mercredi, novembre 11, 2009

About that school

When I visit Philly, I prefer to walk.

Through the jewelry district on my way to my doctor at Pennsylvania Hospital. With reverence on the flagstones covering the graves of soldiers at Washington Square Park, wondering who once lived in those 19th-century red-brick buildings, watching for the ghosts of Jefferson and Madison in the cobblestoned alleys.

Swiftly up the wide thoroughfares leading to the University of Pennsylvania for dinner with a visiting friend, students, faculty and visitors lingering on the campus green spaces, talking, eating, studying.

Craning nearsighted at plaques that recall famous men who once walked these streets and lifted their hats to bow to the ladies, who lifted their skirts to avoid the horse poop -- or the famous ladies.

It's natural that those of us who didn't go into the "family business" would still swim through history as though it was our own private funhouse fair. And this great city surrenders its treasures to anyone with the slightest yearning to know more about where we came from as a nation, and possibly where we might be going.

Ah, but I digress. The streets on which I walked yesterday have their own, more recent history. Once beyond South Street, there are fewer people out walking dogs or shopping. A few buildings are being renovated. Some are abandoned. No big grocery stores -- lots of bodegas. Being a little clumsy, I look down, where trash and weeds lurk among the broken sidewalks. Still, I maintain a good pace, only stopping to ask a few friendly folk for directions.

As far as I can tell, I'm the only white person out for a walk in the neighborhood. It is helpful, now and then, to experience what it feels like to be a minority. Of course, in America, we are all persecuted minorities of one sort or another -- or so it sometimes seems. Even upper middle class white guys. Bankers. Lawyers. Doctors. There is something in our national narrative that doesn't want to be associated with dominance, even if we have to go back a long way on the family tree to re-experience oppression.

When I arrive, the principal tells us that thirty-six nationalities and ethnic groups attend this South Philadelphia school.

He, and the school, are very impressive. But I see that I have just arrived, and it is time to begin the day's work.

More later.

3 commentaires:

Sue a dit…

You've made me VERY homesick for that area, what used to be "home" to us for many years. History is, and has always been, an integral part of my life -- my "make up" -- and Philadelphia always delivered. I appreciated being able to "see" those sites again through your walk ... Oh, I never thought I would leave! And yet ...

Can't wait to hear the rest of the story ...

Anonyme a dit…

I'm interested in hearing more about the school too. I wonder if any of the kids use my library.

Offcenter a dit…

I'm working on it, kids.