Wednesday, September 14, 2005

…a decent home

Michele Norris talked to some of the children displaced by hurricane Katrina and fragments of these interviews aired on NPR today.

I have often felt that living in the States induces an unmanageable amount of guilt for people like me. I never felt that way in Poland. At the time that I was growing up there, I witnessed levels of poverty as well as privilege that were nothing I would likely ever encounter in my own life. But this was rare. The vast majority of families were sort of in the same heap together and if it wasn’t a fantastically inspiring heap, it was, nonetheless, a heap.

Then I came here. I set myself up in a Fifth Avenue apartment in NY (the home of my employer – I was a nanny) and I attend a private college (paid for by my employer). And I kept moving up in life, so that by the time I settled in Madison, I found myself living among doctors and lawyers in a suburb where the yard was so big that it was beyond my ability to tend to it.

And when, for reasons of economics (but also preference), when I switched homes, I moved this week to a downtown loft that is a rental unit, but one with nifty track lighting and my very own washer and dryer.

So that when I hear a young girl on the radio, talking about what she feverishly hopes for herself fifteen years from now and she answers simply: a decent home, my heart breaks.

if these boots aren’t made for walking, then I’ll chuck them. the walking stays.

Although I have not yet come to class late (I am talking about my morning Tuesday/Thursday class) I pretty much come in at 9:30 and 59 seconds (it is scheduled for 9:30).

It’s not that I sleep in. On work days I am up and moving so early as to be able to watch with total fascination the night beat squad car meandering in the back lot, right by the railroad tracks. It appears to always finish the night in the same spot, causing me to wonder if this is a high-crime area between 4 and 6 a.m. or whether it’s just a good spot to tune out and doze off.

My near-late arrivals have more to do with the walk to work. It’s getting longer. I used to be able to pull it off in 22 minutes, door to door. Now I am closer to 40.

What’s happening?

1. It's the shoes, damn it. I am discovering that my teaching shoes are not walking shoes. I have never had to walk in them before! Yesterday I paused right there in front of Fraboni’s Deli, took off my shoes and contemplated sending a nasty letter to the manufacturer about the folly of using plastic lining in sensitive areas. Cars passed, people gawked, I stood with a shoe in each hand thinking evil thoughts about women’s footwear. Eventually I moved on, but it took time to motivate myself.

2. Then, there’s my utter fascination with the things I pass. When you drive, you are locked in your own little bubble of thoughts, occasionally waking yourself to maneuver the car in some assertive way to show your dominance and control. When you walk through a city you notice the world.

In Madison, that world seems to be all about construction right now. When you drive, construction is more than a headache. It is a nightmare. When you walk, it becomes all about people building things.

In New York, street corners are forever steaming and drills are pounding at the flawed pavements. The racket is fantastic! It adds bounce to your step.

Turns out that in Madison, we have the steam and the racket too.

Madison Sep 05 052

And we have the crane invasion:

Madison Sep 05 053

And of course, I cannot resist it all. I stop, I watch, I take an occasional photo.

I know I have to speed up or leave earlier. I know that. I’m not even going to mention my walk home, via State Street, then veering off into the Bassett belly: it’s even longer, with double points awarded for fascinating structures and scenes to consider along the way. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. So what will happen when I do? I wont make it home until 4 am, at which point I can stop and chat to the cop in the squad car.