CHRIST IN BROOKLYN
beginning of the book and first two chapters
By the same author
A COMPLICATED EXISTENCE
THE DOG LOOKING FOR ITSELF
CHRIST IN BROOKLYN
The last days of Jesus
To my daughters Carlotta and Natalia
It is not the time that passes on me,
it is I who pass through time.
He is always the same, immobile, constant,
as I change myself day after day,
and his every moment that through,
leaves an indelible mark on me.
In front of time I feel empty and useless,
like an actor who plays with the curtain closed.
Brooklyn is a city within a city, the most populous borough in New York today, completely rebuilt with lots of greenery.
Among its many museums, the Brooklyn Museum is, like the MoMA and the Metropolitan, among the largest and most prestigious art galleries in the United States.
In the 60s / 70s, the artists had their studios in Greenwich Village, today many of them live and work in Brooklyn, in large and bright lofts.
The old buildings have become splendid homes coveted especially by those who live in Manhattan, the most beautiful and elegant part of New York, but also the most convulsive, the most chaotic and many flee away in search of tranquility.
Forty years ago, however, this was not the case, and the story that is told dates back to that time, to the last weeks of December 1972.
17 December 1972
It is a cold winter afternoon.
A cold wind wedges itself in every passage, creating eddies of air that, like small tornadoes, raise litter and dust.
It's getting dark.
The dilapidated buildings, the bare trees, the deserted streets, illuminated by dim street lamps and dull bar lights, create an ensemble of chilling misery in which Mark and Phill were born, raised and live. with discomfort their life within the family.
Mark's hands and ears are frozen, his nose is running. Craving a hot hot dog with steaming sauerkraut, Phill, also chilled, thinks of a nice bottle of wine instead.
But they don't have money.
With the last change, they buy popcorn from an old woman who, the only presence on the street, numb from the cold, wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.
Phill has a watch, it's not of great value, but she could make just enough of it to get herself a drink and a smoke.
Grass is cheap, easy to find.
In Chinatown they meet a Chinese Jew who runs a pawn shop and sells stuff. Of course, getting there is a journey, but our friends don't lack time and get on a train.
The subway is frequented by office workers, workers, housewives, students, people who daily renew the comedy of existence.
Once off the train, they set off towards that little China, rebuilt with red lanterns, multicolored neon lights and trinkets.
For the streets, singular Chinese Americans, on stalls full of strange things, display exotic merchandise.
Among them there is also the guy that the two boys have come to find.
Chang Pildusky is his name.
Chinese with a mother and a Russian with a Jewish father, he is a fence, a loan shark and a drug dealer, an activity that the figure carries out not for profit, which is already prosperous enough for him to use usury, but for an ancestral legacy.
In this gentleman, the Jewish attitude to loan sharking admirably blends with the Eastern tradition of selling opium.
He has straight hair pulled behind his neck with the classic oriental ponytail and a long, scraggly beard.
According to Jewish custom, he wears a black overcoat.
It has a sinister aspect, but heedless of the disturbing charisma, the two friends they take to negotiate.
The negotiation is short.
Guys are eager to finish, they don't want to make a big deal, they just try to get hold of the essential for their needs.
Seventy dollars and a handful of weed is the offer.
It's a robbery, but that's okay. They would also like some LSD, however the pusher doesn't treats acid.
For this they will have to go elsewhere.
They are satisfied and laugh.
"Now Phill we can have a nice evening."
Careful to manage that little money, they don't want to spend so much on food and drink, they are not refined gourmets.
A couple of burgers with fries and two bottles of wine are more than enough to regain some energy stolen by the cold.
Burgers and fries, five dollars, a couple of bottles of good wine, another fifteen, and that's twenty in all.
Fifty dollars still remain.
Having decided on the menu, they run to do their little shopping in Little Italy, not far away. There is a Neapolitan always supplied with every poison.
In no time they get there.
The Neapolitan is a fat man of over a ton, an old protester, son of flowers, sixty-eight, a fan of the Doors and Kerouac.
His house is decorated with Nixonian-era posters, a mirror with the image of Jimi Hendrix, and in the bathroom, above the bathtub, stands a view of the Bay of Naples.
The small apartment, filled with useless junk, exudes a sense of marked sadness.
"Hi Naples," says Phill, "How's it going, do you have some good stuff?"
"Hi asshole, they don't give you credit in Brooklyn anymore?" This is the Neapolitan's answer.
"I have the money! Here's twenty dollars and give us some acid, okay tripe? "
The Neapolitan puts his hand in his pocket and takes out two paper balls.
"Grab and fuck you and your fucking friend!" The pusher responds with his innate elegance.
The boys laugh with happiness, they got what they were looking for, they are happy.
“Now the baby food. There's a diner in front of us, let's go inside. " Mark suggests.
A counter and a few tables without tablecloths welcome customers.
They eat with appetite and drink two bottles of wine. Refreshed and tipsy, they go out into the cold of the city again, walking slowly under the lash of the icy wind.
They enter the first bar they meet and slip into the bathroom. They smoke a joint, then sit down for a beer.
“You Phill have been to India, haven't you?
"Yes, once, for a short trip of a few days."
"Where have you been, what cities have you seen?" Tell me something."
"I was in Bombay for three days and then a week in Goa."
"Goa? You never told me.
How? Is it true that they are all high and you can find what you want, in bars and restaurants? "
«It's true, in Goa there is everything. Not only that, but you can safely smoke on the street or on the beach, no one bothers you, no one cares who you are, nor is they interested in what you do.
The sun is always bright, the sea beautiful and calm.
It's like being in heaven.
There are parties and raves every night that last all night. The beaches are huge, you are naked and you can't imagine how many beautiful chicks are there sunbathing, just waiting for someone to pick them up. "
"How nice, let's go there!"
"Eh, unfortunately it takes a lot of money, and who's going to give it to us?"
"Let's invent them." Mark replies and continues: "'St'erbetta is really good."
"Yes, not bad." Phill replies.
Another beer and another joint in the toilet of the bar.
Throughout the evening they continue to talk about India and what they would do if they could go there, until every possible program is exhausted, the place closes.
It's two in the morning. The money ran out. It's late.
All that remains is to go to sleep.
They kept a few dollars to get back in the taxi. They get on the first one that passes.
The taxi driver, a boy of their age, drives listening to rock at very high volume, and with the ball music they cross Manhattan.
They are fine, euphoric and cheerful.
The city is deserted.
On the Brooklyn Bridge, their attention is captured by the many reflections of the water.
In that blaze of lights, PhiIl can't help but notice the boats and smile.
“Have you seen Mark how funny the boats are in New York?
Like birds, free to go wherever they want, suffocated here by sewage from the sewers, by concrete, by smog, the boats have lost their freedom, they are prisoners of the city.
Been to Baudelaire? Have you ever heard of his albatross that with its mighty wings, agile and fast in the clouds, on the ground is ungainly, ridiculous and its sublime freedom is canceled out?
These little boats that do not sail free are like that prince of the air, prisoner and clumsy. "
“But you Phill really think that the environment is so important, don't you think that being someone is more important than living in a certain place?
In short, I mean that the essential is not where you are, but who you are.
If you are someone, you are everywhere.
Jesus Christ, for example, is always him, both in Palestine and on Broadway. "
“What the fuck are you saying.
We are speaking generically and you come up with Christ, who is not just anyone. He is the Absolute. For him there is no term of comparison. God is not comparable.
How can you have such a thought. Here we are talking about me, about you, about people and things that don't matter.
For us everyday people, life is this, unfortunately difficult, and it will remain so until we do something to change it, trying to make it more livable. "
The taxi arrives at its destination.
The two friends live a block away and go down together.
Mark disappears into an alley.
Phill starts slowly, smoking a cigarette, and thinks that being around all night, to get to this hallucinating place, having the same problems tomorrow as they were yesterday, is not exactly the best.
There is no loophole and above all there is no future, because the future is realized through time through the succession of actions that mark the flow of the present, while without these events, life takes on that unchanging everyday character that makes it similar. to eternity, because time being motionless, present, past and future, they become meaningless,
Phill to himself: “Orwell asserts that whoever controls the past controls the future. But we should have a past and then we would also have a present and therefore a future, but the two of us so far, what have we been if not idlers who have lived only by expedients. We have not done anything realizing and we have never been proactive either.
We just let ourselves live.
We have not listened, if we ever have, to our existential stimuli. We only took what little we managed to grab, effortlessly and without commitment, and in this we were not even thieves, at most we were snatchers, the lowest category of thieves. We are nothing!
Mark talks about Jesus Christ, but it is not necessary to be truly a god.
It would be enough just to look like him.
It would be enough for people to believe that they are in the presence of a superior being who has had the gift of enlightenment.
How many people are venerated as gods only because it is believed that they are able to dialogue with the Eternal. Faith has the power to transfigure reality.
Every man can feel close to God with the power of faith, because in it there is a compendium of power and will.
What person of faith, finding himself in front of a being worshiped as a god, would not accept him as such? With what certainty could a braggart say it?
No believer would ignore such a possibility! And since where faith does not arrive, fanaticism arrives, some exalted will still want to believe in it at all costs.
Immersed in these reflections, sleep captures him deeply and loads him with dreams.
In the dream he transforms into a man who barks and whines like a dog, even if in fact he is a man and has the likeness of one. Latra growls, sweats from the tongue.
People run away from him, they push him away because he can be dangerous, they are afraid.
The dog condition dominates him more and more and he finds himself walking on all fours.
The limbs are transformed into legs, the skin is covered with fur, it sniffs and splashes urine everywhere.
Now he is a dog, he growls, but he is not frightening, no one looks at him anymore, because he is a dog that behaves like a dog. He has lost the sense of provocation.
For him there are no looks, there are no words.
He is alone, he feels cold, he is hungry.
He wakes up drenched in sweat.
In vain he tries to go back to sleep and indulges in his sad thoughts, until when exhaustion overcomes him and he falls asleep again.
December 18, 1972
It is a cold, sunless day.
At eleven in the morning, Phill sitting on a bench reading a newspaper.
Mark is coming.
“Hi Phill, how are you doing? Do you have any ideas to get the day going? "
"Absolutely no! I haven't been well tonight. I continually thought about last night's speeches and came to a conclusion, which is then only an observation.
Our discontent does not depend on lack of money, but rather on not wanting to do anything.
We complain about our state all the time, but what have we done to change it? Have we worked hard to redefine our social limits? No!
We have always only been able to complain, to feel sorry for ourselves, to feel sorry for ourselves and not once did it occur to us that nothing comes out of nothing, and any project, however small, needs to be cultivated, planned.
Taken by sloth, our desires remained only dreams and never materialized, because realizing them would have required action, work, sacrifice, all things far from us.
We want to lead the good life, that's fine, but we have to take some steps to reach the goal.
We don't talk about working. With work we would not get anywhere, we would just be tired.
Instead, we take advantage of people's weaknesses, the spiritual need for redemption from the baseness of life, the human need to give and receive goodness, creating in the neighbor the will to change through faith, the most powerful means of conviction.
When you believe in something and you want it, you are willing to make every sacrifice to get it. We are more generous, we are inclined to donate because the gesture of giving always goes beyond the value of what we offer, especially when it is given in the form of a vote. "
"Phill, I don't understand."
«When you spoke of Christ last night, you said that Jesus, wherever he is, is always Jesus. Here! Let's invent a new Christ, a revived Jesus Christ! "
"Say, are you crazy? Are you kidding me? Last night I was talking like that, without thinking too much about what I was saying.
I just wanted to emphasize the importance of being someone, and the example of Jesus Christ may have been exaggerated, but that was so much to say.
Would you like to cover yourself with a habit, gird your head with thorns and perhaps relegate me to the role of Cyrene or the Good Samaritan?
Should we go to the streets of Manhattan to preach the gospel?
Something similar to Hare Krishna's Orange?
Do you want to be a guru? But it is out of fashion now, and here in New York there have been crazy preachers of all colors and all races.
You're really stoned! "
«Not stoned, far from it!
I don't want to tell lies to people on the street, spread out passages from the Bible, or be an evangelist or a false prophet ..
I think I am simply attracting people, drawn by faith, and is there anyone better than Jesus Christ to arouse feelings of faith? "
“I really want to see which lady coming out of Cartier or Saks comes to Brooklyn, to you who are a Galilean and talk about the Father, the Holy Spirit and so be it.
I imagine the scene and above all, don't you think you're presumptuous, doesn't it occur to you that at best, you'd be mistaken for a madman?
Are you really convinced that you can play such a difficult role? Didn't you think that playing such a part is very challenging?
New York is already full of these Christs. There is an infinity of nursing homes filled with Napoleons, Abrami Lincoln and other characters.
On 15th street I know a guy who claims to be the reincarnation of JF Kennedy, and you would never think how many think they are Rockefellers. "
They get up from the bench.
“Okay Mark, you're right, but if you saw a man crucified, or rather if they told you that in Brooklyn there is someone who is on the cross, wouldn't you run to see him?
Just out of curiosity, probably, but you'd go there.
A crucifixion doesn't happen every day!
Man needs to always see new things in order to always believe in them, and in Christ there are so many people who have believed in it for two thousand years.
Today, in the Christian religion there is no scenographic element.
We all, each in our own way, are believers in something, but we must believe only through the most rigorous faith. We are not given to discern with reason and reasoning.
Our creed is based on the writings handed down over the centuries and this has happened since the beginning of Christianity.
Sticking to the Gospels, after his resurrection Christ ascended into heaven and no longer appeared on earth, but does this exclude that he can appear there again?
He could not return once more to redeem this world of ours modern, deaf to spiritual calls, totally oblivious to the teachings of Christian doctrine? Those who until now have lived their religiosity, supported only by faith, think they can remain indifferent to sight of the Savior?
Today, everything is taken for granted and for two thousand years we have not asked ourselves any more questions, because all the possible ones there are those who have formulated them for us.
We accept Christ and his passion as historical, unshakable facts.
In this dogmatic religion of ours, the imperative of believing cancels the will to understand.
Now, if you were to see Christ, there would be no other goal for you than to reach the truth, and if millions of people saw the same thing, do you think everything would remain as it is? Wouldn't the world be shocked?
I can already see the faces of people expressing anguish and delirium. There will be those who scream, those who cry, those pervaded by a mystical crisis will rejoice and feel blessed.
Obviously, every means of communication, TV, radio, newspapers, all mass media, should be called upon to make the whole world aware of the event.
A new path would open up to achieve faith, and it would be the two of us who would do that.
From here we would begin to mark the time of our future. "
"My God, what crazy fantasies."
“Mark you are probably right, they are just bold fantasies, but not unrealizable.
Ok, let's go to the French, will you? "
French is a piece of Mark's past. Small in stature, with a completely shaved head, a gold band on his left ear and an aquiline nose, he has a grim appearance.
Ex hippy, having left Paris for minor scams, he landed in New York, where he managed to open La Grenouille, a small bar, very popular because you listen to good music.
Good friend of Mark, he had worked with him a few years earlier as a postman, when the police closed La Grenouille, wrongly suspecting that drugs were circulating there, but after just three months of closure, the French, exonerated of all guilt, stopped delivering telegrams, he reopened the place and resumed his bartender business.
Even Mark, soon after, gave up that job because it paid little and was so tired. It had been a youthful mistake.
When one is young, one is pure. Reality is misrepresented and deceived with the values of life.
From the French, the two friends drink a lot of beer and tease the free girls who enter the club, but do not combine anything.
After three hours they find themselves alone as they were when they entered and even a little tipsy.
They go out into the street. The wind whistles over their heads, reminding them at every step how miserable they are and that even if they found two girls they wouldn't know where to take them.
They don't have a place of their own, a house not to be shared with family members.
Mark, the second of four siblings, is twenty-three and has stopped going to school at fourteen. He tried to work a few times, but always for a few months. His father, of Irish origin, a night watchman in a toy factory, in thirty years of work has not been able to buy a car, his mother in all her life has never owned a beautiful piece of clothing, because one has always dressed by buying in stores that sell at low prices. She found love when she was sixteen, and two years later she got pregnant with her first child. Now, still young, she is a resigned woman dedicated only to her family who does not repay her even with small satisfactions, since all her four children are drifters.
Phill is a year older than Mark. He comes from a good family. The father, a lawyer, is of Italian origin, the American mother for generations, a religious woman and devoted wife, she dedicated her life to the education of her two children, imparting a fervent religious doctrine and, as a true American, a high sense of patrioticism.
Phill attended the faculty of sociology, but left it in the third year, to work in the company of a friend who restored boats, but the company soon closed its doors, and since that day has stopped working and has never started again. studying.
He reads a lot and everything. The reading was initiated by his father, passionate of literature.
The younger brother, two years younger, is about to become a lawyer and will soon be joining his father's office.
Bewildered by the facts of life, Phill has become a slacker who thrives on his wits, and while his mother still tries to help him as best he can, his father doesn't want to hear any more.
It's eleven o'clock, too early to go to sleep, too late to plan an evening. The two friends start fantasizing again. They have to make money to meet their needs.
They have many ideas, but all of them present insurmountable difficulties.
One is too complicated, another too expensive, and yet another requires too many sacrifices.
They are not constitutionally inclined to undergo long-lasting sacrifices.
Committing for a short time may be acceptable, but devoting one's life to deprivation is not on their agenda.
Mark would like to spend the winter in the Yucatan. Both have been wanting to go there for a long time.
They want to drink tequila, bask in the sun, without worries.
In the Yucatan, they could take a camper and leave for a long journey through Central America, touching all the countries, to get to Venezuela and from there, passing through Peru, to Brazil, to live a few months in Rio de Janeiro, then it would be the turn of the East.
Phill wants to return to India, but there they would travel by bus or train, covering short distances, to better grasp the intimate essence of Indian civilization.
In Kashmir, at Dal lake they would visit Good Connection and Sultan, two merchants Phill met in Goa.
Then along the Himalayas, in Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, and finally in Benares where the sacred Ganges flows.
Dreams, only dreams, pass one after the other in their fantasy, and so great is the desire for them to come true that the two boys often do not even notice that they are fantasizing and discuss fiercely about choices to be made in Srinagar or Mazar-i. Sharif.
No more dreams they find themselves in Brooklyn, where they returned that evening as well, because that is where they live with their families.
Mark's lives there because she's poor, Phill's because her father was born there. This is something that Phill cannot understand, because it is important not where one is born, but where one lives.
Arriving at Mark's house, they say goodbye.
Phill resumes the road. He does not feel the cold of the night.
He is calm and relaxed.