A few weeks ago, I was in midtown, taking pictures of the "new" St. Clare's. It's been tarted up so you can't even tell there was a hospital there. But on the west side of 52nd Street, things look just like they always have. The apartment where Bobby and Grace lived appears empty now; the window glass is mostly covered with black paint, and there's no light peeking through. I could almost be back in 1995, listening to the radio chatter, staring up and wondering what they could possibly be doing with themselves, since they weren't in the ER. They've both been dead for a while now, but below, through the beauty of song, I preserve their memory.
Across from St. Clare's, on the second floor of a nondescript tenement, stood an 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.
Bobby was a skinny, inbred looking man with pale skin and no muscles. He had pinched features, and in spite of having picked him up hundreds of times, I can't remember what color his hair was. In my memory, it's see-through. Grace wore garments made from sweatsuit material and communicated in an indecipherable patios particular to that hundred foot patch of the city. Her pants always sagged. She wore them for days, until they fell halfway down her butt.
There was no music in the apartment, but if there was it would have been banjo. A lilting balad, picked by a man with a tail and a cleft palate. Sung with a warped Irish tinge.
Come sit and listen you medics new/Hey down, down, and a'down/That mirth do love to hearAnd a story true I'll relate to you/Down, down, and a'down/If you will but draw near
In elder times, when old Koch ruled/And debt was on the chase/Were two rogue dwellers many knew/And all called Bobby and Grace
Upon a time it crackled so/Bold Bobby was merry disposed/His time to spend he did intend/On the stoop with a beer and a radio
Then he got up with his worm-white skin/And hair as drear as a winter day/Threw a seizure (fake) and grinned a grin/And lay upon the sidewalk gray
O take him to Emergency/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/Get the chair and roll him there/As he squeaks and squeals and claims to be/A man with numerous maladies/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/O boy won't they be happy to see/Bold Bobby here! Again!
"I'm sick! I'm sick!" cried whey-faced Bob/"And I have baby-skin it seems--"/"Get your drunk self up out of that chair!"/The nurse she fairly screamed
Old mother Grace, potato face/And sweatpants down around her knees/In floppy shoes did moon and pace/And cry for her sweet Bob-bee
There's nothing wrong with your smelly lad!/He's but a faker on the step/And he'll go home as he has before/And drink til off to bed you've crept
"Drink on, I shall," said Bobby then/"This game well pleaseth me."/For every blow that Grace did give/Bobby gave buffets three
And the medics there, full tired and sore/Did bear him round the town/From grease-stained room in which he dwelled/Onto the staircase down
"A beer, a beer," said Bobby then/"For twenty years have passed me well/Twenty years of these four walls/And St. Clare's halls my exile hell."
And he rose again with his worm-white skin/And hair as drear as a winter day/Threw a seizure (fake), grinned a merry grin/And twitched upon the mattress gray
O take me to Emergency/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/Get the chair and roll me there/Across the street, Whack fol-lol-de-ra/As I squeak and squeal and claim to be/A man with numerous maladies/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/Whack fol-lol-de-ra, fol-lol-de-ra/O boy won't they be happy to see/Bold Bobby come round! Again! Again!/Old Bobby come round again.