Groceries and Churches (the “Churches” part)

We headed up to St. John the Divine, the world’s largest cathedral (if they’d ever finish it, that is) and I don’t think I was the only one who was thinking just of sitting down and letting Jesus heal my achin’ feet. The cavern of the interior always shushes me, as well as the modern perspective that is so often lacking in the old dead God places (yes, that’s a TV in the stained glass at left). It’s so epic that I always look up to make sure there aren’t clouds. In fact, sometimes I’m sure there are. Today it was kind of overcast inside, owing to the web of scaffolding occupying the back (2001’s fire damage, still being tended to). Just as I was about to sit down and bask in the quiet under the impossibly colossal columns, I heard a flute playing ‘Amazing Grace.’ It was a lovely meandering song wisping up to the rafters in this cavern, and as it trailed off, I saw a faraway figure who seemed to be gesturing for me to come over. Well, this is as close to spiritual calling as I was likely to get, so I obliged and waved Hap, Lori and Lucy along with me.

We arrived at a side chapel area and this Layminister was waiting for us and invited us to sit down for the Saturday Evening Prayer. I’m not sure I wanted to, but I said: “Do we get to sing?” and this unusually jovial guy said, “Well, not normally, but since you ask, I think we could chant the Lord’s Prayer!” Okay, I’m in.

So the four of us sat down—as the complete congregation for this guy’s service—and proceeded to participate in what was for me a completely unfamiliiar litany of prayers and recitations.

Cool…Ancient rituals…

Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable with this, but when I thought of a similar situations in a completely foreign spiritual practice, say, Hinduism, I was more comfortable. Ahh, thanks Mom and Dad, for my deep-seated Christian prejudices.

But there was something completely wonderful about this whole thing, and I’m not talking about the holy spirit. We were given specific instructions about what (and when) to read, we moved along briskly, which is good for my short attention span. Sort of paint-by-numbers worship.

Adding to the mystique was the fact that I had no idea how long this was going to take, but since it was 5:30 and the sign out front did say 10am-6pm, I though we were probably not going to be held by the holy all night. Eventually after a variety of litanizing, our guy was true to his word and we got to chant The Lord’s Prayer, which I quite massacred, from a tonal standpoint. I thought it was a great opportunity for improvisation, and who knows? I had fun.

Afterwards, the layminister jumped from behind his little pulpit for a little Q&A. He told us how the original bishop of St. John’s (who we were told was lying “in state” basically right next to us, which was a little weird) led a congregation out the doors one day and over to another church in Manhattan where a minister was chaining the doors to keep blacks out. As the story goes, the bishop of St. John’s and his congregation cut the chains on the doors of this other church, and drug the minister out into the street where he was fired on the spot.

I might go to church more if there was more of the dragging and the firing.

Churches and groceries

It was pointed out to me after a near-foray into Fairway, that I mostly like to go to churches and grocery stores in NYC. Earlier we did a tour of duty through Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, which was total madness. Imagine some form of food heaven, some sort of by-the-pound food mecca. Salads, meats, sweets, whatever. And literally tons of it. All for basically $6.99 a pound.

We wound around through possibly over a million people, oohing and ahhing after the fourteen different lettuces, the build-it-yourself tofu bar, the 12 stations of the Holy Watercress. (You see where we’re going with this, dontcha?) However, upon realizing that approximately half of the million or so people witnessing were actually in line, that we hit the up escalator and returned to the street.

Meandering along Broadway, Balducci’s was a different story, though. More great finger food, w/o the tide of humanity. And that serves well the Constant and Vital Search for Snacks that is my calling while in NYC, that NYC can so well afford, if not always my actual wallet. Still Balducci’s arranged for me this delight: one giant pan-seared scallop and a slab of sesame-something tofu.I had a minor pang asking for such slim treats to be served up pronto. With just a momentary lapse in eye-to-stomach ratio understanding, one could easily empty the bank. My requirements were that no fork be required, but I did feel a little bad disposing of the designer handle-bag, the custom air-tight container, the fork, the cloth napkin… Okay, so there wasn’t really a cloth napkin.

Groceries are my churches, probably. But churches are my churches, too. Once my friend Jeff, a similiarly minded, uh, secular spiritualist, confessed to his family church’s pastor that he liked coming into their church because it was a peaceful and serene place. And the pastor replied “That’s what we call the Holy Spirit,” which from a certain perspective is kind of dismaying answer that entirely missed the point of my friend’s appreciation of the space.

And I feel the same way. Churches are great—but mostly when they’re empty.

Central Park, after dark

In a few days, I get to go see The Gates, in NYC, on the closing day. This should be quite a sight, and I really am antipicipating. Thinking about it has reminded me how much I love Central Park. How it’s not like a city, or a park, or the woods. It’s something that is singular and different from those things. I used to like to find places to take naps in the sunlight when I lived in NY. And I used to do a minor running foray around the Reservoir.

Once, when I was in this running period, a wonderful thing happened. I would take the subway from 44th and 9th, up to 86th (I always though that was kind of funny, too—taking the subway to go running.) So, this one night, I was headed out the door, and noticed it was sprinkling. Okay, gotta get a move on, I thought. I got on the subway, and when I got off at 86th, it was totally pouring. I decided to run anyway, and ran through CP, until I was totally lost, and utterly alone. It was great. Slogging through the rain, not worried about any creeps, since they’d have to also be crazy to be out to get me in a total downpour. (okay, so I admit that, in NYC, this combination was a valid possibility)

my brain is bubbling

Oh, I get to drink Mexican Hot Chocolate now at the neighborhood coffee shop, 3rd Street Coffee! It’s a thursday, which means I’ve been up since 5a (early morning r radio show! You can listen online, y’know), which means that by mid-afternoon, my brain is bubbling. and the only way to keep it correctly percolating, on this day is with some labor on the Campsie House including a trip to the dump!

They think I’m crazy

Maybe I am. Maybe it’s the Neil Stephenson books I’m reading. I don’t know. But things seem to be accelerating. This whole blogsphere thing. the photoblog thing. the other information sharing things. I’m kinda swimming in it. It’s not that I love it particularly, because the learning curve is a bit steep and it requires time (too much) and concentration, and signing up for things, which always sets off my big brother alarms. But there is something happening that is new. The way people are communicating. You can call it cold and distant, if you want to be that way, but I don’t think that’s got it right.

Idea: There are these ways for people to share all sorts of notions, emotions, ideas, etc, and for those things to then be parlayed into … other things. I don’t know what to call them. It’s like instant zeitgeist. Imagine if you didn’t know Radio (upper case) existed, and you didn’t have a radio (lower case). You’d think the air was silent. But in fact, it’s full to the brim of information, ideas, music, (ads), flying around invisibly.

This blogsphere thing is like that, too. I’m just in awe of it. And like I said, I’m not exactly enraptured by it, but it is a new and powerful way of communicating and collaborating, of sharing and fermenting ideas and dialogs.

And in the same way that people my parents’ age struggle with “learning computers” (a hilariously overbroad concept, to anybody who “knows computers.”), many of my friends will struggle with the blogsphere. As an idea. Because you can’t see it. You can see blogs, but I’m still trying to get my head around how people and ideas zing back and forth, bouncing around among blogs, web sites, etc., etc., etc., etc.! That’s what I’m struggling with. Trying to understand what it’s capable of. And trying to use that capability to enrich my daily life. Also, I’m trying meditation. Just 15 minutes is a long time!

Threadless T-Shirts

Threadless T-Shirts seem to bring you even more of that so-very-day-after-tomorrow online collaborating that is just absorbing my attention of late, for better or for worse. Best I can tell, you submit a tshirt design, and if it wins a rating contest, they’ll add it to their catalog and give you a cash prize. and the designs, they ain’t shabby!

Better than a thousand pictures

So I’m finally starting to stumble across people in the blogsphere. I still don’t quite understand how it’s done, but that’s probably because I keep looking for a shortcut, an aggregator, because that’s what technology teaches us to do, right? “Find all my favorite blogs and create bookmarks for them!” I remember the first time I met Mark. He was doing telecomm/wiring/i-don’t-know-what work for this internet company I was working for in NY. He came around just when I was sure I was the only person in the office who’s body hadn’t been snatched. And he told me that I was “bright,” which, while not a “Southern adjective” (ha), was something I really needed to hear right then, since I felt like everybody in my office seemed to think I was quite dim. Yesterday, I had deja vu about this, at my bank— There’s this kid there who knows so much about music. And he’s working as a controller in a brokerage. I come in and I’m the only person who can say, “hey do you like that new _____ record?” It’s maybe just a moment of– signs of intelligent life in the universe. Which can be such a relief some days.

2005 Lexington Mardi Gras Parade

Well, we had this great parade again, for Mardi Gras. Mecca Dance Studio, the Action Arts Collective, and WRFL-FM all pitched in, with help from scads of cool peeps and food from Gumbo Ya Ya.

But the real wonder was having The Sun Ra Arkestra come here to be the parade marshals. Or deputies. Or troopers. I don’t know, but they had horns and they used them. Even though Sun Ra is no longer here on Planet Earth, his band plays on under the direction of Marcus Allen *right), sax-man from another planet.
Click here to see some fabulous PICTURES from the parade in my patented Smeary-Vision®.