Thursday, October 29, 2009

Noho loses another iconic local

This photo is from the fabulous Paul Shoul. I'm linking to the top of his blog so you can easily scroll to see some of his other gorgeous photo posts and you should definitely click over to read his charming obit about how he managed to get this shot of Bonnie Ascher. I suspect it may be the only recent photo of her in existence.

Bonnie was an odd duck. For years I was kind of afraid of her. She seemed to be a street person, rolling that bike around town. It's relatively empty in that shot. Sometimes it would be so loaded with cans and mysterious bulging garbage bags, she wouldn't be able to ride it. She just pushed it around town, often complaining in her loud gruff voice to no one in particular, voicing greivances that only made sense within in her own head.

I think maybe it was Harry McColgan who finally broke the ice with her, for me I mean. I was sitting with Harry in what was then called City Cafe and she came in. He bought her a drink and she stood there long enough to finish it. She never sat down but that's the first time I remember having anything resembling a conversation with her. After that she apparently considered me a friend and would sometimes engage me in small talk when we passed on the street. Over time we developed something of a relationship.

I was too lazy to return my beer bottles. Didn't seem the effort to me for the 30 cents a six pack, so I gave them to anyone who would come collect them from my porch. For years the old man, Mike, at the end of the block collected them. After he died Maurice took over but at some point he sort of disappeared from town. So I gave the gig to Bonnie and she was very reliable. She preferred can collecting for obvious reasons, but would make a special trip for my bottles, I suppose because she could trot them next door to the package store for the buck or so they were worth by the time she made her semi-monthly pickup without having to load them on the bike.

I was suprised to learn she had a home and family in the area. And it turned out that some of those bulging garbage bags were full of clothes that she would pay to have sent to some Indian reservation out west. I would occassionally run into her at the Post Office, pushing a shopping cart full of carefully taped boxes, cursing her head off when it was too heavy or too overloaded to easily get up the stairs. Sometimes I helped her load it inside.

Last time I saw her was when I moved. I gave her five garbage bags stuffed with clothes I didn't want to take with me. She ended up taking a lot of other stuff too that I had intended to keep, including my broom and dustpan that I was using to clean up. She was funny that way. Very single minded. She had it in her head that I had to empty that place out and she was determined to see it happen.

Of course, we weren't so close that we kept in touch once I moved, but still, I'm very sad to hear she's gone. She was only 61. Paul went to the funeral and said it was beautiful. I'm glad she got a nice sendoff. She had a good heart and a golden soul. Rest in peace Bonnie. Hope you get some rest now, on the other side of the veils.


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