Friday, November 27, 2015

The Prince of Bleecker Street

For years Jerome had noticed a gypsy-like figure that he thought of as The Prince of Bleecker Street living in a natural habitat located near the corner of Bleecker and LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village.  This habitat preserves the terrain the way Manhattan was before settled by Europeans, and in some cases, even before the Lenape Indians became the inhabitants of Mannahatta. The ancient setting was clear and pristine with a grandeur that some say rivaled the wilderness and beauty of Yosemite National Park.

Now the pristine wilderness is cement and asphalt. The Prince of Bleecker's palace is a tarp attached to a sprawling fern tree, where he sleeps and keeps his stash of necessities.

Most of the time the Prince presides at the corner of Bleecker and Laguardia Place, sitting outside the supermarket while reading the New York Post. He is constantly doing his "researches," working for the Secret Service and the CIA, or so he claims.

One day Jerome  learned the Prince came from Peru where he was known as Delphin Blanco. Delphin calls himself the White Dolphin. He has ruled his Prince street domain for a decade. He is almost indescribable: an ancient patriarch, a gypsy, ageless, often wearing bright red tunic, bearded and with thick braided hair that is longer than his height when he stands about five feet four inches. And of course, a pipe that is fragrantly ancient as he puffs and reads.

He maintains that one day he will return to his mansion in Peru, but not until his work is done. Jerome asked what that work was and he replied in a low voice and heavy accent "top secret researches." The Dolphin speaks with such conviction that you have to believe in him on some level... at least on the level where he believes himself.

One day he said to Jerome, "I live high in the mountains of my country overlooking the Pacific. My mansion is made of marble, and I continue the traditions of the Incas, my ancestors." He lowered his voice.  "There are many mysteries in the world, my friend. My ancestors are from the stars. We are the stuff that stars are made of.  Someday, I will return to my star home. That is the legacy of the Dolphin."

So the days went by and the seasons passed and Jerome would see the colorful Prince sitting and reading, smoking his pipe, and talking to curious young people who were fascinated by the White Dolphin who seemed to have stepped from a book of fairytales. Occasionally, the Prince would disappear for a few days and then enigmatically return.

At one point, Jerome started to speculate that perhaps the tarp was a time warp, a space portal that the Dolphin would use to travel through space and time. He knew it was absurd, and yet the "Prince" had an air of other worldliness about him that was intriguing.

The Dolphin mysteriously came out supporting a conservative political candidate who was extremely wealthy and hated by the liberal establishment. Almost immediately the sanitation department and the police department descended upon the Prince's palace and began to harass him. The sanitation department  gathered up his newspapers and discarded them as trash, but strangely although they hassled him, the police refused to evict the Dolphin as a homeless vagrant.

But the glare of publicity was on the Dolphin. The Post interviewed him and published the interview with photos which strikingly confirmed Jerome's impression of the Dolphin as the Prince of Bleecker Street. The Dolphin claimed that his support of a conservative candidate had prompted the mayor to go after him as a political enemy.  Jerome was puzzled at the amount of attention given to this gypsy vagabond who lived off the land and somehow managed to escape the label of a homeless derelict.

Then  months later, the Dolphin disappeared. His domain remained intact, but the Prince of Bleecker Street was nowhere to be seen. Jerome was worried. Autumn faded into winter, and snow blanketed the Dolphin's tarp domain. The winds buffeted the fern tree, and on occasion the Prince's domain lay buried in snow drifts. Jerome became so alarmed he pulled back the tarp during an especially cold wintry siege, dreading that he might discover the Dolphin's frozen remains. What he saw was a strange device almost buried in the snow, an artifact that might have been an amulet, bullet shaped with fins, but looking ancient and faintly glowing. He was tempted to retrieve it, but he felt almost paralyzed and afraid to move. A blast of wind forced him to lower the tarp and withdraw.

As summer approached, Jerome saw his mystical monarch walking along Bleecker as though he had never been away.

Jerome was stunned to see the Prince looking quite regal, his colorful demeanor now sported a multicolored knitted sleeve that encased his body-length braids like a kaleidoscopic tail. He seemed younger somehow, inscrutable and radiant.  Even his pipe seemed different, oddly reminding Jerome of the amulet he had seen in the snow.  Everything about him seemed different as though he had gone through some mystical metamorphosis.

"Dolphin, where have you been?" Jerome asked. "I was worried about you."

The Prince smiled. "I am doing my work, of course... my researches."

He paused and pulled on his pipe. "Never worry, my friend, the Dolphin is always secure in his legacy... there are many mansions in my domain... but I am always searching for the next adventure... There is always something waiting for me... There is always my researches..."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out an amulet looking very much like the one Jerome had seen in the snow. He handed it to Jerome.

"Think of me when you look at the stars."

Jerome never saw the Dolphin again.

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