Art was 74 when he told me about the hooker.
“That whore cost me 2,000 dollars”, he said.
And than added, “Have a nice day.”
I crossed the street ahead of him. I was on my way to work, and Art was making his daily trip, at a slow military pace towards to the King Eddy Saloon. The King Eddy was a local dive bar on the corner of Fifth and Los Angeles. To most, the bar was a dead end, the final stop before leaving skid row or the last resting place before entering. For some it was all that was left at the end of the day, of another era. And for Art it was only 8 a.m.. Its location in a strange way made it the greatest place in world, a haven on the Nickel, as this stretch of road was sometimes called. Heaven's little hellhole, and for many paradise on earth.
At some point Art asked about, or I happened to mention, the place where I worked being at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, and this is where his call girl had come from. The conversation ended, and after that Art called me a snooty bastard, among other things, but the one I think he preferred the most was son “Come here, son” or “Do you need anything, son?, he'd say. I never bothered to find out if he had any kids himself, but I do know he was married. I had asked him that once, some time ago. I could tell by the way the corners of his mouth pinched over that these were fond memories, after which he'd fall silent for a while, stumbling along, lost to another time as we made our way along the darkened corridor.
“Jesus, Art, are you sure you can walk? You gonna make it alright?” I’d ask.
“Yeah, yeah, I'm fine,” he’d say. Dragging the words out very slowly he added, “You ever need anything, son, you let me know. You're a good neighbor. Not like these other assholes. You sure you don't need anything?”
“No I’m good. I'm workin' hard,” I always replied. Then Art would take me by the arm, and we'd get on down the hallway. He was drunk or sober enough to stand, but had a hard time keeping his feet under him. It seemed to me he knew exactly where he was, and where he was going, but wasn't quite so sure on how he was going to get there.
We'd reach the place where I'd turn off, and he’d stumble on, mumbling “stupid bastards” under his breath. I never asked to whom he was referring, but I assumed it was everyone he had spent a lifetime running into. I'd stand there at the corner long enough to make sure he'd get his key in the door. Then it would open and Art would disappear.