City of Grace


I had a terrible fright the other day. I turned on NY1, and thought that it had been taken over by the Christian Broadcasting Network. A televangelist, standing on a red carpet behind his pulpit, arms spread, eyes heavenward, was delivering a sermon of salvation.

I switched to news on Channel 4. Same preacher, same message. Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11–he was everywhere! Who could get this much airtime but a messenger of God, or maybe Geraldo?

I looked closer, inspecting the screen with my reporter’s trained eye: It wasn’t Billy Graham (not enough gray), it wasn’t Jim Bakker (not enough hair). Maybe it was Jesus himself. Yes, if the preacher would unswirl that combover, chances were good that the remaining back 40 would have reached a nice Jesus-like shoulder length. But, nah, it couldn’t be Jesus either–the son of God would never wear a green suit, no matter what color the carpeting.

I cursed the day I chose to save the four bucks by not going Premium–there was no escape from this cabal on Basic cable.

So, resigned, I watched for a while and listened to the sermon’s sound bites. The preacher put his hands together, prayerlike, to denounce deadbeat dads, bilingual education, and the Port Authority. Oh my God–it was Rudy! Or should I say, Oh my Rudy–it was God! This time it was the State of the City address. The man is on the tube more often than Who’s the Boss? reruns.

The only way to escape seeing him must be to marry him. I can’t though, because I don’t love him–but I don’t loathe him anymore, loath as I am to admit it. And I like the city more now than I did four years ago. It’s cleaner, it’s safer, and as long as you stay out of the 70th Precinct, chances are better than good that you will no longer be attacked and beaten to within an inch of your life. For the first time in years, I can even park my car outside–sometimes overnight–and fully expect it to be there when I return. Of course, I wish it would get stolen, but that’s another story altogether.

Like all good and successful televangelists, Rudy Giuliani delivered a message of hope–along with the clear warning that the wrath of God would be upon us if we disobeyed.

His approach to governing might not be very democratic, but who ever said Republicans were? The truth is, when Rudy took over, the city was falling apart. Now it’s just the outer skin and infrastructure collapsing.

Ashamed as I am to admit it, and despite my pinko commie background, I can’t help but agree with his stand on open enrollment at CUNY, either. Getting accepted to CUNY used to be a big deal, like getting into Stuyvesant High or Bronx Science. It wasn’t a given. And the degree was an important accomplishment.

But, don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t cheer everything Our Father said. For one, I was disappointed that Rudy did not include us jaywalking sinners in his speech. I want to plan my month, and I want to know if it will include an overnight at Rikers for jumping barricades.

Then there was the Port Authority thing. He says we need to hold a referendum so voters can ask that New York not renew the Port Authority’s lease on Kennedy and LaGuardia. Good, except the Port Authority is a State of New York–State of New Jersey body–and its fate can’t be decided by the voters of the city alone.

But I was back on my feet when Rudy called on us all to confront deadbeat dads in our neighborhoods by getting in their face and saying, ”You know something? You’re a bum!” followed by the always-appropriate ”You’re not a man if you don’t support the children you bring into this world!” He didn’t say what our witty response should be when the no-good lowdown dad drags out his semiautomatic and asks you to kindly repeat your remark. How about “Go ahead–make my day!” After all, Rudy’s address certainly made mine.