A few weeks ago, Tom and I went to St. John the Evangelist Church for an evening walk with about 15 people from a handful of local churches, a synagogue, and Howie’s group. They do this twice a month, bringing three messages to the neighborhood: We care about what’s happening. Stop the violence. What do you need?
Before we departed, we left all money and valuables in the pastor’s office so that we could honestly say, “I don’t have any cash” if asked. I hand out money all the time, but they don’t want this group to be thought of as a moving ATM machine. On our walk, we went to the sites of three very recent acts of violence, two that ended in death.
We also walked down an alley where gang members are known to live, not to proselytize, but just to remind them that we care about them, and at certain points, we stopped and prayed. Tom wouldn’t even enter a church to hear my brass quintet perform years ago, so I was surprised that he stood around for Christian and Jewish prayers, and metta phrases offered by my two fellow sangha members. I actually didn’t enjoy it very much myself, though I appreciated the sincerity of this group, and their obvious kindness. We paused at the 16th St. BART plaza, and the pastor of St. John’s told us about two transgender women who had lately been beaten to death, one so savagely that her face was basically removed.
Back at the church, we stood in a circle in the garden and shared thoughts. I said that I appreciated being with like-minded people, but that I actually felt more cut off from neighborhood people walking with the group than when I walk alone. The pastor looked so genuinely distressed that I was kind of sorry I’d mentioned it. He asked what I thought could be done about this, and I said I’d have to think about it, and that maybe there is nothing to be done—maybe it’s just two different things, walking with a group or walking alone. Another fellow seconded my observation about it being easier to connect with random people when he’s by himself.
I am probably on their email list now, so if I get an email, I think I’ll write back and say that while it may be easier to chat with neighbors and strangers when walking solo, certainly it makes more of a statement if there is an identifiable group, with a couple of people carrying signs, so both are good.
A couple of days after the walk, Tom and Ann and I went to see Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, at Berkeley Rep. We tried a new place for lunch: Au Coquelet. Tom was happy (as always) and Ann liked what she had, but my scrambled eggs were pretty flavorless and the home fries were undistinguished, so, as far as I’m concerned, the search is still on for a fantastic lunch place right near Berkeley Rep. (And, yes, I’m glad I’m lunching inside anywhere and not standing on the street selling the Street Spirit, Berkeley and Oakland’s equivalent of the Street Sheet sold in San Francisco.)
As for the play, it’s three hours and 45 minutes long, and when a friend of Ann’s went, she and her group left after the second act and reported that many others did the same. If you make it through the whole thing, you can stay for a docent talk afterward. The play definitely does ramble on and there are way too many scenes with four or six or ten people yelling over each other, so that you just pick up snippets here and there—Tom fell asleep about two minutes after the play started—but at the end of the second act, Ann and I had to see how it came out, so we stayed for the whole thing, and we didn’t notice anyone else leaving, either. However, it could definitely be condensed to two acts and be, say, two and a half hours long. We did stand up after the second act. As Ann said, “We don’t want to get bedsores.”
I was reading an interview with Tony Kushner in the program and apparently he is a major procrastinator. He hates facing the blank page and so he waits to write until there is a very hard deadline, and then he ends up trying to revise after rehearsals have begun, by which time the actors have already learned earlier versions. I’m not dissing him! This was all right in the program. One can see how this could lead to works that are way too long and not sufficiently pruned and shaped; many of the first inspirations are still there by the time the work is actually being performed, somewhat akin to putting a first draft onstage.
Herewith a plug for the sun sleeve. I’ve long put sunblock on my face and worn a hat, but hate to put gloppy lotion on my arms, which then may end up on my clothes, so I’ve been using a set of Pearl Izumi sun sleeves and love them. They are just long stretchy tubes that pull on easily, covering from near the shoulder to the wrist, and when not needed, they are readily removed and stuffed in a backpack. There are other companies that make sun sleeves, and they come in a variety of colors.