It was a beautiful day despite the gusty north wind, a good day to get outside and join the throng of curiosity-seekers promenading along the river up to Golgotha. The current ran amazingly fast from north to south. I walked with them through the newly landscaped elevated path to the site of the old dumping grounds. The city stopped delivering its garbage there eighteen years ago and the landfill had become a grass- and shrub-covered hill providing a fine vista over the the surrounding countryside. I suppose we should've taken comfort from the fact that the plants and animals were taking over once again, buzzards and coyotes rooting around in the brush for carrion.
It was time to join the group on the viewing platform and take a look at the dark-skinned guy up on the cross bleeding from his forehead and side. Impossible to turn away. Like Grünewald, we needed to register the full bloody effect of his bodily suffering. The way he held himself off the nails, trying to breathe, it was pathetic, his flesh wasted and pallid. We could hear him struggling to make the effort from where we stood. Somebody should've put him out of his misery, the criminal sonofabitch. People had been talking about how he got himself into trouble with the authorities, but he hardly looked like a enemy of the state. His head was big and his features were refined. Except for his hands, he could have been a schoolteacher. For whatever reason, his hands were all beat to shit, like a tanner's or a farrier's.
People had seen him walking around town before he got arrested and he looked like an effin bum. Even the dozen or so boys he had following him looked pretty goddamn poor. It's doubtful that the whole bunch had ten bucks between them. They made a lot of noise but when you're poor you can preach all you want and it doesn't mean a thing. No one paid attention to them. We folks around here want to take our preaching from millionaires. Makes us feel like we'll get rich someday.
This guy was sad -- his clothes were old and ugly, he didn't have a car, and he needed a bath. The first time I saw him, I thought he was high, jabbering some kind of hocus-pocus as he went around touching sick people. When you come to the city you expect to see all kinds of human behavior, some of it funny, some of it appalling. His routine was both. Most of us passed him by but even so he drew a crowd. The same class of people you see in the subway looking for a hand-out.
The cops came and chased him and his followers out of the park but they didn't take him in at first. Maybe they were waiting for orders from the bureaucrats downtown. It wasn't clear whether the guy was harmless or not. What he was saying wasn't making much sense -- some bullshit about the homeless and the hypocritical elites and such. Less about universal health care and more about giving power back to the people. The kind of thing you hear all the time down there near the university and the slums.
After a while it became clear that this guy wasn't going to go away, so the police moved in and arrested him. His followers dispersed. Someone posted a video online showing one of the bigger cops giving it to him in the kidneys with a truncheon. It caused a little stir, but not much. We let our police force handle things the way they want to, as long as crime stays down.
There was only room for a couple of dozen people at a time on the viewing platform, so the security guards told us to get a move on so the next group could come up and get a good shot of the cross and the guy hanging there. Because it was hard to leave, they started physically pushing us down the other side of the hill. As we descended we could see a handful of skinheads loitering at the base of the cross fooling around with the guy's cast-off clothes. Perhaps they were hired to make sure he died when he was supposed to. They had a cooler filled with beer and a couple of ATVs parked down near the scrub where the path ran out. I guess that's how they were going to get the body out of there when the time came.
Beyond them we saw a bunch of tables set up in two rows and just past the tables a line-up of portable toilets. The tables were covered with souvenirs for sale -- t-shirts, ashtrays, little statues, pens and stuff. Cheap shite. The red-capped volunteers manning the tables were doing a brisk business. I needed a new coffee mug and they had a decent-sized one but the line was too long and I decided not to wait.
The young woman working the t-shirt table had a radio going full blast. It was tuned to a classical station and they were playing Puccini's Messa di gloria. I thought it worked well as background music to our slow shuffling away from the scene of the crucifixion. Life as tragic opera. Or a gory 3-D movie. I thought to myself, give an effin Nazi a couple of shots of schnapps and his cheeks will glisten with tears, the sentimental punk. He will gaze upon the tall handsome Aryan conductor on the podium and he will sway his arms along with the galloping strings and sounding brass. More tears will come. And if he listens long enough he will abandon his dreams of world domination and settle for watching a ten-minute video loop of some effin loser getting crucified.