New family history
A long-lost cousin, it’s an entire family who really has no relatives left, surfaced lately; he started doing genealogy work to see who he could find and lo he found me. The last time I saw him I was 7 years old, out of absolutely nowhere he Facebook-ed me and told me my father had bought him his first bike which he immediately ran into a large tree.
His mother died and when his father remarried they moved away. He graduated from R.I.T. and went into the Air Force. The armed forces were huge on my mother’s side of the family; both of her brothers Stanley and Chippie served in World War II. My uncle Chippie was a highly decorated flight pilot and I have his flight log and many of his medals. This new relative, also named Stanley, is my older cousin and he too is a pilot, and flew in the military.
He lives in New Mexico where he owns his own plane and still flies. He grows a variety of chile peppers and makes some hot award-winning salsa. He has sent me pictures of my old home (909 Bridge St.) and my father when he was a very young and a handsome man. Many of these taken in my back yard, or what used to be my backyard. This helps to bring a sense of history and some sense of closure to a lonely heart like mine. And at some point I would love to visit him. I sometimes think that I went into QUEST because I needed to feel part of something greater than myself.
But last Friday reality came and bit me hard. Human feces in the parking lot, blending nicely with the lot as it faded into the grass. And of course someone fell into the smaller pile. And yes, I called city code, and the police and my friends on City Council. And there it ends. No real solution in sight.
Remember how I wrote of lack of sanitary facilities in the U.S. last week? I feel like a prophet of doom. Did you know according to the latest figures handed down from Bill Moyers that 21 percent of all children living in this country are living in poverty? In a country as wealthy as this one how can this happen? And now we have cut food stamps by about $4 billion. How can we look in the mirror without flinching? How can we not galvanize ourselves into action?
I'm 72 years old this week - Sept. 28 -- and still kicking and screaming and carrying on. But then I went to see Robert Blood, the area's premier sculpter. He had an open house at his house this weekend and I stopped by to visit. He's 90 years old, a small tiny man, almost gnome-like walking with a huge african stick. And showing his latest pieces of work -- he works in stainless steel and rough metal; he is his own welder and one on his new pieces is larger than he is.
You can visit him and his work at a gallery on Jay Street. We as a city have never given him the honor and tribute he deserves. I imagine he doesn’t give a hot damn, but this is a Patroon if there ever was one. Many years ago a famous videographer did a documentary on Mr. Blood for P.B.S. I did the music for it and I chose as my payment a lovely vibrant maquette of his work, which sits in a place of honor in my living room. I am honored to know him and to embrace him totally as I did on Sunday.
If you visit the museum formerly known as the Schenectady Museum but now known as MISCI you will see one of his gargantuan pieces outside and stand in total awe of his daring and genius. There is another one at the Unitarian Church, they are scattered all over like massive cliffs and precipices, a living testament to a man's involvement with and dedication to art and life.
Hold the phone and don’t change that dial -- just found another cousin. And found out my paternal grandparents -- one or both were born in Russia; my paternal grandfather was born in 1880, but with a name like Adolf Fitzner he had to have been German; maybe they immigrated. Found a group picture of the family in the 1930s moving back to Russia. I don’t think he was among the travelers because he lived in this city, when I was born in 1941. Golly gee, “life is strange.” And this is my quote for my life:
“The face you already had before you were born, even before your parents were born, your 'original face.' "
-- Hui Neng, On The True Self
And does that not resonate with its Christian counterpart.
“Before you were born, I knew you.”
This is not about being in their womb but being in the gene pool. The pool that evolved into making you who you are, you evolved through your parents, and your grandparents, and your great grandparents, a whirlwind of gene particles going back to the beginning of time. Your history, your story, your adventure. Maybe this is what is meant by pre-destination. Who really knows? Biology and heredity and mystic and beautiful fingerprints, only now it’s D.N.A. Remember fingerprints, but now, it’s D.N.A. what will the future in the next 100 years into the future bring? Life is evolving.
“Jot down your haiku before the heat of perception cools.”
And let me add, perception changes every day.
Our cat the survivor
Zoey, however is queen of the castle. She is imperious and demanding. She starts with the silent meow and you think, “oh how cute,” eyes glued to yours, little mouth open but the meows get louder and louder until she is positively bellowing “Feed me, not that, no not that either, ah this is what I wanted right from the beginning.”
She will come to your feet if you are upstairs and as you bend over to pet her she will race down the stairs, not getting attention she will run back up, she will lead you to her food dish, her water dish, or strangest of all her kitty litter pan. She hates a dirty kitty litter pan and will stand and watch like a person with their hands on their hips, after you have cleaned it, she will step daintily in and proceed to make a mess. For a street cat she is positively regal -- The Cat's Pajamas -- that is Zoey.
On tennis courts ...
I have an itch and an issue, it’s the new tennis courts on Michigan Avenue right next to the Little league field. New and 50% paid for by the city. Empty, unused, forlorn. I hate to say I told you so, but I did. This lot, when it was an empty lot, used to be a car park and full every night, as older kids and fathers pulled up to play sandlot baseball. The site was hopping. Impromptu picnics, standing crowds cheering on their favorite players. No drugs, dealers or otherwise, no fights or much trouble. Just a bunch of Schenectadians hanging out and being neighborly, all gone now.
Just empty courts, useless and forlorn. The blacktop already starting to peel and pit. A ghost town of nets and blacktop waiting, waiting to be used. As the weeds grow it will revert back to an empty lot. Empty but not usable. Why do we need a program for everything, why can’t some things just evolve? I drive by every night bringing kids to Crane Street and we don’t pay it any mind, another error in judgment. Another black hole of misused funding- SIGH!
Here’s the good news: One of my girls, must be 21 or 22 now, who was part of Gazette reporter Kathleen Moore's writing workshop, texted me today. She’s writing a book; she says and wants to discuss it with me. I am anxious to see this because K always wrote poetry. She had notebooks full of her jottings and musings. Kathleen says she will come back to help. I am so pleased. And so the circle comes around again and the dance goes on and maybe someone will move on and move up and have a real life. It’s that crab (starfish) story again, and saving, or helping to save even one person makes it seem like we are beating the devil at his own game.
I can not state with enough fervor how troubled and concerned I am with many of the people in the communities reactions to the GRAFFITI WALL. We should be better than that. I am going to borrow a positive response from two people from Facebook on this project.
Quote with permission.
“A little late to the party, but wondering if people aren’t missing the tree for the forest. Gangbangers are gonna tag for their own reasons, anywhere they can. No matter how much paint we throw around. The kids who just want to express themselves take a Facebook pic and move on are going to use the wall. This should be about reduction rather than eradication and while no solution is perfect, similar sized cities that have implemented programs like this ALL have a wall in the hood. It’s damn near free and isn’t going to hurt, why not try?”
-- Al Sessions
And my favorite.
“I always thought that it would be a good idea to have something like this. I’m glad it was not only in my head.”
Also with permission.
-- Christopher D. Parker
Let me finish with the grand old man of justice and fury, Pete Seeger as he fights for everything and everybody. He surprised everybody at Farm Aid last weekend. He's 90 years old and still out there singing and swinging, his voice mostly a memory, his banjo playing however still kicks everybody’s butt.
And his songs! He survived the McCarthy Era, was blacklisted as a traitor and a commie pinko he overcame and is now one of the most respected and honored folk singers in the world. And “If I Had a Hammer” is one of the best. When his memory or voice faltered another voice would pick up the refrain, and the audience would persevere, soldiering on.
“If I had a hammer, I’d hammer out justice, I’d hammer out justice all over this land
If I had a bell I’d ring out freedom, I’d ring out freedom all over this land
If I had a song-I’d sing out love
I’d sing out love all over this land.”
“I’d hammer out justice
I’d ring out freedom
I’d sing out love
for my brothers and sisters all over this land.”
Hearing this frail old man still struggling to bring all good things to this nation brought tears to my eyes, and that amazing song to my heart and voice.
If he can do it at 90 I can still continue at 72.
And so I wish myself
Happy Birthday Judy.
72- years old-September 28, 2013
Long May I Wave
“When you’ve got it
there’s no place for it
But a poem.”
-- Wu Pen