothing she will a-go?)

This evening the temperatures have moderated, it was a lively scene walking up the Bowery to get here from the Financial District. Directly outside the Abbott’s front stoop, a Con Ed crew has pulled open a couple of steam-billowing manholes. Friday night in the big city, the unfathomably large and populated urban nightlife conglomeration.

Sunday, Midnight, February 25, 2007

Though I missed last Sunday’s (Monday’s) entry I only want to update this sporadically, not to feel obligated to constantly continue this “account.” My purpose is that since I’m walking around/working around Manhattan on the weekend graveyard shift, just record some impressions to pass the time. And come on let’s face it, Manhattan at Midnight pulses with impressions, everywhere you look. Though mostly confined to the lovely lobby of the Abbott, a lot goes on. I take frequent outdoor breaks, standing out on the porch like a remorseless sentinel, watching and I hope being watched, to be a “presence” that repels shenanigans from at least my appointed swatch of 16th Street sidewalk.

The Belmont Lounge, ever since I saw some lovely black ladies entering two weeks back, I’ve yearned to learn what goes on in there. That’s an exaggeration: I can imagine what goes on there. What I mean is, I yearn to participate. But those days, which never existed, are past. I learned there’s some sort of reggae event on Sundays, with a $20 cover for guys. Listen: I ain’t paying no $20 cover just to congregate and torture myself. Because $20 gains admission, it doesn’t bring back those days when maybe – MAYBE – I’d have a chance to entertain a notion of scoring with some smoking hot sista. On top of the $20 cover, what per-drink cost are you hit with? A moke like me spends $100 my first hour in the joint.

On my way over on Sunday nite, another cold one, the guy of a cute couple asked me at the Square which train was going to 33rd Street. I told them to get on the same train as me, and when they did, the very very pretty girl of the couple sat right alongside me. Not intentionally of course, it was a convenient open seat. Blonde, pretty soft features, lovely eye makeup done just right. Reminded me of a blonde from twenty years ago, a friend’s brother’s girlfriend. My PATH seat mate smelled slightly of alcohol, rum, and nice perfume. Her companion was some nice-looking dopey kid, lucky him she kept nuzzling him. She was a little large arrears but completely within “hot” boundaries; and her hip occasionally rested on mine in casual contact. Torture for the tortured redemptionist.

And wasn’t it neat, a little historic treat, to find that one of St. George’s most notable parishioners was none other than J.P. Morgan, perhaps history’s preeminent financiers. Some documents I was perusing doing a casual search of St. George’s and affiliated searches mentioned that J.P. Morgan financed this building – the Abbott! Which means, as I sit her in my 150+ year-old pulpit doorman station, arrived her from a Scottish Church by way of Texas, it’s likely Mr. Morgan traversed this lobby at least on occasion. Very cool!

And on another cool note, another large party next door in the corner building, the building between The Abbott and Third Avenue. Cab pulls up, a pair of slender, expensively stockinged legs come forth. A dolled up Asian lady, chatting briefly on her cell before entering. There’s no doorman for that building, and there’s some commercial tenants. I peeked at the bell listing, there are a few studios of some sort, who knows, chi-chi happening companies and event operations that draw this kind of crowd.

Sunday, Midnight, February 18, 2007

Sixth Avenue, north of Ninth Street: late 60’s, maybe early 70’s era Caddy, white, convertible Coupe de Ville. Parked on the east side of Sixth Avenue, sitting atop the roadside snow, motor running. Passing on your walk up Sixth, you see a guy and gal, meeting in the middle of the front seat, embracing and kissing furiously. All the world around them non-existent.

Fifteenth Street, east of Union Square. Belmont Lounge, a nite-club I think where Iron Mike Tyson (where have you gone, Iron Mikey-boy? A nation turns it’s careless back to you…) got into some tussle some years back. Last week, on Sunday evening, about 11:30pm, three SMOKIN’ sistas were preparing to enter. Twenties, early twenties, very pretty ladies. This week, out front, a cute Asian dame – Chinese? – talking on her cell phone. Short skirt, totally inappropriate for the weather, which is icy cold. Not as cold as the past few weeks where it was mostly closer to zero than twenty degrees.

Big party next door, the building at East 16th Street right on the northeast corner of Third. Quite a lot of people, you almost think too many to fit in any conceivably sized apartment. And a diverse crowd, too, skewed a little Asian. People congregating out front before entering, everyone chattering on their cells. Just a few minutes ago, a sporty two-seater tried to park in front of the Abbott, couldn’t quite fit with the hydrant out front, got lucky with a spot down the block. Nice car, very attractive Asian couple emerges, decked for fun. She’s daintily picking her way with the snow still around, he’s confidently striding up middle of 16th Street. They pause as if to go into the party building, but the outside door is locked. The lady of the two gets on her cell, she’s a nice-looking gal, sweet/sexy; the guy, a friendly type, asks me if there’s a party on the sixth floor. In the Abbott on the sixth floor there are some Gothicky people so I ask him if that’s the gig he’s looking for, no. Just as the dame gets the people upstairs to buzz them in. Party! Party! – they a’go.

The Abbott is located just east of Third Avenue, on the north side of 16th Street, further east is St. George’s Episcopal Church, with which The Abbott was affiliated before being converted to private use. Presently, St. George’s Episcopal runs a homeless outreach shelter, so there are some less fortunate people around. They are allowed to sleep on the St. George’s church steps, and there’s a courtyard behind St. George’s, which they also use to enter the church adjoining the eastern-portion of The Abbott. Occasionally, they may mistake a short staircase/side porch that is part of The Abbott building as Church property and assume they can rest/sleep there. I haven’t had to roust anybody over there yet, mainly cause it’s been so cold. People also might want to use the corners of the building as convenient leak spots, so it’s conscientious to be alert to the sometime stupidity that goes along with the night. Just now a van pulled up directly in front of the building. I thought it was to let off people for the party next door. Turns out the asshole driver was taking a leak up towards Third. As I went out the door, I told him I’d like to piss on his building. Then I added as he got behind he wheel. “go get in an accident, asshole; go ahead, go drive drunk.” Me Mr. Moral! He protested without conviction that wasn’t the case as he pulled away with a vanload of yahoos out into the Big City night. I hope his night was safe, classless as he was in his relief notions.

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.