When Pleasant Valley truly was
“Let me respectfully remind you, life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken.
Do not squander your life.”
--The Evening Gatha
Yes indeed, truly open your eyes and look around you. As you drive or walk around notice what is happening. I suggest you start with our schools. Are you really seeing them?
Here’s a twofer -- Mont Pleasant Middle School and Pleasant Valley Elementary. First look at those beautiful names, Pleasant Valley, and really it is placed right next to a valley, now there is a highway where the valley used to be. Or rather a highway has usurped the valley, but when I was growing up the whole valley was wild and beautiful -- truly pleasant. Every night all us folk on Bridge Street would go to the back of our yards, open the gate and walk out. Strolling the landscape, the sunsets were spectacular and so were the wild flowers. There was a special kind of button mushroom that grew there that a neighbor would gather and sauté; the smell would make your mouth water and your head spin. In the winter we would sled and in the summer we would ride pieces of linoleum on down to the bottom.
Like the school itself, the valley is no longer pleasant. Look closely at the brick work on the school which has been recently cleaned; it is magnificent. But what had once been a glorious piece of land with trees and swings has now become mostly dirt roads, trash heaps and playing fields for Mont Pleasant. What was once a Grimm’s fairy tale hideaway is now dusty and ordinary. Look up at the back of the building -- way, way up and on top you will see the brick work covered with cheap plaster board with here and there some large gaping holes exposed in the brick work.
This is a stately old building as nice as any downtown building. Kept up and reseeded with bushes, trees and lawn, it could blend in any European town. It is an extraordinary piece of architecture. Really quite beautiful, more interesting than Proctors.
We need a MetroPlex for our schools. And some of our older houses and businesses. The Pork Store, which is no longer, is also an extraordinary piece of brickwork; it is slowly settling into dust and ashes. All those downtown buildings are empty. Second and third floors turned into expensive and unusable office space.
My friend B.T. rented a space near city hall for his start-up financial business. He tells me the empty spaces are large and beautiful and over the moon, meaning they are as expensive as comparable spaces in New York City. Except for Siemens, Bow Tie Cinema is in the same ocean, paddling the same canoe. And that theater is rarely used and is beginning to look shabby. Shoestring budget inside, same people sell tickets, popcorn and run down the ramp way to collect tickets. The thing they could capitalize on is their popcorn. Outstanding.
Now moving on to Mont Pleasant, every piece of wood on the outside of the building, including the doors need to be painted. No glossy enamels here, cheap flat white on everything worn down to bare wood. A friend reminded me of the state Lottery which was voted in with much fanfare in 1966. Against much opposition, a new program, the “New York State Lottery,” was voted through the legislature and established. Its main reason for passage being that all the money (or most of it, at any rate) was to be spent on education. In 1967 it became its own independent entity and continues as such to this day.
And what I’m wondering is this, how much money a year is education actually receiving from the supposed cash cow? We read about huge payouts to ticket holders, but no one seems to mention the payouts to the school systems in this state. Doesn’t it make you wonder -- especially in this time of high taxes, property tax caps, etc. Anyone out there with some reliable information on this? Inquiring minds want to know.
And I am throwing this in for no other reason but the light touch it brings to this somber writing:
“Among the most remarkable features characterizing Zen we find these: spiritually, directness of expression, disregard of form or conventionalism, and frequently an almost wanton delight in going astray from respectability.”
-- D.T Suzuki
Don’t you just love it. I am known as the crazy white woman by the powers that be; I can back that up by saying “Yup, I’m a Zen master, you fools, a Zen master. Especially as regards respectability.”
And helping this along is the three men, lining up and unzipping in unison at my drug house next door, they whipped out their male appendages and in tandem urinated on the wall of the house, Tuesday April 30, 5:13 p.m., a positive symphony of running water. They then finished, zipped and left marching into the netherlands of Hamilton Hill. It’s a Charlie Chaplin movie in the making. Where else could I be so regaled. I almost got out of my car and applauded and yelled Bravo! But I digress.
On teen pregnancy
Last week’s Gazette carried a sobering story about teen pregnancy in Schenectady. AND at the same time a letter to the editor about the abstinence program in our school system. Obviously the abstinence writer better recheck his facts because the teen pregnancy figures in our fair dynamic city are off the charts. Higher even than two boroughs of New York City. And when taking in account population size, double that of Albany. If you just want to go with the real numbers.
It's 266 in Albany, 293 in Schenectady for ages 15 to 19. For those of you who want the real scoop there are approximately twice as many female teens in that age bracket in Albany as there are in Schenectady. Nationally, teen pregnancy rates are going down. But not ours, even under 14 years of age has increased. Several people called and wanted to know why we (QUEST) were not included in this story as our success rate is 99%. “Don’t know” I replied, but there it is. AIDS Council and I shared war stories and great tales about the front lines of teen sexuality. T.J. reminded me of Tifa and Creesha telling her that the kids were laying bets on how long this one would last. Meaning T.J. of course.
You see we started with P.P. and boy our kids walked all over them. They were terrorized. One Spanish-speaking woman was actually afraid to get out of her car. I had to walk her to and from the parking lot and sit with her all during the program she was running. Frankly we need tough cookies to work with tough kids.
Often I would make kids sit and contemplate the photos of victims of STDs. And they are not a pretty sight. AIDS Council and I have been together over 10 years, among the ridiculous things we’ve done is make a video called, “100 Ways To Use A Condom” and other intellectual pursuits. There have been games ("Jeopardy") with kids singing the themes and answering pertinent questions about condoms, AIDS, infections. Did you know double-bagging makes you less safe not more? And if you don’t know what double-bagging is come join one of our classes.
Bravo T.J. and thank you AIDS Council; we had great times and learned a lot along the way. And thank you too, Sabrina, the kids have never forgotten you even though they are not kids anymore. Open minds and non-judgmental partners. Teachers who are more mentors than disciplinarians. Gentle hearts and lots of belly laughs. Your lessons kept all our kids from getting pregnant and many of their friends as well.
“The greater the dignity of the angels in the celestial hierarchy, the fewer words they use; so that the most elevated of all pronounce only a single syllable.”
-- Igo Stravinsky
“There is no room for God in him who is full of himself”
-- Hasidic Saying
Extra Extra -- Just heard a radio station (WAMC) report on the N.Y. Lottery -- record earnings so far. Budget runs from March to March. They took in $8.6 billion and gave $2.3 billion to education. Check my figures -- I may be off by half a billion or so.