I was sitting in front of the 40 Green Street cafe yesterday with a cup of a coffee and a buttered croissant and savoring the moment, lost in an odd kind of happiness. The leaves were coming down because they were losing their grip. I’m not losing my grip, yet. There were a lot of aging metaphors around if I wanted to stir them in for efffect: the sun low in the sky, the chill in the air, all the young attractive upwardly mobile couples eating dinner around me. It was time for one old man to look back on a life of lost battles and a big war that was won.
Green Street was a battleground, and our group lost that battle. At my back was Ford Hall, the huge new Engineering building at Smith, built just the way they wanted it, but here all around me was the old Green Street. The Green Street Cafe and its owners survived the maelstorm, and I have a hunch that Smith College will never push ahead with the phase two they have on their drawing boards, which would have eliminated Green Street entirely and built more monster buildings. Colleges are all overextended these days and I think the old tetesterone laden plans are back on the shelf. And our historic commission has moved to make West Street their province.
The sun was out and I was calm and happy in the way I never was when I was young. I was always trying to prove something in the old days to someone. Happiness was a trophy I could show to doubters. A few minutes ago I met a friend on the street and I told him we were moving and trying to sell the old house and he told me that he had read that moving is number three on the stress level; a close runner up to breaking up with your girl and losing your job. He said in the old days he used to cram all three events into one month, and he lived to tell the tale.
On house inspection day last week,we had to vacate the house for three hours. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and suddenly sawa small army of people descending on our old house. They were looking at the roof, trying all the windows to see if they worked. Too much to take. We fled in disorder: I left a briefcase there containing a lot of work I had been doing that is going to be tough to replicate. It’s gone. And when I went out biking yesterday afternoon I was kinda blue. I took the new bike trail towards Easthampton, hoping to be the 125th person to ride across the new bridge over Route 5, but it’s blocked off for now. They got paving to do. On the way back to town I was thinking about something minor that had been eating at me for some time. One night after a housing authority meeting, one of the board members, Lynne Blaisdell, told me that she was working now as co-director of Grace House, a substance abuse program headquartered at the old Jessies‘ House building on West Street.
Well, when I looked at the properties managed by the Northampton Housing Authority the other day, I see they are the landlord for her program, and I say to myself, this is not good. I knew that I really didn’t want to talk to Lynne about this issue, who is an old friend from the days she worked as an advocate for people in SROs. Who wants to stir up trouble on a nice day like this?
I do. I got off the bike trail on Earle Street and went over to Jessies House and knocked on the door. I knew somehow that it would be Lynne who would answer the door, and what would I say to her?
And sure enough it was Lynne, who was surprised to see me.
“So you really do work here.” I said.
“Of course I work here.”
” Well,” I said, “ This is a problem, your working here.”
“I know it.” she said, “I recuse myself whenever they are discussing any issue regarding Grace House, and I try to have my co-director deal with Jon on issues with the building.”
“Yeah,” I said, “But I still think its a problem.”
“I hear you’re going to California?”
“Maybe,” I said, “But not right away.”
“So who is going to take your place?”
“I dunno.” I said, “I don’t know anyone who would want the job. I don’t know if it is a job. Maybe its an obsession,focussing on the problems with our housing authority. ”
She smiled, I smiled and said goodbye. This is my job. I will raise the problem at the next Authority meeting next Monday night. It’s not a big deal, but overall it’s part of why the Authority’s board of directors doesn’t do their job. It’s an affinity group and a club, really, not a group that sets policy and stays on top of things. Most of them have been on the board forever: the chair DeFazio since 98, John Andrulis since 1994, Lynne since 1999. She’s not staff, but she’s like staff. You don’t make waves at meetings when you need Jon Hite to send someone over to fix the boiler.
So there it is. The peculiar quality of the happiness I was feeling sitting in 40 Green Street had to do with the battles that illuminate my life. Ok, so I tend to bite when I get down. Win or lose, they get me in a good mood. When I had my croissant and coffee and saw that the cafe’s front door was heavy and opened in, and the outside door was heavy and opened out, I saw the potential for disaster. So I bothered the nice young man standing nearby and asked him for help. And he helped. I can be assertive, sometimes.
When my blahs threaten, I look at the things I am avoiding, and I pick the one that I am not ready to deal with, and I deal with it. And most of the time, things work out okay. Your worst fears don’t materialize. Lynne isn’t going to cross to the opposite side of the street the next time she sees me. It was bad when Smith and our Mayor won that battle over educational overlay, and Smith got to build that monster of a building, but the world didn’t end. I meet old friends on the street who were in that battle with me, and its nice to know they are doing well, and life is going on. We savor, I think, the fact that we stood up and gave it our best. I hope to step up the lagging tempo here at Kirbyontheloose. Stories ahead on indentured labor in the restaurant industry, and the meth lab business. It seems to be an old story in this town that you call the police about a drug problem and nothing happens.