In 1984 there were real life angels living at 286 E. 2nd Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. I know there were angels living there for a fact because even though I’m not an angel, I lived there too. And the people in this building helped save my life, in large part, by helping me decide to continue taking part in it. You don’t get more angel than that.
I was held up at gunpoint early one August morning on a Brooklyn street in 1984 and shot in the head at point blank range. The bullet, along with some bone fragments to keep it company, remains lodged in my brain. Knowing the wound can abscess at any time and, if it does, possibly end my life, is a full plate’s worth of reality to digest.
While it was the 84th Precinct of the New York City Police Department and the doctors and nurses in Long Island College Hospital that saved my life. It was the angels of 286 East Second Street that helped me decide to keep it, and then, live it.
My dictionary, New Oxford American English, defines the noun, angel, as “a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.”
This definition perfectly describes the angels of 286, though being from the New York City’s Lower East Side, they didn’t need any wings – or robes, for that matter. It would have cramped their style, come to think of it.
I moved into 286 in the early 1980s. It was there I met, for the first time, Dane Arnold, Hart Faber, Joshua Holland, Zeke Kisling, Arthur May, Kenneth Mencher, Dominique Nadel, Dorrill Semper, Kathy Semper, Thomas Weatherly.
Every single one of them, honest, compassionate, loving, strong. In truth, they are, every single one of them, some of the most extraordinary individuals I’ve ever known.
Each one of the exemplified that singular wisdom of Henry David Thoreau by allowing themselves to be themselves.
“I learned this, at least, by my experience: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”