Disclaimer: I wrote this all last Wednesday, July 24, sitting on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Fairmount Street. If you don’t follow anything, feel free to email me or text me for a more cohesive summary. This is more of me processing than it is of any type of reporting in the traditional sense, that is.
Scarcely thirteen days ago, my wallet disappeared in the 15 passenger seat van belonging to a congregation in Michigan but was parked that night in 168th Street in Jamaica, Queens. Stripped of my unlimited Metro card, cashless, and debit card remiss, the site director of the Youthworks! team offered me $10 and I watched an E train disappear into the black just as I stepped off the escalator.
Five hours before I devoured two burgers on the grassy lawn of a dilapidated church at the Youthworks! community cookout, I was gazing out to 42nd Street from my favorite Steven L. Schwartzman library study hall. I wrapped up a flyer project for Franklin, although my attempts to contact him over the phone were fruitless as the library cell reception failed frequently and consistently. I opened my Messiah email account. Another Youthworks! email. And another call for staff. “Care to join us mid-summer? We’d still love to have you.”
An email, a couple of phone calls, a few text messages, and a lost wallet later, and I was just off the E train from the Youthworks! community cookout. How absurd that I’d ended up attending a Youthworks! event the very same day that I’d plunged into serious negotiations about starting a summer position with them.
Mayme telephoned me not 10 minutes into my Jackson Heights commute home. Thanks to my wallet’s disappearance (and whose reappearance I was not to discover until two days had transpired) I could not hop on any spontaneous bus but there was warm summer air and I had my most prized possessions: my legs and my feet.
And Mayme wanted to know: Would you like to be the Site Director in Philadelphia? It will start on Sunday. (I’m supposed to be going skydiving tomorrow. My ex-boyfriend is getting married on Saturday.) I’ll raise your salary a little bit. Yes, you can attend the wedding the following week. You can leave early if you wish and that includes the last week. I’ll need a decision ASAP. You can have until tomorrow morning if you wish. (Is this conversation really happening at 10:30 tonight? I love Philadelphia. I love wearing pony tails and long shorts and boxy t-shirts and processed food. I want this. I really want this.) You can text me tonight if you’d like.
Call Mom. Call Mrs. Arboleda. Call Maurice. (No answer.) Call Elena. Maurice calls me at 1:30am. Know that’s all kind of inevitable. Unavoidable. Too good to pass up. Too exact, too joyful, (Want to be around people all the time and get paid for it and feel like your life has purpose?) too God-aligned to refuse. Too everything that Morgan Emily Pomaika’i Akana Yi Ning Lee constitutes to waver.
Bleary eyes. Phil at the door. Lightening casting harsh, white light onto Allison’s sleeping bag and Holly’s arms and the Dell printer against the wall. The basement has flooded. What? Stretchy white camisole + hip-hop team zip-up + tiny pink cotton shorts my mom bought at a garage sale no earlier than six years ago. Just call me the boss.
It’s not like I’ll forget Allison’s plastic bag shoes, her and Holly posing for an iPhone shot at the base of the stairs, Allison opening up the girls’ bathroom and water gushing out, the chilliness of the water, and the exhortation to wear shoes so as not to get electrocuted. (Youthworks! Do you have a policy on that one? A binder handout about proper apparel there?)
I’m just realizing now that I still haven’t showered since before the flood.
I passed the next two hours with Phil and Connor:
- Buy all these water jugs from CVS, Connor
- Thanks Ian and Steve
- Go to bed Allison and Holly
- Are all the boys moved upstairs?
- Yes, we will dry out their stuff tomorrow
- I’m going to wake up Anna and let her know the details
- Youthworks! why is your phone system down?
- Do we call the police? Fire department?
- Phil, you will need to call the fire department.
- How is yours truly in any way qualified to say anything meaningful about floods and flood water? I just got to this site eight days ago.
- What did you say?
The rain has stopped by 4:15 and Phil and Connor let me yak their ears off (relative to the time of night) as we stand in the park and marvel about the addition to the book of Life’s Great Moments. Five minutes before I had chugged some chilled Starbucks drugstore drink so when I lie down on my green air mattress I find it difficult to fall asleep for some time.
At 5:15, Allison freaks me out when she gets out of bed, climbs over an air mattress against the door and leaves. She’s going to the bathroom, but when I ask her in the morning, she was sleep walking again.
I wake up at 6:05 to Holly whispering to me about my game plan. Yes there is one. And yes: we are go. I’ve never game planned during the beginning of the 6am hour before but Allison and Holly make me feel like a pro. They are both the type of employees that make their boss believe she’s competent, especially on three hours and change sleep that night.
Unemployment is a vacuum of purposeless and there is nothing like having rain water in the basement during the early morning hours and have it be your responsibility to make it disappear that blasts the vacuum full with value. I have been indispensable for most of wee morning hours of July 23 and that is something that New York never offered to me.
Marianne and Sue keep throwing out expressions like “Let me know how I can help,” so they get charged with the logistics of the breakfast and lunch line. Holly’s going to run the operations end of my business someday because I completely stand by her ability to corral sixty-odd teenagers into a common meeting space, feed them, and move with this graceful, trust-inviting confidence the entire time. Allison heads the Laundromat toting all sorts of soggy boy clothes and later on, it is to be revealed that she wins major boys’ hearts for her efforts. I am blessed to lead them.
Somehow participants eat their granola bars and pop tarts, the leaders amalgamate into the food line conveyer belt (transformed back into the sofa coffee room) and I drone on about water levels and if the evening activity will be in the afternoon, and everyone scurries off to love on the City of Love before I realized I haven’t had the urge to sleep the entire morning.
Game face. On.
Tuesday’s drama refuses to cease. Allison asks me where she can find the rental key. Phil, do you know where the rental key is? Connor? Please answer your phone. Do you have it? When did you last see it? Sue, can you drive me to Independence Hall instead since our team is incompetent at creating systems—can we go, now? Holly….Holly…are you really, really sure that you don’t have it?
Damn you purse for stealing my key and robbing me of both an hour of Molly’s directions to take a moment and the dignity of being a flawless leader. (I feel like such a hypocrite.)
And then later, Holly and I later discover some time to eat Pho. It’s my first meal of the day. (It’s really just one of the weeks that you forget to use the bathroom because you just saw a rhino. In this instance, the rhino is the trauma of floating mattresses, floating mattresses—because that is what air mattresses are for, oh and circuits sizzling and fizzling. Did someone claim that the ceiling was collapsing onto the pews and that their claim isn’t hyperbolic? #TrueStory.)
But so that Pho. Before all of the beefy and brothy noodles and string beans, I’m rocking out to Modest Mouse, so much so that I have no idea you can’t make left hand turns onto Kensington Ave. Apparently you can’t though, which is why there are cop lights flaring behind me (seriously officer?) and a pair of police officers who leave me in eight minute agony about whether I’m going to lose $60 and probably more and at least this Game Face mode.
No ticket. Just wear your seat belt. Also, instructions by the officer not to leave valuables, or “even trash bags” in the car. Thanks.
Meeting up with John Baranik was probably the strangest part of my day. How did all of everything else happen and I still managed to meet up with John Baranik at Rittenhouse Square? Tell me. How? Seriously, eating Little Caesars in Washington Park, racing over to Independence Hall twice, (I was strolling with conviction both times) and yeah, all that other #@%$@, and I find time to –rende-de-vous with my friend’s little brother that I met in the library of Messiah last year.
As you see, this is how you do life if you are Morgan Lee.