Monday, April 29, 2013

The home base


Mark, Cara, Stephen, John R

Stephen fills me in on the three current residents of the steps. The leader is an ex-marine sergeant dealing with PTSD. The one woman is also former marine. On the one hand...he’s wary of the shelter system (with good reason) and also of the Veterans Administration. Thinks they’re trying to get into his head and control him. On the other, the steps are immaculate every morning. I was thinking we needed to start developing a plan, but Stephen says that they’re very protective. This is my home base  says the sergeant. We always leave it cleaner than we found it. Marines and Boy Scouts. And the drug users have been moved out. They’re doing a good job, says Stephen. 

My friend Mark from the United Nations ministry is first to arrive for our work day to clean up the office, bring some order, make  it more professional. John R comes shortly thereafter, we can use his muscle. And later Cara joins us too. Although she also spends some time helping Martin set up for his daughter Stella’s birthday party. His studio is starting to look like a ’70’s disco club.

There’s junk to get out, papers to sort, bookcases to move and mopping floors. Good physical labor.

Cara and I go to the convenience store to get some coffee. Stop to talk with Marty. He’s a little taken aback to see me with someone.
Good afternoon, Marty, how are you this beautiful day?
He’s silent. For awhile. I’m trying to think of an appropriate answer, he says. Is that your wife?
No, that’s my friend, Cara. We’ve got a work day, mopping floors, like that.
I used to do that at the mental hospital he says. I volunteered for the fifth floor. The violent floor. Clara, did you say? 
No, Cara.
There used to be a 15 minute television show. There were a lot of them in the beginning. I think there was a Clara. No Cara’s though. He’s silent a minute. Bishop Sheen used to have a fifteen minute show. My father always had me take notes. See if there was anything he could use in his sermons. 

Then he talks about collecting donations for his father, naming Bronx addresses.The way he tells the story always makes it sound like an ecclesiastical protection racket. 

But there was no Cara. Quiet again. The best swimmer at our college was a junior. He won the eastern college championship. For the whole east coast. But when he went to the west cost for nationals, he lost. Santa Clara, he lost. That’s all I can come up with for Clara. Santa Clara. Oral Roberts had a 15minute TV show, too. He lived in an attic and got TB. But he was healed, And he built his own hospital. In Tulsa, Oklahoma....
I know, I lived there for 10 years. I knew him...
Tulsa, Oklahoma was known for oil. 
Oil and Oral I say.
He looks at Cara. He’s a comedian and doesn’t know it. But there was no Cara. 
We wish each other a good day and its back to work. 

Another prime number, Cara says. Her favorite expression for unique characters. I explain that Marty’s part of our Capital Hall family. How his father was  a famous rabbi. His brother an attorney. Marty got two years in at CCNY when it was the Harvard of  the working class. Before the bipolar got him down. I’m pondering how DNA typos lead to physical disabilities and mental illness. Not sure which one’s worse. Those thin lines that put him on one side of a line and me on the other. Yeah, thin, but there, but thin. I tell Cara life mystifies me.

Stella’s guests are getting a tour from Stephen. Including ghosts. At least two of the kids have  seen some. They’re not the first. Mark and I enjoy the kids. Later, when Martin brings us all pizza, I tell Mark that there are days when I really enjoy being a parish minister. 

Bob and Mark
We show Mark and John Angelo’s art. Time to finish up. We’ve done great work.It feels good. I feel more ordered already. Finish by setting up for tomorrow’s service.

I see David and Donna. Talk with them. They were occupiers. Then on the steps. Then thanks to Project Reachout, an apartment of their own. David tells me that by the end of the summer, they’ll have  saved up enough to head back to Florida. Another story from the steps with a good ending. 

I come  back after seeing Measure for Measure by  Frog & Peach at SPSA...More work to finish. Like my sermon. When I go back out, Anna and puppy are into heavy conversation with Sergeant Keith at the bus stop. Anna tells me she wanted to see what the Midnight Run would bring by. And besides, she likes the company. Introduces me to the Sergeant.

Tells me he’s from Texas. I tell him about my years in  Oklahoma. He tells me he’ll protect the place against knuckleheads.  I’ve got to take care of my home base, he says.

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