Fall 1963

It was the warmest Oct. day out that I ever saw today, so we skipped practice (Tony and Yogi and I) and we decided to take a little ride down to the ferry and over to Staten Island. After polishing off a hero at LUCY’S we hopped on the back fender of the 2nd Ave. bus and rode down to the ferry basin. Once I fell off a bus like that on a sharp turn and almost got my balls crushed under the back wheel but this ride was smooth enough and we got off and deposited our nickels in the turnstiles and were off. Just as the boat is pulling out of the dock, Tony takes out a bottle of CARBONA cleaning fluid and a few rags and suggests that we do a little sniffing to get high. I was up for this idea because Carbona is one of the finest cheap highs you can get, even stronger than model glue. We slipped up to the top deck of the ship and wet our rags and raised them to our faces. After about four deep whiffs we were sailing someplace else, bells ringing through my ears and little lights flashing through my eyes. I pictured myself paddling across a river with black water, only the canoe was going backwards instead of forwards, with clouds that were faces laughing spooky fun house laughs which wouldn’t stop echoing. More sniffs and more freaky visions, the ringing bell sound always getting louder the more I breathe the stuff into my lungs. I kept it up for about ten minutes, but by then I was getting too dizzy to handle it and I had to fling down the rag and make it to the side rail, sick as possible. I began puking wildly. My eyes felt like bowling balls and they were watering like mad. Tony and Yogi had done themselves in too and they ran over to join in the ceremony. Then we recovered enough to hear shouts coming from the bottom deck and wiping off our eyes we realized that we had zeroed in over the head of some dude. More unfortunate was the fact that the guy was fantastically huge, and man, did he look pissed off. We wasted no time in making it to the nearest hiding spot, knowing that guy would be up after us any second. We got to the other side of the boat and did a quick Steve MacQueen act, over the rail and down to the lowest deck. Then we ducked into the bathroom and into the last toilet stall, locking the door and sweating our balls off. We hung on in there, reading the little penciled-in obscenities until the boat docked. After about ten minutes more waiting, we sent Yogi out to see if the coast was clear. He came back and signaled us out and we ran our asses off the boat, through the terminal and onto the nearest bus. We came to a nice park somewhere in the middle of the island and played ball with the local weaklings all day, taking on everyone, even guys as old as 16 or so. It was almost dark when we caught our ferry back to the city again, keeping a sharp lookout for our friend and vowing we’d never sniff that stuff on any ferry again.

Fall 1963

They finally took away old Mrs. McNulty today. She was the incredibly nutty lady who lived right across the alley from our window in the building. She had a very scary habit of going to her sink every night in her bra and panties and offering Mass over it as if it were her altar. She knew the Mass inside out, but she would interject incredible obscenities whenever the Virgin Mary’s name came up, or Christ’s name too, for that matter. She had all the standard equipment for the Mass, like a gold chalice and all that, but at the part that appeared to be what the Catholics considered the consecration or whatever, she would shove the thing between her legs and yell, “Suck me, eat my puss, God.” Things like that, you know. The things she said about Mary were the worst always, and I would watch everything quite clearly and really shudder; not that I was ever really religious (not since I was eight actually, when one day I went into a church for the first time and tried to make friends with God by asking him to come home with me so we could watch the World Series together) but because I couldn’t understand at all what the fuck could ever possess someone to do something as fruity as that. Man, she really let fly some nights, yelling so that everyone in the building almost could hear her. When I told some friends about her, a lot of them wanted to come over to see her, thinking the scene was really sexy or something. But she was an old lady, about 65 or so, so the sight of her dressed like that and freaking like she did was too much disgust, I always had to turn away. I guess someone complained once too often lately and I saw her being tucked into an ambulance, very calm about it, while I was coming back from school today.

Summer 1964

Every crowd of young guys has its little games to prove if you’re punk or not. My cousin in Newark plays “chickie,” which is two cars heading toward each other at about 80 m.p.h. and the first driver to swerve out of the way is, of course, the chicken. On the lower East Side they’d make you press a lit cigarette onto your arm and have it bum all the way to the filter without the slightest flinch. Up here in upper Manhattan, guys jump off cliffs into the Harlem River, where the water is literally shitty because right nearby are the giant sewer deposits where about 1/2 million toilets empty their goods daily. You had to time each jump, in fact, with the “shit lines” as they flowed by. That is, there were these lines of water crammed with shit along the surface about five feet long that would come by about once every forty seconds. So you had to time your jump in between the lines just like those jitterbugs down in Acapulco got to time their jumps so they hit the water just as the wave is beginning its break.

It was also a big thrill and a standard joke whenever a really giant scumbag floated by. Man, did we see some whoppers; the people in this sewer district sure have big dicks. One time we even saw a dead pig float by (the animal, that is). He must have come off the Hudson from upstate, freed himself from a livestock barge and drowned maybe. It was scary white and jelly-like, bloated to double its normal size. I remember the sight of it cruising by and (really) no one swam for about three days.

So today we met in the park near the basketball courts, Johnny, Danny and I, played a few quick games, downed a couple of beers, and headed up the street (Seaman Ave. is the name of the street, in fact, pretty funny name, and I actually know a chick who lives on the corner of Seaman and Cumming Streets, who fucks her weight in guys. But living on a corner with names like that, who could blame her.) Well, we walked our way up to the 225th St. bridge, cross over into the Bronx, shimmy to get down to the railroad tracks to get down to the cut(which is the name of the huge rock you jump off.) Meanwhile, on the way, we’re chased by the huge watchdog, a ferocious German shepherd, and we had to run our balls off and climb over another fence to avoid it. So we made it for a change because sometimes we’re not so lucky with that mutt and it will tear the leg of your pants off in one chomp, perhaps a good part of your ass with it. Like one day we were with Sam McGiggle and he couldn’t make it to the fence in time so we told him to freeze perfectly still and the dog wouldn’t bother him. So he statued himself in some insane position and the mutt came up to him, sort of sniffed at him for a second or two, and just as old Sam felt relieved, it bit him accordingly right square in the bum-bum.

Well, we made it to the cut and poked around the bushes at the base to find our hidden swim suits and jocks. (Man, since there were no lockers this was the next best thing.) Then we buried our money in the safest spot, and began to change. Just down to our scivvies, we hear giggles shooting up from behind the bushes and wheel around to find three chicks standing there trying to dig on the show. No other solution, we saw, but to attack, so we whip off our underwear and charge after them, totally naked and slinging jocks around in our hands. Their true purity exposed, they were off in the breeze, giggling and peeking back now and then at our free swinging tools. On go our suits and we begin to ascend the cut. The cut is actually only about 12’ wide, with the Harlem River on one side, and the Hudson-Harlem Train Line tracks in the rear. It has a series of minor cliffs to jump off, and they gradually get higher until you reach the top, about 85’. Every plateau you jump has its own separate name like Suicide, and Hell’s Gate, Angel’s Toe and the top, the elite goal that all this bullshit is about. Hell’s Angel.

That’s where we were, the very top, flat solid rock which has been cracked in part so that small clover-like plants grow out of the crevices. We sat tense, waiting for the sightseeing boat. The Circle Line, to make the turn around the bend down near the bridge and head toward us. That was what really made the jump worthwhile, with all the lame couples like old tourists from Ohio, and nuns, and Japanese executives and other odd N.Y.C. visitors who got fished into paying five beans to sail around the island, watching us go down into the stinking water. Well, Danny was the first, Johnny and I peering over the edge as he made it clear over the first and only obstacle, a small tree that shot out of the rock about five feet below, then straight ahead, hands close at sides, body stiff, and feet locked tightly, hitting the surface missile-like. From up there, it seemed like 5008 feet to the bottom. But Danny had jumped Hell’s Angel before, so it was old hat to him, but now it was John’s turn, and he, like me, was a rookie at the top. Scared shit and mouth wide, he peeped one more time onto the river, waved at the waiting sightseers, took one step back, five hundred deep breaths, muttered, “Fuck it,” then yelled out the same thing, clutched his balls with both hands and jumped. Down he was going, legs spread far apart and jitterbugging like he was doing the Popeye or something, still firmly clutching his crotch. “Bad form,” I sighed, as he hit the water, and what a fucking understatement that was. It was pitiful, he hit the water like a fucking octopus, limbs flying everywhere, and the splash contained a smacking sound that hurt all the way up to me at the top of the cliff. When he came up to the surface he swam to the shore with one hand paddling and holding his sore, sore ass with the other, so that he was slow enough to get attacked by a fair sized shit line, the whole fucking scene having Danny in stitches over on the shore near the tracks. My turn now, the boat almost passed, all the people at attention yelling for me to do it, the sadistic bastards.

I didn’t really think, I didn’t even take my sneakers off, I just jumped into this jerky dream that lasted all the way down until I hit the bottom. The feeling isn’t movement anyway, but rather being suspended in front of the sheer cliff, mid-air, with the waters rising up sharp and fast at you. I hit water hard, but I didn’t go too deep, coming up to see all the sightseers applauding. Then I swam to shore to meet the others and we turned, pulled down our shorts and flashed our moons to the old sightseeing buggers as the boat pulled away and headed for the Hudson. We got dressed and went back (Eddie the old man queer guy peeking into the bushes as we changed, by the way.) I got back to the neighborhood and decided to go home to eat and write and sleep; I know I can always wait to tomorrow to go around and brag and let everyone know what big shit I am and all that.

Fall 1964

It’s my first day at the ultra-rich private school that Benny got me a scholarship to come to. I had a hard time trying to figure out what I was doing there, and I got funny looks from everyone and thought how funny it was all those Jewish kids singing away those old Christian tunes like that at the chapel service in the morning. Some teacher in back of me kept poking on my shoulder to get me to sing but I just sat there with a bored look on my face. Before the first class I spoke with a nice enough little guy named Eggie Blaumgarden or something, whose old man owns a big diamond cutting firm, very impressive to me. It turns out that he’s a great tennis star (6th in the East for his age) and he’s interested in art. “Got a few Renoirs over at my place,” he lays on me, “come over for dinner sometime and check em out.” Sure thing Eggie. Then I got into hot water with Mr. Brothers, fancy Oxford graduate Latin teacher, who freaks out when I answer a question “Yah” instead of “Yes, sir”. He keeps me after class and explains how he understands with mounds of sympathy how my family is lowly slobs and all but to discipline myself to proper replies and other classroom etiquette. Sure thing. Then at lunch the head master, Mr Belt, comes over and sits at my table and tells me that my hand should be removed from sight while dining. I thought he meant the hand that I held the fork with, so I sat there for half a minute puzzled until I realized it was the other hand that he was talking about. He’s an overly sincere type guy, you know the kind, like a politician, they always wind up screwing you up sooner or later. Frankly I don’t dig the guy. I feel like farting and blowing up the 257 yrs. of fine tradition of this place. After lunch I spent a little time in the school trophy room, which is actually a sort of lounge where there are fancy v-shaped sofas and all that and a walnut cabinet with all the school’s trophies in it (not many, I might add, in fact, I’ve got more trophies at home than this place got in 257 yrs.) So I’m minding my own business reading TIME mag. when some guy from my class, Larry Labratory, I think his name is, trys to insist that he was reading the magazine first. “Nice try there, champ,” I say, “but I’ve been sitting here ten minutes now, you see?” So, can you picture this, he actually tries to take the thing from me, the prick, and for lack of a more peaceful solution, I get up and punch him out. His nose bleeding, he gets up and whimpers off, probably to squeak to some teacher. Sure enough, he’s back in two minutes, with some old man from the History Dept., pointing dead at me, a handkerchief held up to his bleeding mug. It was only the testimony on my behalf by Eggie Blaumgarden that saved me from getting into a big hassle and being sent down to Mr. Bluster, our principal. Everyone seemed to hate that guy Larry Labratory anyway, so I drew a little applause from die lounge clique when the history guy shook off.

After boring History afternoon classes, I decided to hang around awhile and watch the football team work out. Strictly lame, let me tell you, I could round up any ten friends of mine from downtown or uptown and whip their asses. Some senior asked me to hold the ball for him while he practiced field goals, thinking I was just another jerk-ass freshman. I did, and this guy kicked the thing like it was a bag of shit or something. I say, “Let me try one,” and he says o.k., thinking he’s doing this little punk a big favor. I stepped back, took two strides forward, and breezed one over from 32 yds. (this is in loafers, don’t forget) and the guy just knelt there with his mouth hung open, I thought his jock would fall off and roll right down the leg of his clean little uniform. Then I tipped off to the subway, secretly loving everything about this crazy place.

Winter 1964–65

I made it to the subway today and I decided I’d skip school and go right on down to Times Sq. and wander around a little. I got off at 42nd and then hung out with the junkies in Horn & Hardarts for a while. They all shove donuts into coffee and shove it all into their mouths. I go over to the phone and call up the school and speak to the principal’s secretary and tell her I’m puking all over my house and I got flies in my throat and all the lies I think I need as quick as I can so she don’t hear the sound of the operator and know I’m not home. She seems to swallow the bullshit and I split to dig the streets. That’s an advantage to going to a private school, like in public or Catholic school your parents always got to be the ones who call, but in this place I can give them a little buzz every once in a while and be cool and everyone’s happy. Actually I remember this jerk ass who went to some strict Catholic school that had a rule that if you were sick your old man had to call up to excuse you and we decided to cut out one nice day so he goes in the pizza place and calls the school and says, “Hello, this is my father, Ralphie Hornado ain’t gonna be in today,” and he hangs up and comes and tells me it’s cool and I look at him and say, “You dumb prick.”

So I buzz across 42nd to Grant’s for a birchbeer and then just roam around for a good movie. I get to this empty part of 45th St. and near the side door of some theater is this great chick about 30 yrs. old or so, but really foxy. She gives me the hook and I stroll over and see what’s happening. She’s heavy make-up and all but she don’t come on like a hustler, she suggests she join me at the movies and then we go over to her place. “I got grass, sweetie, you like grass.” Sure I dig it, and we find a movie, of all things, Born Free. What nonsense, but this chick has led me up into thin air in the balcony and there isn’t another person in the whole section. “This is why I picked this flick,” she says, “privacy.” And with that she lays her hand right across my cock and squeezes. I dig the balcony nooky so I sock my tongue into her mouth and get it on. Everything is humming nice when I reach on up her leg and work my way to her thing when, holy shit, I feel it and realize this freak HAS A COCK. I thought I would freak out on the spot so I jump up and make a mad dash down the stairs and take five about six blocks away from the crazy theater, still shaking. I walked back to the subway dazed but on the way I figure I’ll play a few games in the penny arcade so I stop in and shoot a round at the shooting gallery. This one kid who looked the Queens greaser type came over and says “You good?” I tell him I don’t know, man what do you say to some shit like that. He says it again, “You good, man, that’s all I want to know.” Same answer. He asks if I want to bet on getting down eight moving rabbits in ten shots. I say, “Make it $5,” and the fish agrees. We put the money up with the spade attendant. I made ten. I take the dude’s bread and split, saying, “I’m good.” What a wise ass I am, but I wasn’t too cool with that drag queen.

Winter 1964–65

I can’t make out these private school dudes. Here they are with the richest parents around New York and I can't even lay down my pants in the locker room to take a shower without one of these cats rifling my pockets. Same bullshit with books; anyone that loses one seems to always take a loan on mine. I mean, man, I’m the poorest son of a bitch in this institution and I’m getting cleaned out. Just yesterday I got clipped for a five and last week some prick lifted me for a lid of dynamite grass I was about to deal. Today I got all evened out however. I hid down in the wrestling team locker room while my last study period was going on because I never go to that one anyway because it’s only some lame senior who runs it and he ain’t reporting me to no principals if he knows what’s good for his ass. So here I am all of a sudden realizing that the team gets the privilege of early practice and in front of me are all these lockers minus their locks all chock full with goodies. I make the rounds after quietly shutting the door and getting fellow poor classmate David Lang to keep a lookout. I’m up to about fifteen beanos and checking out one of the last wallets left when David whispers from outside, “Get cool, it’s Bluster.” Shit, someone must have sent the word to Mr. Bluster, the principal, that I cut the study because he never comes to this part of the building unless he’s checking for class cutters. I hear him outside reading a list to Lang with my name on it, asking if he’s seen anyone. He says no and splits but I’m in one of the favorite hiding spots so I make a last minute move and squeeze into one of the floor lockers and shut the door behind me just barely fitting. I can hear Bluster checking through the door but he seems satisfied and moves on. I try to push the door of this tin trap open but, holy shit, you can’t open the motherfucker from the inside! Instant panic of stuffy death with crusty jocks stuffed in my face. I can hardly move and I’m hoping Lang comes back but can’t yell because Bluster might still be about. This hole in the wall stinks and I seem to have a javelin or something sticking right up against my balls. Best thing to do is stay calm, I figure, solutions will come. Now ten minutes and no solution coming so I fuck it and start to yell. I hear footsteps in the room. "In here, I’m in this locker here,” I mutter and finally the door swings open. I fall out gasping, a madras jock tangling off my nose. It’s Ravi Curry, Indian transfer student whose old man is biggie at the U.N., and star of chess team. Ravi is a little confused. I still got that last wallet in my hand so I gotta be quick to split. “Thanks Ravi, man, what those fucking fraternities won’t do before they let you in,” I mumble as I flip the jock to the cat and tip my ass back to that study hall. I got to go to the detention next weekend for missing that fucking class, but I came out fifteen dollars richer even though my balls still hurt from whatever the hell that thing in the locker was. I hope that Ravi don’t let any of those giant wrestlers know I was in that room when they got looted because if he does I’m going to kick his ass back to Bombay.

Winter 1965

We just got into town for the very spectacular National High School All-Star Basketball Game. The town by the way is Washington D.C. I got stuck in the same car as Benny Greenleaf, a queer scout from Madison, and the fuck kept playing with my hair all the way down. We stopped at three different Howard Johnson’s on the route but I’m still plenty hungry. This team looks in pretty sad shape; Larry Newton was supposed to meet us at the corner of 116th and Lenox but he never showed up. This doesn’t bother me too much because now I’ll be the starting guard. Benny asks me if I want to be his roommate for $25 a night and I probably would have been until Joe Slapstick, the coach, told Benny to fuck off to another motel. Instead I got stuck with shithead Bobby Bishop, a real jockstrap who came down in a station wagon with his whole family. He hates me but he took me as a roommate because his father won’t let him sleep with a spade and I’m the only other white man.

In the evening we’re supposed to watch very spectacular films of last year’s game but fuck that. Corky Ball, this real light-skinned spade, and I climb out of his window to get laid in the dark section of town. Ball’s a great player. I once saw him take a silver dollar from the top of the backboard and he’s only about 6’5”. He’s also a great guy and he had me fixed up with this very fine spade chick. She said she liked my long hair so I told her I write poems too. She asked me if I knew Allen Ginsberg, I told her everybody in N.Y. knew Allen Ginsberg. Not too bright Corky thought Allen was another queer Jew basketball scout like Benny Greenleaf. It was a great lay. We didn’t make it back to our rooms until about midnight and Joe Slapstick was waiting around for our asses. He told us we couldn’t even get dressed for the game 2 nights from now. Bullshit. We both knew we would be starting. There just wasn’t enough guys on the team to kick us off. Who was giving a shit about the game anyway? I had plenty of dope and that great little black ass downtown. Slapstick told us to take a shower and nod off. We had two joints each in the shower and went back to my room. Corky beat the ass off Bobby Bishop for squeaking to the coach that we were late. I read “Music” by Frank O’Hara and began thinking about the Plaza Hotel. That poem always reminds me of the Plaza Hotel.

Winter 1965

After very poor breakfast Joe Slapstick calls aside Corky and me and lets us know he is giving us another chance and we would be starting in the game anyway. Benny Greenleaf comes in and plays with my ear and tells me all about the man I’ll be guarding on the next night. The man I’m guarding happens to be Art Baylor, a cousin of Elgin Baylor who happens to be my favorite player. Benny says the guy drives a lot and I should keep one leg in his crotch just before he starts to drive. Benny demonstrates and rubs his knee against my balls.

After Benny has demonstrated on every player on the team, someone discovers that Lex Lincoln, a center from Clinton, has incredible amounts of very up pills. We all go to practice stoned. I hit incredible amounts of jump shots in practice and assure myself a starting spot in the game. I practiced passing off because I figured I’d be a playmaker if nothing else. Dean Marmelade hurt his leg and is out for the whole tournament. I read in the Washington newspapers a story about me entitled "Beatnik Basketball Player” telling all about my shoulderlength hair and my strange hobbies off the court. What the ruck is this all about. I get great urge to nod out despite the pills. I’m about to go into the room when Joe Slapstick stops me and tells me that I should run the offense because Ball is too dumb. Bishop and his old man are in the room as I get there. They’re probably talking about the story in today’s paper. I’m sure he hates the idea of a creep like me starting in the game. Bullshit. I sweated my nuts off for that spot so he can go fuck himself.

Winter 1965

Coming back from the Washington trip today, we stopped at a gas station in Benny’s car and Yogi went around back to use the bathroom. Corky and I went inside to the Coke machine and used some of the handy slugs we had brought along for such situations. Back to the car again and in a few minutes, Yogi comes whipping out of the bathroom with this big smile on his face. “He probably just beat off, the sneaky fuck,” someone crudely observed, but Yogi came running over to the car saying, “Heh, there’s a scumbag machine in the bathroom in there.” “What the fuck are you talking about?” Willie asked. “I swear they got a scumbag machine in there,” and he took out and dangled one large, sure enough, scum-bag in front of us. “Pretty great, eh?” “What a goof,” I said, and we ran around the back to check it out, Benny included. There it was, 25 cents a pack. I never saw a scumbag machine in N. Y. but somebody explained that they had them in every bathroom in every filling station in the South. Cork put in a quarter and waited for the prize but nothing happened. “Slam it,” someone squeaked, and he pounded very hard on the top of the machine. It freaked our minds as the bottom of the thing fell out and thousands of packs of scumbags fell onto the floor. We knew they’d be big sellers to all the lames in our schools who didn’t have the balls to go into a drugstore and ask for a pack. In fact dumb old Corky said, “Well, wouldn’t you be uptight to go into a drugstore and ask, ‘Three scumbags, please?’” We took a little time to explain a few facts to Corky.

Meanwhile, Benny seems right at home in the bathroom and he took the opportunity to try and get us to give in to some blow jobs. No one considered the scene very cool for shit like that so, after we checked to make sure we had all the rubbers off the floor, we made it back to the car. Benny sagged back in disappointment and once we got started again the fuck nearly cracked us up into a garbage truck. “Get your mind off my dick and back on the road like a motherfucker,” said Willie and it zonked me out when we all looked into the front seat to see his pants down to his ankles and him rubbing Johnson and Johnson baby powder onto his balls. “Jockrash,” he explained. “Oh,” I nodded. We sniffed a little junk in the back seat so the next few hours were not too literary for this diary but plenty pleasant for the old head. In Baltimore, however, we did run into Corky’s cousin in a little food shop. I think she was a fucking whore or something. They rapped for a while and we split, a touching reunion. When we were about an hour from the city, everyone started to blow up the scumbags and send them out the window. At an ice cream stand we gave a few blown up rubbers to a little girl, in fact. “Take the ballons from the nice boys,” her mother said, dumb. New Jersey, housewife fucker.

Winter 1965

I’ve been hanging around lately, with all the other heads in this dreary neighborhood, at this place called “Headquarters,” which is actually just the apt. of two friends of mine, Brian and John Browning. It’s an amazing place where there are usually anywhere between ten and thirty locals hanging themselves out either laughing insanely from grass giggle fits or simply on the nod from smack. I’ve lived here from time to time when my parents give me the toss and woke up here this morning, in fact, after a huge hash goof last night. There were about twelve other dudes fell out on the floor when we got each other up for early bird cartoons and the remainder of the hash. Sloppy Eddie wandered in with a case of milk and 36 loaves of bread that he and Willie Appleears clipped from the Grand Union down the block before they opened. Since this is supposed to be a quiet, middle class white Catholic section of the city the suckers still leave those things in front of the stores in the open when they make their deliveries. Too bad they don’t leave out a couple of pounds of baloney too because we had to go buy that at the all night deli for our morning sandwiches. We plan a big day (Brian and I) of going up to 168th St. to get ourselves a little codeine cough medicine for a nice long Saturday afternoon nod.

After silly hash goofs with other loony heads Brian and I split and taxi to 168th for the junk juice, but to no avail because the place we hit turns us down because the man’s been bugging him about selling it to minors (you’re supposed to be 21 to cop this stuff). After two more turnaways we almost give up hope when Brian decides to give a call to old Johnny Murry, whose been drinking six bottles a day since he was 15. “Try the real old guy on 163rd, he’s cool and he’s good for as many as you want; took a shopping bag’s worth myself yesterday.” Good old John. We hit 163rd and see the place he described right in the shadows of the ballroom where Malcolm X was gunned down not too long ago. We wait outside and discuss the fake names we’re gonna use in the book you got to sign when you buy this stuff. Brian goes in first and signs the book “James Bond” as he’s paying his 2 dollars, then he exits and gives me the o.k. I enter calmly, “One bottle of Robetussin, please...” but the old man behind the counter was already putting the stuff in the bag and getting out the book from die minute I walked in. He got die stuff right next to him on the shelf, in fact. I sign the book, “Abe Lincoln,” and give the guy two beans but he holds on to the bottle. I figured I blew with my super fake John Jay, but instead he looks at me and says, “No good, I’m afraid Abe already got a bottle this morning,” and he points it out to me that some other medicine head already filled that one. “Oops, I say and erase it and scribble in “Wilt Chamberlain.” He hands over the bag and I whistle out. We decide that two bottles is nicer then one so Brian enters again and signs it “George Washington.” He’s cool for another score. I go and write in “Al Swinburne” hoping there’s no literary customers about and I get my second bottle. What a strange little old man. I really think that he thinks we’re on the level. But at the rate he’s going, he’ll be retired soon just on medicine sales. There were six cats heading toward that store when we left and they all gave us the cute “I can dig it” face as they passed us and saw our little bags.

We caught a bus back down to Headquarters, got ten beers at the deli because they enhance the head with medicine, and we picked a quiet corner in the living room and downed the syrup that was going to put us stacked right over the little day to day hassles of our post puberty years. It has a thick taste and all, but you can bear it because you know what’s coming after it. Actually, everyone else has split the apt. by now to dig a little touch tackle (except for resident junkie, Jimmy Dantone, who’s on the deep nod anyway) so we can enjoy ourselves in peace and quiet. Nothing worse then a loud mouth grass head when you’re trying for a nice codeine head. We wait for the stuff to hit and Brian tells me about the little old man and woman down the block that have been drinking this stuff ever since they ran out of the old sex drive a few years back. Half an hour gone past now and Brian asks if it’s hitting. “Just coming on,” I tell him, and that was the last thing either of us muttered for seven hours when we both looked up to take a sip of beer and Brian says, “Do you feel it?” and I just mutter “Yeah, I feel it.” What an understatement, I was so zonked that I’d let whole cigarettes burn down to the filter and burn my fingers without talking one drag. We had about six hours more of good solid nods and then sat around and rapped slowly about all our little visual dreams that passed in our heads clear as movies.

Spring 1965

Being a big time basketball star and all around hip motherfucker at a private school, I get to meet a lot of out of sight private school chicks, all of them action and plenty rich to boot. I went to visit my current girlfriend, Hedi Hunter, today because it’s Friday and every Friday her parents go out for big night on the town leaving the apt. to just Hedi and I and about fifty maids and butlers. She lives over on Sutton Place overlooking the East River in about an eighteen room penthouse. Her old man is a big wheel at MGM or something and her old lady owns mucho racehorses and stuff like that. I wouldn’t mind putting a little make on her moms as a matter of fact, she’s early forties but still in great shape. So anyway, I tool in and nod to the doorman who knows me by now and lets me right up without the usual C.I.A. bit they usually give you in these places. The elevator cat is a tall spade who used to play semi-pro ball so we rap a lot until I reach the top, get out, give a ring, flip my beret to Harry, the butler, and get greeted by Hedi, all sexy in her great dress. We eat a little Italian food in the dining room then go up to her room which pans right out over the river with its slow barges and ugly boroughs that surround it. I whip out a little hash and she tosses me her excellent pipe and in ten minutes the view is an awful lot more pleasing outside. Construction is some heavy stuff over in Long Island City, all those huge girders just sticking up in that old sky like air knives. But enough for the view and we wrap up for some great nooky and muff away for an hour or so. I never get tired of this scene though I’ve been coming here for the last two months. The rest of the night we just sit around on Hedi’s big bed naked and watch goofy Peter Seller’s movies on big color t.v. I show her action shot of me in the Times while scoring forty against McBurney yesterday. She beams and we fuck again. It’s a goof, all this stuff. I’m gonna bring all the dirt heads from old Madison Square Boys’ Club up here some night; they’ll freak out in one second. Finally I realize that I got to meet some friends uptown soon so I split about midnight after checking out what pills I can rob out of her old man’s medicine cabinet. I got about eight ups and a lot of downers. I give Hedi the big kiss, munch on a pear and cut out.

Winter 1966

Got up early this Sat. morning for a change, got up to meet Al Dolan who is going to come with me down to the American Legion Post on 207th St. so we can hustle some bread. We got there and Al keeps the boss man busy while I swipe a dozen raffle books so we can sell them around here for $2 a book. It wasn’t any hassle slipping away the books off the table and into the cut-away inner lining of my coat while Al rapped some shit to the guy about how rude the raffle sellers that came to his building were and that he was here to issue a complaint. The old fish offered his sweet apologies to Al and out we went, $24 worth of raffles in my trusty inner lining.

We started selling around Sherman Ave. and got rid of 4 books on that street alone. The donkey Irish around here would buy anything in the name of God’s Holy Legion so this, you see, is easy bread for crooks like us on any given gloomy Sat., too wet for ball games in the park and too broke for drugs or drinkies.

So our luck began to dwindle a bit as we hit the Jewish section of the neighborhood up the hill in ritzy Overlook Terrace, but, still, within an hour or two we were both down to one book each and anxious to get rid of them so we could go get high somewhere. So we’re working this building back down on 204th St. and I get rid of my last book and turn to Al with appealing eyes, but he has one book left to go. He raps on a door and out comes this piece of twat older woman in a tiny little frilly nightgown, oh my lord, what a pair of tits has she! “Can I do something for you boys?” she asks. I could have choked on the spot. I chime in, (since Al has gone into semi-petrification) “Well, my friend here and I are selling these raffles and you can win a brand new Mustang in the drawing next week if you take a chance with one book, price $2.” “I’m afraid I’m out of cash right now,” she said, “but would your friend and you like to come in for a drink anyway; you do drink, don’t you?” Yes indeedie we do. Yes, and we go right in and sit right over on the couch as we wait for her to come back with two tall screwdrivers, sitting right between the two of us. Call me Oedipus if you will, but I was piping, older ladies really turn me on and by now we knew she was for real and not some crazy old lady in Grand Central Station or something that gets the thrill out of leading you into some abandoned part of the station and then yelling for the National Guard when you come near her. So halfway through the drinks she reaches her hand down our pants and twiddles away to our things, tuga-tug tuga. “Nice tall young men, ain’t you?” What a bonus this is, and what a hard-on I’ve got ... tuga-tuga-tug. Zippers down... tug... I won’t describe too much... tugatugtuga, except that she was a handjob freak and she just kept tugging away as we went to play on her body. There’s nothing like unexpected sex, especially when selling raffles for the American Legion, so we both came in a matter of minutes, she licking her fingers off and zippering back up our pants just like in the dirty books I used to hide under my rug a few years before. Actually I think they’re still there. But that was that, and out the door we went, invited back anytime. Nice lady, and you would be surprised at the number of women like her. Some just like to tease you by answering the door in skimpie outfits and all, but others actually invite you in and follow up. Any salesman knows this is true, not just a story in the movies, and you can bet I got her apt. number in my head right now. But Al still has one book to go and here he is still trying to get rid of it. Finally he loses control and when some old lady don’t answer the door, he starts yelling like crazy otto or something and saying how she hates the church and how doomed she is in the name of the Lord and pounding away all along. Then she opens up the peekhole on her door and tells Al that he better be cool or else she’s gonna call the man on him. Al goes right up to the peekhole instead and starts making incredible faces at the old bugger and, dig this, she pokes a giant pencil right into Al’s mug, drawing blood from all over the lip. I had to laugh my nuts apart at the genius of this lady, but Al seemed to fail to get the joke and after spitting a giant goober all over the old bag's door, he ran out of the house and into the street, raging like some insane monk. With Al’s lip pouring with blood, we decided to fuck the last book and pool our earnings for a spoon of cocaine. And that’s exactly what we did and for the rest of the day we ran around rapping with that great cocaine buzz and tinge and feeling just fine.

Spring 1966

Willie Bender, the king of the drunks in this neighborhood, kicked off today. They found him dead on a park bench right across the street from the Bucket Of Blood, the only bar in the whole of Manhattan that would still give him credit. It was a sad end of an era in a way. Willie was famous for going on the wagon for one month or so and then freaking onto a four or five month binge that would mean almost 2 qts. of straight whiskey a day. He drank like a fish. Lots of taste too. “No wino me,” he’d say, “give me Johnny Walker Red or go fuck yourself” He was a friendly son of a bitch, never a bitch loaded or not. He’d think nothing of going drinking on the park benches with us when we were still too young to drink in the bars and he could rap right along without sounding like a shithead boring drunk. He lived in the park, as a matter of fact, in one of the prettiest sections, where he would refer to a huge green field as his living room and a bench right beside it as his bedroom. If anybody was ever caught on that bench, he would attack them right off it, then sit around and weep that people had no respect invading a person’s bedroom like that. He knew the Cloisters inside out, and he had theories on the reflections of varying social and political conditions as an influence on French sculpture from one century to another. These theories, I hate to say, were completely wrong, as I pointed out to him one day, and he wouldn’t speak to me for a week. Everyone at Headquarters chipped in tonight to get him a wreath, though it’s doubtful anyone will be able to get up the bread for a wake for the poor guy.

Summer 1966

In ten minutes it will make four days about that I’ve been nodding on this ratty mattress up here in Headquarters. Haven’t eaten except for three carrots and two Nestle’s fruit and nut bars and both my forearms sore as shit with all the little specks of caked blood covering them. My two sets of gimmicks right along side me in the slightly bloody water in the plastic cup on the crusty linoleum, probably used by every case of hepatitis in upper Manhattan by now. Totally zonked, and all the dope scraped or sniffed clean from the tiny cellophane bags. Four days of temporary death gone by, no more bread, with its hundreds of nods and casual theories, soaky nostalgia (I could have got that for free walking along Fifth Ave. at noon), at any rate a thousand goofs, some still hazy in my noodle. In one nod I dreamt I was in a zoo, inside a fence where, down from a steep stone incline, was a green pond filled with alligators. It seemed at one point I was about to be attacked. About ten gators surfaced and headed slowly up the incline, staring directly at me. But just when I seemed pinned against the fence, instead of lunging at me they just opened their huge jaws in slow motion and yelled, “Popcorn.” At this point a little zoo keeper shuffled out and tossed huge bags of popcorn onto the water. I ducked out through the hole that suddenly appeared in the fence.

Zonked, but I’ve been slugging away at orange juice all along, anyway, for vitamin C and dry mouth. I just crawl out of the bed at first; don’t even attempt my human posture. Think about my conversation with Brian: “Ever notice how a junkie nodding begins to look like a fetus after a while?” “That’s what it’s all about, man, back to the womb.” I get up and lean on a busted chair. Jimmy Dantone comes running in and grabs me, “Those guys that we sold the phoney acid to the other day are after our asses if they don’t get back the bread." “Go tell them I hate them,” I tell him. He splits. A wasted peek into the mirror, I’m all thin as a wafer of concentrated rye. I wish I had some now with a little Cheez Whiz on it. I can feel the window light hurting my eyes; it’s like shooting pickle juice. What does that mean? Nice June day out today, lots of people probably graduating today. I can see the Cloisters with its million in medieval art out the bedroom window. I got to go in and puke.

Editor’s Note: “The Basketball Diaries” are selections from writings begun in 1963, when the author was thirteen, and continuing until 1966.