New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Believer

Last night I went to karate after work, and then I took the F-train to 14th and Sixth and transferred to the L-train to go home to Brooklyn. When the L got to Union Square a tall black guy, about my age, got on the train and stood about five feet from where I was leaning against the door.

In a booming voice he began to address his captive audience. The train was crowded, not quite like rush hour, but there were no unoccupied seats and many people standing.

At first I thought it was going to be the typical hard-luck story which every New Yorker has heard thousands of times, but it soon became clear that this was a man who felt it imperative to tell us about religion, as he sees it.

"Most people don't understand the way God works," he said, implying that he, for one, does.

I had already heard enough and moved to the other end of the car, but his voice was loud enough to carry. He had that certain skill shared by opera singers and some homeless people where it's not so much about volume but finding just the right vocal pitch to make his words sail through the air and penetrate everybody's concentration, regardless of how hard they try to ignore it.

"Most of you think that if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds when you die you will be allowed into heaven," he said. "But it doesn't work that way."

"You are all sinners," he continued. "But being a sinner doesn't mean you are a bad person, it just means you need to accept Jesus into you heart as your personal saviour."

He went on and on like this as the train went under the East River. At Bedford Avenue, the first stop in Brooklyn, about six people dashed out of our car and into the next car, to avoid the sermon. One twenty-something blond girl was wearing shaggy white fake fur boots.

I got out at the next stop, Lorimer Street, and walked to Sal's Pizza to pick up some dinner. I was walking behind a couple who also were headed to Sal's, an African American couple who were seemed to have artistic sensibilities. The guy was wearing a dark overcoat and had very neat shoulder-length dreadlocks. He was wearing Philip Johnson-style eyeglasses. His girlfriend or wife also had neat braids. The guy held the door for me as I went into Sal's. We recognized each other from the subway.

They ordered their pizza, and then I ordered my pizza. There weren't too many different pies out so my choices were pretty simple. I politely blurted out my order and then said to the guy "that was easy."

I paused for a second and then added "because I'm a sinner."

The guy laughed and told me he was ready to have a word with our subway evangelist. He wanted to suggest to him that if he had something to say, he might as well say it to his face, but thought better of it when he realized just how much conviction our preacher had in his beliefs.

I told him that he did the right thing, and probably saved himself a lot of fire and brimstone talk by pretending to ignore him. I told him that I have nothing against religion, but that nobody wants to be beaten over the head with a bible. He agreed, I got my pizza and walked home.

Jenn was home and busy with a financial workshop assignment. I ate my pizza and watched The Apprentice. In the end, John the jackass got fired, which was certainly the right choice, but Chris the whiney baby was almost equally expendable.

I've been realizing that the candidates represented are far from the most promising candidates Trump could have chosen to be his actual apprentice. Some of them are complete idiots, but, for reasons only Mark Burnett understands, they make for good television.

The Contender, which came on next, makes a little more sense, cast-wise. The candidates are ostensibly the best middleweight boxers in the country, so they got on the show based (mostly) on their boxing skills. But this also might explain why the non-boxing parts of the show are so boring. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue to watch it. I find myself wishing that I was just watching a regular boxing match on Showtime or something.

I will say that the fights on the show are pretty good matchups, though. And it was nice to see a cameo of big George Foreman last night. Technically, George and I are coworkers, because he's on the Esquire masthead as our spiritual advisor, and he occasionally writes "sermons" for our magazine. His stuff is good, and I like him as a person (though I have not met him). Last year he wrote a sermon about how he stopped cussing, and I wrote a small jokey sidebar to it about how to not cuss, which suggested some alternatives to the more common vulgarities. You might say Big George and I were "on the same page." (Sorry.)

It was snowing this morning but now the sky has cleared. I'm pleased that it's Friday.


Blogger Jenn said...

God...bless America! What the stink? I would have told that nincompoop `I take issue with your premise.'
Or just to blow it out his arse.
[See Esquire's May '04 issue for Victor's translation].

12:33 PM  

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