Archive | Church Matters

The Church of Plato on a Rainy Afternoon

Yesterday, my friend B and I were having a long talk at Chelsea’s Cafe Grumpy. Because it had just rained, we had the backyard to ourselves and were using that rare private outdoor space to discuss topics that basic NYC etiquette prevented us from inflicting upon others: healthy grieving, ethical dating, spiritually conscious fucking, the heteronormative construct known as marriage, the queasy fundamentalism known as atheism. We were going off. If you saw us through a window, you might have concluded we were on a date, and a good one at that. A man and a woman of roughly the same age, talking animatedly, not touching but paying close attention to each other. She in a sheath dress; he in a tweed jacket.

In the middle of our second coffee, a man poked his head into what by then felt like our turf. “Helen?” he called out tentatively and looked at me. Rather than shaking my head, I grinned, and he raised his eyebrows, mistaking my glee at not being Helen for interest. After a beat B began talking again, and the man—who was peaked but not bad-looking, with a lanky frame and a long, pale face that bore the scars of a rough adolescence—disappeared. A bit later, while standing on the bathroom line, I noticed him again, this time looming over a woman placing an order. She was wearing a brown shirt and what we used to call slacks when we were mocking our parents in the ’70s. The outfit was so drab that it took a minute to register her bright face and surprisingly good figure. “You have nothing that is dairy-free that also does not have nuts?” she was saying with a grave, almost scholarly precision as the barrista searched the pastry case. Continue Reading →

On This Cold Brooklyn Morn

Got up with the roosters, pulled on myriad layers of wool and fur, and bustled down to the coffee shop to swig Americanos with my Muppet critics, who sorted out all my problems, bada bing, bada boom. So bolstered, I ventured to Red Hook while it was early enough to fetch my Fairway Thanksgluttony with less fuss than blunderbuss. Indeed, the bagels were still hot, the aisles still relatively unfettered, and I breezed through so quickly there was even time to flirt with the cute families already underfoot, not to mention Lady Liberty, who waved like a proud mama from across the waterway. Driving home I followed the East River as the sun danced upon its big-wind crests, and I thought: Sweet Brooklyn, you really are my heart.

You Do Not Mess With the Queen

There are times when the only singer I can bear to hear is Aretha Franklin. She doesn’t belong to any one of my former relationships. She doesn’t belong to any particular era of my life. She belongs to all of them or, rather, everything belongs to her. I know every one of her songs inside and out, and have been learning them since before I could talk. Our family cat, adopted six months after my birth, was named Aretha Franklin Rosman. It’s like that. I have every album recorded by this woman, and most of them on vinyl. Sometimes when I’m feeling blue I just ogle her record covers. For one thing, she’s unfathomably beautiful—feline and sly-eyed and blowsily ladycurvy—and for another I know everything divine and earthly rolls through that big, matter-of-factly churchified and cracked-up soothing-the-savage-beast of a voice. I need her to be strong so I can be strong, and in her music, as far as back as her Columbia Records years, she has never, ever let me down. I don’t care about her personal life, and I really don’t want to have coffee with her, no more than I’d like to have tea with the Queen of England. Royals, especially those who have earned their throne, are best when worshipped from afar. I know someday she won’t be on the same planet as me but I’m grateful she has been so far and even more grateful to have her music pouring through my ears when I leave that man, tote that barge, straighten that spine, open that heart in all my worst and best moments. Truly, Aretha is the Queen of Soul, and I am lucky to have lived under her reign. We all are.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy