Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bridge to Possibilities: a two ticket day

Aaron, Bob, Amanda, Sonora, Brianna, Simone

Amanda and Bob

The dumpster has arrived last minute courtesy of Friends of West Park.  Luis is directing our crew of volunteers on the physical end of things with Danielle managing the overall strategy.  The job is to remove all the trash and  garbage that has been stored in the Session room. We have moved everything out of McAlpin so that it can be used for our concert receptions, now we need to empty the  room to make  a Green Room.
Luis, Lily, Alma, Uncle Pete, Diana are all here, soon joined by Steven. And my son Daniel joins in as well.  Samantha managing the office while she works on her project from the Fashion Insititue. The work moves steadily and smoothly and in two hours its done.
Marc has arrived to help develop a strategy for marketing and branding, a word that troubles some church folks. Yet we have to find a way to differentiate oursleves from others. I’ve brought Marc my dissertation. Tell him to take good care of it.  He’s got a lot of questios to ask me. There are ongoing interruptions, that’s the way it is here. He listens intently and creatively and I’m excited to hear his first thoughts. How the church might actually grow.
(Met Marc over a seder at Katherine’s one time. A year ago, at a South African restaurant in Brooklyn, I mentioned Oklahoma, that led to Tulsa and within a few more questions, when I mentioned the Oklahoma Eagle, Tulsa’s African American newspaper, how I wrote for it  all the years I was in Tulsa, how I did arts and cultural reviews under a nom de plume. How the Editor was my friend. He said omygod, and told me his uncles owned the paper. I knew them well, the Goodwin brothers. But that’s another story.)
Dave is giving one more look at the lighting. Aaron, Amanda’s guitar player, will also be handling the sound. We take my van to go down to SPSA and borrow a set of sound equipment from the Sacred Center. This is after trying to remember where I parked it and discovering  a ticket. My first of the day. I use my cellphone to snap a picture of the pole with a missing sign.  At SPSA, there is a controversy over what exactly we can have. I tell Joe who watches the door at SPSA and his friend to watch my car, alert me if the police come. They agree. I go in to help Aaron. A mixer is at issue. There doesn’t seem to be any give here. So we take all the speakers, stands, etc. and go back to load my car. And there’s another ticket. I look up at Joe. He shrugs. We told them not to do it, but they did it anyways, he says. Next time I’ll give you my keys, I say. A two ticket day.
We unload the equipment, Aaron tells Amanda about the mixer. Before I can get my car parked, she’s called me and told me to head back ot SPSA to pick up the mixer. Aaron’s there, we load it up, circle back to the church and unload. Artists are already arriving for sound check. It’s almost too busy to worry right now.  Danielle is finishing the programs. 
I race home to shower, dress. On the way back to the church, I stop at the GAP to buy new jeans. Wear them out of the store.  Old jeans in the bag. Volunteers are arriving to staff the door, manage the raffle, tend the bar.  The artists are hanging out in the green room.
My friend Rick Ufford-Chase has arrived from Stony Point  and imedaitely jumps in helping me carry bags of ice upstairs and other prep work. We sit to talk about how the night will go and then its almost time. The Bridge to Possibilities is about to begin. A night of music by women singer song writers.
The lights go down.There’s what Rick calls an honest fifty in the audience. Rachel has come with her daughter.  I talk about the chuch, the Centre, the vision. Introduce Rick, who talks about Stony Point, the community that’s emerging there. The intentional communities, Muslim, Chrisitan, Jewish. The new arts intitiative, how we might work together. Artists movigj back and forth between Stony Point and West-Park.
And then the music begins. Simone Brown, who calls herself Infinity, begins with her song/poem about self-empowerment. Then Susannah Conn, who’s a public school teacher sings from her experiences. And Sonora Dolce, from La Guardia’s New Music Ensemble sings her French cabaret style song, M’Etranger, accompanied by Eli Greenhoe whose Snowbound continues to haunt me long after I heard it weeks ago. And two saxes. And then Amanda, accompanied by Aaron on guitar does a set with both her piano and guitar and it’s intermission time. 
In Mc Alpin, the walls covered by Berik and Leila's paintings, Luis is tending bar and people are gathering, talking. 
The second half starts with Brianna Buttermark, also from La Guardia, singing two ofher songs with ukelele. There’s a cute on the surface, but right underneath, there’s something else.  Intelligence, craft.  The Kristen Leigh from Union Seminary accompanied by violin and bass  does a set of her songs exploring edges of spirituality and passion. And then Amanda brings Andre out and he sits at the piano and sings Here’s to Life, in his deep rich baritone. The song he sang the Sunday after 9-11. And at the end of the performance piece we created with Bill Schimmel in Tucson.  
Musically, it’s been what I wanted. Different ages. Different voices. Journeys. Collaboration.  Amanda brought Susannah, Rochone added Simone, I brought Sonora and Brianna and Danielle added Kristen. And now we’re all upstairs, there’s wine and talk and laughter. 
As the crowd thins, Aaron comes over. Down in the sanctuary, he’s discovered his mother and father, divorced 15 years, playing guitar, singing songs together. The songs they used to sing. Seventies songs, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkle, Carol King. 
We quietly gather in a circle. Amanda takes the guitar, sings. Then hands it to me. Now you have to sing, she says, you all don’t know that Bob’s a closet singer, do you? He writes good songs. This kind of Bob Dylan lots of words thing going. And she looks at me. 
I look around, church members, Danielle, others. The guitar strings are smooth and easy to play. I close my eyes, sing an old love song. She says, play the one about Arizona. I shake my head, New Mexico, I say. Then my song about my first visit there, finding the dead end of the commune my friends from college had created. And left. I look up. Hand the guitar back to Amanda. There’s a feeling of warmth. A feeling of things being the way they’re supposed to be. And these good spirits joining what has gone before, becoming part of this place. It feels good.

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