CITY PAPER: Felix is painting again. He peels off his blankets, switches on the lamp and warms his hands by the electric heater he keeps close to the spot on the floor where his bedding lies. Then, he sits with his black faded sketchbook in his lap and draws until sunlight fills the small cramped bedroom he rents in a crumbling building at the end of a narrow alley off Washington Avenue. If Felix is happy with what he’s put on the page, he’ll pull on his red-checkered lumberman’s jacket and make his way down the creaky wooden spiral staircase and out into the trash-strewn alley where he keeps a pile of old wooden frames. Finding one that isn’t too weathered or chipped, he’ll unroll a piece of canvas and stretch it tightly around the frame. Then, he’ll head back upstairs, sit with the canvas in his lap since there is no space for an easel in his room, and begin to paint the image in the sketchbook onto the canvas.
Time passes, usually about three hours, and he is at peace. When he’s finished, he carries the freshly painted canvas back down the stairs and rests it against the alley wall, making sure that it is covered and dry. Then he washes off his hands in his rusted coldwater sink, stuffs yesterday’s mail and his medical appointment cards into his coat pocket, unlocks the wrought iron gate at the mouth of the alley, crosses Washington Avenue and takes a seat at the bar where he likes to spend his afternoons.
Felix goes there for the company and the heat. He has little money and prefers a clear mind during the daylight hours, so he mostly drinks cranberry and orange juice until the evening crowd shuffles in. Then, he’ll allow himself some beer and scotch. He kills the days reading mail and clipping coupons. Dom the bartender plays movies on the television and likes to test Felix’s savant-like memory when it comes to the causes of death of little-known actors.
“Warren Oates?” asked Dom one day as Blue Thunder played on the TV.
“Heart attack,” said Felix, not looking up from his newspaper.
“Jack Warden?” Dom asked on another occasion when the AMC feature was And Justice for All.
“Kidney failure,” said Felix, without hesitation. MORE