Old Seven sailed over with Hudson
(Replica of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon/Halve Maen – uncredited)
“Some say he came over with Columbus,” said Benny, “the cigar Store Indian,” who is an old man with a slight build and boyish face. He shook his head.“Columbus didn’t know where he was going. He wouldn’t have taken such a chance. No. He came over with Hudson. I saw him get off the ship.”
The five of us, including my lady friend(LF) and I, along with the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) were having a picnic in Battery Park City. We sat on benches with a view of NY Bay. Benny had happened upon us out of the blue, which he has a habit of doing. Btw, my friend Edgar, his wife, and bambino were on their way to meet us. I know I mentioned Edgar once before in the blog . . .
Benny had been quiet for the previous twenty minutes. His gray eyes were fixed out over the water. Before that he had told us about his father’s first impression of Henry Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon. He had seen the vessel enter the harbor, while fishing with members of his tribe. The date was September, 1609. Click here for that story. (Benny believes he’s been reincarnated.) His father thought it was a great seabird. The other Lenape Indians out with him believed they had seen a supreme being known as the great Mannitto.
(Photo by Bald Punk – Battery Park City)
We were all eating except for my LF, who was talking on the phone with her sister. No one was paying much attention to Benny.
“Mmmm, this is dee-lish-ous,” I said, munching on this hero that was like three feet long. I like heroes. I really can’t tell you what was on it because I don’t know. Remember when I told you how my LF swore off KFC, and we now buy crazy food that doesn’t have names at Whole Foods . . . Well, the hero was crazy food. I know there was cheese on it and some whacked-out kind of mayo, but it was good. So don’t hate me.
Benny spoke under his breath to himself. My LF closed her phone and asked me what we were talking about.
“Who did what?” I asked Benny, my eyes twisted in circles as I looked best I could between the hero bread, which was supported by my hands and forearms. I spotted avocados and lettuce that looked so weird it must have been flown to outer space and back. Or at least developed by NASA. I’m pretty sure of that. Pretty sure . . .
“Old Seven came over with Henry Hudson,” Benny said.
“Who, Benny,” my LF asked in about as sweet a tone as a person could. The pizza and Chinese delivery guys nodded. Because that’s what they were put on this Earth to do. Nod. Oh! And to annoy me, too. Come to think of it — they probably came down from space with the lettuce.
“You haven’t heard of Old Seven?” Benny asked.
We looked blankly back at him (some of us looking more vapidly than others).
“Is it a person?” I asked, semi-interested in another of his Henry Hudson’s tales.
“Old Seven is a demon. He came over from Europe with Henry Hudson.”
(Henry Hudson coming to NY by David Cunningham Lithgow)
We all looked at Benny and waited. He’s not the kind of person that needs to be egged on to tell a story. And he can prattle for hours. I’ve gone into stores, left him outside while he was mid-sentence, only to come out and have him pick up right where he left off. I bet he’d be a good troubadour. He’s not a good homeless person, but that’s a story for another day.
“After my father and the other braves had returned from sighting what many believed was the great Mannitto while on a fishing trip, we moved to the tip of our island to look for Him. The chieftains thought that was the best place because of the vantage.
“There was a clearing there, too, and it was where we had many a celebration. It was also serviced by the widest trail on the island.”
“You’re talking about the Wickquasgeck Trail, which is now Broadway,” I said.
“Yes!” Benny replied, his whole face reflecting a slight aura. “As a child, I walked up and down that trail thousands of times. I can remember climbing the rocks by what is now Grace Church at 10th Street. When I walk along Broadway today, in my head, I can still see hills, swamps, byways, streams, and woodlands.”
(Photo by Bald Punk – Grace Church on Broadway)
“That sounds so amazing,” my LF said, while num and nuts both tightened their eyes and puckered their lips.
Benny smiled, and by the way he did so, it was clear he believed what he was telling us 1000%.
My mind started to wander, and I said the next thing that popped into my head. “The Half Moon replica, is that ship the same size as the original? It seems small.” After I said that I went back to my sandwich, munching away like a nut. Every once in a while I had to point at the hero and make noises because it was ‘that good.
Benny couldn’t say for certain if the replica was an exact copy.
(Replica of the Half Moon – Exact size as original – uncredited)
“What do you remember when you first saw the ship?” my LF added.
Benny smiled again. He’s 70-something, yet when he smiles, he looks like an 8-year-old boy, especially when his eyes twinkle.
“We were practicing a dance of welcome,” he said and showed us. “Left heel, right toe, left toe, right heel, and spin.” He gave a gap-toothed grin. “One of the braves, I can’t remember his name, ‘water meets sky’ something–his voice was sweet as molasses. He would sing a short verse and we would repeat his lyric. There were about twenty of us dancing in three different circles. We all moved counter clockwise. There were perhaps forty more. All of us were singing. I was deliriously excited. We all were.
“Someone bayed like a wolf, and we came to an abrupt stop. That included the singing, too.
“A brave pointed toward Brooklyn that was all rolling green hills. Much of it was dense forests. I scanned the harbor and saw big-white wings. They hovered over the water.
“It wasn’t until it moved much closer that one of the chieftains told us to dance again.
“I kept looking over as the object drifted steadily toward us. Just like my father, I too had thought it was a great seabird.
“One of my friends cried out that it looked like a floating house. When we saw men moving on its deck, we stopped dancing. Some braves were told to man canoes and row out to them. They returned soon enough, accompanied by the strangers who were on their own small boat that had been let down over the side of the Half Moon.
“I can remember fearfully staring at the boat filled with the ‘white men’ as we called the strangers. I only realized years later that my fear was instinctual. It was because Old Seven was with them.”
Next post in this series, Benny tells us more about the demon named Old Seven.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Eighteen – October 2009