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Walking away from the rising sun beaming down 29th Street, I glanced to where my eyesight is best—far away. On a hillside across the Hudson River, I noticed, clear as crystal, the huge stone monastery located just blocks away from my apartment in Union City, NJ.

It was another Friday morning on the job as a messenger. I was on my way to 11th Avenue and 44th Street. It is a long walk, especially on cold mornings when the sun is at my back. I carried two heavy leather bags stuffed with union member paychecks. They hardly fit inside my black backpack.

Public transportation is available if I shell out the $2.50, but waiting for a subway and a bus would take more than an hour and I get paid just $1.50 for the single delivery. The silence along the Westside highway, free from pedestrians chatting on their phones, gives me time to say prayers if I wish, or simply look off into the distance and wonder why those men spent so much time praying and if it really did any good.

I prefer to walk in New York as a messenger, anyway. I don’t like others rubbing up against me on mass transit. These solitary walks bring the world into perspective and still my mind in bliss. I understand how it was Jesus sensed a bleeding woman touch his garment. Ever since working as a messenger, I have developed what I believe is sight from what others call a Third Eye, but what I see as simply heaven. When I walk I see what I would never have noticed underground. When I spotted the monastery, I caught a chill, as if some ancient prayer given by some chanting monk found its way across the Hudson nearly a century later.

I pass Saint Patrick’s Cathedral every other Tuesday morning when I deliver to Donald Trump’s business on 56th Street. Never to I “feel” anything there. Often I choose to spit on the sidewalk just to prove I’m still human and not yet a saint, delivering these fucking envelopes for mere pennies!

The monastery, named in honor of the Archangel, Michael, stood empty in the distance, I felt something, like the sun had somehow warmed my back through the heavy backpack.

It was then I remembered I stood on the stone steps of the church the day my unemployment benefits had ended and I asked that if the soul of any of the monks were still around to help me.

And he did. I felt that and saw it through my third eye on Friday.

Several customers along my paycheck route have tried to compliment me, stating that I look like John Malkovich.”

“That dude is bald,” I replied to Dolly, a woman who works at a real estate management company that receives more than 60 thick envelopes every week. The firm gave me another $50 check made out to “cash” again this Christmas. I’d rather be called Cash than John. Dolly was the first to tell me I look like Malkovich—several years ago when I started this gig, back when I made Dolly sign every line on my paper manifest that belonged to New Bedford. It was only after I received my second $50 tip from New Bedford last Christmas that I decided Dolly had only to sign once, and not twenty or so times each week. I now make a hand-written notation in one of the fifty or so New Bedford spreadsheet boxes, indicating exactly how many paychecks I delivered on a specific day and tell her, just sign there and stop reading the names of my famous clients on the other pages of the manifest where New Bedford appeared. I once put little ‘x’s next to where she needed to sign, a task that took up too much time each morning when I went through my batches of several hundred checks. “Oh look, the Spanish Theater on 27th Street. I’ve been there,” she claimed, “and oh, there is Russell Simmons and Donald Trump. Geeze!” Dolly exclaimed handing me back my papers.

I’m up in New Bedford almost every day, delivering three or so more paychecks that Dolly did not submit with her big batch that comes on Wednesday. Although I was first taken back by Dolly’s John Malkovich reference, I realized she was a big fan, perhaps of me as well. The short Latina woman is simply adorable, and despite our almost daily interaction, she maintains a certain professionalism between us that enables me to subliminally say to her, “Hurry up and sign my paper missy. I got a million more stops to make today.”

Both Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Thursday in 2014. Checks normally delivered on Thursday went out on Wednesday. Dolly’s big batch came on Tuesday; thank heavenly angels that sing! I carried nearly 200 paper checks on New Year’s Eve and had more than 80 individual stops to make. If it were a Dolly/ John Malkovich day, I never would have finished on time.

One of the last stops on my thick paper manifest that windy Christmas Eve was on Madison Street. Having never been on Madison Street, and having made the mistake of attempting to deliver this new package in my batch to 176 Madison Avenue earlier that morning and wasting nearly a half hour to do so, I found myself walking up to the door of 176 Madison Street at 4:30 pm. I had just delivered to my playwright friend, Karimah on Henry Street and had to ask her where Madison Street was. She pointed over her shoulder through a window next to her desk where I could see massive housing complexes. “I can take you up through the church and let you out that door– a short cut,” she promised.” I knew that if I took Karimah up on her offer, we’d spend a half hour discussing her most recent work “Accept the Except” which I saw a few weeks ago.

Feeling like Santa in a rush, but with no Rudolph, I was glad that everyone who needed their paycheck to go Christmas shopping had what they needed at least one hour before Macy’s closed. I took a deep breath of pride, relieved to have made it to most of my customers before 5:00. Despite my desperate need to be discovered by an actor or by someone of importance like Karimah, I ran from the New Federal Theatre and made my way to Madison Street where my last delivery of the day was. The envelope was addressed to a tax firm.

Although a window on the second floor of 176 Madison Street promised Rapid Refunds, the place appeared dark and there was no door leading to the tax office window on the second floor. The place reminded me of an East Village clairvoyant storefront that promises everything from crystal healings to chackra kahn adjusting. One Seventy Six is a residential building. I asked two Latin men how one would gain access to that tax office.

“Oh, ya have ta go through the barber shop, papi. It’s in the back, but they are closed.”

“Do you think someone at the barber shop will sign for this package?”

I quickly entered the shop where a short, but big dick swinging rican was busy doing line-ups and such on the head of some fat chino who looked like he thought he was friends with Jay Z. How did I know such things about people I’ve never spoken to? I don’t know, I just do. It’s like that when you look famous.

“Hello. I have a delivery for the tax firm. Would it be possible to leave it with you?” I asked, never again wanting to come to this little hidden ghetto of the Lower East Side, having to carry my little dolly down a flight of cement stairs.

The sexy motha fucka grabbed the check in the same hand that was holding clippers. “Oh, sure. It’s addressed to Freddie. Hey do you want a haircut? We really do a good job here, and your shit is all jacked up. He looks like that dude from the Fifth Element.” Everyone in the shop laughed. So did the fat guy with his double chin buried in a hairy chest that I should not have had to look at on Christmas Eve. It was so cold and why wasn’t he wearing one of those plastic bibs? The barber was right, though. My hair must have been all matted down at that point and not sticking up like Bart Simpson’s like it does in the morning before I put up the hood on my hoodie.

“I cut it myself.” I bragged. “I just cut off the greys every week. I really don’t care what I look like anymore. When I was your age, it was important. Now it’s not.” I stated while turning to leave the place. I wanted to show him the North Face tag on my ghetto looking coat.

“Hey, wait a minute. You look just like that actor dude..”

“John Malkovich?” I asked.

“Fuck, yes.”

“Now that’s one ugly mother fucker,” I said. “Maybe I could get a job as his stunt double or something.”

“That’d work. Do car crashes and shit.”

Inner Silence

So much has changed with my writing style since my incarceration in a psychiatric ward. Wearing a little white gown with no underwear beneath, I carried a black notebook and filled it with many deciphered words that today, I can no longer interpret. I walked the hallways of the hospital all night long with pens stuck behind each ear, trying to ease an unbearable pain that seemed to be crushing me from within. Writing helped to stop what psychiatrists call “racing thoughts”. It was a tool I used to control my mind’s inability to stop thinking about everything.

One cannot imagine how fearful the state of racing thoughts is. It is terrible not to be able to shut worry down. Writing saved me from “intrusive thoughts” too—imaginings of the mind that seem placed there by an outside force, that I remain convinced was the CIA trying to steal my gift for gab on paper.

The power of the pen put an end to the horror of not harnessing my mind’s never ending run-on sentence, although a constant sadness has plagued me since the day of that great missing period. I came to an understanding with myself that I would have that pain of crushing sadness until I died, but found a strange happiness within, thanks mainly to the fact that all those worries had eased when I wrote.

Medication was not an option. While on anti-psychotics, I lost all desire to write, and sensed my soul had died. Perhaps it had and what brought it back was this gift.

Physical labor has killed my unending need to write, though. Writing had become like a racing thought too, only thoughts were somehow captured and not permitted run amuck. I work as a messenger and walk more than 10 miles a day, now. How the hell could I possibly write? I work on the weekends, cleaning multiple buildings. The Mexicans that live here look at me like I am crazy—if they only knew! None of them want the job of taking out the trash and cleaning up after others. It takes as certain character to be a porter and a writer.

Perhaps I have reached some level of enlightenment as an artist and don’t suffer from schizophrenia, like was once written of me. There is no longer a need to think, or even write like I have done constantly for the past ten years. There is a state of tranquility that comes over me as I walk all day, or sweep on the weekends. It’s a miracle of sorts, like a well written peace.

Gay Pie Crust

Frozen pie crusts are not flaky and should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. Although considerably less messy than hand-rolled pastry dough, these frozen, unleavened – motzah meals- on- wheels are more suited for preparing Mexican food than The Traditional Thanksgiving Dessert.

Cookbooks will lead readers to lengthy instructional manuals instructing once a year chefs to “chill shortening”, “use a cheesecloth”, and “cut shortening into flour using a pastry blender”.

My Aunt Mildred Brown taught me the real secret for making the perfect pie crust–

Measure 2 2/3 Cups of Flour in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix.

Add ½ Cup of Crisco shortening. Using  two fingers of just one hand, squeeze the shortening one pinch at a time and incorporate the flour. After the mixture resembles small peas, add 5 tablespoons of ice water, one at a time, with a fork.

Roll on a lightly floured surface using a wine bottle hand-dusted with flour.

Makes top and bottom crust– the perfect gay pastry.

A trout farm is located in a rushing mountain spring, just where Barney Town’s rain-washed barns fade from the glance of rearview mirrors in cars that travel on this curvy, potholed road towards the little town of Saltillo. A mountainside covered with scattered moss covered boulders seems to caress an icy spring that is ideal for the rearing of little trout. Motorist once drank from this same spring, before Poland Springs made us all dumb about the concept of good drinking water. They pulled their cars into George Wilber’s driveway, and acted like alcoholics having a last round before checking themselves in.

Up the mountainside that the road seems to cut through; along jagged pines and ancient maples, there is a little black house of two floors, adorned with small windows on the upper floors, where George’s two boys once slept in wooden beds filled with hand crocheted blankets.

Looking out the kitchen window at the back of the house, one sees a stone stairway, built from sandstone rocks, pulled from the mountain, as fish from a nearby mountain brook. Some have fossils, others are of a rusty-golden hue. George worked for a long time, building the steps. He carefully selected only the best that nearby nature had to offer. A portion of the spring water headed in the direction of the trout stream runs over the steps. George used common fiberglass tubing, the type of non-biodegradable material commonly found in most Home Depots and septic systems, to channel the water to his waterfall steps. Using his sharp mathematical mind, he carefully calculated the rush of water from an upstream pool he dug for the purpose of collecting water from an often violent stream, to first be filtered, and then sent rushing down pipes he buried under his own property. Laying the plastic white tubing was not easy. Often George had to insert elbow-shaped connectors to avoid huge tree roots and precious fern patches that he wished not to destroy.

A finishing touch to the home and the steps of water, was supposed be is a water wheel, stolen for practically nothing from an old mill that once functioned near Saltillo. Wilber’s plans were to install the water wheel too, next to his fountain steps and manufacture his own electricity. Although he was a college professor, he never installed the waterwheel that he purchased at some auction for around $20 when Reagan was still president. It seemed like a risky venture with so many droughts that do sometimes occur in this neck of the woods, where sand for the world’s largest, glass-lensed telescope, was built. The wooden, round waterwheel collected moss, and rotted over the years, but the steps are still there, and so are the stars that little boys these days rarely ponder upon through the magnification of simple concave lenses.

George looks out a large glass door as white tubes gather water from a stream, the moon has a ring around it, which means something to both the trout in the hatchery and old timers who once worked in the mills, just steps away from this paradise, but the professor, for the life of him, cannot remember what the Old Farmer’s Almanac had to say about rings around the moon, just after a time change.

George Wible drinks a cup of coffee before bed made from a pot of spring water he gathered in a glass carafe just steps from his cottage. He watches water pour from a moon behind a row of pines, and believes for one second it came from the big dipper.

George’s waterfall seemed to vanish under the patio, just outside huge, sliding- glass doors. It did. Sparkling, crisp spring water that could wash away profits from Poland Springs, if ever George was to bottle it, came from high up on the mountain and drained down a larger, off-grey, fiber-glass tube of sorts, and ran through a fruit cellar filled with mostly peaches and apples that George grew down near route 522. Although traffic is minimal there, still, the rare passing motorist at 3 am is enough to awake the high school teacher an hour early or so. Having water run under his home drowned any noise coming from the road.

George dug the cellar beneath his home one handful at a time. It took several summers to complete the task, as the clay beneath his home was packed tightly. George was determined to find a means to bring his waterfall to his back door. The only way to make it possible was to channel water that ran down his stone stairway under the house. He believed the subtle rush of water under the home not only silence late night cars, but bring peace upon the house. It seemed to. His children were highly gifted. The boys both won the John Phillip Susa Band award at Southern Huntingdon High. Although there was no monetary grant associated with the award, their names were engraved upon a wooden plaque, with brass nameplates that listed the best ever to cascade over the seemingly endless names of musical youth in Southern’s marching band. Their musical gifts, George believed, had a lot to do with the un-chlorinated water his sons started drinking soon after they were off the bottle and the sound of peace he managed to create all around and under their home. Using the keys on his piano, he had determined that the percussion caused by cascading water on his stone steps was a perfect G flat.

George’s gingered hair sons brought Southern’s marching band to near college-level status, as trombonists, who, while marching in the front line, just behind a row of short-skirted majorettes during the Huntingdon Halloween parade, brought the sleepy little town of deer hunters awake, intellectually, with solo-like performances in front of at least seventy-six trumpets and various woodwinds that did not stand a chance being heard and appreciated by the masses like the red-headed Wible boys and their trombones. George trained them classically on the piano while he built a waterfall of steps and a fruit cellar. He wanted to guarantee that the Calvary Baptist Church would always have a pianist.

Water witches are as common as edible mushrooms on wooded highlands of Huntingdon County. Men with forked tree branches are capable of detecting highly-pure drinkable spring water, far underground, for the purpose of digging wells for homesteads as well as for those living in trailers. Like users of an Ouija Board, using enchanted sticks of the devil which seem to react to a gravitational pull straight from dry, old Hell, ‘dousers’ as they are called in more modern times, have wetted the tongues of sinful liars for as long as man could write and spread the word of God. “One must simply trust in the spirit and let go of fear and shaking and permit nature—the living God work right through the stick you are carrying.” That’s how George tried to explain the craft to his two red-headed sons and his wife Eva-Dean. Neither of his boys had shaking in their hands like George did as a little boy. They seemed to be molded after Eva-Dean who could crochet a winter scarf while peeling potatoes for dinner.

Although not officially endorsed by local preachers, these modern day “seers” with the gift of finding water as tasty as the Jordan, are not considered to be committing sin by ‘once saved, always saved Baptists as some sort of demon-possessed, thirsty souls of cheap trickery, but rather as essential members of the congregation, who, if alive in Biblical times, would have been able to part small seas simply by waving those magical little sticks.

George built his house not only on rock, but on what he deemed as patch of woodland thoroughly cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Using a v-shaped branch of a birch tree, one he had scrapped the bark from and boiled in water for tea, he walked for miles upon Jack’s Mountain pointing his stick, midriff, and waited to be moved by the clearest signal. The set of steps just outside his back door were built on the exact spot where his birch twig was ripped from his freckled hand and stuck in the dirt among a patch of tall, lettuce-green ferns. Although a crystal clear spring flowed adjacent to his property, it was an underground spring George sought. On Jack’s Mountain, water that has been filtered underground, through massive deposits of sandstone, is most soothing to trembling hands that most water-witches are born with.

George hoped to one day invite members of the Calvary Baptist Church, the second Baptist Church of Saltillo to his steps, where the sacred ceremony of Baptism could be handled just as it had been done to Jesus, and not with some sort of birdbath like the Catholics use, or worse yet, a Dixie cup, which George had seen used for the Baptism of infants by Methodists.

The hidden spring under the stone steps would never touch the skin of anyone repenting in George’s back yard, but the water-witch knew the power of the hidden spring that grabbed a birch twig from his very hands could quite possibly offer healing to anyone with just a little faith and a willingness to be Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if anyone being washed on the stone steps with fossils suddenly felt a need to run off into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, Jack’s Mountain was just up the steps.

Bailey House is a hospice for people with AIDS. I volunteered there for several years in the early 1990’s. Before modern HIV medications were on the market, the atmosphere at the hospice was that of hopelessness.

The hospice is located at the very end of Christopher Street, and is still run by a ruthless lesbian who stops at nothing to raise funding to keep the place alive, even though residence there no longer drop off like flies trapped between a screen and a window.

Long ago, during the age prior to the Stonewall Riots, the hotel was home to a popular gay disco. According to old queens who managed to survive our community’s little holocaust, the place was quite seedy, even on gay standards. The rooms of the hotel were cheap and were not meant to be rented for entire nights. Neon lights framed the entrance to a small dance floor where Donna Summer was once worshipped. Those green lights were still around the first floor offices inside of Bailey House after the place had been converted to a home for the seriously ill. There was no light switch for those neon lights, and as far as anyone knew, no electrical current serviced them.

When some of the gay men died, apparently those who had gone to heaven, the neon lights glowed on the eve of their passage. Staff searched fruitlessly for many years to find a switch that someone apparently was turning on every time someone died. No such switch was ever found.

Doris is afraid of pigeons. The rodent birds of New York City cause the bleached blonde hair of the seemingly fearless black woman to stand on end. How she works as a foot messenger in Manhattan is anyone’s guess; but she somehow manages to steer clear of them, often running to opposite sides of the street to avoid flocks that feed on crumbs scattered by lonely New Yorkers who adore these winged carriers.

“My mother made me watch that movie ‘The Birds’ when I was little. People don’t know that birds can fuck you up like that,” Doris explained one afternoon as we walked up Eighth Avenue on our way to Starbucks where I first introduced Doris to her first “expensive as hell” cup of frozen macchiato. “Let’s walk on this side. I hate those damned things.”

I giggled and tried to explain to Doris that the movie was mere fiction, but the glimmer of Doris’s door-knocker earrings caught my eye as a crumb may move the emotions of a hungry bird, and I followed her as if we were wild geese flying in V formation to our favorite resting place on Friday afternoons.

It seemed Doris was being melodramatic about the birds—she is after all gay friendly. She often uses those gay catch phrases like “honey child” to address me. I never told her I was gay, but I let her assume I’m a queen, even though I never once referred to her as “sista” nor have I told her those earrings are so ’80’s.

I was walking down that same stretch of Eighth Avenue early one morning and noticed that bleached blonde hair several blocks in front of me, even though it was still dark outside. I knew I could catch up with my friend; the crosswalk light had changed and Doris came to a halt alongside a group of other pedestrians. I noticed Doris’s hands flying way up in the air—a sign I know very well—Doris was either cussing someone out, or something had rattled her nerves.

It was then I noticed three pigeons flying above the heads of those waiting for the light to change. “Get the fuck away from me,” Doris screamed. A woman in business attire attempted to move away from Doris, assuming she may be mad, but I soon caught up to the crowd and put my arms around my friend and laughed. “They are not going to hurt you,” I reassured. “Oh, it’s you. Thank God!” she said.

I shared the story with the dispatcher at work. A group of messengers awaiting daily manifests overheard the tale. Most were not surprised at the story I had shared.
Later that afternoon, Doris injured her back on the job. While walking into a building with double glass doors, her backpack got hooked on the first door she had walked through, pulling her back and onto a hard marble floor. I ran into Doris on her way home that day. She explained what had happened. I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a pigeon that had grabbed onto that backpack as the light-skinned blonde simply tried to do her job in a town that is so overrun by those damned birds.

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