Monday, March 12, 2012

Fifteenth day of Lent: Occupocalypse, happy birthday, Kanaska

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
Joni Mitchell
When I go to open the door, there’s something blocking it. Turns out it’s Wesley and Antonia. Tell them it’s time to go. 
Jared has dropped by for a visit. Pastor of an emergent type church now meeting late Sunday afternoons at St. Michael’s and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. The Disciples are behind it. But Jared’s a Yalie, like me, who has not chosen the tall steeple route and I like that. It’s been a long time since he’s visited. I remember his vision of an urban monestary where a new generation of monks would turn out decent microbrew. 
I give him the tour. Show him what has changed. Tell him the stories of where we’ve been. The whole #ows saga. He notes that I seem completely engaged, happier than when we last visited. He’s a bit frustrated with late Sunday afternoons. Space in our house is getting a bit crowded. We decide to explore bringing his open conversation night here, later in April.
Rafael, Chris, Steve and Teddy have all come to my office. Looking, well, concerned. They have just finished their community meeting and are unanimously against the Occupoclaypse scheduled for tonight. What started out as an open mic night seems be morphing  into an open invitation for an all night rave. I cannot even describe the look on Danielle’s face. 
They are concerned that everything they have worked on, everything we have  worked on could be jeopardized. Could all go down. I appreciate how much they care for the church. And #ows. Danielle is pressing my responsibility for the church, the occupiers, the building, relationship with neighbors...She’s had to live through at least one night of nasty phone calls about sound...
Seems like the only responsible thing to do is to pull the plug. Kanaska is due to arrive soon. So we anxiously await her arrival. Soon stretches out to hours. 
I’m sitting in my office talking with a couner guy from Barney Greengrass learning about his travelling career as a chef when Danielle motions to me that Kanaska has arrived.
She’s here. With her friend Rio. And a truck full of sets.  Soon joined by Rio’s dad. The conversation is not going well. Opinions, feelings, voiced all around. Lots of dropped communication balls on every side. She wanted this to be her farewell to New York for awhile. And her birthday. She’s feeling crushed. We all keep talking. Finally agree to  go with the earlier proposed concert. With a time and numbers cut off. Teddy will pull in an extra few crew guys.
Kanaska, Rio and Rio’s dad get to work setting up. Knowing it’s going to be a long night, I head home for a break. 

This is about the time the expected visit from the poiice comes. I introduce Rafael. Tell them we've got the situation under control. They can hang out if they want, it's ok. 
Rapping by Joie de vivre
When I return, Mc Alpin Hall has been completely transformed. Large wooden cutouts have recreated Zucotti Park and surrounding buildings, including the Suvero sculpture Joie de vivre. That has me completely blown away until I discover that Rio’s dad is famed Soho sculptor Forrest Myers known for the Wall and giant installtions at Storm King among countless other striking works. ( )I’m guessing he had a hand in this. 
Even down to a tobacco/video/information stand. 
Over the course of the night, I come to see the vision that was in her head, to recreate Zucotti, allow people to live in tha emotional space again, even spend the night. It was  a pretty briliant vision. And damn well executed.
As I check out the crowd, I first feel like Kanaska may come from the more hard core end of #ows. But as I listen and talk, I realize for all the edginess, they are for the most part, just  kids. Part of what Kelly called the poverty diaspora of America. 
Observation: the men fall into roughly three categories, recreators of dylan/guthrie et al folk americana, rap, and hip hop spoken word.  The women hit that woman singer songwriter space. I’m impressed to see Kanaska’s guy, Rio, actually Rio Grand, is a pretty decent rapper. 
At her invitation, I do some songs. It’s a bit intimidating, singing to this crowd. I do some songs from back in the day, about our off campus apartment, the commune that ultimately failed, New Mexico. This feels good. 
Ted Brown is doing spoken word. For a brief moment, he was the poster child for #ows.  He talks about living through the whole media fox/murdoch attack frenzy. (Dude, been there..)
But here’s the thing...I listen, I look around. They are remembering what it was like. Those first few early Zucotti days when a better world seemed not only possible but like it was being experienced. Their care for each other, their love for each other, out of that experience, is authentic and real. Like a scene from Hair, or Godspell. Even though as Steve put it, it sometimes turned into One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the reality was undeniable. Even the comedian worked gentle and clean. 
As a theologian, I’m struck by the number of religious imagery references in the raps and songs and spoken word. Religion turned on them, let them down. No interest in church per se.  Yet the language is still there, ingrained, inextricable from the cultural consciousness. Almost archetypal.
Kanaska herself is aware that this is her Janis Joplin year. Her music is that singer-songwriter but with an edge. She’s good. And this whole performance piece a credit to her creativity.
And I feel so blessed that Teddy gave up a night of work to be here and help out. And Rafael and Chris.  And Steve. And Karim. Even Shen staying, just in case.And always ready to talk theory with anyone. And Eric in his suit, long raven magenta streaked hair, keeping an ear on sound level not wanting anyhting to go wrong. A team effort. With hugs all around at the end. 
Outside, a caravan of cars from an Orange County church has show up to make a Midnight Run delivery. It’s a program whereby suburbanites come into our city and deliver food to homeless enclaves all around. So I’m on that side of the street now, I think. But I’m glad someone’s got our folks on the map. Hot soup, sandwiches, fruits and snacks. They unload, head off for their next stop. 
It was all good, currently suspended from the community showed up. Was graciously welcomed, conditionally,  to the party. Was clearly not himself. Wouldn’t leave. Went running around wildly. Had to be gently restrained by Rafael. Was fed soup and a sandwich. Demanded to be arrested. Left right before the police arrived. Left us exhausted.Emotionally and otherwise. 
In the middle of all this Bobby shows up. Still looking for Marc Greenburg. Telling us all about upcoming conferences, speakers, celebrities. He memorizes NPR rainman style. This completes the circle, makes it perfect, we all agree. 
Kanaska’s ready to head back to Canada for awhile. Happy Birthday, Kanaska. 

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