Boxing Day

Well, so much for the fight being drained out of me. Mister Stoic Face read mine. I can’t help it. Whatever I’m feeling shows on my face. I kept it together while the girls were here, determined not to say anything with it being Christmas and all, but the audacity of the situation flashed on my face when he went to kiss me on his way out the door.

“That look,” he said. “That’s why I’m leaving. You gave me that same look earlier.”

He kept talking as he walked off the porch, mumbling something about what the hell’s got into you. So, I opened the door and yelled, “Congratulations on your relationship with [Her Full Name]!”

You saw that? YES… someone screen shot her page and sent it to me. HE didn’t do it, HE didn’t respond. That’s what this is about? YES! Rawr-rawr back and forth, slammed doors and peeled tires, and I had my Facebook relationship status changed to “Single” before he could hit the first red light. He’s not in a relationship with anyone? Neither am I.

Yeah, frikkin Facebook.

A couple days ago, I noticed that he had changed his privacy level, just the privacy level, so no one else could see that he was in a relationship with me… so, I hid mine, too. Within 24 hours, that woman posted her own “in a new relationship” post AND at the same time, replaced the background photo on her page with a photo of MY boyfriend and his grandchildren snapped at a family function that he had either sent to her OR she had swiped off his page. A friend of hers who is a mutual friend of one of my friends saw it, did a screen shot, and it landed in my inbox on Christmas Day.  Her new relationship post did not say with whom as he had yet to confirm it… but that photo, along with the comments, made it frikkin obvious.

I forwarded the screen shot to his daughter knowing full well it would tick her off to see a photo of HER children on that woman’s page. Oh, she was livid. That woman has never met her OR her children. How dare she post that as her page header photo? I told her that he doesn’t know that I know yet… she must not have mentioned it before they came over, because he was acting like everything is just fine and dandy. I held it together until after everyone else had left. Then I just couldn’t hide it anymore.

A couple hours later, I get a text. Can we talk?

We had a long talk… he can’t help that woman has had a crush on him since grade school and he cannot control what she puts on her page. He’s not messing with her… they’re just old friends, dated for about 3 months in High School, he knows her family, knew her husband, blah blah blah… they lost contact off and on over the years. She sent him a Facebook friend request ye about a year ago… yes, he’s stopped by to see her a few times, but he’s not messing with her… they’re just old friends catching up over drinks.

So, she’s delusional? This is all her fantasy? Completely one sided? Why hasn’t he checked her? Set her straight? Is she some kind of psycho bitch? Or, does she have reason to believe that there is more to it than what he thinks there is?

I didn’t ask those questions out loud. I know him… he hugs his female friends. Maybe she falsely interpreted an innocent hug. Maybe she takes all those “love you” memes and pass-along messenger share things a bit too personally. Maybe he’s being straight up and honest with me. Maybe he’s not.

Does it matter? NO

Our long talk was mostly about us… where we are, where we were, where we screwed up, and where we go from here. We talked about us as individual people, what we need, what we want, how we are. Time for a new chapter. Life goes on, turn the page.

As for that frikkin Facebook, it causes more problems than it’s worth… we are still friends, but I don’t think I’m going to click any likes or comment on his shit just in case she is some kind of psycho bitch who might want to eliminate me in real life, too.

Thanks for reading. I’m so looking forward to 2019… this year, I’m going to start it right.

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.

Open Letter

I have a facebook friend who posts things that blows my mind.  She is someone I used to know in “real” life.  I have not seen her in years. 

We were work friends at Delphi Packard.  Besides being co-workers, we were both artists, so we had other things in common.  She did pottery, owned her own kiln, and I know she also painted as she had a painting of a nude rejected by a local gallery when they censored her work. 

At Delphi, we were both in skilled trades, pulling union wages as Journeymen Tool & Die Makers, positions neither one of us would have been “allowed” to persue if it were not for affirmative action. 

SIDE NOTE:  That’s “allowed” as in saying there was never any carved in stone rules saying that women were not allowed, but before affirmative action laws, the opportunities for women to get hired on at a machine shop must less land a skilled trades apprenticeship were extremely rare, if at all.  My first attempt to get hired in a shop was in 1978.  Most places told me flat out no… the foreman at one shop told me that he could not hire me because they did not have the facilities to hire women.  The lack of a toilet designated for females prevented my employment.   I began applying for Delphi’s apprenticeship program in 1991.  Or rather Packard Electric as they didn’t spin off from GM until years later.  I hired on as an apprentice for the class of 1998, so do the math.  A full 20 years passed before I got a chance to become a Tool & Die Maker.  I don’t know all of her story… she hired in before I did, was already a Journeyman, but if it wasn’t for affirmative action, neither one of us would have had the opportunity to learn the trade, nor earn those top dollar union wages.

I was reading her posts on facebook this week, mostly shares with a Tea Party spin.  I have wondered for some time what the hell happened to her.  How did she get sucked into all that? 

Posts included anti-union, anti-this, and anti-that, slamming poor people and all sorts of crap.  The most disturbing facebook share was an altered photograph of our President dressed to look like a hick sharecropper or something with a message saying, “if you voted for this person, you owe the rest of us an apology.”  

Like if agree?  Absolutely not.  It struck me as being blatently racist, which essientially just shows the true colors of people who pass such things around. 

I am thinking about de-friending her, if she doesn’t read this and de-friend me first, but it so bothers me that she has become this Tea Party activist person.   I wonder if something happened to her, how she got drawn in so deeply into the hateful underworld of the ultra conservative fringe. 

Now I don’t mind friends having difference of opinion when it comes to politics or whatever, variety is the spice of life, it makes for interesting discussions.  I actually like to hear opposing opinions, to see things from various perspectives other than my own. But this constant echo of hate circulating on social media has a darkness to it that bothers me something fierce.  It bothers me even more when it is spun off as the “Christian” position, as it is definately does NOT come off as being very Christ-like.  Would Jesus drug test the poor before feeding them?  Deny a child medical care?  Call the widow’s pence an entitlement?  Et cetera.  All the biased hate based propaganda is just too much.  I don’t want to see it anymore. 

Still, it bothers me.  It saddens me. 

Did she always harbor prejudice towards minorities?  A hatred for the poor or disenfranchised American people?  Did she secretly resent the union while reaping the benefits of unionization? 

So many questions… did I ever know her at all?

What good does writing this do? 

Not a thing.  All I am doing is thinking out loud on virtual paper trying to understand things that are impossible to comprehend.   If she reads this, she is free to respond via her method of choice.  I live by the rule:  don’t say anything behind anyone’s back that you are not willing to say to their face.  If our paths should cross, I would ask her what happened, tell her that I don’t understand.  I would ask her if she fully embraces everything she posts, if her activism has become her life. 

A tag line running across the screen on the morning news today said someone compared the Tea Party to the KKK.  A quick google (since I didn’t catch the name) tells me it was a congressman from Florida who often says controversial things.  He used an image of a burning cross labeled to spell out “Tea Party” in a fundraising email sparking an outcry for being insensitive to people who were terrorized by that hate group.  So he went a little overboard, but in light of things shared by members of the Tea Party on social media, I can see the simularities. 

What is the undercurrent common to most hate groups?  FEAR.  Fear of the unknown, fear of people who look or talk or think in ways different than they do, fear of anything or everything. 

I think the Tea Party attracts people who are scared, then feeds the fear with propaganda wrapped up in a cloak of Christianity.  But, where is the Psalms 23? 

Life is dangerous.  We don’t live in a pollyanna world of wine and roses.  I am all too aware of rising crime rates and economic uncertainty, a million other things that can make people scared.  But we are offered a choice:  choose to walk in faith, not live in fear.