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Uptown Saturday Night


Harry Buschman

Sly, me and Igor decided to go uptown Saturday night. We only wanted to swing a little. I mean, we were caught up in hurricane insurance forms all week at Prudential and all we wanted to do was dance to the music and maybe have a few beers.

Sly said he knew the way. He had the directions on a slip of paper. Me and Igor followed along behind him and tried to look cool. We took the “A” train and got off at 119th St. Sly said to keep close and don’t talk to anybody – “Sometimes the things you say downtown don’t mean the same thing up here.” We got near to Fourth Avenue and Sly suddenly stopped. “This is the place,” he said.

Me and Igor couldn’t see anything but Sly pointed to a rusty iron door with a little barred window. There was a small hand printed sign over it that said “Hip rules man!” Me and Igor stood shifting our weight from foot to foot, making an attempt to whistle while looking innocently up and down 119th Street as Sly talked to to a pair of brown eyes looking out at him from behind a slit in the barred window.

Suddenly the door opened and Sly said, “Follow me!” We all ducked inside and found ourselves in a dark narrow passage with steps going down and disappearing in the darkness. We asked Sly if he knew what the hell he was doing and for an answer he snatched a torch out of a sconce in the wall and said “Follow me!” again – but this time not as bravely as he had before.

It seemed we would never get to the bottom. The steps were slippery and before we had gone down no more than a hundred of them, me and Igor noticed a fast moving stream of what looked like water to our right. Looking closely in the light of the torch, I came to the conclusion we were in a sewer – there were some things in the ‘river’ I thought I recognized. “Where the hell we gin’, Sly?” Igor said nervously. “We only come uptown for a good time, and look where the hell you bring us.” Sly put his finger to his lips and told us to be patient. He held the torch a little higher and in the light we saw a black man dressed in a white linen suit at the bottom of the stair. He was standing at the entrance to a brightly lit dance hall. He was wearing a white derby hat and smoking the longest cigar I ever saw. Around his neck were multiple strings of silver chains and medallions. He was moving to the rhythm of drums and at the same time counting a thick roll of what looked like fifty dollar

“Whuffo you'all doin’ up here? You’all’s downtown people.” He stopped the rhythmical motion of his arms and legs for a moment and looked us up and down. Then he asked, “Did Pennybone let’chu guys fru d’doorway?”

“I had to slip him ten,” Sly said nervously.

“Ten gets y’all downstairs. Fifty each gets y’inside.” He resumed counting his roll of money and each of us coughed up fifty clams.

“Gee,” Igor said. “This better be good.”

The big man in the white suit smiled with a set of stainless steel teeth at Igor and said, “Or what, little man?”

Igor shrugged his narrow shoulders and said, “Nuthin’, man, nuthin’.”

“You guys like R&B or hip? For d’next couple hours we got Ghostface Killah wit Jadakiss and Sheek.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Sly. “How about you fellas?”

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