Saturday, September 22, 2012

Most of the bad stuff we do to ourselves


One of my periodic visitors comes in. One who’s speech is almost unintelligible. I always hate the part where he rolls up his pant leg to show swollen leg and its bandage. It is only ever going to be what I have in my pocket, nothing more. It’s a common ritual, a bad idea.

My friend Rick Ufford-Chase, fresh from his victory at the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Meeting in Louisville, where the Stony Point Center ( was given a chance to take control of its own property, has come down for a visit. With him are Allan and Todd, representatives of a Birmingham based non-profit, Hope Manifest, ( which has been created to help other non-profits develop financial plans and funding. And Shannon, from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Columbia Accompaniment Program ( where volunteers walk side by side with vulnerable people in Columbia, to provide safety and witness. 

I give them the social history tour of the church, especially pointing out the picture of Jan Orr-Harter, one of the founders of the PPF, and the Peacemonger Press,  with the support of Pastor Bob Davidson and the organizing that led to the March Against Nuclear Proliferation, planned at West-Park and bringing a million people to New York City. 

Then we head to Popovers for a longer discussion. Part of what is at stake is the relationship of the Columbia Accompaniment Program with New York City Presbytery’s Social Witness Council, CWSW,  which I formerly chaired. I explained that with the current state of chaos at Presbytery, it’s hard to read. Issues include:
  • Dwindling funds which have led to:
    • Reduction of staff, including Annie who was an amazing organizer for CWSW
    • Reduction of available money for grants

It’s all part of the death, or radical reshaping of our historic mainline denominations. No more available staff to plan programs and conduct ministries. Energy and time absorbed in internal squabbling, shrinking membership, funding bases. The strategy that excites Rick and I is a emphasis on building strong ministry fro the ground up. Grassroots based. If we focus there, do good work there, the rest will follow.  SO part of the discussion is how in a time with no assigned staff, PPF can help Presbytery and its congregations organize to do good work on the ground. It’s exactly what we’re committed to doing at West-Park. And we’re still working to see what our relationship could be.

Later, Paul for Spaceworks, comes with representatives from the Department of Cultural Affairs. Mim and Jamie have come representing the Center. We do the whole tour. The hope is to work with them to develop affordable rehearsal and performance spaces for emerging artists in the city.  

After I return from a late  lunch with Jamie, things begin to get crazy. Lynnea of Frog & Peach wants to talk but there's  an intense man wanting to talk to me. Says his name is Danny. Short with a tight t-shirt, muscular arms, a buzz cut, almost skinhead short and a beard.  jeans and work boots. And burning eyes with a furrowed brow.

An incident has upset him. Walking down Amsterdam Avenue, he saw two men at an outdoor cafe having lunch. He asked a question, as he put it,  a guy responded. Next thing Danny is calling him out and the manger is coming out and telling him to get out before he calls the police. Was that right?

It was his restaurant and you were threatening his customer.

Was I just supposed to take it? I got to stand up for myself.Wouldn’t you? Would you just walk away?


I called him a fucking faggot. A fruit. Are you gay?

No. But....

I don’t like these guys. I like women. And tells me a story of  being picked up by  guy last night, being paid for all night, drinks, drugs, I danced my ass off...and then not staying wit the guy He was pissed off. Is that right?

I shrug my shoulders. Seems like you set it up.

We watched the Wrestler with Mickey Roarke. I love that movie. He says the world don’t give a shit about me..remember that?

Circles back to the street incident again. I just don’t feel good. About myself. Be on the streets for 3 years. An all too familiar story follows of someone who’s been a lower level janitor, custodian, then laid off in downsizing. 

So how do you keep it together?

Alcohol. Dope. Cocaine. Specailly that crack....prostitutes with no protection, no condoms, probably get AIDS or somethin....then back to the cafe scene again. What does this mean?

Sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of pain. An danger. 

Anger? My mom died when I was 3. Why? Why did that happen?  He looks at the statue of Jesus on my desk. Why does he hate me? Why did he do that? Why? To me?

He doesn’t hate you. And he didn’t kill your mother...I don’t have an answer.

I like sex. I like masturbation. Is that wrong?.

Not necessarily. 

He thinks it is, he says, looking at Jesus.

Actually he didn’t say anything about it. 

Why does he do this to me?

He doesn’t. I think most of the bad things we do to ourselves. 

Back to last night again. To the guy.  He lived in a SRO.... Cause he’s got HIV. They say you have to have HIV to get an SRO...Is that right?

Not true. Westside Federation has all kinds of  buildings...AIDS, mental illness, senor citizens, addiction....

Rehab never fuckin works...

Not if you don’t follow up. Not what i’m talking about. I give him the number of the Goddard -Riverside, our neighborhood settlement house. The home of our  friends at  Project Reachout. Go talk to these guys. They’ll know what you're  eligibe for....

He takes the card. Starts back through the cafe incident again. If I see that motherfucker again, I’ll smash him. I’ll fuck him up, I’ll...what does that mean?

It takes a big man to walk away, quiet.

Then back to the Wrestler one more time. The world doesn’t give a shit about me...What does tha mean?

That means you identify wth Mickey Roarke. Think no one cares.  And maybe no one does. You have to start with yorself...Look, it’s geeting late.

Lynnea has peeked in a couple of times. And ultimately let.

Just five more minutes, Can I have your number? Can I call you? Just to talk?

So I give him the church number. He squints. Furrows his borw. Walks out.  

Didn’t get the calls doen ai wanted to do. I have people I  need to visit. I am not dismissive of Danny. Not that I don’t care. Just really worn out by addiction right now.  Just wears me out.

If you want to do something about  it, we’ll walk with you...if not, I’ll listen. Within limits. I know they are there. Finding what they are is hard. 

No comments:

Post a Comment