St. Peter’s Gate, Purgatory—Having transitioned from the earthly to the spectral plane, South Buffalo legend Jack Conrad is mixing it up with the crowd awaiting assignment at St. Peter’s Gate at the entrance of Purgatory.
As readers will recall from Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” the poem is broken into three books: Heaven (Paradiso), Hell (Inferno) and Purgatory (Purgatorio). Those whose earthly time was marked by exceptional deeds progress immediately to Heaven, while the unrepentant transition to Hell. However, the vast majority of us—sinners who ask for forgiveness—move on to one of the seven terraces of Purgatory where they are afforded the opportunity to work off their sins. The terraces include: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust.
Upon his arrival at Gate, Conrad lobbied St. Peter for his quick admission to Heaven making the argument that being a Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan for nearly six decades is time served in Hell and should be enough to place him in the upper realm. He was summarily dismissed, but before going asked for examples of those who recently received instant admission and was told: Pat Schroeder, Willis Reed and Harry Belafonte .
Conrad agreed the pioneering female Congress person, Pat Schroder was worthy, as was Willis Reed who played on one-leg in game-seven of the NBA Finals in 1970, but he took umbrage with Belafonte. In a voice too loud for the normally sedate spectral realm he told St. Peter: “Okay Belafonte did some great things for civil rights, but that “Banana Boat Song”—what the hell is that? Don’t answer, I’ll tell you what it is: it’s a goddamn aural nightmare, that’s what it is. Belafonte should get forty or fifty years of cleaning garbage cans or something for that song.
When St. Peter told him to return to the line he sidled up next to Raquel Welch. Expressing surprise that she didn’t advance immediately to heaven with a big creepy smile, Raquel graciously responded she was guilty of envy: “You know, back in the 70’s I was jealous of all the heat both Faye Dunaway and that bitch (oops!) Meryl Streep were getting. So, I have a little work to do here.”
Conrad responded, “After watching “One Million B.C.” me and all my fourth-grade St. Ambrose buddies kind of figured out that our penises had another purpose besides taking a whizz and that was all you Big R. When my mom caught me noodling about down there she told me I was going to get styes around my eyes if I didn’t stop—Mom could be such a bullshitter.
And as far as Faye Dunaway and Meryl Streep go—No one, I mean no one ever found their penis watching goddamn “Network” or “Kramer vs. Kramer.” You should be in heaven right now for all the penises you brought into the game.”
After Raquel slipped away and hid behind Jerry Springer, Conrad found Oakland A’s flamer Vida Blue and talked him into a pitching contest. When Vida won Conrad accused him of doctoring the ball. He then challenged Jim Brown to an arm wrestling contest and when the former all-pro running back threw him to the ground like a rag doll, Conrad said, “We’re both going to be here awhile. I’ll be back.”
After he stood up, dusted himself off and started to walk in the direction of Gordon Lightfoot to tell him he’s no Jackson Browne, Conrad thought to himself—Purgatory is a lot more interesting now that I’m here.