Empty Thrones

Empty Thrones June 3, 2012

Our neighbor Fred Clark is is having a distinctly American reaction to the sight of the Bishop’s Throne in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City:

This particular throne, in a photo by the New York Post’s Robert Miller, is being redecorated for Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Set aside all the arguments about church polity and all the dubious theological implications of a “Christian” throne, of a throne decorated with its opposite symbol, the cross. This post isn’t about ecclesiology or Constantinian blasphemies. This post is about democracy.

There should be no such thing as an American throne. Yet here is a picture of one. An actual throne. In America.

I hope Clark will forgive me, but this begs to be paired with one of John Roger’s memories from Kung Fu Monkey. He tells to story of the night a Saudi Prince visited the resturant where he was bartending:

Giannino’s owner was a young guy named Paul. Paul was a tough, wiry bastard from Holland who’d come to New York, flat broke at 16, to learn the restaurant business. He spoke with a weird, hybrid Dutch/Brooklyn accent. The sort of New York accent an actor puts on when doing a cab driver from the 30’s. But on Paul it fit. He was also, as are many immigrants, fiercely patriotic when it came to the US. Zeal of the converted, etc.


Paul pulled out all the stops. Our chef was amazing to begin with, and they put on a hell of a banquet for the event. Paul called in our best waitress, Kate, to do the dinner. If you’ve ever worked in the restaurant/bar business, you know that the staff is a roiling blend of high school drama class emotions and Desperate Housewives style intrigue. If you’ve worked the business, you also know that there is always that one person everyone actually likes. Sweet, sincere, working their way through college … that was Kate on our staff. Even the heroin-addicted commie waitress liked her.

Near the end of the meal, I heard a buzz from the wait-station. Kate was in a corner, pretending not to be freaking out. Paul came out from the kitchen. The Prince had been playing grab-ass with Kate all night. The other servers had seen it. She’d tried not to make a big deal of it, but when it became plain that she wasn’t into Captain Handsy, our visiting dignitary had launched into a particularly nasty set of comments.

A bunch of us followed Paul out as he crossed onto the patio. He nodded to the Saudi. “Yeah. I gotta ask you to leave.”

Objections arose. Paul shook his head. “She works for me. I don’t allow that for any guest. Now I gotta ask you a second time, please leave. Meal’s on the house.”

The Saudi’s lackey starts to yell: “You can’t talk to him like this! This man is Prince –”

Paul cuts him off with a whistle, a New York cab whistle. Sets his shoulders and says:

“This is America, which makes you the Prince of absolutely fucking nobody.”

The single most patriotic moment of my life.

Cardinals are still sometimes called the Princes of the Church, so let’s allow little Timmy Dolan play his game of thrones. But when the time comes, we’ll be there to remind him. This is America, which makes him the prince of absolutely fucking nobody.

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