It’s 7:15 AM.
I walk out the back office and see Billy on auto pilot, checking off a list, as his automated voice trails, “Good Morning Mr. Condon this is your 7:15AM wake up call. The current temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a pleasant day.”
I scribble on his note pad: Beer.
He nods as he continues, “Good Morning Mr. Weinstein this is your 7:15AM wake up call. The current temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a pleasant day!”
I reach for his note pad and write: Where’s Tamika?
With the telephone crutched between his shoulder and ear he continues his wake up call and scribbles: Changing.
He continues the wake up calls and as I write back on the pad: Bar. 8AM.
I leave the front desk and enter a side door and enter the service elevator. I push 21. The elevators stops on a couple floors up and I run into an housekeeper with a push cart and hold the door as she rolls right in. We look at each other and say good morning. One floor up and she’s quickly out of the elevator and I’m repeatedly pressing the elevator close button.
When I get to the 21st floor, I slowly open the door and pop my head through the empty hallway closing the door quietly behind me as I tip toe to room 2115, scan my master key, and enter through the door. As I turn around Angel hands me a joint and bluntly asks, “Did she die?”
I light the joint and inhale, “No, she’ll be okay. Fucked up thing is she’s Kalashnikov’s daughter!”
Angel reach for the joint and takes a toke, “No, shit?!”
He passes back the joint and I sit on the comfy soft couch and look around the room, “Where’s Mark & Tahlia?”
“Sleeping.” He coughs and takes another drag.
I ash the joint on the table and pass it back to him, “All the gear packed?”
He takes a toke, “All set. Mark has a class at 11. Tahlia said to wake her up before 7:30, she has yoga or something.”
The phone rings and from the other room and I can hear Billy’s automated voice through the thin walls, “Good Morning Mr. Black this is your 7:15 AM wake up call. The current temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a pleasant day!”
The joint’s burnt out and I’m too stoned to relight it so I just set it on an ashtray as Tahlia enters the room in all black Yoga gear, “Good morning!”
I smile, “Hello sunshine, where you off to?”
She slings a rolled mat around her back, “Rooftop yoga.”
Angel turns to her, “Has anyone figured out you’re not really a guest here?”
She smiles, “I’m dating the yoga instructor. She doesn’t care.” She says very matter-o-factly as she waves good bye and exits through the door.
I look at Angel, “I didn’t know she was gay.”
Angel laughs, “I knew she was too happy to want to wake up this early for a reason.”
I tell him, “I’m going to the bar. You want to go have a drink?”
He shakes his head, relights the joint, and starts smoking, “I’m too stoned.”
“Alright, but don’t forget you have to be out before noon and take the side exit.”
It’s 7:30 AM.
I stand with my foot on the yellow line as I stretch my neck to see if the downtown 6 train is close and turn back to George, “Nothing yet. It should be here by now.”
He pulls be back just as the train pulls into the station. “Train here now.”
We step in the subway and have no choice but to stand side by side by the doors. The train is so packed I can’t even turn my head to ask, “The wife waiting at home?”
He turns to me and says, “Not today, she’s working a double shift.”
I’ve asked him a hundred times and he always says no, but I figured I’d ask anyways, “Do you want to grab a drink?”
He shrugs and a moment passes before he says, “Thank you, but not today.”
The subway doors open and we both step out for second to let some strap hangers pass through. The doors ring and we back inside and finally there are enough seats for me and George to sit. “I got you George. No worries, I’m buying.”
The subway stops again and our car empties, just leaving me and George in silence, until he asks, “Let me ask you something. How much they pay you at hotel?”
“Enough to keep the place from burning down,” I sigh, “But not enough to justify all the bullshit we have to deal with.”
He leans towards me and continues, “You’re a young guy Alfie. What do you really want to do with your life?”
I’m speechless, George is having a heart to heart with me, “Me? Film, I guess. It’s what I went to school for.”
He presses, “Why you not making film?”
I shrug and shake, “Money, time, and working all night at the hotel.”
He smiles, “But you got all three right? Why won’t you just shoot at the hotel, no?”
Does he know what I’m doing? He has to know. “Yeah, I would just have to be smart about it and not get caught.”
“You’re a smart guy and people like you,” he slowly continues almost mocking me, “I got your back! No worries!”
We both laugh. The subway opens and a homeless guy rolls a push cart into the car. He smells like expired milk and a bag of dead cats. Me and George move towards the other end of the car and away from him. Through the smell I ask, “What do you want to do with your life George?”
“Besides win the lottery? Be an actor of course!” He laughs, he’s warmed up a bit and I see a whole other side of him. “Do you have a part for me in your movie?”
I’m still not sure if he’s just fucking with me, but I play along, “Sure George. I got a KGB role you would be perfect for.”
The subway comes to a stop. It’s my stop so I stand and he rises to ask, “Alfie, can I ask you for a favor?”
I nod, “Sure. Wassup?”
“Can I barrow $20 for a pack of cigarettes?”
I step out of the car and keep a foot on the subway door, “Sure. But do me a favor. Step out of this smelly ass subway car and have one drink with me first.”
The car rings as the doors try to close. He says, “Sure.” and steps out.
It’s 7:45 AM.
The gates are still down, but through the window I can see Old Man Jay wiping down shelves and dusting bottles behind the bar. He waves his arms with a big gesture of ‘Fuck You!’ and continues cleaning.
George asks, “What time does the bar open?”
I start walking across the empty street, “8:00AM, come one we’ll go eat first.”
George follow me into a bodega, where I order us two bacon, eggs, and cheese and two coffees. We sit in a booth towards the back as he fills out a lottery sheet with one of the hotel pens. He starts, “Give me a number.”
Chewing through my sandwich I mumble, “30.”
He takes a sip of his coffee, fills in the box for 30, and continues, “Okay, give me one more.”
I finish the other half of my sandwich and notice he hasn’t touched his, “17, you not hungry?”
He fills in the box for 17, “I don’t eat pork. I’m Muslim.”
I thought he was Russian. I don’t want to ask, so I humor him, “I’ll save it for Jay.”
He shows me the card, “Okay, all done.”
I give him $20 and he walks to the counter and returns to the table with a pack of cigarettes and a lotto ticket. I sip my coffee and fuck with him, “George, what’s the point of winning the lottery if you’re going to die of lung cancer?”
“When I win, I will quit.” I place the pack on his breast pocket. “And when I win, you quit as well!”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” I look out the window and see Billy across the street looking through the window as Old Man Jay is flicking him off. “When you win George, just give me enough to finish my film.”
He’s looking out the window and watches Billy patiently wait as Old Man Jay lifts the gates of the front door, “How much would that be?”
“I don’t the same amount they pay me to keep my mouth shut about what really happens at night.” I get up.
He stands, “Give me a number.”
It’s 8:00 AM.
Me, George, and Billy are at the door of Spring Lounge just as Old Man Jay, is pulling up the metal gate. He grunts while holding the door, “Good morning boys! What can I get for you sad fucks?!”
I take a seat by the bar taps and look at the chalkboards hanging above the bar, “Morning Jay, three IPAs.”
“What are the other two having?” he laughs, as he grills George searching for a reaction, but gets none. Jay sets three pint glass on top of three coasters in front of us and then follows with four shot glasses on the bar top. With his hand free hand on a bottle of whiskey he pours, “You fellas look like you have a rough night, the shots are on me! Cheers boys!”
We shoot down the Jameson and chase it down with the beer. I feel drunk already and but not as much as Billy Blue who shakes his redden face as he takes another sip of his beer. We sit listening to oldies as the bar trickles in the other two regulars, ‘Toothless Joe’ and ‘Australian Frank’ who’s got his dog ‘Spitfire’ on a short leash. The two sit at the other end of the bar and ‘Australian Frank’ buys the next round of beers as a consolation to listening to his story about starting his morning by having to power wash some homeless guy’s shit off his sidewalk, “…that sick bastard had the runs I yah’!”
We all laugh and so enough Spitfire is reaching for the door and Australian Frank is out the door as we watch Spitfire walk across the street to squat and lay a steamy load on at park. Toothless Joe smirks, “That Australian Frank’s just full of shit!” He can’t stop laughing that he drools on himself a little bit. I start laughing and George himself can’t help but to join in.
He waves over Old man Jay and orders three shots of Vodka. He passes the glass down the line and mumbles, “Thank you for the invitation Alfie.” He raises his glass and says, “Na zdorovie!”
I clink my glass, “Whatever you said, cheers!”
Billy Blue takes the shot and starts up a cough. Jay pours him an ice water and asks if he needs a cab. Still coughing, Billy just nods. I turn to George and ask him why we works the over-nights, he answers, “My English is not so good. And I don’t like people. How about you?”
“Same.” I laugh and order another round of beers, Billy shakes his head just as a yellow cab pulls up in front of the bar, I get up to him, but he refuses and says he’s okay. We wave him good bye and watch him stumble into the cab and take off. Jay sets the beers and I continue the conversation, “I can’t do this forever George. But until then, I’ll use it to get me where I want to be.”
He sips his pint and asks, “You almost done with you film, no?”
Catching me a bit off guard, I fail to realize how much I ignore the fact that George knows everything that goes around in the hotel, between my regular Night Manager duties and my secret film crew working through the night, I never thanked him for not saying anything. I figure there’s no point in lying anymore so I humor him, “I’d be done quicker if I had more money or at least had more time to shoot.”
“I make a cameo. You don’t have to pay me.” He laughs and I see a the first genuine smile I’ve seen in a long time.
“I’ll take you up on that offer one of these nights.” We clink glasses and I thank him. I know he knows that I know that he knows and is willing enough to look the other way. It’s a mutual respect I’ve earned, by not being a hard ass on my over night team, but through trusting them to do their job and they trusting me in return. We get away with as much as we can on the over night, but we always get the job done. George excuses himself to use the men’s room and I stay at the bar talk to Old Man Jay for bit and ask him about his acting days.
George returns and thanks me and tells me he has to go home, I tell him to stay for another round, but he says he has to go to his other job. I didn’t even know he had another job.
It’s 8:15 AM.
George and I shake hands and he exits the bar. Left with no else to talk to but Toothless Joe, I ask Jay for a Jameson neat and hands me a glass, pours a heavy hand, and just leaves the bottle. The door swings open and it’s Australian Frank and Spitfire, just as he enters he back out and holds the door for a tall blonde girl with cheekbones that could slice through butter. I turn and recognize the girl, “Oh Shiza!”