Story Down the Sidewalk

Take a walk down the street and every building tells a story.

I recently read a comment on Facebook about the building I live in, how ugly it is, that they could not see how the design was ever approved, the statue turned his back, that kind of negativity.   Believe it or not, I didn’t bite.   People are allowed to be ignorant, stuck in time warps, or otherwise wacked.  To each their own, everyone has an opinion, and why bother? Nothing I could say would change their mind.  Besides, I wasn’t sure if they seriously hated 1980 Modernism design or if their prejudice against the occupants was showing.

Fact is, International Towers is NOT the ONLY building to reflect life after 1925.   Directly across Boardman Street, with a front also facing Market, is the 1965 Legal Arts Center.  Okay, so that is a sad example as the building stands empty in dire need of repairs, but look around.  Los Gallos just opened in the Plaza deck, built in the 1970s, there’s the Voinovich Center, Turner Technologies, a bank with the glass thing going on, all sorts of buildings that reflect the era in which they were built.  Have you seen the post office?  Imagine if the Covelli Center, one of the more recent additions to downtown building structures, was forced to adhere to a hundred year old designs to match styles with Stambaugh Auditorium?

Hey, I’m an artist.  I like the contrast between old and new, tension and balance, light and shadow, and everything else going on.  The glory is in the details.  The grand old buildings are what they are, absolutely grand.  But take the plain façade of oh… say the Harshman building.  Look up, there is a cool relief in the design.  All of these buildings interact in the shared space called downtown Youngstown.   They are as diverse as the people.

Ah, people.

Back around to the OTHER possible reason the commenter hates International Towers.

It is the age old story of the haves verses the have not.  International Towers was built in 1980 as a low income housing project designed specifically for elderly and disabled tenants.  Gutknecht Towers and Amedia Plaza are two other senior housing projects in high rise buildings downtown.  Add them up… how many apartments total?  I think International Towers has 173 one bedroom units.  I don’t know how many apartments are in the other buildings, nor do I know the occupancy rates.  Counting apartments would only give a rough estimate anyway considering that some elderly people are married.  The fact is, there are literally hundreds of low income elderly and/or disabled persons living right smack downtown Youngstown.   That is rarely, if ever, mentioned in articles tooting city revitalization.  But, of course, they are trying to sell downtown Youngstown as the hip cool place for “young professionals” to live and work.   Actually, improvements made for “young professionals” benefits everyone as who really cares if the elderly have a grocery store within walking distance?

I think it has to do with stereotypes.  Just the word “projects” conjures up all sorts of negative perceptions, everything from leeches on society, too lazy to use a bar of soap, drunks and druggies and criminals and welfare mothers popping babes out like PEZ dispensers, to name a few.  Some people would prefer old people be shipped off to live and work on rat infested potato farms, as some old people were years ago. (My father told me about an old guy he knew when he was a kid, how the old guy got sent to a potato farm.  The conditions were so deplorable that he ran away, hitched a ride and spent the rest of his life living in an old shanty shack in fear they would make him go back.)  It is the climate of the nation, the shunning of people who receive “government handouts” in a time when even social security benefits are considered “entitlements” instead of an insurance that people paid into via payroll deductions.   I don’t like the rhetoric as it reminds me of pre-war Germany when the Nazis distributed propaganda about how old or disabled people were burdens on society.

Some people ignorantly assume that government subsidized housing means “free” rent personally paid by their own taxes.  I’ve heard this from people who don’t even really pay federal taxes as every penny they paid via payroll deductions was refunded at tax time.   I can recall a year that I told one of those people how much I had paid in (more than some people live on) and they were like wow, you are going to get a really nice refund.  No, I still had to write the IRS a check.  But even if you do pay taxes, what’s with the attitudes?   Only a small percentage of the federal budget is designated for domestic programs and why can’t we help our own?

Especially in this area, we should know. We should have more compassion. Life can spin on a dime real quick, good paying jobs can end on a Black Monday, companies fold or relocate manufacturing overseas, up and down and all around, we have been through it, that’s just life, and we survive.

Maybe it is fear talking? Shame the less fortunate lest you become one of them.

A few years ago, I started telling people who spout off nonsense about “MY taxes paid for that” that THEIR taxes are earmarked for congressional toilet paper, foreign made ammunition, and rebuilding OTHER countries after we bomb them.   Only taxes from liberals fund domestic programs. Yes, I made that up, but come on… why not fight stupidity with nonsense?

Should I debunk the idea that income based housing is free rent?

Okay, you guys are smart people.  Do the math.

Firstly, eligible tenants with incomes no higher that 60% of the median income for their defined regions must occupy no less than 90% of subsidized housing units. For the Youngstown Warren metro area, the  60% cap is $22,260 for an individual (or $25,920 for a household of two)  on the 2013 HUD chart. Secondly, the tenant’s share of the rent is 30% of their income and the government pays the rest. So, let’s KEEP IT SIMPLE.  The actual formula is complicated, takes other things like insurance and documentable medical costs into consideration, so to keep it simple, let us do the math on the basic numbers just to get a rough estimate of exactly what 30% of income is for someone at the high end of poor.  Okay,  30% of $22,260 is $6678, divide by 12 and the tenant pays ye $556 a month rent and the government pays the rest.  Doing the same simplified math for a married couple with an income of $25,920 estimates $648.  Naturally, most seniors in low income housing have lower incomes as those at the high end of poor can find cheaper rent elsewhere.   What they can’t always find elsewhere are necessary amenities like handicap accessibility.

All I am saying is like it or not, old and/or disabled people live here, too.

We are a diverse population… young and old, rich or poor, the retired working class or business professional, we all make up the fabric of this city.  From the homeless to the professionals, we all walk the same sidewalks.   So the next time you walk down the sidewalk, try to observe without judgment, soak in the details of the various architecture and appreciate the diversity.

This is “too long” so I seriously doubt if anyone reads it. If you have, I thank you. Sometimes, I just have to write it all out. If you just scrolled down, here’s some photos to show the diversity of buildings in downtown Youngstown (most are from the media gallery):

The recently re-opened Federal Street, in Youn...

The recently re-opened Federal Street, in Youngstown, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(BTW, the gray building on the right is International Towers)

Bank buildings, looking slightly right across the street from International Towers.

Bank buildings, viewed from inside International  Towers.

Covelli Centre

Covelli Centre (Photo credit: Jack W. Pearce)

Ohio One

Ohio One (Photo credit: bobengland)

The garland decorated building the Ohio One Building (Ohio Edison) and next building up is the HUB.

Looking up Boardman St.  The empty Legal Arts Center (HUB building) is next up from the Ohio One building.


Rain Stick


FRIDAY:   I made a rain stick today.  Yeah, it was kind of like a kiddie craft time with a “mindfulness” lady before the holiday dinner prepared for the residents of this building, but it is all cool.  There is a history to rain sticks, but the purpose of these rain sticks is to soothe your mind with the sounds of rain.  It does sound like rain, when you tilt the stick one way or the other, as the little pellets inside travel over obstacles in their fall.  We each decorated our own cardboard tubes, using the stick on foam shapes that  came in the group activity kit.   It was a good, non-committal way to find out about the “mindfulness” meetings as she talked about what they do.  I might start going. 

I noticed something odd with the local lingo… no one “lives” here; they “stay” here.  It sounds so temporary, as in my mind, you “live” at home, and “stay” places on vacation.   Maybe no one really feels at home here, or maybe it is an alternate universe and we are all caught in a time warp.  Okay, so I have a wacked imagination.  I have been asked several times if I stay here now so yeah, I stay here, too.

SATURDAY:   FedEx Smartpost (shipped by FedEx to the local post office, delivered by USPS mail) online tracking thing tells me that items ordered on Wednesday to be delivered “within seven days” will arrive today.  Yikes!  I don’t know what the Saturday mail proceedure for packages is here in this building.  On weekdays, the USPS mailman will leave packages with the ladies in the office for safe keeping, who then telephone the resident to come down and pick it up.  I really like that, as I have had too many packages stolen when I lived (or stayed) in other apartment buildings.  Now I don’t know what is going to happen today because the office is closed on Saturday.  Will the mailman leave it in the office anyway?  (Not likely, the door is locked.)  Will he leave it in the mailroom?  (Its locked, too… but that is his room behind the rows of locked mail boxes.)   Will he leave a slip in my box and make me go pick up my package at the post office?  Will he leave it with the security guard or bring it to my door? Or will he leave it – hopefully not – on the floor in front of the mailboxes for anyone to steal?  Nah, I think he knows better than that, there’s bound to be a reason why packages go to the office, a history of vanishing packages or something.  So, I don’t know if I will get my package today, on Monday, or not at all. 

What did I order? 

Chocolate denim leggings and violet purple jeans.  And what else?  Oh yeah, a beaded gauze dress on clearance dirt cheap.  The purple jeans were also on clearance.  It is a light violet shade.  I had to think a minute about that color, but I have no problem wearing light blue demin so why not light purple?

I made a decision this week… it is time to stop wearing jeans that are two sizes too big, which meant that I only had one pair of jeans that actually fit me and one pair of jeans that are only one size too big.  As for sloppy tops, they’re okay for around the house, but too big to wear in public anymore.  It is time to accept the fact that I am not going back up over that line.  Those “fat clothes” will never fit me again.  The mind takes so long to catch up as I really don’t feel smaller than I felt fifty, or even eighty pounds ago.  The only time I feel skinnier is when I wear the jeans that actually fit, so maybe if I only wear jeans that fit, maybe it will be a good thing.

Well, maybe I should get dressed proper enough to go out in public and go talk to the security guard, ask him if he knows what the mailman does with packages delivered on Saturdays.

Back & Nailed

Everything looks so strange… I’ve been flying by cellphone for so long that I forgot what the internet looks like on a computer monitor.  Now I have this new machine with a 23″ diagonal widescreen HD LED display and it is like wow… plus I have the Windows 8, so I feel a little lost.  Things are missing, like I don’t know how to minimize or close windows, how to open multiple windows, or even how to get the useless junk off the start page.  I want tiles for MY stuff, the stuff I want to see or use.  I’m not into sports, online games, or stock markets.  I bought this machine “gently used” without any books so it will take me a minute to figure it out.

So, what’s going on?

I bought a nail at Youngstown Nation.  Want to see?  Here’s a photo snapped by cell phone of the nail laid on the old “Smoke” painting.  Yes, I covered the canvas with cheap gauze (cheese cloth) to play with the texture.


Youngstown Nation is a little store in my neighborhood (downtown Youngstown) that sells a few things like t-shirts and decals to promote Youngstown, a small selection of books about Youngstown, plus they have some cool old stuff in there, like old maps and photographs of Youngstown.  And these nails, made by a local blacksmith out of Youngstown steel.

I really like this nail.   For a split second, I thought about adding it to my key ring; but, in the event of a freak accident, that nail could literally become a stake in my heart as I wear my keys on a necklace chain so it might be better to hang it on my Christmas tree.  I really don’t want to stash it away with the ornaments, so maybe I’ll do something else with it.   With a few findings, it could make a cool charm on my shopping bag.

So what’s so special about this nail?  It is crude.  The head looks hand formed and the lettering tools were obviously hand held and eye-balled into aligned as they are so not perfect.  The steel is deformed, squished by the force of the hammer, but it feels good.

I like it.  There is history in the steel.