Forces of Heaven and Hell . . .
(Photos by Bald Punk – Birds Leaving Tompkins Square Park)
I can’t get the eyes of a demon named Old Seven out of my head. At all hours of the day and night, I can see him staring at me from Avenue A in the East Village. I confided in a clairvoyant known as Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” He said Old Seven merely left an imprint on Avenue A. He also said that all I need to do to erase it, is walk through it.
I was bopping my head to U2’s “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” on my iPod as I came up the stairs from the Astor Street Station. Scrappy D was buttoned up inside my shirt. I half-expected to be met by a ray of sunlight when I passed out from under the green kiosk. I shut my iPod and removed the earbuds. It was the start of the gloaming. The clear blue sky overhead had a winter-gray hue.
My lady friend(LF), and the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) were behind me. They plodded up the grimy subways steps. We all wore black track suits with red and white stripes on the arms and down the outside of the pant legs. The outfits were my LF’s idea to boast my confidence. We wore similar tracksuits once before when we had success with an exorcism.
There was no direct sun waiting for me. Though I still had an expectant feeling. My eyes darted high-and-low, from K-Mart nestled in the lower floors of a building on my right, to the Cooper Union Foundation Building across the street, to the colorful St. Mark’s Place on my left. I picked up on a voice–
“Don’t you dare,” came a breathy whisper inside my head. “Don’t you dare come here.”
My joints locked as I realized it must be Old Seven. He knew what I was going to do. Erase his imprint from Avenue A. Evict him from my head . . .
My friends eyed me. I made a vacuous face and brushed my cheek against Scrappy D’s head. He looked up with his huge, mofo eyes.
I gave Scrappy a kiss on his forehead and handed him to my LF. “Don’t give him to them,” I told her, and wagged a finger at num and nuts. They both squinted, folded their arms, and lifted their chins to me.
“You’re upset and nervous, don’t take it out on your friends,” my LF said.
“Listen,” I began in a hooty-snooty manner, “when Old Seven comes and rips my leg off and starts beating me to death with my own appendage, I don’t want to have to worry that those two are going to run into traffic with my dog.”
“Just hold him, okay!” I said, tweaking Scrappy’s snout as I looked one more time deep into his eyes. For a dog, he has a beautiful soul. Just looking at him makes me feel good.
“No need to scream it,” my LF said, arms wrapped around Scrappy D as she lifted a shoulder to me. She pushed her lips to her nose and made a face to show to num and nuts that she was on their side.
“Keep two store-lengths behind me,” I cried and pointed to the sidewalk.
“Why are you yelling?” my LF said, her eyes jumped to me, while she also scanned the area. “Do you hear ghostly music, now?”
I gave a jittery head-and-shoulders shake without giving a proper reply. I knew the music–just like Old Seven’s eyes that floated on my internal periphery–was “there.”
We headed east on St. Mark’s Place. The street is like an arrow through the heart of the East Village. It plunges directly into Tompkins Square Park, which stretches on Avenue A from East 7th to East 10th.
Traffic on 3rd Avenue swooshed by as I found myself envisioning a forest thick with green trees. The scent of log fires filled my nostrils. For some reason, I couldn’t ignore “the music” any longer.
The marching beat of a snare drum came to me. The rattle of the skin touched me as only music can. I knew it was from the ghost world. I pictured an enfeebled, grubby soldier. I imagined he wore a tattered-woolen uniform as he pounded a field drum to the sounds of artillery fire.
At that same moment, “the voice” of presumably Old Seven, was speaking. Yet it was too low to hear. Though I imagined he was cursing my demise. Because the weight of his voice still managed to touch me . . .
Over the next few blocks Old Seven’s whispers had me paralyzed with fear.
(Larry Wright – Street bucket drummer from NYC)
With the trees of Tompkins Square in sight, I called my LF on my cell. “This is freaking crazy! Why are we doing this?”
“Because those eyes of Old Seven’s will cause you do something crazy,” my LF reminded me. “They almost made you jump in front of a train. Whatever it takes, Baldie, we have to fix this now.”
My eyes drifted before she had finished. I whipped around as Old Seven spoke loud and clear to me. “The ghost slave named Hardy lies,” he said, referring his caretaker. “Hardy tricked you to come here. He will imprison you as he does the angel, Old Seven.”
I gritted my teeth and cried, “You lie. Old Seven is a demon.” The words seemed to be pushed out of me by some unknown force.
“You know the angel, Grace,” the demon said. “She has tried to save Old Seven from Hardy’s clutches.”
“Grace knows Old Seven is evil, and not Hardy,” I said in a grunting manner.
“Say my name.”
I gasped and tried not to speak, yet couldn’t help the words from passing my lips, “Old Seven.”
“Your praise is salubrious!”
“Old Seven, Old Seven, Old Seven!” I cried convulsively as I shook my arms and waved my hands. I looked to my friends for help. They had inexplicably turned to look in a shop window. The distraction was so unlike my LF. Old Seven must have sway over her, too. Before I could call out, the demon somehow raised the level of the pounding “war” drum.
I started to get dizzy and concentrated on keeping my balance. I wound up walking very quickly. It felt like some unknown forces was tugging me along.
“You have the heart of a goat,” Old Seven cried. “I could just as easily drink your blood as have you do my bidding.”
Shoulders arched and head flung back, I arrived at the corner of Avenue A. I had no intentions of crossing the street and going inside Tompkins Square. But my feet were moving. I managed to pull my head forward and rest it on my shoulder.
Old Seven seemed to be reeling me in.
(Tompkins Square Park)
On the sidewalk, I passed the vendors of a farmers market. They were selling fruits, breads, cheeses, and meats. Most had begun to pack up for the day. I went inside the park. The pavement paths mostly seem to wind and crisscross. I saw a slight homeless man who looked like Benny, “the cigar store Indian.”
The old man laughed and it was only then I could see that it wasn’t Benny. This old man before me had pointy teeth and a ghastly evil shown in his reddish-colored eyes. It cut through to my soul.
I was certain that it was Old Seven!
Not a second later a black hand fell on the demon’s shoulder and pulled him to his feet. “That you, Hardy,” Old Seven said calmly. “Just having ‘sum fun, you ol’ Negro bastard.”
All I saw of Hardy was his smooth, black arm and guiding hand. He took the demon through thick clouds that seemed to sustain the pink and orange of a setting sun.
For a minute or two I walked through Tompkins Square in a near-daze. I spotted Niagara’s bar across the street. Down the sidewalk, midway in the block was where I had seen Old Seven’s eyes for the past week. They were finally gone from my head.
(Joe Strummer mural – Niagara’s on Avenue A)
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Six – February 2010
Tompkins Square Park (Photos only)