Friday, May 12, 2006

The XL Code

FACT: The Last Debate is a real blog that was founded in September 2004. It is headquartered in a secret apartment in the exclusive Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. All of the artwork, architecture, gay bars and secret rituals depicted in this story are real.


Andy had only just closed the front door when he felt the buzz against his left thigh; a single vibration lasting only a couple of seconds, indicating a text message, rather than a call. He knew it would be important. Only a few people in the world had access to this number. Opening the phone, he beheld the bold black letters:

XL 630


Andy glanced at the clock. 5:38. If he understood the code correctly, he had less than an hour. Quickly he changed into a white, black and blue Banana Republic shirt and slipped on a pair of polished black Kenneth Cole shoes. He rinsed his face quickly using Duane Reade-brand knockoff Cetaphil, then knelt on the parquet floor of his living room in the gold-tinted late-afternoon light and genuflected before the ancient Italian crucifix that hung on his wall.

Then he was gone.


Mark tapped his foot anxiously against the plain grey concrete floor of the international arrivals area at John F. Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 2, watching the parade of identical black rolling suitcases file past him on the conveyor belt. He glanced at his watch: 5:42.

Only four minutes had passed since he sent the invitation to Andy. Excited to be back in the United States, but tired from the journey, he had estimated he could easily get to Manhattan within the hour in a cab, assuming there were no difficulties with customs. Yet as he waited for his bag, anxiety mounted. He did not want to be late for this.

At 5:44, Mark spied his bag, grabbed it, and headed for immigration.


The Brooklyn-bound A train thundered into the arched, mouldy 181st Street station with a roar that drowned out the recording of Renee Fleming singing “Cäcilie” that Andy was listening to on his iPod. It squealed to a stop under the stalactites forming on the ceiling, and he boarded, carefully selecting a seat that wasn’t under the system map. Distracted by the gleaming glory of Fleming’s high-B at the climax of the song, he did not notice the shadowy figure that ducked onto the train at the back of the car just as the doors were closing.


“Where to, sir?” said the cabbie, in a lilting Caribbean accent.

“West 16th and 9th Avenue, please,” said Mark, as he tossed his bag into the backseat of the taxi and slid in beside it. His watch said 6:03. Since traffic was mostly outbound at this time of night, he figured he would just make it on time.


The silent figure, with a hat slung low over his brow and a black trench coat, regarded Andy suspiciously from the back of the train. At one point their eyes met, and he raised the corner of his lip in a silent but menacing snarl. Andy rolled his eyes, shrugged, and went back to reading The Last Temptation of Christ.

The cloaked man got off at 42nd Street, and Andy never gave him a second thought.

At 6:28, Andy arrived in Chelsea, getting off the subway at the 14th Street station. He headed toward the rear of the tiled, mustard-colored platform and up the concrete stairs, then doubled back through the stainless steel turnstile. His heart pounding, he virtually leapt up the stairs in the back left corner of the station behind the attendant’s booth, and, emerging in the pinkish twilight of the warm late spring evening, he strolled eagerly west down 16th Street. He could not believe what Mark promised him was about to happen.

Even from the curb outside the tall white door Andy could hear the pounding bass of the music inside. As he passed through the set of double doors, he inhaled the unusual, antiseptic bleachy odor of the bar. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness – the vast space was lit mostly by undulating rainbow projections on the ceiling and the glow from mini television screens showing videos of nude French rugby players – he scanned the small crowd for any sign of Mark. “I hope he shows up,” he thought.

Taking a seat on a stool at the bar underneath a large, crème-colored fabric palm tree, he ordered a Stoli Ohranj and soda. The bartender, tall, slender but muscular in a tight black tank top, smiled as he served the drink. Taking a sip, Andy could barely detect any soda, so he left $2 on the counter.


His watch read 6:41 as he stepped out of the cab on 16th Street. He hated being late, but all things considered had made pretty good time from JFK. Fortunately there had been no problem at customs and traffic had been steady.

He spotted Andy instantly, sitting under the fake palm tree, two-thirds of the way through a vodka tonic. Typical. He strode up to him with a broad smile. “Andy!”

“Hey Mark, nice to see you again! How was your trip?”

“Yeah, it was pretty good. I’ll tell you all about it. So, are you ready?”

Andy took a deep breath. “Well, yeah, I guess.” He nervously took another large gulp from his drink. “Let’s go.”

“Okay,” said Mark. “I told him to meet us upstairs.”

Together they walked around the back of the bar toward the staircase that led to the glass balcony and lounge overlooking the rest of the bar. There, alone on a sofa in the back, was a solitary figure with olive colored skin and curly dark hair.

“Andy,” said Mark proudly, “this is Jesus.”



Jarred said...

I'm curious to see where this is going.

little-cicero said...

Hmm, well if this is based on the Last Temptation of Christ Jesus, I'm guessing Jesus will turn out to be a womanizing drug addicted hippie who turns over the tables of the merchants in temple between holding anti-Bush rallies near his home in Berkeley. He cheats on his wife, Mary Magdalen (with whom he fathered several kids who later continued his bloodline in France) frequently and experiments with all sorts of free love, including the homosexual sort.

(Don't consider this a serious portrayal of the book as I have not even seen the movie in its entirety)

Quinn said...

I'm intrigued...

LC -- if I'm not mistaken, it's a takeoff of the Da Vinci Code. But as a Catholic, you're forbidden to know anything about that. As is my mother, who recommended the book to me.

kr pdx said...

Nah, as a Catholic, I am prefectly OK to read it. And did. I just know where most of the errors lie, is all (and I am not talking about the married/bloodline question, which is clearly not provable either way, since everyone then either thought it wasn't important or was so obvious it didn't need to be noted--although I'd of course say the preponderance of evidence is pro-celibate-Jesus ;) ).

Andy--looking good ... can't wait to see the rest. Terribly funny use off The Da Vinci Code style.

The thing that makes me angry about the book (besides the fact that so many people take it and Angels and Demons as, ironically, some sort of Holy Writ--which is so stupid it just makes me grunt, not argue) is two related just really stupid errors in the internal logic of the book:
1) The whole Mary Magdalene divinity/importance thing is predicated--by her supporters!--upon a figure (Jesus) the worshippers are bent on de-diefying and generally de-emphasizing. Godess worship, sure, whatever--but if She is superior, Her divinity shouldn't be dependent on a He you consider divine only when it's convenient to your desired proof-of-concept.
2) And of course when the whole book is predicated on us (society) not giving enough honor to the feminine, the sex ritual is all about HIS orgasm (and resultant access to the divine), and Mr Smarty Pants gets to solve the riddles while the brilliant female cryptographer looks on wide eyed and apparently blank-minded, and then she rewards all his Hard Work by sleeping with him, just like a good little female-thrall in any other hetero-male-fantasy crime-book ending (that also pissed me off about Angels and Demons ... the sleeping together made reasonable sense after the life and death(s) struggle, but was the "Have you ever slept with a yoga master?" line REALLY necessary, or merely titilating and vapid? Yuck). A female thrall who happens to be the last fertile female descendant of Jesus and M.Magdalene, no less. Grr grr grr.

And SO many people are all "Oh, it really opened my eyes to the Catholic Church and the errors of Christianity"--yeah, whatever.

Like mysogyny didn't exist before Christ, and we invented and codified it. And like the Catholic Church has never done anything to fight the cultural established norms and try to equalize women's status. Freaking stupid "Enlightenment." Dropped us back 1500 years. Hey, THAT was smart: Let's idealize the most established mysogenistic cultures in Western history--and then blame the Christians for keeping women down. Because, you know, it all stems from that priests-only thing.


In good news, I'm betting the studio loses half of its possible box office because Tom Hanks' hairstyle is SOOOOOO bad :).

Jarred said...

And of course when the whole book is predicated on us (society) not giving enough honor to the feminine, the sex ritual is all about HIS orgasm (and resultant access to the divine),

KR, when I read the above, it occurs to me that maybe Mr. Brown is a closet Thelemite. Or more seriously, maybe he drew too heavily on the writings of Crowley and those influenced by him.

To be honest, I found much of the description of the heiros gamos as presented by Brown to be bothersome.

kr pdx said...

Jarred: Wow. I rarely have to look things up--three things in one short comment was a shock ;).

Having wikipedia-d Thelemite, I was impressed by their symbol closely resembling Brown's conception of the Star of David, but Brown doesn't give me the impression (though his writings) of being too serious about finding his Thelemitic-ideal True Path ... and yeah, the description of sacred marriage (this is the translation I came up with for your "heiros gamos"?) was ... well, I wouldn't think it came across as any kind of "holy" ... I've read better proposals for witnessed holy sex rituals (which descriptions are, notably, not pornographic--in case anyone wondered about my apparent inconsistency ;) ).