Before you read this, I would like to offer this entry not as a justification or an explanation of who I am, what I see, or where I stand but instead, I offer this as a humble gesture that in fact, good things happen in this world. There are good people everywhere you turn. Trust me on this one.
Now, with that being mentioned, I know that we’ve spoken before about my ideas of driving out west on an open road. I doubt that I am alone with the idea to head out with no restriction, no obstructions and no distractions. We’ve talked about my ides of visiting small, quiet or unknown towns where little festivals take over the neighborhood for a weekend.
I can imagine these places, wholesome and quaint, friendly as ever, and welcoming as ever too, as if even a stranger is welcome like family. I can envision the small roads and the little houses in the towns and I can picture the openness that takes place between people who live by the golden rules and honor their neighbors as they would themselves. I’d like to see this.
I’d like to see this for myself and experience a journey that takes place in our modern day and age and find a place where I can sit for a while or enjoy a cold glass of country-style lemonade or maybe find a peach cobbler or a slice of warm apple pie.
I want to take a trip to places where I’ve read about. I want to find myself in a little town like nowhere else. Maybe I can find myself at a town like say, somewhere in Topeka, Kansas. Or maybe even a smaller or less known place like the town of Helen in the state of Georgia or Fulton, Maryland. Then again, there are others which I have read about. These are towns that were noted as the best or safest places to live, such as Nassau Springs, Texas or Cave Springs in Arkansas. To be fair and perfectly clear, I know absolutely nothing about these towns. All I know is that I’ve read about them from a list of best places to live in the southern part of my country.
I would love to see what a home cooked meal is like at places like this. I wonder how I would be received in towns like this – or, would I face the typical responses about my accent, which by all means is a clear indication of where I am from. By the way, I’m proud of my roots. I’m proud of my City. I’m proud of the way I speak. My City is where I’ve learned to live and explore yet I am comfortable exploring in the sense that no matter where I go, New York will always be my home.
Come to think of it, I seldom see what the news reports about my City. I am not saying that crime does not exist. I am not saying that terrible things are not happening. But, what I am saying is that good things happen here too. It’s just that, well – the news doesn’t care about simple little rescues or the fact that there is love in this world. Put simple, the news cares about ratings – it’s a business and for the media, business is good wherever drama takes place.
The news receives no attention for reporting the goodness or the soulful approach that I have seen at street-level. The media has no interest in the common goodness or reporting that in spite of the madness around us and in spite of the reports of fear-mongering and the crime or whatever else the media shows – I can say that I have seen amazing moments in my City. Only, no one ever hears about this because there’s no money in this. There’s no draw for attention. There’s no ratings in the happenstance of life; in which case, people meet and smile or say please and thank you.
I have seen greatness in the wake of certain tragedies that took place in my City. I have seen greatness in its truest form. I have seen kindness that tip the scales in an unbelievable direction. I have seen the hands that touched the homeless and equally, I have heard the voice of saints – who quite literally are true saints from our streets and yes, this was all here; right here in New York City.
I can say that I have met the best in the world. No one else could match them or compare. Namely one, of course, Father Mike otherwise known as Father Mychal Judge. This was a great man. (Casualty #0001 September 11, 2001)
I have mentioned him in earlier publications. However, it is important that I mention him again.
I watched this man feed people who could not feed themselves. I watched him touch the filthiest of the filthy without flinching or hesitation. In his grace, I witnessed Father Mike speak with people who were seen as otherwise outcasts or low lives. I watched him offer time to the so-called unworthy scum or to the bums, junkies, crooks and criminals.
I can say this because at a time in my young adulthood when no one would even spit on me, let alone help me; Father Mike stood with me on the steps at St. Francis Church on 31st Street. He talked to me after a meeting which took place at noontime in a room called The Bookshop.
He stood by me in spite of my craziness and in spite of my hatred and hostility. Father Mike did not flinch or judge nor complain.
But you’ll never hear about this type of thing on the news. Instead, the news looked to report controversy.
You’ll never hear about the abundance of love or what it was like to sit with a man named Hank and have a bowl of soup. You’ll never know about a man named Neil or Nick or Mike D.
You’ll never know about the sauciness of a man named Frank who, in his own regard, considered himself somewhat of an old queen, bitchy as ever yet Frank had the ability to warm up to people and share a side of himself that was rarely seen by anyone else.
I loved this man.
The news never reports about people like this. They never talk about the friendly strategies of two people who learned to get along, regardless of their differences. Instead, the news is the new promotion of politics as a means of a new religion because at times like this, it doesn’t matter who you pray to – it’s all about who you vote for.
You’ll never hear about my friend Anthony R and the way he helps people find housing and gets them through treatment so they can live a good clean life.
Sure, you’ll hear the news about the overdoses and the epidemic which, for some reason; the news reports our social problem as a new phenomenon. I have news for you – mental illness has been around for centuries and so has the gene or the genetic connection to substance or alcohol use disorders.
The news will never tell you about my friend Mathias (may he rest in peace) nor will the news report about the lives which this man has touched (namely mine). Instead, the news would rather report his death or maybe the papers would read something like, “A corrections officer was found dead in his home last Sunday after taking his own life and hanging himself in the bathroom of his home in the Bronx.” – And yes, information was changed in this segment to protect the anonymity of my friend; however, this next portion will go unchanged.
I sat with Mathias as a means to survive through an empty and abysmal time in my life. I was scared as ever and facing the aftermath of a hard decision and this man was both brotherly and fatherly to me.
“You sit with me from now on” and “If you ever feel some type of way, you come to me.”
He told me, “I will help you,” but the news never reports about people like Mathias.
Mathias and I ate together. We shared time together. We lived together in a small place in a town called Kerhonkson, New York.
The news never talks about the lifesaving abilities that we have, nor does the media care about the sharing nature of good, honest and loving qualities of our society. And they’re here. Right here in the heart of my City. Only, you’ll never know because nobody reports about the beauty that exist from the subways, underground, to the tips and the tops of our tallest buildings. There’s beauty everywhere. I promise you.
Sure, I talk about taking a trip to some of these little towns. And sure, I would love to visit different places namely Marina Del Rey in California and relive a dish and a meal and a moment beneath the sun. However, this is my town and to be clear; there are places in New York City where the food is fantastic and the crowd is colorful.
There are places in my City like nowhere else. Namely, there is a roof on top of a building which has been a place of employment for me. This roof and I have been acquainted with each other for more than 15 years. I have had coffee up here. I’ve told my secrets to the stars on nights when I was on the late shift. I’ve come here to tell my thoughts to the New York City skyline and yes, I’ve talked to Father Mike from this roof as well.
This is me. A native New Yorker.
Maybe I could take you on a tour. Would that be okay?
Maybe we could find some of the little places that are otherwise gold mines and like I said; since food is love, maybe we can go on a tour to find the best dishes of their kind. Maybe we can start from the Uptown side. Or, maybe we can do something small and go to a little spot on 18th Street near Irving Plaza. I ate there once, a long time ago, and this was right about the time my life was about to change
I know there’s a lot of bad things going on in the world right now.
If you ask me, it looks like everybody hears about it
Then again, there’s a lot of good things happening too.
But if you ask me, no one looks to see it.
In closing, Father Mike was out to lunch with friends a few weeks before the attacks on 9/11.
He told is friends that he felt something was about to happen and that there was a change about to come his way.
What a lunch that must have been because two weeks later, my City was under attack. There were thousands of souls lost on that day with no one to direct them or comfort them. I suppose Father Mike was right. There was a change for him and if I think about it, who else would be qualified to lead those who perished on that day.
Father Mike was in command – to comfort them
and to walk them home through the journey of afterlife.
Sleep well my friend.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had my lunch at the bookshop at noon.
But just so you know …
I’m still here and I’m still doing what you taught me.
Oh, and send a message to Matthias for me if you can.
Tell him that I’m paying it forward. Just like he did with me.