Monday, June 20, 2011

Bridge to Experience: Always choose the interpretation that gives you strength

Javier conducts the New York Jazz Academy

Someone is asleep on the steps. I say, Excuse me, sir, you can’t sleep here during the day. He says, OK. His name is Miguel. From Puerto Rico. Had an apartment until May. Lost a roommate. Couldn’t afford it. Story has an aching familiarity about it.  He’s got to wait weeks for his case to come up. Assigned to a shelter down in the lower east side somewhere. Can’t afford the metro cards. Only gave him one. I told him to come back duringg the week and we’d see what we coud do. Seems like a good man.
I open up the doors. Erasmia arrives, then Amanda and Andre. Michael Schulman from the New Yorker has come to do interviews with us all. I listen as he hears Ande’s story from the brain hemmorage on. How he experienced it like Saul on the road to Damascus.  Like he was out walkign his dogs in the woods, up in Inwood, or back in Florida.Then struck down as if by lightning.  His months in the hospital. The Helen Hayes Rehab Center in West Haverstraw. Having to move into the Westbourne. Saying to the manager Essie Am I homeless and her responding No, you have an address. Then returning to his own home. How liberating it is to be able to sing without having to impress anybody. How West-Park allows him to be himself, as he is. At the end, he recalls how his former wife Diana told him that we choose how we interpret our life and that we should Always  choose the interpretation that gives you strength. 
I leave to go coach my last soccer game then return. When I get back, Javier’s New York Jazz Academy Big Band is setting up, filling the front of the church. When the show begins, Javier will say, there’s more of you out there then there is up here, that’s always good.  But still not a big crowd, about the same as last night.

Back. Open the door. See Rudy. I take him on a tour of the whole building. In he gym, he falls silent. This was his place. Where he taught his classes. Birthday parties. Where performers prepared for Rudy's annual  gymnastics concert.  And where Sumi Kim did her performance piece playing the sax wile bouncing on   a trampoline and doing a monologue followed by a reeenactment of the last tv interview with Bruce Lee, with Sumi as Bruce. All that and more. There's still grafitti wishing him well on the walls. There was a time when what he was doing with us was a premonition of what the Centre is and can become. His community gym kids sitting  in services. The Sunday school/gym experience we offered. The  day I had him bounce on the trampoline as a prelude to the worship service. On Sunday morning. In the sanctuary. Things went wrong during the landmarks controversy.  Rudy is quiet, the says he'll come tomorrow. The

It’s incredibly painful to miss my son Dan’s pre-prom party on a roof on 38th Street. The kids (kids?) in their tuxes and gowns. A champagne toast. This happens once, and I miss it. But this is where I need to be.
Theo’s banner is not hung. The word Presbyterian was misspelled. There is this conflct. He worked hours on it. Do you put it up anyways? Even if it looks  unprofessional? If you do, what does that say to the public who read it? If not have you unnecessarily hurt someone? Do you use anything that anyone does? What if you asked them and then you don’t like it? Where do we draw lines? It is not easy. It is a big banner. These issues are always difficult for me and I wish I had more clarity. 
I had epected the NYJA Big Band to be mainly high school students, but there are mainly older players. With so many high school students gone for the summer, it’s like fantasy jazz camp for older players. They fill the sanctuary with sound conjuring the days of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington. And then Bernstein’s West Side Story suite. 
There’s a quick set change and then Erin Mc Dougald comes out. She sang a great set last December in our freezing church with no heat, no bathrooms. In the balcony with her big, long, black fur coat. She goes through a aset of standards, her voice sultry and evocative. 
Sometimes I love you, sometimes I hate you,
But when I hate you, it's 'cause I love you.
That's how I am so what can I do?
I'm happy when I'm with you.
Her set finishes. Her bass player is off to Small’s. Andrea has arrived from the pre-prom party.  We talk with Javier awhile. Learning: no matter how hot Erin is, she’s still from Chicago. That won’t draw anyone unless we’ve established our place as a venue that always has good stuff going on. We help him load up his equipmwnt. And then we walk home together.

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