Marty and Melanie’s Walk on the Mild Side
by Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk
Marty looked down at the Village Voice paper he was holding before the closed restaurant and muttered, “Shit!” That was the third restaurant in a month that seemed to be going good when all of a sudden it was gone, Out Of Business. He frowned, thinking about a blog Marty After Dark he still had to write and turned his collar up, heading in the direction of Downtown. He smirked as the melody spun around in his head.
When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
He smiled and started singing it aloud. In New York it didn’t matter, hoards of people walked along the street, day or night. It truly was a 24 hour town. Marty belted out another verse, amazing how old memories come back when you need them, Downtown, downtown, downtown… Of course he couldn’t sound as good as Petula Clark but to him he started sounding even better.
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you.
By then he was traipsing down St. Marks Place after stopping in for a frankfurter and a bottle of Bud, which the server happily served him as he still was singing the song, seemingly to himself.
“Cool song,” the Arab server said, smiling and grinning at him.
Marty took a large bite of his delicious frankfurter and smirked at the Arab; he swallowed more Bud.
“Times have changed, my friend,” said Marty, “changed drastically. Everywhere the stores are closing, wonder what’s happening?”
The Arab didn’t know what he was talking about, having arrived from Yemen just a week ago.
“Things always change,” he said, shrugging at Marty. “One day here, the next day gone, pft!” and he snapped his finger together and looked at Marty, who sadly looked back at him but finished his frankfurter. He had a few more swallows of beer, pulled his collar up and went back outside. It was chilly.
It was almost 10pm and there was nowhere to go just around the block to the St. Marks Bookstore, one on his favorite places. Almost weekly he paid a visit to the shop usually walking away with 4 or 5 books. The usual bookstore clerk Terry was nowhere around.
“He’s sick with the flu,” said a bored frizzy haired female clerk at the register who just went back to her reading of a book after answering Marty’s question.
Though she was cute and very attractive Marty no longer cared what she was reading; he wandered down the aisles, still humming the song, Downtown. He wandered right into Melanie, an old friend and blogster East Village Corner, Musing by Melanie, her head lowered and reading a book.
“Whatchya reading, cutie?” he asked, winking at her.
Melanie looked up at him, slightly shaking her eyes in confusion, “Oh hi Marty, what are you doing here?”
“Can’t I be in my favorite bookstores but I could ask you the same thing?”
Melanie stepped close to Marty and gave him a hug. Marty melted from her touch; he liked it when women hugged him. Next to his ears Melanie whispered, “Look at those two boys, I think they’re trying to steal something.”
Marty gazed down the row of books seeing the two boys, maybe 16 or 17, when one seemed to shove something in his pants under his jacket. Marty frowned; don’t they know about the tight security there is, an alarm would go off as soon as they neared the exit door. He shook his head. Wish he had another beer, he thought, focusing on more important things.
“I had a friend at one time,” Melanie quietly continued, “one of his favorite escapades was stealing books, like Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion,” and she shook her head, staring at Marty.
Marty looked at her.
“I don’t get it. What’s Rosy Crucifixion; is that one on his works?” He knew who Henry Miller was but Rosy Crucifixion was a new one on him; he couldn’t get rid of the memory of more Bud.
“You know,” said Melanie, “The trilogy, Sexus, Plexus, Nexus. Those are very big books, too.”
“Yes, well,” said Marty turning away from the boys. “I always meant to read it.” Marty and Melanie sauntered down the row of fictional books to letter M, looking for Henry Miller. It was a snap, about 10 of his titles looked down at him.
“Did your friend succeed in getting the titles or was he stopped?”
“Security was very loose in those days. You just had to wear heavy bulky clothes and if you could get something underneath you were home free.”
Marty picked up a copy of Miller’s Sexus, almost 500 pages in the Grove Press edition.
“Wow, he stole this?”
“And the next day he got Nexus, then Plexus, all huge books. I remember how happily he smiled when he showed them off, he was gleaming.”
“Yeah, those non-security days were really something,” said Marty flipping through Sexus. “Did you read this?”
Melanie shook her head. “No,” she said, picking up a copy of Plexus. “If it’s so huge it must be good.”
“What your friend say, the one who stole the books?”
“Haven’t seen him in years, he disappeared, you know.”
Marty set his book back on the shelf as Melanie set her book down too. Suddenly, a loud metallic sounding alarm went off. At the front off the store the two boys threw down the books they were trying to steal and fled out side. Marty and Melanie shook their heads as they looked at the boys running off across the avenue with loud laughter coming from their direction.
Marty and Melanie made it to the front of the store. The evening store manager was there with the pretty frizzy haired clerk; he was frowning and shaking his head as she boringly yawned at the confusion.
“That’s the third or fourth time this week,” he said, to no one in particular, “that they tried to steal the book.”
“What book is that?” asked Marty.
The store manager held up Patti Smith’s Just Kids. Marty exploded into laughter, he had already read the book, was a great book at that.
Outside, the wind had picked up; seemed like an early winter was coming.
“You want to go and have a beer?” Melanie asked.
Marty bit his lips but shook his head.
“I’m good,” he said, thinking about the beer he had at home. “Think I’ll get home and get to sleep; early day tomorrow and still have to write my blog. Think I have an idea.”
They said, "Good night...", kissed and disappeared in opposite directions, Marty still humming Downtown as a story formed in his head…