Category Archives: slum culture

George W. Bush is Coming To Erie.

 

I can still feel that sun.

Hot, from high up at the Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, Erie PA, because it was higher than sea level.  Hotter still, because of the reason the seats were packed 10,000 strong. Incumbent President George W. Bush was headed down the State Street Boulevard, on his bus. This was his Presidential rally, and I had agreed to attend.

This would also be my first encounter with high security, perhaps since that flight to and from Scotland via Toronto back in 1984. But – this time – I’d be outside, passing under a tent on 26th Street to be checked for weapons by a lithe, young, lean, muscular agent with sandy curls. He was a tad cocky, smiling amusedly at my full on confident air – and, the straw hat on my head, which he eyed specifically.

I’d decided to accompany my friend, an ardent Republican from Minneapolis, just to witness the spectacle. My political leanings were already soundly Independent, not because I’d planned to skew the election results with my vote but because the two party system had already proved ripe for cell division and I could not see myself, either then or later, at either end of its fragile membrane.

We had seats, however, at the south end of the stadium, just near the descending aisle already canopied for grand, if obscured, entrance of the distinguished guests. Those behind and all around us smelled like active military, plenty of brawn and boister, leaning forward on their haunches in eager anticipation of the one man who assured them job security and a solid pension, multiple Middle Eastern tours and possibly one to the Pacific Rim notwithstanding.

As with all intentional congregations of such massive size, commencement delays only heightened the tension and collective imagination. Was he still in the bus? Was it idling, or parked? When would we see him disembark, from our choice position? The stage was set, about fifteen yards ahead of our section, microphones and seating facing north toward the lake; once he, his wife, and the rest of his contingent would appear on the erected boardwalk just beyond the canopy, we’d be watching and listening from behind his back.

But, well before that moment, there was much to occupy my attention. I soaked the sight from every visual angle. Secret Service agents, heads shaved, ubiquitous black shades, rotating from their own axes on the stadium turf. Wooden platforms, the entire storehouse I recognized from the school district garage, those I’d likely walked upon myself herding hundreds of students into seasonal performance. Stage and sound crew, all on autopilot, totally unaware of the locale or its unique surroundings, the stadium staff at their earnest beck and call. And, the ever burgeoning crowd, so many unfamiliar faces from all points further south, east, west, rural farmers, entire families of soldiers with their spouses and children from our Commonwealth, plus Ohio and New York and maybe even West Virginia. Our long-standing Democratic local leadership nowhere to be found on this day, nor so many of my fellow public school educators. None of our urban poor. I was momentarily aware of being out of my element, about to turn inward for reflection.

Then, I spied them. Off to the right, around the bend of the track and up about as high as our row was the small, uniformed “pep” band, organized and led by my very able colleague and friend in the music biz, Dave Stevens. They sat, in the grey pants with the red side stripes I’d ordered for the same high school during my maiden years as their music teacher, playing the occasional military march, waiting like the rest of the throng for the next cue produced by the unseen Oz in charge. I, however, was emboldened.

Raising my long, thin, uncovered arms high over my head, I waved them back and forth in grandiose attempt to catch Dave’s attention. Calling out, hollering some shout of affirmation in the direction of the band. No matter that my piercing soprano would land about seven feet shy of the quarter mile between us; I was getting my mojo on, ready to conquer the power of this whole event and all those determined to re-elect the man half of America had labeled “George Dubyah.”

Perhaps it was a reaction from directly behind us. Perhaps my friend’s doleful, straight ahead stare of disapproval, her Swedish reserve and poise decidedly set to counter my “ethnic” brashness. Perhaps some signal, of dog whistle proportions. But, something provoked me to turn around and look, upward, toward the concrete bannisters at the very top of my old high school.

There he was. Black head of curls, arms the size of my entire torso, automatic assault weapon cocked, ready — and, aimed right at me.

My straw hat had likely already been marked by the smaller, more wiry reception agent. My dark complexion, not nearly as brown as it had been in childhood, also part of a deftly registered profile, locked and loaded and transmitted via walkie talkie to the snipers positioned at intervals covering the entire periphery. No matter that I’d chosen my all-American cherry printed denim blue sunsuit with the midriff ruffle; I was a suspect, in the city of my birth, at the stadium where I’d marched my own students in competition, on the bleachers where I’d sat to see the Zem Zem Shrine Circus perform every summer, at the Presidential rally of George W. Bush, for having covered my raven hair with a straw hat and waved my arms above everyone else’s.

I can’t tell you what the incumbent President said, that day. I watched him talk, with the eyes of a creative director of drama, the ears of a musician, the mind of a constantly evaluating sometimes critical and always diverging thinker. He was taller than expected. His wife was trim and perfect. His stance was assured, his tone and inflection all too familiar. And, from where I sat, if there were teleprompters they were not visible to the audience seated behind him.

As he closed his speech, and moved toward the boardwalk and its canopied ascent, my friend and I could see him clearly. As in all such breaks with fantasy and imagination, the moment was surreal. Just as he might have reached the level of our row, unseen beneath the canopy, I called out to him. “Save the MUSIC teachers, Mr. President!!!”

To this day, I return to that moment, for a whole host of reasons. Was I temporarily insane? Would he have heard me? Would his wife, Laura Bush, have made note of my plea? Was it all for naught, one life and its specific concerns rendered completely void, subsumed by the mob effect and a political system intended to serve the people in theory but lost in increasingly corrupt practice?

So many of us, myself included, had already decided who The Decider was that year. He was, to us, an entitled elite, the next in line to the Bush dynasty, fully buoyed by the monied and mercenary, a figurehead for those aligned with a mentality determined to maintain notions of a brand of conservatism tested mightily by time and circumstance.

It wouldn’t be until his administration had run its course, the next two following, that the harsh, blinding, burning light of realization that is our present would mark us all. Now, each of us lands in the sights of the automatic weapon poised by the true village idiot of Nostradamus prophecy. We only thought we knew who that was; but, we were all soundly mistaken.

The Jefferson Educational Society, our local moderator of all things frontal lobe, has secured our former President’s attention. This time, he will speak in both retrospect and reflection, date yet to be announced, at the Bayfront Convention Center as part of the Jefferson’s annual Global Summit. The sun, instead of beating down, will illuminate our path to the front door and, while likely positioned outside, there will be no need for snipers in the room.

Perhaps now it might be time to lean forward and really hear what George W. Bush has to say. Here’s hoping he’s prepared to tell us what we should be willing to know.

I’m feeling ready.

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© 8/14/2020     Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

 

 

 

No Limits.

Somebody has to say it.

Most trained educators will attest: those of limited intellect m.u.s.t. be led and protected by responsible minds. When I say “responsible”, I mean the kind of minds which comprehend the scope, nature and implication of such limitation.

Trained educators understand that those of limited intellectual capacity usually have the most difficulty comprehending abstractions. Theirs is a literal world, populated only by concrete objects which they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Likewise, they react only to that which expresses concretely.

What is also important to realize is that those who are limited react as collectives; they either seek their own, or manifest genetically in large percentage within extended families. Next, while they do possess an occasional degree of awareness of their limitations they usually, if “outed” (and, given the opportunity to do so), express via angry or defiant outburst. When found in large gatherings, these are a palpable force. Even more critically, they react according to the limits of their understanding, and this point cannot be overestimated.

No child will obey unless either forced to do so by some perceived threat, or made to understand thoroughly the consequences of refusal. Those of limited intellect behave in similar fashion to children – but, have a far greater impact both on their surroundings and those who inhabit them.

Enter the kind of threat posed by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. This threat is far from concrete, as perceived; it cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or, apart from its symptoms, felt. Its power is abstract, and respecting that power REQUIRES comprehension of its unseen, undetectable properties.

I do not feel that those in current power within our government have behaved responsibly toward such individuals. Either policy or statistics wonks, they have failed to comprehend the nature of this percentage of our population – its inclination to band together, its almost complete lack of abstract reasoning potential, and its resultant stubborn refusal to comply with what seems to the rest to be simple orders restricting behavior.

I feel the threat of this absence of accountability toward our weakest population. It affects me every day, either by means of verbal retaliation or by actions which show defiance against orders laid out by our leaders. When a child doesn’t understand the consequences of action, such a child will go about his or her merry way, acting according to desire or preference. This is what we are seeing across our country: people who don’t fully, completely realize what is happening, and who are acting accordingly. It is this population which poses the greatest threat to public health, both to itself and that representing the rest.

Somebody, please; take a moment to sound this alarm. Make the Covid-19 pandemic rules clear enough for a fourth grader, and be SURE to include cause and effect on every point. Provide graphic representations, and post them on telephone poles and exterior doors of public places. Create sound bytes for radio, 15 second public service announcements, billboards – and, flood the communities which are underserved with them all. It only takes one insufficiently cognizant person to infect thousands and, when that happens, no limits are too great.

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© 5/20/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      Sharing permitted upon request of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for accepting responsibility.
littlebarefeetblog.com

To Care Enough.

Because Valentine’s Day without the Valentine part, I took myself over to the Whole Foods Cooperative for a self-care treat. On the way in, a guy was just leaving with that familiar, flat pizza box in hand. “Aha!” said the solitary single girl, ” the GF pizza Binnie Decrease mentioned earlier. Just the ticket!” So, upon entering, instead of heading directly for the reach in I walked to the soup line; serving myself a cup of the navy bean veg, I turned to the cafe counter.
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After dinging the bell, I waited for service. Soon, a girl came around from behind me, expecting to ring up my sale. “Oh, no, I’d like to order a Gluten Free pizza!” She grabbed the pad. “You have the GF pizza crusts?” I said, expectantly. She said: “Cauliflower? Yes; we do.” Then, she asked me what kind I wanted. As quickly as I could, I squinted and chose the Athena from the chalkboard – remembering it by name, from Binnie’s post. While the girl wrote, I asked if it contained soy. She went back to check. No soy – would that be all?
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I said I would continue shopping, so she handed me the due bill. Moving across to the reach in, I spied my macarons, and something new: strawberry salsa. Then, I went to Thad’s cash out and set these selected items on the edge away from the belt, telling him I was waiting for pizza. We got into a pretty intense convo, about how cayenne helps heal the stomach’s replaceable lining and all, related topics. So deeply were we involved I missed hearing that the pizza had been put out, done already. By the time I walked to take it, a woman was entering Thad’s line with a basket full, so I discreetly moved my purchases to Johnny’s line. Thad? or Johnny? asked if I wanted the pizza due bill and, when I said it would all be on the check out slip, he discarded it.
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Arriving home, I dug into my pizza. It was sumptuous, if lukewarm, so I heated the last three pieces in the oven. Somewhere between the first slice and the warmed pieces, the itching started. It was pretty persistent, and I soon realized that, though I hadn’t had one in well over three years, this was a reaction.
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I pulled up my clothing, and found the first of the hives on my bodice; then, more, under each arm. Historically, this would have been when I would panic and grab the Benadryl – and, the carkeys. This, again, I did. Popped the shell of one, and swallowed it; also, this time, I took phone photos of each of the hive sites that I could reach. Then, I called the Co-op.
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HivesBodice2020
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Jess answered. When I asked if the due bill was retrievable, she hastily explained that it had already hit the garbage and that the garbage was likely in recycle.
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“Jess”, I said. “This is a health issue. I’m in a hive outbreak, caused by something I just ate from the cafe.” Immediately, she retrieved the due bill, reading it to me:
“Athena – dairy” was all it said.
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And, I did what everyone who has ever had a near- anaphylactic reaction does. I became emotionally upset. My voice elevated. I said: “That confirms it…….I just consumed gluten or soy, I’m having an allergic outbreak, and will be sick for two weeks because the CO-OP hires stupid people who don’t listen to the customer’s requests!”
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Hanging up the phone, I jumped into the car and headed for ST V ER. En route via the 2 block square around the Erie Cemetery I called the Co-op back, demanding to speak with the manager on duty, as I was “en route to the ER.” “Chet” answered. When I explained what had happened, and what was currently happening, adding that I expected a refund at LEAST, HE began to accuse me of “talking down to everyone”……..!? saying that my behavior was unacceptable/wrong. I responded, in kind and in tone, that it was HE whose behavior was wrong. Then, because I had arrived at the valet pull up, I hung up the phone and got out of the car.
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After explaining to the intake girl what was going on, I sat in the chair nearest the registrar window and waited. The itching and welts were still going strong; fortunately, my heart was already calmed by the instantaneous response to the Benadryl. I texted David, and then found the Co-op executive director’s name in my addressbook. Her daughter had been in my studio, but was allowed to leave. I sent the whole thing, albeit more condensed than this detailed account, in several texts to her.
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40 min later, my head getting heavy with pre-comatose/peaking Benadryl, I got up to check with the registrar. The shift had already changed; a new girl was in her place. She said the previous girl had explained why I was there. I thanked both her and the hospital for letting me use the premises as my Safe Zone, and paid the valet fee, and came home. Though I’d had at least two bouts of it, both in ERs, both nearly 15 years ago before I was diagnosed, all from pizza dough that contained gluten/soy, thankfully, no anaphylaxis. This time.
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The Benadryl affect will last longest. It will put me to sleep for the rest of the night (my eyes are closing as I write this), and cause short term memory deficits which interrupt my retrieval of information as I continue to learn one of the most challenging musical scores my hands have ever encountered. Happy Valentine’s Day to, well, everyone else, I guess; I’ve spent mine in emotionally draining emergent health crisis, reprimanded for reacting as most anyone would under potentially life-breath threatening circumstances. All at the hands, and the mercy, of people who, as David would often intone, just don’t care “e.n.o.u.g.h.”
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© 2/14/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      “I can’t breathe.”
littlebarefeetblog.com