Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Taking Care of a Small Bit of Frontier

Perhaps someday I will be able to share with you all, my past grief and concern for which there seemed no hope. I can say, small gains are being made.

What I can say, is that there is comfort and even small joy on maintaining a patch of land on the frontier, doing small things towards great ends. I have found that my mother is ill, and have not written much, as I am taking care of her for most of every day. I make her breakfast, do her bills, organize her business and care, take her to dinner, and there is great joy in that.

There is joy in taking care of my father's life's work, his small piece of what was once a dangerous frontier. When we moved here, each member of the family was threatened with violence, we were all robbed at knife point, gun point. My father was stabbed eleven times, I had a bottle broken over my head in a robbery ... I saw a number of people stabbed, shot, even die on the street, but we stayed. There was no word, "gentrification," as we were not the gentry. We were working class, even below that much of the time, building, tending, growing.

I think of the hours, days, years, my father cleaned the sidewalk in front of our theater. I was thinking of this, when my mother came down, as I swept and washed the sidewalk, as I do often... She said that the neighborhood was in such danger. So many of the little places she went are now gone. "I'd walk a block to the woman who would tailor my clothes... " I reminded her of the danger of the old days. She told me I can't change the neighborhood, that the developers are tearing it all down. I told her that we are still on a frontier. However, we are now fighting new dangerous people, people who are destroying the value of all we built here. My father did not set out to change the neighborhood by making others do anything. He only tended his small patch of the world, keeping it clean, well run, hospitable, and let his life speak in that way.

Our little homestead is still surrounded by wilderness, now a wilderness of heartless developers, gentrification, the gentry attempting to force us to give up what workers built. Knives and guns are replaced by worthless glittering promises. But, I hope someday, my life might speak, the way my father's did, to maintain well, a small patch of the world, so that my family and neighbors can be comfortable, happy and safe. It feels rather lonely, not having a child at my side, as my father did, who I could feel would someday do the same. But, there is some joy in the moment.


At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very moved by this blog, it seems that the problems in our society from violence to gentrification are the same all over the world
Thank you and warmest regards from Scotland


At 4:15 PM, Anonymous cath said...

I am also taking care of elderly and infirm parents, and I know that it's a bittersweet endeavor. Thank you for posting about this.


At 7:19 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

A chara Ross:
True. I spent time in Scotland, oh, back in the seventies, saw what was on the horizon, then the destruction of fishing by the common market, the breaking of the fishing vessels in Scandinavian ports, the same nations who stole the fishing... drop me an email, ( I'll send ye a wee recording I made on the passing of the same life in Ireland... what we are loosing is so much more valuable than that which we are being sold.

Is mise, le meas,
Agus slan, agus beannact, a mhic

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there - I've been reading your blog for some time now and wanted you to know that, like Ross, I am also very moved by it. My husband and I were recently in the East Village (spent a week on NYC on vacation because we wanted to see it before the developers you speak of destroy everything)and saw you strolling down the sidewalk. Had we been on the same side of the street, I would've said hi. :)

In any case, this gentrification monster is alive and well everywhere, it seems. Last week someone spray painted a mural on a public tagging wall in my old neighborhood officially declaring it dead as a result of colonization by the monied and ethically bankrupt. At some point this juggernaut will collapse (hopefully not taking everything and everyone with it when it does since so many are already hanging on to the bottom run of their ladders with one hand), but until then, all any of us can do is tend, as you have said. Though you don't have any children, I hope that in some small way you can take comfort in knowing that there are some young people out here who care about these things as much as you do.

Be well. :)


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