In 1977 I was living in Park Slope with James Spicer. The silver-haired jazz impressario was representing several stars and only charged me $120 for a room in the spacious townhouse. We drank up the street at the Gaslight Pub. James thrived on the streetwise clientele and I sparred with a Frenchman for pinball supremacy. Michel was better with the flippers, while I mastered the machine's bump and grind without tilting the ball. James drank hard and heavy, while hitting on the young Irish thugs frequenting the old school bar. It wasn't unusual for him to get up in the morning with a black eye. He had a thing for rough trade.
Late on an April night I woke in my room. James was kneeling by the bed, anointing my feet with oil.
"James, what the fuck are you doing?"
"I thought you might like this. It's Maundy Thursday."
"You're a bad Catholic." James disapproved of my atheism. "Today the Church celebrates the Washing of the Feet."
"By Mary Magdalene?" I didn't recall her having anything to do with Jesus' fatal visit to Jerusalem.
"No, no, no, that was early in the New Testament. "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair." That was that time, but this is before the Last Supper."
"James, thanks, but I really would like to go back to sleep."
"Sure, I understand you have no traditions." The forty year-old New Yorker stumbled from my bedroom and I wiped the oil from my feet.
I haven't had my feet oiled since, but across the world Catholics and Christians are celebrating Maundy Thursday.
In Luxembourg children wander the streets with wooden clappers calling the faithful to church.
Throughout Western Europe and America bishops bless holy oils for the sacraments.
None of these rites can compare with the ablution of a drunken gay man.
It was an act of love.