Reverend Billy Takes It Underground

05/19/2009 4:00 AM |

Part three of the Reverend Billy’s ongoing campaign diary, as he outlines his run for mayor of New York City.

May 16, 2009.
Writing on a yellow legal pad by my window. Waiting for a beautiful woman to walk through the door. Listening to distant ambulances out in Brooklyn. Musing on our surreal campaign…

Thursday, I shouted my two-minute subway sermons, and the choir sang our campaign song, the reconstructed Frank/Liza anthem “Start spreadin’ the wealth. I’m hoping to stay…” Then, as the train stopped, we’d run out over the platform to the next car and there would be another bunch of citizens sleeping, reading books, staring at the floor — unsuspecting citizens waiting for their interruption.

The first blast, “I’m Reverend Billy and I’m running for Mayor!” would make a row of heads jerk all at once, and I’m sorry about that. Eyes opened in surprise, and sometimes yes, there were looks of dismay. But I got to Bloomberg’s obvious corruption quickly, and laughter and applause, or tired smiles, invited us to talk.

I ride the F every day. That was something I always said, as if to invoke favorite son status. “I’m in the F Train community! We ride together!” That’s a stretch, but a good support for our pro-neighborhood campaign. The choir was only six, but Shilpa, Damaris, Judy, Michael, Monica and Savitri – we looked like New York, even with the shouting white blond up front.

“The $100-million man is bribing and advertising his way to a third term only if we are asleep, stunned – passively dreaming.” And that’s a good description of most of the citizens on these trains. You might say the underground strap-hanging is a kind of urban yoga. Take a different kind of breath. It’s true too – that Bloomberg’s blitz of ads has left us groggy. As Wall Street crashes, the billionaire seems to be fulminating with guilt and fear, putting his face more places than Putin and Mugabe combined. Does that make it alright, Mike? Feel better now? But Mike, are you going mad?

As we preached and sang our way to Jamaica Queens and back again out to Coney, the stunned citizenry sat up a bit and listened, and agreed with us. We got some energetic gratitude, but mostly timid handshakes. At home later, emptying out their pockets, the palm-card with the preacher will spill out on the dresser, and maybe people will stop to think about the idea of democracy in New York City? “Was that guy just some underground rogue preacher? Hmm… maybe I will vote for this Rev and his crazy friends. After all, even Bloomberg won’t be in the voting booth with me.”