Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All You Need is Love


Still in the twenties when I get to the church to open the doors for the electricians. All day long, they’ll be installing new emergency lights, exit signs, everything needed for safe lighting in case of an emergency. The crew chief has his ipod set up for all Beatles all day.

I open the doors to do the steps. It’s still in the twenties. A guy who wants to come off as a hustler with his cap at a jaunty angle spots my Steelers stocking cap,one of the things that keep me connected to my roots, and calls out, “Yo, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers in it, man...” “My hometown, man, hometown" I respond.

I pick up coffee at Barney Greengrass and head across the street. Francois has been joined by Max from Montreal, a raft guide on the River Rouge. He’s got a Brad Pitt kind of handsome face with ruddy cheeks and eyes that seem to dance. We share stories of Quebec, my trips there when my son Micah spent summers at the music festival at Le Domaine Forget about 90 miles up the St. Lawrence from Quebec City, where the river gets wide, salt and fresh water fish coexist and whales come in to play. We talk of poutin, the classic Quebecois roadside staple of french fries, cheese curd and gravy. Francois complains that you cant get real poutin in New York City. He goes on to say that he 's promised to deliver a free tree to anyone who can approach him with a real taste of Quebec.

I go back to close up. The electricians will be there awhile. “All you need is love” is playing as I walk out. The three electricians are singing along.

Later,Ted will come by and we will meet with a representative of Housing Works, a non-profit group that started as a kind of thrift shop to support the homeless and has now branched into antique furniture and bookstores, cafes and wine bars. We’re going to give them a tour. They would be a perfect partner for us.

They love the raw space of the church house. It’s open funkiness. But it’s not really inviting as a “retail” type space with the one door on 86th Street. “But let’s get creative,” I tell them. “Follow me.” And I take them to the tower room. The space with its own door that Amanda, who started with an expresso cart and wound up building her own cafe, says would be perfect for a coffee bar. She even knows where she would get the beans. The space seriously needs to be cleared of pigeon guano.

The woman from Housing Works lights up. “This is great, “ she says,”I never thought you’d consider opening up the sanctuary space.” We go upstairs. The late afternoon sun is pouring through the stain glass windows like caramel and butterscotch. And she can imagine it...the cafe, downstairs the book and table space in the balcony “boxes.” It could work. A long road from a moment of imagination to a reality. But the possibility is there. Amanda’s spot was right.

I let everyone out the front. Then I get ready to lock up.The electrical guys are still there. Beatles still going strong. “Still have the Beatles,” I say. “Been going all day and no need to stop,” the crew chief says.”Didn’t want to bring anything too offensive,” he says.

‘You don’t exactly look gangsta” I say, we both laugh, I crawl over the guy on the ladder, out the door and begin to head home. There’s something Dickensian about what we’re trying to do here, what it feels like at Christmas.

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