Sixth Avenue & 16th Street

25 Aug

Weather!  What a time to be alive, eh friends?  Would you really rather be living anywhere else, or any time else?  Here’s the nice thing about the present: the whole of the past is laid out to set the image of your mood too.  Who would actually want to be alive in 1600?  Let’s just think about it instead – the dimly torch-lit palazzo courtyard; Romeo climbing up the balcony – and then take that feeling into the next minute of today.  Go ride a bicycle, or I don’t know, touch an iPad.  They didn’t have that shit back then.  Possibly, most things that exist can be a new way to express our happiness.  Possibly not, it might depend on your internal fortitude.  Well fortitude it up folks!  Aren’t words fun?  Try ’em out.  Stand outside and yell, homina homina homina.

Or else, hosanna hosanna hosanna.  I know about one piece of classical music, and that’s Beethoven’s Sixth.  Yeah, it’s pretty good, you know, for something written in F Major.  Actually it pretty much makes my heart explode.  I want to be flat out running down an open field, all the way to Ancient Greece, where I’ll start speaking in tongues and then jump into the ocean.  What I’m saying is: I’m excited for the summertime.

This is a good city for disparate architectural styles (with which to then equate our moods).  You can pretend you’re somewhere, or sometime else, for a few minutes at least.  If you’re looking for the neighborhood of the 17th century, you should try the Church of Saint Francis Xavier, on 16th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.  I think I turned a corner in Genoa once and came upon this exact same building – a giant/narrow Baroque style granite church.  I know Beethoven came about 50 years late for the Baroque era, but when looking at Saint Francis I can’t get his Sixth Symphony out of my mind.  It’s a striking exterior, unlike any church I can think of in the city, and the interior is ornate enough to match.

The current sanctuary was put up in 1882, replacing a previous church that had stood on the site since sometime after 1847, the year a Jesuit community based out of the (then) village of Fordham in Westchester County decided to establish a church and school in Manhattan.  The church was designed by the Irish-born Patrick Charles Keely, a possibly self-educated architect with hundreds of Roman Catholic churches to his credit.  It seems to fit his prolificacy that a church like this could be hidden away on a side street, a little (or big) surprise to stumble upon.

The historical Saint Francis Xavier was a prolific fellow too, in a certain sense.  He was one of the original founders of the Jesuits and a tireless missionary of Christianity, bringing the religion for the first time to Japan, Borneo and the Moluccas.  He died of a fever on the Chinese island of Shangchuan in 1552, sweltering under the tropical sun,  staring upwards at the gathering rain clouds.  To our sensibilities he was probably an asshole – you know, a missionary during the Inquisition and all that.  Was he a person, the way that you and I are?  It’s tough to say, imagining the world he moved in is completely gone, left only for our summer dreams.  But that’s a good thing.  Well, it’s a thing, at least, something we have no choice about.  We’re freer now than we’ve ever been before though, and that’s the truth.  We have Beethoven, the Baroque style, AND the present moment.  Rain clouds gathering; faces turning towards the breeze.  Feeling your heart swell.

(Originally posted May 28th, 2010 on Takethehandle.com)

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