Sunday, November 30, 2014

Apartment 2D - 1

When someone wishes to rewrite her life, she can do so via a book :)  Or, to be more precise, if she wishes to follow out a path she might have taken, or would have liked to take, what better way than to write a book about that path?

Apartment 2D - 1

She was in the apartment, and in the apartment was where she meant to stay, except to buy food and  visit the Botanical Gardens and Zoo and take constitutionals down Pelham Parkway. And to go to the other apartment, the coop in the Amalgamated that she and her cousins still held in common.

According to practitioners of many social sciences, it was supposedly unhealthy, this not wishing to broaden one's horizons by travel, by living in other places. But what if one felt healthiest in the place in which one had lived all -or almost all- of one's life?

Now that the people who had lived here with her were all gone -well, passed on into another plane, according to yet another doctrine- she was supposed to want to go somewhere else, seek another habitat. Which of course was just what she did not want to do and did not aim to do.

They were here with her, in every piece of furniture, every book, every kitchen utensil, every dish, every small spot on the wall, every thread slightly out of place, every tiny nick, every line in the ceiling. She was happy that they were here, and she felt moreover that they wanted her here.

Every time she opened the apartment door, she seemed to hear their voices on the rush of air that wafted in from downstairs and touched the stucco walls of the hallway.

As she had tried to give them comfort and sometimes joy when they were here, the apartment gave her comfort now.

And as long as she could pay the rent and keep the apartment, she could see no reason even to think of living anywhere else.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Palmer Raids

On the Palmer Raids, which began Nov. 9, 1919:

As noted elsewhere, my grandfather (mother's father) was on the wanted list and just managed to beat it out of town after being warned by a contact in the office of the Attorney General of Philadelphia, who was vehemently opposed to the raids and the immigrant-phobia they represented.

My grandfather was about three when he and his siblings and mother emigrated from the Ukraine (the family lived first in Pruzhany, which was in White Russia/Belarus today). He became a member of Young Peoples Socialist League when he was 12. One could do that, then. I would have liked to do so, but could not join until the age of 18, which I did, in 1973.) He put out the Philadelphia Free Press when he was 15 (Its first version. It later resurfaced under very different management in the 1960's.) He joined the Soldiers and Sailers Workingmen's Council of the IWW when he was 16. He was a conscientious objector to World War I  when he was 18.

He did not have time to say goodbye to his mother, who was told by a friend of his. He went south - first to Delaware, then to North Carolina, then to Georgia. He actually worked for a paper in Americus, Georgia, where President Carter went to college.

He learned later that many of his friends were in jail and that others had been deported.

He again faced the angry eyes and long arm of the shadier side of the the US Government 37 years later, when he was ordered to testify about his time and role in the Communist Party as a managing editor for the Daily Worker in the 1930's. He left the Party in 1937 in disgust at their dictatorial, top-down tactics and management, seeing now that a freer, more democratic type of Party organization, even and especially in the USA, was impossible.

At the HUAC hearings on TV in 1956, he was handled carefully because Dorothy Schiff, the very wealthy and liberal owner of the New York Post (yeah, it was quite liberal then, before Murdoch), sent her own lawyer to represent him (he was a copy editor there at the time) and serve as legal counsel. If she had not, he might have ended up in prison, as colleagues of his did.

Anti-immigration measures are supported, continue to be supported by the right wing to this day. They are always afraid of those "huddled masses" in the poem on the Statue of Liberty's pedestal.

Too bad. Booga booga. I wish they would grow up.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Dad

Milton Kant, my dad...

Was born November 8, 1925.

Wanted to be an engineer, which he became, from a very young age (younger than 15).

Was extremely self-reliant, perhaps by necessity, from a very young age. He would go to the doctor himself when he needed to do so. His parents were often at meetings or work (both of them worked). On the other hand, the doctor, who saw most of the Amalgamated kids (Amalgamated Clothing Workers' Unon Housing/houses (apartment coops), didn't seem to have any problem with his coming on his own.

Wanted a pet, but was told that they weren't allowed to have one in their development (they weren't). So he and his brother Seymor (yes, spelled without the "u" :)  )  brought in 2 pigeons and put them in the bathroom.

Has a library of 7000 books, grouped shelf-wise. One section is devoted to utopias. (His interest in utopian societies was one of the factors in my being inspired to write FatLand.)

Asked my mom out on a date after they had been on a double date (my mom with brother Seymor and he, my dad, with a friend of my mom's).

Participated in election efforts since he was eight (put fliers under people's doors and was paid 25 cents for each building he covered).

Lived in the Bronx (mostly the Amalgamated Buildings) since he was born until he was 18, and went to Radar School during World War II as part of his training.

Still does HAM radio, which he has done for more than sixty years.

Likes mint chocolate chip ice cream (one of his favorites).

Likes Chinese food and steak.

Knows more about computers than I will ever know, and he is 89.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Warning from My Grandfather about Poor, Ignorant People and Voting

When I would rail against the ignorant people who didn't know better than to vote Republican, my grandfather would say to me, "Have you lived among really poor people? That's the same thing I said to the Senator at the HUAC hearings. When you're poor, most of the time you don't know if you'll be able to eat the next day. You are scared of anything that might make you poorer because then you'd starve. And if you're not worried about this week, you're worried about next week. You're hoping the money you have will cover your food and your rent and heat. Sometimes you don't have electricity. Or hot water. Voting? If you vote at all, if you know where to vote, you vote for the people who you think might help you somehow. Sometimes you don't even know who they are. A lot of times you don't trust people who promise you higher wages or better jobs. You know why? Because you don't see them."

I have thought about this many, many times. Not only do poor or semi-poor people not see most of the politicians they are supposed to know about, but they don't even see people who aren't poor, except the exaggerated caricatures of them on TV. Weird rich people, to them, worrying over things that would make them laugh.

When the poor lady said, "Tell the government not to mess with my Medicare," besides not knowing that Medicare was being sponsored by the "government," she probably had no clue as to what government is and does, and exactly who was in charge.

And I'll bet anything no one told her.

TV certainly didn't.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Election Time in the Glaser and Kant households

Election time in the Glaser and Kant households was exciting.

My father -and other kids in the Amalgamated (Amalgamated Clothing Workers' Union Cooperative Development in the northwest Bronx)- put leaflets under the doors of apartments for Democratic and Liberal candidates. Not that they had to remind most people there to vote. But I guess the determined Democratic organizations weren't going to risk the possibility of low turnouts! (As if..haha..the turnouts were usually between 75% and 85%...sometimes higher). My grandmother (father's mother) would go to a special election meeting -and often, party- of the Liberal Party. They would get the phoned in results and tally them on a large board.

My grandfather had what amounted to a ringside seat as a reporter and then editor for various newspapers. They got the results in faster than any other institutions before TV stations started election counting efforts of their own. And even then, they got the results pretty quickly. It was completely chaotic, but inspiring, he said, as they counted the results they got in and put them on boards, and then on linotypes. My grandmother (mother's mother) would either be at a meeting or at home near the radio, but of course would receive calls from my grandfather, as well.

As for me...

Fifteen (1969) - Democratic Party party. Nineteen - Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' party. (*1974 - Special Party at Brandeis U. when Nixon resigned.)
Twenty-two:  Democratic Party party. Thirty-eight: Large Gala Democratic Party party in Wisconsin as Russ Feingold, for whom I worked, and Bill Clinton were elected.

Forty-six (2000) - When Bush "won" the 2000 election, I felt as if I had lost my soul. I did not participate in anything political for seven years.

Now:  Again embracing my political self in a quiet way...maybe one day, it will be louder :)