Welcome Mat

The Monk had scoured the Boston Haymarket stalls at closing time for the food. Everything he acquired was free or dirt cheap. Then as now, the amount of edible food wasted was enormous. What wasn’t being provided by the Haymarket trash bins and pushcarts were being scrounged by the habitues of the Folkie Palace. The only needed item that we paid full price for was the beer.
There were yams, potatoes, salad, an entire leg of lamb, and several pies. The Monk himself was a vegetarian but enjoyed cooking for the multitudes. Vegetarian or not. If you asked him about this, he would shrug his massive shoulders, don a beatific smile on his round face, and say his salvation was a personal journey.
While the semi-permanent crew at the Folkie Palace numbered ten to twelve, we expected to feed about thirty. Paper plates, paper towels, and fingers were the finest the Palace could offer for such a group. The beverage was Narragansett beer in GIQ’s ( Giant Imperial Quarts). We had lain in a supply sufficient for everyone to get a mild buzz on.
The feast was in celebration of the rapid departure of Leslie Barnum two nights before. Leslie had claimed to be the Poet Lauriat of the Queens but had proven to be more proficient at playing a cheap psychic.
For several weeks the Poet Lauriat abused our welcome by providing unrequested poetic renderings, drinking up our beer, and using our stairwell as a “consulting parlor.”
The proprietor of the Folkie Palace – the Teahead of the August Moon- thought a poet and psychic would be an exciting addition to our menagerie of odd bits and pieces. He put up with Bill and me, Mike, the Vike, the Monk, and assorted others. It seemed at first that Leslie would prove a worthwhile addition.
Midnight declamations of epic narrative poetry from the roof and stairwell consultations proved unpopular with the neighbors. After a few hints not taken by Leslie, The Teahead decided he needed a sharper lesson. A trip to the roof for a dangle resolved his issues temporarily, but others soon developed. The astrological advice, star charts, healing teas, and communing with spirit guides increased.

As we regularly did, Bill and I departed on a frolicking detour. We decided to explore Montreal, via Portland, Maine. Two weeks later, we returned to find the Palace in crisis. A subdued Teahead was not normal. He refused to come out of his room except for trips to the bathroom. A visit to the Palace from police Sargent Cappucci had strongly suggested that the Bunko squad would be visiting soon to investigate rackets underway at the Palace: ” Clean it up, or go to jail, got it, John?” He got it.
The Teahead asked Mike to take all his funny goods elsewhere and ordered Leslie to find a storefront for his psychic routine. It didn’t matter, knocks at the door at two AM continued. Frantic young women, and men, sought help from hauntings, bad Karma, and nervous disorders.
It all reached a head the evening when the Teahead came home from work to find Leslie closeted with the Teahead’s girlfriend, Andy. They were in the middle of a ritual Leslie maintained was based on Native American medical practice, but looked to the Teahead like ritualized preludes to something more intimate.
We had what these days would be called an intervention. We took Leslie to the roof and explained in straightforward terms that he was ruining a perfect thing for all of us, and if the Teahead evicted us, he’d be back in the Queens. He seemed to agree and agreed to behave. It did not last the night.
At 2 AM, a ruckus started in the lobby. It was Leslie and a client arguing about money paid for a healing ceremony. The amount was for about twice the monthly rent at the Folkie Palace. The Teahead was redfaced with anger, unable to get coherent words out and started pounding walls. The deal at the Palace was everyone pitched in. We all abused the Teahead’s generosity but knew where the line was. Leslie was way over the line.

Leslie had alienated almost every one of us; the complaints were numerous. Most of us had backpacks or suitcases with our possessions in them. None of us owned much. But, Leslie had a colossal steamer trunk. His claims to having attended Fordham University were trotted out regularly as proof of his superiority. And, he had attempted to seduce the Teahead’s girlfriend. Bill, I, Mike and the Monk looked at each other. The Monk counseled forgiveness, but Bill and I sensed blood in the water. We went for the trunk. It took all four of us to get it out the door and over the railing into the stairwell. Glancing up from below, Leslie yelled out for us to stop. We had come too far and suffered too much, and besides, we were losing control of the darn trunk. It slipped from our grasp and careened down the stairwell with pauses at every landing before smashing open at the bottom.
The rest of the night was chaos. The police arrived, screaming neighbors complained, and the landlord wanted to know who’d repair the stairwell. Bill and I went to the roof and used a plank to cross over to the next building, went down the stairs and joined the ogling crowd on the street. By six, the neighborhood was quiet, and the trunk and the Poet Lauriat was gone. The next day so was Andy. She couldn’t take the insanity anymore.

It was the Monk who came up with the idea of a celebration. He also gathered most of the food. Friends around the neighborhood joined in and contributed to the cost of beer. There was a basket placed on the kitchen table for contributions to repair the stairwell railings. With all the guitarists and a fiddler that showed up, we had plenty of musical entertainment. We eventually lured the Teahead out of his room and into the center of the party, where he soon assumed his role of gracious but oddball host.

The last we hear of Leslie was that he went into politics.

One Reply to “Welcome Mat”

  1. Of course Leslie went into politics afterward. It does not surprise me one bit after reading your story.

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