Friday, October 9, 2009

Why I can Never Go Home Again-Even if My Childhood Building is on Facebook

Bleeccch....the city housing project I grew up has a Facebook group.

I'm serious.

I am going to take a turn into grit and seriousness that may take some of my readers by surprise but those who have known me from my childhood know I am only speaking the truth.

Never mind Rod Serling spending his adulthood trying to go home to an idyllic childhood in a small city.  What happens when the childhood instead takes a non-Twilight Zone turn into an unexpected dimension?   The childhood is great but somewhere along the line urban change happens and one day you turn around. Bottom Line: You find yourself living in a slum, and it isn't a TV show.  And it happened so fast.  My family was one of the "left behind."

How this happened was interesting, and it was at least partially due to a housing development called Co-Op City. I will leave the studies, though, to the sociologists.  As for Co-Op City....its story is interesting too, and I have family ties to it.

So what became reality? I am talking here about early 1970's gangs such as the Black Spades, burnt out buildings along major streets, a motorcycle shop on White Plains Road where the Hells Angels hung out sitting on folding chairs on the sidewalk, elevators that reeked of pee, stairways covered in graffitti "tags".  Walking to the subway was an artform of dodging broken glass and the occasional garbage tossed out a window.  And, oh yes, the city Housing Police.  We, the forgotten of the city, weren't even entitled to 24 hour police protection.

I was last in my old neighborhood in 2004 and it still is a slum.


Maybe I would like to visit my old Junior High school but I can't.  It closed a couple of years ago-dangerous, underperforming.  My understanding is there are a couple of small schools operating in the building.  At least the elementary school is still operating, and it has a Facebook group, too.

I didn't go to my neighborhood high school but it was closed in 2008, same reason.  This also has several smaller schools operating in the building.

There were a lot of decent, hard working people living in my childhood apartment building, trying to make their way, trying to escape and make a better life for their children.  I hope they were able to accomplish their goals.

Sometimes, you really can't go home again.  Sometimes, growing up is not nostalgia.  Sometimes, it is escape.  Some of us never look back.

And that is why I am not going to join that Facebook group.

Do you know what impressed me the last time I was on White Plains Road?  The number of storefront churches.  I know why.  My hometown neighborhood needs all the prayers it can get.

May it rise from the ashes one day.  May I be able to walk its streets again.


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