Michael, Grant, Hippie, Jack and I made the rounds of each church’s youth groups. In Harlem, all the kids were Black. On Park Avenue, all the kids were Preppies. Other than how they dressed, they were much alike. The Baptists started 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 were subdued at first as announcements and other boring stuff was read to them. Once we got up and started talking about the band and being on the road, both groups were animated with their questions.
“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 told them about Jace, how he had been abused all his life, feeling like a loser with no friends.
“When we discovered he was a musical prodigy, he started the band with his friends. He needed people to show how talented he was. Not only did he teach us how to play any song that was in our heads, he taught us to read how people felt about what we were playing.”
Jack jumped 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 looked quickly to see how Father Frank and the local church people were reacting.
“How about we do one of our songs, ‘Look Before You Leap?” I asked.
Their enthusiasm showed how little they liked being preached to. Hippie and I got out our guitars and we did a short intro before Jack sang,

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          Tim 111
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 erupted into hilarity, after a moment of shock. They were clapping and whistling. The youth leaders were vehemently discussing whether to stop the discussion. Father Frank told them to wait.
“There’s a method to their madness,” he argued.

“Now if you think about what we said, 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 asked 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 telling me what to do after that.”
I told them how Jace died.
“Jace’s step-brother had been bullying him since he was ten. When he came back from college, I knocked him down and told him to stop the bullying. He found a gun and shot and killed Jace in my front yard. My dad saved me by shooting him  before he could shoot me..” Tim 97
We had all the kids, especially the boys, on the edge of their seats.
“Did he get the electric chair?” a boy asked.
“No. He was only charged with manslaughter and will get out of juvie when he’s 25.”

They asked me if I wanted him charged for murder. “I didn’t care. I felt it was my fault for knocking him down.”
“Were you really sad?” a girl asked.
“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 cannot trust.”
“You can see him?”
“My heart feels him. Those who trust us can feel him too.”
Casper had been floating over the group. We could see the trusting ones. They were most of the girls, and a few of the boys. I went into the group and smiled at each of the trusting ones as Casper placed his hands on them. Some cried out that they could feel him. Some just smiled at me. aussie02 I knew they were trusting. It took about five minutes to move through the group. A large portion, mostly boys, were skeptical, 09hard-hearted or oblivious.
“We started telling people when we played about the trusting heart. Some people started calling us Teen Jesus. I knew I also had Jesus in my heart since First Communion(with the Baptists, Hippie said he’d been born again). So, we asked who had Jesus in their hearts.”

“How many here have accepted Jesus in their hearts?”
Almost everyone raised their hand.
“One reason we try to protect children is they 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 pre-teens. 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 into your hearts with Jesus.
They were shy at first, but a couple of girls were the first to come up. I held their hands and Casper held their heads. It was like electricity had passed through them.
I told them to pick out someone they wanted to trust to come up and share their hearts. The girls picked other girls. We repeated the hand holding. The first boy came up and he chose a girl. Everyone watched as they suddenly were smiling at each other. Soon all the trusting ones had come up. The remaining, mostly guy group, were resisting skeptically.
I walked up to the biggest guy with the largest scowl and asked if he would try it. There were five girls who had come with me, looking hopefully at him. He couldn’t resist. His friends whistled and egged him on. army ad 02
“Anyone here who wants this boy to trust them?” I asked the trusting group.
Many of the girls seemed scared of him, standing there scowling. Finally a tall, slightly overweight girl came up and said she hoped he would trust her. They repeated the drill, except it was just the two of them. Casper and I waited to see if the kids just by themselves could make it happen. I was ready to join in, if they failed. Slowly, the boy broke down.
“I’m sorry I always bully you,” he confessed.
She hugged him and her tears showed how much his bullying had hurt her. He hugged her back. Casper winked at me. It wasn’t a parlor trick we were doing.
“Anyone else feel like being trusted?
All the skeptic, resistant and antipathetic came up. Some chose who they wanted to trust. Others were chosen by the trusting. There were several group hugs. The Baptists refrained from rolling in the aisles.
Off to the side was a skinny boy, looking forlorn. He hadn’t trusted or been trusted.
“Don’t you want to be part of the group,” I asked him quietly.
“I dunno. I don’t think anyone likes me.”
I was instantly smitten. I took him to where everyone was milling around, talking and being open about what had happened. I asked him his name.
“Listen up,” I spoke 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 made a circle around him.
“I don’t have Jesus in my heart. I’m Jewish.” Aaron confessed, 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 were 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 reached in and touched Aaron. Casper lifted him to his feet and wiped away the tears. It was one big group hug.

“Hippie, do your thing,” I prodded him, taking out my guitar. On the bass, he started the intro to ‘Amazing Grace.’ His bass singing voice boomed out over the group.Tim 259 



At the end, he restarted without singing. Most of the kids took over the vocals.

“Y’all wanna hear our pop song,” I asked.
They all clapped and whistled. Michael pulled a pair of drum sticks from his back pocket. Jack jumped up and down, scratching himself in front of Grant, who chased him around until Hippie and I came 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 joined in. It must be genetic, because the Black Baptists enjoyed 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 tomorrow.”

We sat down and the kids surrounded us, asking all the questions they could think of. We were a hit. We had to cut it short at Abyssinian Baptist in order to be on time at St Patrick’s. At the end, Marty took us up into the Cathedral. We checked out the sound system. One of the Vatican II reforms was the inclusion of more music in services, but the sound system seemed woeful to us. Marty said he’d get a decent amp 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 observed.
“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 perfect.”
“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 song I want to do is called ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond.’

The guitar intro lasts twelve minutes, so it’ll seem like an instrumental.”
“Any sacrilegious lyrics, or can we play it as a Jesus tribute?”
I sang 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
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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 mad. I can change the lyrics, but it’s about not being understood. 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 went back to Abyssinian Baptist. Their sound system was incredible. We chose a spot behind the choir, with a sight line to the main floor. Hippie and Grant would do ‘Amazing Grace’ together. It would be the only song we did, unless asked otherwise.

Scorsese asked me to dinner at his mother’s house in Queens. Mike Sr. and family were also invited; Robby had opted out. Marty said his mother was planning a mean Italian feast. I asked if Jack could 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 our 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 will be Alfafa and Jack can be Spanky.”
“Will you get over yerself. Can’t you come to dinner and just bring a bottle of wine for the host?”
“I’m not old enough to buy wine.”
“Jesus Christ.”
He let me off at the Waldorf.
Michael, Jack and I sat in the lobby, discussing an Alfalfa act from Our Gang.
“I wish someone played piano.”
Michael spoke 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 suggested. “I’d have to sing off-key to be an authentic Alfalfa.”
“You’ll ruin your reputation,” I kidded him.
“Anything for a show.”
We also decided to do ‘You Are So Beautiful to Me’ and ‘Object of My Affection.’ We didn’t do anything half-way.
“We’ll sing these songs to Marty’s mom. He told me that she loves the Little Rascals.”

Before going up to my parents’ room, I asked the bellman to buy me a large tube of Brylcreem. Once up at the room, I asked if the folks had brought me any evening wear. Susan opened a closet, where there were several outfits, including my Sunday Best for Church. There also was a sports coat, white shirt, and tie which I could 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 one?”
He went into the closet and came out with two slip-on bow ties.
“Perfect,” I exclaimed. “We’re doing a Little Rascals act for Marty’s mother after dinner tonight.”
“You can’t stop performing for just one night?” he complained.
“We’re doing three songs, that’s all.”
“Which ones, dear?” Susan asked.
“’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 gave me that look that meant he suspected there was an ulterior motive.

I went with them to the Stone’s suite to meet Jack, while the adults had cocktails. Michael and the Antonio’s were already there. He told us to check out the balcony in their suite. It was chilly, but he took out a joint to light us up. We could see down Park Avenue to the Pan Am building.
“You both are used to all this, the Park Avenue life. I’m more a Bronx boy. It blows me away.”
Michael blew pot smoke in my face. “It’s all a big illusion.”
Jack’s pot-inflamed horniness had blossomed forth. He was rubbing my hip and butt.
I shoed 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 joked. “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 was balancing on the balcony’s railing, forty stories up. It made me shiver.
“You know, I can see him, too.”
“Yeah, Jace. He’s ready to jump off the balcony.”
Casper did a back flip, staying on the railing.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were keeping it a 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 with the youth groups today.”
“Don’t you want him in your heart, too.”
“All you guys, even Iggy, are already in my heart. 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, like making us part of his family. Jenna’s staying in Queens with her grandparents.”
Casper was hugging Michael, who looked totally comfortable with it. I wanted to hug him, too. I felt his indifference to the bonding, like Europeans who were always kissing. I respected 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. came out to join us, ignoring that we were 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 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 Bronx. Marty’s parents still live where he grew up. He was over the moon when 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 defended himself.
Mike Sr. looked at his son like he understood something new about him. “Let’s go see how your piano skills have held up.”

The limo parked in front of a modest single home. Marty greeted us at the door, with his arm around a short, white-haired lady. Mike Sr. greeted her in Italian and introduced us.
“Piscere, Signora Scorsese. Ti ringazio per avermi invitato,” I fractured my Italian phrase-book greeting with an American accent.
“Bello, bello,” she responded and hugged me.
Michael was stunned for one second. He stepped up with perfect Italian to introduce his friends.”Timoteo e Gianni.”
After that, it was all Italian. I kept my mouth shut, as did Jack.
The adults sat down in the front room. Marty’s dad prepared them drinks.
“Sodas, giovani uomini?” he asked us.
I knew that one, “Si, grazie,” I answered.
Michael asked Mrs. Scorsese if we could sing for her, “Mi amici vogliono cantare per te.”
“Si, por favore.”
We went into the bathroom and slicked 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 was already playing music hall rags.”
We ran into the living room and bowed. We turned to Michael and mouthed ‘You are so beautiful.’
He picked out the opening notes.
Jack started out on key with me harmonizing. When he got to the first high notes, his voice cracked, leaving me unable to harmonize and cracking as well. I was unable to stop smiling like a fool, 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 bowed. Mrs. Scorsese had her hands on her throat, smiling and remembering those 1930s days at the Saturday movies.
We next did ‘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 final was ‘Let me Call You Sweetheart” in which we cut out the opening as Michael started 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 joined in. The cracked singing was abandoned. We ended up on a knee in front of her with the men backing us up.
“Maravilloso, maravilloso,” she exclaimed
“Mangiare, ora?” I asked.
“Si, giovani. Si, e pronto.” She got up, wiped a tear away, and hurried to the kitchen.
The men finished their drinks, while we settled 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 loved 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 suggested. Casper, of course, was 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.”
“Somehow I don’t believe you.”

Everyone moved into the dining room where there were at least ten platters of pasta, risotto, hand-pressed ravioli, Bracciole, lamb ragu, and various antipasta spread out. Mrs. Scorsese watched from the kitchen door as we appreciated her performance by devouring each platter at a time. Everyone had wine to complement the food. We sat and ate for two hours until the salad course was finally served, indicating the finale of the meal. The six of us had loosened our belts several notches and opened the top buttons of our trousers. Coffee was brought out and the men smoked cigars.
I went into the kitchen.
“Grazi, Segnora Scorsese. Per favor, un piastra per il driver?”
“Certo, Giovanni, mi Alfalfa.”
“Grazi, moma.”
She made up a plate and kissed me on the cheek. I hoped it wasn’t il bacio della morte, kiss of death.
Michael and Jack joined me to smoke a joint with the limo driver and give him his plate from our feast. The driver thought we were cut-ups with our slicked hair and Alfalfa outfits. We all had a cigarette with him. Tim 46

Marty had a camera out when we came back inside. He wanted a shot of his parents with the Three Rascals, as he called us. She was so short, we all bent to a knee, looking up at her and Mr. Scorsese.
“Buona Pasqua, Signora e Signor Scorsese,” we cried as we left them at their door waving.
Mike Sr. just shook his head in disbelief of another antic we somehow pulled off.
“When did you start speaking Italian,” he asked Jack and me.
Jack pulled out a well-thumbed Italian phrase book.
“My gay uncles had 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. shook his head. He must have forgotten the boy who had cried his eyes out when he bought him a new guitar four months ago. I wondered if I had forgotten him as well.

When we got back to the Chelsea, Hippie was asleep with Max. He had gone to dinner with his moms and didn’t want to hang out with Iggy and the still comatose Robby.
Michael asked him, “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 understood. He was 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 was mugging us with his arms stretched out, like Jesus tending his flock.Última_Cena_-_Juan_de_Juanes
“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 had 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 be called ‘Jace’s Place.’”
“Yeah. Shelters for kids, instead of arresting them and sending them back to be further abused.”
Jace was jumping up and down.
“See,” Hippie observed, “he likes the idea.”
Casper gave him a hug, at which Hippie blushed.
“Look who’s blushing,” Jack mocked him.
Hippie grabbed a pillow. A massive pillow fight ensued. Max was barking, until there was a loud knock on the door.
“Maybe it’s the Lady Chablis,” I hoped.
No, it was a fifty year old bell ‘boy,’ who lacked any sense of humor.
We settled down. Soon there were six of us in the two beds, including Max, sound asleep.

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

The good vibe from Harlem got the Jacettes singing backup vocals to Hippie and Grant’s ‘Amazing Grace’ duet. The Church organist was really into it, so I just strummed open chords and enjoyed the show. Jack stepped up at the end of the hymn and dueled Grant with doo wop riffs. The whole church joined the choir in clapping and stomping their feet.
After the service all the young choir girls were crushing on Grant, making Jack jealous.
I started playing “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 had his groupies as well.

We arrived at St Patrick’s as the previous service was letting out. Casper had been exultant at Abyssinian Baptist. At St Patrick’s, he seemed quite subdued, hanging on to me. He ignored all that was going on around us.
“What’s up?” I signed.
“I love you so much,” he signed back. We smiled together.
Hippie and I were seated beside the organist, with good sight lines to the pews. Jack waved to me, seated between his parents. Mom and Dad looked at me with proud smiles. Jenna waved, sitting with Michael, between the Antonio’s and the Lombardi’s.

I started softly playing the intro to ‘Wish You were Here.” Cardinal Cook, followed by priests and then altar boys came out of the sacristy. The new English Mass was sprinkled with latin phrases to appease the older worshipers. Casper had been sitting with me. When I got up and joined my parents for Communion, he floated up above the altar, resting on the outstretched arms of the crucified Jesus sculpture. tim-671 He never took his eyes off me. After the benediction, Hippie got up and began singing ‘Amazing Grace.”

I played my usual guitar part. The organist did the bass part, so Hippie was free to sing soaring notes. The Church was as silent as a meadow under snow. The Easter sunlight was shining on the crucifix with Casper bathed in a golden glow. As the priest said, “Offer a sign of peace,” Casper looked at me, sending a beam of reflected golden light toward me. Wispy tears were running down his cheeks and into the air, gold-colored, not the usual blue. They spread out over the congregation and fell on the parishioners who were greeting each other. The whole cathedral was bathed in golden light.
“Go in peace,” the priest intoned. I started the Pink Floyd ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond,’

staring at Casper’s golden image. He began to fade as if his wispy self was being absorbed by the crucifix. Tim 137 He stretched out his arms to me, smiling and reassuring my heart that he wasn’t leaving me there. tim-706 As I predicted, many of the kids from the youth group gathered around me. Casper signed, “protect them.” He was almost completely absorbed. My tears couldn’t be stopped as I started 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 had to stop singing but was able to continue the guitar solo. Finally I was 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 stopped singing but still played the guitar part. I knew in my heart I was losing him again. “No,” my heart told me. “I am forever here, 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 started to gasp, looking up at the crucifix. Sparkling bright tears were leaking from crucified Christ’s eyes. Girls started kneeling and praying. The congregants, still in the church, turned around and saw all the kids praying. The priests greeting the departing parishioners stopped talking. No one wanted to disturb me and the praying kids. Hippie started 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”

         Tim 373
Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., IMAGEM U.S. LLC

My heart told me to play soaring, ecstatic notes, to overcome the gloom. The golden light now emanated from the crucifix. It exploded in a bright flash and went out. The tears of diamond sparkle continued. I had lost him. My heart kept me playing until the end of the song. I played slower and slower, tailing off to only reverb. I collapsed against Hippie, who held me, as I sobbed. Jack came rushing up.
“Where’s Casper?”
“He’s gone. He was absorbed by the crucifix,” I sobbed. Jack held me, while Michael and Mike Sr. kneeled beside me.
“It’s okay, Tim. He wanted it this way. Now it’s up to you to keep his memory alive,” Michael tried to console me.
“He’s in my heart. He can talk to us now.”
“Me, too,” Jack confirmed. Michael nodded.
“I can hear him,” one of the kids said.
“Me, too.”
Aaron, the Jewish boy, said, “He says to accept each other as we accept Jesus.”
All the kids were hugging, even the doubters and deniers. Jack smiled at me.
“It’s a miracle, Tim. You’ll be a saint one day. I’m in love with a saint,” he crowed. As always, it was all about him.

Father Frank brought Cardinal Cook over. Tim 603 The kids were in awe. The Cardinal told a priest to gather all the kids in the meeting room. He led me and Father Frank to an office on the other side of the sacristy. Father Frank had 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 was inspiring 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 came together.
“He said goodbye to me at the end of Easter Mass,” I said and started 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 turned to Father Frank, “I know what I saw. The kids either saw the same or we all were 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 the boy 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.”
“And the Franciscans can run them, I assume.”
They both laughed.
Father Frank looked 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 said, “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 wondered if I was to kiss his ring. Father Frank walked me back to the main entrance where my parents were waiting.
Susan ran over and hugged me. I must have looked a mess. Every time I thought I had lost Jace again, I heard an inner voice say, “No. I’m right here.”
The three of us walked back to the Waldorf. It was only three blocks. We sat in the lobby.
“Do you want to lie down, Tim?” Susan asked. “We were so proud of you, especially when you walked with us for Communion in your white suit.”
Dad looked 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 has affected thousands of people. Today was 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 incredible 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 made me remember he was intrinsically a skeptic. My heart told me to hug him. He actually hugged me back. My heart said, “See.”

Jack ran into the Waldorf lobby and straight to me.
“He’s really gone?”
“What we have in our hearts is a memory to hold on to.”
“Oh, Tim. I’m so sorry. Were we ignoring him lately? Why did he leave?” The tears were streaming down both our cheeks.
“He knew it was time.”
“How can you be so strong?”
“My dad has always made me fearless and brave.”
Jack looked at my dad, with tears in his eyes, “I love your son. That’s the bravest thing I can say.”
Dad was not comfortable. Susan grabbed him in a hug. “Dave, you are an amazing father. These boys love you.” She turned to Jack, “We love Tim so much. We know he loves you, too.”
Jack fell into my arms. I held him tightly so I wouldn’t collapse.
The Stones came in and sat with my parents, watching over us as we totally fell apart.
“Go upstairs, boys, and get some sleep,” Mummy suggested in a kind voice. Turning to my parents, “We need a drink.”
They went to the bar. We crawled into the bed in the unused bedroom. I couldn’t think about sex. I felt so guilty that we had slowly been pushing Casper out of our sex lives. He never complained, which made it worse.
“Do you think it can ever be like it was with Casper?”
“It already was changing. Maybe we’ll never have sex again.”
Jack looked bereft. His head was telling him we were to blame for losing Casper. Tim 210
“No, Jack. Listen to your heart. We now share him. It’s as if he loves us even more by leaving us.”
Jack laughed. “What if we had grown up but he stayed 15?”
“We would have beaten him into submission.”
“He would have loved it.”
We fell asleep in each other’s arms, dreaming about abusing poor Casper.

Michael came in from the adjoining suite, waking us up gently.
“Hey,” I said. “What’s up, butt fuck?”
“It’s a real zoo out there. The press heard that something happened at Easter Mass. All the kooks and space cases are demanding to know what.”
“Well, you know, don’t you?”
“Yeah, Jace is gone. The Church has its miracle with the tears of tiny diamonds. I guess that makes you a saint.”
“What. Why do you guys say that? I’m just the guitar player.” Tim 263
“So far, no one’s hit upon the gay angle.”
“That won’t be a happy moment for the Church.”
“Can’t we just casually waltz out of the City?”
“I wish. Dad says Father Frank is the only one Cardinal Cook is listening to. The Cardinal wants to study us before making any statements.
“We don’t want statements. We want runaway shelters. Jace’s Place.”
“Generally it takes 50 years to verify a miracle. So, if you go into the priesthood, you’ll be made a saint when you’re 66.”
“I’ll die of boredom.”
“Even better. Then you’ll be a martyred saint.”
“Let’s get off Park Avenue and go to the Chelsea. Everyone here wants to control us.”
“Good idea. You want me to get a limo.”
“Fuck, no. I want to take the subway. I wanna see Max.”
“Okay. Okay. I was only suggesting. You better get out of the white suits. People will think you’re selling ice cream.”
We laughed. Jack woke up.
“Hi, Michael.”
“Get up. We’re blowing this place.”
“Did someone say blow jobs?”
“You never let up. No wonder Jace left.”
“Don’t say that,” Jack actually had tears in his eyes. Miroku 06
We had a mild pillow fight to get him out of bed. Jack lent me clothes, so I wouldn’t have to see my parents. It felt good to be ‘sneakin’ around.’
I called Hippie and Grant to tell them to meet us in the lobby.

“What’s up?” Grant asked when they came down.
“You heard about the St Patrick’s incident.”
“Whatcha do, Tim? Moon the priests?”
“Teen Jesus came out and diamond tears flowed from the crucifix on the altar.”
“Whoa. Cool. You Catholics have all the jewels. Baptists just get Bar-B-Que.”
“See all those people outside. They’re the press, waiting to skewer us for heresy.”
“Well, just ask Teen Jesus to walk on water for them.”
We laughed. “This is serious, we gotta walk out of here without letting them know.”
“Com’n. I know a back way out. Where we going?” Grant had the solution.
‘The Chelsea. We still have our rooms there.”
“I wondered where you was hiding them redneck boys in your band.”
“They got ahold of some smack on Thursday and haven’t recovered yet.”
“You wanna come with?’
“Sure. I wanna see how the other half lives. Stayin’ on Park Avenue is distortin’ my values.”
“Well, don’t be too shocked.”

Grant led us out the back through the loading dock. We caught the Subway at 51st and Lexington. In no time we were at the Chelsea.
“Hey, the gang’s all here,” Iggy sat up in his bed. Robby looked grumpily at us.
“We got problems,” I told them.
“I knew you couldn’t pull off the gigs without us,” Robby crowed.
“You have no idea. We’ve got the Church and the press after us. We’re hiding out here.”
“Let’s blow this town. It sucks,” Robby complained. “I’m bored. I can’t even get high anymore.”
“Where’s Max?” I asked.
There was a weak ‘woof’ from under Robby’s bed. We looked and Max had his muzzle in Robby’s bag, having passed out after eating the remainder of our stash. Tim 364
“Bad dog,” Grant barked at him. Max scurried into the corner, with his paw over one eye. He couldn’t stand up properly.
“This place is a detox center.”
“Have no fear, there’s always joints here,” and Grant pulled out a spliff from behind his ear. tim-601
With no better plan, we all toked up and chilled. Robby was miraculously cured. Michael went to call his dad to let him know where we had disappeared to. Jack pulled me into the other room, locked the door, and begged me to fuck him. He was massively horny. Church does that. I rode him doggie, lap, and missionary style, until he had cum three times. Finally I fucked his slimy abs until I went over the edge and spurted over his head  and onto his face. He just licked the sperm like it was ice cream. Sitting on the bed, we talked about missing Casper, ending up crying. Post-coital depression.
We walked into the other room, where everyone looked as depressed as we were.
“Did it help?” Michael joked.
“Not enough. We miss Casper too much. It’s not the same without him.”
“What’s next,” Michael asked.
“The last thing he said was to protect the kids. We need to meet with the youth group and figure out how to deal with the Church. That Cardinal wants to lock us up and make me their martyr.”
Hippie spoke up for the first time, “Make the Church open Jace’s Place in Manhattan. We’ll take the youth group to Times Square and bring the runaways there to the Church.”
We were stunned that he was so direct. He was right. We had to own the Jace’s Place project.

I had Jack call Father Frank to set up a meeting with the youth group and Cardinal Cook for 8 pm at St Patrick’s. Grant called Dr. Proctor at Abyssinian Baptist, who agreed to attend with their youth leader Rev. Butts. It felt right to take charge of the situation.

We went to Times Square to devise a plan of action. Sitting inside Howard Johnson’s,  eating fried clams and fries, was déjà vu for me. We sat near the window and took in the scene unfolding in the early evening. I recognized the street hustlers, pimping for each other as drivers stopped and shopped the boys and girls hanging out. Tim 531 We had to know who the pimps were as opposed to the tricks they were controlling. It was all street action. Finished with the fried clams, we spread out along Broadway and 7th Avenue. The street kids were suspicious of our motives, used to the sea of exploitation where they were trying to survive. We asked why they had run away, where they were staying. If a church offered shelter, would they go there. We counted over 100 kids who were homeless. Tim 374 Having Max with us helped as everyone responded to his wagging tail. Soon the pimps were in our face, demanding to know why we were bothering their ‘friends.’ We just moved along and didn’t challenge them. We walked toward Park Avenue, past Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. We were tourists for once, taking in the sights. Soon we were at St Patrick’s, greeted by Father Frank.
“Where have you been? You just disappeared.”
“We had to get away from all the hoopla and get our heads on straight.”
“Cardinal Cook wasn’t finished interviewing you about what happened at Mass.”
“I get the impression he will never be finished trying to figure it out,” I answered. “What’s important is how we proceed from here. Jace told me what to do before he left us. His final words were ‘protect the kids.’”
“I’ll bet you have a plan.”
“Yep. We’ll take the youth group to Times Square to sweep up all the homeless and runaway kids who are being exploited there. We’ll bring them here and find beds for them. We want to set up a shelter and call it Jace’s Place. Dr Proctor and Rev. Butts from Abyssinian Baptist will be here soon. They’ll do the same in Harlem.”
“This is happening tonight?”
“If we delay, we’ll lose the impact of what happened at Mass.”
“Catholics and Baptists working together?”
“That’s why we have to start now, There are too many reasons why it won’t work. We have to make it work right from the start.”
“Good luck. Let’s go see Cardinal Cook now.”
Father Frank ushered all of us into the Cardinal’s office. The two preachers from Harlem were already there. They knew each other well and were enjoying coffee and joking while they waited for us.”
“Tim, is this your next project, ending the Reformation of the 16th Century?” Cardinal Cook joked. Tim 603
“Looks like y’all have made progress on that one without me.”
Everyone smiled.
“Here is my suggestion for tonight. Ever since Jace was murdered our mission has been to stop the abuse of kids. We want to create beds at each church to get for homeless and runaway kids off the streets. The entire youth group, with adult supervision will go to Times Square. We’ll offer a safe place for the more than 100 kids we counted there this evening. Kids trust each other. Will you provide a safe place for them – a sanctuary?”
There was total silence until Cardinal Cook responded.
“You bring them here. We will protect them. The Franciscans will supervise the outreach and the running of the shelters. I need to know that none of our kids will be put in harm’s way. I will personally call Police Superintendent Codd to make sure there is a police presence to guarantee safety for them. This will start tonight.”
Reverend Butts responded for the Baptists, “We will organize our youth choir to be on our streets in Harlem to find at risk youth, to provide shelter there.”
“Let’s go tell the kids,” I ordered.

The adults went to the phones to coordinate the support we needed. The whole band, including the Jacettes and of course Max, walked downstairs to the youth meeting room. A big cheer went up when we walked in. The kids surrounded us, wanting to touch our hands or hug us. We were truly False Gods.
“Please sit down. We have a big project for all of us to start tonight. We’ll answer a few questions before telling you what’s going to happen.”
“Why did they keep us here all day? Did something bad happen?”
“You were part of a spiritual event that the priests are trying to understand. Did any of you see the spirit at the crucifix before the tears came from Jesus’ eyes?” I asked.
“Yes,” many answered.
“Was that Teen Jesus?” someone asked.
“The Church is figuring it all out. Just keep faith in the Jesus of your confirmation that you hold in your hearts. The spirit you saw is a parable of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Our guitarist Jace was murdered at Christmas. We have kept his spirit visible until today when the Mass celebrated the resurrection. He left us with a message, ‘protect the kids.’”
“We need protection from what?”
“It’s the abused kids who need our help. Tonight we’re going to Times Square and bringing back the homeless and runaway kids who have to survive there. The Church will shelter them. The Abyssinian Baptist Church will be doing the same thing in Harlem.”
“Times Square is scary.”
“There will be priests with us to make sure no one is hurt. We will organize into teams of six to approach the kids in Times Square. Stay together to protect each other. Is Aaron here?”
A meek yes answered me. Tim 585
“Come up and choose the five other members of your team.”
Next I pointed out the big kid who was so skeptical on Saturday. He came up and chose the girl who had chosen him that day, plus four others. I picked the biggest kids to be team leaders. No one was left out.
By then, it was ten pm. Several parents had come to pick up their kids. Once they learned of the planned mission, they vociferously objected to their kids going to Times Square. The priests that Father Frank had recruited explained that it was a supervised visit. It was the kids who begged their parents to let them participate that turned the tide for most. Only three kids were taken home.
Aaron came up to me with his father.
“My son is too shy to say thanks for making him a leader. He’s had a hard time feeling welcome. His best friend convinced him to join the group this year, even though we’re Jewish.”
“Did you choose your friend to be in your group?” I asked Aaron.
“Yup,” and another kid came up to us.
“Hi, Tim. I’m Paul,” as he put out his hand. Tim 491
“You guys stay together and be safe tonight,” I told them. They looked at each other and nodded to me.
“The Cardinal has called Superintendent Codd to make sure there’s extra police presence there,” I told the dad to reassure him.
“We’re so confused by Aaron’s desire to be in a Catholic youth group. We feel he is rejecting his own faith.”
“I don’t differentiate between faiths. I was instantly impressed with Aaron yesterday because his heart is so pure. He isn’t searching for a new faith. His heart needs to be loved.”
“Those boys have loved each other all their lives,” the dad acknowledged.
“Does he go to temple?”
“Yes. His Bar Mitzvah was last year.”
“Well, we got the Catholics and Baptists to agree to this project. Maybe including a Jewish temple will be an similar success.”
“I can see why Aaron likes you so much.”
“It’s mutual. It’s easy when kids are trusting. It will be a challenge with the runaways. They don’t trust anyone, especially themselves.”
“If you can make it work here, you can make it work anywhere.”
“That’s what they say.”

Father Frank came in with about fifteen Franciscan brothers. I explained how we had divided the kids into 10 small groups. Each group would have a brother and the remaining brothers would coordinate the groups. It was imperative that we all stay in contact with each other.

“Every street kid who accepts our help will be taken to a collection point at 44th and Broadway. A Brother will decide when to have a team take the street kids to the Cathedral at 51st and 5th Avenue. There will always be a brother with every group.”

The kids were fired up. The brothers looked worried. As we walked from the Cathedral, it was an impressive crowd. A police cruiser showed up and escorted us to Times Square. The groups fanned out and started speaking with individual street kids. Max was a big hit. The ones wanting shelter started to trickle in. The first group left for the Cathedral. Once the kids invaded the pickup zone where the X-rated theaters were located, there were more runaways. I noticed a man shepherding a group of 8 girls away from the zone. I alerted a police cruiser that he was a pimp. They detained him on a morals charge. I escorted the girls back to the collection point. The police began stopping any adult with a group of under-age street kids. We had a rush of kids seeking shelter. After an hour, the total was approaching 80 kids. Times Square was deserted except for the panhandlers and drunken bums. We called it a night and walked everyone back to St Patrick’s. Each team leader confirmed that all the team members were accounted for. The remaining teams in transit to the cathedral were picked up as we walked.

Cardinal Cook was at the entrance. He took me downstairs where cots were set up in the meeting room. Many of the kids were already asleep. They looked so sad, even in sleep. It was the first night of Jace’s Place.
We went back to the entrance where the youth group parents were picking up their kids. Aaron and his friend Paul came over and just wanted to hang out with me until his dad came for him. They were too shy to talk.

Cardinal Cook was standing with me.
“You don’t hesitate to jump in, do you?”
“I grew up in the military. We learned to stand up for each other.”
“I hear you’ve recruited our Jewish boy to start Jace’s Place at his temple.”
When I heard him use Jace’s name, I started to tear up. It overwhelmed me that Jace’s Place was really happening. Cardinal Cook put his arm around my shoulder. I gulped and answered his question. “Yup. It’s a non-sectarian project.”
“You gonna stick around and set up all the services these kids will need?”
“I think Father Frank had better do all that. School starts in about 8 hours for me.”
“No more good life at the Waldorf?”
“We’ve been staying at the Chelsea. It’s more our style.”
“Even Jack Stone?”
“He enjoys slumming it.” We both laughed.
“I heard you were instrumental in desegregating your high school.”
I pointed out Grant and told the Cardinal how we wanted him to be in ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream.’ The school made no provision to bus him home after rehearsal.”
“The whole school walked out?”
“Pretty much.”
“You gonna tell me what happened at Mass today?”
“You have to come to your own conclusions. For me, I had held him so tightly in my heart since he died, that his spirit couldn’t leave me. The crucifix tears are the crazy diamonds in the Pink Floyd song I did. It would be nice if I could have a single diamond tear. I had to let him go.”
He just smiled. “Let’s stay in touch.”

Jack came over. “Can we stay at the Waldorf tonight. I really like that bed.”
“And I just told the Cardinal that you like slumming at the Chelsea.”
He hugged me and whispered in my ear what he’d do for me.                       04
Aaron and Paul were attentive to our interaction. They came over when we were done hugging.
“Are you guys gay?” he asked.
“What gave us away?” Jack asked back.
They looked at us, then turned to each other and hugged.
“You shouldn’t be recruiting here,” Jack warned me.
The boys just grinned.
I found a pen and wrote out my home address and phone number.
“You want to keep in touch? I think I know what you’re going through.”
“Nobody knows,” Aaron stated. ‘Not even my dad.”
“He probably knows but wants you to let him know when you’re ready.”
“It’s hard.”
“Just remember Jace is in your heart, too. He loved me like Jack does now. Everything that has happened started when he realized I really loved him. Before then, he didn’t believe anyone ever would.”
“We already know we love each other.”
“Then you’re way ahead. Keep each other in your hearts. Others will see it and learn to trust you so that they will share their hearts with you. Don’t let the haters get to you. The Jace in your heart will tell you who you can trust.”
“Sometimes I feel my heart is going to burst,” Paul said.
“That’s how it gets bigger. There will be more and more room for others. It’s just a muscle.
The two of them flexed for us. Tim 350They did seem a bit scrawny. They were 13. Aaron’s dad showed up, giving him a big hug. Paul hugged him also, to his surprise.
“Well, it’s been quite a day, hasn’t it?”

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