My husband and I walked all over Harlem this weekend. We had never really thought of it as a tourist destination, but after the fifth clump of Europeans with cameras clicking at some greasy bodega, we figured it out.
It was Sunday, and the best part was passing churches in full tilt. Hoarse-throated fire and brimstone preachers, choirs busting out. A couple of mosques with mournful strains of the Koran wafting. The Corinthian church, Abyssinnian church, Church of god, resurrection, hope, forgiveness, expectation, redemption.
I'm not sure how everyone in my neighborhood is doing. But it seems when times get tougher, the liquor stores and the churches have to step it up. Wall Street may be having a record year. But a lot of the rest of the city, the country, all the other "Main Streets" are certainly suffering.
I do remember fleeting feelings of faith. Usually it was when something was terribly wrong. Maybe it was just stubborn will - If I could just pray hard enough, fill my mind with the right thing for long enough...
Faith is different now. Mostly it's suspended. Filters through once in a while, but in quirky and personal ways.
There's a freshly remastered version of "The Red Shoes" in limited distribution right now. Apparently in the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, a vain little girl wouldn't take off her red shoes, even when she went to church. Eventually the shoes become her punishment, they won't stop dancing... she finally begs to have her feet chopped off, but still her severed feet keep dancing and bar her from going to church to prove that she has changed. She stays, praying humbly at home, finally finds true faith, and is accepted in to heaven where she escapes the unforgiving shoes.
In the movie, Moira Shearer just throws herself in front of a train because she's made to decide between her art and her personal life. She's misunderstood, tortured, alone. The shoes dance her right onto the tracks.
Not great choices really.
I think I'll stick with my husband's favorite advice: "You just can't worry about the mule going blind. You gotta sit in the wagon and hold the line."