Dear Santa, I only want one thing for Christmas this year, but it’s really important.
I need a new Savior.
I’m not complaining about the old savior. He’s cool, but his story has been totally co-opted over the past few thousand years by the starched and polished set, and…well… that’s just not my bag. I know this is a lot to ask since you’re a Saint and all. I totally get that there might be a conflict of interest here, and all’s I can say is that if MY savior catches on, I’ll put in a word with him and you’ll not only be able to keep your gig, but I’ll also lean on him to spruce up your benefits package, too. I bet a summer place in Maui probably sounds pretty good around January 1st, right? Also, how’s your major medical? Sorry to be the one to tell you, but at your weight and age, you’re a coronary waiting to happen. I totally promise that my guy will give you solid coverage.
I don’t need any huge changes in the basic Savior model. I want a guy who’s generally pure of heart and understands the import of universal love and a good gut laugh. I want a guy who’s got the juice to thumb his nose at accepted convention. I mean, really, what good is a Savoir who can’t go ninja on the money changers every now and then? Also, I’d really like to keep the “water into wine” option. That trick never gets old to me. One more thing, just like the last Savior, I’m looking for a guy who doesn’t mind hanging out with hookers and the homeless, a real “down with the people / least of my brothers” kind of hombre.
Santa, please don’t say no. I’m looking for a fresh start and only you can help me. Also, it’ll be wicked easy because I’ve already found my new Savior. His name is David Daloia, and he has single handedly resurrected my hopes for mankind. The only problem is that he lives in New York and he doesn’t know anything about me or his church in waiting. Please, Santa, please buy him a one way ticket (economy, on the aisle is fine) from New York’s LaGuardia to Guatemala’s Aurora before springtime next year. Oh, and he’ll probably need a passport. I don’t think he’s traveled much, and he’s had a few problems with the law over the years. I’ll do the rest. Just please place the ticket under his tree and leave a note that he’s got at least one follower in Little Antigua. And, if you’ve got room in the sleigh, drop him this month’s column, too.
The Surly Bartender
When does death occur? What line divides the here and the hereafter?
Is it the last flutter of the heart, the last wave of the brain, the last inspiration of the soul? Does the head, severed from the shoulders, gain new perspective as it bounces in the basket after the execution? Does the starling cease to be when the hunter releases the inescapable blast or only when the lead finds its mark? Does the 40 year old depressive who’s just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge only truly begin to live as he approaches the concrete tensility of the water below and thinks – “hey, you know, I’ve only really got one problem in life, and it’s that I just jumped off the fucking Golden Gate Bridge.”? Was lobotomized MacMurphy still actually alive when Chief came to his hospital cot with that pillow?
These questions have been troubling my sleep of late.
It all started about ten months ago when I met another New Yorker in Café No Sé and was forced, for the first time in years, to reflect upon the sad and spiritless lump of concrete, Yuppie fat, rebar, and drywall, that my former home has become. Years ago, when I first moved to New York it was positively Roman. With $150 and a good pair of rubber boots you could experience absolutely anything the animal mind of man had dredged from his collective depths – the kind of joys and temptations that the good Christians poo-poo publicly and then tease themselves with in private. That was New York’s promise to the world – to always be a place of libertinism, lust for life, and a general disregard for law. But now there’s nary a flicker left in New York’s glassed-over eye, and if The City can be sanitized by purveyors of commercial decency and illusory language, then what will become of the rest of the world, what will become of Antigua?
As I so sat with the guy, Cal from Tribeca, a “guerrilla marketer” or some such bullshit, and he praised the success of the “broken windows policies of New York’s Finest,” I felt the promise of a joyful, borderline insane future bleeding from my heart.
Today in New York, the admittedly bungled and the proudly botched have been either evicted or driven underground, forced to live in fear or fall victim to the finger pointing, mouth agape, eyes-staring zombies on our own personal Invasion of the Body Snatchers soundstage. What remains is a designer suit bound soullessness. Where once I drank cheap coffee to the grounds, architects sit and sip seven dollar lattes, celebrating that the cabs now take credit cards and that the squeegee men have been exiled to Yonkers. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo.
While I’d largely buried the memories, standing behind the bar I found myself once more fearing that New York City had utterly flat-lined as the well-coifed Cal from Tribeca asked me to make him a Mango Mojito while reminiscing about some snoot-fest martini club on the Upper East Side. That was it. A Mango Mojito brought it all rushing, painfully, back to the surface like I was finally choking up an unshelled chestnut that had lodged in the pit of my stomach years before.
I reflexively poured myself a shot of mezcal and turned my face towards the open door of No Sé, hoping that a Khe Sahn vet would roll up on his Harley and kick both our asses just for being lame.
Sitting in Antigua, almost as much as visiting New York these days, is like taking a deathwatch turn next to your best drinking buddy’s hospital bed after he got kicked in the head by a horse. His big eyes loll up at yours; a small smile crosses his lips and you think there might still be something striving to live… but it’s just gas. He farts thinly and drools, while you remember how much you loved this guy for his ability to get shit drunk while unashamedly chucking intellectual shuriken into the chest of any fool who’d left a stray, argumentative thread dangling from his uniform.
It makes you want to cry.
But my family is still in New York – and nothing much had been going on down here, so last winter I boarded a Spirit Airlines Cattle Car in the Sky and headed homeward, depressed and expecting the worst, only to find waiting for me, at the first newsstand I passed, a story which reminded me that hope must spring eternal, even in Hell’s Kitchen. Especially in Hell’s Kitchen.
But before we get to the hope, here’s some history.