I clearly remember walking into a kitchen in one of the nicer places I’ve resided in my life and seeing my father shirtless and drinking concurrent cups of black coffee while watching a movie on a 12 inch television with rabbit ear antennas. That was his thing. Television and black coffee. I was little, and frightened to death at the sight of Regan MacNeil’s scabby demonic face. Terrified, really. That was my first encounter to William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. I knew nothing of possession or exorcisms then, not that I’m an expert now, nor did I know of Pazuzu, but I would revisit the horror classic when I got older and love it. That film warrants no remake or reboot, and like Pazuzu should be left alone.
I grew up a short bus ride to Main Street, where the population is predominantly Asian. The Q14 and the Q15 took you to Flushing Chinatown, or Falasheng as it is known in Mandarin. Queens is the world’s borough and that is no lie. The best part of living in a city with such cultural diversity to me is the food. My inner fat kid salivates. I am in close proximity to every nation’s cuisine and I indulge. I crush soup dumplings, bao buns and large bowls of pho with beef balls and who doesn’t love KBBQ? It’s not all delicious food. Let’s not forget beautiful woman, interesting histories and exquisite art. My sleeves are Japanese. Sometimes we don’t realize the influence things have on us until we sit and think about it.
When I was in Junior High, I was cool with a kid from my neighborhood, we will call him Roundhouse. Roundhouse was pretty close with my boy, SMH. This dude was a wild kid, a little unpredictable but always very kind to me. I haven’t seen him since the mid 90s. Roundhouse was affiliated with an Asian gang.
Asian gangster kids were different. Chain smoking, dressed to impress with dyed hair, gnarly fades, who dominated arcade games in the candy stores. That was probably what drew SMH in, homeboy was like Fred Savage in the Wizard, he was nasty. His video game quest continues. It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!
The Asian gangster kids flexed martial arts and knives, but their focus was usually directed at each other. My first butterfly knife was bought on Main Street and later confiscated by my mother. My interaction with Asian gangs was primarily Chinese or Korean, you knew a dai lo or two. The names you heard the most were Flying Dragons and Ghost Shadows but there were a bunch of different gangs out there.
Asians gangs have had a presence in New York City since the 1880s. The heroin trade was once lucrative but long since strong armed by Mexican cartels. Extortion and gambling were the other main avenues for the gangs revenue but even that has dwindled since the 90s.
One night at Roundhouse’s crib we hung out, drank beers and scraped the card stock off packs of lotto scratch-offs. Two friends of Roundhouse, who I never met before and never saw again, didn’t speak a word of English but were in possession of the tickets. The handguns on the coffee table may or may not have played a part. The intent was to find a winner and cash it in before the winning ticket was reported stolen.
Business owners are instructed to notify the Lottery of theft, the identifying number is reported and the ticket is flagged, its reward will not be allowed to be redeemed, no cash out, and poses the risk of arrest. A police report will be filed. The stolen tickets were time sensitive and unfortunately for them yielded no big winners. In the end, not worth the armed robbery charge, but still fun I presume.
A few weeks later Roundhouse swung by SMH’s crib. He looked rattled, as if he hadn’t slept in days, something was the matter. He told us an unbelievable story. I wanted to call bullshit but Roundhouse was so shaken I kept my opinion to myself. His parents were often away, out of town for work so kids were always hanging and crashing at his house. A person who was at his house had apparently been possessed by a demon and had to be physically restrained. Let that sink in.
I am not religious but I respect everyone’s freedom to worship freely. My foray into organized religion only went as far as receiving communion. That being said, I do believe that the level of anxiety I feel on a daily basis, as well as an unbearable amount of guilt I have for some things I have done and maybe a little for things I haven’t done yet, in league with all the words that leave my foolish mouth, are rooted in centuries of Irish Catholicism. These things get embedded in you over time. I might not be pious but I am intrigued.
An interesting take on the subject was presented in the Evil Dead remake. One of the few remakes that is able to stand on its own legs. I saw the film when it dropped in 2013 with Drew at the movie theater in Fresh Meadows. Mia, the protagonist is possessed by an ancient demon amidst a drug intervention at a remote cabin in the woods, and initially her behavior is dismissed by all as being the result of her addiction. Demonic possession is a tough pill to swallow. A psychotic episode as a direct result to rampant drug use or during withdrawals, and mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia are easier for me to believe than demons.
Roundhouse invited SMH and myself over to dinner with a few people, including the Priest, who was going to bless the house. Uh, ok.
I think both, SMH and I, were trying to be good friends, supportive, but I’d be lying If I said we weren’t weirded out by the situation at hand. How could you not be weirded out? It was a peculiar request. Bring some holy water, a few wooden stakes and a silver bullet while you’re at it. I was well versed in insane households but straight up demons? I was uneasy while curious how this foreboding evening would play out. I didn’t know what to expect.
“You’re all going to die tonight!”
I anticipated levitating furniture, slamming doors, gallons of vomit, incantations, speak in tongues, and danger. There was none. We sat Indian style, at a low table, and ate quietly, the priest spoke softly, and recited prayers I was unfamiliar with. I might not have felt a presence but the air was heavy. The tone was serious. Whatever had happened the night before, all those who were present, all excluding SMH and myself and Pazuzu, fully believed the ordeal to be real. The demon had been expelled before I could meet it. My lack of faith wasn’t tested. I’m not complaining.
The ball park figure for Catholic priests who tackle exorcisms is around 150 in the United States today, a number that has rose since 2005, and they handle four specific types of possession. Demonic obsession, vexation, infestation and the rarest, possession. Demons attack a person’s mind and body, target a location or object, and lastly, hijack a body. According to this criteria, my puppy Trixie, might very well be a demon.
My views haven’t changed. I don’t know what to believe but I know if I find a book of spells in an isolated cabin in the woods I’m not reading that shit. Not one word. Evil spirit, be gone!
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