3/22/15 at Di Nic's, in deep South Philly. I came in hoping to see Johnny, the gangster, meth dealer who had been locked up for 29 years, but he never showed up. Three weeks earlier, I had said to him, "Are you Polish?"
Glaring at me, Johnny seethed, "I ought to kill you!"
Johnny is Sicilian. His nuts are enlarged and he has so many other medical problems. He admires the Irish, "They can outdrink you, outfuck you, outfight you. I wouldn't fuck with the Irish."
In photo, that's another Johnny, though. This one's 67 and sleeps on the living room floor, for free, at this lady's house. They hadn't known each other before she let him in. She just felt sorry for him.
During the day, Johnny has nowhere to go so he tries to sit in Di Nic's Tavern for as long as he can. I bought him a few beers, which he very much appreciated, but Patty, the bartender, yelled at me for doing that.
"Can you believe she fuckin' yelled at me for buying you beer?"
"I wouldn't worry about it. She's just acting like a woman. There's no rhyme or reason to it. My wife was like that."
Johnny gets $500 a month in social securities. He lost a lot of money when he got divorced. For 30 years, Johnny worked for the phone company, mostly as a lineman. You know, one of those guys who climb up them poles and do whatever the hell they do up there. He had a bunch of other jobs, including working as a caddy.
Patty had two other reasons to be pissed off at me. As she was getting a beer for me, the cooler door fell on her toes and cracked a nail. It hurt so bad, she was sobbing and, frankly, mostly people would have gone home, if not sued the bar owner. Patty worked through it, however, because she couldn't afford to lose the day's income. As she hobbled back and forth, her right sock turned red from the blood.
Hours later, she finally dabbed some vodka onto her messed up toes and changed socks. A customer had gone home to get some gauze, and he had also bought for her three pairs of new socks.
Patty was also pissed off because a customer had played some Sun Ra on the juke box for me.
"What is this shit?!" She looked furious.
"Sun Ra," the guy said. "We were talking about Sun Ra, so I played some for him," meaning me.
Patty looked like she was about to kill me. At Di Nic's, the music is usually Billie Joel, Elton John, Jim Croce, Sisters Sledge, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, etc.
The man who played Sun Ra for me has a son who studied writing at Evergreen College. He was delighted that I had heard of Evergreen. It's a very unusual college in Olympia, Washington. I gave a poetry reading there and have twice been featured on its radio station.
The lady in the photo got really pissed off and stormed out of the bar when Patty said to her, "I'm tougher than you'll ever be." This, after said lady had asked about Patty's toes.
There was another yelling episode when Dominic got tired of buying beer for the old guy sitting next to him, "I bought you three, all right! I ain't gonna buy you anymore! I'm not responsible for your drinking problem!"
The old guy squirmed then, with his head down, walked out the door.