I was on the A Train recently, seated next to a man zealously clipping his toenails. Despite the challenge of dodging flying nail clippings, I was still bored and looking for entertainment. After examining all the ads for dermatologists, English as a Second Language and morning news shows, I looked at the floor and discovered a religious pamphlet that announced in ominous, bold lettering that “THE DEVIL ENTERED NYC IN AUGUST OF 1974.”
As you can imagine, this caught my interest. I almost missed my stop. It was a lot to consider. The devil, a.k.a Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles and occasionally Anna Wintour, had chosen my city as a must-see destination. I pictured him at sticky 70’s-era Times Square porn theatres, masturbating to the naked images of Linda Lovelace and Marilyn Chambers. Or munching on popcorn as he enjoyed gory slasher films at the grindhouse theatres, grimacing only when he crunched down on an unpopped kernel.
I thought of him with his horns poking out of a Yankees cap, and furtively dropping a penny off the Empire State building, giggling at the thought of it beaning a priest on the head. I imagined him climbing the steps of the Statue of Liberty, obliging when fellow site-seers asked him to take their photos, but making sure he caught them at their least flattering angle.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps this pamphlet was implying that the devil made the Big Apple his home, rather than just a pit stop to impregnate unsuspecting Upper West Side women sporting chic pixie haircuts. I wondered whether or not he lucked into a rent-stabilized apartment. Or if (like me) he had to commute from New Jersey at first, and if (like me) he routinely missed the Bergenline Bus at Port Authority and had to wait an hour for the next one, sipping on a watery Miller Highlife at a shitty bar. And while he probably liked the heat during that first August here, did the depressingly empty restaurants and sight of teeming roaches, fat and drunk with summer glory force him to flee to a little cottage in Greenwich, Connecticut for the weekends?
Or maybe not.
Maybe he waited until October 30th, 1975 to visit that wealthy, leafy enclave. Perhaps while he was there he got pissed off after hitting one too many wormburners with the Skakel family’s golf clubs, and decided to leave one within easy reach for Michael Skakel to kill Martha Moxley.
On second thought, Greenwich, Connecticut doesn’t take too keenly to outsiders, and he would have been pretty noticeable, what with his lack of an Ivy League degree, cloven hooves and the scent of sulfur lingering around him.
That wouldn’t have been a problem in New York City though, especially in the seedy era of the mid-1970’s where both his weird look and smell would blend in easily with the gritty environs. So what if the devil, with his newly minted New York resident status, developed a habit of always being on the scene, an ever-present link in a cruel chain of events? Picture Satan as an evil Forrest Gump, always in the background, encouraging fellow New Yorkers to act upon their worst instincts, engineering circumstance in his favor. Satan, New York’s resident cheerleader for dark decisions and even darker consequences.
But has Satan really been lurking in NYC since 1974? Nah. I don’t think so. Here’s a message for the people responsible for that pamphlet I saw on the subway: you can stop worrying. Start cranking out new pamphlets about the oncoming plague of locusts or the hell that awaits Planned Parenthood employees. I think The Dark Prince has left New York City for a new zip code. Any evil events that occur in this town are not the supernatural result of a pitchfork and horns, but all-too-human ego and rage.
If you don’t believe me, consider this: New Yorkers work long hours, sometimes two jobs just to pay the exorbitant rents in this town. And you know that the devil only finds work for idle hands to do. You can’t smoke or dance in bars, and the only whores in Times Square are the corporate shills. Hell, it’s tough enough these days just getting a decent gin and tonic. Whatever sin remains has to be manufactured by ourselves, in what little freetime we have, atoned for later by rigorous workouts at the gym.
So if the devil were still here, he’d probably be bored by now. No, I suspect he has long since sped across the Tappan Zee Bridge on a Harley, headed to points unknown, bitching about the price of gas.