In my brain ~ my muddled Mari-world ~ when the din of Doubt and fracas caused by Fear overpower me, I go somewhere where the love and light are so loud they drown out even the deepest darkness ~ I go to Glide. I went this morning, knowing that 90 miraculous minutes at Glide will re-cast the chaos of as many days in a new light, a clearer perspective ~ like putting those bad days back in the kiln, turning up the heat on that fire called You, and re-shaping your Perspective. I just needed to re-center myself ~ and when I go to Glide alone, well that anonymity ~ singing and smiling in a sea of, literally, a thousand strangers ~ well, that's how I re-adjust my mental/emotional compass....silently confiding in strangers who can't disappoint me. And Glide never disappoints me.
I've mentioned before that the congregation at Glide is...colorful ~ cathartic, really. As the saxophonist belted-out an ear-catching solo to start the celebration, the choir members danced in. Today, they were dressed all in black instead of their bright Kente robes ~ and I don't need to tell you there were a few pairs of black leather pants and some leather vests in the group; we are in San Francisco, after all. ~ :) John Turk, the band leader, wore a bright mustard-yellow suit ~ and Reedy (Rev. Cecil Williams' brother who "acts as bouncer and community song leader") subtly snagged everyone's attention with his exquisite, explosive purple jacket....and matching purple tie with a white kerchief peeking out of his breast pocket like a lost cloud.
And the crowd ~ wow ~ feather boas and Birkenstocks and cuties with bedhead, all giving each other big bear hugs. Our usher, a woman in her 60's, proudly wore a deep red rose in her hair ~ and her kleenex tucked into her cleavage, easily accessible when needed to dab away at that emotion that the Glide choir will bring up in anyone. [After the service, one of the choir members told me that they don't use song/lyric sheets, they memorize every song, and they never know in advance what songs they'll sing that day ~~ they know when the band hits the first note. I mean, how awesome is that choir?] I watched in awe as Dignan, the sexiest sign language interpreter on the planet, signed and danced along with every song ~ as he has done for at least the last 8-10 years (um, as long as I've had a crush on him). ~ :)
The single guy next to me clapped off-beat to every one of the 7-8 songs ~ he was having a blast. With me next to him, clapping on-beat, we sounded like a pair of flamenco "palmeros" ~ you know the flamenco musicians who each clap to a different beat of a song so that it sounds like one person clapping really, really fast ~ that was us, the flamenco section of the gospel choir. I talked to Nick, one of the choir members, and asked him, "Aren't you supposed to be up on stage?" He smiled and replied, "I needed to take one day off." But he was still there! How beautiful is that? It's family he said. A tiny woman in her 70's danced down the aisle and stopped and smiled at the 20-something guy with the shaved head and five-o'clock-shadow who was dancing along in the aisle.
The music shook the entire building ~ I could feel the pew vibrating under me. Our ears overflowed with a sea of singing. The colors and smiles and sheer fun danced in front of our eyes. Ai, this commotion ~ this type of sensory overload ~ is what I needed to drown out Doubt, to forget Fear, and realign my compass.
About 30 minutes into the celebration, just before Rev. Cecil Williams began speaking, this really pretty woman walked in and sat in front of me with two cute kids. They clamored around her, trying to both sit on her lap ~ so the cuteness factor caught my eye. Then I noticed that she looked kind of familiar ~ "wow, she looks just like Ali Hewson," I thought. Her son got down off her lap and walked over to his dad, who was now standing next to me, because there weren't any more open chairs. The mom signaled to Dad to grab the son and so I looked over at the white t-shirt inches from my face...Then, I looked up and thought, "Wow, he looks just like Bono." . . . . And then I remembered they were in concert last night in San Jose. . . . And then he spoke, saying something to his son ~ and that beautiful voice....ok, my Brain finally pointed out: THIS IS BONO RIGHT NEXT TO YOU AND YOU CAN LITERALLY TURN YOUR HEAD AND KISS HIS HAND BUT HIS KID IS IN THE WAY!!
But then I got over it ~ because, you know, we live in the Bay Area after all and we don't get star struck.
BUT IT'S BONO YOU DIM-WIT! AND HE ESSENTIALLY JUST WHISPERED IN YOUR EAR! AND IN SOME COUNTRIES THAT'S AS GOOD AS MARRYING YOU! sigh ~ heavy, heart-skipping sigh.
OK, so I admit I was silently melting next to him ~ my right ear can now die a happy, fulfilled body part and the magic murmur of Bono's voice is forever etched in the goosebumps on my arm. I couldn't look up at him, so I sat there admiring his beautiful family and the fact that he got up after a long night of work (being a rock-star-God you know) and went out with his FOUR kids to CHURCH. And his wife is gorgeous and brilliant, dammit. And they are committed to humanitarian work. Damn. ~ But you know, Cecil was still speaking and no one made a fuss ~ we all listened to Cecil (including Ali and Bono) and we all got worked up, shouting out a few hallelujahs and shalom's and right-on's.
Then Cecil ended his sermon and invited "the young man in the back to come forward" ~ yes, he meant Bono. Ali didn't want to go up on stage so Bono slipped on his black leather jacket (in that sexy way only rock stars and public interest lawyers can pull off) and ran up stage. He called Cecil "The Pope of San Francisco," and then told us the story of when he met Pope John Paul II six years ago. We all laughed when Bono described the meeting "between the Pope with a rock star complex and a rock star with a Pope complex." During the meeting, the Pope stared intently at Bono for a long time, which made him uncomfortable, as he thought, "Shit, I must have done something bad." After a while, Bono asked the Pope, "Holy Father...would you like some fly shades?" And the Pope replied, "Yes." So up on the Glide stage, Bono took off his sunglasses (which you know he always wears, so it was a treat to see him "bare face") and he showed us how the Pope put on the sunglasses and made a hilarious face ~ he tilted his head, scrunched his eyes, and smiled in a huge grin. Someone took a photo, which Bono thought would show up on the cover of every magazine. But Bono went on: "We never saw those photos...apparently, the Vatican doesn't have the same sense of humor the Pope did." And so the Pope gave Bono, in exchange for his sunglasses, a sort-of-crooked cross designed by Michelangelo, which Bono wears around his neck.
Then it was the end of the celebration ~ time to hold hands with the strangers next to you and sing Amazing Grace. Bono joined the choir and sang along ~ CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING A CHOIR MEMBER ON THAT STAGE?! And then Bono took the microphone and started singing Stand By Me as we all danced and sang along. In the second verse, he changed the lyrics, and started singing:
♪♪♪ "Well I've been coming to Glide for many years, oh and when I come to Glide, oh-oh-oh when I come to Glide, I know it'll feel like home away from home ~ whenever I'm in trouble, Cecil stands by me ~ stand by me." ♪♪
And we all hugged and clapped and Bono and his family went downstairs and bought a pile of Glide t-shirts ~ he signed a few autographs and they were all whisked away in two black Explorers or whatever celebrities get whisked away in. [Later I found out that after the service, Bono and Ali launched their EDUN clothing line at Saks Fifth Aveneue, just a few blocks from Glide, and then Bono met with our U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, and then he had another concert Sunday night down in San Jose. Um, and what did you do on Sunday? ~ :) ]
Me, I came home and stretched out on my balcony, reading all afternoon, soaking up the sun, humming "Stand By Me," and remembering how Glide is always there for me.