First Time I Met The Cigar Store Indian
(Photos by Bald Punk – Title: Pigeon Walks The Line)
The first time I laid my eyes on the cigar store Indian, he was just an old man feeding the pigeons in Central Park.
Clear as day, I can remember how he was hunched, a bag of Wonder Bread dangling from his knobby fingers as he flicked bits of the enriched victuals to the birds’ winged-excitement. In retrospect, my most salient thought was, “Why me?”
WHY ME? That day he opened a door I can’t shut–ever.
To begin with, I try to I live by the aphorism, “all things in moderation.” Some may say different of me, but in relative terms, on NYC’s terms, I’m a Saint.
The cigar store Indian whose name is Benny, might be one, too. He’s the sweetest, nicest, most huggable homeless person I’ve ever met. But I don’t want to bear the burden of his knowledge. He tips the scales in the wrong direction, toward a place I don’t want to go. And whatever is in that place, knows about me because of Benny.
At the very least, you know I’ve seen ghosts. (See posts below) We have one in our apartment! But I’m not having séances or zipping out to the store to buy a high tech camera, so I can take pictures of the thing—and I drew the line with exorcisms. I’m not getting involved with that crap again. Unh-unh, no way! For a week after we did one, each night it was like my eyelids were stapled open.
Fear never sits well in my corporation–in my gut.
(Cont’d below these links…)
Newbie’s, you can read about my ghost and exorcism here:
Episode Eleven: June 2009 (The Ghost!)
Episode Twelve: June 2009 (Ghost Crushers!)
I’ve told Benny more than a few times, “Isn’t there someone else you can scare the shit out of.” I don’t know if there is, when I say that he laughs like I’m not serious. Come to think of it, the only person I’ve ever seen Benny talk to besides me is my lady friend(LF).
My LF kisses and hugs the bastard when she sees him (um, no comment). You have to see them together! They have a secret language of winks and smiles, as they try and talk without me hearing. Good thing I don’t wink, and only smile when I see food, beer, and my LF, otherwise, my smile is pending.
(Pitt Street door archway — To set the mood for story)
On that fateful day in Central Park when I met Benny, it was his smile and the way his eyes lit that drew me to him. Plus his posture was so relaxed, and his habit of slow and deliberate gestures was calming. I’m the opposite. It’s like my body is in the pocket of a slingshot, constantly being stretched back.
–Benny a real charmer! He’s one of those rare people that has a beautiful nature.
That day I laughed when Benny told me he used to be a cigar store Indian. After that, I hardly blinked when he told me, “There are a few people, people who live again and again and again.”
“Reincarnated,” I had said, completely unaware that with those words Benny had released the trapped door from under my feet and dropped me down into the belly of the beast. To this day, I have the mark of knowing in my eyes that I can’t ever shake.
“No,” Benny retorted with the airs of an expert you see on the History Channel. “They are being perfected. They die, and come back, sometimes days or months later”
“How do you know?” I asked, not believing him, but interested all the same.
He tilted his head and smiled. It was a long while before he next spoke. He seemed to be giving me time to let it all sink in.
“There’s one such person that I’ve met by the Seaport,” he finally said. “His name is Max Beckley, and he’s been around since the Revolution.”
“The American Revolution?”
Benny looked away and nodded. “Sometimes he’s alive for just a few hours.”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
The old homeless man shrugged.
(NY Society For Ethical Culture Building)
After that my face went blank and Benny went back to the pigeons, many of whom were staring at him.
Then my friend Edgar from work showed up. He’s about 5’2”, 125 pounds, and I swear to god he should be tested for steroids. He can whip a heavy bag of rubble on his back like he’s a bull of a man–and he never gets tired. Guy’s definitely on something. He’s cool as shit, too, and fast as a mf. You know when we play soccer, I make sure I’m on his team.
Edgar dropped his soccer ball, and we moved toward the field. I looked back.
“I’ll talk to you again sometime,” Benny said with a careful gaze, making sure to look right in my eyes.
I nodded politely. But in retrospect, Benny must have taken that simple gesture as an invitation to screw up my life.
— — —
(Doors, First Church of Christ Science)
Next post in this series I will relay what Benny told me about the time he spent as a cigar store Indian.
*I need to use the word “salient” more. Every time I do it makes me think about Henry Miller.
Check out the video I made in Central Park —>>> Chillin’ In My Backyard 4th Of July Weekend
I cut the below paragraph from the middle of the above post after I posted it. It was like a thumbprint in a picture, or a coffee stain on a new shirt.
The bastard I mean Benny . . . (Have you noticed I say “bastard” and “shit” a lot less. In earlier posts every other word outta my mouth and onto BaldPunk.com was “shit.” I might have even dropped an F-bomb, though I think my LF redacted those posts. She says just because I’m a poor slob without an ounce of motivation to get a real job, I read enough to be able to exercise my vocab when writing. Or maybe I said that??? Anyway, sometimes it’s tough to change hats–from demolition worker to blogger extraordinaire. I slip back and forth as you can see. . . . I will need another “post do-over” if I wander like this. Up top, I was going to write “the bastard was pitching bread at the birds . . .” Okay, time for a mental deep breath, and to regroup my cranial minions. Some are thinking “ice cream,” others want to make like a plant on the couch.)
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Fifteen – August 2009