June 29, 2011

Birth of Colors

The color blue was created the very first night on earth. The full moon disappeared over the horizon before explaining to Mother Nature that he would reappear soon enough. All Mother Nature had to do was shift to the other side of her garden to see the moon in the sky, but she believed then as she believes now that the best way to find a lost stray friend is to stay put. And so she stayed put, watching the sky.

When the moon reappeared the next night, slightly less full, Mother Nature was so excited. She figured the moon lost a sliver of itself escaping death in order to find her again, and she blushed for the first time. The color pink was born.

All night, the moon and Mother Nature were together. Mother Nature was so happy to wake in the morning with the moon still in her arms and the sun shining on her face. The color yellow was born.

The moon might have noticed he was causing serious emotions in Mother Nature. But he did not notice, or pretended not to. He went on swinging across the sky, singing love lullabies, shining bright as can be.

In fact, the moon was so caught up in his own preening that he forgot to tell Mother Nature that for one night that very first month he would disappear altogether. And so Mother Nature waited and waited, and she even shifted to the other side of her garden, but the moon wasn’t in the sky there either.

Just as she was becoming so upset that the moon had left without saying goodbye, a sliver of moon appeared over the horizon. In that moment, her anger melted (mostly) into passion, and the color red was created.

Believe it or not, Mother Nature had had enough of the drama between herself and the moon. Sure, the colors were beautiful, but they needed to come more easily. Mother Nature stretched out her arms and wrapped them around her garden.

Inside herself, Mother Nature discovered her very own color when she loves herself and is at peace with herself. Green was born.

The moon now saw that Mother Nature could be happy all by herself, and this stirred a jealously inside that the moon didn’t quite like. The moon wanted to be happy for Mother Nature’s joy. And since every true thought is rewarded, the moon was indeed happy for Mother Nature in that moment.

The color white was born.

The moon understood that he had a special relationship with Mother Nature, and this excited him. But it also frightened him.

The void of black was created.

Mother Nature stayed put and kept herself occupied while the moon groped through the blackness. And when the moon emerged from his darkness and shone his new light on Mother Nature’s shifting season, perfect with every shade of green in that very moment of transition, all the rest of the colors were born.

This is the prelude to The Colors. Here's Part 1.  

My friend Suzi at moondreamin' put art to the piece, which is so cool.

June 9, 2011

Reflection Remarks

Here's the beginning of this series following the city's effort to criminalize feeding the homeless in Skid Row.

Yesterday, the young hippie couple moved out after spending their first year of marriage here. They planned it that way, that their first and formative year of marriage would be spent at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

They met at an agricultural community in Georgia. They couldn’t afford rings so they got tattoos on their ring fingers.

Sybilla was an amazing cook. Kurt was a brewmaster.

They were much more likely to say they loved each other in the kitchen than they were to call each other assholes. And if one did call the other an asshole, they could be found hugging and kissing in the front room soon enough.

Sybilla was a social organizer, leading everyone for a Boba Tea after a day working at the soup kitchen. Kurt was always lending a hand, like taking the Catholic Worker video of the breakfast line dispute with the police.

Sarah from Canada left last week, so three people have left within the week. It is the way of community life, of life itself: Goodbyes.

What’s called the summer program begins this weekend, however, with several prospective volunteers filling the Victorian as a sort of come-and-see.

Hellos are a part of life here, too.

The house transitions. It is a natural time of reflection.

Kurt and Sybilla left on a Greyhound to spend their one-year anniversary on the Appalachian Trail. Then they are moving to Indiana, Sybilla’s home, where they have secured a room in an Indianapolis townhome for $200 a month. That’s living simply, and having faith you will be taken care of.

If the world was in the hands of people like Kurt and Sybilla, we could confidently pass it on to the next generations, but that’s not how it is.

At Kurt and Sybilla’s farewell party, shortly after Kurt toasted everybody in the beautifully cramped third-floor community room, Jeff Dietrich, who has spent his entire adult life here, was sitting outside on the third-floor balcony. He shared his hopes that the community house, officially called a house of hospitality, as well as the work of feeding the poor in Skid Row would continue for another couple decades, but there are no guarantees.

Inside, his wife, Catherine Morris, was answering a question about how exactly the Catholic Church released her from her vows as a nun when she decided to marry Jeff in 1974 and join up with this band of radicals. But join up she did. And for the last 40 years she has been the leader of hundreds, if not thousands who have revolved in and out of this place over the decades.

These days, Catherine Morris’s laugh and warmth and bite is the same as ever, but she moves slowly. Her knee has no cartilage left.

It’s easy to wonder about the future of this community watching her climb the stairs in the old Victorian.

It’s easy to wonder about the future of the coffee and oatmeal line, too. 

There is some hope the police will leave the oatmeal and coffee line alone, largely because they have left it alone for more than a month now. Members of Food Not Bombs have also been encouraged to shut down their free food giveaway, and so have members of the Dream Center. But all three groups continue to serve food.

Another reason to think the police might leave the breakfast line alone is that the city hasn’t re-filed the paperwork on Dietrich’s arrest last month.

Then again, if the Orlando police arrest people for feeding the poor, why not the LAPD?

All will be told. 

June 4, 2011

Day Drill

In 1955, a woman named Dorothy Day and a handful of friends were living with poor people in a house in Manhattan and feeding homeless people on the street, everything run on donations. They were radicals. Feeding the poor was only part of their fun.

In the spring, they read in the newspaper that the city was going to conduct a massive civil defense drill. When New Yorkers heard the air raid sirens, they were supposed to take shelter underground or underneath a school desk in a classroom.

This drill was supposed to help the New York City population survive a nuclear war. Well, Day and her pacifist friend Ammon Hennacy doubted it and called a few other friends. They all met in the park in front of City Hall on the day of the drill.

Newspaper reporters, photographers and a television camera gathered along with police. As the sirens blew, the police told the folks sitting on a couple of park benches to take shelter. They declined, were arrested and loaded into the paddy wagons waiting a block away.

They went to jail, women and men. The judge called them “murderers.”

After Day and the others refused to pay the bail, another judge sent them home after 24 hours in jail. The next year, the city repeated the drill and the protestors repeated their crime of not moving from park benches. The judge ordered them to pay a fine or serve five days in jail. David Caplan, who worked as a physicist, attempted to explain to the judge how such civil defense drills were a fraud because human beings would have to be far under ground, much deeper than a subway tunnel. Some paid the fine, others went to jail. Day wouldn’t pay any fines because the poor couldn’t pay fines.

The next year everybody was jailed again when they refused to take cover. More press than ever turned out to watch the silly pacifists loaded into the paddy wagons.  In 1958, Day and seven others were arrested for a fourth time. This time, the judge suspended the sentences. In 1959, while the sirens wailed, the police ignored a mother and her two children picnicking in the grass and hauled away fourteen people, including Day, before the cameras.

Day credited her friend’s picnic with her two little ones for inspiring hundreds of young mothers to eat sack lunches in the park the following year, 1960.

Those mothers with the infants and young students made for hundreds of people in the park. The park was so packed, Day wrote, it would have been hard to clear out without pushing people out of the way, so the majority stayed. The police ignored Day and arrested 25 others.

The next year, two thousand people stood outside City Hall refusing to take shelter. All across New York people were openly ignoring the screaming sirens. The newspapers finally agreed with the silly protesters that the civil defense drills didn’t make much sense except to scare people. That was the last year of the civil defense drills.

A letter to the editor in the New York Times supporting the protesters said, "There is no possible defense against an atomic attack other than peace."

Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which the community I am living in is a part of.

Sources used: Jim Forest's Love is the Measure; Jerry Elmer's Felon for Peace; Day’s writings; The Catholic Worker newspaper, July-August, 1956, June 1960, July-August 1955

This is Part 11 of the city's effort to criminalize feeding the homeless. Here's Part 12.