Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Of organs and organizing


Tara from Friday’s penthouse wedding is waiting for me. Somehow I had left with the wedding license still in my suit coat pocket. They need it for their French Polynesian honeymoon so it’s a fast cab ride home and back to get the license.

I stop by Barney Greengrass and wish Gary a hag sameach as he gets ready to close up shop for his annual Passover hiatus. No visit to their Beverly Hills outpost (...they’re  fancy schmancy, we’re just schmancy...) this year,  just Long Island and then south to Florida. I’ll miss my daily coffee and conversation while he’s gone. 

Back out on the street, I see Marty. Freilich Pesach, I say. 
Are you fluent in Hebrew,reverend? (Actually that was Yiddish.)
No, I studied it. In school. Remember I told you?
My father liked to study. Every Friday night, he’d take out 3 or 4 books, lay them on the table and study. He liked to steal books to study. Pick them up in the synagogue, put them inside his black coat, take them home, study...Saturday, when sabbath was over he’d watch TV. The wrestling, the Jackie Gleason Show. I was a lifeguard. The school had a 15 yard pool which was ridiculous. But I could crank open the roof and let the sun in. My father liked to study. 
For a moment, I see him, a strapping teenage lifeguard. You have a good Pesach, Marty. He touches his finger to his cap brim, nods. 
Our Austin hybrid organ

In the sanctuary, the two partners of the Perragallo Organ Company are meeting with Stephen and Danielle. Longtime family business.  Reviewing their findings. Our Austin organ replacement value is about a million dollars. Alan Van Zoeren had changed it from romantic with a heavy bass to baroque with stronger treble. The mystery pipes in the basement are finally explained to me. They are not pipes that were never installed, they are pipes that were removed (and stored badly.) It’s one like I knew back in Tulsa that you could walk around inside of. That used to amaze me, that you could walk around inside an instrument. Feel it’s music enveloping you, all around you.  
There’s water damage in the downstairs engine room. Worn out leather bellows. Bent and broken pipes. But it can be made to play again. And even restored some day. With a movable console. Full midi capacity. I can see it. Jamie has joined us for the discussion.  We learn that the facade pipes are only for decoration. 

I recall how the last person to play that organ in 2009 was Leila’s father, Samir. Egyptian trained in Paris. A genteel and gentle man who loved that organ. Even after the church closed, he had his own key and would come in and rehearse. I used to worry about an octogenarian alone  in a closed church. But there was no denying him. I can hear his notes, his toccatas and fugues still echoing. He finished his career as a dance accompanist at Adelphi. Where Cara finished her dance degree. Circles.

Alexander is listening in as he opens the pulpit, pulling out long lost treasures like rabbits out of hats as part of his volunteer clean up duty. He dreams of playing that organ some day. Cara too has begun her work. 

Stephen and Jamie and I head to Popover’s for soup. But all too quickly, Danielle calls. The Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness Executive Committee has arrived  and I have to run. 

The Assembly walks the same financial tight rope as West-Park. Has managed to survive over 25 years. One of the original board members  has come back. With a proposal to renew the Assembly’s original vision. An organization of organizations, those organizations being congregations. It’s classic CO style. One on ones relationships, Assembly liaisons truly connected to their congregations bringing their concerns to a shared table. Joining with homeless people recruited from the streets. I know from my recent experience with PHEWA, this is where the energy needs to go. 

We also have a young intern who has come to us from Portland, Oregon. (PDX, yet again...) He’s presents a proposal to develop and expand our financial base. What the previous conversation reminds us of is the classic community organizing fund raising rule, grants are important, but what sustains long term is serious money locally raised, from the base.   

We commit ourselves to a four month go with these proposals, reviewable after two. We wish each other the best for the week of Passover and Easter. 

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