Monday, 9 August 2010

Rolling For Jesus

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

We were going to go upstate to take a few days together alone and decompress after a stressful week of breaking up and not breaking up and going fucking crazy.

Marie's friend's car wouldn't start when we got up to leave around noon on Sunday. A couple of Orthodox Jews were the only ones who would stop to try and give us a jump on Havemeyer. They pulled up like urban do-good commandos. They were bad ass. They hopped out and went right to it, blocking traffic for a full block in front of our apartment in the process without the slightest hesitation, as though the good work trumped any minor traffic inconvenience. I like their attitude. This city's so fucked up that the only people who will lend a helping hand are bound to by God's law - Marie had sat outside for three hours the night before trying to bribe people to help her. "Hopefully it works!" our large payot haired helper in his understated black and white outfit said as the car horns blared behind us and he motioned for Marie to turn the key. It didn't. And horns blasted. But the imprint of the good deed of God's commando team left me beaming. It takes some real balls to go out of your way to help someone in the midst of stifling indifference.

An hour later the tow truck showed up as Marie and I sat on the ground, wilted under the shade of a tree, near an overflowing dumpster next to the car, drinking iced coffee, as little kids walking with their mothers turned and looked and I contemplated on how cynical and indifferent I'd become since I moved to New York City.

The day before I'd sat in the bathtub like a four year old kid with bubbles in my hair, staring blankly at the wall trying to figure out what to do with my life, thinking of how I despised the impersonal, harsh and unforgiving vibrations of the city. "What are you doing, baby?" Marie asked as she peeked through the open door of the bathroom. We'd been arguing, fighting, trying to sort things out after she'd come back from upstate. "I think I just need to get out of here," I said. "I just wanna get on a plane and go." "Where do you want to go, baby?." "I don't know. Somewhere where people give a shit." "Your not in your right mind, baby." "I still wanna go."

After the tow truck took the car away we walked through the heat to the silver bullet of an airstream trailer where my friend from Texas cooked in the blurred border between Williamsburg and Bushwick. Sweat beaded on our skin as we sipped our lemonades and read the Sunday Times, talking about an article that posed the question of whether or not happiness can be bought. The article said that once your basic needs are met, money means fuck all. What does seem to be important, however, is the quality the relationships in your life. "I wanna live somewhere where I feel part of the surrounding community, not isolated from it," I said. "It's too fucking impersonal here." "You're free to make friends here," Marie said. "Nobody has time for friends here." "I'm glad you've stuck with me though, baby," she said, "I think we can make a life for ourselves somewhere else. I'm up for it."

My head ached a dull, tired, stressed out ache as we walked, then stopped, then walked, then stopped, block after block, resting in the shade, Marie smoking, me thinking, until we made it all the way to the free summer Sunday concert series at the waterfront that looked out across to the shimmering starkness of Manhattan, as a guy in a cut off t-shirt jumped around on stage yelling into the mic, a dj pumping his fist at the ambling crowd, in between bands.

We sat on a rock watching the concert people as we alternately looked out at the skyline of the city, gray clouds billowing, diffusing the sun, as I thought to myself that I didn't know one person in the midst of all those people there, and that that was my neighborhood. "Thank you for not giving up on me," I said, leaning into Marie, my beard tickling her ear, causing her to laugh as she shot me a playful glance.

We left before the next band came on and caught a cab to see a movie playing at the Landmark Sunshine Theater on Houston St. The driver let us out in front handball courts teeming with activity. "I'm not sure about a city where smacking a ball against a wall is considered entertainment," I told Marie. "They don't do that other places." "No, baby. There's better things to do in other places."

As we exited after the movie a large white faced clock stood ominously atop a building surrounded by dark clouds as the ink blue sky faded into black.

We sat at an outdoor table on the sidewalk in front of a pizza place near the Lower East side, candlelight from the table glowing off Marie's face as crowds and cars passed by in a steady distracting stream, her private thoughts filling her eyes with a longing sadness as she smoked, and I reflected how the city mirrored her sooty stare.

After dinner we walked through the darkened grimy streets of the Lower East Side under the glimmering lights of the city toward the Williamsburg bridge, toward home. A cab stopped as we approached the arced lit cables of the bridge. "Come on," the cabbie yelled! "I'm goin' that way anyway. Just give me a couple of bucks!"

His cab was overflowing with with pictures, business cards and mementos from his life. He smiled gregariously. The meter was off. He had unruly hair, a beard and electric eyes. He gave me his business card as we sped across the bridge, suspended in air. 'Rolling for Jesus' it said. "I'm a preacher, seer, street evangelist!" he said, his eye catching mine in the rear view mirror as the Manhattan skyline reeled by in my periphery.

He pulled the cab off to the side of the road under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway as we rounded the corner near our apartment. "This is close enough," I said. He flipped on the light and turned to look at me and Marie. "Let me leave you two with some couples advice. For the man: don't be tempted. Don't let others into your bed. For the woman: Accept him for who he is. Don't try to change him. Grow together but give each other space. And love each other."



  1. YOU are the most underrated writer in America. Ask Steve to get you an agent.---Neil Elliott

  2. Thanks. I met him once here in New York City when he gave a workshop in Chelsea. We didn't have a chance to talk much, just briefly when I caught him in the hall before the class on his way to the soda machine. He was a nice guy.


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