Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Never Say Not Never

My younger brother died on AIDS in 1995. Our family buried him in the town cemetery. I couldn't speak at the funeral and I said little after the burial. My sisters knew that I had a packet of airline tickets in my pocket. Each destination offered a holy site, at which I would prayed for my brother's passage into the Here-Beyond. They were;

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet
The Bodhi Tree
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

I stopped at a few go-go bars on the way. When I got back to the States, a Hassidic friend from the Diamond District asked why I hadn't gone to the Western Wall. "You say a prayer and then stick a paper with your brother's name in the wall. It's a Mitzvah." I understand how the Jews consider the Western Wall or Wailing Wall one of the holiest sites in the world for Jewish worship. It was built by Herod, the original bacon Jew, 19 years before the birth of the Great Troublemaker. The stones weigh between 2 and 8 tons.


I hadn't thought about that weight for a long time, but this morning I had bicycled to Fort Tilden Park. After a swim I tried to lift a water-soaked log out of the sand.


Not for the builders of the Second Temple.

The Glory of Yahweh suffered greatly at the hands of the Romans. The Latin rulers banned Jews from Jerusalem for centuries after their revolt in 135AD. After the Arab conquest the Jews were left the Wailing Wall as a reminder of what they had lost. The Western Wall still exerts incredible power over both Jews and Muslims as well as Born Again Christians in America, who believe that the Ten Commandments connect God to this world, but they like many Israelis also believe that Arabs were interlopers on the Holy Land and the current Prime Minister of the Middle Eastern Apartheid state has vowed to never give up the Western Wall along with the rejection of right to return for the refugees over the occupation of Palestine.

The refugees number in the millions.

Jordan 1,983,733
Lebanon 425,640
Syria 472,109
West Bank 778,993
Gaza Strip 1,106,195

My grocer in Fort Greene is Palestinian and late this morning I entered the store on South Portland for ice. The long ride back had sapped my body strength and I needed fluids.

"Do me a favor." Ralph looked over my shoulder to where a Latino man my age was haranguing his young worker.

"You want me to say something."

"Only say. Nothing else."

"You got it." I had been bullied as a child and walked over to the two men.

The Puerto Rican man was a construction worker. His clothes were covered in dust. He was taking a break from his sixth day of work. He held a long Bud in his hand and was talking bad in Spanish.

"Yo, hermano, why you picking on the boy?"

"He lazy. I say some shit. Just joking."

"No one's laughing. You're my age. 50s. We're supposed to be helping the young. This boy has a job. Not many kids can say that, because these are hard times. So lay off the young brother." I was asking nice and added, "We have to be make each other stronger. We can't let the world beat us down. Not us against us."

"Yeah." He was non-committal. It had been a long week.

"Yo, young boy, he give you any trouble, let me know and give me $10. I'll punch him once. Not to hurt him, but to let him know you have back-up." I walked back to the counter and the construction worker left the shop.

Ralph was happy with my discourse, because couldn't talk to customers this way.

"What else you need?"

"A bacon and egg sandwich with cheese." I gave him a ten. Ralph gave me the change. The construction worker was drinking his beer outside. I clapped him on the shoulder.

"Work safe."

"Same to you." We shook hands and I rode my bike home with the sandwich and ice.

I do love my bacon. ps my brother's name is Michael Charles Smith

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