I met Mikey when I was fifteen, back in the early 80’s. We both worked at Flip on 8th street, the west village version of Trash and Vaudeville. The store sold vintage clothes and some hip new stuff like BOY of London. It was run by a real sleazy guy who prayed on the young women who worked there. That is a whole other story for another day. Today is about Mikey, a good friend.
A real Ratso Rizzo type, Mikey was small and scrawny in stature with a heavy new york accent. A loner and a true neurotic, he got damaged somewhere along the way and was left to fend for himself, always hustling. He was a strange bird and a dying breed. You just do not see that type of new york character around much these days. This guy was the real deal and we were pals. He treated me with respect and like an equal. I looked forward to going to work everyday to hang out with him. We had a great time together.
Mikey was a veteran in the garment business. He once told me about this over stock of ugly raincoats they got when he was working at Canal Jeans. Not a single one sold till he got the idea to make a sign that said “S& M Raincoats.” After that, every last coat got sold.
Mikey was deeply afraid of the mouse in our basement office. He made me laugh everyday.
Mikey was the person who turned me on to the The New York Dolls. I loved Johnny Thunders but I did not know my history. He told me about The Mercer Street Arts center and all kinds of great new york music stories.
He told me how to pronounce Sartre, when I mispronounced the name when talking about No Exit. Mikey was so cool, he listened while I waxed on about teenage things and he was never condescending. He was an arrested teenage himself.
Mikey did not know the extent of what happened with the boss at Flip but he knew that the guy was a lowlife. At one point he over heard me set a boundary and say no to a come on from the boss. Mikey was super supportive to me, concerned and protective, the way an adult should be, but not the way any had really ever been in my life. He was angry at the boss, bothered by what he saw.
Mikey never hit on me. He was one of my first adult male friends who was strictly platonic, no hidden agenda.
The job was brutal and one day Mikey got fired for refusing to do something. I gave my notice that same day, knowing that I could not stand to work there without my ally. We said goodbye. I felt like crying. We said we would keep in touch and see each other around, but I knew that we would not. We went our separate ways.
Two decades later I ran into Mikey again. I had already lived several lives and was myself a grown up. Mikey was still working retail on eighth street, which was a ghost of its former self. He was still running a hustle, more neurotic than ever. I saw him from a new perspective, I was the adult and he was just a messed up kid in an adult’s body. He was really far away, like time took a toll. I wished I could protect him, do something, fix something but I couldn’t do anything. I listened to his teenage rambling and tried to be patient. He made me laugh and he made me feel so sad. We said goodbye again.
I wish that I had told him how much he had meant to me.
Mikey, I will forever hold you dearly in my heart. Thanks for being a good friend.