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“Where is Beckett Stone?”
310 WEST BROADWAY –THE SOHO GRAND HOTEL
Beckett, hair ruffled and unkempt with morning, sat hunched over a desk in his Soho Grand hotel room wearing a robe and slippers. Splayed across the top was a map of the United States. The creases of the map were sharp and new. Beckett’s left index finger pressed firmly on a section of the map somewhere in the Southwest; his right index finger, in the Northeast: New York, more specifically. His eyes moved back and forth across the map and the vast landscape between the two points. He then reached down toward the floor and picked up a cold, Vintage Wild Cherry Seltzer bottle and took a long swig. A bulky device about the length of a stapler, with sixteen buttons on it, sat atop the desk as well. Beckett looked over the map again, shaking his head – wondering, then clicked some of those buttons with the fingers of his left hand. The device looked like a prototype of the first remote control. He sighed and shook his head again, staring down at the veins of that map.
The elevator door opened and out walked Beckett Stone: hair a side-swiped mess, Ray Ban sunglasses, Alexander McQueen black jacket with wool cuffs and lapels, black jeans and ankle boots. He sat down at the Soho Grand Bar and unfolded a map – this time only of Manhattan.
“What can I get ya?” asked the bartender.
Beckett thought for a moment: “A seltzer, please. A seltzer with a cherry.” The bartender nodded. An attractive looking woman sat a few stools down, looking at her phone. The bartender returned and placed the drink down on a square napkin. “Where do you think I should go today?” Beckett asked him as he took a swig of his beverage.
“Where should you go? What do you mean?”
Beckett was scouring the map. He flailed his hands about the map: “Ya know…where should I go?”
“Huh…okay, well…you can just go outside and you’re practically there!” the bartender chuckled.
“How do you mean? I’m where?”
The bartender kept throwing a dishrag up in the air and catching it. “No, well…I mean, you can just go outside and see lots of things. This is New York, brother.
“Now, if you are talking about holiday stuff, you could go right to 30 Rock and see the tree. They just lit it.”
“Yeah, the tree.”
“Tree? Which tree?”
“The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It’s a great place! There are lots and lots of holiday things to see there.”
“I like there. Where is it on the map?”
The bartender leaned over. He had kind eyes. He took pleasure in helping tourists and impressing them with his valuable information. He enjoyed promoting New York City. “Yeah, look, it’s right here – see? Right here. At 51st. Right here. Beautiful. Really one of the best sites to see in the city.”
Beckett turned to the attractive woman looking down at her phone: “Have you ever been here?”
She grinned. Half hearing the conversation: “Excuse me? Have I been where?”
“The tree at Rock Center,” the bartender added. A few more customers took seats in between Beckett and the attractive, young woman.
“Yeah. I’ve been there. Love it. You should go. I love the lights.”
“Lights?” Beckett asked. “I love lights too!” The bartender took the orders of the new arrivals. “I would like to buy drinks for the four of you. Even my new friends,” Beckett said, alluding to the two gentleman who walked in – both wearing tight clothing, both seeming to be European tourists.
“I can’t drink while I’m tending bar, but …” the bartender said as he looked over at the attractive lady.
“Oh, I’m fine, really,” she said.
“Please. I insist,” said Beckett to the attractive lady, “You have all been so helpful.” Beckett pulled out that remote gadget of his with the thick, clicking buttons and pressed a few in rapid-fire action style – as if he were playing a video game. Then he stopped abruptly. No one seemed to eyeball the gadget, which Beckett swiftly put back in his pocket. Beckett turned to the bartender and removed a rather large amount of cash, held together by a money clip. “What’s the most expensive beer you have?”
The bartender thought for a moment. “Hmmm, let me think about that one…I believe it’s a Japanese beer. I have to see if we have any left. We definitely don’t have any on tap.”
“If you have 3 of this mysterious Japanese beer, I would like to buy it for you guys, okay?”
The Europeans nodded and smiled enthusiastically. “Sure, sure, yes, okay.”
“I need to see ID,” asked the bartender.
“You look like your fourteen!” said the attractive woman.
“An ID? Okayyyyy.” Beckett felt about his body as if searching for it.
“Nice try, buddy,” said the bartender turning his back to the “underage kid.”
Becket shut his eyes and reached into his pants pocket, pulled out his wallet and emptied the contents on the bar. As he splayed the various business cards and scrap paper across the bar, he saw his ID and picked it up.
“Here!” said Beckett, thrusting the ID out to the bartender.
With an incredulous look, the bartender snatched the ID out of Beckett’s hand. It was a NYS Driver’s License. “You’re 21…I see…” The bartender kept looking back and forth between the pictured Beckett and the live, in-the-flesh Beckett. Both seemed to be wearing the same clothes. Even the background behind him – the walls of the seating area of the bar, had the same backdrop as the license.
“Okay…I don’t know how you did that, but I respect it,” said the bartender with a chuckle.
“Really, I don’t need you to buy me a beer,” said the woman. “What’s your name by the way?”
“Poole. My name is Poole,” Beckett said, “and yours?”
“Grace.” They shook hands. “What brings you to The Soho Grand?”
“I really don’t know. I am purely experiencing.”
The bartender is back. “Now, are you sure about this? This stuff is very costly.”
“I am sure. What’s it called?”
“Sapporo’s Space Barley.”
“Excuse me? Did you say ‘space’?”
“Yeah…Sapporo’s Space Barley. This barley grew on the International Space Station. I am not shitting you! Cool, right?”
“It grew…in space? Wow. Totally rad. Let’s hand them out. Let’s hand them out quickly.” The bartender pops the caps off and pours the beers into chilled beer glasses. “That will be $92.50.”
“Holy crap!” said Grace as she nearly choked.
Beckett gently slid his beer back to the bartender. “I don’t wish to have any. I will stick with my seltzer, but please give it to the next customer as, say, a taste test. Yeah, that works, right?” Beckett took his seltzer in hand. Grace and the two Europeans lifted up their beers.
“I guess we can toast to new friends…and to this wonderful Japanese beer?” Grace said, as the two Europeans smiled as they and Beckett followed suit.
“To experience and to the stars and the International Space Station!” Beckett exclaimed, as they clinked glasses.
3.4 miles and a 13 minute cab drive from the hotel to 30 Rockefeller Center and Beckett was let out right at Michael Kors. As he sat just to the left of the tree, on a concrete wall, knees tucked inside his arms, Beckett stared up in awe at the brilliant, coruscating lights. The colors! As far as he was concerned, every person should stop and admire the lights of magnificence hanging off the massive tree. The hundreds, the thousands, of people passing by him, didn’t exist, just those glistening illuminations. He had to admit that he loved this place. No matter how many times he might have been here – many of which he could barely summon to his brain, he still got a charge from this place. The people were fine enough and he was learning from them on a daily basis, but it was the lights. The lights that comforted him.
“Can you spare some change?” A homeless man’s shadowy figure blocked Beckett’s glorious view of the tree.
“What? Oh…sure…but this tree…you see this tree?”
The homeless man, sporting a black and white beard and a slicker covering over a hoard of different colored sweat jackets, turned on Beckett’s advice and looked at the tree. “Yeah, I see the tree. Here every year.”
“It’s born of this atmosphere. Of air. Of carbon and water. And here it is. Then the lights are made from the brilliant mind of man. Here is this complex beauty made from the heavens and from human beings. A miracle.”
The homeless man turned to face Beckett again: “No doubt…hey, we are all born from the stars.”
“Really? Really? You think so? Because that’s…”
“Yeah, man, hey listen: do you have any change to spare?”
Beckett began clicking the remote in his pocket: “You need more than change, friend. You need food. Let’s go!”
“Go where? Can’t you just give me a couple of bucks? I can get some cheeseburgers at Mickey D’s for that.”
Beckett thrust out his hand: “My name is Dave Poole. Come, I know just the place where we can eat. I passed it a little while ago. Has little people outside of it. Come.”
The homeless man shook Beckett’s hand: “My name is Randall. Where we going?”
0.3 Miles, 5 minute walk and Beckett and Randall were standing outside the gates of the 21 Club.
“We’re goin’ in here?” asked Randall.
“Yep! Look at these interesting little men in uniforms!” Beckett exclaimed, pointing to the cast iron lawn jockey’s which adorned the balcony above the entrance. “This should be a fun place to eat! Come.”
“Hold on…they ain’t gonna allow me in that place? You must be smoking some serious ganjah! Where can we smoke some?”
“This is a class joint, man. They ain’t gonna let me in there. I don’t think they would even let you in the way you dressed.”
“Awww, come on now, we look fine.”
“Now I am serious. Those motherfuckers have no time for my ass and I don’t have much time for them neither. Now let’s walk.”
“It will be fine…” Beckett said, ushering Randall by the arm.
“No it won’t.”
“Let’s go, I’m hungry.”
Beckett and Randall started down the steps. A uniformed doorman opened the door, then half blocked the entrance. The doorman seemed flustered. “I’m sorry, but we have a strict dress code. This man won’t be allowed in unless he’s wearing a more suitable attire.”
“I told you,” Randall implored, “they don’t want my ass here.”
Beckett motioned for the doorman to step aside in confidence. They exchange some whisper words, but the doorman kept shaking his head no. “I’m sorry, Sir, but that just won’t do.” Beckett clicked on his remote a few times, and it went unheard.
“I’d like to speak with the manager, please,” Beckett said – calm and unflustered.
“I’d be happy to alert the manager. Now would you please step aside, for we have other patrons behind you trying to enter.” The doorman greeted the incoming customers, but said at the corner of his mouth to Beckett and Randall, “I can tell you that unless you have a reservation, there will be at least an hour wait.”
Russell tugged at Beckett’s arm. Beckett turned. “Listen Dave, this is a very cool gesture, and I appreciate it, truly. Yeah, I do. But I don’t want to wait here to eat. I need to just eat something – anything. I need something in my stomach.” Beckett was nodding his head. “Can’t we just go to the god damn Subway down the street?”
“They have food in the subway?”
“Subway, the restaurant.”
Beckett nodded his head: “If that’s what you want Randall, you got it. Who needs jockeys, right?”
“Right! Let’s blow this joint.” Beckett patted Randall on the shoulders as they left the 21.
Randall and Beckett sat at a green Formica table at Subways. Randall was devouring an Italian combo. Beckett’s sandwich remained wrapped and untouched. Randall was trying to say something, as bits of sandwich went flying around. Beckett wasn’t the least bit put off.
“What are you trying to say, Randall?”
“I said…why aren’t you eating your hero?”
“I had no intention.” Randall took a big swig of his very large soda. “This sandwich is for you. In case you get hungry later.”
“Aw, man – really? If I would of known that, I would have told you to get something else besides roast beef. I hate roast beef. Ah, shit.”
“Oh, sorry. It sounded very hearty to me.”
“Why don’t we return it. Say there’s rat droppings in it or something.”
“We have to get you clothes. It seems as if you won’t be allowed inside many places the way you’re dressed.”
“Is there anything you’d like to do? I don’t want to be the one planning the time.”
“You have all the money. I follow your lead.”
“Isn’t there some place you’d like to go?”
Randall wiped his mouth and thought about that for a moment. “I think, since we are going to go and buy clothes, I’d like to visit Ol’ Saint Nick. What do you think about that?”
“Santa Claus! I wanna see Santa. At Macy’s.”
“Okay, we will visit this Santa. Make sure you finish your food.”
Randall heard something. He looked around. “Do you hear that?”
“A clicking sound? You hear that?”
“No, I don’t hear anything.”
Randall and Beckett stood close together on a packed, narrow line, at Macy’s. Whereas most people had a modicum of respect for Randall’s presence, others could not help staring at him. He was rather pleasant throughout, smiling at each and every child that descended from Santa’s lap. A department manager approached Randall: “Excuse me, Sir. Are you here with anyone?”
“He’s here with me,” Beckett said, stepping between them.
“Oh,” said the manager.
“Let me start by saying…we are completely aware that my friend has seen better days. But when we walk out of this establishment today, he is going to look as debonair as ‘Blake Carrington’.”
“Who?” said both Randall and the store manager.
“So please, let my friend enjoy his time with Saint Nick. We will be spending a fortune in this establishment before we leave. Now, more importantly…will you be able to provide me with a personal shopper?”
“Uh…yes, Sir. Let me see who is available for you.”
“Very good. What is your name?”
“James, Sir. The name is James.”
“Good to meet you. Thank you, James.”
“You are most welcome.”
A little girl with a Bob hair cut and wearing a Russian Sable fur coat, turned to Randall with beady stink eyes: “You smell like gross.”
Randall stepped back and stared at her: “You smell like a dead animal’s funky butt.
The little girl stuck her tongue out at Randall.
“Now stop it, Deidre…turn back around and stop talking to strangers, said her mom, as the little girl about faced.
It was Randall’s turn to visit with Santa. Santa was on, for he didn’t miss a beat:
“Well hello, young man! It’s so nice to see you. Please, step forward and do tell me your name…ho! Ho! Ho!”
“Randall. My name is Randall.”
“That’s a fine, good name. Please, sit up here on my thigh and get comfortable. Are you comfortable, Randall?”
“I am, Santa. Thank you.”
Some kids in the front were having a laugh at Randall’s expense.
“Have you been a good boy this year, Randall?”
Randall looked up at the ceiling for a beat. He had to really think of that one: “I have been trying real hard to be good, Santa. Circumstance have been hard, but I have managed to rise above them.”
“Well, that’s a great answer, Randall. Ho! Ho! Ho! Now, is there anything Santa can get for you this Christmas season? Anything my elves can make for you in the North Pole?”
“Yeah, Santa, there are?”
“Now, what would that be?”
“Can your elves make a home for me? An apartment? A job? Cuz that’s what I am really needin.”
Santa smiled softly and patted Randall on the back. “You know, Randall. Santa has a special force of Elves that work for him here on the mainland.”
“You don’t say?”
“Oh, yes!” Santa turned and looked directly at Beckett. “These special envoys are helping me with the more, shall we say, special, more practical, gifts. Gifts far bigger than toys.” Beckett grinned back at Santa. “So, please don’t worry yourself over it. I am sure Santa and his team can find a way to get you a nice warm home and a decent job. Okay? Ho, ho, ho!”
There was a smattering of applause as Beckett clicked away, from his pocket, that strange remote device of his.
Randall walked out of Macy’s in new duds: a black sports jacket with slacks and an overcoat. His left arm was around Beckett’s shoulder, right hand wiping away tears from his eyes. “Oh good Lord! Oh good, good, Lord! What have I done for all of this generosity!” Beckett was smiling as they stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, just outside the famous department store. “Decent, good and great Mother of the Lord! Why? Why me?” Randall threw both arms around Beckett and continued sobbing. Beckett appeared a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s okay, Randall. It’s okay. It’s okay, now.”
“Oh, Lord, Dave, you are the best Christmas gift a person could ever, ever receive.”
“Okay…okay…we have a lot more work to do. We have to find a closet, inside a home, to put all of those clothes in.”
“A very large, large ass closet, I would say. Hahahahahaha! Oh, Lord!” Beckett and Randall broke from their hug, as they continued to cause a bottleneck amongst the onslaught of rushed shoppers.
“Now, before we go home, I would like to go on one of those horse and car rides.”
“The horse rides along the park.”
“Oh, a horse and buggy ride?” Randall asked.
A man walked out of Macy’s. He was smoking an e-cig. He had a long white beard, mustache and grandfather glasses. He wore the black boots and the red pants. Beckett made eye contact with the Santa. Around Santa’s neck was a rope chain with a stone on it. Santa acknowledged Beckett with a smile and a nod.“Dave? Yo, Dave? A horse and carriage ride?”
Beckett noticed that the Santa was moving his fingers around in his pocket, clicking away on his own remote device. Beckett started doing the same. “Yes! Yes! That’s it. Let’s go. Come on. How far is it from here?”
“It’s about twenty-somethin blocks. Let me get us a cab.” Randall was an excellent whistler and pierced the eardrums of the folks hurrying by.
In 2.0 miles and 8 minutes, traveling from Macy’s to 59th and 5th via 8th Avenue, the two new friends found themselves dropped off right in front of The Plaza.
“Come on, Randall. Let’s cross. I see some fine horses across the street.”
“Yeah, man…love the buggy decked out all Christmas-like. Let’s try and nab that one.”
The two men hurried across the street.
“Climb aboard!” said the driver. “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!” Sure enough, the buggy was painted red, green and gold, with wreaths hung on each side of the doors and garland wrapped around the hood.
“Go ahead, Randall. Climb in. Be careful, now.”
Randall was comfortable and smiling big, with all his teeth showing. “What’s the name of this wonderful beast?”
“Becca,” said the driver.
“Hold on, Driver. I see we have two more seats and I would like to see if anyone else would like to ride with us.”
“Sure! The more the merrier!” The driver had an Irish brogue and wore a green, felt, top hat.
“Can I interest any two people for a free ride? I have two seats available. Merry Christmas!” Shouted Beckett, drawing the attention of some – who stopped in their tracks, mulling it over.
“Come on and join us!” Randall stood up and shouted, “Dave is Rich and he is spreading good tidings. He mean it when he says it. It’s free …guaranteed!”
“Sure, okay…” said one man, clutching the hand of a woman with red hair.
“Come on in,” exclaimed Beckett, “the ride is on me.”
“That is very generous of you. Thank you,” said the man.
“That is very kind of you,” said the woman.
“My name is Dave and this is my friend, Randall and we are going for a ride and thought it would be wasteful not to fill the two additional seats with warm bodies.”
“I couldn’t agree more!” said the woman. “My name is Debbie, nice to meet you.”
“My name is Larry,” the man said to both Beckett and Randall. They all shook hands and settled in.
“Okay, we’re heading out!” called the driver and he flailed the straps, imploring Becca to get a move on.
“You don’t sound like your from around here, am I right?” asked Randall.
“You would be correct,” said Larry, who was a rather corpulent fellow, compared to his diminutive spouse.
“We’re from Hot Springs, Arkansas.”
“That’s very nice,” said Randall. Meanwhile, Beckett went into his coat pocket and pulled his map out.
“Arkansas…Arkansas…Arkansas…” Beckett was following his finger from the east coast and moving across the map. “I found it! It’s right here. Wonderful!” Randall chuckled and looked at Beckett askance…smiling at Larry and Debbie. “Should I go there? What is there?”
“Well, for one this, we have Hot Springs National Park, which is pretty amazing.”
“I don’t care for it,” said Larry. “Look Debbie! There is someone screaming at a tree for no reason. Look.”
“Oh, yeah…beats watching someone upchuck on the subway, right?”
“I like the sound of Hot Springs. Sounds like a place I would like to go,” said Beckett.
“You said a mouthful, hun…no pun intended!” laughed Larry. “Gee, this carriage ride is wonderful and very generous of you.”
“You saw someone vomit on the train? That’s nothing new for me. I see that all over the place,” said Randall.
“They say the waters have medicinal properties. But who knows.”
“Where is it, roughly, on this map. Could you circle it for me?” asked Beckett.
“Sure thing! Do you have a pen,” asked Larry. Beckett pulled one out and handed it to Larry. “Here let me show you.” Both Larry and Beckett huddled around the map, while Randall and Debbie sat back and enjoyed the loveliness of Christmas Time in Manhattan.
As Beckett and Randall entered the Soho Grand suite, they walked right into a monstrous pile of Macy’s bags and boxes.
“I am gathering these are your clothes?”
“Oh my goodness. I am sorry. Maybe we shouldn’t have had them sent here.”
“No worries. We will find a home soon enough.”
Randall was lying under the covers of a pull-out couch bed, newly showered and afresh, reading The Daily News. Beckett walked out of the bathroom in his jockey shorts and the rope chain with the rock hanging off his neck.
“Okay, Randall. We need to get some rest. We have a big day tomorrow. We have to have you in a new job and living in a new home by tomorrow night,” Beckett tossed off casually as he moved the covers aside on his queen sized bed and slid underneath them. Randall dropped the newspaper to the floor and rolled on to his side, facing in Beckett’s general direction. He was smiling. “Do you mind 80s music, Randall?”
Randall could barely offer up a response. He was choked up. Tears filled his eyes. “Sure. I love that.”
“Play 80s music please,” Beckett said aloud to the room as the lights shut off instantaneously and the music began. The feel good “Breakout” by Swing Out Sister kicked in.
Beckett heard Randall sniffling. “Why are you still crying, Randall.”
“I promise you can trust me, Dave. I’m a good man.”
“I’m sure your are, Randall. Now let’s get some sleep.”
“No one has been this kind to me in a very long time. I am so happy, Dave. I’m so happy, I’m crying.”
Beckett understood what he was feeling, for he was actually feeling a bit of it himself.