Do you have a minute? I’ve been thinking of going down to Manhattan for my birthday. What do you think?

Manhattan is a fun town — the city that never sleeps — and I haven’t been there in years. I feel like I should do something risky. Except flying, that’s too risky.

My real fear is that there are so many ghosts there, and old faces you think you know. There is that. Did you ever have that moment where you’re in another town, and you’re walking along and someone passes you and you stop and grab them by the sleeve — “Bernie Feldman?”

Of course it’s not Bernie. Bernie worked with me at a bookstore in Hollywood. He was eight years older than me and had three kids. He would be in a nursing home now in Santa Rosa, not walking in the street in Manhattan.

So I come all the way down here to Manhattan and what happens? I scare the hell out of a stranger. The guy would call the cops and they would bust me and take me to Manhattan South where my old friend Jimmy Cartwright was a detective, only Jimmy has been dead for years and could obviously be of no help.

She, who didn’t want to come anyway, would be back at the hotel correcting the kids’ papers she always brings along on our trips, and because she never keeps her cellphone close by, would not hear it.

I would be sitting in a cell with Rico, the drug pusher, telling him about the Franco American Festival going on in Waterville. No, this is not dementia. I play around with these scenarios in my mind to pass the time. Don’t be alarmed.

Reality check: My old friends from Manhattan are all dead or have achieved trustee status with library privileges in prison. Who would I call? Who would have coffee with me, go to the theater, meet me in a bar for a drink? It seems that while I was hiding out up here in Maine, things fell apart and people started dying without notifying me. It happens to us all.

So I go on Google Earth Live and I’m looking at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. There’s a chicken waffle cafe. What the hell is that? There used to be a bar there with shamrocks painted on the windows and long rolls of flypaper hanging near the door. I’m not surprised, I mean, who hangs flypaper anymore?

So I go on Google Earth Live and I’m looking at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. There’s a chicken waffle cafe. What the hell is that? There used to be a bar there with shamrocks painted on the windows and long rolls of flypaper hanging near the door. I’m not surprised, I mean, who hangs flypaper anymore?

Once upon a time when people were still humming songs from “My Fair Lady” and “Bells Are Ringing,” I could walk in that bar and see friends. I could see booths full of people I knew. Jerry Orbach and Joe Bova would be sitting there, my classmates Geraldine Page, Zero Mostel, Annie Bancroft and all those 1950’s blacklisted Hollywood actors and writers I drank with would be three deep at the bar.

Should I go, I would take a cab to the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, the saloon where the poet Dylan Thomas imbibed 18 whiskeys and died shortly after. Bennie Gazzara would be lying on the floor next to a booth of friends because he had a bad back. True story.

But it’s raining hard here as I sit in my den in Maine Googling Manhattan where it’s raining harder. It looks like it’s rush hour and it’s been raining all day. I know that rain. It’s a city rain, cold and unfriendly. It’s not like rain in New England.

When it rains in Manhattan, especially in late fall or early winter, it’s an angry rain, a Katrina force, the kind of rain that fell on the dead at Anzio and stopped the battle at Fredericksburg.

Thanks for giving me a minute this morning but I guess I’ll stick around Maine this year. Everything else is so far away and full of ghosts. I just found my old polka dot Speedo so I’m thinking maybe … Old Orchard Beach. What do you think?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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