Hell Freezes

It's a flaw, I guess. Idealizing the good things about a place, and discarding the bad memories...You have to remember the bad things because--as with a bad relationship-- it's the bad memories that protect you.

Now I remember why I left. It was 1993. Winter in upstate New York. I was here serving a year in VISTA. That's Volunteers In Service To America, or the domestic Peace Corps. These days it's called Americorps. Corporatized, like everything else these days.

When this VISTA opportunity unexpectedly materialized, I went for it. It was the realization of a childhood dream. I grew up in part during the Kennedy Administration. Peace Corps and VISTA commercials were on TV all the time, along with those Look For The Union Label commercials.

JFK ( a childhood hero) said, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. " A year of service right here at home sounded like a good idea to me.

Winter in upstate New York was brutal, especially following the seven years we had lived in Miami Beach. It was made even more so by the landlord who did not provide heat. The fellas upstairs had the controlling thermostat for the apartment building, and they often stayed out until the early hours of the AM, turning off the heat when they left. A neighbor with a toddler expressed her concern about the lack of heat (and its effect on her baby's health), as did a few other tenants. We asked the guys upstairs to show some compassion, and turn up the heat, but to no avail. Heat in the building was sporadic at best.

One frigid winter morning when we got up my $5 wall thermometer showed an indoor temperature of 50 degrees. I called the landlord and invited him over.

When I showed him the thermometer in our apartment, he blew it off, saying the thermometer was "inaccurate."

I called the city codes inspector. He brought a thermometer of his own. This one was a small electronic one. He left it with us, and told me to record temperature readings every hour or so.
He returned in a couple of days to collect his thermometer. It showed the exact same temperature readings as my "inaccurate" wall thermometer.

The landlord was cited and had to replace his malfunctioning furnace. We were warm in our apartments--finally.

The years passed, and I remembered fondly my year of VISTA service, the opportunities it gave me to learn and stretch, and the interesting, supportive, and idealistic people I worked with at the time. That hasn't changed.

Now I've come full circle. Forced to relocate as an economic refugee from Florida, I'm freezing here. Again. My bones, already stiffened by the arthritis that set in after two car accidents, are further hammered by the cold. In a place where home air conditioning is not so common, summer heat--although short lived-- can be brutal here. And winter's cold is equally brutal.

But not as brutal as the reality that people I love are a thousand miles away, and photos are a cold comfort. I would give up one of my kidneys to see my granddaughter in person on Halloween. B-r-r-r-r-r.

1 comment:

awyn said...

Yeah, I hear ya Cris. My grandkiddies are hundreds of miles away too on Halloween. Thanks for all the postings re: Burma. Activist blogs like this remind us to stay awake.