Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Loving Your Lot in Life

I had the delightful experience of visiting Macedonia AME Church in Flushing, NY, on October 30th. This historic black church was established in 1811 and served the black community that grew up in the area. Robert Moses, the great remaker of New York City, bulldozed the area around the Church to create a parking lot, literally he "bulldozed paradise and put up a parking lot," as it says in the song. This accounts for the odd appearance of the Church, with its main door facing one of the parking lot entrances. Mrs. Beverly Riley, who had read my book, Root Shock, and who was struck by its relevance for her church, related what it's like to surrounded by a parking lot. "We had to push back church services, " she said, "because the parking lot used by people for overnight parking on Saturdays and then our congregation couldn't find parking. People would drive around for half an hour and then go home." She also pointed out that the parking lot itself was set to be transformed, this time into apartments. Oddly, as much as an ugly parking lot is something that annoys people, I know that once it is gone, it will be missed. We seem to grow used to what is, warts and all. As a social psychiatrist, I am always thinking about ways in which people could use what is around them as part of their healing. For some reason, "Garden in Transit," the project that applied flowers to NYC taxicabs came to mind. In that 4-month public art project, children and adults painted flowers on removable plastic that was placed on the hoods of taxicabs to make a movable garden in New York City. The image that came to mind was of the parking lot transformed into a flower garden by having a day of public art and painting flowers over the asphalt. It would help people understand their love/hate relationship with the parking lot, just in time to say goodbye. We don't always have that opportunity. I hated the World Trade Center, but later I regretted that I had never forgiven the Twin Towers for their boring modernism.
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