Tag Archives: Avenue B

And If You Think I Need You There Are a Million Rivers for Us to Ride

Photograph by Jose Padua
Sunday afternoon and my neighbor
is singing Olivia Newton John
via the Bee Gees’
“Come on Over” in Spanish
louder than Avenue B traffic
and several car alarms combined
which means that her boyfriend
didn’t come home last night
or left with angry words
this morning which means
that pretty soon it’ll be time for me
to head out for one of my long walks
50 or 60 blocks uptown until
I run out of muscle in my legs
or downtown until Manhattan
comes to a conclusion and
stops like a spaghetti western
but before I go I start to hear a sizzle
from her kitchen
and the hallway soon fills
with the smell of food frying—
pork, chicken, beef, fish, shrimp—
and when I walk into the hall
her door is open and she’s
out there smoking a cigarette
because the kitchen is getting too hot
and she looks at me and rolls her big eyes
as if to say “What else can I do?”
or “I can’t believe this shit”
then brushes out a tangle in her
curling black hair with the back
of her hand and I shrug
my shoulders and swing out
my hands as if to say
“What else can any of us do?”
or “There’s no shit left worth believing”
and it’s our Sunday substitute
and spiritual choice for church,
wondering what on Earth
is there to do
then pausing to gather
our inner sources of inspiration
and strength before
continuing on our paths
in praise of the brilliant future
and whatever it brings our way.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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Train in Vain

Photograph by Jose Padua
When I lived in New York the landlord of my
building on Avenue B always called me
“Jose Baby,” while the woman in the apartment
above me who always got the pipes clogged
by flushing cat litter down the toilet was
“Fucking Stacy” and the woman below me
was nudge nudge, “Linda, wouldn’t ya like
a shot at her, Jose Baby?” but Linda’s boyfriend
was Shamir who always looked as serious as
a hit man and the only time I ever saw her
apartment was when water was dripping down
from my bathroom into hers one night when
the pipes burst because Fucking Stacy was
taking one long fucking shower in the bathroom
above mine, and her water went down her drain
into the pipe, then into a hole in the pipe
through which the water rushed and burst
a hole in my bathroom wall after which
the water flowed like the East River
down into Linda’s bathroom, and Linda
walked up to my apartment, knocked on the
door and asked “What is this shit?” then
walked me down to her bathroom where
I said, “Linda, this is Fucking Stacy’s
water, just passing through my bathroom
into yours,” and though no moisture was
ever exchanged again between Linda and me
we got along really well from that day on.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Avenue Banana

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Living on Avenue Banana
in the 1990s is not a lot like
drinking tea. I look up to the sky.
You shout at people driving by
in limousines. We eat rice and
chicken, wonder what to do.
You could go home and watch
your color TV or whistle on the way
to the sink. I can lie back on my
mattress like a tiny buffalo
and wave my hands at the flies
in the air or on my knee. Alone
I see white paint chips on the ceiling,
feel the need for something green or
golden. With you there’s sometimes
a step in between, you sitting
in my window reading a magazine.
Sometimes we’re watching
the same movie on different TVs.
Other times I’m giving you cigarettes
like moonshine by the sea. And
though this isn’t Paris in the 1930s
and I can’t be Henry Miller and you
can’t be Anais Nin, the look in your
eyes sometimes makes me think
of you as Grace Kelly in bed reading
a copy of Vogue, and me as Jimmy
Stewart, asleep by the window
with two broken legs.

-Jose Padua

A Hail Maria and a Hangover before Leaving Town

Photo by Jose Padua
When I told my neighbor Maria
I was leaving my apartment
next door to hers on Avenue B
she almost cried. I wasn’t
a great neighbor. I sometimes
made some noise, but then
I never complained that
her teenaged grandkids
would open and shut the doors
at all hours, and I never minded
when the woman down the hall
would spend Sunday mornings
belting out Olivia Newton John songs
in Spanish while I suffered through
my usual morning hangover.
Sometimes I helped Maria with her groceries
up the four flights of stairs,
or chatted with her in the hall
and sometimes all I did was say
“good morning” or “good evening”
with a smile and a nod
but probably what she appreciated
most about me was that
I wasn’t a junkie.
For Maria there was nothing scarier
than the “junkie people” in the halls,
or around the corner,
as she made her slow, steady way home;
and even when I climbed up the stairs
drunk and reeking of dive bar smoke
and liquor,
I was at least aware of her,
my good and decent neighbor,
and not off in some heroin-fueled
layer of the Earth’s ozone.
And as I gave her a goodbye hug
and walked away,
I actually began to feel myself in a state
of accidental holiness–
great, honored, spiritual,
not so much for the things I was,
or the things I’d done,
but for the things I didn’t do
and the things I was not;
and as I started packing up
everything in the apartment that was mine,
it occurred to me that maybe,
for now,
it was enough.

-Jose Padua

The photograph of the corner of Avenue B and 4th Street, which is what I would see when I opened the front door of my apartment building where I lived in New York, was taken earlier this month.