Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The day after


As I go to open the doors, I hear George engaged in animated discussion with someone else on the other side. Amanda appears and as we’re talking, Hope walks in and says how good it makes her feel to walk dow the street and see the church doors open. We review the events of the last few days. How having worship upstairs while the craftspeople set up turned out to be a great idea, a witness, in fact. How good it was to have all those craftspeople our building, cold as it was. How the music had been so good and the musicians so supportive of what we are trying to do, even some of them not only playing for free, but contributing to the church as well. How so many of our church members spent so any hours working at the festival. All in all, it felt good to have so much life filling the space. And after the last three days, it ll feel strangely quiet.

I go out side to sweep. But first stop and ask George why he’s not at his apartment. “They fucked me,” he says. And explains that new regulations have reduced his four year guaranteed housing contract to two years, ending in January. And if he doesn’t get out voluntarily, he’ll be evicted. And that if you have an eviction on your record, you’ll never get another apartment. Later my friends at the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness explain that the limit kicks in if you are “not actively seeking work,” but for George, that’s not an option. He somehow believes that there’s a connection coming back to the steps and avoiding eviction. And then he says, “these motherfuckers are even charging rent to stay in a shelter. Can you fuckin’ believe that? How fucked up is that?” (Dennis from the Assembly tells me that the shelter rent law got thrown out.) And I think of erstwhile political candidate Jimmy Mc Millan and his “Rent is Too Damn High” fringe political party, looking more sane all the time.

Then George is off on the corporations, their layoffs, how the rich don’t create jobs, they just eliminate people to get more rich. And then he says, “You want to know how bad it is? you know that buy back program the NYPD has? The money for guns program? I hear even white people are bringing in their guns. How we gonna have a motherfuckin’ insurrection with no motherfuckin’ guns? And as you know, we have a new regime coming in January and things gonna get worse. Just you watch...”

As I’m sweeping and George is preaching, RL walks by in his top hat. I ask him to bring me back a cup of coffee. And now George swings into the Illuminati and their master plan to thin the world’s population and expand their control. How the government is in on it. And the various flus, avian, swine, are just ways to force people to get vaccines which are ways to poison us. And that Bayer Pharmaceuticals out of Germany, is doing to us what they did to the Jews back in the Holocaust. “I told you this before,” he says, cocking his head and eying me for emphasis.

Up in the balcony, Amanda has lit her candles, set up the mike and a camera on a tripod. She’s going to use the opportunity to do a reading of the prologue and first chapters of her book. RL has appeared to listen. Piano Dan, who provided the sound system, arrives too. Together we will be her audience.

And so she reads her story of how as single mother with an infant daughter, she regained her cafe, reclaimed it with her own hands, brought back to life. That’s the experience she immediately connected to the first time she saw the inside if West-Park. Saw it as a metaphor for a concrete vision. And wanted to help. That’s part of the story. As she reads, these words too enter into the sanctuary, become part if its spirit.

When she’s finished, I help them pack up all of Dan’s equipment and load it into his car. His help for the Balcony Music Festival had been invaluable. Couldn’t have done it without him. Somehow it all fits, the trunk closes and they’re off.

I call Reachout to ask about George. They’ve closed out his case, thought it was over, problem solved. George had said to me, “People think, once you get a place, you never be homeless again. Bullshit. We be there awhile, the circle back here. That’s how it go.” I tell them he’s been on the steps for three days. They say they know of no change in housing situation. I repeat, it’s been three days. So they promise to send over his former caseworker, do an assessment. See what can be done. I also track down Tracy’s caseworker, leave a message, wanting to know how he’s doing.

Tonight will be Comfort Ye! at Symphony Space. Still benefitting the Westside Campaign Against Hunger, the Interfaith Assembly and New York Cares. It started here, right here at West-Park sixteen years ago. The sounds of all that music still lingers in the walls, “O Holy NIght” still echoes.

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