20,000 Ambulance Calls

Today, I calculated how many ambulance calls I did in my life, and it’s around 20,000. Then all the driving around in between calls, hanging out with cops or homeless people, meeting the men who built shacks on the pier, bullshitting with other units. It’s a lot to remember. The starkest things pop up fastest; homicides, people under the train, jumpers. But the rest is there, I know. I’ll be biking by a corner and think, oh, there used to be a boxing club on the second floor here, where the men were all black and spanish and the coaches were white. We had a berry aneurism in one of the rings.

Below is what I was writing today. As I worked on it, I suddenly remembered there was an apartment on West 30th Street inhabited by albinos. The twin girls were drug addicts, the 20 year old brother was on oxygen and smoked crack, and the oldest sister had an enormous ovarian cyst that made her look nine months pregnant. I can still see the brother’s room in my mind.


Across from St. Clare’s, on the second floor of a nondescript tenement, stood a peculiar urban outpost of darkest Appalachia. The apartment itself was a mechanical impossibility. Every grease-coated wall leaned inward. Every faucet dripped. A bulb screwed into the ceiling gave almost no light, but somehow illuminated each spatter and smear. This edifice contained not a single bright or decorative object. No salt and pepper shakers, no little statuettes. No pictures. Nothing. Only two jobless, toothless inhabitants. Grace and Bobby. Mother and son.                    (from BrokeDown Palace)