Father D’Arcy Cosgrove honed his special talents during a mission to Africa, where he ministered to locals about the dangers of sex. To Cosgrove, sex is a menace to societies all across the world, with no country more stricken than the United States. And so, to fight his war on impropriety, Cosgrove moves to New York City, a place he believes is rotten with lust. Cosgrove and his lieutenant—a towering African named Great Big—land in the wilds of an impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood, not far from the site of a heinous hate crime. There the two crusaders start their assault on immorality, where their attacks always land below the belt. They’re determined to save New York—as long as it doesn’t corrupt them first. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Jimmy Breslin including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
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He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners
By Jimmy Breslin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Rodene Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Howard Beach is a white finger sticking into Jamaica Bay alongside Kennedy Airport, which is the reason Howard Beach first became famous, and everybody now wishes that nobody had ever heard of the place at all, but it certainly is too late for that. "Howard Beach don't speak up until something happens," Angie Cirillo, twenty-four, said one day. "Then, when they do speak up, they say the wrong thing. I don't want no mention of Howard Beach anymore. Why do you have to talk about a place that's safe for a girl living by herself? That's more than a neighborhood where the coloreds live could say."
One reason why Howard Beach might be safe for Angie is the presence of her uncle, Anthony ("the Slap Giver") Cirillo, who lives upstairs in the same house. Protection, however, too often safeguards us from all parts of life except desolation. On many evenings, Uncle Anthony the Slap Giver can be found sitting on the front stoop, thus causing those with an inclination to visit Angie to remain on the far end of the street. It also might be stated that Howard Beach may be so safe for other single girls because, although many hard-working people live there, Howard Beach also has a severe overcrowding of gangsters. One feature of their presence is that the best medieval customs are kept flourishing, one of these being death before dishonor.
But to be factual about Howard Beach's fame, I must begin with the fact that Howard Beach originally became known for the planes that fly in the sky right over its roofs. When most Howard Beach residents bought their homes, there were only propeller planes, whose sounds were bearable. Residents were proud of the planes and always urged visitors to look up into the sky to see the beautiful planes. When jets replaced the propeller planes, the flight path onto the main runways brought jets only a couple of hundred feet over Cross Bay Boulevard, the main street running through Howard Beach.
The jets went right over the New Park Pizza stand on the corner of Cross Bay Boulevard and 156th Avenue and smack over the roof of the all-electric house owned by Ralph Turchio. Ralph's roof is only seven blocks from the start of the Kennedy runway. "When the plane goes over my house, I can see the people in the window."
Suddenly noise directed even the smallest of tasks. When speaking on the phone, people developed what became known as the Howard Beach wait. Every twenty seconds the one on the phone had to say "Wait a minute" and let the plane go over the house. After a couple of years, legitimate young men in Howard Beach were having difficulties with the Fire Department physicals, for it was being reported out that some Howard Beach applicants were unfit by reason of not being able to hear a fire alarm go off.
In 1976, when the French and British introduced the Concorde plane, which makes more noise than a direct hit, Ralph Turchio and others in Howard Beach tried to fight it. "I'm a human being," Ralph Turchio said.
One day in Paris, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the President, said on television, "Howard Beach, that is where the fishes are."
At his home, Ralph Turchio jumped up. "What is he, tough?"
All of which first made Howard Beach famous and might explain how people in Howard Beach act, although nobody is buying that this year. Particularly after what happened on the night of December 19, going into December 20, of 1986.
First, Alitalia flight 610, coming from Rome, originally due in by midafternoon, arrived hours late. In the rear of the plane was a little priest with a long nose and uncombed black hair. With him was an ebony apparition, a man so huge that Rome airport police boarded him early, so as not to frighten the other passengers, and hid him in the rear, where the apparition sat on the floor, his legs being much too long for a regular seat. As the huge man was terrified of the plane, the priest threw a blanket over his head and the man fell asleep. When the plane landed, the black man pulled the blanket off his head and stood up, and immediately there was panic in the aisle and people clawed at each other to get off the plane.
About which we will tell you all, and how this determines the course of the priest's life, but for now here he leads his friend off the plane and to the line to the first booth, the one where you show passports if you are a foreigner. D'Arcy Cosgrove, the priest, wore a black raincoat, as did the man with him, whom he called Great Big, although the raincoat on Great Big was so small that the man could not think of buttoning the front. Cosgrove presented both passports, and the clerk, head down, glanced at Great Big's African book and seemed to think that was fine and he stamped it. But when his eyes fell on Cosgrove's, on the harp engraved on the cover of all passports by the Republic of Ireland, the clerk in his booth made a motion.
Immediately, Cosgrove and his friend Great Big were surrounded by a number of uniformed customs and immigration service officers who led the two into a large bare room that was crowded with young people who were unmistakably Irish. So many thousands of them enter America illegally, flooding into the country in the greatest numbers since the century began, that to immigration people the Irish are simply Mexicans who swagger.
When Cosgrove and Great Big entered the room, all the young Irish flattened themselves against the far wall. Immigration agents pushed through the room, severely questioning the young, and when they got to Cosgrove they were highly suspicious and demanded proof that he was a priest, and when he was able to show that, and do so grandly, with papers from the Vatican that looked so impressive that the immigration man nearly genuflected, the agent concentrated on Great Big.
"Who is this man?" the immigration agent asked. He spoke in a normal tone and his face was placid, but Great Big immediately growled. He knew the man hated him. Cosgrove spoke to Great Big in French, which is the usual way the two communicated. Great Big knew French from missionaries, and Yoruba by birth, but he was used to the loneliness of the bush country and was taciturn in any language. Yet he had marvelous instincts about the human face and sound during conversation and someone could speak in normal tones and with a placid face, just as this immigration clerk was doing, and still say something bad about Great Big and there was some instinct, some fear that caused Great Big to resent the moment, sometimes bitterly.
It was quite a while before Cosgrove and Great Big cleared the waiting room in which the Irish were detained and went on to the baggage area, where on line in front of them was a stumpy man from the Rome Alitalia flight. He had two huge brown suitcases, which he attempted to carry past the baggage inspector, who nearly tackled him. The small man, surprised that he was being stopped, having been previously assured that no such thing could happen to him, put the bags down on the counter and simply walked away. "Hey," the inspector called. The man shook his head and held out his hands. "Not mine." The baggage inspector inserted two fingers into his mouth and blew. Agents fell out of the walls and onto the small man. The baggage inspector went through the suitcases and found package after package of white powder.
"I suppose you're going to tell me this is your headache medicine," the baggage inspector said.
The little man clapped both hands to his temples and began rubbing. He was soon gone in a swirl of agents.
Cosgrove put his black bag on the counter and the inspector dug inside and suddenly held a trophy aloft, a large box of Tums, a box containing forty-eight rolls.
"What drug is this?"
"Tums," Cosgrove said.
"You are certain of this?"
"Why do you have so many of them?" the customs man said.
"Because he gets indigestion sometimes," Cosgrove said, pointing to Great Big. Great Big was anxious about his Turns and he reached out and tore a roll of Turns out of the customs man's hands and upon sensing the customs man's combination of fear and officiousness, Great Big opened the pack and handed the customs man a couple of them. The customs man sniffed them. Great Big threw a couple into his mouth. The customs man shook his head. "You've got too many of them for me. These got to be tested."
"Why don't we just leave them here?" Cosgrove said.
"You got to stay, too. Because if these are heroin tablets then you got to go to jail for twenty years."
Cosgrove and Great Big were put in a room where they fell asleep on the floor. Hours later, a customs and immigration man stuck his head in. "You're right. Tums for the tummy." Cosgrove nodded. "Where are they?" The agent threw up his hands. "We needed them for the test." He said they were free to go. When Cosgrove and Great Big walked out to the night-empty airport terminal, Cosgrove went to the newsstand and bought a dozen rolls of Tums.
They then walked out into the American daylight and Cosgrove stopped and took a huge breath, as any good fighter does before the thing begins.
The priest, D'Arcy Cosgrove, was a soldier of his church, a man bristling with celibacy, who was picked personally by the Pope out of all the priests of the world for his background and belief that sex was the greatest threat to America, and therefore the rest of the civilized world. The Pope has made virtually an equal number of speeches about masturbation and multiple nuclear warheads. As America was the world leader, and also the nation most publicly tormented by sex, the Pope viewed the country as the great battleground for world survival. The Pope was putting together in his mind a plan to flood America with priests who had the proper view of sex — that it was absolutely intolerable — and he was sending as the lead man of this invasion D'Arcy Cosgrove, who, in the memory of the Pope and most others, was by himself in this matter.
Cosgrove was pure Irish, as we will tell you later, and he had been raised on the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, whose view of the worth of women still rules the church even though Aquinas issued it centuries ago. Aquinas stated that Catholics must always be ruled only by men, because to begin with, the fetus of a female received her soul from God several weeks after the male soul, and that the female soul never has had the "eminence of degree" — which sounds fancy but really means "dirty whore bitch" — necessary for the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which is how men become priests.
Even if a woman were included in the ceremony of receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Aquinas wrote, the Sacrament would not take on her soul and she would never be a priest. This was a natural part of the Catholic view that all life resides only in the male sperm and that nothing can ever be done to interfere with the male sperm making its way to its natural terminal inside a woman. Contraception is not used to prevent the woman from getting pregnant, according to Rome. Rather, it is one more plot against the highest order on earth, the male sperm. With this as his only philosophy, Cosgrove might have been the finest sex fighter the church ever produced.
When the Pope was in Africa, he was amazed and supremely delighted to see the little priest who rushed about the ranks of bare-breasted black women, the usual number of whom hadn't had a decent meal in a year, throwing white cloths over their dirty naked breasts. All through his journey, every time the Pope looked up, there was the priest, throwing a white cloth over a bare chest. This, the Pope thought, is a man who sees his faith in its clearest light: the poor we shall always have with us; therefore, look past their temporary affliction, their bones sticking out and their dry tongues, and attack the true sin, sex.
This helped give the Pope the fire to stand in front of a great crowd of shoeless, 150,000 at least, with women as far as he could see with breasts covered, many with white cloth, and his eye was attracted to these clouds of dust in the ranks of people and, sure enough, here was the little priest, pounding along the ground, slapping cloth onto nipples. And so the Pope took the Devil on under the sun. He told the crowd of 150,000 to practice celibacy on the African continent. They must never use birth control.
"Deny yourself of sexual pleasure," he told shoeless Africans who lived in huts in the sun. Everybody in the crowd listened respectfully. Then the Pope blessed a hippopotamus and the crowd cheered. They thought the hippopotamus was going to stop having sex in the river. Then everybody went home to their huts to have sex. The Pope, sensing this, was disappointed.
Next he went to South America, and on the way home he stopped at the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. The island had 140,000 people, half at average age twenty-five, the other half at age four, and Prime Minister John Compton had been instructing his people that birth control was a civic duty every bit as much as fire prevention in order to prevent people of the island from having the baby next door for lunch.
Arriving at St. Lucia, the Pope, his eyes afire, was expected to make a powerful call for celibacy by the sea, and for no birth control for those allowed to have sex, for nothing ever to interfere with the male sperm, but only a week before this, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia had delivered a strong address to the island legislature about the urgency for population reduction by birth control. Therefore, the Prime Minister would be unable to stand mute if the Pope were to deliver a statement unalterably opposed to that of the island's civil authorities. Which put the Pope in shock only momentarily, for he was an establishment politician — in his own Poland he had sold out Walesa the labor leader as if it was a good thing to do.
Now on the island of St. Lucia, he wavered, stammered, and finally told a crowd of five thousand that "our faith invites us to promote the dignity of the Christian family in accordance with God's unchanging plan. The future of the nation belongs to them. To prepare for the future, it is right that you should aspire to greatness." As this meant exactly nothing, it pleased everybody, and the Prime Minister was especially thankful.
On the way back to Rome, however, the Pope was furious that he had not hammered the sin out of the crowd, and he thought about that little priest covering all those black breasts in Africa. Perhaps the priest could work St. Lucia, the Pope thought. No, America was still the place that needed an attack on sex the most. He thought of dispatching men to fight in America long after any one Papal visit. There were some decent celibates trying to run his church in America, the cardinals of New York and Boston foremost, men who understood that sex was the first sin and probably the only sin and that those who failed the church were the ones who took their eyes off the main event, sex, and let them wander over such irrelevancies as race and hunger.
Race was silly for American Catholics to worry about because few blacks were Catholic. Nor was hunger something to fret over, for it was only a cause of temporal death, which all must experience, but sex causes eternal damnation. So the Pope sat in Rome and thought sourly of America and of ways to help bring this fresh, hectic, brazen country into line with the sound, eternal thinking of old Europe, particularly Eastern Europe.
And then, from nowhere, on a dark night, with his first soldier, D'Arcy Cosgrove, standing in Kennedy Airport, Howard Beach exploded and gave the Pope an international reason to get his hands on American morals.
If you will remember when I started telling you this, I told you that Howard Beach is a white finger of land that sticks into Jamaica Bay by Kennedy Airport. Which is a precise description. On one side of the finger is the airport and surrounding the airport are neighborhoods called South Ozone Park and Jamaica, quite black. And on the other side of the white finger, but very close, the bay water runs into marshes with seven-foot-high mouse gray bullrushes.
Excerpted from He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners by Jimmy Breslin. Copyright © 1988 Rodene Enterprises, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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