The Mermaid Parade
A Charlie Rahway Tale
Radio NWR, Episode #16
I first met Charlie Rahway in the mid-1990s. I’d been hanging out in the Lower East Village, and I fell asleep on the long subway ride back to South Brooklyn. I missed my Bay Parkway stop and woke up at the end of the line in Coney Island. The doors to the car were open, and the lights were bright as hell. It must’ve been five in the morning. An older guy, maybe in his forties, maybe older, was going through my jacket pockets. I had no money left, just a couple of subway tokens, some stray rolling tobacco, and little balls of lint. He was picking the lint off his palm and blowing it at me. I wasn’t scared because I was still drunk. He was also drunk. I introduced myself, and he said he was Charlie Francis Rahway, Coney Island’s poet laureate. We became fast pals. I didn’t go home for three days because I went on a drunk with Charlie, hanging at his dives, meeting his crazy friends, watching the seagulls on the beach with a bottle of booze, crashing at the Terminal Hotel. Charlie’s lived the most noir life of anyone I know. He could be sixty or he could be eighty. He’s living the same life now as he did back then: drinking, betting, holing up at the Terminal, burning the stories and poems he writes. He’s a goddamn maniac and a weirdo and a legend. I’ve got a million Rahway stories. Now you’ve got one.
William Boyle is the author of the novels Gravesend, Everything is Broken, The Lonely Witness, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, and City of Margins, and a story collection, Death Don’t Have No Mercy. His books have been nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France, the New Blood Dagger in the UK, and the Hammett Prize in the U.S. He is from Brooklyn, New York and currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi.