Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not this again!

Katherine and Ted and Hope are out front waiting when I arrive for our meeting. I ask Hope to watch my bag and laptop so I can grab a quick cup of coffee. Someone is asleep in the south doorway covered by two open umbrellas. Is that Edward? I ask. No, the answer comes back. I didn’t really think so. So you can’t be here during the day, you’re going to have to leave, ok?
 All right, I just need a minute, I’m going, comes the reply. 
When I get back from Dunkin’ Donuts, the man, the umbrellas are gone. What’s left is  a plie of ragged ruined cardboard, scattered papers and fresh, steaming, stinking piles of feces. I want to scream, No! Not this again! I can’t stand it. I try to envision, my back as it is, dragging myself down the steps, the bucket and mop and bleach back up. What it will take. I want to scream.
But I go inside and join the meeting. Marc and Sarah have joined us too and Danielle will arrive later. What follows is three hours of discussing the Dream Fest we want to create, other programmig ideas and the budget it will take to accomplish that. And as always, where the money will come from. My anger and anxiety at how long it is taking to get the community together comes out. But we are moving forward. And a longer creative relationship with Woodshed is looking likely. 
Outside, the problem remains. Tracy has arrived. The organizer from the Saigon Grill Workers, from the Justice Will Be Served campaign. I’ve asked them to join us for our Labor Day weekend service. We haven’t done that since the weekend before 9-11.
I learn that Tracy comes from a traditional Korean Presbyterian family. A tradition that does not ordain women, let aloe lgbtq folk. And that tends not to question authority, in a Confucian as well as conservative Christian culture. It’s hard for her to understand a progressive Christianity that has a social analysis and political praxis. I talk about the Reformed tradition and Calvin. How given our human fallibility we need a way of resolving differences and making decisions. How our sense of collective stewardship leads to engagement in the  world around us. How Presbyterians, from the days of the American Revolution onward have always been disproportionately involved in politics. 
Hope and Danielle are willing to tackle the steps. I explain the routine, starting with the dehumidifier water, then more water mixed with bleach, the mop. Deacon James comes in, breathing hard. It took  me three hours to get up this morning, he says. And he still wants to help. He can sweep, but not the rest. I worry about him.
I take Tracy to Popover’s. She learned classic identity politics at Swarthmore,  feminist, Asian. She spent time in North Korea and with agricutural workers in South Korea. A deepening dissatisfaction with identity politics came to a crisis point in Chinatown where organizers accepted concessions for their people while Latinos were left out. She’s learned Spanish. And loves her work between Chinese and Mexican workers. She remembers her Chrismtas Eve talk with my son, Micah. This campaign for a Sweatshop Free Upper Westside is a great sign of what can be as more and more workers become aware and want to join in and more and more employers know there is a growing movement. Popover’s, of course, has signed the pledge. 
Looking at the growig list of things that need to be done, now, the boiler, the sidewalk grate, the loose bricks, the pipes and drains, plaster and netting in the sanctuary, we’re up to about $100,000 in projects. We always kind of knew that, but still....What if? Backup plan? What could we sell? We’ve learned almost all our sanctuary furnishings are Tiffany. What could we get for the settee? Our silver? Depressing. 
All afternoon, Woodshed keeps rehearsing their final scene. The music keeps rising to crescendo, Trelkowski’s voice keeps crying out and he continues to throw himself off of the balcony all afternoon. A sudden flash of light, his arms spread out. Then darkness.

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