3 – Blog a26 – Easter

On Saturday morning, Michael, Grant, Hippie, Jack and I make the rounds of each church’s youth groups. In Harlem, all the kids are Black. On Park Avenue, all the kids are Preppies. Other than how they dress, they are pretty much alike. The Baptists start out with prayers and singing, waving their hands above their heads and moving around a lot. No rolling in the aisles or speaking in tongues. The Catholic kids are subdued at first as announcements and other boring stuff is read to them. Once we get up and start talking about the band and being on the road, both groups are animated with their questions and reactions.
“Isn’t rock n roll demonic?
“We played a Black Sabbath song last night because it got everyone moving and excited. No one went straight to Hell,” I respond.
I tell them about Jace, how he had been abused all his life, feeling like a loser with no friends.
“When he found friends and started the band, we discovered he was a musical prodigy. He needed friends to show how talented he was. Not only did he teach us how to play any song that was in our head, he taught us to know how people feel about what we play.”
Jack jumps in, “Having friends you trust and who trust you back is the most important lesson in growing up.”
“More important than algebra?”
“Math is a way to think; trust is a way to feel. You can always change how you think. It’s very hard to change how you feel. You trust from the heart. Your brain is just a calculator you use to walk, talk and observe. Family, school, church all try to tell you how to think. What they really want is to control how you feel,” Jack looks quickly to see how Father Frank and the local church people react.
“How about we do one of our songs, ‘Look Before You Leap?” I ask.
Their sudden enthusiasm shows how little they like being preached to. Hippie and I get out our guitars and do a short intro to ‘Look Before You Leap’ as Jack sings andMichael is on drums.

Set you’re your buddy on fire,
Better buy a rug.
Send your friends to hell,
Better get a priest.
Beat up a bully,
Better get a gun.

Look before you leap         
Better to say no
Then end up in a heap
No place to go.

Leap, leap, leap
You friggin’ freak
Leap, leap, leap
Strip and streak.”

Beat up your friend
Get new friends
Steal a new car
You won’t get far
Dis some sweet lass
A beating comes fast

Look before you leap
Better to say no
Then end up in a heap
No place to go.

Leap, leap, leap
You friggin’ freak
Leap, leap, leap
Strip and streak.”

Both youth groups erupt into hilarity, after a moment of shock. They’re clapping and whistling. The youth leaders vehemently discuss whether to stop the discussion. Father Frank tells them to wait.
“There’s a method to their madness,” he argues.

“Now if you think about what we say, you understand that the crazy stuff we encounter has to be controlled. These are all things we and our friends have experienced. It’s life. How we feel about it is based on the trust we put in our friends. Tell ‘em about being lit on fire, Michael,” I ask him.
“When I was nine, Robby, who was ten, set me on fire. He rolled me up in a rug to put it out. He told me he had saved my life.”
“How did you feel about it?”
“I punched him out.”
“Not exactly turning the other cheek?”
“He and I have been best friends since Mrs. Longbottom’s nursery school. We still are. He’s our other drummer.”
“You acted on your feelings, not what you were taught to do, which was probably to tell an adult.”
“He stopped bossing me around after that.”
I tell them how Jace died.
“Jace’s step-brother bullied him since he was ten. When the step-brothercame back from college, I knocked him the  down and told him to stop the bullying. He went to get a gun and killed Jace in my front yard. My dad saved me by shooting him before he could get me.” 
We have all the kids, especially the boys, on the edge of their seats.
“Did he get the electric chair?” a boy asks.
“No. He was only charged with manslaughter and will get out of juvie when he’s 25.”

They ask me if I want him charged for murder. “I don’t care. I feel it was my fault for knocking him down.”
“Were you really sad?” a girl asks.
“They tried to save Jace at the hospital. I sat with his body and wanted to die, too. Holding his hand, I realized that it wasn’t Jace. It was just a dead body. Then I saw him standing by me. He told me he would always be with me. His spirit is in my heart. I can feel him here, right now. He tells me who trusts and who not to trust.”
“You can see him?”
“My heart feels him. Those who trust us can feel him too.”
Casper has been floating over the group. We can see the trusting ones. They are most of the girls, and a few of the boys. I go into the group and smile at each of the trusting ones as Casper place his hands on them. Some cry out that they can feel him. Some just smile at me. I know they are trusting. It takes about five minutes to move through the group. A large portion, mostly boys, are skeptical, hard-hearted or oblivious.
“When we play, we tell people about the trusting heart. Some people started calling us Teen Jesus. I knew I always have Jesus in my heart since First Communion.” (with the Baptists, Hippie says he has been born again). Then, we ask who trusts Jesus.”

“How many here have Jesus in their hearts?” Jack asks.
Almost everyone raises their hand.
“One reason we try to protect children is you are so innocent and trusting. In Judaism, a child becomes an adult at 13 and is expected to take care of themselves. All of us here are teens or soon to be. You are conditioned to obey the rules of society, even if you want to resist. All of you who showed you trust us, come up and see if you can let Jace and me be in your hearts with Jesus.
They are shy, but a couple of girls are the first to come up. I hold their hands and Casper holds their heads. It is like electricity passing through them.
I tell them to pick out someone they want to trust to come up and share their hearts. The girls pick other girls. We repeat the hand holding. The first boy comes up and chooses a girl. Everyone watches until they suddenly smile at each other. Soon all the trusting ones have come up. The remaining, mostly guy group, are resisting skeptically.
I walk up to the biggest guy with the largest scowl and ask him to try it. There are five girls who come with me, looking hopefully at him. He cannot resist. His friends whistle and egg him on.
“Anyone here who wants this boy to trust them?” I ask the trusting group.
Many of the girls seem scared of him, standing there scowling. Finally, a tall, slightly overweight girl comes up and says she hopes he can trust her. They repeat the drill, except it is just the two of them. Casper and I wait to see if the kids can make it happen just by themselves. I am prepared to join in, if they fail. Slowly, the boy breaks down.
“I’m sorry I always bully you,” he confesses.
She hugs him. Her tears show how much the bullying hurt her. He hugs her back. Casper winks at me. It isn’t a parlor trick we are doing.
“Anyone else feel like being trusted?
All the skeptics, the resistant and antipathetics come up. Some chose who they want to trust. Others are chosen by the trusting. There are several group hugs. The Baptists refrain from rolling in the aisles.
Off to the side a skinny boy looks forlorn. He hasn’t trusted or been trusted.
“Don’t you want to be part of the group,” I ask him quietly.
I am instantly smitten. I take him to where everyone is milling around, talking and being open about what happened. I ask him his name.
“Listen up,” I speak to everyone, “Aaron still feels his heart is incapable of trust. Can we all show him we want him to trust us?”
The whole group makes a circle around him.
“I don’t have Jesus in my heart. I’m Jewish.” Aaron confesses, almost in tears, collapsing on the floor.
“Jesus was Jewish. He is the most loving person in history. You may not have him in your heart yet, but I’ll bet there are many people here willing to share him with you.”
There are many nods.
“I can’t be Jewish anymore if I accept Jesus.”
“Whoever told you that is an example of the thinking mind oppressing the trusting heart. Just see if you can remain Jewish if you trust the Jesus everyone here is willing to share with you.”
Thirty hands reach in and touch Aaron. Casper lifts him to his feet and wipes away the tears. It is one big group hug.

“Hippie, do your thing,” I prod him, taking out my guitar. On the bass, he starts the intro to ‘Amazing Grace.’ His low bass singing voice booms out over the group.

At the end, he restarts without singing. Most of the kids take over the vocals.

“Y’all wanna hear our pop song,” I ask.
They all clap and whistle. Michael pulls a pair of drum sticks from his back pocket. Jack jumps up and down, scratching himself in front of Grant, who chases him around until Hippie and I come in on guitar and bass,

“Barefooted boy
Makes a stand
To take his joy
Going hand to hand

Flying out free
Branch to branch
Through the trees
Reckless chance.”

“Free to be
A monkey like me

Ha ha ha
He he he
Haw haw haw
Chee chee chee”

At both churches, all the kids join in. Part of it must be genetic, because the Black Baptists enjoy themselves more than the preppie Catholics.

“If anybody asks what we did today, say ‘choir practice’ for tomorrow’s performance of ‘Amazing Grace.’ ‘How sweet it is.’ Get your whole family to come to Easter mass.”

We sit down and the kids surround us, asking all the questions they could think of. We are a hit. We cut it short at Abyssinian Baptist in order to be on time at St Patrick’s. At the end, Marty takes us up into the Cathedral. We check out the sound system. One of the Vatican II reforms is the inclusion of more music in services, but the sound system seems woeful to us. Marty says he can get decent amps to allow my guitar and Hippie’s bass to reverberate throughout the huge Cathedral.
“What do you think about my doing Pink Floyd during the end of service processional?”
“This is not the Catholic church I know,” he observes.
“Pink Floyd is coming out with a new album, ‘Wish you Were Here.’ It’s perfect for Jace’s tribute. Doing it here would be inspired.”
“You know how to push my buttons, boy. What do you need?”
“Let the cameras keep rolling after the service. From the reaction we got today, the kids will want to be with us at the end. Also, what will the priest do if we go off-scrip? The other song I want to do is called ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond.’

The guitar intro lasts eight minutes, so it’ll seem like an instrumental.”
“Any sacrilegious lyrics, or can we play it as a Jesus tribute?”
I sing the whole song to him.

‘Remember when you were young
You shine like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky
Shine on you crazy diamond
You were caught on the cross fire
Of childhood and stardom
Blown on the steel breeze
Come on you target for faraway laughter
Come on you stranger
You legend, you martyr and shine
You reached for the secret too soon
You cried for the moon
Shine on you crazy diamond
Threatened by shadows at night
And exposed in the light
Shine on you crazy diamond
Well, you wore out your welcome
With random precision
Rode on the steel breeze
Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter
You piper, you prisoner and shine’

Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., IMAGEM U.S. LLC

“It’s about Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s original singer. He quit the band and subsequently went insane. I can change the lyrics, but it’s about being misunderstood. Isn’t that the Jesus story?”
“Christ, you want me to tell that to the priests? Just do the guitar solo. When the kids are around you, turn the mic down so only they can hear you sing.”

We go back to Abyssinian Baptist. Their sound system is incredible. We chose a spot behind the choir, with a sight line to the main floor. where Hippie and Grant will do ‘Amazing Grace’ together. It will be the only song we do, unless asked otherwise.

Scorsese asks me to dinner at his mother’s house in Queens. Mike Sr. and Michael are also invited; Robby has opted out. Marty says his mother is planning a mean Italian feast. I ask if Jack can come, too.
“Okay, but no shenanigans with you two. It’s my mother, so no gay antics or acting out.”
“Jeez, Marty, you’re a big-time Hollywood film director. Your mother’s never met gay people?”
“Not that she knew.”
“Okay, we’ll do Spanky and Our Gang for her. Can we bring Max? She’ll love him.”
“Jesus Christ. Where do you come up with these ideas. She loves ‘Little Rascals.’ No dogs, please.’”
“I’ll be Alfafa and Jack can be Spanky.”
“Will you get over yerselves. Can’t ya come to dinner and just bring a bottle of wine for the host?”
“I’m not old enough to buy wine.”
“Jesus Christ.”
He lets us off at the Waldorf.

Michael, Jack and I sit in the lobby, discussing an Alfalfa act from Our Gang.
“I wish someone played piano.”
Michael speaks up, “I can do the single note melodies, like in silent movies.”
“You play piano?”
“Sure. Dad wanted me to be a musician from an early age. What songs can we do?”
“’You Are My Sunshine,’” Jack suggests. “I’ll have to sing off-key to be an authentic Alfalfa.”
“You’ll ruin your reputation,” I kid him.
“Anything for a show.”
We also decide to do ‘You Are So Beautiful to Me’ and ‘Object of My Affection.’ We don’t do anything half-way.
“We’ll sing these songs to Marty’s mom. He tells me that she loves the Little Rascals.”

Before going up to my parents’ room, I ask the bellman to buy me a large tube of Brylcreem. Once up at the room, I ask if the folks brought me any evening wear. Susan opens a closet, where there are several outfits, including my Sunday Best for Church. There also is a sports coat, white shirt, and tie which I can turn into an Alfalfa outfit. If only I had a bow tie. I put on a pair of dark trousers, cinched up high to show my ankles.
“Dad, can you make the tie into a bow?”
He goes into the closet and comes out with two clip-on bow ties.
“Perfect,” I exclaim. “We’re doing the Little Rascals act for Marty’s mother after dinner tonight.”
“You can’t stop performing for just one night?” he complains.
“We’re doing three songs, that’s all.”
“Which ones, dear?” Susan asks.
“’You Are My Sunshine,’ ‘You Are So Beautiful to Me’ and ‘Object of My Affection.’”
“Well, that’s so nice of you. She’ll love it.”
Dad gives me that look that means he suspects there’s an ulterior motive.

I go with them to the Stone’s suite to meet Jack, while the adults have cocktails. Michael and the Antonio’s are already there. He tells us to check out the balcony in their suite. It’s chilly in the open air balcony, but he takes out a joint to warm us up. We can see down Park Avenue to the Pan Am building.
“You both are used to all this, the Park Avenue life. I’m more of a Bronx boy. This blows me away.”
Michael blows pot smoke in my face. “It’s all a big illusion.”
Jack’s pot-inflamed horniness blossoms forth. He is rubbing my hip and butt.
I shoo him away, “Give Michael a break. He must be sick of our grinding on each other.”
“S’kay. After a week of being together, it seems normal. You guys are screwing like rabbits.”
“And other positions,” Jack jokes. “Hippie moved in with us to get away from Iggy. How do you keep Robby in check?”
“He gave up on me years ago. We’ve been sleeping together since we were little.”
Casper is balancing on the balcony’s railing, forty stories up. It makes me shiver.
“You know, I can see him, too.”
“Yeah, Jace. He’s ready to jump off the balcony.”
Casper does a back flip, staying on the railing.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were keeping it secret, so I didn’t say anything.”
“Do you want to sign to him. I can teach you.”
“Not really. He’s your delusion. It’s fun to see how you use him, like at the youth groups today.”
“Don’t you want him in your heart, too.”
“All you guys are already in my heart, even Iggy. I’ve never had so much fun in my life. I can never repay everyone for making it so special for Jenna and me on New Year’s Eve.”
“Is she coming tonight?”
“No. My dad says Marty wants it to be a boys night, visiting his mother, making us part of his family. Jenna’s staying in Queens with her grandparents.”
Casper is comforting Michael, who seems totally comfortable with it. I want to hug him, too. I feel his indifference to the bonding, like Europeans who kiss as a casual greeting. I respect his boundaries.
“What do you think of our outfits?”
“Do I have to wear a bow tie?”
“Naw, I only got two. You’re just the piano man.”
Mike Sr. comes out to join us, ignoring that we are getting high.
“You boys are in for a treat tonight. Marty’s mom is an Italian cook in the grand tradition. Be sure to praise every dish.”
“We haven’t had a real meal for a week. We’ll be too busy eating to think about manners.”
“Okay. So what have you been plotting out here. Am I going to be blind-sided as usual?”
“Michael’s playing piano, so Jack and I can do our Alfalfa routine from ‘The Little Rascals.’”
“You guys are unstoppable. This makes ten nights in a row you’ve performed.”
“We’re just getting started.”
“Then, let’s go to the Queens. Marty’s parents still live where he grew up. He’s over the moon that you brought those Bronx kids to your show last night. He’s not a Park Avenue type.”
“That’s what I was kidding Michael and Jack about. They can be so blasé.”
“That’s not fair. You wear your heart on your sleeve. I just keep mine where I can protect it,” Michael defends himself.
Mike Sr. looks at his son like he understands something about him for the first time. “Let’s go see how your piano skills have held up.”

The limo parks in front of a modest single home. Marty greets us at the door, with his arm around a short, white-haired lady.   Mike Sr. greets her in Italian and introduces us.
“Piscere, Signora Scorsese. Ti ringazio per avermi invitato,” I fracture my Italian phrase-book greeting with an American accent.
“Bello, bello,” she responds and hugs me.
Michael is stunned for one second. He steps up with perfect Italian to introduce his friends, “Timoteo e Gianni.”
After that, it’s all Italian. I keep my mouth shut, as does Jack.
The adults sit down in the front room. Marty’s dad prepares drinks.
“Sodas, giovani uomini?” he asks us.
I know that one, “Si, grazie,” I answer.
Michael asks Mrs. Scorsese if we could sing for her, “Mi amici vogliono cantare per te.”
“Si, por favore.”
We go into the bathroom and slick our hair with the Brylcreem, leaving a cowlick on the top, putting on our jackets, hiking up our trousers, and attaching the bow ties. Michael is already playing music hall rags in the parlor.”
We run into the living room and bow. We turn to Michael and mouth ‘You are so beautiful.’
He picks out the opening notes.
Jack starts out on key with me harmonizing. When he gets to the first high notes, his voice cracks, leaving me unable to harmonize and cracking as well. I’m unable to stop smiling like a idiot, making me look  even more like Alfalfa.

“You Are So Beautiful to Me
You’re everything I hope for
You’re everything I need
You Are So Beautiful to Me”

Writer(s): Bruce Fisher, Robin Spielberg, Billy Preston
Copyright: Spobs Music Inc., Almo Music Corp., Irving Music Inc.

We bow. Mrs. Scorsese has her hands on her throat, smiling and remembering those 1930s days at the Saturday movies.
We next do ‘The Object of my Affection,”

“The object of my affection
Can change my complexion
From white to rosy red, anytime she holds my hand
Tells me that she’s mine
There are many girls who can thrill me
And some who can fill me with dreams of happiness
But I know I’ll never rest until she says she’s mine
I’m not afraid, she’ll leave me
‘Cause she’s not the kind who’ll be unfair
But instead I trust her implicitly
She can go where she wants
And go, do what she wants, I don’t care
The object of my affection
Can change my complexion
From white to rosy red, anytime she holds my hand
And tells me that she’s mine
There are many girls who can thrill me
And some who can fill me with dreams of happiness
But I know I’ll never rest until she says she’s mine
I’m not afraid, she’ll leave me
‘Cause she’s not the kind who’ll be unfair
But instead I trust her implicitly
She can go where she wants
And go do what she wants, I don’t care
The object of my affection
Can change my complexion
From white to rosy red anytime she holds my hand
And tells me that she’s mine”

Published by
Lyrics © BOURNE CO.

The finale is ‘Let me Call You Sweetheart” in which we cut out the opening as Michael starts with the chorus.

“Let me call you “Sweetheart,” I’m in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.
Keep the love-light glowing in your love so true
Let me call you “Sweetheart,” I’m in love with you.
Longing for you all the while, More and more;
Longing for the sunny smile, I adore;
Birds are singing far and near, Roses blooming ev’rywhere
You, alone, my heart can cheer; You, just you.
Let me call you “Sweetheart,” I’m in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.
Keep the love-light glowing in your eyes so true.
Let me call you “Sweetheart,” I’m in love with you.”

music by Leo Friedman and lyrics by Beth Slater Whitson.

The men all join in. The cracked singing is abandoned. We end up on our knees in front of her with the men backing us up.
“Maravilloso, maravilloso,” she exclaims.
“Mangiare, ora?” I ask.
“Si, giovani. Si, e pronto.” She gets up, wipes a tear away, and hurries to the kitchen.
The men finish their drinks, while we settle for sodas.
“I keep thinking you’ll run out of tricks to break my heart, but you are apparently unlimited in the maudlin department.”
“Com’n, Marty. You told us she loves the Little Rascals. We can take a hint.”
“And you can take a bow, too. How am I supposed to put this all together into a coherent movie?”
“Everything we do is because of Jace. This is a tribute to his pure heart,” I suggest. Casper, of course, is delighted.
“You mean he was a big charmer.”
“No way. He was totally shy, unless he was playing guitar. He changed all our lives. Is it too simple?”
“There’s no edge to the story. Jace was a genius unable to realize his promise because of abuse.”
“Wait until tomorrow. I have no idea what’s going to happen at Church.”
“I don’t believe you.”

Everyone moves into the dining room where there are at least ten platters of pasta, risotto, hand-pressed ravioli, Bracciole, lamb ragu, and various antipasta spread out. Mrs. Scorsese watches from the kitchen door as we appreciate her performance by devouring each platter at a time. Everyone has wine to complement the food. We sit and eat for two hours until the salad course is finally served, indicating the end of the meal. The six of us loosen our belts several notches and open the top buttons of our trousers. Coffee is served and the men smoke cigars.
I go into the kitchen.
“Grazi, Segnora Scorsese. Per favore, un piastra per il driver?”
“Certo, Timoteo, mi Alfalfa.”
“Grazi, moma.”
She makes up a plate and kisses me on the cheek. I hope it wasn’t il bacio della morte, kiss of death.
Michael and Jack join me to smoke a joint with the limo driver and give him his plate from our feast. The driver thinks we are cut-ups with our slicked hair and Alfalfa outfits. We all have a cigarette with him.

Marty has a camera out when we come back inside. He wants a shot of his parents with the Three Rascals, as he calls us. She is so short, we all bend to a knee, looking up at her and Mr. Scorsese.
“Buona Pasqua, Signora e Signor Scorsese,” we cry as we leave them at their door waving.
Mike Sr. just shakes his head in disbelief of another antic we somehow pulled off.
“When did you start speaking Italian,” he asks Jack and me.
Jack pulls out a well-thumbed Italian phrase book.
“My gay uncles keep it in the glove box of the De Soto.”
“You’ve made quite an impression on Marty since he agreed to do this movie. If he does a great job, you’ll end up charming your way into theaters across the country.”
“We’re just having fun. We’re even excited about going to Easter services tomorrow, two of them.”
Mike Sr. shakes his head. He may have forgotten the boy who cried his eyes out when he bought him a new guitar four months ago. I wonder if I have forgotten him as well.

When we get back to the Chelsea, Hippie is asleep with Max. He went to dinner with his moms and didn’t want to hang out with Iggy and the still comatose Robby.
Michael wakes Hippie, “Can you see Jace like I do?”
“Sure, ever since the first youth group when he scared everybody.”
“Why didn’t you guys tell us. We thought we were the only ones. I won’t even tell you what Jack went through to get to see him.”
“You were pretty fragile after he was killed. We didn’t want to ruin it for you. Jace understands. He is cool with it. You’re the one who had to find a way to communicate.”
“Do you think his brother John can see him?”
“You have to look for him. He doesn’t just appear.”
‘So you get the Teen Jesus thing?”
Casper is mugging for us with his arms stretched out, like Jesus tending his flock.
“Sure, but it’s not just gay kids who get bullied. Remember the pimp’s kids in Daytona; the Jewish kid at Catholic Youth Group?”
Michael has a brain fart. “Marty doesn’t know how to edit the Jace tribute film. How about we use the proceeds to fund safe places for runaways in all the cities?”
“They can all be called ‘Jace’s Place.’”
“Yeah. Shelters for kids, instead of arresting them and sending them back to further abuse by their families.”
Jace is jumping up and down.
“See,” Hippie observes, “he likes the idea.”
Casper gives him a hug, at which Hippie blushes.
“Look who’s blushing,” Jack mocks him.
Hippie grabs a pillow. A massive pillow fight ensues. Max is barking, until there’s a loud knock on the door.
“Maybe it’s the Lady Chablis,” I hope.
No, it’s a fifty-year-old bell ‘boy,’ who lacks any sense of humor.
We settle down. Soon there are six of us sound asleep in the two beds, including Max.

Somehow we all make it up in time to be ready for the limo to take us back to the Waldorf. The staff is much pleasanter than at the Chelsea. Grant is put off because we ditched him to go to Marty’s. He’s over his mama’s ecstasy at being a celebrity. After changing into our Sunday best, we sneak into the dining room to join Michael and Hippie for a real breakfast, Communion rules be damned. (Oops) The schedule is to go to Harlem for Abyssinian’s ten o’clock service. We’ll return to St Patrick’s for their noon mass.

The good vibe from Harlem gets the Jacettes singing backup vocals to Hippie and Grant’s ‘Amazing Grace’ duet. The Church organist really gets into it, so I just strum open chords and enjoy the show. Jack steps up at the end of the hymn and duels Grant and Hippie with doo wop riffs. The whole church joins the choir in clapping and stomping their feet.
After the service all the young choir girls are crushing on Grant, making Jack jealous.
I start singing “White Boys” from the musical ‘Hair”

“White boys are so pretty
Skin as smooth as milk
White boys are so pretty

Hair like Chinese silk

James Rado;Gerome Ragni;Galt Mac Dermot
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Now, Jack has his groupies as well.

We arrive at St Patrick’s as the previous service is just letting out. Casper was exultant at Abyssinian Baptist. At St Patrick’s, he seems quite subdued, hanging on to me. He ignores all the goings on around us.
“What’s up?” I sign.
“I love you so much,” he signs back. We smile together.
Hippie and I sit beside the organist, with good sight lines to the pews. Jack waves to me, seated between his parents. Mom and Dad look at me with proud smiles. Jenna waves, sitting with Michael, between the Antonio’s and the Lombardi’s.

I start softly playing the intro to ‘Wish You were Here.” Cardinal Cook, followed by priests and then altar boys come out of the sacristy. I keep playing the Pink Floyd until the mass begins. The new English Mass is sprinkled with Latin phrases to appease the older worshipers. Casper has been sitting with me. When I get up and join my parents for Communion, he floats above the altar, resting on the outstretched arms of the crucified Jesus sculpture. He never takes his eyes off me. After the benediction, Hippie gets up and begins singing ‘Amazing Grace.”

I play my usual guitar part. The organist does the bass part, so Hippie is free to sing soaring notes. The Church is as silent as a meadow under snow. The Easter sunlight shines on the crucifix with Casper bathing in its golden glow. As the priest signals, “Offer a sign of peace,” Casper looks directly at me, projecting a beam of reflected golden light toward me. Wispy tears are running down his cheeks which fly into the air, gold-colored, not the usual blue. They spread out over the congregation and fall on the parishioners who are greeting each other. The whole cathedral is bathed in golden light.
“Go in peace,” the priest intones. I start the Pink Floyd ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond,’

staring at Casper’s golden image. He begins to fade as if his wispy self is being absorbed by the crucifix. He stretches out his arms to me, smiling and reassuring my heart that he is not leaving me there. As predicted, many of the kids from the youth group gather around me. Casper signs, “protect them.” He’s almost completely absorbed. My tears cannot stop as I start singing,


“Remember when you were young
You shine like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like (gold tears) in the sky”

I have to stop singing but am able to continue the guitar solo. Finally I’m able to sing again,

“Shine on you crazy diamond
You were caught on the cross fire
Of childhood and stardom
Blown on the steel breeze
Come on you target for faraway laughter
Come on you stranger
You legend, you martyr and shine”

Again I stop singing but still play the guitar part. I know in my heart I’m losing him again. “No,” my heart tells me. “I am here forever. We’re always together.”

“You reached for the secret too soon
You cried for the moon
Shine on you crazy diamond
Threatened by shadows at night
And exposed in the light
Shine on you crazy diamond”

The kids around start to gasp, looking up at the crucifix. Sparkling bright tears are leaking from the crucified Christ’s eyes. Girls starts kneeling and praying. The congregants, still in the church, turn around and see all the kids praying. The priests greeting the departing parishioners stop talking. No one wants to disturb me and the praying kids. Hippie starts playing the bass notes, adding gloom to the moment.

“Well, you wore out your welcome
With random precision
Rode on the steel breeze
Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter
You piper, you prisoner and shine”

Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., IMAGEM U.S. LLC

My heart tells me to play soaring, ecstatic notes, to overcome the gloom. The golden light now emanates from the crucifix. It explodes in a bright flash and goes out. The tears of diamond sparkle continue to float from the crucifix, dropping over the praying kids. I have lost him. My heart keeps me playing until the end of the song. I play slower and slower, tailing off to only reverb. I collapse against Hippie, who holds me, as I sob. Jack comes rushing up.
“Where’s Casper?”
“Gone. He was absorbed by the crucifix,” I sob. Jack holds me, while Michael and Mike Sr. lean over me.
“It’s okay, Tim. He wants it this way. Now it’s up to you to keep his memory alive,” Michael tries to console me.
“He’s in my heart. He can talk to us now.”
“Me, too,” Jack confirms. Michael nods.
“I can hear him,” one of the kids says.
“Me, too.”
Aaron, the Jewish boy, said, “He says to accept each other as we accept Jesus.”
All the kids are hugging, even the doubters and deniers. Jack smiles at me.
“It’s a miracle, Tim. You’ll be a saint one day. I’m in love with a saint,” he crows. As always, it is all about him.

Father Frank brings Cardinal Cook over. The kids are in awe. The Cardinal tells a priest to gather all the kids in the meeting room. He leads me and Father Frank to an office on the other side of the sacristy. Father Frank has me relate the whole Jace saga. How he was abused and murdered over Christmas. How the Teen Jesus legend grew. How thousands came to his memorial at Viscaya. Our belief that he inspired the band to keep going. The youth groups and sidewalk preaching. Our mission to stop the abuse. Our rock n roll shows as well as the hymn playing. Leading up to the service today. How the Pink Floyd songs I played were chosen the day we got together.
“He said goodbye to me at the end of Easter Mass,” I say and start to tear up.
“How did he communicate with you?”
“I hold him in my heart. He answers my questions.”
“Can you communicate now?”
“He just tells me that I have to trust my heart to know what’s right.”
“Like you hold Jesus since your confirmation?”
“Yes, Cardinal. That’s why the Teen Jesus rumors started after Jace was murdered.”
Cardinal Cook turns to Father Frank, “I know what I saw. The kids either saw the same or we’re all under mass hypnosis. Martin Scorsese filmed the whole service. Instead of wondering if we have a miracle here, let’s put our efforts in getting out this message Tim here is saying. Stop the abuse of children.”
“Michael Antonio has told Marty that the boys want the film to be the start of building runaway shelters, to call them Jace’s Place,” Father Frank explains.
“And the Franciscans can run them, I assume.”
They both laugh.
Father Frank looks at me. “You look horrible. Are you okay, Tim?”
“Not really. It’s like when he died all over again. I need to be with the others.”
Cardinal Cook says, “We have to do interviews with everyone. Why don’t you go be with your parents? I understand your dad saved you from Jace’s murderer.”
“He is the hero of it all.”
“Be with him, and go with God, son.”
“Thank you, Cardinal.” I wonder if I should kiss his ring. Father Frank walks me back to the main entrance where my parents are waiting.
Susan runs over and hugs me. I must look a mess. Every time I think I have lost Jace again, I hear an inner voice say, “No. I’m right here.”
The three of us walk back to the Waldorf. It’s only three blocks. We sit in the lobby.
“Do you want to lie down, Tim?” Susan asks. “We were so proud of you, especially when you walked with us for Communion in your white suit.”
Dad looks upset. “Why do I think this is some plot you’re pulling on the Church?”
“Dad, I can’t explain it all, but for months I’ve believed that Jace was with me all the time. I was able to go on after that horrible scene in the front yard. You were my hero then. You still are. I wouldn’t play some trick that would embarrass you and Mom. I don’t know what I believe except that Jace suffered incredibly. The few months we had together affected thousands of people. Today is his tribute, a parable to Jesus’s death and resurrection. What it all means will eventually come out. Wait and see.”
“Where did you find such faith? You never were really religious.”
“I’d say it was Jace, but really I am this person because you are an incredible father.”
His look makes me remember he is intrinsically a skeptic. My heart tells me to hug him. He actually hugs me back. My heart says, “See.”

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