Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's been days since I've posted ...

Today was an important one. We dedicated the beautiful iconic Bay Trail markers along the waterfront. The weather was glorious and the crowd impressed -- as was I.

The design team was flown in from Portland (Seattle?) for the celebration. It was wonderful to see them again -- the engineers, artists, architects, project managers, creative writers who handled the text that tells the story of WWII and life in Richmond in those tumultuous years. That group plus a small advisory body of citizens were brought together to flesh out the stories with authenticity that can be found no other way. The names are beginning to take on legendary status -- Lucretia Edwards, the environmentalist chiefly responsible for saving public access to the shoreline against great odds, and, Antonio Medranos, Latino retired educator brought here by his parents during that time and is photographed here at the age of 4 sitting on his tricycle in front of war housing. And then there were photographs that I'd been able to resurrect from contemporaries and that now are given permanent status as images on those beautiful plaques now open to public view. It was quite a day for us all.

Another important piece of the new national park is now in place -- or rather 8 new pieces -- since they now ring the park and enhance the landscape.

After the crowd began to scatter back into the city I climbed into my car and did a private tour -- visiting each one along the waterfront, and in the process recalled something I learned during those early days in Berkeley when times were difficult and my involvement in redevelopment seemingly fruitless. It was a priceless lesson. I learned that beauty can be as contagious as blight and that this bruised and battered city of Richmond may well be on its way to living out that truth. It's happening in tiny increments, but it is beginning to happen.

I then drove away from the waterfront -- back through the infamous Iron Triangle district where the body count goes on unabated -- to see whether my euphoria would hold up. It did. I took myself to the corner of 4th and Macdonald to tempt fate and the strength of the concept. A young woman was walking toward me on the sidewalk -- she was pushing a stroller in which (for reasons I can't understand) a sleeping(?) baby was hidden under layers of blankets despite the warmth of the day. As is so often true, she appeared to be not much more than a child herself. We exchanged smiles as she passed. Across the street two African American men walked toward the litter-strewn park to join others in not doing of whatever it was that they were not doing. In any other culture these men would be seen as socializing. Here in Richmond they are seen as loitering. It was the kind of day that places idleness into proper perspective; an honorable activity to be enjoyed under blues skies with just a hint of approaching winter. The elder of the two friends did something I've not seen for years. He reached up and touched his cap in polite greeting as he approached. He mumbled a greeting in my direction with head bowed; a gesture I'd seen my father do for his whole life; a custom left over from a mamma-driven southern upbringing. I think Dad called it "tippin' his hat." I felt warm and wondered if they had any idea that beauty may be just around the corner, budget crisis or no? Today in the fall sunlight, anything is possible and I'm feeling hopeful.

Tomorrow I'll go back to worrying about Fallujah and Mosul and that tragic woman whose good works tragically failed to save her life. Cried hard over that one. Hating the deepening of the outrage that's taken over our nation, and hating equally the piety of those we rail against. Then there's the arrogance so strong in the body language of those now in power. Creeping fascism has arrived and no amount of protest or outrage is effective against it. Not sure that I can watch another "Frontline" (last night it was WalMart) or hear another story about Tom DeLay or Jerry Falwell or Sean Hannity. That's all true.

But today I enjoyed the sense of having participated in a minor miracle out of which much may grow new life and a new commitment to positive change.

It's back to another 500' realm in which small increments can grow into the next steps in a real recovery.

And who am I to even suggest that the answers are ever this simple? After all, those beautiful trail markers were not much more than figments of the imagination of some talented and dedicated artists who invited me to their party. There have been so many wonderful and serendipitous "parties" in this long life of mine, and my dance card is not yet filled... .

Only remaining small frustration is that the mayor has not yet invited me to join the Centennial Committee, something I'd so love to get involved in. Perhaps I'll give her a call tomorrow and offer my services. I'm not sure why I invariably wait to be chosen. Maybe it's a carryover from a childhood when I wasn't, and a young adulthood when I couldn't be -- both due to circumstances beyond my control.

Probably need to think about that a bit... .

But, maybe ... .

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