Time was, I could pass out anywhere I damn well pleased in Northeast. Times change. People change, but not me.
I hit the liquor store on New Jersey, every day, soon as it opens.
“Morning, Bert”, Akhmed would say.
“Mornin’? Time is relative,” I’d grumble, cause it is. Least it is if you spend your days drunk, blissful. And your nights defecating, wretching, grousin’ after hookers by the bridge on 3rd, you know the one, the one with all them hookers, stepping out of the shadows, sweet specters of rentable flesh. And yeah, I’d poke me a whore or two when my scratch-offs hit. Get the goblins out, my dad used to say. And sometimes night was day, wretch by the scrapyard, pass out in the alley behind the food bank on 1st, shit by the bridge, ain’t no daytime hookers out.
See, time is relative if you got nothin’ tying you down. And I ain’t need no tethering. I got Akhmed give my syrup. Pints is only $4.99, the plastic bottles. Whiskey, vodka, gin, don’t matter. Drink ‘em straight, I ain’t no pussy. And sometimes I get me a 40 ounce or three. Malt got them calories if I ain’t planning on eatin’ too much. Some days I don’t feel like scrounging, or standing in line at the food bank with those shit tossers. All think they deserve more slop in their bowls, like they got a story I ain’t heard before.
Me, I got no problems. I just like to get fucked up. Ain’t trying to work more, for the god damn government to reach in my pockets. Hell no. I was put here to drink, god damn it. Akhmed know it, he always glad to see me, and he’s alright for an Arab.
Anyway, life was good. Then they built that fucking stadium and god damn commerce took off like the Black Plague, Ring around the Rosey, blocks I roamed like almighty Christ, swallowed up by developers and yuppies.
Abandoned row houses I’d pass out in front of, or in when it get cold, that’s all a Wal-Mart now, you believe that? High rise condos shooting up like Yuppie Babylon over every sodden step I’d take. Big, clean monstrosities with plush furniture nobody ever pissed on, and off-the-boat African concierges, friendlier than shit. Bridge hookers still hookin’, but they nervous. And the scrapyard is a fucking Pei Wei now, with a Sodastream. Seven god damn flavors of Mello Yello. Seven. And they keep sayin’ their restroom is for paying customers only, but sometimes I sneak past and take a big old shit, cause fuck ‘em. I ate their slop before, don’t taste like real Asian food.
You want real shit, you go down to Chinatown. But they got a stadium there, too, and they’ll chase away all the Chinamen, you just wait. And they’ll build more bars for the youths, and their Tinders. And another fucking wax museum, with a Pei Wei in it. And they’ll have a Lincoln wax, without the head wound, cause nobody wants real shit, don’t know what to do with it if it sat on their face. They want seven fucking flavors of Mello Yello.
They call it gentrification. But that word don’t sound sinister enough, do it? Push all the blacks out. Turn our titty bars into Tapas, the fuck is Tapas? Rip the bars off our windows, shove them straight up our asses. We, the Dreamers. We, the Low People. Demolish the shelter and the food bank, build a satellite campus for a liberal arts college, so future yuppie wives can study social work. Nevermind the starving. Nevermind the sick.
I tell Akhmed, I say, watch your back brother, they’ll run you out, too. Raise your rent up so high you’ll work the bridge to keep your lights on, but you ain’t pretty enough. Neither is they, but they pros, and everybody need a warm place, get the goblins out. You ain’t no pro, Akhmed, and I sure do doubt you warm. You watch, brother. They’ll force you to fold, push you out with me, and the blacks. Pop your sweet immigrant dream inside out. All that service you provide to the community, hooch and rubbers and lottos and them Hot Cheetos, gone gone gone. They’ll tear your building down to the foundation, along with the rotting corpse of the adjacent Radio Shack, build a Total Wines or a World of Beer. These millennials want variety in their mouths, right quick, and they don’t think about nobody but themselves. But every piece of marble tile they walk on, you rip it up, you dig down deep enough, through the soil, and I’m there, man.
They can push me out as far as they please, but every bodily fluid I ever done expunged remains, somewhere way down in the guts of our neighborhood, and they can’t take that away from us.
Let ‘em bus us out to bumblefuck, stack Pei Weis on Paneras on Pei Weis on Paneras, straight up to God Herself, but they stackin’ up their gentrified fuck bubble on top of the fossilized piss shit puke and sperm of good ol’ Bert.