(The Ego And The ID by Franz West – Photos by Joe)
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
The door to the paranormal is wedged open upon my foot. To move away would be to lose the foot . . .
Days ago on the cobbled corner of South Street and Peck Slip by The Paris Café, my friends and I had watched in horror as a soldier who is said to have been abducted by demons during the Battle of Brooklyn was annihilated by one of his captors. I wrote about the killing in the conclusion of the previous episode titled: See The Light.
Afraid of a fate similar to the soldier’s, last Thursday afternoon I went in search of Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” I wanted to let him know that I was open to his guidance.
Benny’s an old homeless man with a beguiling smile and clairvoyant powers. A believer in reincarnation, his own to be sure, he says that he was one of the Lenni Lenape Indians on the shore the day that Henry Hudson sailed into what would become NY Harbor.
I’ve sensed for some time that the cigar store Indian sees me as his protégé, and that he would like for me to more readily accept the paranormal.
Benny may sound like an interesting sort, but I have to be in the mood for him. He regularly pops up as I make my way home from my miserable demolition job. Where after a day spent in a cloud of dust and debris, my ears ringing with Spanish music and head filled with disparaging thoughts about my lack-luster future, I find no reprieve in his stories or observations. I want only for cold beer, not for someone to point out paranormal crap that will haunt me in and out of sleep.
On Thursday, I had ambled through Benny’s stomping grounds: the Seaport, Union Square, and Central Park. It was hot and my mind was rife with thoughts. On my way, I slugged down some cold beers at the deli’s where I found them on ice.
It was well after 7 pm when I spotted Benny by the corner of Central Park South(W59th St.) and 5th Avenue. That corner is the gateway to Central Park called Grand Army Plaza–not to be confused with the G.A.P. in Brooklyn.
To my left was the Plaza Hotel and behind me on the right was FAO Schwartz toy store that everyone knows from the movie Big with Tom Hanks.
It was humid as heck and Benny wore a long coat. It was so homeless of him.
(Grand Army Plaza, Central Park)
Though the cigar store Indian didn’t immediately look in my direction, the light in his eyes indicated he had become aware of my presence. I waited until he passed a full garbage can with a sideways glance, and got a safe distance before I approached him. Benny loves to pick through trash, and I didn’t want him to be sidetracked while we talked.
He remained silent for a moment. His eyes drifted to various points in the lush green park. His tanned face and head were covered in two-day stubble. I lighted on his bushy black eyebrows. That was a feature I surely hadn’t noticed in the past.
I took a closer look at him. His eyes were hazel, though in the past they’ve also been brown and blue. Benny’s not your average indigent. Facial changes aside, he’s always kept himself fairly clean. Even that evening, the coat and slacks he wore were both faded though clean and not tattered. They looked like he just plucked them out of a good will bin.
Given Benny’s air of mystery (eh-hem), it’s hard to fully trust him.
“You smell like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup,” I called out to him with a laugh, which isn’t so bad for a homeless man. “Take off the jacket, it’s freaking hot as hell!”
He laughed with a twinkle in his eye that lighted generously upon me. I focused on the wide space between his yellow teeth. The bastard was happy! He effervesced. It made his smile more than palatable.
“You know about what happened the other day to us at the Seaport,” I said, and watched him blink in the affirmative. Benny has his ways of knowing about certain things, and I didn’t question him.
For a time, he stared at me and gave a closed-mouth smile. He seemed a bit daft. It made it even harder to admit a need for his tutelage.
“I’ve finally concluded that there is no where for me to turn to now,” I said matter-of-factly. “There is no escape from the supernatural.” The next few words came out in a guttural crackle. “It’s time I learn.”
Benny’s clear, confident gaze fixed deep into Central Park. “Turn to the good,” he said, wistfully as his eyes brightened. “You need to know there is more good out there than evil. The good can show you paranormal wonder. It can protect you.”
I said nothing, intrigued by Benny’s calm, cool silence. In the future, I needed to learn how to curb my emotions and emulate him. Such control would surely ease the personal, professional, and paranormal aspects of my life.
The cigar store Indian lifted his compact brown hand in the direction of 5th Ave. that ran for *2.5 miles between the park and some of the most luxurious and stately buildings to be found in NYC, if not the entire world. “Up that way is someone truly special. Go and see if he will speak with you.” Benny lifted his chin. “He is sitting on one of the benches aside the park wall.”
About ten or so blocks up I saw a disturbance in the air where the trees dipped low over the street. It looked like a gray cloud infested with bugs. I guessed it was where the man sat.
(General William Tecumseh Sherman Statue at Grand Army Plaza)
“Open your heart and he will embrace you,” Benny said, his cadence and even choice of words unlike any of the other times we had spoken in the past. It was like he was “reaching” deeper into me . . .
“Let your emotions rule the moment,” the cigar store Indian continued, “and the evil that tracks him will color your aura, and he will not show his face.”
“There’s no easy way, only calm,” I said softly.
“Evil clings to thoughts, good and bad,” Benny said in a low voice, as if he was trying like a hypnotist to get into my head. “Close your mind and open your heart. Good finds the heart.”
I stared through what seemed a maze of trees lining the 5th Ave. side of the park and thought how in all the time that I’ve known the cigar store Indian–for some strange reason the duration of which escapes me even now–it seemed like the first time he had been somber and serious with me. It must have reflected my acquiescence, which was all he would get from me. (For the record: I never asked Benny to be my teacher, though he is now, I guess.)
I started off up 5th Avenue, wishing I had another cold one.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Thirty-One – August 2010
*Central Park perimeter = 6 miles (2.5 miles up and down the avenues and .5 miles across Central Park North and South) – Source www.CentralPark.com