Being some reflections of a man selling art on the streets *
No. 7 – For world peace, sit on my face
A couple of posts ago I complained about being generalized against as an Englishman in America. Now I’m going to entirely undermine myself by conforming to the stereotype by quoting Shakespeare. But not to worry, Old Bill’s a hero of mine and his being dead has the added advantage that, unlike the Royals, I don’t have to read about it in the newspapers every time he gets married or goes to a party in a stupid costume or farts in a restaurant etc.
“All the world’s a stage,” said Shakespeare. “And all the men and women merely players.”
Today in Union Square the human theater was out in full force. Shakespeare would have loved this place. I think he could have found enough material to get him going on a new comedy, at least a few tragedies. Two tragedies were playing out today on the steps by the southeast corner, just a few yards from where you may recall the sewer monster was beached last time round.
These two bums slept the whole day. They missed the World Falundafa Day celebrations going in the square just a short distance from where they were snoozing. Falundafa (or Falun Gong) is a spiritual practice started 20 years ago and which now claims to have millions of adherents around the world, 70 million of them in China.
The main principal of this “spiritual practice” (“It’s not a religion,” a young man who claimed to have had his life turned around by it told me), the main thing seems to be you have to sing really crappy songs off-key. As a result, watching the celebrations roll out was like witnessing an episode of American Idol filmed live from a mental asylum. I can only imagine what the bum’s dreams were like. Hideous nightmares no doubt soundtracked by screaming sirens and the hounds of hell howling at the moon.
The afternoon’s performances included Mr Wang Chin, who apparently won an MTV vocal competition, singing the catchily-titled “We are aware.” Actually Mr Chin had a decent tenor but “We are aware” sounded like it had been written by a sixth grade music teacher suffering a mental breakdown. According to their promotional literature, the Falundafas are persecuted for their beliefs in China. It is a terrible thing that someone should be persecuted for their belief. For their singing, well that’s another matter entirely…
One man who managed to stay awake through World Falundafa Day was Derek. I call him Derek to protect his identity and because, to be frank, I don’t know his name. I’ve seen Derek in the square quite often and he’s intrigued me. You’ll soon understand why. Today I got some of his story. I was set up next to Elinor, who sells elegantly stylish sketches and prints on wood blocks and cloth. We started chatting with Derek when he wandered by holding up the same sign he does every week.
The sign reads: “Peace through sitting on my face.”
In his other hand Derek holds printouts of photos showing various members of the public (all women as far as I could see) squatting over him as he lays prostrate on the sidewalk. The photos look less erotic than painful and it’s a wonder he hasn’t dislocated his jaw by now.
There are lots of questions spring to mind at this point I’m sure but rather than attempt any amateur psychology on Derek and his strange pastime I’ll just try to repeat as faithfully as possible the conversation we had with him.
“Why do you this?” We asked.
“I like the scent of a woman when she sits on my face. And I think it promotes world peace.”
“Right. And how’s that?”
“Well, I think if more men were able to connect with their masochistic sides then there would be less frustration and less violence in the world.”
“Have you been arrested?”
“I sometimes get hassled. I went to the site of the World Trade Center when Obama was there a few weeks ago and the cops were coming up to me. But when I showed them the photos they thought it was great. A lot of men in uniform are into that masochistic stuff you see.”
“Is it easy to get volunteers?”
“It depends. I think it has a lot to do with my mood. This week I already had four women do it so the hunger is not there as much. When I really want it I try harder to get it.”
“Does it pay well?”
“I don’t get paid to do this. I’m 29 and I live at home with my parents in Brooklyn.”
“How do you get by?”
“Well I get my meals cooked for me and I ride for free.”
“How come you ride for free?”
“Listen. If I can get people to sit on my face then I can sure convince them to swipe me onto the subway.”
All the world’s a stage! Happy World Falundafa Day!
* The title of these blog posts was taken from an essay about New York’s population of homeless children written in 1890. In no way, shape or form is it meant as a reflection on people of Arab descent. I just like the words.