A trip to Harlem finds me perched in the front row of a small church in an unassuming basement. Walking past the whitewashed building, I hear choir music and when I open the heavy green door intending to peek in, I am immediately greeted, bear-hugged actually, and am soon raptly listening to the most lighthearted, open and funny sermon I've ever heard. This humble baptist church serves about one hundred individuals and the minister goes to Alaska every year to teach other ministers. It's a small, small world.
Harlem's reputation for being rough and inhospitable is, for me on this Sunday, mostly outdated. With my pale skin, I stand out like the proverbial sore thumb, but locals and vendors are friendly like my experience with most New Yorkers, and its only on a side street that I feel the glaring stares of the men I pass by, and hear the snide sexual comments of one who is leaning heavily against an old Mercury. Ignoring him, I walk on.
On past the aging brownstones, the colorful fruit vendor stands, the laughing kids playing in the parks, the cherry blossom trees in full bloom, the old women and the old men sitting on benches, and the setting sun casting its long shadows across the street corners.