Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm Warnings

The door catches as I try to open it. Something’s there. I push harder. There’s a heavy sleeping bag in front. I suspect that someone might be there as well, but no. I look ot the right. No one there. And then to my left. And there it is. The largest, rankest, pile of fly covered shit I’ve ever seen here.
And I lose it. Just lose it. Not this. Not today. I cannot deal with this. I explode. Goddammit. And mean it. Feel like I’m done.
Go inside. Danielle wants to know what's going on. I call her outside to the steps. She looks right. And then left. And then her jaw drops. Look, I say, I need a cup of coffee, then we’ll deal with it. Gotta find a way to move this from an anger management issue to a logisitcal problem.
Go into Barney Greengrass. Get my iced coffee. Gary’s back. Welcome back, Gary, I say. Thank you Reverend. Howya doin? I tell him about my herniated disc. He winces. Tell ya what, I’ll do a brucha on my end, you do one on yours that should fix it, ok? I laugh, say thanks, head back.
Danielle’s gone for water. I examine the situation. I will not leave this to Danielle alone. Get my yellow gloves. Remove the sleeeping bag, the waste ruined crumpled newspaper. Gather pieces of cardboard. Then scrape and scoop. My stomach turns. Danielle arrives with water. That’s done. She tells me when she did this with Hope she got the dry heaves. 
I drag off the bag of bottles and cans Edward didn’t help me with. To the corner. The Ready, Willing and Able guys are out and about. An independent environmental entrepreneur picks up the bag and carries it off. 
During all this, a distinguished looking older Upperwestside Couple comes into the church to look around. I haven’t been in here in so long, she says. I always forget how beautiful it is. Turns out she’s an architectural historian. We cared so much about this buiding, she says, worked so hard...
I’m thinking that they walked in right past the still not quite cleaned up steps. And left, too. There is, a deep romance with the building that doesn’t always see the busted pipes, dead boiler, pigeon commandeered space, urban reality. We need to find a way to capture that reservoir of romance and turn it into support to bring about real change, restoration, project by project.
Clint and the Watson Plumbing guys have arrived carrying heavy pipe. There will be a big push to get those rusted out pipes replaced and drains ready before the storm hits. It’s the last chance.
Teddy comes in and we put our heads together about battening down the hatches, so to speak. Woodshed has already cancelled their Saturday night performance. The city’s public transit will shut down by noon Saturday. So they’ll cut the aftershow short tonight. Enlist everyone in bringing all the tables and chairs in from the backyard, not wanting to see them tossed around. Sump pumps, sand bags, at the ready and waiting.
Out on the steps, Edward and Charlotte are sprawled out, drinking beers. Mess around. Edward, Charlotte, this isn’t going to work, I say. I ain’t sleepin’, says Edward. And that’s not the point, I say. Open containers? can’t do that. Not good for you, not good for me. 
Let’s go, let’s go, says Charlotte, otha sida the street. Over there. Otha side.
I continue to stand there. Edward looks up, drunk and surly. So much for detox. Don’t you be standin over me. Standin over me like my father. Don’t need no father. I’m 53 years old. Don’t be standin over me. 
That’s not what it’s about, Edward. It’s about respect. Mutual respect. This is our home. It’s a church. It’s not respectful to have a mess here all day. We welcome you. But there are rules. 
He starts to gather up his things, Charlotte already gone. Sullen look on his face. I’ll have to clean up again. Later. Danielle sees how upset I am when I come back in. Edward. Charlotte. Drinking,I say.
The scaffolding company is cruising the city, checking their installations. Danielle will have to go up the ladder and check ours. I ask Teddy to give her a hand.

I talk with my friend John S in Brigantine, a barrier island off Atlantic City. His whole island's been evacuated. You know its serious when the WaWa's closed, he says, referring to his neighborhood convenience store.  His family's gone to his daughter's house on the mainland. Whole we're on the phone, the police come through the neighborhood. Everyone must leave. So they'll head further inland. 

Marty sees me. Asks about storm preparations. He's clearly back to himself. I tell him about the drain pipes. He asks how much it costs. I tell him around $3000. He tells me that Oral Roberts never had any trouble raising money. I tell him I actually knew Oral Roberts, back in my Oklahoma days. Even worked as an adjunct professor at his seminary. (One of my secrets) He doesn't understand adjunct. I explain, just one course. We talk about how Oral overextended. Lost his hospital, his medical school, his law school. And how his son Richard almost lost it all. No Oral, Richard. ( Lots more stories there to tell.) More preparations to make. Time to move on. We wish each other well for the coming storm. 

Outside, the actor who plays Maman is coming in. She's the only "older" member of the cast. She tells me what it has meant to her being in our church everyday. Then, almost conspirationally she says, And I like just sitting in there with the angels. Turns out she works in a food program at Ascension Church where my good friend Father John Duffell is the parish priest. She loves watching him work the streets. (As do I.) I tell her of our friendships, shared study and social time with neighborhood clergy. That's good she says, that's the way it should be.  Then she goes in to get ready for this evening's performance. 
A phone call comes in. A couple has a Sunday wedding. On the shore. The caterer has cancelled. The officiant cancelled. Family has flown in from Israel and Ecuador. Could I come tonight,before the storm? To Park Slope in Brooklyn? I think about my back. Then I call back and say, if you get me there and back by car service, I’ll do it.  Done deal. After all this, they deserve a night to remember. It’ll be backyard. But a tux, a gown, a wedding. 
On the way to the wedding, I drop off my son Dan at the door to see the Tenant. I introduce him to Teddy. Tell him, if you need someone to help batten down the hatches, he’s yours. 
And now off to Brooklyn. Before the storm.

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