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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Somewhere between Swift and Orwell


Back to church after the monthly SWEAT rally in front of the Department of Labor.

Another meeting with composer/conductor Thomas Bo.  I share with with him our vision/plan for Sunday mornings as a time of exploring music with special guests. With a  flash of inspired connection, he reaches into his briefcase and brings out the score for his composition Prophecy from a Refrigerator Box, written to a poem exploring the inner life of a street person who sleeps in a refrigerator box. Scored for a jazz trio. It’s neither ideological nor didactic but makes visible and demands reflection on what is often invisible. And how homelessness itself causes people to disappear, becoming invisible leads to disconnection leads to a retreat into an interior world. I say that Marc Greenberg of the Interfaith Assembly told me the first year I was here that more important than giving money to homeless people was simply seeing them, acknowledging their humanity. Marc’s principles and Thomas’ score are right in line.We also talk about Kristen Leigh’s ideas about performance and the sacred, how a musical creation is its own doorway into the spirit without needing didactic road maps. The same thing we’ve been working on with Mario and Jeremy G. Okay, Thomas, we’ll do something with this.

Anna and I sit and talk about what it means to be Presbyterian. The good and the bad. Our horizontal governance. The equality of ordinations of elders, deacons, pastors. Differences  in function, not importance or value.  And how my main role is that of teacher, and facilitator, not mediator. After years of being a congregant participant, she is ready to make a commitment, become a member. All that’s left is to  make to official and to welcome her.

Brian S is busy repainting the 86th street door what I call Holy Spirit red, the traditional church door color. I had previously made a blog complaint about the color and he reminded me that I should have spoken to him before writing about it and that he gladly would have repainted. He was absolutely right. And as true to his word as he is to his work. I hope that there will be room for further discussion. He’s bringing back to life a definitive era of American drama.

Officially welcome back the whole Noche core, Martin, Marina, Soli, Mitchell. Good to have them back in the house. 

The Session meets for its weekly update. It can be draining and exhausting, all the bureaucratic ins and outs of dealing with the city. Soviet bureaucracy had nothing on New York City’s labyrinthine ins and outs of permits and expeditors and commissions and dead ends. Somewhere between Swift and Orwell.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Something of their own


Another Angelo 9-11 tribute

Pat O has had a busy day in the building. Been down to what we used to call the Stygian darkness.Where only Danielle and I had been. Located the source of our ongoing flood in the basement. Every time it rains. Down the walkway behind the boiler there’s a long stretch of planks. This flood plain has been here for years. He traces it back to an issue on the northeast corner dumping water directly into the basement then down a path of least resistance. At least we’ve figured that out. And he’s also discovered a foul smell in Proska’s studio. We’ll send Stephen S up to investigate that.

We’ve got a ongoing conversation with David S about light bulbs that I have a hard time following as passionate and sincere as it sounds.

Lynnea of Frog& Peach is having issues at another venue and is exploring the possibility of transferring her performances here. Would be great to have them back. Way back in ’95, Lynnea and Ted excavated the old Papp theatre from the trash filled ruins it had fallen into and resurrected it as a performance space. For over 10 years they brought a very special vision of Shakespeare in the Actor’s Studio tradition to the Upper West Side. Lynnea has always been able to attract a solid core of veterans and new comers to New York just ready to spread their wings to her productions. It’s closed a circle to have them back in the house. The theatre has had some damage since they left. But it would be great to have them back…

Stephen W and I have a long talk about this weekend’s Climate march. Keeping to our tradition, our legacy, we’ll play our part. We’ll be hosting a group from Wisconsin’s NAACP, including teenagers. And we just agreed to be a drop off point for three busloads from Columbus, Ohio. Sierra Club and faith based community organization folks. We’re evolving our Sunday morning plan and a social media strategy to get the word out. This march promises to be big. A time to connect again.

Phase 2 of the RL strategy is based in the principle that not only do people need something to do, they need something to defend. Something to call their own. No matter how small,  Give people something of their own, they’ll fight to the death to defend it. Somehow our US foreign policy never quite figured that out…

The People’s Climate March is coming…is the earth something of our own?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Learning the ropes: we all need something to do


Glad that Noche is back. Their sojourn in Arizona ended, now continuing to work on Antigone until an out of town try out in Seattle later this fall. But just good to sit and talk with Martin and Marina.

Gregory back again. Compliments my haircut but it’s the same story and he doesn’t even seem apologetic any more.

Tina’s associate comes by to finish the Mc Alpin clean up. Party a big success.

Marc has a plan to fix the broken glass of a display window.

Pat O and I plan out everything that needs to happen this week. We need a break from the Department of Buildings. Need to get the stop work order lifted. In the bizarre world of bureaucracy, we have to prove the building was never demolished. A simple walk down the street should settle that in a rational world. 

Jeremy and the Open Center singing group is gathering as I leave.

Talking about people on the steps with RL. He  has a plan for homeless alcoholics and drug users. They all need something to do. That’s what most people need, something to do. We need a sailing ship. Get a crew of homeless who need to rehab. They will learn the ropes, literally. There will be good food. And no booze. A tough captain. They’ll start out somewhere up the Hudson. Pick up a load of shampoo and toilet paper and perhaps other sundries for delivery, oh, maybe say the Florida Keys. Down the Hudson, out New York harbor and out to the open sea. Anyone who wants to jump ship is welcome to  swim to shore. By the time they reach their destination, the whole crew will be seaworthy, ship shape and ready to reenter society as responsible adults.  I try to connect this idea to what we’re doing in the Interfaith Assembly. But in his view, there has to be a ship out on open water, no easy way out. Sounds like a fundable idea to me…in fact, I think I’d go…

Normal days


Angelo's tribute

Marc’s working on some wiring issues, David S working on light bulbs here and there.

The big news of the day is television’s Tina Fey in the building with her assistant , getting Mc Alpin Hall ready for her daughter’s birthday party on Friday. This is where we do what we do in New York and  just act like it’s a normal day. And she’s just another neighbor. Which she is.

Danielle the social worker and another BRC worker are here looking for Sean. He’s made his apology. Requested a room. They’re here to take him to the residence. But Sean is not here.


It’s another normal day. But we can’t help but remember. The staff meeting. The call from Regi. Thinking, oh, he’s from  another country. He must not have heard right. Katherine’s call from
John telling her the Pentagon had been hit. We scatter to our homes. I sit with Micah, home from school, watching the second plane fly into the tower over and over again, an endless loop. Bright sunshine. And a gathering cloud. Skies eerily empty. We gather at the church, our leaders. Call every member, making sure everyone is accounted for.  Open our doors for a prayer service. A hushed, quiet, gathering of neighbors. A reporter from France who  just happened to be in the neighborhood.  No idea what would happen next. That was that day.