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Monday, March 31, 2008

ON THE SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK: RANDOM STRANGENESS

This past Saturday I went to brunch with my sister in her Lower East Side neighborhood at a very good, dirt cheap eatery called Alias, but I arrived about a half hour early, so I wandered about the unfamiliar block looking for a bottle of Gatorade (I was a bit dehydrated from the previous evening's adventures). There were a number of convenience stores and bodegas within sight, but I chose the one that labeled itself a "botanica" and went in search of the blessed electrolyte booster.

When I entered the place I noticed that the shelves toward the front of the place were pretty much bare, the only thing within immediate sight being the drinks cooler. I glanced through the cooler's glass but didn't notice any Gatorade, so I scoped out the rear of the store and found it stocked with ancient canned goods whose labels had faded somewhat, but that was a moot point since the cans were encrusted with the dust of the ages. Still detecting no Gatorade, I turned my head to the left and almost jumped out of my skin when I came face-to-face with this horror:


There, in a doorless closet, was a life-sized likeness of a sore-covered religious figure, clearly of the biblical variety, on crutches and flanked by two also-life-sized replicas of dogs. The damned thing totally creeped me out and held the aspect of some strange mutant survivor of the apocalypse rising from his lair deep within the sewer's underworld. Shuddering, I made my way back to the front counter and asked the storekeeper if he had any Gatorade. He roused from his torpor and pointed out the precious elixir, hidden behind some of those cheap fruit punch grenades that ghetto neighborhoods are rife with, and as I grabbed a bottle I noticed the counter's strange decor, a four-foot long landscape of scratched "win fast" game cards, peanut shells, and assorted unnameable ephemera that I recognized as belonging to either Voodoo or Santeria disciplines. Presiding over this arcane clutter was an ash tray/incense burner fused to a cast iron skillet-black metal likeness of a laughing black man in what was either a kufi or a fez, and bedecked in an outfit that would have been totally appropriate for a native extra in a 1930's Tarzan movie. I think he was supposed to be a likeness of Papa Shango, but I'm not sure; I didn't ask, nor did I take a photo of it because I thought it best not to press my luck.

Then, back home in Brooklyn, I came across this tag on the 20th Street side of a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint I love on Fifth Avenue:

I have no idea who "Tony Crak" is, but apparently he's the king of something. Perhaps crack.

7 comments:

Senter said...

I believe that the archaic "Biblical" figure you encountered was none other than Saint Roch, an early 14th century homeboy associated with aiding those inflicted with the plague (after many years of killing brain cells, this is one of those factoids irrevocably sutured to my brain by Jesuit schooling). Not sure what the dog represents... just know that he was always pictured with it.

And you wonder why The Exorcist continues to be the scariest movie of all time!

--=MR.JOE=-- said...

Thats Lazarus from the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

Luke 16:19-31

http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke16.htm

--=MR.JOE=--

Anonymous said...

Too much religion makes people creepy.

Joseph said...

Not enough makes them assholes.

--=MR.JOE=--

Bunche said...

So I guess that means you would consider me an asshole. Thanks, Joe.

Joseph said...

No I wouldn't consider you an asshole. If I thought you were an asshole I wouldn't read your blog or bother to reply.

I believe in the T-Triple-A theory of "There's Always An Asshole."

Sometimes that asshole is me, sometimes its you or whoever.

Someone who claims to have never been an asshole is an asshole claiming to never have been an asshole.

--=MR.JOE=--

Bunche said...

Thanks for the clarification on that.