Anybody who was born in Erie, Pennsylvania within the past century knows.
This town has an unspoken history.
What has appeared in print, alternately surreptitiously or boldly depending on the relative acceptance of the author’s credibility, has alluded more than once to what everybody has always known: this was a Mafia “mob town”.
Back when Italians and Irish were the dominant first generation immigrant population, the “connected” families were well established. One of them led the city’s government for decades. These were the days of scenes from The Godfather movies; small business fronts, numbers runners, clubs, and neighborhood networks all set up to keep everything smoothly under control.
Into this picture, my Italian father appeared as a displaced citizen. A Bostonian ward of Massachusetts, he’d found himself here by way of a night train and a native Erieite who would become his wife, twice – the first time, in 1944, and again in 1955. Having graduated from barber school after WWII, he would set up his first shop on what, in those days, was the center of the East side: Parade Street. A decade later, he would move to purchase a cement block building on the corner of East 5th & Wallace Streets, and serve a regular clientele of Russian and Polish immigrants as well as city officials for 44 years.
I can remember Dad speaking about the BB gun holes in his plate glass windows on 5th. He and Mum would discuss them, in front of my brothers and me; these were Union people, harassing him to join and follow all their rules for price fixing. I cannot remember when the BB gun holes ceased, but something happened to end them because, once they stopped, they never appeared again. The city officials, however, continued as loyal customers until their deaths by natural causes. Many a final haircut would Dad give, to each of them, in their hospital beds at Hamot, St. Vincent, and over at the Vet’s.
A dear widow and long time Erie resident told me her take on the city, recently. Her late husband was beloved, and well known. And, as secretary to an attorney’s office, she knew who all the racketeers were, by name. She said that, back then, there was no crime in Erie; the mob saw to it that the streets were clean.
Nowadays, Erie is in transition from being an industrial mecca to a vacation resort, and shows promise. But, socially, vestiges of its history can be found in a continually manifesting tribalism. Because, geographically, the city is set on the water’s edge of Lake Erie its flat terrain is laid out in the “Philadelphia grid” style of endless, square city blocks. Consequently, there is nothing to distinguish one neighborhood from another except immediate, unspoken boundaries of ghetto; those living in poverty can be found one square block away from the wealthy, investing elite who own historic villas converted into office space and executive rentals just down the street from City Hall.
So, these tribes of peoples, set apart by closely juxtaposed neighborhoods from Glenwood Heights to the upper lakefront blight, still function in parallel proximity. Even as each nationality represented continues to celebrate its heritage in the multiple summer ethnic festivals, one problem persists: Social segregation. Now, who is in control?
And, that is the first question.
In Erie, as in these United States, every citizen is free to ask that first question. Ask any question, once.
The answer given is expected to be accepted.
But, what if the answer, often the official position on any topic, isn’t acceptable?
What if there is a problem with its content?
I have always been the inquisitive child. If Why? is the question, I will be the first to ask it. Unfortunately, though an established professional in my own right, I am merely the barber’s daughter. Who will give me the straight, factually accurate response? Do I need to know it?
In Erie, you can ask; but, you cannot ask, again. If you challenge the answer you are given, what happens to you is swift and inescapable: you are labeled the “troublemaker”.
And, once branded, you had better retreat into the shadows and stay away. Control is everything to those grasping after it and, in a town where the history was all about leaving well enough alone, if you wonder you are to do so in solitude; if you doubt, you are to keep quiet; if you disbelieve, keep your religion to yourself.
To what end can we know how Erie, Pennsylvania will survive those who do?
© 6/12/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Born at Hamot; raised on the East side; educated in the public schools; taxpaying homeowner on the West side; lifetime Erieite. God Bless Our Home, and all who dwell within it. Thank you for your respect.
A lot changes in one lifetime.
My grandmother was raised without the car, the radio, or the television. I grew up without a computer. Transistor radios were the first portables, the size of a human hand; early televisions were sold in black and white; and, the term “wireless” originally applied only to morse code and telegram.
Technology has advanced our civilization like no other force on the planet. We can do things, and interact, in ways which were unimaginable just fifty years ago.
But, one thing hasn’t changed.
Humans are still required to reproduce themselves.
Whether we engage in sex or not, sperm and egg must converge in order for conception to occur, and female bodies must be their host.
At present, fertile women hold an immense amount of power. They endure pregnancy, and bring into the world the next generation. Until the day when alternate hosts for gestation are provided, women alone will carry to term every conceived life.
My elder brother is an expert witness. He possesses the qualifications to serve in court. Attorneys hire him to comment on the facts related to scientific inquiry, because he is a chemist with a PhD. While not required to have been present at the scene of either a crime or as yet unexplained death, he is permitted to speak with authority as to its evidentiary details. Growing up at his elbow, I learned to pay attention to what science teaches us.
Now, while scientists irrespective of gender across the nation remain in hot debate over which of them has the authority to determine the origin of life, society and its politicians are now re-visiting when life begins.
Here is what can be clearly understood. Millions of sperm are observed under a microscope swimming like tadpoles. Furthermore, the human egg does appear to burst from the ovary of its own volition, spurred by the follicle stimulating hormone. A single sperm is known to penetrate the egg, and a merger of the two produces a zygote which immediately begins to divide, cell by cell. Cell division is the natural process of what is called growth within an organism and an organism, by definition, is alive.
Nature is our reliable educator. All we need do is become its attentive student. The female body signals its every cyclic phase, and the process by which these phases can be followed has been called the Sympto-Thermal Method*.
As fertility approaches, both the basal body temperature changes and the vagina begins to secrete an opaque solution; once the solution becomes clear and viscous (like egg albumin), this indicates that the mature egg has exited the ovary and is traveling down the fallopian tube to the uterus. During this phase, should sperm be introduced into the vaginal canal (or, already be present in waiting), conception becomes increasingly likely. Once the egg has reached the uterus, there is a precise, 24 hour period during which basal body temperature remains elevated and the egg will remain viable, able to be fertilized by one sperm.
If a male sperm reaches the egg first, a male child is conceived. Female sperm swim slower and live longer; perhaps a female sperm will penetrate the egg, by the next day, if the egg does not begin its own demise. But, once penetrated by a sperm, if sufficient progesterone is present the fertilized egg attempts to nest in the wall of the uterus. If successful, the zygote begins to grow; if conception and/or nesting does not occur, the egg dies and the basal body temperature descends. Once this temperature returns to normal, conception can no longer occur until the cycle repeats.
Nature also has its own means by which unviable fetuses are dismissed. This is called miscarriage. The relative health of the mother as well as the fetus usually determines this involuntary outcome but, one thing is certain: this decision is made by the body, itself, and not the mind of the person dwelling within it.
The act of disturbing any living fetus to the extent that it can no longer continue growth is called abortion. Is there a species from within the animal kingdom on our planet which has demonstrated voluntary interruption of fetal growth? If so, what are the conditions which predicate the act?
Put yourself in the following position. A female kangaroo is within arm’s reach. Inside the kangaroo’s pouch is a gestating fetus. What would happen, were you to attempt to reach into the kangaroo’s pouch?
Women are entitled to three humanitarian options. We have the option to conceive. We have the option to gestate and give birth. And, we have the option to let nature take its course. Anything else is in violation of the living organism our bodies are capable of producing.
And, women, because we are currently the hosts, must take full responsibility for the potential of life in the womb. We must educate girls and women fully, both in the area of pregnancy health as well as pregnancy prevention. The Sympto-Thermal method can be taught, and should be a requirement within every public and private school curriculum. Even very young girls, regardless of socio-economic background, can be given a thermometer and shown how to take their basal body temperature in preparation for puberty. As for the small number of those who remain unteachable, great care of these should be taken by the entire society’s watchful and compassionate eye and any children they bear should be cared for accordingly.
Each of us has been given life, entirely outside of our own choice; as such, we should respect this involuntary gift, and sustain life by choice.
And, this would render the agonizing and impossible abortion argument null and void, forever.
Because in spite of life’s endless changes, living itself is precious.
© 5/15/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for your respect.