Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Enlightenment of Dicky Lifshitz





Dicky Lifshitz lived in the Brooklyn in the late fifties. He had worked at Dombrowskys Deli on 48th Street since he was fifteen doing the same thing day by day; slicing pastrami, corn beef, rye and serving up bagels with coffee. Thirty eight years old, a Jew who wore a skull cap to cover a bald spot on the back of his head, that never attended temple. He was a only child whose parents where killed by Nazi's. Lifshitz escaped the death camps, saved by the grace of G-d and angels, lucky to get on a ship of young Jewish kids sent to a orphanage in the British country side, then migrating to America after the war.

The death of Dicky's parents in Bergen-Belson, Flora and Chaim, played on his soul like a dark cloud following him, a ghostlike and decaying fume. Lifshitz lived in a gray, unsung flat, as colorless as his life in walking distance from Dombrowskys Deli. The flat was spartan and bare with only a red silk easy chair, a TV and a queen size bed and a transistor radio he would occasionally listen to Dodger games on. The walls were under-lit and dingy, with one picture of  the great Rabi Kook, tagged with the quote from the rabbi, 'The world's inner reality is identical everywhere.' Certainly Dicky's inner and outer reality was something that years of psychotherapy might or might not cure.

The highpoint of Lifshitz's week was Friday, on payday. He would buy a bottle of Mogen David wine and head to Times Square, drinking the gut churning wine in a brown paper bag, slumped in his chair while watching a movie. He liked the splashy MGM color extravaganzas of the Day. His favorite movie was "The Wizard of OZ" just the thought of owning a pair of ruby sleepers, clicking the heals together three times escaping the rat race was a boon to Dicky.

When the film was over Dicky would cruise Times Square eyeing the cowboy hustlers, constanly repositioning their hat's, taking deep drags off Marlboros with red blooded macho zeal. Lifshitz would always ask the hookers "Are you circumcised?". It wasn't merely bravado or shtick for Lifshitz asking the studs if they were cut or not, he saw those uncut to be unholy, impure and second-fiddle.

On a particular night Dicky brought a midnight cowboy named Brad back to his flat. Brad asked Lifshitz if he could fix before they had sex and then handed Lifshitz a joint of marijuana telling him told him to smoke it. Dicky had never seen anybody fix on TV and thought only Schwartzs in Harlem did dope. Brad took out a old bent spoon and mixed the brown powder with water and cooked it, sucking it into a plunger. He then took his rodeo belt and tied it around his right arm, fixing then nodding off.

Lifshitz looked at Brad laying in bed nodded off, placid as if born again like a sleeping angel in a opium haze. Dicky thought to himself, "G-d above what the fug?" Then he remembered hearing stories about Cabalistic Jews at the Western Wall who smoked hash before praying. He lit the ganja and started to puff on it. At first feeling nothing and then it hit him all at once, he started laughing and turned his radio to WZBT jazz. It was as though the dark shackles of the his past broke and fell from his neck onto the floor. He felt a massive rush of joy that gave him chicken skin. He looked at the picture of the great Rabbi Kook on the wall and the Rabbi was smiling down on him.

When Brad came too, Lifshitz paid him, but didn't want to have sex with him, instead giving the hooker money to go score some weed for him. The next day was Sunday and Dicky would go to the deli as usual, after the morning bagel rush, Lifshitz went to the the alley and filled a bowl of ganja in a old meerschaum pipe, getting high and going back into work. Lifshitz laughing as he sliced corn beef was a odd sight to his fellow workers who felt Dicky always seemed strange and detached and had finally gone totally meshuggeneh or nuts. 

From that day on Dickey smoked dope all the time. Growing a beard and letting his hair grow. He would frequent  Beat poetry readings in the Village and jazz clubs. He hung framed prints of modern artist full of color on the walls and painted his room pastel. He covered all the lights with colored scarfs giving the flat a Bohemian feeling. His life went from gray to truly gay, like a rainbow and the great Rabbi Kook never lost his smile.

Brad the cowboy hooker and shaman did for Dicky Lifshitz what all the mitzvahs and commandments could never have done, turning Dicky on to life.

The drunken Chinese poet and monk Lao Tsui told the story of a  monk who spent his life in a temple seeking enlightenment, ascetically meditating, chanting and doing merit day by day for forty years. One night he felt as though he couldn't go on, leaving his mountain top temple  and going to the city getting drunk on jasmine wine. Then he went to a Chinese brothel and and got laid, as he experienced a orgasm for the first time he achieved nirvana. Maybe there is a little bit of Dicky Lipchitz and Lao Tsui in all of us, needing to break the chains of society and routine from time to time as spiritual boon or windfall.

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