Lots to tell, but only 32 minutes to do it in. So lets dive in...
Early morning again--545am simply is crap. Back home, my clock actually skips 1am to 6am, and goes directly to 7am, so having an alarm (this morning it was California Dreamin') that early is just ghastly.
Breakfast at the West Way Cafe, this time with both Joshes and the rest of the regular crew. They serve belgian waffles on the weekend, so guess where we'll be eating on Saturday?
Typical morning, we all met again at the lobby of the West Side Inn, and headed out to the 103rd street station to taek a ride up to 174th street in the Bronx. This time Josh B got off at the right stop. We all stopped into our favorite $1 20 oz coke & 50 cent water place, Williams Grocery, though someone commented that they didnt think there were too many Williams in there. Maybe a few Juans, or some Chavezes.
27 minutes left. My problem is that i have to stop and correct typos, b ecause i just cant stand the thought of you people thinking i cant spell correctly. Plus, this computer is really slow. It took me 1 minute & 9 seconds to type that last sentence.
Kendall showed up a few minutes later and we began to set up for Upward, day three. We didnt expect a huge crowd today (though tomorrow we may see 150 kids, all wanting their free basketball) and we were ready to scrimmage twice, especially to get the big kids to do something besides mess with the smaller kids. Little by little, they trickled in, many more older kids than we had seen before. Jason came in again, and Gaby, the "F" word kid, came back. Ray, the proclaimed "coach of the world" because he like to steal our clipboards and draw up random, ridiculous plays, showed up for a third day, and there were some kids actually waiting for us when we got there, including Mylady, Jenny and our own Spanish translator, Juan. All three of the latter kids were huge helps over the course of the morning.
The day began running smoothly enough, with your typical problems from some kids... there is this one kid named Jordan--I was actually asking myself that "If i promise to repent later, is it bad to shoot a kid in the butt with a bb gun for mere enjoyment?" This kid is about 11, maybe 12, and everytime I turned around, he was going for the basketball pile. We learned after the first day to round up the balls between drills, devotions and other times they werent necessary.
(there is this foreign chick staying in the room next to where the computers are located, and this is the third night this week shes come out in nothing but a t-shirt to go to the showers. She seems a bit hairy, so the thought of looking doesnt really cross my mind, but i find it strange. I only mention it because she just came out again... in just a towel. Between her and the naked french guy, its like we are staying in the Cinemax hotel. And i have 16 minutes left)
Jordan... so, anyway, this kid is always leaving his coach and running to the balls to try to get one. I've stopped him everytime, and so he's resorted to anything he can think of, leading to this exchange today:
Jordan: "Gimme a ball!"
Me: "Jordan, I told you... you cant have a ball. All you will do is shoot hoops and not be in your group"
Jordan (pointing): "But I brought that ball there!"
Me: "Dude, that ball says 'Upward' on it, in ink"
Jordan: "But... um... coach told me to get a ball!"
Me: "Who's your coach?"
Jordan: "I dont know his name"
Me: "Right. Go back to your group before i give you a wedgie, man."
Okay, I have 7 minutes left, and I have to tell you about two things before I go...
I walked up to Jason, and shook his hand, and said "Hey, Jason. I want you to know that right now in Alabama, there are about 100 people you've never heard of praying for you right now, by name."
I understand that by saying "100", I am grossly overestimating the popularity of this site, but bear with me...
He looked funny, and said, "They know my name?"
And I said "Yeah man. They are all lifting your name up to God."
He said nothing for a second, and then for the first time, I saw him smile. He simply said, "Cool". The first time I saw him smile... cool indeed.
Eric who prayed to receive Christ today... his story later...
Tomorrow, and the crazy day it will be...
TO BE CONTINUED!!
(Everything you read from here until the end of this post, Im writing on friday afternoon, after camp and our last day painting... before i tell you about it, though, i really want to finish thursday...)
Where was I? Okay, let's pick up about the middle of camp. Everyone has come together, and Josh is presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right smack in the middle is Gaby, and "Bob", who's really named Darrin. And during the presentation of the gospel, they did everything they could to distract Josh, the other kids and basically get some attention. Oh, there were other kids too, but these two stood out. Really irritated me that they didnt have enough respect to sit for five minutes, or even just leave... I know, they mimic what they are taught, either in the home or on the streets, but that didnt make it any less irritating. At one point, Gaby even called me a few names, mostly in Spanish (one of which meant"white boy", which makes me think young Gaby ain't too bright... after a week in the sun, I'm darker than many of these black kids, including Gaby). Anyway, Josh prayed at the end, and a few made a few jokes at his, and our expense. When finished, he walked away seemingly very frustrated.
The kids broke up in their teams to play basketball (of which I had the aforementioned short conversation with Jason) and I noticed Tim talking to one guy who looked in his late teens. Shortly after, camp was over, kids got thier t-shirts, and most went home. Juan stayed to help clean-up, when Tim came over and said that they guy he was just talking too was named Eric, he is 18, and a few short moments ago, Eric accepted Christ. After Josh's talk, Eric and Tim ended up talking, Eric asked questions, Tim answered them with Truth, and Eric took the next step. We were all pretty excited about it, to say the least.
We had our lunch, and then Juan walked us to the bus stop--we had looked for it the day before, and ended up at a stop several blocks down, waiting for a bus that never came... we missed the stop we were supposed to be at, because the sidewalk was covered in high scaffolding, and the bus stop sign was beyond it. Juan was the man.
(so now the time is 536p, on friday, EST, and we are headed out in 45 minutes... this post will be finished tonight, I promise!!)
(Now its 1238 on Saturday morning... I'm going to do my best to get through the rest of Thursday and all of Friday, though Friday is a long post with lots to tell... so bear with me. And thanks for reading!)
Where were we? Ah yes, we had just finished with camp, and was leaving Crotona Park. We caught the bus at the bus stop where we were supposed to be, and then rode over to our other stop, which was about 50 yards from PS 63.
We got up to the school, and began to long walk up The Infernal Stairs. 26 stairs per flight... 4 flights... you do the math (because I'm too tired to). When we get to the top, everyone just plops on the floor for a minute, legs quivering, eyes bulging, all short of breath. The stairs are evil in concrete form, there is no disputing that.
Jimmy came in, and let us know that the asbestos room still had asbestos in it, so we should finish up what we were doing. So, Tim, Larry, Josh C and I started to finish the room we were in by painting and doing trim work, while Colby, Philip, Staci, Natalie and Mark continued prepping their room and getting ready to paint it. Within an hour or so, we were both almost finished... and then something we had not heard since we'd been in Alabama. Thunder.
It began to rain. Then it began to monsoon. Then the winds picked up, rain starting coming through the open windows, which we promptly shut making it extremely hot in there. By the bathroom, there was a cage over the window, and the window was open, allowing for rain to flood in. At one point, the rain started coming down completely horizontal, and for a few minutes it was very ugly. Tim swore it was a tornado, and though i have my doubts here in NYC, I can imagine winds like that in trailer-park filled Alabama.
We finished up the rooms, and cleaned up after ourselves. The nine of us trundled down the steps around 345p, over an hour earlier than we had planned to leave, and out into the rain, which had slacked up considerably. We hiked to the bus stop, standing under a few awnings, and got on when our bus arrived. Everyone was thinking of what the plans were for their different groups, and knowing how wonderful this extra hour was going to be.
Oh, how the silly dream.
The bus took a detour from the street we usually go down, because for some reason, that street was closed. And we hit traffic. Colby said "so is this what a New York traffic jam is like?" Slowly but surely, we inched down to our stop, but by the time we got on our train, our extra hour had vanished. It was decided that this time, we would all just hit the showers and get with whatever group was going.
Chuck had managed to procure cheap Broadway tickets for Beauty & The Beast, and that was the plan for he, Daniel and Larry. Larry commented later that it was worth the price of admission just to sit in an AC filled room for three hours and not have to walk anywhere.
Philip, Colby, Mark, Josh C and Staci were headed to Carmine's, apparently a very good Italian place that Josh had been too before and was salivating about on the bus.
It was Geryl's birthday (happy 32nd!) so she and her husband Tim went out for a nice evening of dinner and dessert at Carne's, just down the street.
Me, however... CONEY ISLAND. And I took Paula, Josh B, Brandon, Natalie and Anna Lynn with me. I cant remember if I told you this or not, but lets just say that when I was in NYC in 2002 doing missions, I had a chance to ride the Cyclone, which is the old rickety wooden coaster there on the Boardwalk of Coney, next to Astroland. Astroland is basically NYC's version of Miracle Strip Amusement Park...
And can I briefly rabbit trail and say that it bothers me that Miracle Strip is gone? I mean, come on... it didnt cost THAT much to keep it running, did it? The Starlighter Coaster alone was worth the price!
...and anyway, I was going to ride it. However, I gave up that chance to do something for Him, so I missed my chance, and for three long years, that coaster has haunted me. Its called to me. Its spoken to me. It wants me to come to it.
And as we boarded the train to ride to Coney Island, I was almost giddy. Of course, in my glee, I read the subway map a little wrong, and instead of taking the same train all the way down there, I thought I would be quicker and have us transfer to another train... turns out, once we transferred, I realized my mistake. We didnt have to backtrack, and it was about the same time to get there (just a different track) but we had to get up, sit down, get up and sit down again.
We got to Coney, and we decided to eat at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs there on the beach. Natalie went to the ATM machine, and discovered that her ATM card was jacked up, so I let her have money for food. Though she is my friend and I wouldnt change a thing, this would come back to haunt me later...
Anyway, we all ate hot dogs and fries, and Anna Lynn had a 2nd dog, and after dinner , we took a stroll on the Coney Island Boardwalk. You know that song "under the boardwalk, we'll be falling in love, under the boardwalk, blah blah blah blah..." Yeah, this the Boardwalk that its from. (hate that song), Incidentally, there will be no falling in love under the boardwalk anymore, because several years ago, they boarded up the bottom of the boardwalk because so many homeless people lived there.
Let me tell you about Coney Island. I met a man in 2002 who had lived there on Coney for about 35 years. All his life he did the same thing... he collected aluminum cans and galss bottles off the beach in shopping carts, turning in the cans for money and taking that money to buy beer and food with. The next day, he did the same thing. He lived under the walkway for a long time, and when they shut that down, he "moved" into an old, abandon building. This is his whole life... no purpose, no meaning... no knowledge of God or even a caring attitude about it. Very sad. Coney is a very "the poor is poor and the rich come and visit, then go home to be rich" kind of place. Paula said later that she felt very out of place there, and that something about the place just bothered her. I can understand it, but I think Coney Island is where I would want to minister if I lived here full time. Thats not a hint, God, so please dont take it as such. The Lovely Steph Leann gets cold in 92 degree weather, so she wouldnt like it.
The park, Astroland, is a basic "pay per ride" kind of place. You buy your tickets, and then go on the ride you want. Anna Lynn wanted to ride the go-carts, which cost $5 to ride, and Josh and Brandon were going to go with her, while Nat and Paula found a bathroom (which, they learned, cost 25 cents to use). The go-cart guy looked at Anna Lynn and said "You're too showt... (looked at Brandon) you even showta... (looks at Josh) You wanna ride et?" Josh said no, and we left.
We ended up riding this 3-D virtual reality similator thing, one of those deals that rocks and moves while you sit in it. It was a roller coaster ride, and we all got on (Natalie, with no cash, was my date for the night, so I bought hers) except for Paula. The ride was crap. Thats all I got to say about that.
Finally... it was time. Years of waiting had come to this. I was going to ride the Coney Island Cyclone. I had heard that if you ride it over and over, the rides get cheaper, so I was ready. I was even preparing myself for the slight chance that, at 9pm, it wasn't open... no matter, I told myself, I would have ridden it, and thats the point. Though I would have been crushed.
Brandon was too short (again) and Anna Lynn actually made it (though it was the heels she was wearing) through... Josh paid for his, and I bought mine and Natalie's again. And we made our way up the ramp to the coaster. I couldnt wipe the grin off my face for anything in the world. The coaster looked beautiful, this grand concoction of metal and wood, the tracks lined with old boards, chipped white paint and lights that would have flashed "CYCLONE" if they all worked at the same time. Someone was in the front car... no matter. Josh and I got in the second row, while Anna Lynn and Natalie got in the row behind us.
A simple padded bar would keep us in our seats, though if the coaster collapsed like I thought it might, no padded bar would have saved us. But please, I prayed, dont let it collapse until I've ridden it once. And the guy didnt even pushed a button... no... this guy had a big red lever he pushed from one side to the other. And we were off.
I was on the Cyclone, and I closed my eyes and couldnt think of anything I would rather be doing. Perhaps my beautiful wife beside me instead of Josh would have made it better, but there wasn't much room for improvement from where I was at the time. The coaster hit the top of the first drop, and then plunged.
The ride was great... it was one of the longer coasters I've ever been on, and I was giggling like Stephanie was the day I asked her out the whole way. When the train pulled into the station, the sign said "ride again for 4 bucks", so as Anna Lynn made her way to the exit, Josh and I both jumped in and headed for the back car.
I dont know how much you know about roller coasters, particularly wooden ones, particularly wooden OLD coasters, but the back row tends to have some "whip appeal" to it. Think of the Georgia Cyclone... that Cyclone is a tricycle ride around the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) parking lot compared to this Cyclone. This ride was rough. Very, very rough. And when we got done, they said "Two people ride for $5!". And I would have done it... except I had one dollar in my pocket, because Natalie and I had shared the evening's expenses. Josh had none either, so we made our way to the exit.
Anna Lynn actually rode it again by herself, while we waiting. There I was, covered in sweat and dripping with the joy that can only come in third to Stephanie's Love (2nd) and Christ's Love (1st... duh), the joy that is a three year anticipation of a roller coaster that has reached finality. I love my life.
Its 124am, and I'm going to write up Friday's blog tomorrow, because frankly, there is too much to tell...
So tune in tomorrow night, when you'll read about:
--The New Generation with Tamika and Nichole
--The final day of camp
and finally... being fluid.
ps... The Lovely Steph Leann... I love you, baby, and cant wait to see you in a few days. Get your long PJs out, however, because we are cranking the AC down to about 65 for the night when I get home.