Monday, October 8, 2012

Our day of Open House New York 2012


The day is off to a flying start before I’m ready. It’s Open House New York Day, a day when architectural classics are open all over the city for people to visit and tour. This is our first year on the tour. ( We’ve still got scrambling around to do when the first guests arrive. Glen helps Teddy set up tables, and runs off to get copies of the brochure that Danielle has prepared. Jamie is sweeping and has brought a large bouquet of fall flowers to brighten our entrance and a handsome bound book for guests to sign. Luisa has brought me a Dominican breakfast and is ready ti d whatever is necessary. And guests are there ready to begin their tour.

All of which is complicated by the fact that it is that day when there’ s a giant parade that honors the Virgin Mary that heads up Amsterdam every year seemingly beginning at our church with floats from all over Latin America. (No, our table is not connected to the procession...)

The Virgin on Amsterdam

Los angelitos

Familia lista

By 10 AM, the Sanctuary NYC Church choir has gathered in the sanctuary for a day long retreat beginning with what sounds like Brazilian street drumming. 

The flow of visitors is constant. I gather each group outside, discuss the architectural history of the exterior, and interior. And an  overview of the social history. Then take each group inside, to be in the sanctuary (don’t disturb the choir) then into the church house, up into Mc Alpin where Berik’s latest show fills the walls then through the balcony, the old Joseph Papp theatre and then back down and out. Cameras flashing all the way. Questions good and questions dumb. Interest, romance,affection and sometimes understanding.

Steve arrives ready for work and we send him across the Park to represent us at Presbytery’s Resource Day workshops. Over the day I will be joined by Deacon James, Marsha, Damarius, Leila, all lending a hand. Don will stop by to see how we’re doing before he heads to Times Square where he will do his own Broadway tour. And John R will stop in to see if we need anything and stay to take the tour he’s never had himself. 

I’ll see my friends Beppe and Liljana stop before their shooting with Zeljko, whose 8 year old son is helping  him today. Seth from the neighboring condo who was an early member of Friends of West-Park and stayed supportive through our whole journey stops by. Jane stops by before her interview and joins the choir retreat later. 

Our posters for the showing of Zeljko’s The Second Meeting ( attract some strange comments. A veteran insists that Colonel Zoltan Dani only shot his America counterpart down by random chance. He just kept firing away and hit something...and that the Serb ground forces tracked the downed Colonel Zelko down like a dog. We invite our angry friend to  see the film. Another man goes on incoherently about some other apocalyptic vision of a doomed America and an old Polish veteran compares the Balkan War to Hitler’s invasion of my country, though it's not clear who’s who in that analogy. 

I meet people who used to be part of the Peace Action group. We were born of SANE and FREEZE....we’re all old now.... Many are surprised that the building is open. We thought this was an abandoned building...I’ve never seen it open before...And in one group, I am profoundly moved when in one tour while telling the story of how the Tiffany Window was rededicated to Steven Festa during the AIDS crisis, one man said, I knew Steven, he was my best friend, a brother. Always wondered what happened to everyone. I explain that the failed merger with Rutgers in 1994 lost about half the congregation and as more and more churches became gayfriendly, the lgbtq community spread out. (Though even today in the middle of tours I meet with Carmela and Jessica, a hip hop artist, to plan their upcoming wedding...)

There are visitors from Great Britain, Australia....

Late in the afternoon, Steve returns bubbling over with what he has learned at the workshop, anxious that we can meet and talk about the ideas. He jumps right in and helps to greet guests. When the last rush comes near five, Steve and Marsha lead tours , too. About 75% of what I said was even true, said Marsha. 

Zeljko and his son say goodbye as they head out after a long day of shooting. The Sanctuary choir is still singing. It’s great spending a day talking with people. I must have given 30 tours. Many people will never fully understand landmarking. (Thanks to Landmark West! for their sponsorship in this 10th annual event...) We have to update our signage, make it clear we’re here, we’re open, we’re’s not easy. And I have to train some docents. 

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