Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Rockaway Beach, New York
Fifty years ago and more, Rockway Beach was where Irish immigrants and their Irish-American children settled in large numbers, or at least set up their summer homes. It's sometimes called the 'Irish Riviera' to this day. The Ramones' wrote a classic song, "Rockaway Beach," about here in 1977.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I am a bad Protestant
I'm also a bad Protestant because I live in Harlem, but that doesn't preclude me from being in touch with the Gospel. There was a very special outdoor meeting at the New Covenant Tabernacle on Amsterdam Avenue on Saturday evening, with a big screen TV thing projecting some sort of Gospel service in Spanish - the gimmick was that the preacher on screen, whose fluency and presence made me stop and watch, was 12 or 13 years old.
Because I stopped, a smiling man in a shirt and tie came over to give me a tract. At the last moment he fumbled slightly, and reached to the bottom of his wee pile of tracts where he had versions in English.
New York City is easily one of the most religious places I have ever been, and that includes Ballymena. I have a friend who lives in Brownsville, Brooklyn and there are five competing evangelical black churches on his block, all operating out of shopfronts that were once delis or bodegas.
Lucky for me, there are only three on my block. Oh, and there's the Church of the Covenant on Convent Avenue, which looks like a nuclear bunker, one block away.
Even with its reputation as a flesh pot, New York City's residents can be surprisingly close to God. Yesterday I hitched a lift with a friend from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I sat in the back next to his guitar and a month-old copy of one of the local gay magazines, Next. As he needlessly worked out his aggression by negotiating the traffic with too much honking and cursing, I leafed through the magazine. I discovered someone I knew last year, a semi-famous DJ, had died, aged maybe mid-40s.
I'd had breakfast at his house one morning last summer. In his funny little gay East Village apartment, I had been struck by how many little religious Jewish trinkets he had on display and drew his attention to them.
"Yeah, I'm a fucking New York City Jew," he said. R.I.P., Louis.