The End?

Phillip Kalantzis Cope A mural outside Mars Bar earlier this week.

Yesterday, I went to Pas De Deux on East 11th Street to pick out a dress for my girlfriend. Two women approached, one short-legged, the other willowy; both were stylish, in their own way.

“How can we help?” they said in near unison.

I explained that I wanted to buy a dress for my girlfriend.

“Something that says, ‘I really enjoyed our time together and I’m sorry I could not prevent the inevitable.’”

The short girl bit her cheek, “That…sounds interesting, are you breaking up?”

“The world is ending,” I said.

I had seen a sign on the subway. A large bulletin predicting that on May 21, 2011 the world will shiver in grip of the most devastating earthquake in history.

In my head, I imagined the fault lines collapsing and deep swollen gashes tearing open the Earth’s surface, absorbing oceans, cities, and tumbling sinners.

I told the two sales clerks about the fraught times ahead.

“Isn’t that 2012?”

IMG_0165A sign advertising The End.

I told her she was thinking of the Mayan Calendar prophecy and that this one came from an unlicensed, octogenarian minister out in California.  It was a bit of a one-up, all of us agreed.

“What’s trending for ‘end of days’ fashion?”  I said.

They retreated into a mock huddle and discussed whether Armageddon fashion, in fact, matched with seasonal, or was an entirely different genre.

“Maybe Alexander Wang?”

“Right,” they finally agreed. “Alexander is so ‘end of the world.’”

They led me to a rack and pulled out an ink-colored tank-dress for $675.

My hangdog expression prompted a conversation about price range. I explained to them how money soon wouldn’t matter, but that one good deed could be the difference between being raptured into paradise or marooned on a lake of fire.

They elected to take their chances and showed me to the door.

I wandered through the streets, with no destination in mind, driven only by my own anxiety about The End. For being so close to the Apocalypse the mood in the East Village was shockingly calm. Where were all the doomsayers? The circusy revival tents?  The self-flagellating converts? The renegades?

On the way down Second Avenue, I spotted a portly police officer buying lunch at the S.K. Deli Market on East Fifth Street. I asked if there had been any mass looting.

The question unbalanced him. He stumbled into a basket of apples, sending one rolling off and onto the floor.

Phillip Kalantzis Cope The graffiti predicts a different end at Mars Bar.

“What the hell are you talking about?”  He said

“The end of the world, of course.” I said. “Do you think there will be riots?”

He acknowledged in silence that I was perfectly crazy.

I paid a visit to Middle Collegiate Church and was led to a small pew in the foyer. The Rev. Adrienne Thorne sat down next to me. She was middle-aged and slim and had delicate corkscrew hair. She listened with unbreakable patience as I told her, in so many Johnny Cash lyrics, that our Judgment Day was at hand.

“The father hen will call his chickens home.”


“They’ll be a golden ladder reaching down.”


“When the man comes around.”

Her reaction was to tell me that a lot of people were worried about the end times, but that no one could say for sure when they were going to happen. I asked if they were happening on Saturday.

“My husband has been doing a lot reading about it,” she said. “We actually know a woman who is preaching that message down in Florida.”

“Any chance you will go to the streets and do likewise?”

“No, I’ll be dancing. An NYU professor is coming here to teach a spiritual dancing workshop that day.”

IMG_0173Kenan Christiansen A graffiti-ed update at Mars Bar yesterday.

“What if you’re wrong?” I asked.

“Then I’ll go out dancing.”

I got her card and promised her that I would call back if she was wrong, then circled back to Mars Bar, where I had heard someone had spray-painted “THE END IS NEAR” on the building’s sidewall.  The sign had been updated since. Black spray paint hammered over lettering, now proclaimed that the end was finally “HERE.”

That’s more like it, I thought, finally a flock to join.

“The sign’s about the Mars Bar closing,” said the bartender. She sighed and said, “Oh Jesus!” when I mentioned how easily a sign like that could be misinterpreted. I shrugged.

As it became evening, the light from the doorway ebbed and the room grew darker by degrees. She poured me a screwdriver and the look on her face seemed to say, “Enjoy it while it lasts.”