Over The River


Image Source: New York Times

“Swear to Christ, some days I just wish you would drive us off the bridge an’ into the drink, Ed.” Vinny and Easy Ed were on Rt. 4 in Paramus, heading into the city to cop. The Empire State Building and the World Trade Center poked above the Palisades, framing their destination, which was St. Marks & 3rd. Ed was at the wheel of a new Dodge, which they had just liberated from a space at the Garden State Plaza.

“Don’t it get to you sometimes?” Vinny said. “Look at this dump. This whole stretch, it’s like the Valley of the Power Line. Paramus is nothin’ but goddamn outlet stores an’ power lines, an’ the rest is nothin’ but a big fuckin’ toxic swamp. An’ there’s the city, teasin’ us. Only we ain’t goin’ in for drinks an’ dancin’ at the Rainbow Room.”

Vinny had stuffed a few cassettes into his jean jacket for their “test drives”. The Ramones, Dead Boys and Richard Hell, along with a tape of Vin Scelsa’s show on K-Rock. He was in the passenger seat, sweating like crazy, jonesing for a hit and irritated at Ed’s navigating.

“Why you gotta take the GW all’a time?!” Vinny said. “It’s quicker to take the Lincoln Tunnel, I keep tellin’ ya! They been taking down what’s left of the West Side Highway for fifteen years, an’ it’s still a mess with all the detours over to 12th Ave. Why ya gotta do this every time?!?”

Ed wasn’t feeling all that great himself, and he didn’t feel like getting into a big argument. “I just like the view from the bridge, is all,” he said, approaching the tolls at the end of New Jersey. “An’ drivin’ along the river. It’s a beauteeful drive, ain’t it?”

“Ohhh, it’s a beauteeful drive, ain’t it?!?” Vinny said, affecting a grandma voice. “Well, ain’t that grand! Ya think I’m going into town to SIGHTSEE?!? Did you get us tickets for the ballet while you’re at it?!? An’ a reservation for the Russian Tea Room?!? Jeeeesus, ya fuckin’ mook!”

“I just thought you might like a little fresh air, is all!” Ed said. “I know when I’m feelin’ junk sick I like drivin’ along the Hudson with the window dow…”

“Ah, BALLS!” Vinny said. “Yeah, this is gonna be deLIGHTful, drivin’ around the ruins of the elevated highway! Twenty minutes longer than it would’ve taken had we just gone down to the tunnel, when I’m sick as shit without a fix! GREAT idea!”

They were on the upper deck of the great bridge now, driving through the Hudson murk. Just ahead and slightly south, the Empire State stood like a majestic sentinel, and the Twin Towers, steely and slate-like in the overcast afternoon, held up the island at the tip. Ed, as always, felt his stomach flip with pride. “I mean, c’mon, man! Look at that view! No way you’d see that in the tunnel!”

Vinny curled up against the door, sweating and shaking, and wanting nothing more than to hand his bills over to The Deuce, get the magic bag and slam the spike. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You owe me a steak, ya mook bastid!”

Easy Ed cracked up at this request. “Man, you are somethin’ else, Vin. Most people want a steak in New York, they wanna go to Sparks. You, on the other hand, keep gettin’ them slabs of charcoaled gristle at Tad’s Broiled Steaks! An’ a paper napkin an’ a Coke in a paper cup to go! Jeez, you’re a cheap date!”

Vinny curled into a ball in the passenger seat, dismissing Ed with a wave of the hand. Ed realized that his friend would be out for a bit, so he took advantage of the situation, and the power windows in their ride. He pulled over on the side of 12th, rolled down the windows and put Vinny’s jacket over him. Then he pulled back into traffic, breeze blowing in, dreaming of real steaks at Sparks, a penthouse on Central Park West, retiring to a farm upstate and, before any of that could happen, kicking, somehow. Sometime after their current date with the needle…

8 comments
  1. Glenn said:

    I’m in the back seat, along for the ride.

    • Great to have you, Glenn!

  2. Oooh. So sad. But so well-written.

    • Thank’ya, ma’am.

  3. Merilee Mitchell said:

    Love this. I want to know what happens next! And just so ya know, I arrived home from the Emergency Room where I was all night long high on morphine, and you know what I do when I get home? Log onto WordPress so I can read Brian’s story…

    • Westbye: cure for pain. I mean GAH! Feel better!

  4. Sad thing is, you don;t need to be in withdrawal to go batty in NYC traffic…
    Great piece, Brian!

    • The Garden State Parkway *is* a lot like methadone, at that.

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