Sunday, March 13, 2005

Missing Church

This morning I set out with the intention of going to church, but I didn't make it there in time. When I got to the doors I could see through the old glass that the choir had allready started singing, so I didn't go in. It was actually a relief. I realized that what I like is not so much attending church, as having a place to go on Sunday morning. I love setting out on foot for downtown. The streets are quiet and mostly devoid of cars. Today the sun was out illuminating some gigantic cloud formations that were drifting across the sky. It is my habit to take a shortcut across some railway tracks and then down a utility road that has an aboandoned warehouse on one side and a prison on the other. Lately, each time that I pass the prison, there is an inmate who pounds on the window. I assume he is trying to get my attention, since there is never anyone else around, but the windows of the prison are tinted, it seems, because I can't see in or even locate from which window the pounding is emanating. So I wave in the general dirction of the prison and hope that that is enough recognition to give some sort of comfort to whomever is watching from in there.

The reason I didn't make it in time for the church service is that I was taking my sweet time getting there. I'm tired of rushing around trying to assimilate myself to artificial scheduals. What do I hope to accomplish by carrying around such a time anxiety? My dad is a slave to clocks and it is one of the irriating things about trying to go anywhere with him. He's getting better in his old age, but there is no real reason to follow a military schedual when you are on vacation, or going out for an afternoon. It's largely a form of arbitrary conditioning, and I refuse to be victemized by it. So I was ambling allong on my way downtown, enjoying the scenery and the sound of the songbirds who have just reappeared this past week from wherever they go in the winter. Even at the pace I was going, I probably would have made it to church if I hadn't stopped to look at the old Lister building.

A couple of months ago, a recently installed plaque got me interested in a downtown structure called the Lister Block. It currently sits vacant, with broken windows in its upper stories, and boarded up storefronts on the street level. Even in its delapidated state, it has a certain beauty and grandeur to it, and I can only imagine what it was like before they kicked out the tennants and boarded it up about twelve years ago. You can read a history of the building at The site gives a nice description of the building's terra cotta pilasters, tapestry brick, copper spandrels and cartouches. I would love to see inside, where there is an L shaped arcade with skylights. However, this was not the building that made me late for church today.

I was recently talking about city architecture with the owner of a downtown used bookstore and he told me that he much preferred the old Lister building over the new one. By this I though he meant the original Lister Block that had burnt down in 1923 and I was amazed because the book store owner didn't look as though he were old enough to remember the original structure. But what he was referring to was a smaller, four story building situated next to the Lister Block and called, appearantly, the Old Lister Building. I have stopped to look at this sturcture several times since talking with the book store guy, but today, with the sunlight shining down and the songbirds chirping, it took on a new aspect and I could fully see its charms. True, it is not as grandiose as its larger neighbour, but it has a quiet dignity and stature that sets it apart. Like its neighbour, the windows on the top three stories are all broken out, and the pigeons fly in and out of the shelter they provide. It has a weathered, brown brick facade that is largely free of ornamentation save for sculpted pediments over the windows. From the sidewalk I could see the ceilings of the interior chambers, and the plaster had cracked and fallen off in many places, exposing the wooden slats underneath. I can only imagine the mess of pigeon crap and debrise that must lay strewn about the floors, but I would love to see whatever hidden charms remain inside the building.

Walking back home from downtown, past huge mounds of melting snow and sunlit cascades of rooftop runoff I was reminded that this whole blessed world is one big church.

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