Face Value

There is something I have come to discover, come to love about our neighborhood, about York Street and the surrounding environs, something that is very accessible, something very positive amidst the gritty and patchwork image that it seems to outwardly maintain. And that is that, when you are walking on the street and you pass someone going the other way, no matter age, gender, race, class, they all look you in the eye, generally smile, and say hello, or some variant thereof. I’m a Midwesterner, where the joke is that the introverts stare at their own shoes, and the extroverts stare at your shoes. So it is refreshing to encounter this kind of acceptance, this kind of openness and connection. True, there was a high-speed chase tearing down York just today, sirens in hot pursuit, past a school bus full of kids, true the ambulance comes to our street more than we care to admit or would ever want, and there is still the lingering stereotype of what York Street was for decades up until fairly recently. And yet, everyone I have met (and I have met a lot of the neighbors and more each day) are very welcoming, very pleasant and open and forthcoming. Maybe it is my worn work boots, sooty cracked hands, hunched shoulders and rusty old truck that make me approachable, that vouch for me as worth talking to. Maybe it is that people are yearning for something positive here, and are willing to meet that something halfway. Maybe I’m a naive simpleton who is being played. But, if I’m honest with myself, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with giving people the benefit of the doubt, people who maybe have not gotten a lot of that in their lives. I’m okay if they are patronizing me or playing me – I will still give them a shot, a chance to show me, to show us, to show themselves, what they stand for, what is true in what they say and do, and show them that they don’t have to play games with me, with us, in order to get respect, to get attention, to get what they need in life to make it what they want. I am not going to make that choice for them, but will give them that chance, to the last one. I will do the best I can, with all of the support and hard work of everyone who supports us in all of the various ways that manifests itself, to make good things happen, to make beautiful things happen, to make better happen, and make it accessible and attainable and affordable, not just to one age group, gender, race, class, or whatever division you can dream up, but to all who want to be here, those who have been here, those who are new here, those who want to be here.

[KMN]