Wednesday, September 5, 2012

...and champagne


Arrive to find another disaster on the steps. The worst yet. I go inside. Danielle has not opened up the doors yet. Came in the side door, never noticed. Teddy’s unavailable, so I call Steven who’ll be there in a minute. I need a plan. When Steven shows up with a large glass container of water,no buckets to be found,  I say, No, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m buying us new gloves. And a new mop. The old one died Sunday. And new garbage bags. You’re going to get the bleach and check the hoses downstairs. And the we’re going to deal with this.

I head to the hardware store. Buy my supplies. Back at the church, Ana has come in to sit and talk. I tell her I’ve missed her. She tells me the heat’s been too great. And wants to get into a discussion about Ched Meyer’s Binding the Strongman. You didn’t think I read it but I did. 

Never doubted that Ana.

Now I’m not an atheist, believe it or not. But it seems to me he’s trying to make Jesus out to be a Che Guevara....

I tell her I’d like to talk with her, engage the discussion, but I’ve got shit to deal with, literally. Ah, someone’s been pooping there? she asks. Yeah, that and more, I say. 

Steven and I go downstairs and find all the hose connections. Push the hose up through the hole in the street grate. We drag it. Need another length. Find it. Finally have enough hose to reach all the way down 86th and around the corner at Amsterdam. Next issue is to figure out how to turn the water on.

Finally. I reach down and gather up all the blasted papers. Steven brings a garbage bag, I hold my breath, dig down and toss it all into the bag. They don’t teach this at Yale, I say. Pepperdine neither, he says. And then pours bleach. His first container of water. Then as the hose is turned on, I take the new mop and scrape and mop until it’s all gone. We keep the water flowing until the steps are thoroughly clean. 

And then for good measure, pick up all the papers and cigarette butts all they way around to the 86th Street door then hose everything down. While I’m sidewalk sweeping and picking up butts, my old friend and neighbor Elle, the old fashion designer, stops. Looks. Has it come to this, Pastor, that you have to do this yourself?  I consider telling her she doesn’t know the half of it. But don’t. And that I’d give a lot for our neighbors to know how much we do care about this place.About being neighbors. But I don’t. I just say, I’m not alone, and, we all have to take our turn.  She thinks a minute. I think that’s admirable, she says, then heads to her home. 

Steven says, You’ve got to do something.

 I know, I say,  Soon as I’m back inside, I’m calling the precinct. And I do. And as expected, get an answering machine. Then I call Reachout who say they’ll take a note. 

Danielle is talking with Miriam, a young striking Ethiopian-German. She was the artistic director for Playing With Fire. She wants to do another play, here, on her own. I share my reflections on their performance of ....Fire. She’s surprised I saw it. She saw me outside with the mop. Am I an actor? A theatre person? No, I say, I’m a minister. The pastor of this church. What I do is sometimes a performance.  But it’s never acting...

I share with her the vision of the Center. And how I prefer groups interested in collaboration, not just renting cheap space. Tell her I’m glad she’ll be around. 

While I’m putting the hose away, Luli is coming into the church with a tray, glasses and a  bottle of cava. It’s Soledad’s birthday. Martin invites me to share a glass of champagne, watch some rehearsal. I sip the cava as Soledad dances to Miguel and his ululating gritos born from el Andaluz.  That’s what it is here, I think, shit and champagne...

Teddy is up and into the office.  Tells me Edward was on the steps when he got back from work. Soaked from the waist down.  Asleep in his own. I tried to wake him, he says, he gets up, weaving, gets in my face. I called the ambulance. Didn’t know what else to do. They showed up. I left when they came. Don’t know what happened. 

I tell Teddy what we had to deal with. That there was blood on the steps. That we have to call 911 on sight. 

Bob, he says, and making his arms go like an umpire’s safe sign, says, the dude is cooked. He’s cooked. His body is shutting down. He’s got no control.

I know. But we’ve got no choice. He’s not going to die on my steps. 

And I tell Teddy and Danielle the story of Arthur Cafiero, who froze to death on the steps, back in 2003, despite my efforts to get him in. The New York Post blamed my bleeding heart for his death. There’s more, but another story for another time. Still hurts. 

In the late afternoon, the Center Board gathers in Mc Alpin Hall for a post mortem on our late lamented lost deal. There is sadness. And anger. We are going to make this deal, we’d been told. And we had begun to live into it. The moment is grim. But we have to use every moment we’ve got. Melisa’s proposal is back on the table. Chris, who had been working with us back when we had a developer, as their rep, has found another possibility. We have our assignments. We’ll play this out to the end.  

While we’re meeting, Teddy texts, Edward is back. But when he sees Teddy, he takes off. The sounds of voices and feet of flamenco filtering up through the floor. I ponder the mystery of Edward. My therapist says, someone has to want to change. And I say, I know, but it’s not enough. He knows what he has to do to live and won’t (can’t?) do it. So do I. And there’s a lot I don’t do. And I think I  I know why but I don’t. All that DNA/genes what not. It’s like genetic Yahtzee. The cosmic dice get rolled. Maybe you get all sixes. Or maybe just a bunch of random dice that don’t add up to nothing. I’m on the inside, a struggling pastor in a struggling church.  He’s on the outside, slipping away.

The sounds of flamenco getting louder through the floor. The voice, the feet, dancing together. Shit and champagne.

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