The Book of Numbers

So; 1644 Park Avenue in Spanish Harlem.   Lunghu’s first thought was “where is ConradoLiloPons?”  According to the New York State Department of Corrections, the easy answer is … “Sullivan Correctional Facility,” where he’s serving a life-plus-one-year sentence.  So he’s not a likely suspect in this particular case.  But in his time Lilo performed a specific and necessary market function that other enterprising individuals will have undoubtedly inherited.


Back in the day, Lilo and his crew were the collection/enforcement team for La Corporacion‘s Cubano bolita operators in New York City and the contiguous environs.  If a numbers spot wasn’t following market rules and had the temerity (cojones) to engage in actual competitive behavior like offering higher-than-customary payout on winning bets in the 3-digit bolita game, the Pons crew would pour a jug of gasoline under the door and set the place on fire.  Later on, they upgraded their technology by visiting the basements of offending bodegas and pumping three or four 9mm holes through the plastic casing of Con Edison’s gas meters.   Slow gas leak … time lapse … small spark from a light switch … KABOOM!

1644 Park_Avenue

Pure-minded skeptics might perhaps object that 1644 Park Avenue was home to a house of worship –the “Spanish Christian Church”– rather than a gambling den: there’s no bodega here, officer!  These are people who need to read the novels of Chester Himes, where praying and preying are not necessarily mutually exclusive forms of human behavior.   The pastors of a struggling congregation might need a secondary source of income when the collection plate comes back a little bit too light too many Sundays in a row.   Or the landlord may have made an offer that would have been unwise to refuse.  Or the storefront church might have been a sham from its inception.  Many possible paths can lead to the same road.

So, just as we probably shouldn’t fixate on putative Iranian asylum-seekers as primary suspects in an aviation disaster, we probably shouldn’t reflexively assume a terrorist bomb blew up two brick buildings in Spanish Harlem.  Alternative hypotheses are available. They may even be more likely.  Like construction/ renovation in the neighborhood … performed by careless workmen.  Ya nevah know.



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