The Pope of Greewhich Vllage
The Pope endlessly repeats -as I pressure him to elaborate on a deep philosophical premise- “I have no message for nobody.” Yet, ironically, all the people who’ve had the opportunity (and the privilege) to hear him talk, feel otherwise and flock instinctively to his unique brand of discourse. But that isn’t easy because he organizes no gatherings, gives no “speeches” –ramblings maybe–, pushes no method, peddles no mantras, has no organization, no office, no secretary, no telephone number, no fax and no fixed address. How could he? Our Pope is homeless. But he has became a fixture in Greenwich Village and as he grows more popular everyday, he has managed to become, very unwillingly some kind of local hero, a legend in his own right. Pope is everywhere and nowhere. He stays with the streets, and they have become the vehicle by which he delivers his message. But he insists that he has no message, so the man has become a human oxymoron, a beautiful contradiction and a sight to behold. There was a day when he just disappeared. He stayed away for two and a half weeks. I tried to locate him by checking with hospitals, the local jail, the police precincts. Nothing. I even checked the morgue with my heart pounding in my throat, and an awful sickening feeling in my stomach. Nothing, no trace of him anywhere. The streets were lonely without him. Even Washington Park was depleted of the beautiful aura it always had. Everything had suddenly changed. Many people were wondering what could be done. He had touched so many souls that even the ones who didn’t know him like I did, were truly worried, restless, anxious. There was no Internet or cell phones in those days, so I gathered a couple of friends and we hung fliers and posters with the ubiquitous, “Have you seen this man? When he finally returned, he had the nerve to ask, through a smart-ass smirk on his face, “Why are you treating me like a criminal with all those FBI-like wanted posters, where have you guys been all this time? We could only chuckle away with him as I felt a great benevolent feeling of relief and inner-calmness once again. So, after a quick pro quo, he confessed to us that he felt, all at the sudden, the need to be near water. Not to wash up, oh no ! but he had the imperative call of the Ocean, as he put it. The beaches of Coney Island and The New Jersey Shore. He recalled for us how liberating that feeling was. I had to concur since I understood exactly what he meant.I came soon afterward to the conclusion, the magnificent realization, that I really, really loved this so strange a man.
by René Volpi