THE WRITING OF HISTORY by Peter Nolan Smith

The dead never come back to life and I know that since I’ve almost died on several occasions from motorcycle accidents, beatings, and chemical misjudgments, although none of these near-fatal incidents must not have been too serious, because my soul was never enveloped by the tunnel of light.

When I returned to the USA from Thailand in 2008, my friends and family recited the list of the missing. Few of the deceased were close, however I was deeply saddened by the demise of Howie Hermann. The owner of our diamond exchange was a 15 year-old at heart.

Each Monday evening we met at the 2nd Avenue Deli for a sandwich and then drove over to the 20th Street shooting range. His other friends pulled off a few rounds on their personal weapons, but Howie would bring special guns for me.

22 Sportsmans.

Lugers.

Colt 45s.

Whatever I wanted, because I liked shooting a pistol and Howie liked having someone with whom he could shoot for an hour. He was as good as they get and his death was even more traumatic, since his loving son Josh had preceded him into the cosmos. I counted my blessings to have known them both, especially since Howard was a man of peace.

“Everyone in the world is the same.”

Howard treated everyone like they were family and I was glad to have him call me a friend.

Over the next weeks I noticed a few more faces missing from 47th Street and I asked for Lenny the Bum.

No one had seen him for months and finally someone said that he had passed away in 2007.

“He’s a Trombenik.” Manny my boss hated Lenny.

The Yiddish expression was new to me, but I divined its meaning, since Manny had worked from the time that he was old enough to wear long pants and Lenny begged for his living.

“Better he should be in Gan Eden without a penny to his name.” Manny wasn’t very religious, but his hard edge bestowed him with a belief of suffering in the after-life for bums like Lenny.

I’m a humanist. My heaven and hell exists in the now, but I was surprised to see Lenny back amongst the living in 2009 and he was angry at my listing him among the deceased on mangozeen.com.

I was surprised that he read my writing.

“I’m a big fan, but could you bring me back to life?” he pleaded with a whining tenor.

“Like Lazarus and you won’t smell as bad.” Lenny looked in better shape than when I departed the States in 2001, although his balding head was sporting an ugly growth and his weight had to be over 250.

“I don’t wash too much, but I have some place to live. I have to take care of my sister. If it was just me, I’d still be living on the street. I like the fresh air.” His clothing was clean and his breath was shy of the old bouquet of cheap brandy. “I stopped drinking too much. Now a little too much, but not often.”

Lenny asked about my kids in Thailand and I gave him another dollar. He knew his audience.

Over the past years we have discussed politics, Israel, heaven, Obama, Iraq, and my trips to Thailand. His stock advice made me a few dollars last year and I hold my sand about the personal stories that he tells me about his life.

This week Lenny and I have been engaged in a debate about Egypt and the threat to Israel from the change of regime.

“Lenny, this is not about democracy. This is about revolution and the rich versus the poor. Democracy has failed the Egyptians. It has failed the Iraqis and it has failed in America.”

“Maybe, but the Muslim Brotherhood is going to kill all the Jews.”

“Lenny, you’re too smart than to believe that propaganda.”

“Have you ever read the Koran?”

“No.” I haven’t read that book or the Talmud or Thomas Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN or James Joyce’s ULYSEES and millions of other books.

“You know that Mohammad married an eight year-old?”

“Alyessa.” The Mother of Islam was young. Some people say that the prophet bedded her at ten. Others at 15. I could only counter with the truth, because the truth of history is understanding that nothing is true. “Abraham was 86 when he bedded Hagar and he threw her and his son into the desert. So don’t get high and mighty about the old times.”

My boss Manny rapped on the window.

He had no time for my discussions with Lenny. Every second with the Jewish beggar was one lost to his business and I re-entered the diamond exchange.

Later that evening I passed Lenny on my way to the bank. Angie had to buy school books and Fenway needed some medicine and Fluke and Noi were asking their mother was sweets.

Lenny stopped me in front of the 20 Exchange.

“Damian, you know the Arabs hate us. Mohammad killed all the Jews of Medina.”

“Because they backed the idolaters of Mecca.” I had been surprised to read how deeply the Jews of Arabia had figured into the rise and fall of Islam.

“Islam comes from the Bible.”

“And the Bible comes from the ancient religions. It’s all bullshit to me and the Christians and Jews and Muslims kill each other for their beliefs. There is only one good and one evil.” I was tired and had lose my track, but then asked, “How many Palestinians were on the planes of 9/11. How many at Dachau? Answer me that.”

“The grand Mufti of Jerusalem had 10,000 SS troops at his command.” Lenny shouted in the cold winter air and I made a note to check this riposte once I got home to Fort Greene.

Lenny might have been crazy, but he was no fool and I read online about how the Grand Mufti fled Palestine to Nazi Germany, where he encouraged Bosnian Muslims to wage jihad against the Serbs and Jews of Yugoslavia. The 1943 Hanzar SS Division were ruthless during the savage civil war during the Nazi occupation, horrifying their German overlords, but I could find nothing about Palestinians working for the Nazis.

Only the Grand Mufti who worked both sides of the fence between the Axis and Allies to restrict Jewish migration to Palestine.

“Lenny, let me ask you a question.” I confronted Lenny the next afternoon.

People on the street had heard about our discussion and stood close to hear what the Sheygutz and the Trombenik had to say about Nazis in Palestine.

We spoke for several seconds. I told him my findings.

“They still hate us.” He was talking about the Palestinians.

“As would anyone who stole their lands.” I was Irish and my antipathy for the English was buried by knowing too many good people from Britain, even if they thought the Irish were the first niggers. “You know Howard had nothing against anyone.”

“Howard was a good man. He didn’t let me into the exchange, but he was generous.” Lenny sniffed back a tear.

“He was good people, same as you, same as me, same as everyone, fi you give them a chance.

I had to get home and gave him a dollar. It was not a bribe and he said, “Thanks for bringing me back to life.”

“It’s an easy miracle with a live person.”

“I love you, Damian.”

“And I love you.”

Omnes vincit amor.

But anyone coming back from the dead knows that ‘love conquers all’.

Memories Of Palestine

Several years ago I was getting gold chains on 47th Street to show a customer at the Plaza Hotel store opened by Richie Boy. Business was slow at the exchange and the older gold dealer asked with a Levantine accent, “Where are you from?”

“Boston.” No one in the Diamond District had ever asked my origins. I am a goy. Gentiles don’t really count except on the Shabbath, when the Hassidim need us to turn on the lights.

“Are you Jewish?” He picked out several heavy necklaces.

“No, I’m the Shabbath Goy.”

“I’m not Jewish either. I’m an Armenian born in Israel.” Armenians are scattered through the jewelry business. “I left in 1957.”

“That’s a while ago.” I had been five when he arrived in the USA

“I’ve spent my entire working life on this street.”

“And have you ever seen times like this?” I signed the memo.

“Never.”

“Not even in Palestine.” I put the gold necklaces into a packet and slipped it into my jacket.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone on this street call it that.” He smiled with a lost sadness. “Palestine. It wasn’t like they said. All that dreck about changing the land from desert. Feh. It was beautiful. More natural. Like Utah. And the fruit. It wasn’t fake like now. But what can you do?”

“Just remember I guess.” Like I remember so many good things in New York like the Second Avenue Deli, the St. Mark’s Movie Theater, and CBGBs.

“Well, have a good day.”

I thanked him for his best wishes and headed back to the Plaza Hotel. It was a little after 10.

My cellphone rang. It was Richie Boy.

“Why aren’t you at the Plaza?”

“I had to pick up some pieces to show a customer.” The Plaza store had nothing like them in our inventory

“Hurry up.”

“Yeah, sure.” I hung up and slowed my pace.

In the past no one was in such a hurry as the 21st Century.

Certainly not in Boston and not Palestine.

I was going to open late.

It happened every day when business was slow.

It was a land of many faiths.

A land of Milk and Honey.

Palestine had access to the sea.

The Wailing Wall.

The beauty of Palestine is not gone.

Just buried under modernity.

FREE THE WORLD

In 2011 gold soared to record prices and a steady flow of customers entered our diamond exchange on West 47th Street to sell their precious jewelry and family heirlooms. They were of all ages, nationalities, and races. Most of them were honest, but buying stolen merchandise or swag was a crime. Richie Boy, his father Manny, and I didn’t care who they are as long as they possess a valid ID for our police records. None of us were young men and we had too little to gain from doing the wrong thing, when we could churn out a 5% profit.

Our first question to these sellers was, “How much do you want?”

Most of them said that they don’t know, but we were in the middle of the block and they had already spoken to thirty dealers.

“Let me check it out.” I ignored their feigned ignorance and tested the gold for karat and weight.

We calculated everything in pennyweights or 1/20th of an ounce. The Middle Age measurement confused the buyer, but we always handed them a slip of paper from a adding machine. Everyone still understood numbers written in black and white.

I told them a simple truth.

“The final price is determined by the market value of an ounce of gold, which fluctuated day to day.”

In 2011 the price soared toward $2000/oz.

Weight and carat determined the scrap worth of gold.

We paid nothing for sentimental value.

Our firm had a good reputation for paying the most on the street.

We had a pitch.

“We only make 5% on this.”

It was almost the truth, but some pieces could be flipped for more, especially diamond rings.

Late in the summer a young man of Semitic descent approached my counter. He had a diamond ring in a bag. It was the relic of a ruined romance.

After settling on a price of $1500, I advised the young man to buy something for himself.

“Paying off bills does not soothe a broken heart, but for $1500 you can buy a good used motorcycle. Let me see your ID.”
I took his driver’s license.

His name was Arab and I entered it in the police book.

“Are you from Iraq?”

“No, Palestine,” Mohammed spoke flawless English. His father had grocery stores in Queens. He was running three of them.

“Palestine is a forbidden name on this street.” 47th Street was predominantly Jewish.

“People on this street back Israel right or wrong.”

“I know that Israel could do no wrong in their eyes. I come from Palestine. Not Judah.”

As a goy I had my own beliefs.

“I’m half-Irish. My people lived under the British for four hundred years. I can only say one thing.”

“Which is?” He was used to America’s prejudice against Palestine.

The movie EXODUS had cast blue-eyed Paul Newman as a member of the Zionist terrorist gang and a young blonde Jill Haworth as a kibbutz farmer. There were no Hassidim in the film.

Only tough white-skinned fighters.

“Free Palestine.” I had a tee-shirt in my closet stating the same slogan.

I raised my fist, the accepted sign of world revolution.

“Good, but it is better to free the world.” Mohammed smiled and accepted his money. “I’ll think about that bike and you think about the world.”

“I’ll do that.” I leaned away from the counter slightly stunned by his desire for world peace..

I had been taught an important lesson by this young man.

A simple lesson.

All politics that are local are also global.

They effect everyone.

Everywhere.

Free Palestine.

Free the World.

Donald Tweet Columbus Day

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Christopher Columbus’s spirit of determination & adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On #ColumbusDay, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, & celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

In truth Columbus voyaged west with the knowledge of Portugese and Basque fishermen, who harvested Cod from the Georges Bank off Newfoundland. The Vikings had also reached the Western Continent along with Irish monks. The Admiral of the Seven Oceans amazingly lost no one despite the Santa Maria running aground on Chri

stmas Day 1492, although the thirty-nine sailors he left on Hispanola were massacred by the Caribs after tormenting the Arawaks surrounding their colony.

After that Columbus and the Spaniards treated the indigenous people as slaves without souls. He was no saint, then again neither is Donald Trump.

Presidential Proclamation on Columbus Day, 2018

In 1492, Christopher Columbus and his mighty three-ship fleet, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, first spotted the Americas. His historic achievement ushered in an Age of Discovery that expanded our knowledge of the world. Columbus’s daring journey marked the beginning of centuries of transatlantic exploration that transformed the Western Hemisphere. On Columbus Day, we commemorate the achievements of this skilled Italian explorer and recognize his courage, will power, and ambition — all values we cherish as Americans.

Columbus’s spirit of determination and adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On Columbus Day, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, and celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. His expedition formed the initial bond between Europe and the Americas, and changed the world forever. Today, in that spirit, we continue to seek new horizons for greater opportunity and further discovery on land, in sea, and in space.

Although Spain sponsored his voyage, Columbus was, in fact, a proud citizen of the Italian City of Genoa. As we celebrate the tremendous strides our Nation has made since his arrival, we acknowledge the important contributions of Italian Americans to our country’s culture, business, and civic life. We are also thankful for our relationship with Italy, a great ally that shares our strong, unwavering commitment to peace and prosperity.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 8, 2018, as Columbus Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

So Speaketh Da Trumpster.

The dead can only speak to ghosts.