There’s a Thin Line between Love & Haight

January 4th, 2010

I made it back to the Red Victorian Saloon today just in time for the Peace rap at 9am and caught site of my dashing ally, Troy presiding over about 10+ participants, brunching.  I pulled up 2 the round table & heard a soft spoken guy named Robert describing a Feng Shui technique performed for young mothers.  Apparently based on a Native American custom, I think he said it relied upon positioning to induce familiar comforts from common perceptions of shared experience  – for example, how “we” all feel during a hot afternoon or cold snowy midnight.  Well, I get depressed on sunny days – doesn’t make me special, just weird – would I be incurable?  So I asked what was the intent of this technique and Sami Sunchild asked to intervene with instruction on how she likes to conduct Peaceful World Conversations.   


Sami Sunchild, proprietoress & Bonny, multi-lingual Peacemaker in Paraguay

Sami Sunchild, proprietoress & Bonny, multi-lingual Peacemaker in Paraguay

Sami is the 84 year-old artist in residence and founder of Red Vic Peace Center- though the hotel has been around since the turn of last century.    Preliminary introductions would last 30 seconds, to include one’s name, the home with which each identified growing up and the home most identified as an adult, with a description of the view, if it would fit into the time slot.  We were all introduced to each other as Swedes living in Berlin, a German in New Zealand, a Mexican & Austrian in LA, some Southern Californians & Vegasians in Frisco, a Southern Californian in Paraguay and one Texan who’d relocated to London.  Sami asserted our common orientation as white, middle class and college-educated whilst migratory to other states & countries, emphasising how well equipped we were to help others less fortunate than us, people devoid of food and shelter.  (I refrained from qualifying that I hailed from the Cherokee & Choctaw nations as a proper American mutt and settled for passing for white, as it was Sunday.)  We were then urged to tell a 3 minute story about ourselves involving a decision made toward a better world.  First we would split into two groups – about 5 folk each – synopsise titles round the group then recount our stories in entirety.  Sami kicked off our group with memories of  her choice to adopt 2 children, both from cultures different to her own and each other.  We soon sampled tales of volunteering in a teen crisis centre, educating LA communities about the Holocaust @ The Museum of Tolerance, explorations of Fatherhood, whistleblowing for the Department of Energy, a mapmaking internship for the Parks council, selling door-to-door disarmament & non-intervention in S America on an airforce base as well as other lifestyles outside consumerism.

German Martin's NZ N Coast Piccy

German Martin's NZ N Coast Piccy

Troy took over and invited us to host weekly Peaceful World Conversations, in our own migratory hoods – cafe or other public space – and gave us a web address where we might download a free pdf with specifics on how to do it, even offering to direct world travellers our way.

He also mentioned that the Red Vic was in the process of establishing itself as a historic site for it’s LEGACY OF LOVE – the social experiment that was the Summer of Love.  Ask & ye shall receive. 

Well I was a little late, but en route to my 11 o’clock – Glide, sweet as crystal methodist serenity with a soundtrack to match – my connection called from all the way cross the pond, “…fill ‘er up @ 1286 Fillmore St, Noon sharp – bring an instrument if you got one, but strap yourself in, Toots, cuz you’ll be singin  & dancin thru a Love Supreme by the time it’s through.  Gotta go ” click.  I could not ignore my ride #71 approaching that v street as the pre-recorded buslady sang it out loud, and I simply do NOT ignore serendipitous intervention like that, so I flew away from Haight to a Love Supreme as promised.  Crosstown on #22 to a glass fronted building where the numbers matched and there it was, THERE IT WAS:

St John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, Jurisdiction of the West

I’d been to the last church service of the year ’09 @ Glide, but would ring in the new year on the 1st Sunday of  2010 at the church of John Coltrane.  About 10 or so in the congregation of thee jazz church 12.15, musician time, fashionably late but always ontime.  There was the unmistakable sound of saxophones and congos warmin up just outta sight.  I sat down next to a multi-instrumentalist named Hollywood and returned the penetrating gaze of a glorious Black Dread Jesus directly ahead of me.  Swathed in indigo robes, the sun on his left, a crescent moon on his right, sparkling smatter of stars reflecting his luminescnt orb halo, adorned with a red Celtic cross, just radiating from the back of his head.  He blessed me with his right hand and held a book in his right, with the words, “I am Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and The Ending”.  Only a larger than life tempera panel, adorned with gold leaf behind the drum kit 5 rows ahead of me, but I did feel the gaze.  To his right sat an early gothic hooded, berobed in blushin rose Mary mother of the ancient Christ child, perched on her lap.  An Oriental St Gabrielle flanked her on her left and a gold haired St Michael on Dreaddy Jesus’s right.  To my immediate left was the sacred image of John Will I AM Coltrane in white robes, holding a sacred sax in his right hand and a scroll in his left, “Let us Sing All Songs To God to which all Praise is Due”.   Whew!   

The warmup music crescendoed to a jam and the musicians filtered on to the stage, including Bishop King in his collar and sanguine sash on sax, the Deacon on drums, the pianist snuck in off the street as did one of the stylish elder backing singers.  One of them handed out tambourines to the crowd.  Sister Mother Marina swept into the room from backstage to conduct the bvs and all of us with her voice, “Rise Up and Praise the Lord Jesus!”.  She wore a t-shirt that read, “Damn the rules, it’s the feeling that matters”, motto to the image of St John.  She made us feel it all right, as we sang and danced our way through ‘Thank-You, Jesus’, ‘Keep on Walkin’, ‘Lord’s Prayer’, ‘Can’t Keep it to Myself, Gotta Tell  Somebody Else’, ‘Hallelujah’ and countless other gospel choons.  The prophecy was indeed made manifest.  We were singin, dancin, bumpin, beatin, shakin & screamin for more than an hour, I’m sure.  At one point, the Deacon drummer brought out an English horn I think and the Bishop was on drums.  He conducted us all with his drumsticks and beats – one song had a marathon coda.  He simply would not give up on us til we got it right – together.  Hell he even came into the crowd & danced with us.  One of the musicians sang us through the gospel in Matt 2:19 and from the Old Testament’s Isaiah 61.1.  Then a very young backing vocalist, Sister Erin, sang us through “I Honor You Right Now, Just Because You’re God”.  She sealed it with a little spoken word, “We have got to get it together, Brothers & Sisters!  We got a lot of work to do in the year 2010.  So many trials to face.  Some of us are losin homes….”

Bishop King, saxophonist supreme, divine drummer and super-soul dancer took the pulpit, “It took a God to help save you from yourself, to release you from your dark desire and monkey mind.  Lord, hide me in your glory.”  He implored us to do as Sister Erin had spontaneously asked, because “coming together and giving praise magnifies the presence of God.”

“God is with us through the ages and manifested through those he chooses”.  The Archbishop Franzo Wayne King D. D. spoke to us of the seemingly unlikeliness of many prophets and saints, but that the prophets & saints were raised up from their own people in their own time.  He turned to St John Coltrane who had experience suffering and disappointment and could empathise with his own people through his great creation, the music.  In 1969 when the St John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, Jurisdiction of the West, was established, there was talk of how “God is Dead”, but then there was also the Death of Hippie,  “wickedness in high places” and the Summer of Love was coming to a shuddering halt,  replaced by a “den of iniquity:  druggin, drinkin liquor and rubbin up against each other in the dark”. 

“Coltrane came to remind us that God is so alive, and we needed to know and needed to hear…Who gives God a name?  John Coltrane:  A Love Supreme.  Words to quicken inside you and remember God’s greatness.” 

“Praise God for the Heathen in the House”, the he did spontaneously sing.

The Archbishop King delved into the sung gospel earlier – he must’ve known that I was gettin a little antsy at hearin bout God as a man.  Matthew 2:19 tells the story about how Joseph took Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt, during Herod’s paedo-killing spree decree, but that an angel told him to ARISE & take the baby Jesus and his mother back to Israel when Herod had died.  Bishop King noted the emphasis on the mother and clarified that women are the wisdom of God, the 3rd part in the trinity – The Holy Spirit, our 1st teachers.  I felt much better.

"May there be peace & love & perfection throughout all creation, O God", St John Will-I-Am Coltrane

"May there be peace & love & perfection throughout all creation, O God", St John Will-I-Am Coltrane

“Where is the God in Your Fear?”  King focused on the “power of God to visit us” and identified Coltrane as an angel messenger of God who had RISEN up from his people.  I looked at the son of God before me, felt the sun’s heat through the window behind me and began to realise how perfectly placed was this jazz church. “God is all.  We are the ambassadors of God.  All of us together is God.  We are the ‘body’ of Christ….”  Joseph had to take his christ child and its mother wisdom, rise up from the fear and go to Israel, the land of Peace, so that Jesus would be known as Jesus of Nazareth.  The saviour of our collective soul would lay down his life to be reborn in all of us, and he came from the unlikely small town of Nazareth.  Similarly John Coltrane would hail from the city of Jazz, never to receive the acclaim he deserved in his lifetime, lay down his life in his music and rebirth us with  A Love Supreme:  Part 1, A New Year’s Revolution.


St John The Divine Sound Baptist, Iconographer Rev Mark C. Dukes, A.O.C. Copyright 1987

St John The Divine Sound Baptist, Iconographer Rev Mark C. Dukes, A.O.C. Copyright 1987

Bishop King gave the floor to Sister Katie – with the church for nearly 20 years – who recited her beautiful poem ‘Music of the Soul’.  We all hugged each other goodbye to another jazz jam, looked each other in the eye and said, “God Bless You”.  We’d been there for 3 hours, and it was hard to go.

Tune in to every Tuesday 12-4pm PST for John Coltrane conciousness broadcast to you live and direct

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