4th & Main
I sat behind the counter
always smoking something;
a cigarette, cigar, or
grass when I could get it.
There was a loaded shotgun
back there and
a cooler full of beer and
Pepsi, and usually a pint of
Haig & Haig or Wild Turkey.
I’d spend the first 15 to 20
minutes of my shift
lining up the dildos by size
and sipping Pepsi and booze
from a paper cup
full of ice. The smallest one,
a 3 incher to the largest one,
14 inches. I’d line them all up
inside the counter to dick headed
perfection. I’d check the batteries
in the vibrators. People were always
the vibrators out of the case
to see if they worked.
As people fondled and sized up
the plastic and rubber goods, I’d stand
and look out the window sipping my
drink and watching the sun set
in an expanding shadow over the brownstone
building across the street, which housed a
bar, a garment sweatshop, another porn shop,
and a many years closed, Italian restauran
I heard that the former owners of the
the restaurant were followers
and started the restaurant after he
was executed in 1943, and that
` the waiters carried machine guns
aprons. Some people believed the
stories, others didn’t.
To me the stories were as real as anything, real as
the drunks, vice cops, junkies. speed freaks, alley sleeping
homeless, and the sex freaks and the whores
walking in the front of, and walking in and out of,
my place of employment.
not more than 9 years old, coming in the store
and begging for change every other day. He’d
tell me I was his “mark”, but
I didn’t give a shit.. Real as the rather foul breathed
man, who asked me politely if I
would give him
head for $40. I sat my cup on the counter and
reached for the shotgun and stuck it
in his face. I thought the guy was
gonna drop dead right then. I looked at him closely
under the bright fluorescent light of the porn shop.
He had a face like a cocker spaniel
and pigeon eyes set close together, and they
I lowered the shot gun gently back to its place next
to the cooler and pointed to the door.
The guy backed away with the look which had
frozen to his face when I pointed both barrels at him,
a look of such terror, I pray I never see
on another human being again.
The machine gun carrying waiters
were real as the bus ride home
at 2 a.m. with the other night life workers: all
either stoned, sleeping or just bleary-eyed and exhausted.
The bus would travel
past the Mark Taper Forum
and over the freeway bridge into
Echo Park, at the edge of
then up Sunset Boulevard to Silverlake
where I’d get off and walk up the
steep hill of Micheltorena to my court
apartment; to my sanctuary, my typewriter,
my freedom from insanity, from the
dire hopelessness of the streets.
I always paid my rent a couple months
in advance, and the shades were always
drawn. My sanctuary. Real as my fat Prussian cat
waiting for me at the
door purring and screaming for food, real
as the 4 stucco walls which were
around me. I never doubted for a moment
that some of the doomed followers
of Mussolini opened a restaurant and
carried machine guns under their aprons,
on the corner of 4th & Main.