So this story goes on secretly, as no one can see me anymore, behind the net of the scaffolding surrounding all the windows of my condo. And the sunshine is even obscured by it, as it is black w orange stripes, all fastened around, summer in NYC, in the desultory heat and hi humidity, w nary a lemon drop or a cool drink to soothe the parched throat. The paper sticks sullenly to the wood planks that give access to my terrace, and u cannot lift it; it is stuck tightly w some awful adhesive! Reminds me of a panicked mouse on a glue trap, of my pathetic youth, where vermin infestation was a fact of life, and where mice roam, run and jump even! The only saving grace we heard was that where there are mice, no rats come in. Nope, graduated from that hellish, scary reality, where cockroaches and what we knew as water bugs ran also, potentially into your beds, cabinet drawers, closets, toilet bowls, u name it! Smoke bombs to snuff them out, but they always return, as prolific they r in reproduction in slums and tenements too old to be standing anymore. They will fall down, the facades, the floorboards rotting, before any landlord does adequate property maintenance. Lack of dinero (money) is the root cause of neglect. Not all landlords have sufficient resources, and may depend on the rent in order to keep the properties safe and maintained.
Now here comes the pandemic, and its privations. People no longer have their jobs. Government benefits r running out within days. No evictions allowed by fiat of the government, which makes sense, to a point, but if u remove people paying rent, and u eliminate eviction, then those same marginalized landlords cannot pay their property taxes, maintenance costs, even heating oil, which also goes to heat your home’s water…u can see the ripple effects. Some buildings r going to fall down, others will be burned up in arson, rights that tenants have, like replacement of ceilings and rotting floors, due to leaks, exterminators, repairmen, like plasterboard replacers, plumbers, electricians, u name it, it’s a constellation of people who work in housing…all r going to fall by the wayside. I am reminded of the Chinese laundryman of my youth: “No ticky, no shirty.” He meant when u pay nada, u get nada (nothing). When u take away means of support, en masse, u get society falling apart at the seams, which this country is doing now, in free fall. Multiply it a thousand times over, people desperate so much so that prison starts to look like a good deal then. At least u get a bed, 3 square meals, some medical care, and if needed, more extensive care, that is arranged too, at the hospital, albeit wearing cuffs when conscious. I saw that too, people in cuffs in the Bronx, from stabbings, ER North Central Bronx Hospital, fall 1995-winter 1996. GSW’s were gun shot wounds. Some people were DOA too, dead on arrival. Some things stay in memory 4ever. Is it better to be in prison, w a public defender to protect your rights in court, vs being homeless and hungry, in either a red hot city dying of heat stroke in heat indices of 110+ degrees of misery? Or in winter, when the Old Man Winter howls wind and snow, ice your way, such that the homeless risk freezing to death on the streets, rather than go into hellhole shelters, where occupants r likely to steal your meager belongings from a shopping cart filled w trash bags of detritus? We can go take a poll by Homeless Outreach volunteers.
Meanwhile, the rich and famous r seen in their home habitats now, via ZOOM meetings, or YouTube tapings, such that u see the difference between us and them. And boy the difference is vast! Big vats of square footage, massive spaces w winding glass wide stairs to multiple bedrooms upstairs, views of the ocean, a voluminous in ground swimming pool, all private, decked out w awnings, big umbrellas, tables and chairs, cushioned sofas, rattan or teak, a couple of designer dogs running the property, all coiffed and pedicured even, a bathroom for every bedroom, plus a couple extra, 4 good measure…security pads w 24 hrs watching outside. What is the difference w walk in closets, called California closets now, because they originated there…and the hut, the hovel of a tenement, walk up, no functioning elevator, again due to lack of maintenance or parts that no longer exist. And doors that r too narrow to let in nice furniture, which u might want, but your front door does not accommodate. Such was my past life and that of some dear friends, who r still in my life. I witnessed them too.
But we did have love! Love of friends, love of parents, aunts, uncles, some cousins even, a few boys who grew into men, who stuck around too, because who can forget us? We inch into their hearts by virtue of our imperfections, our vulnerability, our joie de vivre (joy of life). We have addictions, faults, some issues w health, but yet we r vital, compassionate, kind, loving to a fault, and all we ask for is some consideration, some willingness to see it from our side, our moccasins, after you have walked a couple of miles. Not in today’s heat tho! The heat index is like 100 degrees w heat and humidity. And ozone in the atmosphere, too high for those w chronic lung diseases. So we look out from the scaffolding w the nets obscuring our view. And imagine what it is like to be the Hollywood movie star w all that and more, plus grand parties, the obligatory back yard island w grill, a boat on the harbor, a fridge for those nice kabobs, mixed drinks served by a butler…and your own private beach, rolling waves into your fitful sleep, as no one is near u, behind your manicured obscuring bushes, in Malibu, Hollywood Hills, u name it…a far cry from most of the South Bronx or even North Bronx tenements, filled w teeming immigrants yearning to breathe free, but for the reality of property taxes that don’t support your schools, well, black and white realities anyway…and placement of water filtration plants, w death rates known to spiral the closer u r…nope, not in Malibu, my dear friends, not Rodeo Drive either.
History of discrepancies in Black and White America. We have to build bridges, not walls, and scrap the system of inequality. In the name of the righteous men who went before: President Abraham Lincoln, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Representative John Lewis, Senator John McCain, civil rights leaders, who believed in the promise of America: that of equal opportunity 4 all. Let us remember and move forward w reinvestment, not division and hatred, so viciously fomented in this age of tyranny. There r also many women who stood up right beside these men, not counted here, but in a future essay. They all deserve the accolades of honor and the best way is to learn from them, as we stand on the shoulders of giants, those to whom we owe a deep debt. And also, once learned, spread the education far and wide, to change hearts and minds, to know that we were all aliens in a strange land, once. And prejudice, spat upon, beaten, not given opportunity, silenced, taken away in the night, never to be heard from again….that is what is behind the scaffolding w the dark nets. That which we don’t want to see. But needs to see the light of day, 4 all!