Anecdotes from the alleyways

By Darren Testo

Adderall. Take as prescribed doesn’t apply. So by default take as needed.

Bastards. Those without fathers. Those without manners. Then there are those of us without fathers or manners.

CDTA, because they tell you that all you have to do is take the 224 to the 114. But what they don’t tell you is that you have to take the 114 to the 22, then catch the 85, and walk a mile to get back.

Clinical hours. The unofficial ones. Always unexpected, always late at night over drinks in a hazy room. It starts almost the same every time. “Hey, you study psych right?” And then the life story flows forth.

Descendants of Samuel Wilson, and every bit as frustrated.

Dig yourself out of any hole you may wake up in. Sometimes you will not be privileged a shovel. Other times you won’t deserve a shovel. And sometimes you will have no other choice but to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. Always dig.

Don’t shit where you sleep. There is such a thing as integrity amongst thieves.

EBT, because they don’t want to call it food stamps anymore.

Fake it till you make it.

FedLoan. The only people than my love, and brothers who are interested in keeping tabs on me.

First Sargent turned to us and offered a bit of insight. “The thing you have to understand” he said slowly, carefully, and deliberately as he made eye contact with each of us. “Is that here in the U.S. of A. no one cares how you milk the cow, they just want to drink the milk.”

Good better best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is your best. How they loved to drill that into our heads all throughout high school.

Hembolds. If you are going to eat a hot dog it’s the only brand to consider.

Hudson River. Our side. Your side.

Interest, points, juice, vig, whatever you call it before you let someone borrow money make sure the details and consequences are clear on both ends.

Irrational fear, we all have one. I used to be able to just say needles but when people see my tattoos it throws them off. So now more specifically, injections.

James Dean, my roommate from Boston would always bust my balls and call me while we shared smokes on the balcony. But when you pick up the habit while working on roofs you need to be able to use both hands.

Karma. I don’t like to entwine myself within the politics of religion, but karma is different. It’s a natural force constantly at work. You can choose to have a personal relationship with it, or view it as a faceless automaton. Either way one thing you can be sure of is that with enough time it always comes full circle.

Left-handed jabs. The difference between those who know how to use it and those who don’t is more substantial than any gap in formal education.

Lies, not only the ones you have to tell yourself but convince the professionals of so they can decide to let you out.

Let you out.


MDMA, because not all of us have travel agents.

Numb, the part of my left hand I will never feel again. I knew he didn’t mean it we were just playing around. But we did both have our blades pulled out… and someone got hurt.

Old school. The silence that comes with it.

Only child. For being one, but fortunate enough to be born into a city that has given me more than my fair share of siblings.

Out hit, outwit. Never do one without the other.

Play the hand you are dealt. When the electricity gets cut, the heat and water still work. Put a can of spaghettiO’s on top of the radiator for an hour and dinner is served.

Punk. The closest thing some have to a church. At the age of thirteen I myself was, pulled onto that three foot altar and baptized in the holy water of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Question everything. Question them, question yourself, question the answer, question the reasoning. Question.

Redemption. The longest road. One foot in front of the other until you reach an intersection.

Schadenfreude. A German word for which there is no exact English equivalent, though there needs to be. Roughly translated it means to take joy from the misfortune of an enemy.

South Troy against the World. We didn’t make it up; it’s been passed down for generations now. But we have embraced it, kept it alive, and shout it in warning and in celebration as often as possible.  

Stitch. An unofficial side occupation. The last one was a volunteer fireman. The one we have now at least has some hospital experience.

Throw your heart into something you care about. The mind and body are sure to follow soon after.

Tight. That feeling in your chest you get right before a yawn, but amplified, elongated, and never satisfied. The mind becomes like a washing machine entering its spin cycle. You become aware that your field of vision is comprised of effort from both eyeballs, as the dizzying fuzzy darkness engulfs your peripheral view. This is what a panic attack feels like.

Time. Deadlines. Schedules. Hours. Always making forward progress.

Trauma writing. This is where I got my start. I wasn’t aspiring to be an author, or poet, or even clever. I would vent onto pages of notebooks in furious ink. When the notebooks were full, I would take them out back and watch them burn.

Underdog. They want you to underestimate them. If they fail it’s expected, if they succeed it’s glorious.

Valentine’s. Music Hall. Beer joint. No pepper.

When I eat, you eat. All you need is a few people to believe in this and you will always have something to fall back on. Be quick to offer the shirt off your back, the day will come where you yourself will need a shirt. And a place to sleep. And a beer.

Work as hard as you play, people won’t ask any questions.  

X-ray’s, CAT Scans, and concussions. Try to cut these out of your diet at all costs.

Years. What they will want you to trade as your act of contrition.

You’ll be aight. Regardless of the situation when this phrase comes out of my brother’s mouth, it carries with it enough confidence for me to accept it as fact.

Zig Zag. Rolled up, but only by those who are worthy enough to possess “The Finesse”.