Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keepin' it real

I’ve already expressed my unending admiration for Charlie Bobbitt; now, I have to say how much my heart is gladdened by the presence of Al Loma on the board. Though he’s no stranger to public service and education, he is new to the District 11 board of educators…and really, I feel for him: it must feel a lot like being a stranger in a strange land.

Loma recently faltered at a meeting and used the term “trailer trash.” I suppose it’s not the most flattering of terms, and figured someone would jump on him for it. Of course someone did, and last night, Loma did something I’ve never seen or heard any other district bigwig do – apologize...or in any way even acknowledge a misstep.

Acknowledging his error, Loma assured that he meant no offense. Describing some of the everyday hardships encountered by many of the participants in his drug and alcohol program, as well as his own humble background, Loma became moved and had to pause; he went on to explain that his intention when in using the term was to convey an understanding of the everyday struggles of those less fortunate; he’s been there, he’s done that, he’s broken through to the other side, and keepin’ it real; indeed, his is the sort of simpatico the likes of which the entire board, save Charlie Bobbitt, are completely bereft and would benefit much from acquiring.

“Spydra, Spydra,” I can hear you say, “aren’t you being a little insensitive to your anonymous partner in poverty?” I know it’s easy probably easy to imagine the injured party, a miffed trailer-dweller with delicate sensitivities. I’m more inclined, though, to believe the complainer was more likely an indirect member of the District 11 Figurehead Majority - a 2Cool4U Clique alum, maybe, or perhaps one of the Purple Packet Pals. Of one thing I’m fairly certain: it’s probably a safe bet whoever lodged the complaint has never set foot in a trailer and wouldn’t be caught dead seen in one…but saw an perfect opportunity to throw an opportune PC punch.

Have you ever lived in a trailer? I have, and alluded to it before. A week after the birth of our third child, we lost our beloved Cragmoor home to foreclosure. In searching for a place to live, my husband and I made the grave mistake of buying a trailer and moving it from Falcon to Stratmoor Valley. We didn’t know anything about trailers or trailer parks, and made every blunder that could be made: we didn’t know Stratmoor Valley was hell on earth, didn’t know we needed all kinds of permits, didn’t know we’d have no utilities until the trailer was leveled, didn’t know how to level a trailer…didn’t know anyone who did know, not realizing we were getting ripped off by several people who didn’t.

The pressure of it all got to my husband, who up and left me there alone with the kids; they eventually went to stay with my parents, my sister, my best friend…leaving me there alone with our 18-year-old cat, in the dark and silent dead of winter…no electricity, no running water, no heat and no light, save for the pot-bellied wood stove that sat in the corner.

I spent evenings picking up sticks and wood to burn, and would break apart my own furniture to toss on the fire in an effort to keep it going. Once a week, the neighbors in back of me would allow me to run a hose through my window and fill up the bathtub with water; I’d boil that water so I could clean and do laundry, and at regular intervals, fill a bucket with water in order to flush the toilets. There were a few people in that dead-end place who would occasionally allow me the luxury of a hot shower; but more preferred to help themselves to our belongings the moment I wasn’t paying full attention.

I did not think that I would survive that lonely ordeal…many times I feared my cat and I would both freeze to death. I nearly set the sofa on fire trying to stay warm with a propane heater; another time, I determined to torch the damned trailer with my cat and myself inside…part of a desperate plan to permanently escape that giant icebox and end my torment.

In the end, our landlady evicted us…locked us out and denied us an opportunity to recover our belongings. What she didn’t keep for herself, she spitefully destroyed before tossing into the gigantic roll-off dumpster she’d rented. We lost everything we owned…my wedding dress, official documents, our yearbooks and family photographs – everything we owned.

And that’s how I spent the winter of 2004.

No one would know that story unless I told them, or unless they’d known me at that dreadful time when every day I struggled to go on living; if one of those yesteryear people walked up behind me and gruffly greeted me by saying “What up, trailer trash ho?” chances are our eyes would meet and we’d burst out laughing before hugging and taking time to catch up. On this, Al and I are most assuredly simpatico.

As by now you all know, I developed my District 11 fixation eleven months ago, when they smashed through and shut down schools and shook up the education of thousands of kids. At that time, I still believed that somebody’s mama could sock it to the D11 PTA…still believed in writing a letter to the editor and calling up my congressman.

I was never really a Jan Fan; always felt she wore a mask and had been primed what to do and say, always discerned that she really couldn’t care less. While I remain disgruntled by her hypocrisy and dishonesty, it’s her masochistic streak that provides me with the most entertainment – why else would she so often make herself such an easy target of my blistering ridicule?

The rest of the Board are just as fake as Mrs. Tanner, only a lot more dull and far less amusing. And I would truly be remiss in neglecting to mention my friends in Admin, whose faults and foibles would fill a book all their own. If I had to compare them to any one group of people I’ve known, it’s the clique of cruel boys and girls who were popular in the sixth grade at Audubon Elementary a gazillion years ago – and I mean spitting image.

But up there on Board Row there are two in whom I placed my trust and turned to in good faith regarding Adams Elementary and the Jan Tanner matter. I believed in them and all their assurances. At first, when I’d find them speaking out of both sides of their mouths, I’d make up excuses, trying to convince myself they were mostly honest and of good virtue. But it became clear as time went on that both were well practiced in and comfortable with the many subtle ways of guile. Today, we remain gracious when we meet, but no longer do they look me in the eye; instead, they smile and shake my hand, gazing at my face somewhere around my eyebrows; we share some words of no consequence before drifting away…all the while knowing that promises were broken, and honor forever tarnished.

I imagine they both must recognize their own contributions to my ever-declining opinion of the District…but then again, maybe they don’t. I always try to remember the good and the bad, always strive to be forgiving…which is why I’ve gone relatively easy on them, still making up excuses for them…perhaps ‘twas a senior moment, or short-term memory disorder, or temporary amnesia that caused them to forget…anything but that they never really cared, don’t care and plain won’t ever care…no, no, anything but that.

I’ve overlooked so many forked tongues…listened to so many lies, and looked into the faces of so many liars that it actually hurts; hurts to know how fake it all is and how fake they all are…overlooked so many liars; the image I long fancied as the world of government and politics is so different from its ugly reality; I am become jaded.

In my mind, Al’s innocent slip of the lip was, is, and will always be eclipsed by Glenn and Jan’s intricate construct…and for the superintendent to find Loma’s lapse sufficient cause for a good scolding sure seems like a lot more than what Jan was made to endure. She has never publicly said a single, solitary word about any of it…instead, feeding the story through the nib of Sue McMilin’s bland pen.

I love how Charlie Bobbitt asks questions, and always says what he thinks…even when Two-Left Feet Strand tries to step all over him. And I for one appreciated the sincerity and symbol of Loma’s apology: it’s good for the heathens to finally have a man with faith in God sitting up there to temper all that pride, arrogance and greed; I pray for his continued strength as he finds his balance in that den full of vipers. Al and Charlie are the only ones up there who bear any meaningful resemblance to decent human beings with integrity and compassion, conscience and heart.

And Al, in case the anonymous complainer doesn’t take you up on your offer for lunch, I’d love to go – you know how to reach me.

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