Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't let it ruin your day

Rachelle is standing near the 86th street door, a full shopping cart in front of her, her Daisy Buchanan hat on, wearing her surgical mask. I look at the cart. I have recieved many donations, she says. 
Chris is standing in the sun. I tell him he looks like a watchman. Teddy tells me  that Con Ed has been by to see if the old boiler pipes are shut down and all is cool. Steve is staffing a table by himself, looking to sell off the remaining t-shirts. Ellen a photographer from the Village Voice has been wandering through the church taking pictures and is now hanging and talking with Steve.
A man named Greg comes in, he’s clearly just hit Danielle up for money. Asks to speak to me privately. Wants money for the subway. Goes through the whole I don’t do drugs, don’t drink deal... I have a look of pain on my face. I stop him. Look, I got no money in the bank and $5 in my pocket. That’s it. 
Chill man,he says, don’t let it ruin your day.  And he heads out the door. 
Jay comes in wearing his army t-shirt. His leg still has a ways to go. Being an Iraq veteran hasn’t helped him much. 
John H has heard from the Tiffanty dealer.  We need to name a price. Do I really want to do this? How can I use this information in a different strategy?

Mim, knowing the pressures of the multiple crises, has come by to be supportive. Help us think through some things. She is always there when we need someone, well, just to be there. A phone rings, possible legal help. But time is short, who can catch up that fast?
A man who calls himself Lucky and I don’t know why. Teddy brings in a woman who speaks only Spanish. Que necesita? I ask her. Ropas, zapatos... I tell Teddy she needs clothes, shoes, do you have any? And he says, Yeah, I think we do. Tell her to wait. Por favor esperarse, mi hermana, I say.  Soon Teddy comes back with Little Chris, the house fashion consultant, to take her to the clothing room. Soon she has some pants, shirts, and yes, shoes. 
There are people sitting in the sanctuary. Looks like they’re in prayer. I want to join them. One of them is Steve. (Later he tells me he fell asleep.)
Patrick De Warren, a French documentary filmmaker, is doing an Occupy doc. He wants to interview me. We go to the Session room and talk for an hour. I tell him the whole story from Thanksgiving to now. 
No time to go home for a walk. Time for Bible study. What a group. Marsha, Hope and John from West Park. A whole group from the Sekou-West night. An older former believer who still is drawn to Jesus the man. Marc from Interfaith. And Steven and Teddy. Marco, who’s following Sekou for a documentary is there, too. 
We begin with particularities. Every theology, every scripture, comes from a specific place and time. God chose to come to earth in Jesus, a Palestinian Jew born to an unwed mother in a backwater corner of the Empire to a working class family. Sekou says the word carpenter in Greek is actually handy man. Jesus was  a handy man. That’s how we begin. And we all share our particularities. 
And we experience the thickness of the first few verses. The begining, genesis, meaning a new beginning. Gospel, a take on a Roman victory convention. The quoted Isaiah passage. A signifier that this is a message from an exiled people to an internally exiled, occupied people. John the Baptist, fugitive from his father’s tall steeple church, the Temple. The synagogue vs. the Temple. Baptism as a judgment on the status quo. So why repentance from sin? It’s about coming to terms with yourself, we say. If you’re going to take on the empire, you got to be ready. And my occupiers nod. 
Bobby came in a while back. Teddy took him upstairs for some food. He’s come down and joined us. As we wrap up, he takes me aside. Like he’s got a secret. Listen, he says, Condaleeza Rice is a concert pianist. You need to get her here to play a concert. Yeah, well, she’s a presbyterian, too, I say. 
Hope is telling Sekou, this is exactly what we should be doing. I recall hearing John Dominic Crossan on NPR. They asked him if he prayed. After a pause he said, I study. And when I study, I feel close to God. I know that feeling. 
Elizabeth is setting up her photography equipment to shoot those she missed in January. 
I’m outside talking with Teddy and Steve. Sekou walks out. So here’s where all the cool kids got off to, he says.
Elizabeth at work shooting Teddy
I watch Elizabeth as she shoots her portraits. One by one she shoots with great care. Teddy wants Bobby to get his taken as an honorary occupier. And I get a reshoot, too. Elizabeth’s off to Egypt soon, a follow up on her women’s series. 
Teddy has found Antonia outside and brought her in. Wesley was arrsted a week or so ago, Antonia headed for the hills. Or at least Riverside Park. Where the rangers took all her stuff. Maybe good in the long run. Brought her back here. It’s Teddy’s plan to kepe her inside for the night. Call Reachout first thing in the morning. Get her hooked up with housing before Wesley gets out. 

Laila has come in. It's many months since I have seen her.  She had cafred about Tracy. One of our early steps people. She'd established contact with one of  his children. But we lost contact with him after he entered the system.
Outside, I talk with Rafael. he’s come bac to pick up a few things. He and Steve exchange muted greetings. The close out meeting I wanted to have tonight, lifting up all that was good is not going to happen. There’s a sadness about that.
Patrick is back with his video camera. 
There’s a silent man outside in the south doorway who appears and disappears, every few days, sitting like a sentinel. 

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