Where am I going on the next magic carpet ride?

Ahmed could be innocent even if he were an Albanian in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if he is on the store video he could be arrested as an accomplice or wrongly for being there at the wrong time and place with an Albanian gangster. The worst things he did was sell a car without a permit which he promised to fix, try to sell a carpet without a peddler’s permit. and loot a store.


It was my calling to have jobs with limited room for advancement since I never graduated from high school or college. I was a delivery boy in an upper West Side Manhattan neighborhood, Good Humor man on a three-wheel bicycle cart full of dry ice in a hilly section of the Borough of Queens selling toasted almond and orange creamsicle bars (long before the era of chocolate éclair and strawberry shortcake), hospital admissions clerk, manuscript reader for a vanity publisher.

I was a process server briefly. I served eviction notices for slumlords on tenants with nowhere else to go. “How much time do you need to find another place?” I asked the tenants. I never went back.

In an inexplicable turn of events I became an enforcement agent for the Bureau of Licensing of the City Department of Consumer Affairs. There were so few applicants that I was able to score among the first three on the civil service exam from which my name was randomly picked out of a hat.

I wore a suit to work. I had my own desk, a cubicle, and a telephone of my own, and a city car I parked in a reserved space in front of the building on Centre Street in Manhattan. I even had a badge and business cards with my name on them printed at government expense.

My time was my own. I filed a quota of reports every week on the complaints I investigated.

Now my friends and relatives could boast “he works for the city” in the belief that I had a cradle-to-grave sinecure.

To repay the city government for my good fortune, I duly registered to vote as a Democrat. I joined the local Democratic Committee in my District, kicked back part of my salary to the party and knocked on the doors of Democratic registered voters in the city housing projects reminding them to vote between 6pm and 9pm on election day if they had not voted.

I avoided going out in winter but this position gave me a chance in Spring, Summer, and Fall to visit New York City’s exotic neighborhoods. Yorkville, the German neighborhood on Manhattan’s upper East Side along the East River near York Avenue (named after Sgt Alvin York, hero of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Battle) once headquarters to the German pro-Nazi Bund. I walked the streets of Sugar Hill atop a bluff overlooking the Harlem River, passing 555 Edgecombe Avenue, home of Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis who raised tens of millions of dollars for the US Government in war bonds during World War Two only to be hounded to death for tax evasion by the IRS. On Jumel Terrace on Sugar Hill I walked past the last residence of the great actor, singer, and human rights activist Paul Robeson, whose passport was confiscated and who was persecuted for being a Communist.

I discovered Italian Harlem, the birthplace of Congressman Vito Marcantonio. I stood on the corner on the east side of Lexington Avenue and East 116th Street (now officially proclaimed Vito Marcantonio Lucky Corner) four blocks away from his birthplace, the corner from which he launched his campaigns for seven terms in the US Congress from 1935 to 1951 as leader of the American Labor Party. I mourned him retroactively for being reviled for his ties to the American Communist Party, for calling for Puerto Rico’s independence, and for being the single member of Congress to oppose the Korean War.

Another place was Marble Hill, the disputed territory between Manhattan and the Bronx built on a Dutch settlement over marble deposits which became an island in the Harlem River when they constructed the Harlem Ship Canal in 1895.

One of my main tasks working for the city license bureau was enforcement against unlicensed street peddlers. One spring day, as a rainstorm washed away debris on the sidewalks and gutters where trash had been piling up, I was dispatched to Brooklyn to investigate a complaint against a gentleman alleged to be buying and selling used cars without the necessary permits and without a known place of business. He was allegedly selling uninspected lemons that broke down soon after the sale. This miscreant was acting in contravention of the New York Lemon Law which provided a legal remedy for buyers of cars that broke down after you drove them off the lot. If the seller wouldn’t fix it the buyer was entitled to a refund or replacement.

Traffic was backed up that day. It took me an hour to get across the Brooklyn Bridge and down Ocean Avenue to Flatbush Avenue. The rain let up by the time I got there. I was looking for a man named Ahmed. I can’t remember if Ahmed was his first or last name.

I didn’t know where he was from at the time. I treated everyone equally. Race or religion or place of origin were irrelevant. He could have been from Persia, the Middle East, the East Indies, or Sumatra.

I went to the address the complainant gave us. On the corner stood a bearded man in a burnous. Just in the odd chance he bore a likeness to Ahmed or knew him, I pulled up, lowered the window and shouted, “Where is Ahmed?” as if I was in the casbah. He shook his head.

I could not find a place that corresponded to the street address. But it was my lucky day. I saw a vacant lot where a tenement had been torn down. A pickup truck with a for sale sign in the window was parked there serenading the neighborhood from the cab with the music of dulcimers, lutes, and flutes.

I saw a man was sitting in the cab of the truck.

“You speak English?”

He nodded.

“What kind of music is that?”

He turned down the music. “Turkish.”

“I work for the city. Here is my card.” I asked him if he was Ahmed. He said yes.

“Welcome,” he said as he got out of the truck. We shook hands. He was in his mid-30s, unshaven, black tousled hair, wearing jeans and sneakers and a T-shirt advertising a restaurant. It said El Sultan Beirut.

“Is this vehicle for sale?” I asked.

“I’m selling it for a friend.”

“You have a dealer license and a certificate of authority to collect sales tax?”

He shook his head.

“Did you sell a black 2007 Kia Spectra sedan to a lady who lives in Prospect Park?


“The mileage said 144,000 miles and it broke down after she drove it off the lot.”

“I sold as is.”

“The lady in question tried to contact you to ask you to fix the car. She hasn’t been able to reach you. It looked like the mileage was changed.”

” I didn’t know.”

“You could be sued for fraud,” I said. “Did you pay State Sales Tax on the sale?”

“I didn’t know,” he said.

“This vehicle is for sale. Mind if I look at the registration and the title and current insurance of this vehicle?” He reached into the glove compartment but they were not there. Then he handed me a laminated card.

“What’s this?”

“My green card.”

“I’m not immigration,” I said handing the card back to him.

While I was considering what to do, he offered me a cigarette and took out his cellphone and asked if he could call the friend who was the owner of the pickup.

“No problem,” I said.

Within five minutes, a man pulled up in a Toyota pickup wearing a T-shirt just like the one Ahmed was wearing. He introduced himself as Ali and confirmed he had lent Ahmed the pickup truck and it was for sale. He showed me the registration, title, and insurance in his name.

“How was he going to sell this vehicle without these papers?” I asked.

“It’s a big misunderstanding,” he said with a smile.

“What about the Kia? We have a complaint from the lady he sold the Kia to.”

It was lunchtime and I could not decide on a remedy. After being stuck in traffic for an hour, I was getting hungry.

“Is there a place to eat in the neighborhood?”

“My place down the street,” Ali said. “You are welcome.”

Ali owned the Lebanese restaurant down the street advertised on their T-shirts.

“I think better on a full stomach. Let’s go have lunch,” I said. We drove down to El Sultan Beirut. You could hear the beguiling music of the Middle East with flutes and the percussive sound of drums.

I had lamb shawarma and a raspberry-flavored Lebanese beer called Laziza.

I noticed an endearing elderly couple in a corner where the wife was helping her infirm husband eat. “My beloved, do you remember our trip to Beirut before the war when we walked down the Corniche and drank arak in the cafés and you even tried to smoke a narguileh?” Her husband did not respond but he had an appetite.

Ali told me he had been in the States 10 years. His three children attended local public schools. Ahmed said he was a newlywed and had two brothers named Hussein and Ali. He had just brought his wife over from Albania, their homeland.

“Would you like to see her photo?” Ahmed asked. He thrust his cellphone in front of me with the photo. She looked like a princess out of the Arabian Nights. “She is applying for her green card. She must wait three years. Her name is Aisha. It means ‘alive’ in Arabic. Aisha was the name of Muhammad the prophet’s peace be upon him third wife,” Ali said.

There was a lull in the conversation.

“His future wife was escorted to the airport in Tirana by the American Consul,” Ali said.

Ahmed looked down and shook his head.

“Where is Tirana?”


“I thought you were from Lebanon.”

“Because of the restaurant?”

I nodded.

“We’re Albanian,” Ali said. “There are many Albanians in New York.”

“His wife’s father did not approve of the marriage. Her brother was ready to kill her.”

“Why?” I asked.

“A blood feud between the families over land a hundred years ago,” Ali said.

“Ahmed told me his troubles, I call my Congresswoman. Her legislative aide call me back personally. I explain the situation. Aisha is in danger. They call the American Consul in Tirana. The American Consul send his car with an American flag to save his fiancé at the request of my Congresswoman. She took her to a safe house and then to the airport. I pay for the ticket on Alitalia on my credit card. Non-stop. Tirana Rome JFK!”

Ahmed covered his face in his hands. “You are disrespecting me. I’ll pay you back!”

“You’re my cousin. It is our family honor. The girl’s family disrespected our family. They questioned her chastity. And she was even abused by the police at the airport in the presence of the US Consul.”

“I’m sorry but I’m glad everything worked out for Ahmed and his wife,” I said.

“Ahmed needed job,” Ali said.

Ali asked me if I was married. I told him I was single and not looking to get married.

“Do you go out? Do you date?” Ahmed asked.

“Of course,” I replied. It was a coded question I seemed to have heard before. I tried not to take it personally though they might as well have asked me if I liked women.

“Why do you ask?” There was a discreet interval. We had got to know one another. Now came the next question.

Ali asked what he could do to fix things. I pretended I didn’t hear the question by swallowing some of my Laziza.

Ali made another overture.

“You are a US citizen?”

I nodded.

“We have to get you married,” Ali said.

I smiled. “I’m not looking to get married.”

“We have a friend,” Ahmed said. “His girlfriend needs a green card.”

“I don’t work for immigration. Why doesn’t he bring her over as his fiancé or wife?” I asked.

“He can’t marry her in America,” Ali said. “He’s already married. He would marry her but he cannot have a second wife,” Ali said. “He is looking for someone to marry his girlfriend. He will pay,” Ali said. “Here is a photo of her,” Ali said.

I glance at the photo. “Very nice.”

“She speaks English and Italian. She is single and she is very educated.”

“Why doesn’t she apply for a student visa?”

“Because she could not remain here unless she is married to a US citizen.”

“How would that work?”

“You get married and live in the same place with her for a few months so immigration believes you are legally married because you live together. You would be paid,” he said.

“Is she from Tirana also?” I asked, looking sideways at the photo.

“Girls from Tirana very friendly,” Ali said.

“Suppose the immigration ask me if we sleep in the same bed and have sex, to determine if we are husband and wife,” I asked.

“What do you think, my friend? Of course!” Ali said.

“They even come to your place to surprise you in the middle of the night,” Ahmed said.

“You’re joking.”

Ali and Ahmed could not control their laughter.

What it was about me that made them think they could make such an offer? “I’m flattered to be worthy of your trust, I’ll think about it,” I said.

When I tried to pay for my lunch, Ali refused. “You are our guest,” he said.

I said “Get Ahmed a dealer’s license and fix the lady’s Kia so she doesn’t complain to my supervisor. I don’t want any trouble at the office.”

“I fix the customer’s car. I give you my word, Besa! “Ahmed said.

“What did he say?”

“He promise to fix the car in Albanian on the grave of his ancestors,” Ali said.

I didn’t accept his offer of the girlfriend from Tirana. True, I did accept lunch, a harmless gesture, an in-kind no-fault no-foul bribe. No money changed hands.

I didn’t insist on paying because in some countries Government workers are so underpaid they must accept gifts to support their families and pay their children’s school fees. Gifts are customary. On the other hand, maybe it was a bribe because the lunch was something of value. Yet I did not give them anything of value in return because even if they had allowed me to pay for lunch I had already made up my mind to let it go. Ahmed and I were done. I took the rest of the afternoon off.

Several weeks later the owner of an antique store on Flatbush Ave said a peddler in front of his store was trying to sell a Persian carpet. When I drove back to Brooklyn I had the odd feeling the hand of fate was at work.

Ahmed was trying to sell a Persian carpet in front of an antique shop and he had the effrontery to select a shop owned by an Iranian who also sold Persian carpets.

The irate shopkeeper came out of the store when I pulled up in the no-parking zone. “I have been selling rugs here for 30 years. I’m Armenian. You have to arrest this man,” he said.

“I thought you were Iranian,” I said. “I will handle it.”

“I won’t calm down. He is Albanian. Albanians are dangerous. He is trying to send me a message.”

“All Albanians?”

“Don’t you read the papers? Brooklyn Albanians and Staten Island Albanians are dangerous. This is Brooklyn.”

I wasn’t a carpet connoisseur but the carpet Ahmed was trying to sell looked genuine. The designs were magenta. If you looked underneath you could tell it was hand-knotted, better than machine-made. It looked like one of a kind as if it had some magic properties like a carpet out of the Arabian Thousand and One Nights. If you meditated on it in a yoga position it could levitate you to wherever or with whomever.

Ahmed greeted me as “my brother” since we were already acquainted.

“How is the family?” I asked. “Have you decided to get into another line of work?”

He nodded. “I’m still working for my cousin Ali.”

“Do you have a vendor’s license?” I asked.

“I’m selling it for Ali,” he said.

It was such a nice Persian rug I had to ask. “How much you asking?”

“It is worth more than $25,000 but my friend Ali said let it go for $1400.”

“How many businesses does Ali have?” I asked.

Ahmed did not answer.

“My Department has a complaint from the antique store owner who is watching us from the store window. You’re disturbing his business. He wants you arrested. I could call the police. Show me your street vendor’s license.“

“I can’t afford the license,” Ahmed replied.

“It is only $300. You are going to have to move on and find a way to get the money and go to the Department of Consumer Affairs and get a license. You can’t sell anything on the street without a permit. Don’t they have permits in Tirana? The store owner is watching me. I have to give you a warning this time,” I said as I filled out a form.

“And don’t go near his store again,” I said.

“Why?” Ahmed asked.

“He’s afraid of you.”

I gave him the form. As Ahmed walked down the street with the carpet over his shoulder I felt sorry for him. My theory of random chaos came to mind. When something good or bad happens, it sets a precedent for a series of other good or bad things to happen with no rhyme or reason.

A few weeks later I’m sitting in my office catching up on paperwork and the telephone rings. It’s Ahmed.

“How did you get my number?” I asked.

“You gave me your card, he said.

“Did the people in the licensing office help you?” I asked.

“That’s not the problem. I need help, my brother,” he said.

“Did you get arrested? I told you not to go near the antique store,” I said.

“No, I got married.”

“You told me you were married.”

“Aisha is sick.”

“Call 911” I’m thinking I’m not the Salvation Army. This is how fate repays me for pretending to be a Good Samaritan. He tells me he did call 911 but they ask for an address. “I don’t have an address. We’re homeless.”

“They don’t need an address. Call 911 back and tell them the address of the building you are in front of,” I said.

There was a long pause. The pause tested my compassion. “Don’t you have any friends? What about your brother Ali?”

“He is not my brother. He is my cousin. He keeps reminding me of my debt. Ali is a devil. He wanted you to get a green card for his girlfriend from Tirana. But she isn’t his girlfriend. She is just another woman he is bringing to the States.”

“He brings women to the States?” I’m dumbfounded at this piece of intelligence.

I ask Ahmed where he is. He gives me an address on Hawthorne St. in Brooklyn.

It is in the Caribbean neighborhood of Jamaican, Haitian, Barbadian eateries where the air is redolent with the scent of marijuana and goatmeat being barbecued in barrels on the street, and where old men enjoy their retirement playing dominoes on boxes on the sidewalks to the blare of salsa and gangsta reggae.

I found Ahmed standing with the princess I saw on the cellphone. I now saw her in the flesh, dark hair, olive skin, eyes that changed from Mediterranean blue to green. She was sitting on a suitcase surrounded by rubbish bags and furniture.

She seemed to be in such great physical distress that I was reluctant to approach her to be formally introduced. I kept my distance. By instinct I didn’t want to do anything to make Ahmed feel ashamed. Where he hailed from must be one of those shame and honor societies where death is preferable to losing one’s honor or preserving one’s honor is preferable to death.

A voice inside kept telling me, “No looking,” or “No looking more than two seconds,” and “No asking about her physical condition,” because even though now I knew where they were from, it was against their culture. Nor could I ask about her condition in case she had a female ailment. She could be pregnant. In some countries don’t you know she could not even be examined by a male doctor? Maybe she’d refuse to be examined at the hospital unless her husband was present to defend her honor because if she was alone in a male doctor’s presence she would be dishonored by the very thought that she was alone in a closed room with another male not her husband. It was against Sharia law. She could be punished by 100 lashes, even in Brooklyn.

In the two seconds I allowed myself to look on her countenance she was cradling an apple in her hands and seemed to be smelling the apple. To boot it started raining. This made things worse not better according to the law of bad things setting a precedent for other bad things.

Nothing arouses my sympathy more than a beautiful young woman in distress. In that moment, a voice in my head told me I have a duty to assist and could be prosecuted for not assisting. “What if the end is near?” I asked myself. “She doesn’t even have a bed to die in and the longer I temporize, it is going to be my fault and Ahmed obviously can’t afford her funeral and neither can I.”

“What are you going to do with your possessions?” I asked Ahmed. He wasn’t listening.

We were five minutes away from Kings County and Downstate Medical Center, two big public hospitals. I put them in the car and helped Ahmed pile their belongings into the trunk including the Persian carpet, but left the few pieces of furniture, and I took them to Downstate Medical.

I rushed into the Emergency Room to get a wheelchair just like in the old days when I worked as an admissions clerk at a children’s hospital. I explained to the clerk they’re homeless, no money, no address, no insurance. A woman in a white uniform with a hijab, a traditional head covering, came forward to take care of the wife who was still holding the apple. She pushed her wheelchair into the triage area.

Ahmed thanked me. I was about to leave but remembered their stuff in the trunk. As he was retrieving their belongings, I asked him about the apple.

“Why was your wife holding on to the apple?”

“It is good for her health,” he said.

“You mean it has healing qualities?”

I couldn’t just leave him without a roof over his head so to ward off his asking for my compassion and hospitality, I asked “Do you have any friends you can stay with? I would ask you to stay at my place but I don’t have the space. Don’t forget the carpet.”

He shook his head. “It’s a gift,” he said.

“I can’t take it. You can sell it. What will Ali say?”

“In my culture, you can’t refuse a gift.”

I just refused to extend my hospitality and he was offering me a gift I couldn’t refuse without offending him.

“I’ll keep it for you. Here is my home number and address. Get in touch with me as soon as you can so you can sell it.”

“It is yours,” he said. We embraced and he returned to the emergency room. Now I was in his debt.

The nurse in the hijab approached me and lit a cigarette. “Are you a friend of the family?”

“No. I’m an acquaintance. I just gave them a ride. I work for the city. Is she going to be alright?”

“I can’t discuss it. Patient confidentiality.”

“I don’t know them personally, but the husband told me she was beaten by her own family in Albania because they did not give her permission to marry.“

I threw this out just in case they thought Ahmed beat her. She walked back to the emergency room shaking her head.

I dropped the carpet off at my apartment and took the rest of the afternoon off. I unrolled the carpet on my living room floor, made dinner, and didn’t give the carpet another thought. But as night fell, it exerted a strange attraction on me. I decided to lay down on it and feel its luxuriance.

I must have fallen asleep but that very night I was wide awake in the first class mahogany-paneled cabin of a Brazilian airline with a rum punch as they dim the lights over Rio and saturate the cabin with the scent of eucalyptus to the sound of bossa nova music in the background and the aircraft circled twice for good measure over Copacabana at dusk but it did not land at Tom Jobim Rio de Janeiro International Airport. It never landed which rivalled the unmatched euphoria of the experience. I could not land with the carpet as if it was an airplane. I was always at a distance.

Another night, with the Hollywood sign on the horizon, I flew over the Los Angeles Griffith Observatory at night in a light rain without getting a drop of rain on me.

I flew the Silk Road smoking flavored tobacco on a hookah. From over Samarkand, I saw the majestic blue dome of the great mosque. I watched the Fourth of July Fireworks over lower Manhattan launched from barges in the East River closing with a waterfall of fireworks from the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and Jennifer Hudson singing Over the Rainbow live to the crowds on the promenade

Months later, I was leaving my Manhattan apartment to go across town to visit my sainted mother. My mother was deceased, but I had acquired the habit of standing outside the building where she raised me. I decided to take a cab because I didn’t want to wait for the crosstown bus. A Prius taxicab was parked in front of my building. Ahmed jumps out of the cab to embrace me.

“My brother!” he exclaims.

I congratulate him on the new job as a cabdriver and ask him how he learned to know his way around the city so fast.

“I have GPS,” he says with delight.

I’m afraid to ask about the princess, so I ask, “How is the family?”

“She’s very well.”

“I’m glad,” I stifle the temptation to praise Allah for the blessing or the prophet peace be upon him because I’m not a Muslim and I don’t want to overstep any boundaries. Whatever her sufferings, she is now miraculously cured. It could have been worse. Maybe it was the apple.

“Come upstairs and I’ll give you the carpet.”

“No, it’s yours,” he says.

I don’t have time to think about how many times I should refuse it before I accept it.

“Can you give me a ride to my mother’s?”

“Of course,” he says.

I get in the cab and give him the address. It is freezing in the cab.

“Why is the air conditioner on high?” I ask.

“I have food in the trunk,” he says.

As we reach the West Side, he makes a detour on Columbus Avenue.

“Why did you turn? I’m going the other way,” I said.

“I show you something,” he said.

He pulls up in front of a burnt-out bodega. He gestures towards the store. Then he hands me a copy of the New York Daily News over the back of the seat.

“What’s this?”

“It says about the store that was burned down. The Korean lady was murdered.”

“Who did this?”

“The Albanians.”

“Albanians? How do you know?”

“I know,” he says.

I see the photo of the dead Korean woman with a bloodied face on the front page.

“She wouldn’t pay the protection to the Albanian.”

“How do you know?”

“I was there,” he said.

“What were you doing there?”

“We live in the neighborhood. I was there by accident.”

“Do you know these people? Were you arrested? Why are you telling me this?”

“No, no, it wasn’t like that. I don’t know them. I tried to stop it. She was a nice lady. They read the Koran. I read the Koran. I ask them to give her mercy. Allah forbid killing. Allah is just and compassionate.”

“They didn’t listen to you?”

He shakes his head. Then he takes me to the rear of the taxi and opens the trunk. It is full of foodstuffs and delicatessen.

“After the fire I went back. The police and firemen were there. We needed a few things. My wife loves apples, so I took some apples and other things. Take. Give to your mother.” He reaches into the trunk and offers me a block of cheddar cheese and an uncut slab of rare roast beef from the delicatessen.

I can only shake my head. “It is too late. I visit her memory.”

Ahmed could be innocent even if he were an Albanian in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if he is on the store video he could be arrested as an accomplice or wrongly for being there at the wrong time and place with an Albanian gangster. The worst things he did was sell a car without a permit which he promised to fix, try to sell a carpet without a peddler’s permit. and loot a store.

At the trial I conducted in my head I acquitted him of wrongdoing. He was not the one who beat his wife. He pleaded for the shopkeeper’s life quoting the Koran. Maybe he didn’t know it was wrong to loot the store as part of a mob. Maybe he thought he was still in Kosovo or Tirana. How did Ali acquire a Lebanese Restaurant? Maybe he bought it fair and square. And how was I to know he was trafficking Albanian women? Just the same, Ali was not on trial. Would I testify to Ahmed’s goodness before he was found guilty and deported? I decide to let it go. I like my roast beef medium rare.

I kept the magic carpet. To this day, Ahmed has never reclaimed it. Without Ahmed and the carpet he gave me, I never would have had the opportunity to travel widely and experience happiness. But who on a jury of my bigoted white peers with all their phobias would believe my magic carpet tale? Would they believe me if I told them the Albanian Ahmed was an innocent bystander in the bodega murder of the Korean lady and that life was a dream on a magic carpet with no landing rights?

They would tell me to have my head examined, that I shouldn’t have befriended Ahmed and that there are dangers in associating with the wrong types of people in the United States especially for a white man. They would tell me to just let it go. Just call me Mr Letitgo.

I’m not going to let it go. Where am I going on the next magic carpet ride? I’m going to Ludlow, Colorado, to pay my respects with an aerial view of the granite monument by sculptor Hugh Sullivan commissioned by the United Workers of America in 1918. The monument honors twenty-one victims of the Ludlow Massacre during a labor strike on April 20, 1914.

As Plautus wrote, Homo homini lupus est. The Latin proverb translates “A man is a wolf to another man.” Miners’ wives and children in a tent colony of 1200 striking coal miners were among the victims of the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards. They used machine guns to fire at the strikers and their families. John D Rockefeller, Jr, owner of the mine was the wolf.

Next I will overfly 41 West 86th Street where jazz singer Susannah Mccorkle jumped to her death on 19 May 2001.

And onward to Port Bou, Spain to the memorial in remembrance of German philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin who committed suicide on 27 September 1940 attempting to escape from the Nazis when he was denied an exit visa through Spain to freedom in the United States during World War Two. I was born a week later in Clermont-Ferrand, France in the free zone. Maybe someday I will learn how to land this thing.


I was born in France of French and Hungarian parentage after the fall of France to the Nazis. My father was a Hungarian refugee who had settled in France. Our family emigrated during the war to the United States with the help of Henry and Barbara Church, American patrons of the arts who lived in France and with whom my mother’s family had a long association. Barbara Church introduced me as a youth to her friends Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and many French writers, including French Academician Jean Paulhan of the Nouvelle Revue Francaise. I always aspired to be a writer. My first story was selected to be published in my school yearbook when I was 12. In my early 20s I was invited to read my poetry at a meeting of the Poetry Society of America in New York. My poetry and French-English translations of Black Francophone poets were published in several issues of The Literary Review. After a career as a promising young poet and perennial college dropout, I spent 30 years with a non-profit as an organizer of progressive cultural conferences, agitating for civil rights. Among the high points of that career: being deported from Mexico with my first wife and newborn son, an arrest in Upstate New York for trespassing at a KKK rally, getting a colleague out of jail on a writ of habeas corpus, editing an alternative newspaper which seldom came out on time, and organizing a Pan-African Conference in Benin where Bishop Desmond Tutu was the keynoter. After the organization folded I fell back on my feet with two MAs and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Buffalo qnd adjuncted at various colleges and universities. My poetry has been published in Kiosk and Prelude, articles have been published in theory@buffalo which I co-edited, in the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Les Cahiers du Celat (University of Quebec at Montreal) and Comparative Literature & Culture Web. In 2015 I published Chronicles & Elegies, a volume of selected poems and in 2018 I published a book of short stories, The Path of Least Time and Other Stories. (Blue Pony Press). This story was workshopped at the Middlebury Writers Workshop. Halfway through writing it the matrix suddenly came to me. One of the versions of the story of Prince Ahmed and his three brothers and Princess Nouronnihar from The Thousand and One Nights must have seeped into my consciousness while I was lying on this magic carpet in my home in Vermont. theblueponypress.com.