I Am Henryk

I Am Henryk
based on a true story

A Screenplay by George Hartman

OPENING CREDITS ROLL

MUSIC: An elaborate electronic space sound. Smooth and as continuous as the moving camera’s journey to earth.

EXT: Deep in the universe, far from earth.

At first what seems to be complicated microscopic images of glowing, duplicating cells slowly pans out into the vast universe. The connection of deep space and deep inner microscopic “universe” is made.
Camera begins weaving its way thru an intricate pattern of yellow, glowing lights connected to a huge bright energy source (Sun). There are millions of points of light connected and communicating with each other.
Flight of camera changes direction and moves down from the points of light. It begins an elaborate downward spiral thru galaxies, planets, gases etc which eventually end up in the Milky and then then earth.
The cameras flight is like that of a swift bird of prey circling the earth and then dipping into the Pacific ocean and quickly gliding across the 3,000 mules of the United States. Gliding across mountains, cities, forests, desserts etc until it reaches New York City and lowers itself even more. It does a 360 around Manhattan and ending up doing a slow rotation around the Twin Towers.
After the opening credits roll the music fades into a bustling aggressive honking street scene.
SLOW FADE IN OF TEXT ON MIDDLE OF SCREEN: “September 11, 2001”

CUT TO
INT: Lucyna’s kitchen

A small crowded Apartment in Queens New York September 2001. Henryk a strong Polish immigrant sits at a small breakfast table with his sister Lucyna eating a breakfast that she made.
He is a big strong man, unusually dark skinned for a Pole. He has a thick head of bushy black hair and wild black eyes to match.
Lucyna is a small humble woman with round glasses and her brown hair pulled back into a pony tail. She works two jobs and looks tired as she serves her brother bacon eggs and toast.

She pours a hot steaming cup of coffee that was on the table in front of her brother Henryk.

(In Polish)
Lucyna: (thru the steam) It is going to be a beautiful day, Henryk.
Henryk: Yes! It will be good weather to work in.

Lucyna: (sits down across from him) I worry about you Henryk.

Henryk: I am fine sister!

Lucyna: You work too hard. New York is a crazy place.

Henryk: (looking down at his plate) This is good bread sister! It is not American sponge bread. Where did you get this bread!
(looks up and bites bread)

Lucyna: Stop changing the subject Henryk! Please be careful out there. You know no English and New York is dangerous. You have a family waiting for you in Krakow…

Henryk: (interrupting) Thats why I am here! I work like pig and send money to my family to build house. This….. because of you Lucyna. I could not do this without you.

Lucyna: Ok my dear, ok. Just be careful. (stands up and starts collecting the dishes on the table)
Do you remember you English lesson Henryk?

Henryk: (frowns in disgust) Awwwww. It is such a baby language! Stupid.
Lucyna: I know it isn’t easy but you must learn if you are to stay here!
That is part of the agreement for you to stay with me remember?

Henryk: Awwww Lucyna!

Lucyna: (loud) What was yesterdays lesson?

Henryk: Awwww I don’t know!

Lucyna: Come on, you remember!

Henryk: (jumps up and starts to walk to the door) I have to go sister!

Lucyna: (stands in front of him and blocks the door) Henryk!

Henryk: His face resigns and he goes into deep thought. Ummmmmmmm….
(after a while, in broken English)
G-G-Good. Morn. Ing. S-S-Sir.

Lucyna: Yes. Henryk! Again!

Henryk: No.

Lucyna: (grabs his shoulders and looks up sternly into his face) Again!

Henryk: Good. M-Morning. Sir. (smiles) Good. Morning Sir!

Lucyna: Again!

Henryk: I have to go sister. I will be late!

Lucyna: Again!

Henryk: Good morning Sir. Good morning sir! Good morning sir!

Lucyna: (laughs)

Henryk:: Good morning sir! (smiles) I have to go! I was late yesterday and I never heard the end of it.

Lucyna: (hugs him) I have to go too. Be careful ok?

Henryk: (pulls away) Yes my dear. And thank you for everything!
(door closes)

FADE OUT.
FADE IN:

INT: Subway Hallway -Day- Long Shot
Henryk is walking swiftly through a large crowd of rush hour commuters. There is a old street musician against the wall playing Sinatra’s “New York New York” with an accordion. It’s very loud and off-key. He looks up at a clock sticking out from the tiled subway wall and it reads 8:03.
He walks quicker, then begins a half jog. The crowd of commuters around him thickens greatly as they approach a narrow stairway.
There is pushing, cursing in all languages, grunting, and Henryk himself gets elbowed harshly in the arm. He probably would have fell over but being in the middle of the crowd keeps him up. As the crowd moves up the stairs with grunts, groans and farts the camera pans into Heryks face.

CLOSE UP of Henryks face.
His face is distorted and his eyes are distant, THE CAMERA pulls back and suddenly Henryk is back in Poland having a picnic with his wife and two children on the side of a stream with bright blue skies and puffy white clouds.

Commuter: Yo Man. (louder) Man. (screaming)Yo man MOVE!

As quickly as Henryk was in the meadow picnic, he is back in the crown. People are jamming into a subway for standing room only. Some people push by Henryk as the doors begin to close. He tries to be the last one in but a big black man pushes him out of the way and takes his place. The subway doors close in front of him.
Henryk gasps and looks at the man that took his place bewildered.
The man smiles and puts his middle finger on the subway window and smiles as it begins to pull away.
Henryk slowly turns around and looks at another clock surrounded by a wire cage on the wall; 8:16.

Henryk: O kurwa

The camera pulls out from Henryks disappointed face and goes up to show Hebryk standing on a dark dirty subway platform with about five other people that couldn’t fit in the train. One of them an older Spanish woman suddenly begins screaming. There are about five rats scurrying across the platform in front of everyone.

Woman: (in Spanish) Oh my god. Oh my god. Get away from me!

One of the rats actually breaks away from the pack and approaches her squeaking loudly.

Woman: backs away screaming) Oh my god. Oh my god. Help!

(still working Continued)

The Fourth Wall

I’m allergic to all the moral corruption that has rained down upon me last few years (sneezes) and Ive become misanthropic. I used to hike in high north Jersey trails and now I drive past them. I used to ride my bike into golden Summer sunsets. Now I’m just fat. I used to write deep dark intelligent poems but now I’m happy.

“I’ll be back you son of a bitch!” I yelled at the blog, and really meant it!
But before I could turn around and revive my imagination forty-five thousand spam emails flooded the inbox. My doctor said you better GO to that referral and said fuck you I take 2000 milligrams of vitamin C a day.

My football team has lost their way, the dog died, Frank tried to kick us out so Kryha bought the place. As she was gathering all her money, loans and signatures she told me I’m a broke loser and that I just exists in life. Just loafing around waiting for tomorrow.
Last night, on the first day of the year 2020, I silenced all the Polish loud talk to make an announcement. NO. Kryha and I are NOT getting married but we did purchase a new mattress from Macys!

She tore down all the flowers and ripped up the gardens. She blew all the leaves into the street. The cold winds still slap the wind chimes and I can hear them buried under warm blankets two rooms away.
I started so many creative endeavors but the hard drive crashed.
The DNA’s of a thousand people sleep in the back seat of my car.

Gwendolyn: Are you going the right way?
Driver: I’m following the digital path thats been sent from space.
Gwendolyn: what??
Driver: I’m following the GPS. Rutherford. Union Ave.
Gwendolyn: yes. It doesn’t look right.
Driver: At this time of the day, the long shadows can create optical illusions.
Gwendolyn:
Driver: My sister had a doll named Gwendolyn once, a long time ago. Maybe 40 years. She still has it on a shelf and brings it down for tea sometimes.* (looks up at rear view mirror)
You kinda look like her.
Gwendolyn: Your sister?
Driver: No. The doll.
Gwendolyn:

*None of my sisters ever had a doll named Gwendolyn. Nor kept any dolls on a shelf after 40 years.

(no tip)

So … Yeah, I’m BACK. Amiright?

Rigor mortis

I know know this: Bobby Orr killed Bernie. Many decades ago I always thought it was his mother. Bobby Orr is dead now too. He died in a drug deal gone bad in New York City and they found his body in a back alley in the first stages of Rigor mortis.
Glenn was fearless. His whole life he was fearless. Since the moment he came out of the womb he was punching, kicking, cheating, stealing and fearless.
Somebody put Bernie’s stiff dead dog body in a bucket. He stood straight out in an advanced stage of Rigor mortis. And not only that but his eyes were wide open.

Somebody told me that Bernie was in the backyard dead. When I went back there to believe it, I wasn’t expecting him to be standing straight up in a bucket, staring at me with wide unblinking eyes. This was, without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life.
I ran out of the backyard. To this day, I always wondered who:
1. Put Bernie in the bucket.
2. Took Bernie out of the bucket.
3. Disposed of Bernie’s dead body.

I come to this conclusion. It was either Gunk or Glenn but most probably Glenn. Because he was more fearless than Gunk.
Technically, Bernie was a family dog but he seemed to be with Glenn the most.
The dog was named after a truck driver that my mother was banging at the Carteret Holiday Inn. She met him at the bar there, He was married with kids and on the road all the time hauling truckloads of cheese from Wisconsin to New York.

The Holiday Inn in Carteret stood on the edge of the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 12. It had a huge oversized sign that stood separate from the building. You could see this sign from miles and miles away.
This was the same Holiday Inn that Carol Dooley worked at as a housekeeper for awhile when her and Rebel lived with us before they bought property at Pioneer Plantation.
A few years later this was the same hotel where Barb and Gene held their wedding reception.
And then perhaps a decade after that, this was the hotel I used to sneak in the back door and empty the ice machines for my 8 coolers of Lobster that I used to sell for Beverly’s boyfriend Ronnie.

Bernie (the dog) would wear a denim jacket. I think it used to be Bonitas but she grew out of it and Glenn put it on Bernie. (the dog) So he was a cool dog and that’s probably why Bobby Orr killed him.

Bobby Orrs father was a notorious coke dealer/mobster in Carteret.
He drove a big maroon Cadillac and was always getting pulled over by the Carteret police.
One time, me and my brothers decided to have a porch sale and our mother let us put all our stuffed animals outside for sale.
Bobby Orr walked around the corner, stepped up to the porch, announced that he was “Taking them all.” He then produced a fresh fifty dollar bill to pay for them.
We jumped for joy but our happiness didn’t last long as Joan our mother called Mrs. Orr to investigate and as it turns out he took the money from his fathers stash. Turns out nine year old Bobby Orr was walking around with at least a thousand bucks on him.

Narrow leaf cattail
(T. angustifolia)

I’m in the middle room and I looked out the window to see this:
Glenn was leading a small gang of kids down the middle of Whitman street. Bernie (the dog) was one of the members of the gang as he trotted next to Glenn with his denim jacket on.
Some sights from your childhood you never forget. This was one of them. It was also around the time that Bonita had given herself a haircut. Fuck Bobby Orr. This was a good damn dog and he didn’t deserve to be murdered.

Usually around five o Clock one of us would go out the side door and ring a cowbell. This was a signal that it was dinner time. With nine siblings if you missed dinner you probably didn’t eat.
Here, on this sweltering Summer day in Carteret, Glenn and the gang, that included Grant, were holding a bunch of “punks” that they had just cut from the railroad tracks. “Punks” were the tops of these huge wild weeds that grew over 7 feet tall in the fields by the trestle.
When they dried out you can light the end and it would slowly burn down like a cigar. Punks were particularly handy when we had fireworks or to light cigarettes.
Carteret, a place where you can hear life going by so quickly without you. The constant line of low flying 747’s landing at Newark airport only a few exits away. The ghostly howling of the Turnpike only a block away.
The freight trains screaming and creaking into the late night.

The great gas station heist was still a few years away. Billy Danielle always knew that Frank Zappa was god. He raced pigeons then and to this day he still does, although like everything else it’s become digital. The pigeons have a Radio Frequency Identification tags on them.
I saw Billy a few months ago and he works at an oil refinery off exit 13 now.
His paycheck is so large and complicated he had no idea how much he makes an hour when I so impolitely asked him.
At this time there was still a log cabin in our backyard. Carol and Rebel gave it to us for Christmas one year. One time I caught Glenn drinking and smoking in it. This is because he drank a whole jar of pickle juice as a child.
But now back to the more shocking moment of this story. Bernie (the dog) is dead. He is in a bucket, stiff as a board with his eyes wide open behind the pool. Fin.

Sleep Log #612

i have been

sleeping alot. is there such a thing as too much? too much time travel? too much darkness? well surprise these dreams were filled with sunlight and the sunlight wasn’t from a nuclear attack on nyc. one year ago i asked where would i be now. and here we are. sifting through the ashes of change. M&J bought a new house but in this dream it was a skyscrapping building overlooking the Judahque river. the river was the brightest blue so J wanted to paint the walls orange because #graphicdesign and M was out on the deck yelling down to shawn by the bright blue river. he hasnt shown J his tattoo yet and confided in me that hes scared as hell about her reaction. he is holding a dunkin donuts cup filled with JD and coke. K is also drinking in this dream and telling me that she is a partial therapist, part time theologist, adaquaited numerologist, bi-partisian contracTOR, elo-marine-bio-garderner, flOWER grOWER (please help me my dream is starting to lose)control. that is what we love about (isn’t it) dreams? )anything can happen) M&J are in the spaceship now, my ‘new’ car cant fly like theirs but its history is starting to come out. You know how like, when you are with someone and their history starts coming out?(exposed) as they circle the skyscrapper in Hoboken by the blue river, M is telling us about the lion.
s t o p.
here is where the dream loses it. i realize its a dream but let it roll. thank you for all these colours now. thank you for all the fears i have recently conquered. nothing was handed to us on a silver platter but its amazing how we can all help each other. waiting at the airport. a cat in a pool. anna and her friends bowling in wedding dresses. getting my tie caught is a screen printer. burying my brother. cursing the snow in july. missing my mothers birthday. remembering my fathers death (to the exact hour)3pm june 11 1971 and knowing at that moment, even though he was in boston, that something was wrong. marine biologist. brand new drill. painting the attic floor. my new friend the vending machine, and coffee maker. Powdered forgiveness.

Last year two old friends passed away. I hadn’t seen either of them in many many years. Decades. Several decades. Yet they were, like most old friends are, always there. One lived in Elizabeth NJ, was my old boss, the other was my best friend when I was growing up. He moved to Phoenix Az a long time ago.
When they both found out they were dying they made it a point to contact me. I tried texting but they insisted on talking by phone. Both of them mentioned all these crazy little funny things I did and said when we were friends. They said I helped them. They said I was funny and kind. They were glad to have met me and be friends with me and sorry that life had split us up. When I get down on myself I remember that.
they* were both in the dream. sitting on the edge of the balcony of M&J skyscrapper by the blue river. sipping cokes. looking down at the busy city street below.
Dream over.

Sleep Log #15


writers blog:dry humid desert. empty for weeks
solution: make an assignment
Assignment: unemployment dreams
Begin: when it all finally happened it wasn’t like losing jobs that I had in the past. That sudden splash of cold water in your face-that dizzying blurred shock. In the past: One time walking down the streets of New York in a total haze. The financial numbers going thru my head. I’ve always been on the verge of total bankruptcy. Living paycheck to paycheck. But still, when they told me, I smiled and thanked them for the opportunity to work with them, the two short Jewish guys. I firmly shook their hands. Turned around and ran for the door before the other employees could see me.
There’s a certain amount of embarrassment to getting laid off. Although there shouldn’t be. The ones who should be embarrassed are the ones that lost the big accounts. Greedy negotiating or lack of salesmanship killed this place.
Canvas4death
Now: For a long time I had seen the end coming here. I had witnessed the first tiny leak in the hull. Shrugging that off as just something that happens in business. Each year more people jumping ship until towards the end it was just Gabby and me. Clinging on to the railing, our bodies half way deep into the salty rush of bankruptcy ocean. The builder of the boat unseen for four long years. Tangled in debt. Exhausted of credit.
So it wasn’t guillotine swift but it still hurt. I gave my everything and failed (or so I thought)

In all of the dreams nightmares of unemployment it is dark warehouses from my past. It is dreary and almost apocolypstic in nature. It is a David Lynch movie. Black and white. Filmed on streets of abandoned cities. Graffiti on brick walls still dripping wet. You are always alone. There is never anyone to help you.

Your new coworkers have blank faces and mumble instructions for your new tasks. You don’t understand. They shake their heads and walk back into an office probably to report you.
I’ve always thought to myself that money is the solution to all problems. Money equals happiness. But it is, as Forest Gump so simply says, one less thing. There are people in jail for the love of money. There are people dead from greed. Wars have been fought for wealth, It is somewhere written that cash is the root to all evil. The moral of the story is this: everyone finds out the hard way that money isn’t the absolute key to happiness. Respect money. Manage it well and you can live a good life. Try to get, hope for, pray for, inherit a good work ethic.
I had finally found a break, a paid vacation, sleeping in, staying up late but I couldn’t enjoy it. Finding a job is more work than actually having a job. The interviews. The revamping of resumes. The searching. The searching. And of course, the searching. Write a cover letter that will grab their attention in the first few sentences. Cliche is boring!
The real nightmare was reality. My car on the edge of total death. Every day a little older and who hires old people anyway? So fear is reality. Again. Fear triggers these nightmares of worthlessness, self-pity and creates these streets of industrial gloom in my dreams. Every job I’ve ever worked comes back to visit me. Decades before the dot com bust I delivered newspapers, tried painting, assembly lines, pumped gas, drove fork trucks down skinny warehouse aisles, poured five gallons plastic containers of bleach, loaded trucks on wind swept zero degree shipping docks on the overnight shift. Punched in. Punched out. Met a slew of the strangest people.
This is the thing: Suck up your fear. Walk thru the door. Shake their hand with power and knowledge. Smile with wisdom. And if you don’t know what the fuck they are talking about, nod your head in agreement and say you do. Fake it till you make it. The dots will always connect. They always have somehow for me.

we ended up here

we ended up here, up here on these
cliffs and ledges up here on the verge
of our autumns winter The patch of grass
we grew together almost too green and lush
here where the perfect pavers interlock
perfect stone walls and it all holds the
perfect town together This american flag flying
dream. Perfect.

we survived the blizzards of winter so Now
she plants bulbs and dried out seeds she stole
from her past lives Down in the shadows of
fluorescent studio basements and the giggling
children painting fiery sunsets they never saw

we ended up here in the layers and three dimensional
backyard of towering trees creaking in the winds
and sounds of jet engines and sirens The butterfly’s
and bees hypnotize Who are we?, we ask to wake up
ghetto-less in sun drenched bed sheets Who are we?
never escaping the late night train whistles and laptop
glow.

this cage is the clusterfuck of north Jersey
twisting turning dizzying asphalt
smokestacks and steeples line the horizon of
the industrial revolution from generation to generation
factory workers walking home to hot soup a long time ago
and we now under the same sun birthing a new era
that will plant grass and flowers and stop for a moment
to watch a plane deep blue fly by overhead.

Grandpa


I’ve always been a firm believer in the “It takes a village” approach to raising children. When I was much younger at least I remember we had quite a village at home. Two grandfathers, two grandmothers, aunts,uncles and cousins and friends everywhere.

Then there was that dark period where it seemed everybody died. Grandpa Hartman (pops) was first, my father followed a year later, then his mother died while visiting aunt Gerry a short time after that. Then I remember my mother handing me the phone and it was my cousin Dennis crying and lost that his father, my beloved uncle Jay died of a sudden heart attack. Grandpa Gill died in 1972. All this happened within two years. I was only allowed to view Pops funeral from a distance, my fathers too. I never actually went up to the body and knelt down in front of it I guess because everyone was scared I was going to flip out.
I wasn’t close to flipping out. I was contused at all this death. Who understands death at nine years old?
Actually my most memorable event at the Dooley Funeral Home in Westfield was this huge Grandfather clock that chimed every fifteen minutes. And the chime was something I remember from a movie. Very eerie and lonely.

Both Grandfathers scared the hell out of me. They were both huge men, demanding, stern and their presence in a room was sometimes overwhelming. Both were extremely respected in their community Westfield. Pops of course, owned the Westfield Sewing Center and was a huge presence downtown on East Broad street. Grandpa Gill was a highly respected police officer. He started when cops used bikes, not cars to chase criminals and was even considered a folk hero by the entire town that knew him. Both were smokers, drinkers and fierce womanizers, loved cars and lived a full life.

Pops would sit on the front porch of Whitman street all the time. He always had and was offering me a pocket full of hard candies. I never accepted them. I don’t know why. Once he asked me to “go to the trains in Westfield” I dint know what that meant. Was it the railroad track we crossed over in Clark when we drove to Westfield? He asked me three times one day. Just me and him. Butch come to “trains in Westfield” No thanks. My mother even begged me to go with him. I just refused. I regret that today. Turns out it was an annual model train show they held at the Westfield Armory. We never bonded, I think as kids should with their granfathers. He was very grumpy and surrounded on the porch by stamped out Pall Mall cigarettes which he chain smoked. He drove an old station wagen and the back of it was just filled with unorganized shit. The Westfield Sewing Center when he owned it was also an unorganized nightmare of frick frack. Yet, when a customer came in looking for something specific, he knew exactly where it was. The basement of the store was also another childhood nightmare. Dark, mysterious and one time I saw a mouse trap and I said “that it, I aint going down in the basement again.”

Grandpa Gill was also known to be a bit grumpy. One time when he was very sick with shingles, he had a bed in our rec room and lived there for quite awhile. While I now know shingles could be very painful I never understood then why he was so angry and grouchy. One time I called him a “crab” and he got up out of bed and chased me in his pajamas outside and into the street, In my early childhood, the 1960’s he retired from the police force, a Sargent and purchased a house on the lagoon in Lavallette NJ. These were, without a doubt some of the best memories I ever had. There was fishing, a boat, the beach, and all the kids slept up min the refurbished addict. Carol and Rebel always seemed to be there too.

It takes a village so if you have that chance, be there whenever you can.