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The Wall comes crashing down

The Wall comes crashing down

O’Sullivan Brothers Tavern, Bay Ridge 1955

He drank himself up

till calm there wasn’t any,

stabbed himself peeling pratties

and graced the cemetery.

                        – Mary Boyle, Union Hall, Cork

Tom opened the door just as the first customer arrived. The early enthusiasts were thirsty for more than a beer this Saturday morning. It will be interesting what drama will unfold by the evening when he would head home, leaving the tavern in the capable hands of his son Sean.

The world was still intact today, a blessing to be sure, with all the man-made problems splashed across the papers. Spaceships and little wars everywhere up and down. We got a well-worn letter from Ballydehob last week and the local boys won the hurling match over the weekend. 

The Dodgers lost last night and the Yankees beat the Senators again. We Dodger fans hate the Yankees but have a special place in our arses for those Polo-grounders, the Giants.

“Hello Mr O’Brien”, says Tom O’Sullivan as the open sign appears. “What’s the news today?”

“Eisenhower and that phony, Nixon are competing with the Mickey Mouse Club again. Poor Ike with his heart attack and his sideshow vice president. Poor man.

“Then there’s this Elvis,” he said. “I don’t know what all the to-do is about. He’s just some redneck with greased back hair, but the women love him.”

O’Brien went on talking about ballistic missiles, polio vaccines and Red China. He was subsequently joined by a few other regulars who were not as well read as he. Being a kind man he let them jabber on, smiling and winking at Tom.

Hey, let’s talk about baseball, a subject that everyone might agree on,” said ‘O’Brien.

“Everyone’s talking about the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, yeah so,” he offered, “but have you heard of a young kid from Puerto Rico named Clemente? I’d keep a keen eye on that one if I was you.”

I’ve to no problem with the negro fellas,” said Tom. “Several stop in here from time to time. They are bright and pleasant. “Some of them even tip which is more than I can say for our squeaky regulars. One such man is a famous lawyer round here. About as nice a man as you’ll meet anywhere.”

“Not like some nosey old Swedes I know,” jibed Mr. Harrigan, a retired longshoreman rolling his eyes at his lifelong friend “Windy” Mr. Johannsen who rarely said anything, just smiled and sipped eyes glued to the door, as if waiting for someone special to come in.

“There’s talk that the Dodgers will leave for California, the bastards.” inserted Johannsen much to the amazement of the others who were not accustomed to his comments.

“Never!”, said Tom.

”California here they come,” whined crabby old Mr. Reynolds amid his tired attempts to mooch a pint.

Then the old civil war vet Dennis McCarthy,  still enthusiastic about his daily beauty juice at 95 years, comes in with his grandson, also named Dennis McCarthy. The namesake Dennis’ son worked the beat as a cop until he retired last year with a much deserved albeit small pension.

He’ll be in in a moment,” smiled the elder McCarthy. We’ll have three Dennis McCarthys.  Then you’ll have hell to pay!”

“When I open the doors in the morning I never know  who or what is going to walk in,” said Tom sighing.

“What’s all the noise? I can’t hear myself think, said Reynolds.”

“They’re knocking a wall down next door. Jewish fella is opening a delicatessen. It’s a perfect compliment to O’Sullivans. We serve the pints and Myron serves the pastrami.” 

Jazuz what’s all the racket?” frowned the middle McCarthy just arriving

“Divil a wink of sleep here!” growled the older McCarthy, a veteran of Fredericksburg at 14. “Where’s my fookin’ teeth?”

At that very moment in time a devastating crash from next door shook the windows and rattled the glassware, knocked beers onto the floor and broke a bar stool that was already wobbly and only rookies used.

“Mother of God!” whispered O’Brien.

“It’s nuclear war!” cried Reynolds. “The Russians have attacked Brooklyn like Khrushchev said they would! And they’ve got the Chinese with them!”

The wall that held the tavern together was disintegrating before their eyes. It crumbled from the top then bowed in the middle and came to a rest before doing any more than cosmetic damage on the O’Sullivan side. 

“What are they doing trying to kill us?” asked one of the assembled McCarthys

“Them’s the ones,” said a young lad from the corner.  “I was gettin a jug a porter for me da and I seen it all.  they’re afraid to show their noses with himself.”

“Och aye!”

Moments later the new deli owner and a carpenter walked through the place to survey the damages caused by his hapless crew.  The columns and posts were pronouced solid and ship shape by the carpenter who had built aircraft carriers during the war.

“He should know,” thought Tom.

“Rest assured I’ll pay for damages, Mr O’Sullivan,” said the new neighbor, now introduced as Thaddeus Golden. 

“Only a few vintage Waterford crystal beer glasses and a heirloom stool my grandfather received from Queen Victoria in during her Silver Jubilee ,” winked Tom. “Clearly collector’s pieces all.”  

Gold quickly got the joke but continued to apologize, insisting he must pay for the clean up at least.

The kindly Mr. Markey offered to pick up the tab for “all the lads” but since he has had no money since the war everyone thanked him for his kindness and ignored him once again.

“The looks on their faces when it crashed was worth every minute,” smiled O’Sullivan. “With regard to the damages suffered I’m certain we can work something out – I love matzo ball soup and Jewish rye bread.”

The close-call crashing of the old bar room wall in Bay Ridge went down in the annals of borough excitement finishing a close second to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge and just ahead of the day someone let all the animals out of the Bronx Zoo.

More to come