Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Every Friday is different


Open Mic Nght 

Every Friday is different. Every Open Mic different. At a certain point, I’m amazed to look out and see that about half the crowd is black and Latino. Damn. New York diversity. Doing something right.
Of course there’s Joel back again with another of his beat poetic improv journeys. Call it monologue. Or poetry.Or spoken word. Or performance art. It’s a lost art and it’s his own unique voice.
And later Dion will be back with his own old school comedy. We know what’s coming, but we laugh anyway. Every week his timing improves. Still needs to work on his timing, slow down a little, but it works. 
banjo and harmonica
And surprises. The young Lantigua brings his banjo and an old OWS fellow traveller, call him MR,  with a ghetto haircut, pulls out his harmonica and joins him. How’d a young Latino guy decide to pick up the mantle of St.Pete? And takes it all kinds of crazy places as well. When they finish, RL says Well that was a good example of world Appalachian delta work song raga blues...and some of you are too young to remember the ’70’s when that was a genre...

And Aaron who brought his sax and knocked us out solo.

As for me, it’s strange. Sometimes, like last Monday at 78 Below, you just feel like you suck. Don't like like your voice in the monitor, the right hand begins to spaz on you...nah. So I bring the set I wanted to do there,  here. My substance abuse set. Explain each piece. By the time I get to my Johnny Walker Red, I’m killing it. I finish. Pat O’ says, good set, you were scaring people...And I smile, wait for the adrenalin to calm down. 

RL finishes with his Crazy Queasy but this time brings up Piano Dan and Marc on guitar and Aaron on sax. A bit loose, but it works, RL directing the impromptu band as he goes.

impromptu band
OK. I hope what follows does not offend any of my friends who are intentionally not church people or Christians. But I’m beginning to remember what I should bot have forgotten about regular Open mics. Why they are much loved.
I’ve always loved the non-church communities that for me witness to what the church callled to be, desires to be.
The inclusive neighborhood law office I worked at in the New Haven ghetto. Black, white, Latino. English and Spanish. More inclusive than any church I’d ever been in up to that point. The Friday afternoon debriefing sessions with beer and pizza were a liturgy of true community. Beer and pizza as Eucharist to celebrate a week on the edge shared. 

Or that time in New Orleans my national church welfare organization (PHEWA) was giving it’s highest award to my young protege, Matt English When he was nominated, I said, Now Matt’s doing fine work down there in Texas but this is supposed to be a lifettime achievement award.

My friend Rob, from San Antonio said, It is a lifetime achievement award. And I learned my young friend, at somewhere north of 30 still a boy, was dying from AIDS.

In is acceptance speech, he delivered a jeremiad against straight white male privilege.  Including how the Board of Pensions had denied his medical claims leaving him destitute. The right wing press excoriated him for advancing the homosexual agenda not because of anything  he said, but simply because of his  AIDS. His own church, which I love and hate and can’t leave, had cast him out to the margins.
After the ceremony, we headed to the House of Blues. In a special cab, Matt with his two canes. By chance, Dan Akroyd was there when we arrived. He saw Matt. Asked us what was up. When  he learned matt’s story, he escorted him to the VIP box. 
The walls were filled with indigenous art. The band played beneath portraits of saints  Meir Baba and Bessie Smith. It was the Texas Swing band Asleep at the Wheel.They dedicated Miles and miles of Texas to our Texas boy Matt, and at intermission came up to see him. 
On the club’s wall is written Help ever, Hurt never. the House of Blues put the Presbyterians to shame. As the man Jesus once said, Who then  proved neighbor?
OK. This open mic. It’s a space of openness, acceptance and welcome. RL,the host, makes every performer feel important and valued. Everyone encouraged to share whatever gift they have in an atmosphere of mutual support. There is gentle critique. You watch people grow week by week. It is a community, floating, permeable, but community nonetheless. What each singer, poet, player, comic, does is to share themselves. A peice of soul, even if a little hidden. What each does is to try and make sense in, not of the world. And there by stay alive.   Don’t need to talk about Jesus to make soemthing a sacred space. (He’s probably warming  up on  the harmonica, out back...)

The  banner says West Park Presbyterian Church and RL Wintides Productions presents....

Let me simply say yes. 

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