A cold wet rainy Saturday. Not such a good day for Open House New York. (http://www.ohny.org/weekend/overview) Last year, it was a sunny day and people were waiting when I opened the doors at 9. Not today. Don is here to help. Before he leaves at 11:30, we only have 2 tours, but from noon on it’s a steady stream as I do my whole architectural/social/historical tour.
Lauren C from the Buddhists joins in one of the tours and is fascinated by what she learns. A couple from Japan are intrigued by the banners with Japanese calligraphy inside our front doors. They say pray for peace, the man says. And I tell them all about our Hiroshima – Nagasaki commemoration and he smiles and nods.
Later, another tour visitor has another response. What is all this origami? She asks.
And I explain the commemoration.
Why commemorate that? She asks. Do you commemorate 9-11? All the brutal beheadings? Before I can answer, she continues on. Those bombings ended the war. Do you know how the inhuman Japanese tortured our soldiers? Our men? Have you read their stories?
The calligraphy says Pray for peace…I start to say.
Pray for peace? Those bombs brought peace. Those generals would not surrender. What do you know?
My father was in World War II....I don’t get to say that he always believed that those bombs saved him from having to go to Japan. He was in Oakland, California, getting ready to go on the next ships to be deployed.
They brought it on themselves.
Well, losing over a quarter of a million..
It’s their own fault. They had it coming..
I surrender. Yes, we do commemorate 9-11. And I hand her one of Angelo’s commemorative memorial cards. She takes the card, shrugs her shoulders, turns and walks out.
For the rest if the day, it’s a steady stream. Visitors from as far away as Texas, even London, and as close as New Jersey and the neighborhood. More than one…lived here for years, never been insides…
A group of seven, slightly tipsy, mainly Asian young adults has wandered in after brunch.
A thin quiet man in his 40’s asks to see the basement. I look at him quizzically. We don’t usually do the other building…
I used to go to preschool here, he says, in the ‘70’s. So I agree to take him downstairs. I remember a long narrow room, he says as we enter the room beside the boiler room. As we enter the kitchen he says, Yes, this is it. I remember the sun coming in through the windows…something happened here…and I brace myself.
I told my teacher I didn’t feel well. My head hurt. She happened to look down and see most if the other children asleep on the floor. She woke them all up, hustled us all outside. Turns out there was a carbon-monoxide leak from the boiler. We all could have died. He looks very far away.
You were very lucky.
He looks back at me. Thanks so much, I always wanted to see this place. When I saw it in the guide, I knew I had to come.
We go back upstairs, he thanks me again.
In the studio, the Noche company has gathered. Making a quick turn around. The vans have brought them back from Great Barrington. In an hour or so, they’re on their to Seattle to preview Antigone.. I could so just travel with them. Another tour group is gathering in the sanctuary.
It’s one tour after another, one on top of the other the rest of the afternoon. It gets to the point that I can’t always remember what stories I’ve told what group. I’m talked out. A little hoarse.
Still, I’m on my way with Pat O to train up to Pleasantville to play at a coffeehouse.
What the Open House New York guide book says about West-Park:
West Park Presbyterian Church
165 W 86th St, Upper West Side
Sat • 9am–5pm; Sun • 1–5pm.
Tours throughout both days.
West Park may be the only Richardsonian Revival-style church o survive in Manhattan. The robust
stonework and heavy round arches reflect the popularity of medieval Romanesque forms.
Leopold Eidlitz, 1884; Expansion,
Henry Kilburn, 1890.