queen of alcoholics / preparing for the papal visit

Preparing for the Papal Visit
eastwind journals 141


By Bernie V. Lopez


Preparing for the Papal Visit
everyone is in a frenzy
dwelling in complex details
the danger is
we sometimes forget the big picture
which little children
may remind us about
that what is in our hearts
is more important than
all the fuss about external concerns
the global media, the politics, the limelight
pope francis is focused in visiting
the yolanda survivors
he knows full well his mission
he wants us to pray the rosary
to turn to Our Lady of Fatima
precursor of global cataclysms
he wants us to strengthen our marian devotion
to avert the next disasters to come
when the bohol-cebu earthquakes came
he dispatched the statue of Our Lady of Fatima
to the philippines for a reason
for we are at the center of it all
more super-typhoons are predicted by PAGASA
and he wants us to prepare spiritually
for more apocalyptic events to come
for him, nothing else matters more
that is why he is visiting us
the only catholic nation in asia
the center of marian devotion
in the eastern hemisphere


Anecdote 26
Queen of Alcoholics


Author’s note. Some of you may have read this rerun before. This is an excerpt from an upcoming book Ten Wisdoms of the Lord’s Prayer, co-authored by Bernie V. Lopez and Vic Cusi.


to defy the light
and wallow in darkness
to let the wind
carry you to nowhere
is a kind of wisdom


Changing the world in the toughest places is tough for some but easy for others. It is just a matter of having the ‘talent’ to deal with the situation. It so happened that Tess was an expert on this.


The Bowery in New York City was where homeless alcoholics wrapped in towels sleep in the icy sidewalk in winter. Deep in this hell-hole was a tiny heaven-hole, a soup kitchen giving free hot soup and bread. For Bowery residents, this spelled the difference between life – surviving for one more winter, and death – freezing from hunger.


It was a bizarre venue for zombies. Many talked to themselves. A few got up a table and made speeches, ignored by everyone. Once, the soup kettle tilted over due to a brawl and many had no food that day. An elderly man was knifed by an elderly lady for making a pass.


Tess, a big fat Irish ex-alcoholic of a woman, came in to become a volunteer. As a newcomer, she felt nervous. Raul was a trouble maker. He was drunk. He came up to Tess.


RAUL – Hello there big tits. You’re looking grand tonight. How’s about a little kiss. (Tess smiled, ignored the sleazy remark, and turned away).
RAUL – (In a loud voice). Hey, what’s the matter, lady? I can really give you a good banging, I promise. (Onlookers gave a giggle).
TESS – Move on, Raul.


Every night, Raul would harass Tess with sleazy talk, and everyone would laugh. Tess would take it all with a smile. One night, her Irish temper just came out. She went up to him and gave him a KO punch. Everyone was silent, shocked. Several toughies stood up and headed towards Tess. This must be his friends, Tess thought. She wanted to run, but decided to stand her ground. The toughies were not after her. They were after the guy she KO’d. The KO punch of Tess gave them the signal that it was about time this blabbermouth was done for. They mauled the guy to the delight of the screaming crowd. Tess had to intervene before Raul would be hospitalized.


TESS – Thanks, guys. You didn’t have to intervene. One punch was enough.
GUY – No, we should thank you. We were just waiting for someone from the house to break the ice. You were doing us the favor.
TESS – Glad to have accommodated you. He deserves it.
GUY – He was really asking for it.


Tess went up to Raul, picked him up (she was strong enough to do it), and without a word, helped him to a chair. From then on, everyone loved her. Tess was the only woman volunteer who stayed for a long time. Others could not stand the sexual harassments. Tess had her way with men. Once, when someone touched her breast, she just gave him a hard slap, smiled, and told him to move on. It never happened again. Someone made lewd remarks. She said aloud, “God bless you, Charlie. Move on.” She took time to memorize every name. Charlie bowed his head in shame. It never happened again. As an ex-alcoholic, Tess knew that even zombies had a bit of an angel in them. You just have to let it come out.


A syndicate was cornering the soup by forcing others out of the line. Then they would go back for several servings. No one dared tell the volunteers. But from the corner of her eye, Tess saw the whole thing. She identified the syndicate members easily. One day she met all of them. She got a burly policeman beside her. She read the list of their names and gave it to the policeman.


TESS – You see those four people there huddled at the corner? They haven’t had their meal. Hey, Jack, you know why?
JACK – How should I know? Maybe you should bring in more soup. Not enough. (One of them giggled softly).
TESS – Don’t get wise with me, Jack. They haven’t eaten because you guys cornered the soup.
JACK – Too bad for them. They should learn to fight for their rights.
TESS – I’m fighting for their rights. Wanna do something about it? (She approaches Jack face to face, nose to nose).
JACK – I can’t fight a woman.
TESS – I am giving you permission to do so. Just imagine I’m a man. (To the policeman). Officer, can I ask you a favor? Would you mind not intervening?
POLICEMAN – If you say so Ma’am. I heard how you KO’d Raul, who’s much bigger. I reckon this guy won’t give much of a fight.
RAUL – I’m willing to bet $2 for Tess. Any takers? (The crowd, which became bigger now, was silent.)
TESS – Next time you corner the soup, you’re out of here, I mean forever. Clear? (No answer). Okay, clear out and God bless you. (No answer.) I said “God bless you,” Jack.
JACK – God bless you, Tess.
TESS – You have to mean it.
JACK – I mean it.


Tess embraced Jack. Everyone screamed. The syndicate vanished. It never happened again. On the way to the kitchen, Tess always met residents outside in the snow who would offer her a swig of whisky. She never refused, although she knew it was dangerous for an ex-alcoholic to take even a drop. Thus, everyone considered her as one of them.


Realizing the kitchen was inducing violence and indifference, Tess devised the partner system. One can eat one’s soup only after one has served a partner. One’s partner would be waiting at the table like a king. One can serve one’s self only after, and must eat with the partner. Next day, the server became the one served. Partners were rotated until everyone partnered with everyone else. There were a few quarrels for those who hated their partners. Tess said a quarrel meant no soup for the two. So they started learning not to hate each other, which was a pretty tall order for some.


TESS – (To all the guys) In the absence of hate, there is only love.


Once, Tess came in in tears, saying she had just been mugged. That evening, when everyone had left, she found a paper bag with her name. It was full of nickels, dimes and quarters. There was a note – “to the queen of our kitchen.” Tears fell on the kitchen floor. In this hell hole, one found semblances of love. They loved Tess.


In no time, the kitchen became a home for bonding and sharing of derelicts. Violence waned and residents no longer behaved like zombies. They came not just for the soup but for the company. The noise became louder at lunch time. This was how the hell-hole became a heaven-hole, a spiritual transformation never before seen in the Bowery.
one candle light can pierce the darkness
and infect other candles
until there is nothing but blinding light
there is a piece of heaven in every hell
a tiny angel in every bum
you just have to let it come out
sometimes the secret in instilling love
is to first induce the absence of hate
then everything just falls into place


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