Shortly after my arrival in New York City, one of my godfathers died -- Joe, the eldest at 95. I hadn't counted on seeing him immediately, since I thought he would be at his Cooperstown manse, rather than his Harlem brownstone; a visit is now a moot point. The Times obit, oddly, didn't show up until this week, about 2 1/2 weeks after his death. One fact in it had escaped me -- Joe, a lawyer, as is his widow Helen (one of my godmothers) ran for the US Congress three times against Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., twice before I was born, and the final run took place while I was still in diapers. He was surely trounced each time, being cursed both by the godlike stature of Rev. Powell, and by the fact that he was a Republican. We're probably talking single-digit shares of the vote here.

One of my more vivid early-childhood dreams took place in Joe and Helen's living room: I was being chewed out (don't know why) by Desi Arnaz and William Frawley; this was, no doubt, a result of having watched one too many I Love Lucy reruns in those preschool mornings.

This morning, I was going about my sometimes-ritual of buying the Times and a caffeinated beverage at a small local grocery store, and then smoking a cigarette and browsing through the paper before boarding the subway train. As I'm paying for the stuff, a man comes in and asks the cashier about the blood outside, and the cashier gives a curt, angry response. I hadn't noticed any blood, but upon leaving, I saw it; it started with a shallow pool, containing a couple of cigarette butts, then you could follow the trail of drops of blood part of the way up the block, in the direction I was headed. I normally pick a spot in front of one of the not-yet-opened storefronts for my smoke-and-browse activity, but picked a spot further up the block, so as to avoid being around the drops of blood. I chose a pizza place, but noticed that the drops continued there, after I'd thought they were finished. I sat down anyway, and did my thing. With my last puff, I stared at the crimson droplets on the sidewalk, and mentioned something to Toto.