Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A conversation down the block.

There's a little place around the corner from my office, up on 52nd Street and down toward 12th Avenue and the river. It's called McKinney Welding Supply and they sell all manner of commercial gas, medical gas, gas for homeowners. 

They also sell welding masks, abrasive cutting and grinding tools, electrodes, filler metals, rods, gas outfits and regulators.

I stop in there about once every other month to get a canister filled with carbon dioxide for the seltzer dispenser my wife and I had installed in NYMEK (New York's most expensive kitchen.)

Over the course of the last 18 months or so, I've gotten to know the guys and have what I call a "kibbitz" relationship. 

"You're the seltzer guy," they yell at me when I enter the crowded space.

I hand them my canister, joke about the Knicks, or the Mets, or the Jets or the Giants--or some other last-place New York ball club, take a receipt (they insist) and go on my way.

Today, Tommy, one of the owners was leaning over the counter as I walked in. The radio was on and the news was playing. Tommy looked up from his Daily News.

"Buddy Seltzer," he says to me and I shove my canister over his way. "Something big is going down. I can feel it in my kishkas."

Longtime New Yorkers, no matter if they're Puerto Rican, Black, Irish or a combination of the lot, have a passable smattering of Yiddish--it's the Lingua Franca of New York.

"A fat guy comes in here this morning. There's a limo parked outside with Jersey plates and this chubby comes in here wearing a three piece business suit."

I took my coffee out of the small bag I was carrying it in, and started in on the swill.

Tommy crunched his nose over to one side with his right hand. The universal sign for saying that someone is "all mobbed up."

"He asks for the biggest tanks that'll fit in the back of a Lincoln limo. You wanna high-pressure steel," I say "or an acetylene tank. The high-pressure'll hold more capacity."

"Whatever's bigger," the guy says. 

"Then his phone rings. 'That's right, boss,' he says into his phone. 'I got duh biggest dey have."

"I look at the guy. I look at his limo at the curb. I even piece together the voice on the udder side of the phone. I'm 99% sure it's Chris Christie. I can practically smell the pizza over the Motorola, if you get my drift."

"I think I do," I answered laconically. 

"Christie's blowing up the bridge," Tommy said to me. "He's in this traffic scandal up to his size 62-inch waist and there's no way out. His Jewish lawyer's going to jail. His Irish aide is done for. 

"Donald Trump can't help him. He's too busy not paying the people who work for him.

"The fat boy sees no way out. He's blowing' up da bridge."

I laughed. 

"Laugh all you want, Buddy Seltzer," he says. "Laugh all you want."

I shook his hand and said "I'll see you Wednesday when my tank is filled."

He said, "Yeah, Wednesday." And then dismissively, "You probably take the tunnel."

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