A whole new world – Jubilee 2019

I have been crying off and on all day, since Amy’s baptism this morning – for joy over how lucky we are to have Amy and for how absolutely pitch-perfect Howard is through all of this. He looks really happy, like he is having the time of his life. He was made for this moment.

What’s his face…

Tonight at Jubilee – Amy’s ordination

Pancho and I approach Jubilee at 6:45. Everybody is outside. Daniel is beating the djimbe and people are clapping and dancing. The energy is all very high. Pancho says, “Can’t deal with all of this – let’s go see what’s happening at Early Girl.” I decide that, if I’m going to expect her to deal with all of this, maybe she needs a little extra de-stressing first. We go around the block, and when we get back at 7:05, everybody is processing back into the building – led by bagpipes.

Paula kicks the evening off by singing – with her gorgeous voice – the beautiful “A whole new world” from Disney’s Aladdin (YouTube it – it’s so perfect for what is going on at Jubilee right now, starting afresh with Amy). I cry.

Me and Panchita aka Pancho, photo by Susie Davis – on her front porch

I look across the room and see Elizabeth Likis singing along with Paula – looking so happy. I cry.

Elizabeth Likis on right with her wonderful hair.

There’s so much energy and excitement in the air that little Pancho – sitting in my lap – looks deep in my eyes and sends the message
“What the heck is going on here? It doesn’t usually feel this electric at the 11:15 celebration. Is everything OK? Am I safe?”
I look back at those gorgeous, big brown eyes and whisper to her,
“It’s all OK, baby. You’re safe – nothing is going wrong. In fact, so much is going right! The energy you feel in this room is something new being born.”

Barbara Brady – one of the new crop of Jubilee ministers – delivers an unbelievably hysterical stand-up comedy routine, coaching Amy how to be the minister Jubilee needs right now. (“Please – listen, this is important – please make sure your socks match.”) Barbara shows the poise of an absolute pro, of some comic you see on TV. She is definitely ready for prime time. We look at each other and ask “Did you know she had this in her?” Apparently she does.

Barbara Brady (on left) and friend

Cathryn Zommer Davis, in her rich sonorous voice, introduces herself as the new Jubilee Minister of Movement. But wait – I remember the Sunday, just a few months ago it seems, when I first saw her dance at Jubilee. Lauren has been running the service and now Cathryn goes to the center of the room to deliver the “meditation”. I really need to pee, and am slowly moving backwards towards the bathroom. (“So what? I miss maybe the first minute of her talk – no big.”) And, before I even make it to the hallway, she starts to dance! Unbelievable! She is totally, totally mesmerizing. I didn’t make it to the bathroom until the service was over.

If I remember correctly, she at some point in that service, tells us that this is the first time she has danced for people in public. And now she’s our Minister of Movement! I have never seen anybody move better – she’s perfect. Another Jubilee miracle.

Cathryn Zommer Davis

Jacquelyn toasts Jubilee as a community – always her shtick, thank God for her!

Jacquelyn – Jackie – Dobrinska, Jubilee Minister of Community, on right

(Oh man – I am absolutely running out of gas at this point, after such an intense, exciting day. I can’t keep trying to do a play-by-play.)

Daniel and Jessica Chilton perform a totally improv celebration of Amy’s spiritual path – her unfoldment. Daniel is spontaneously making up the story and Jessica – the queen of Playback Theater – acts and dances it all out, absolutely nothing rehearsed.

Daniel Barber

Pancho can absolutely not take her eyes off Jessica – she is mesmerized by her, she watches every moment of it. When Jessica and Daniel wrap up, she finally turns away from the center of the circle and asks me “Did you see that?! What was that?!”

Jessica Chilton

Alba Onofrio: In a beautiful, impassioned, angry, perfect way says “God has been stolen from us! We need to take God back!…We are not here to save our souls – we are here to save this beautiful, endangered world of ours!” She uses the s-word once – perfectly, impeccably. “Amy, we have said ‘yes’ to you – I’m so glad you have said ‘yes’ to us.”
I cried then and am crying now, writing this and remembering that moment.

Alba Onofrio

The bagpipes play and Pancho’s big chihuahua ears go crazy – rotating quickly in all directions. I think she has probably never heard anything like this. But she makes no move to go towards the door, which she is totally capable of doing. She knows when she has had it with someplace. As some of this definitely seems to be weirding her out, she apparently still likes it.

Then the actual ordination begins and everyone reads the blessing together. Suddenly voices are coming from all directions at once – and Pancho looks at me and says, “Jubilee – it’s amazing!”

Amy and Yona

Amy is sitting in the center of the circle. Howard invites us all to come up and lay hands on her. I think “Too crowded – Pancho can’t deal with this.” Then the crowd around Amy thins and I think, “That’s it – Amy needs a blessing from Pancho and me.” I carry Pancho up, so she doesn’t have to feel threatened by all these long legs. Amy has never met either of us, but recognizes us both from the Book of Face. She gives us a big, happy smile. My smile is equally big and happy. I look her deep in the eyes and – joining in again with the song we have all been singing – belt out “I want to be a sanctuary for you.”

The ritual is breaking up. The band is rocking “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!” (So amazingly courageous and surrendered of Howard that he wants us to sing this particular song at this particular moment.) Howard looks so happy. Like the wonderful parent that he is, he is happy and proud of what he has provided all of us – and also wants more for us than he knows how to provide.

Pancho is pulling on her leash. “This case is closed – let’s go pee on some places where other dogs have peed.” We almost make it to the door, when she gets a waft of cookies from the Hospitality Room. We go in there – where people continue to be in a high mood – and each have a cookie. OK, she has a cookie (no chocolate) and I have three.

We go out through those broad doors that have welcomed us so many times in the last 15 years.

What will happen next?

“Pretty little girl”

pretty girl with hair

These days, when – at the cash register – I tell a little girl that she’s pretty, I always follow that by saying this:

“One day here, when i told a little girl she was pretty, her mama said, ‘You know what we say, honey, when some nice person says you are pretty.’  And then in unison, very powerfully, they said ‘I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I’m strong – huh!’”

The little girl I am speaking to at this point will almost always say, “I’m smart!” or “I’m strong.”  And I will say something like, “Boy, you really are, aren’t you!”  And the mother (or father) will usually beam with delight at their daughter.

“You guys are great together!” Families

After my first four days back at Earth Fare, after a year away, I have been very keenly reminded that my greatest satisfaction in this job comes from validating people – affirming them.  And, while I really love doing this with individuals – especially if they seem lonely or depressed or like they could really use a shot in the arm – the greatest challenge and satisfaction comes from validating couples and families.  Here I will describe two families.

Read this post at my grocery store blog, Real Life in the Checkout Line, rlcol.com.

“I love you guys” – validating couples

Why do I have such an especially great time validating couples?  I think it’s really my specialty.  Maybe it’s because they have something I want – a happy, successful partnership – and focusing on what they are doing right gets me closer to my own goal.  I dunno.

See this post at my grocery store blog, Real Life in the Checkout Line https://rlcol.com/2019/07/10/i-love-you-guys-validating-couples/

Soul Friends, a story by Majo

About Battery Park Apartment’s icon Diana Buchanan

Open mic sponsored by Interweave (mixed abilities performance troupe featuring Amanda, Rylin and some non Battery Park Apartments folks)

Next Tuesday night, July 9, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Battery Park Apartments,1 Battle Square, Asheville
13th floor Roof Garden

No one will be turned away! Donations accepted but not required

6:15 – open mic sign-up

6:30-7 – special guest band featuring Caesar Williams from the Vanderbilt, Garry Byrne from our building and Eric Nelson

7-7:30 – “family friendly” material

Early in the show (7:30?) – Soul Friends Majo’s 15-minute story

on the “ersatz family”: me (Majo), our Diana Buchanan (who you are so familiar with from hanging out with her posse in front of the building, making sure the tobacco companies don’t go belly up) and my precious little white dog Toni – to whom Diana became “Mama”. 

Diana (“Mama”) and Toni

If you know Diana or have any clue what a complex, rich and wonderful character she is, you’re gonna wanna see this. Even if you feel like you already know Diana, you will come away knowing her in new ways – and be a richer person for it.  The story has humor, it’s got conflict, it’s got pathos and death – it’s got everything. (7:30-8 latest, if you skip the opening acts and we don’t start early.)

Interweave invites all performance levels to perform:

song, dance, music, drumming, spoken word, rap, hip-hop, poetry, stories, comedy, magic, performance art, improv, dance or music jam


enter through the front door, located to the left of the Pinball Museum

at the north end of the Grove Arcade

Near St. Lawrence Basilica and the U.S. Cellular Center


if you need handicapped access or have any questions, email interweaveperformanceart@gmail.com

LBGTQ friendly – open to all ages, genders and races

donations are used to support Interweave

for more info about what we do, please email us

no alcohol, drugs or smoking allowed

John’s work

John –

In my head just now, I was having a fantasy conversation with no one in particular – maybe never anyone – about some topic that’s on my mind. I do this sometime when I feel less pressure around tasks, to do’s. Today I have a long afternoon and evening with nothing scheduled, in a good mood and happy to piddle.

The topic today is “My friend John and his relationship to work.” Hopefully at least enough of it will ring true – it would be a great conversation sometime, maybe on a hike, what hit the mark and (inevitably) what did not…and what’s missing.

Here goes:

My friend John’s current work – a highway flagger for paving jobs – is by no means his long-term aspiration.

He would like to get back into the building trades. He has pawned his tools when he was broke, but would never let go of them. He is a natural handyman and construction pro. He seems sometimes like a wizard. It seems like there is nothing he can’t do. He has a passion for fixing things, for making them work. When, out of the corner of his eye, he saw that one of my blinds wasn’t closing correctly, it continually distracted him from our conversation. “Do you mind if I fix that?” “Thanks – that would have haunted me all night.” If a friend has some kind of light construction or fixit need, he springs into action – he loves it. It’s a passion for him. It seems there is nothing that completely stumps him.

His life mission is to help people, to “facilitate” – to make things work better for them.

He has not given up on a long-term dream to work in the forest service – maybe construction. At 52, that possibility may be slipping away. It would take a big push, which could happen, but not until after the current spate of infections and other health challenges.

Highway flagging may seem like an unlikely vocation – and passion! – for someone of so much talent and education. (But my Ph.D. does not spoil grocery store cashiering as a vocation for me.) John’s capacity to turn this work into something creative and satisfying is admirable to say the least.

  • John applies his mission to help, to “facilitate” here – in ways that a less resourceful and motivated person would never accomplish. John has a vision that highway closures create stress and even some measure of pain for people – and his mission is to help this inconvenience be light for them. Where some other flaggers regard the lines of motorists as ignorant assholes to be dispatched – processed through with minimal expenditure of effort – to John they are customers, basically good people in pain.
  • John uses this work as a context to express his creativity. He dances his job. As much as the work allows, he stays in motion. He is always finding new and interesting ways to express information. How much relevant information can he feasibly impart?
    • what the project is
    • what’s happening up ahead
    • any feasible bypasses
  • he really is trying to make their day
  • John uses this job as a background to express his love of nature
    • he uses his camera to get interesting/educational/accurate pictures of nature
    • he has a circle of Facebook friends who are back and forth with each other with beautiful nature photos and the quest to identify interesting/beautiful/rare insects/plants/flowers
  • John has a huge work ethic and takes satisfaction from living it out.
    • Even if the day is rainy and there is not likely to be work on his particular paving project, he reports to the staffing office at 6 a.m.
      • Many of the workers don’t have cars, some of them may be staffing indoor jobs, some may need a ride to work if they are to get to work
        • many have families to support – John gets satisfaction from trying to make sure they get work if they can and he gets paid for transporting them and this establishes him as a go-to resource for the staffing service.
    • No matter how different his co-workers, he finds ways to like and respect them
      • even if they are uneducated and irresponsible
      • they have a family, they get paid on Friday, and Monday they are broke – can’t afford cigarettes even on a week where bad weather is predicted – no income.
      • He finds them interesting and creative where are there overlaps on their musical tastes
      • Their nihilism, dark humor and love of practical jokes may converge
Caddis fly?

In short

  • How can I help people?
  • How can I see and reflect what’s good in people?
  • How can I express myself and find the opportunity for creativity, dark humor, nihilism, music and anarchy in situations where if I did not work hard and stretch myself I might just succumb to helplessness and depression?


I was in the big general hospital, being evaluated by the psych staff for suicidal depression. The night before I had come precariously close to killing myself. At age 72, part of my crisis had to do with age. “I’m used up. I have nothing left to offer and no one is interested in what I do have. I might as well not be here.”

I was in one of the rooms in the E.R. with my really good buddy John, who had ordered the ambulance for me that morning. A young woman who identified herself as Bailey had come in with her little typewriter to register me. My first judgment about Bailey was kind of harsh (“kind of mousy”) – but then I was not in a real positive state of mind.

Which made even more surprising what happened next. Halfway through Bailey registering me, I stopped her and said, “You’re a very real person.” “What?” “Yeah – you’re genuine. You know, for the native Americans that was the highest compliment: ‘You’re a real human being.'”

“You’re a real human being.”

Bailey pulled herself up a couple of inches taller, pointed her finger into the air and said “Authentic.” I had gotten her. I had affirmed her for something that actually meant a lot to her. It was not some generic thing like “You’re a nice person.” It felt really good to her because she felt seen. She was doing that which she very much wants to do.

Bailey left. I pointed my arm towards John and – with tears running down my face, as they are right now – said emphatically “That’s what I do.” And for just a little while the charge “I have nothing left to contribute” had no power over me.