Please Jackson, No Trouble, by Pepe Nero

The Cedar Street Bar was almost full, as it often was since the article, in Esquire, about it being an artists’ hangout. Sam, a co-owner of the bar, stood at the entrance door to let customers out and to edit who would be let in.

I was sitting on my favorite stool, the first one at end of the bar, close to the entrance door and the large front window. From there I could nurse my beer--my budget limited me to two drinks a night--and enjoy the activities, the comings and goings, of The Cedar Street Bar customers, many, but not all, of whom I knew.

There was Frans Kline, master of the black on white gestural punch in the stomach, who looked to me like Brian Donlevy--a popular 30’s movie star-short, dapper, dandiest and hairline moustache. He was backed up under a Hogarth Print (Beer Street), one of many Hogarths that lined that one wall. Charles, a photographer in from Paris, had Kline cornered against the cigarette machine and the wall.

At the far end of the bar DeKooning, eyes half shut with intoxication, speaking in whispers to a pretty young thing who sat fascinated, bathing him with her adoring stare. As usual, DeKooning’s famous golden lock of hair was drooped down, covering his right eye.

As I sat and enjoyed there was a knock on the door, gentle at first but then demanding. I heard Sam shout over to John, his co-owner, who was behind the bar.

“It’s Jackson," said Sam, “should I let him in?"

“Only if he promises not to make trouble," John shouted back.

I looked over to the door. A wooden door with a small window, about four by six inches, at eye level. A pair of eyes were pressed up against the glass. They were pleading; they actually seemed to be saying, “Please, please." Eyes that could talk. Then hands, held as if in prayer, appeared, to reinforce the eyes.

Jackson, we’ ll let you in but you’ve got to promise. No trouble and no more than three drinks. OK? said Sam.

The eyes nodded OK,OK, I’ll be good.

Sam unlocked the door and in came Jackson Pollack.

He sat next to me at the one vacant stool. He sat like a good schoolboy sits, upright with his hands in his lap. At attention.
Waiting. Pollack was not large,

At the far end of the bar was but he LOOKED large and he looked powerful. I him and so I didn’t speak to him.

“Your usual Jackson?" said John

“My usual, please," said Pollack.

John served Pollack a shot glass of something amber and Pollack just sat there, politely, his hands still in his lap. didn’t know John looked at Pollack.

“You gonna be good?" said John.

“Yes sir, I’m going to be good," said Pollack, still holding that ridiculous posture.

“You have a three drink limit, you know that?"

“Yes sir, three drinks, no more," said Pollack.
John turned away and Pollack quickly downed his drink, placed the glass back on the bar, and resumed his posture.

Almost as if he knew what had happened while his back was turned John turned back towards Pollack and stared at the glass. Pollack just sat there as if nothing had happened.

“Please Jackson, no trouble. We’ ve let you in. If you cause trouble we can’t let you in again. You understand that?" said John.

“I understand," said Pollack, “can I have my second drink now please?"

John reluctantly poured out another shot.

Pollack, once again, sat there very politely leaving the glass untouched as long as John was looking his way. A man, playing a game.

“Hey, ain’t you Jackson Pollack?" said the man sitting next to Pollack, a man who had until then been talking to a pretty woman seated to his left.

Pollack looked at him, and then at the women , and said, “Yes, I am."

“I read about you in Life Magazine. That was pretty funny, calling you Jack the Dripper."

“Oh yes?" said Pollack, “and what do you think was funny about it shithead?"

“What?" said the man, “Did you call me shithead?"

“Yes shithead, I just called you shithead," said Pollack, still sitting in that straight up position.

John ran over as did Sam.

“Jackson, you promised," they pleaded.

“This shithead thinks that my being referred to as Jack the Dripper is funny," said Pollack.

Sam turned to the man. “Sir," he said, “can I seat you and your friend at a table in the rear, please?"

“No, no," said Pollack, "they’re fine here." He laughed, “give shithead and his friend a drink on me."

“Jackson please," said John.

“No, really John, give them a drink. No more trouble, I promise. I apologize to him and to his pretty friend." He smiled at the woman.

“Why thank you," she said, with a slight southern drawl.

“My, my," said Pollack, “a southern belle."

“Why that’s right, Georgia," she said.

“Jackson, please," said John, “No trouble. Please. Leave the man and his friend alone."

“OK, OK, OK," said Pollack, “I’ll leave them alone."

He turned to me, “How ya doing, kid?"

“Me?’ I said, “I’m fine. How you doing?" pretending that I didn’t know or didn’t care who he was.

“I’m fine too, I’m fine too," he said and quickly bored with me turned away to stare at his still untouched second drink. He sat there, still upright and all proper like, and just stared.

"Shithead’ was in a conversation with his friend, his back to Pollack. As he talked he played with his pack of cigarettes and a small match box, arranging them in various positions.

Pollack noticed and watched as the man first did this and then did that with the two objects.

Then he stopped and left the cigarette pack and matchbox alone, concentrated on talking to his friend.

The cigarette pack was now lined up parallel to the front and back of the bar. In the exact center on top of the pack was the match box, aligned with the edges of the cigarette pack.

Pollack slowly got up, staring and trembling a bit. His face was red. He stood and stared at the cigarettes and match box, shaking his head from side to side. John, at the other end of the bar began to sprint over, sensing trouble. Pollack raised his clasped hands high into the air and screamed a loud, “NOOOOOOOOOO!"

The man and girl jumped back startled. Jackson screamed,
“NOOOOO.......ORRRRRRRR DERRRRR!" and brought his fist clasped hands down to the bar top, smashing the matchbox and cigarette pack flat.

Then he screamed, “NO ORDER, NO ORDER, NO ORDER" again and again pounding the pack and box.

John and Sam were pleading, “Jackson, Jackson, You’ ve got to leave now Jackson."

“Didn’t you see?" said Pollack,shaking his head, “Didn’t you see? All that order?"

“You’ve got to leave. You promised," said Sam, “It’s time to go. Come on Jack, don’t make trouble for us. Just leave OK. We’ll let you in next time."

You see, one could not just throw Pollack out. He was too powerful, too dangerous. Sam and John’s only hope was to promise, to bribe. In actuality they loved Pollack. They loved all their artists and more often then not would spring for a drink after every two bought and if the artists were broke they could drink on the tab. Hell, if they were broke they’ d give them a ten or so to help tide them over.

“Ok," said Pollack, “OK. I’ ll leave."

“But you," said Pollack, looking at the woman, “you’ re coming with me."

She got up from her stool.

“Now wait a minute…," started the guy.

“It’s OK Fred," said the woman, “I’ll be Ok, Don’t worry. It’s better like this."

“But...but...I...we..," said Fred.

“I’ll call you. OK?" She put her hand on his upper arm and squeezed.

Fred was blushing, angry. He looked at Pollack. He looked sad, beaten, shamed, small.

I felt sorry for the guy. I had heard about Pollack. This was his method in the bar. When he saw a woman that he wanted, he took her.

Sam unlocked the door. Pollack and the woman left. Several persons tried to squeeze in. Sam stopped them.

“Sorry," he said, “Filled up right now."


(c) 2002-revised 2008

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