A liquid lunch turns into a liquid dinner. Do-gooders flock to soup kitchens to pity the poor and the derelict, while organically raised turkeys baste peacefully in Viking ovens behind the safeguard of Upper East Side doormen. The only use Bobby has for the Thanksgiving parade is the throngs of tourists that bring pocket change alongside their conscience. Hopefully enough so that he can afford to stay warm. Not physically warm, but warm through his veins. Rum mixed with whatever else is on the street tonight.

Through windows that Bobby no longer even looks into, families sit around the table and tell stories of tragedies avoided and mishaps averted. They sit in the warm and Bobby sits in the cold, because they are winners at life and Bobby is one of the losers.

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Thousands and thousands of people migrate to the big city. And for every success story there are ten failure stories that you will never hear about in The Wall Street Journal or Rolling Stone Magazine. The rags to riches story is a romantic one, and one that Bobby always thought would happen to him. He would look at those sleeping on the benches next to him and discern that they did not share the same fate. But after years of a concrete mattress, he did loose hope. It wasn’t one life changing epiphanous event but rather a slow and methodical haze between lucid heroin induced sleeping comas and long drags from short cigarette butts. It had to be this way, though. Because Bobby was following a path. He dedicated his life to music, but unfortunately music did not dedicate anything to him.

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Bobby lived so long at the end of a rolled up twenty dollar bill. Instant energy and instant connections to strangers. Scientists say that the memory takes a picture when the body feels increased adrenaline. And that is how Bobby could walk into any downtown bar and know exactly where the bathroom was. Venue names might have changed but no neighborhood gentrification would renovate the location of a bathroom. Bobby’s own public cage. When things got stagnant or he was without a friend, the public bathrooms in downtown New York City bars were his refuge. Because after fifteen minutes in the cage, Bobby was an entirely new person.

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Like a broken record, when you hear the same story over and over again, it will eventually grate on your nerves.

At the top of his game with a full band, Bobby seemed invincible. At shows, he would go seamlessly from singer to lead guitar to keys and then back again. Eventhough he always said he didn’t do it for the recognition, those closest to him knew what it meant to him. A little write up in Rolling Stone, a short interview in Guitar Magazine went all but straight to his head.

Bobby never planned for the future and his hubris proved too big for his britches. It was true that he was the songwriter for the band, but it eventually became clear who the crowds were showing up for. It could have been his dashing good looks or his unassuming guitar artistry. But the offbeat rhythm guitarist, who Bobby recruited from the dregs of Tompkins Square Park proved to be the most charismatic of the bunch. Girls and guys would stick around after the show for a glimpse into what made his electricity glow. Or at least a chance to physically touch something so counter culture, so real.

Bobby never figured it out. And so jealous did he get, that Bobby kicked the rhythm guitarist out of his band in a drunken fury. The gigs were never the same and the crowds never came back. He didn’t know it at the time but that was strike two for Bobby.

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It amazes Bobby that he can still have a relationship with Betty even though she’s been dead for years. In his dreams, their interactions are real and new. Their discourse authentic and inspiring even though her responses are just his subconscious, disguised in her beauty. Not her physical beauty at the end, but her radiance when they first met and she was a groupie that would sneak out of her parents suburban sprawl. Bobby knows Betty is still watching over him, but it’s those nights for seconds at a time that he lives for.

Loitering around Stuyvesant Town,  Bobby is waiting for a call from his dealer. With the methadone, Bobby hasn’t needed him much, but he’s got an itch. He played a few scratch-offs to no avail. The bodega owner was nice enough to give him a cup of some weak coffee. And now he waits by the phone, jittery, salivating at the chance to dull the pain of losing Betty or to dull the pain of his whole life really.

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“Everyone has a story and I want to hear them all,” is the creed Bobby lived by. Unfortunately if he were saying that out loud, it meant that he was belligerently drunk and angry, because after all, Bobby wasn’t going to hear that many stories in his lifetime. It was that realization that sent Bobby down a path that no one could follow and thus drag him back from, kicking and screaming. Bobby wanted to meet the construction workers, the Wall Street traders, the out-of-work actors, the firemen, policemen, drug pushers, gang bangers and tell their stories through song. Because without him, these stories would never be told and eventually be buried forever. Bobby believed music survives the ages, uncovered years from now in a dusty closet by a father’s son, appreciated by yet another era. So Bobby would sit in bars and pass the time between making new friends. Invite them out to a show.

Pete Townshend might have taken credit for smashing guitars but on the Bowery in the 70s, everyone knew who did it first. Whispers and tales were told all the way from the Chelsea Hotel to the Hellfire Club down to SoHo, which at the time was aptly called “Hells Hundred Acres.” “There is a crazy, long-haired guy that smashes his guitar on stage, and it’s not Townshend,” they would say.

Little did anyone at the time know, that those guitars would soon be a perfect metaphor for Bobby’s life.

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As the season changes, the cold becomes Bobby’s biggest foe. Blankets become invaluable and defending them create gladiators out of heroin addicts. Christmas brings tourists and tourists bring guilt and holiday spirit, which combine for the best peddling time of the year. Nestled under scaffolding, the shelters are overfilled and full of thieves. Lights shimmer and tinsel adorn. The only thing to fill your mind when pills won’t get you to sleep are the ghosts of Christmas pasts. Bobby refuses to remember the years when he was so drunk and high, his family would ask him to leave their homes. But he tries to remember a time when his father was proud and his mother still believed in him. The smell of pine wafting through the house and a ham in the oven. Times have changed as he puts out his cigarette in the leftovers he had received from a passerby.

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It was just another disappointment in his life. Three and half years ago Bobby was diagnosed with Emphysema. The doctors said it was the decades of smoking. Reds, Menthols, whatever, Bobby was never picky. “You are inherently cooler if you are walking Uptown, because you are coming from a Downtown party,” he used to say as he walks south on the Bowery, tossing his empty box of Marlboro Lights in a puddle. He now shares the same cigarette preference as the likes of Kate Moss and Mischa Barton. If only this life were different. Some minor details a dozen years ago changed slightly. Signing with that shitty Indie label back in the day or opening that gig for Barbara Streisand before she hit it big. Taking a right instead of taking a left. He could of been snorting and shooting with Kate, as opposed to how it is now–by himself.

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Bobby just realized that he’s been staring at his feet for over three hours. The sounds of the city start to register alongside the pain in his body. Slowly the fog of crack and weak smack subside and the gears in his head begin to churn. He thinks back to a time in his life when he demanded that a certain number of synapses in his brain go off before he could call it a night. Bathrooms in Punk dive bars led to Downtown communal loft spaces which led to dark corners in City parks. Oh, the people he’s met and the drugs that he’s done with strangers, that seemed like friends at the time.

Next to him, he looks at all of his belongings. A toothbrush that he coped at the shelter, a change of clothes, someones empty wallet that he found in Chinatown. All in a plastic bag that he picked up from a mound of debris on Avenue B. The image printed on the bag mocking him. It’s a big yellow smiley face with the words “Have A Nice Day.”

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When you don’t pay rent, the city becomes your home. The black gum stained concrete sidewalks have replaced the green and tan cornfields of his home town. His dream of becoming the next Joey Ramone or at least meeting him, finally passed without much fanfare, when Joey look his last breath a few years ago. Bobby, had practiced in his head so many times how the conversation would go. “Thanks for coming out to the show, Joey. What’d you think of the music? The sound guy didn’t really get it right tonight, but you should come out to our practice space and see us jam.”

Only two more blocks until he can get his dose of Methadone. It’s given out at 6 AM, right when the suits get up and the druggies go to bed. Bobby walks up the Bowery, not in a confident strut that looks like he’s in a music video but more aimlessly with curved shoulders and old sneakers that aren’t really vintage but just old. The only color on the street is a ring of small orange bags that are all tied together, so thoughtfully. He realizes that it’s the only color he’s seen in days.

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