Terry the Tramp banged on the Bethlehem Asylum front door

1970, Coconut Grove.

by Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 All rights reserved.


Terry the Tramp banged on the Bethlehem Asylum front door. I could hear the knocking all the way back in the music room that overlooked the jungled backyard. Old Florida wide wooden jalousies broke the sunlight into bands of dark and light green. I put down the sticks, jumped up three steps into the coral rock bar with vintage glass bricks, then jumped down three steps into the sunken living room, sprinted past the six foot flamingo coral fireplace, across the open living room, forty yards to the front door. The knocking reverberated around the living room like a cannon again. The little high turret windows¬† that bordered the flamingo fireplace rattled even though they were thirty feet up on the wall. I opened the door and nearly choked. This guy was huge. I’m six two and I felt like a midget. He had his colors on. Denim cut off jacket. 1% badge on the pocket. One percent referred to the quote from Spiro Agnew, saying that there was only one percent of the country that was being a problem.

“Papa John.” he rumbled down at me. I nodded and scooted away. Papa John, our self appointed manager was sitting at the sprawling old mahogany dining room table with Jim. They both had their colors on too. Jim was decorative, rock star version. Papa John’s was the real thing. “Papa John. There is a guy asking for you.” Papa John didn’t seemed concerned. “He’s big.” I added. He perked up. “How big?” He stood up and eased past me like a ghost. He was across the living room and grabbing the guy and squeezing and hitting him, they were growling at each other at first. I could not tell if they were friends or mortal enemies for a few moments. They started laughing.

“This is Terry the Tramp.” I was humbled. This guy was famous. “This is my rock n roll band.” Papa John swung his arms around the place. Terry grunted approval. They¬† both went for their wallets; identical, soiled, smelly, old worn leather and pulled out newspaper clippings kept safe in a secret fold. They held them up and regalled us with stories of Mother Magoo’s funeral procession. The news photo showed a long distance shot with hill after hill after hill covered with thousands of hogs. Terry pointed, “That’s me and Papa John, at the front.”

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