None of our gang have ever shared this historic moment with anyone before because… well… it reflects negatively on the collective cool of the young gods we were then. But now that we’re senior gods and our coolness has tenure, I feel that at last I can lay this legend before the world in all its factual detail.
Events of this quality take a long, long time to come to be; everything has to be just right, the vectors involved are countless. It takes time to get all the cosmic elements set up so that they’re precisely in place, as destiny requires. Fate is very fussy that way. We’re talking centuries here, even millennia. In 1652, less than 200 years after Columbus kickstarted the whole American adventure, Albany was founded, but it took another 304 or 305 years before the funniest thing that ever happened on the northwest corner of State and Broadway could happen.
And since no one of however devious a mind could have anticipated such an occurrence, there were no journalists on hand to report the occasion, no steadicam helicopters hovering overhead to capture it all on film, so it has been left to me to chronicle that unprecedented event all these decades later, I having survived thus far for this purpose, hopefully among other, nobler purposes.
The players in this unsung historical vignette were myself, Mick, George Calhoun and Marty Zakis, four of the coolest guys on the coolest part of Elm Street, which no longer exists since, after we left, the locality saw no point in continuing. We were strutting southward on the west side of Broadway toward State street, four abreast in a group of native coolness – as was our wont in those heady days of nascent rock and roll, with life in general on the cutting edge of truth and reality – when suddenly before us was a prosperous probably banker/trader type gentleman having likely just closed a very big deal in pork belly futures or something of equally elative power and hastily on his way to another important meeting, who instead of proceeding prosperously on his way was jumping up and down in an unusual manner, with what an instant ago had been a long, hand-rolled cigar, but that was now only an inch long, protruding from his startled lips. The end of the expensive cigar was shattered and splayed like a cheap firecracker, the gentleman himself wide-eyed and gagging because, as it turned out, the greater part of his valuable handrolled cigar had been shoved down his throat by Marty’s right ear.
Another key element in this event is coolness. You know what cool is, you’ve been there, you know what it is to be cool, even when things are hot, and if you’ve since lived your life in certain key refined ways, you’re still cool, like Mick, George and I– for at this point I have to exclude Marty from those hallowed halls pro tem, since the glowing but absent embers of said fine cigar were now residing deep in said ear, said Marty also jumping up and down, somewhat in the fashion of the prosperously dressed banker but more in the manner of one attempting to get water out of an ear, though in Marty’s case the searing flames of hell, Marty leaping more frantically and painfully than the banker while loudly cursing, only as one does in such a unique situation, particularly since – although there is no precedent in all of history to go by, even Columbus didn’t know this – one is loathe to poke any of one’s fingers into an ear that is crammed to the lobe with the redhot embers of an expensive handrolled cigar, even if it is one’s own ear.
Marty was no exception to this rule he himself was establishing at that very moment on the corner of State and Broadway, swatting at the offending organ as it listened to itself crackle and burn. Having thus fled the halls of cool, Marty leaped in several directions of no escape, for our ears follow us closely wherever we go. Head tilted he jabbed at the fiery ear in great haste, said ear the while emitting impressive showers of fine handrolled cigar sparks, sort of like a roman candle in reverse, while the formerly prosperous-looking businessman, who now resembled Oliver Hardy just as the closing credits begin to roll, danced a special kind of crosseyed jig while trying to extract a long and expensive handrolled cigar from his throat without touching the short hot fragment that still protruded, as Mick, George and I did our part by simply rolling on the sidewalk clutching our guts.
After some effort the banker was able to remove the surprisingly long cigar from his throat and go on his way – with a genuine urban legend to hoarsely relate at the meeting – and Marty could stand upright in a wobbly fashion, though his ear was still smoking, as we headed for Woolworth’s to ask the lady at the soda counter if we could have a glass of water to pour in our friend’s ear.
The next day Marty couldn’t hear out of the ear because it was blistered shut, though by then it had became the stuff of legend as a source of helpless laughter up and down Elm Street, laughter the ear itself was able to hear in only a few days.
For the full impact though you just had to be there, and not be Marty.