Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ready, willing and able

As I open the doors, I surprise an older African-American man I’ve never seen before. He quickly gathers his things, moves his cardboard to the street corner garbage can and heads off. I pick up the other cardboards. Look at the steps. I’m feeling better enough to try cleaning up a bit, though it’s a struggle.
One of the bluesuited Ready, Willing and Able men sees me. RWA is a private sanitation group of formerly homeless men  funded by the Doe Foundation under contract to the city for  simple clean up. Here, use this, he says offering me his long handled dust pan you can use without bending.
I reach for it, then he says, Nah, I’ve been watching you. You gotta bad back. Let me do it. And in less than ten minutes he’s cleaned up all the cigarette butts, stray papers, etc. Thanks so much, I say, thanks. I ask if he’d lke a cup of coffee. He thinks for a moment. Nah, he says, thanks, but no. So I go to Barney’s for my iced coffee. When I get back, he’s finishing up. You have a nice day, he says. Thanks, you too, I really appreciate it. 
John H comes in with his list of ticket requests for Tenant from his own cast and crew members. Looking forward to his own production.
Soon Hope, Marc and Sarah arrive to work on the national campaign we’ve been developing. At one point we get into funding and realtionships. Marc mentions a particlar bank with a very bad history in interntional realtionships  but good support of the lgbtq community. Hope shakes her head, No, no way. If we get connected to them, there are people I’ve worked with for twenty years who’d never speak to me again.  These struggles took place before you were born.
Marc says that he can do it because when he wors with such groups, he never compromises. Hope says that the very relationship is a compromise. There are a lot of issues here. I remembered back to Tulsa when Public Service Company of Oklahoma wanted to build the Black Fox nuclear energy facility. I got arrested in those protests. Then Public Service hired one of my Lutheran pastor colleagues to be their liaison with the religious community. How would we react to him? Did we still want him on the board of our local interfaith ministry? The nuke plant was scrapped, substituted with clean coal. Would we accept the company’s charitable contributions?
We know that supprt of lbtq rights by companies, politicians, even  churches, does not necessarily relate to support for institutional change and dismantling of structures of dominance and power. That there are often conflicts between green values and red values, eg, Whole Foods is great on sustainability but also anti-union while offering their own workers what appears to be legitimate economic participation and also supports micro business globally, Grameen bank style. Identity politics frequently ignores class realities. Global capitalism still runs the show. Sandinista Ortega signs a pact with Liberal Aleman and shopping malls open in Nicaragua while children beg in Managua streets. Cuba licenses golf resorts and solicits international tourism. Communist China is a multinational corporation.
But still...across the globe there is this growing awareness that it doesn’t work. You have no more ideas, the protest sign said. That’s the side we want to be on. A new creation. The beloved community, world wide. Catholic Worker Houses won’t even give tax credits for donations. There’s Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s ... and wise as serpents, gentle as doves, but where are we called to be? These questiosn require discernment. The shape of what we want is clear. The pathway there, not always. No easy conclusion is reached. 
A well dressed young copy machine salesman walks in looking for Danielle. We tell him she’ll be back next week. 
A young man with a beard and a friend are in the sanctuary. I’m in the show, he says. I wanted to show my friend the space. Right, you’re the landlord, I say. He smiles. You know, the real star of the  show is this space. It’s alive, he says. It talks to us. It’s amazing, says his friend. Like Stephen said, I say, it’s part of the cast. I say that when they’re done, I’m going to rent out these rooms Woodshed has created. I could offer him a real landlord gig.
Efram Ruben is the founder of the Riverside Symphony Orchestra. He’s come looking to see if we could be their new venue. Concerns about lighting, restrooms. Some of his members remember performing here with Jens Nygaard and the Jupiter Symphony. I point out Jens’ Beckstein. I walk him through Mc Alpin, some of the Tenant Parisian apartments. He’s in wonder over what he sees. i walk him outside, show him the news articles outside in the window. It would be great to have them here. We'll see what happens. 
Enough for today. 

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