August 24, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Felix Brinkmann sat at a table near the front door of Adam’s Apple. He saw everything. He was there when I left New York and still there three years later.
He saw me, too.
“Hello, Felix. I’m looking for Gary? I met you a couple of years back when Gary worked here,” I said.
“I don’t know a Gary.”
“I’m not looking for him like that. We were friends in the Army. I’m living in Brooklyn and thought I’d say hello.”
“I can take your name and number, but I can’t promise anything.”
I handed him a slip of paper. “Thank you, sir. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Two days later Gary called me. He swung by in a borrowed car and we went to his place.
“You don’t look different,” he said.
“And you’re looking as good as ever.”
“Have you been working out?”
“If you call stacking bricks for masons a workout, I have.”
Gary had a hand with an over-developed thumb muscle from grabbing so many Judo Gis.
“Your hands look strong,” he said. They were calloused from cement block.
I asked him about some of the people I’d met with him three years earlier. Many had died. I asked about Algenon the Irish Wolfhound who used to prowl the Hippo before it opened for the night.
He died too.
“So Felix gave you my number?” I asked.
“Yes, he gets numbers all night long, but he kept yours.”
“I’m glad you called.”
We pulled into a garage and left the car. Gary had a basement apartment with plenty of room.
“What are you doing back in the City? Last I heard you were going to Oregon and never leaving.”
“I still might. I met someone who didn’t work out so I decided, since I’m so close, I might as well give New York a try.”
“Is that why you’re living in Brooklyn?” he asked.
We both smiled.
He brought a beer in from the kitchen. “So what do you need? Where are you working?”
“Lower Manhattan. One Battery Park Plaza.”
“Nice neighborhood. What’s the job?”
I was a bond trade researcher with E.F. Hutton. I’d already trained on three desks in the Purchase and Sales on the seventh floor. It was a dumping ground to fix rejected bond trades and listen to pissed off people.
“Clerk. Wall Street clerk. How about you?”
“Work, you know.”
“That’s it. The paper, the numbers, fighting the clock.”
“Let me tell you.”
We tapped beers, laughing together.
“No, no, I’ll tell you.” It’s an old game, but a good game.
“Then tell me about Felix, like the cat. He doesn’t move?”
“Not while he’s working.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Working. It’s called working. He’s working everything from that chair.”
“Like radar, the Felix beam.”
“Maybe you’re not old enough to understand it. Maybe no one is. That guy, Felix, was in German concentration camps during World War Two. He was on the gas line four times at Auschwitz. Something saved him four times. He calls it vision. That’s something I want to see.”
“So no hard feeling after…” I held my gut where he got stabbed.
“He knew I knew. If he did anything, he would have been a dead man. Me too. But here we are.”
Gary nodded his head. I did too.
“Do you still work for Felix?”
“If he needs a favor.”
Gary takes a phone call, listening, “Okay. Yes.” And hangs up.
“Tonight he needs a favor. There’s a girl he likes, but she has two friends. Tell me now if this is too much.”
“I know. Sometimes it is too much. Too many of the most beautiful girls on earth. Too much delicious food and drink. Too much beautiful buildings. Oh, make it stop. This is New York City and you’re about to meet a girl Felix picked out for you. He knows these things.”
“Too many women can go bad.”
“Is it the women, or their social group.”
“That’s enough, let’s try and make a social group with the ladies.”
Because we parked the car a block away, and we got to his place in the dark, I expected more dark when we left.
The blast of party lights and six lanes of traffic packed two blocks back ended that. Half a block away three of the most beautiful disco queens in the disco universe surrounded Felix. “I’m so bad I’m good,” he told them.
One of them turned to Gary and said, “I’m so bad I’m really baaaaaaaaaaad.”
“Is that good?”
I had to ask.