A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Action Steps

It's been exactly one month since fellow Salem Street resident Jeanne McLain decided that she could no longer look at the mess all around 31 Salem Street, and took steps to clean it up. It wasn't her responsibility, or even technically any of her business. But she grabbed a broom and started sweeping the porch; other neighbors pitched in to help. Thirteen hours later, she was still at it.

Since then, she's been maintaining the area regularly. The manager of the apartment building she lives in commented that Jeanne's hard work made their own property look better. She demanded in return that their maintenance staff supply her with rakes, trash bags, and so on--which they did. Using their equipment, she's been routinely tidying the porch, yard, sidewalk, and even the street in front of the house.

Jeanne also insisted that the apartment management call code enforcement about the house, and notify the police about squatters on the property. She herself has chastened--and chased--trespassers, making sure they take their trash with them when they leave.

In the last month, I've seen the police several times checking the house, and the mysterious absentee owner or one of his representatives three times, cleaning up around the property. The last time, he was repairing the rotted steps on the side of the house. Engaged in conversation, he revealed that while he currently lives out of state, he used to be a neighborhood resident. 31 Salem Street was his first investment. He had loved the house and put a fair amount of money into renovating it, but when he was three-quarters of the way into the renovation, the house was burglarized and vandalized, and all the copper pipes stolen. Demoralized, he stopped working on the house.

Nevertheless, he still has strong feelings for the house and for the neighborhood. Aware of its historic nature, he has no intention of tearing it down or of vinyl siding it. He's seen similar homes appreciate in value when a federal building has been built nearby, and he's hoping his property will be attractive to lawyers as the federal courthouse nears completion.

Probably scant justification for years of neglect, but, hey. At least he's materialized and is getting down to business. And proved to be a human being, with feelings and motivations.

The owner, the apartment management, the cops, and the civic association have all been focusing attention on this house, and on keeping the area citizens on their best behavior. But why all of a sudden, after years of neglect? Because one lady didn't pass the buck. Chalk this one up to the anarcho-capitalists.


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