Sunday, June 23, 2013

Solstice: Making Music New York


Early part of the day spent in getting ready for this afternoon and evening. In the midst of preparations, the mumbling man comes in. That needing look again. When I tell him I/we have no money, I wish he could actually believe it. They just assume an open  church keeps a stash of money around. He of course wants to show me the edema  around his badly swollen ankles. No money. No food. No metro cards.We end our conversation, our negotiation? by my giving him enough for one subway ride. (It was Danielle’s turn last time...) He asks for a Bible. And I give that, too. 

Andre arrives. Almost time for our Rush Hour Concert on the Steps to take our part in Make Music New York.  Jeremy arrives with his keyboard and mics. Aaron is here to sing, too. And also Teresita. I’ve learned to accept her for the authentic person she is. Her smile, her spirit, is real. 

Rush Hour Concert
Aaron, Andre, Teresita, Jeremy, Bob
So there we are on the steps. Deacon James sitting there for support.  Singing for those getting off the buses, coming home. Those walking up and down the street. Classic gospel songs. Sanctuary, the signature song we share. My answer will be yes.... Through it all.... This little light of mine..... We’re all taking turns taking the lead. Jeremy gets me to do my Rest awhile...Aaron leads on Any day now. Teresita with What if God were one of us? ( a stranger on a bus...) I take Pharoah’s army got drownded, with the Arlo Guthrie verse:
Moses was the first to get the notion 
That the world is safer with the army in the ocean.
Pharoah’s army got drownded....

And the Jeremy brings us home with And I bid you goodnight...

I’ve enjoyed the looks on peoples’ faces. The thumbs up signs. The child who is completely taken by Jeremy’s keyboard. The people who stop and stay awhile. people taking iPhone videos. Being in touch with the street. From the steps. Feels good.

And now, just an hour. Before open mic....but, then  I see him. Edward Green.(for Edward's story see On the steps. Got there while we were singing. I walk over, speaking softly. Edward, you know you’re not supposed to be here. He gives me a quizzical look. There have been issues, that make it impossible for you to be here. 
Ah man, what you talkin about, I’m just here to hear the people sing...
Don’t you remember, Edward?
Ah man, I remember everything....
I don’t think so. Two summers in a row, Five days each time. Cleaning his waste from the steps.  
...Just here to hear the people sing...
You can’t stay here, OK?
And I go back inside.

I hear Andre’s voice. Edward’s voice raised. Andre comes in. He says you’re persecuting him...And I tell Andre the back story. Well, you might be having to call 911. He seems adamant....I can’t be dealin with that up in here anymore...

I go back out. Edward is gone. I wonder what I would have to ask in order to re extend welcome. Some awareness, some understanding....

The chapel is all set for open mic. Martin has removed his construction materials. RL has done some redecorating. Marc has the sound system set up. Stephen the bar. A couple comes in, sees we’re not ready. Leaves. It may be a night of mainly musicians.

Before it’s over, Pat and Larry will show. My son Dan. And Damarius brings two friends. Who answer my question with the information that they are from a men’s cell group at a super conservative megachurch that causes name brand confusion.

Cara’s old friend Andy,
from Queens, opens with some decent songs. Then Jeremy. Who after his opening, moves over to our old piano. The one with the pedals not yet reattached. That has made its way from Andrea’s childhood home in Freeport to our home on 93rd and now to the chapel. It’s well worn. But still has a warm sound. He moves into his neo-Brechtian Let’s waste this year...And then invite me up for my new I’ve reached my limit with you...we just worked out this afternoon.

Then there’s Mandola. And RL in and out. David S has his set of surprisingly good originals. And Pat O’ playing his originals. I do a set of my own with Pat joining me on my Playing Marc’s electric Fender for a change.  Marc shows his accomplished skills on the guitar. And RL finishes with his Stay awhile...and we all join in....It’s been a good night.
Mandola Joe

Somewhere towards the end, Beppe comes in. Sits down, shares Stella and conversation. Good to have him there.

Time to clean up. And then it begins. Is it the solstice? Anna comes in with puppy to report on her rounds. Next comes the #OWS lost boy to complain ... that woman with the dog is harassing me.... I look at him square in the eye. She’s very protective of this place you know? You know the rules. Follow them , you’ll be OK.

Awhile later, I go outside. The suburban Samaritans of the Midnight Run have arrived. People are gathering around for the sandwiches. A smiling man approaches, Hello there, would you like a cup of coffee? A sandwich? I consider telling him I’m the Pastor. Don’t.  It used to embarrass me when the Midnight Run crew first showed up on my steps during the peek of #OWS.  Now I just accept it.

Then I look around and see George is back. I walk over and shake his hand. Hello George, it’s been awhile. He smiles, shakes my hand. The Samaritans approach. They seem to know each other. He is soon lecturing them on the state of the world. 

Beppe takes this all in. Amazed? Amused? Or just accepting. Must be the solstice.


No one’s around while I’m in to do my service. Or later when I come in to write. Outside, the steps are completely  empty for the first time in a long time. Walking up Amsterdam, I see los Rodriguez and the #OWS lost boy encamped in the semidarkness of Baptist doors. 

Thanks to Marc Stager for Open Mic photos

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