Yesterday evening I took Honey out for a walk. I’m lucky because she’s the kind of cat who likes to ride on my shoulders, something I found out by accident when she climbed up the front of me one day and made herself comfortable. She was very nonchalant about it, and once I discovered she had a taste for doing that, I started taking her out a lot. For a while we’ve been staying at a friend’s place over by the river, and yesterday I took Honey to watch two old guys at work at the carwash on 10th Avenue. One of them is big and one is bent over, and the bent one has no teeth. Honey watched the long, swinging rubbery tentacles sweeping over the car being washed and flooding it with soap. The geezer with no teeth came over and told her how good she looked sitting on my shoulder. The other one sat on a folding chair and told me that it was a quiet night, but that on some evenings they’ll do a hundred cars and he doesn’t even get to sit down. He told me that on his next birthday he’ll be seventy-four and that the other guy is the same age as he is, but they both work all the time. I liked talking to them, and after the car was clean I took Honey over to look at the river.

I like the cute old geezers at the car wash
We’ve been staying here and there ever since a fire in the apartment just below mine, first because of everything smelling terrible and now because of all the repairs.  A few days before the fire my friend Jeremiah left me a phone message saying, “There’s an old drag queen having a stoop sale on Bank Street. And he’s telling stories. You should really try to get down there.” It was Sunday and very nice out, so I took Honey and walked down 8th Avenue to Bank Street. On a big wide stoop, two old guys sat presiding over a lot of tchotchkes and books. They noticed Honey right away. “At first I thought you were wearing a fur piece,” one of them said. “And indeed you are!”  They introduced themselves as Mr. Tish and Adrian.

Mr. Tish told me that for a very long time he had the most wonderful dog, right here in the building where he’s lived for 56 years. He’d tried to get the apartment where Mayor Walker once kept his mistress, he said, as word was out that it was available. But it was pricey: two hundred dollars a month. So he took the place he has now.  “I’ll be 90 on my next birthday,” he said. “I’m sure there are people doing novenas for me to die already! But I’m not going anywhere!”

A tape machine in the shape of an old radio was playing nice old music and Mr. Tish said that a lady of about 30, who lives nearby, had complained about the noise. “New York is a loud town,” he said. “It’s always full of Bing, Bang, Boom. A little music bothers you? Don’t you hear the trucks?” Adrian said that his hearing isn’t so good anymore, and that he went to an eye doctor who told him he should consider getting a hearing aid. Mr. Tish and Adrian know each other forever, since doing drag shows before Stonewall.  “I’ll go get the pictures,” Mr. Tish said. “Don’t go away.” He returned in a moment with two portraits, one of himself and one of Adrian, as two gorgeous young drag queens. Adrian said he just read that a lot of lipstick causes cancer so now he’s not wearing any. He also told me that his name is Henry. “I call him Adrian because he doesn’t look like a Henry,” said Mr. Tish. “He looks like an Adrian.”

 Glamorous then and now, on Bank Street not long ago
A Swedish lady had  stopped to look at a display of rhinestone studded sunglasses, hand encrusted by Adrian, and after a while Mr. Tish invited us into his apartment. We saw framed pictures of glamorous looking ladies all over the living room walls. “That’s me,” Mr. Tish said, pointing at one of them. “And that’s my real hair.” He showed us his old-fashioned kitchen and the bathroom with a big claw-foot tub. “And look at this,” he said. “Here’s where the gas light used to be.” We looked at a little pipe sticking out of the bathroom wall, and the Swedish lady told him that she liked his flowered wallpaper. “Thank you,” he said. “But it’s not wallpaper, it’s shelf-covering material.” He told us that recently he gave some advice to a few young drag queens. “You’ll never be a lady if you haven’t been a gentleman,” he told them, and I went home with that ringing in my head.

When I learned my building was on fire a few days later, all I could think of was Honey as I ran through the streets. Once I was allowed inside, the floors and the walls were gutted, and Honey was hidden at the back of the closet. I pulled her out by her scruff. Her living, furious owl face was the most wonderful sight in the world. 

I went back to Bank Street a few days later and found Mr. Tish and Henry, surrounded by costume jewelry and kimonos. Henry told me about a fire in his building once. “You remember the whole paper flower craze?” he said. “Well, a lady was making paper flowers, and of course she’s smoking.” He pantomimed a lady flicking her cigarette ash the way Bette Davis might. “The next thing you know,” he said, “the building was on fire.”

I don’t think Honey knows what to make of all the moving we’ve been doing, or what it means that I take her to stand outside the carwash. But she likes meeting cute old geezers, and so do I. And sometimes when she’s riding on my shoulders, I feel like a camel.

How Honey looks ever since the fire

June 13th, 2013 

copyright Romy Ashby 2013


  1. My favorite story to date - and I'm glad both you and Honey are ok!

  2. Oh, a wonderful story! Honey's ears are magnificent!

  3. Great story, you do meet some wonderful people! And I'm glad Honey is calm and enjoys riding on your shoulder. My Tabatha likes to climb onto mine, but won't stay there long if we go outside, she becomes more interested in the world and less interested in me. I think it's because she started when she was a kitten, so now takes me for granted!

  4. I want to meet Mr. Tish and Henry!

  5. What a wonderful story. I miss New York, esp. during the summer. The old time New Yorkers are my favourite and their stories are stellar.

  6. Two pairs of old New Yorkers and you couldn't make them more different from each other. Yet they both are part what this place is--or at least was--all about.

    Just great.

  7. Great story..I remember many guys like that from when I was a kid and worked in my father's store on 1st Ave, &St Marks place (Pine Valley Poultry in parts") in the early 60's.It was toward the end of the Beatniks and the beginning of hippies.