Friday, February 18, 2011

The weather is getting warmer

He’s there again. And now with a faux leopard skin scarf wrapped around his top hat. As I come around the corner, he catches my eye, takes a long draw on the Ballantine bottle and takes off. If this is going to be a relationship, it will not be easy.  The steps are littered with pull top can lids, roll your own butts and gobs of spit. It will  be interesting to see what happens as the weather warms. And the last two days, it’s been much warmer outside than in. The insides hold the cold in an embrace that won’t let go. 
A woman approaches, harried. “Mister, mister...” she says. “A man up there in a black car, taking  my picture. Why? I don’t know why. Why he do that? I say to him, why you take my picture? You can no do that.  I tell him I call the police...” “Ok, where?” I say, “You want me to go talk to him?”  “No, he lef...but why he do that? You can no take a picture to me without I give can no do that. It’s not right...” ‘You’re right,” I say. “It’s not right. Not without your permission. You did the right thing.” She seems relieved. Walks on.
Breakfast with Ruth Messinger. Former Manhattan Borough President. Former mayoral candidate. Former city council member from this neighborhood. She goes way back with West-Park. Held election rallies there. I need her to talk to our current council member. Offer to help get support to build the structure to get our heat on and create a sustainable future. And to lend her name to our 100th anniversary committee. She’s now Executive of the American Jewish World Service. We share a lot of commitments globally, in New Orleans, AIDS, women’s empowerment. She’s glad to say yes. 

Late in the day, I walk by. The man in the top hat is still there. And the warm weather has brought Marty out again. He’s talking again, too. “Reverend, you don’t dress so good for a clergy man. You know my father, he had blue suede shoes and wore a stetson with a blue band with little white ducks on it. He was a sharp dressing  man.”  A young Orthodox Jew in his suit and fedora walks by, sees Marty. Walks over, puts some dollar bills in his hand. “Good shabbes,” he says. And they talk. The young Orthodox man talks about leap year and how it affects Purim and does Marty know.  Marty says of course he knows that. “And of course you always do,” says the young man.”” I learned it all from my father, the rabbi. He never went to school. An old rebbe on the Lower East side said you sleep under my roof for 30 days. If on the 31st you answer the questions I ask you right, I will give you a smicha. (Ordination) And he did. And that’s how he started. What do you think of that , Reverend?” “It’s a good story.” The sun is setting as I go to leave. We wish each other a good evening. 
The Taco Truck with its name in neon lights is on the corner of Broadway. The street side has a dramatic painting of an  Aztec Indian above a young woman stretched out on a rock. A lake and mountains in the background behind them. And of course, the Virgin of Guadalupe in the upper right hand corner, observing the scene. And perhaps also the street. 
The Saigon Grill workers are out in force. With banners. "Stop sweatshop restaurants NOW!" And chants. "Boy-cott Sai-gon Grill, Boy-cott  Sai-gon Grill. Po-der o-brer-o, po-der o-brer-o."
The weather is getting warmer. 

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