Wednesday, June 19, 2013

That I can do


Morning begins with Dick Leonard on the bus stop bench waiting for me. The steps are empty, save for the sketchy white boy with his bike who despite his promise is still there. I wake him, tell him he’s got to go. Then bring Rev. Leonard around to the 86th Street door, bring him inside and give  him the extended tour.

I actually met him two Saturdays ago when he hosted the house concert by Beppe and Catarina that was for the benefit of West-Park. I’m anxious to hear his story.  Three years ago, when his wife’s Alzheimer's had reached the point where she had to be moved into assisted living in Georgia, he opened up his home and created a project whereby artists would bring  a concert and be responsible for bringing their own crowd and collecting their own money, so that none would ever touch my hands, he said,  for their own cause. Rev. Dick would provide sandwiches, drinks and ice cream bars,  cost me less than I would pay at Carnegie Hall...

Sadly, even though he worked all along for his neighbors’ support, the present neighbors no longer are happy with the concerts, too many, too many after 61 events over 3 years and over 1500 people, his marvelous gift has come to an end...He wants to check out West-Park as a possible venue.

But there’s more to this man. He was an eyewitness and recorder of the transformative march in Selma,
Alabama in 1965. (A brief report of his experience can be found  here ( and a fuller report in his book, Call to Witness, 18 days in Selma ( ). He has a wonderfully ageless outlook on life with a love of music that never left since his early days at Eastman. And even better, much like my own mother did, he has reconnected with his first college girl friend. His life is so much in the spirit of what we are seeking to create here. We don’t quite have the cozy living room environment of his home. We’ll see. 

Mim drops by, back from the country, it’s time to bring the Center’s president back in touch with everything that has been going on. Her constant faith and support keeps us going. She helps me continue to see a future. 

Damarius is in for a visit. To help out. Job change coming. Talking with Jason who’s still working for AT&T customer service and living in the Bronx while turning out for protests when needed. Damarius, I say as I shake his hand, come on Sunday, we miss you....

A man wants a pocket Bible. None that small, I say.

Talking with Stephen. A large woman named Andrea comes in. Tells her story. Wants help. I try to explain. No money here. She keeps after it. I reach in  my pocket. Pull out a dollar. That’s it. It’s all I got
Yes, I get her one. 
Would you pray with me? 
That I can do. And Stephen and I pray with her. She breathes a deep sigh.  Gets up, thank you, I’ll be going now....

Working late. Jeremy texts. his rehearsal is done. Second half of Spurs- Heat? 
For sure. And I enjoy learning more of his story, which he can tell in his own time. Great game. Really great game, though my rooting for the Spurs is just enough to enjoy the game. Not a heart matter. One more to go.

Back at the office. Finishing my writing. Commotion coming through the doors. I go outside, repeat my speech from last night. The bike guy, apologizes. I say, Man you apologize every night and it keeps happening. It’s not about sorry...
I’m OWS. Don’t you remember me from OWS?
Yes I do. That’s part of the problem. This is not OWS.
In the ever changing unraveling and regeneration of #OWS, he represents one stream. There are the Jasons embedding themselves in communities, supporting themselves by working, participating in specific and targeted actions. Then there is my bike guy. One of the lost boys who landed in the Wonderland of #OWS and now are washed up on the shore as the ship sails on. No Peter, no Wendy. Just the streets and borrowed bikes. You got to bring it down. He nods his head.

About about an hour later, there’s serious strife outside. Joe of los Rodriguez and   the thin young black woman are loud in each other’s faces, her Latino man with the pony tail and Joe’s woman being back ups. 

I come around the corner. Cell phone out. You are 30 seconds from 911. Shouts and allegations and accusations. Doesn’t matter whose fault it is. I don’t care. Not here. Not now. 30 seconds.

The bike guy starts to speak. No, I don't want to hear it. You promised me you’d be gone, and I had to wake you. No good. He shakes his head,jumps on his bike and rides off. The Latino drags the still shouting thin girl away. Word on the street is she was raped in Central Park and is still fragile.

Now it’s me and los Rodriguez. Joe is about to explode. You threatened me three times, man. NO one threatens me...I can read your body language, no one..his muscles tense and taut. Flexing as he makes fists, not sure what to do with them. 

I’m too tired to be frightened. Or intimidated. Joe, breathe. It’s not a threat, it’s reality. Can’t be. Not here. 

He calms down, goes through a long rambling rap. His frustration. I know him. He’s been here the longest. Everything was OK, then...I respect you as a pastor. I know this keeps up, they get after you, and he points across the street to the Belnord home of old reds, octogenarian peace activists and hedge fund newbies. And Matt Damon. And Jeremy. I know, I know...hangs his head, keeps talking. From PR. Family gone in  a car crash. No ID. Can’t get benefits. Screwed by the VA. Had his dog tags taken...It’s a never ending circular story. But he has been to the precinct. Has talked, reluctantly with Reachout.

Right now, Joe, it’s Reachout or nothin....they're all you got...

He extends his hand. We shake. I’ll keep it together, I’ll make sure they know the rules, I’ll...

It’s alright, man. Forward, OK? I gotta go.

I think about Dick’s neighbors unhappy with his chamber concerts. And here’s me on the street at 1 AM with a PTSD marine at the end of his rope. (Damn I miss Teddy...)

This crew could succeed in doing what even Edward Green never did...force me to put up the No Trespassing signs and close the steps. There is a limit.

I head home up Amsterdam. The guy on the bike is riding my way.....

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