Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rockaway Update: A Visit to The Wave, Occupy Sandy and Change the Stakes

I took a second day off from doing any work around the house on Friday. A sign that things are moving towards normal was a decision to attend the 5:30 meeting of Change the Stakes, one of my favorite groups of people which includes teachers, parents and principals (Carol Burris is an active participant on the listserve) and West Side HS principal Jean McTavish, a fierce opponent of high stakes testing.

I headed over to the offices of The Wave to pick up some copies of the paper -- the entire office was wiped out including all the bound volumes going back to 1893 -- a real tragedy. I was intending to use them for research I was planning to do on a Rockaway-based novel I started working on a few years go. I don't know how far back they digitized stuff. They had set up on the 2nd floor and it was so good to see publisher Susan Locke bustling about, so proud they were back up and running and being able to put out a 67 page issue. The Wave had published every week since 1893 until Sandy hit. It began life after a storm and fire destroyed whole areas of Rockaway back then.

I grabbed a batch of papers and headed over to the Occupy Sandy location on Rockaway Beach Blvd on that stretch between 116th and 108th right near where an entire block of stores had burned down -- The Wave reported that they left the oven on at Papa John's pizza when they abandoned ship and only the new concrete built social security office stopped the fire from spreading. Paul, my mechanic is located in that stretch near 109th and I hope he survives -- a really great guy.

The sad news is that the amazing Brown's Hardware, a Rockaway treasure on 116th St may not reopen as they lost all their inventory. This is a major tragedy for Rockaway --- in my opinion, the single most valuable business for the community. A hardware store owned and run by women -- I hope there is money out there for them to come back.

Anyway, I stopped at Occupy Sandy which has a few spaces running on generators -- they were getting ready to pour a new concrete floor. They were so busy I really couldn't stay. The guy I spoke to is good pals with Kelley Wolcott, a chapter leader who has been a stalwart of the Occupy movement, is also working with MORE. He said Kelley has been coming out on weekends.

More normal:  I headed into the city while my wife went off for her first post-Sandy mahjong game. I had to make an appointment with my doctor, Richard Mark, who I hadn't seen since June 2011. I've been avoiding him because I knew he would yell at me for being so fat and out of shape -- and my refusal to take cholesterol medication. Well, it's been a tough year and a half --- broken wrist took me out for 4 months, father's death, home renovation, two 2-week vacations, all the political activity and more. So how am I going to spend a lot of time at a gym and also eat well? But I had to go since over the past 3 days I've had severe heartburn and acid reflex --- my chest hurt like hell when I ate --- and that shrimp parm from Thursday night did not help.

While in the waiting room I got calls from a Geiko tow guy looking to find my wife's car -- good luck I told him but it seems he found it -- and a FEMA guy who wanted to know just how homeless I am. I told him "no worries" since FEMA had already sent us a check for 2400 for what I know not but it will cover 2 days of electrical work.

Dr. Mark told me right off I was going to get beat up by him for being so bad. I told him our story and he told me that he has been going out to Rockway every weekend to volunteer. The first time he tried to do some medical stuff but there was no organization so then he just came out to clean out basements. He worked with a gal from the east village wearing a Mormon vest. He was curious about Mormonism in the east village and she said she really wasn't a Mormon but since she caught a ride on a Mormon bus they gave her the yellow vest. Aha, so this vast horde of Mormons may not all be what they seem.

Finally, I was off for a bite before the Change the Stakes meeting, which was at 5:30. As usual, there was a great crowd and variety of people and a very productive 2 hours. Andrea Mata, a parent from Washington Heights,  has helped run the group so effectively. And having people like Leonie Haimson, Fred Smith and Jean McTavish among others tossing off so much info is invaluable.

CTS is involved in so many activities that I can't keep track. Coming up: This Tues at 5:30 a meeting with Bill Ayers -- yes that Bill Ayers -- see the announcement on Ed Notes tomorrow and a major event in Dec. 10 moderated by Juan Gonzalez with MORE's Brian Jones and CTS Diane Zavala on a panel with Pedro Noguera and the DOE's Shael Surakow-Polansky. Just check the CTS website for info: changethestakes.org

Tonight: Off to see Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion at Town Hall followed by dinner at Havana Central where I expect to emerge with just a tinge of heartburn.

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