June 1, 2005: It was stuffy in the community center conference room. Though
May, the heat was still pumping. Horace Stumpfler glanced around
the table. As usual, the hardcore of the Hams End Neighborhood
Association (HENA) had shown up for the monthly meeting. But so
had a few new faces.
Stumpfler, a gone gray and wizened community activist, was HENA
head. A position he'd held for decades. Though not always openly.
The hardcore played musical chairs with leadership slots. Or
filled them with Howdy Doodies. To keep HENA from being hijacked
by outsiders-- yet still eligible for public money based on
community participation. Next to Horace sat this year's vice
prez, Katrine Patooty. Though not as wizened as Horace,
Katrine was also a well-seasoned neighborhood activist. By now
she owned a sizable slice of Hams End. As did Horace Stumpfler.
Hams End took its name from the abandoned Van Slauger pork
processing facility. Around which clustered a dozen blocks of
restored Victorian brownstones. Phineas Van Slauger had founded
Slaugerton, after using an early form of eminent domain on the
Wonkatutt Indians. Van Slauger went on to make a fortune by
breeding a strain of uniquely hardy hogs. Eventually Van Slauger
Pork Products employed more than half the city. But by the mid
20th century the Van Slauger family-- and their pork processing
plant-- had petered out. HENA hoped to revitalize the historic
facility by turning it into an arts center. Local development
lovely Lara Tremor was set to address the project at the meeting.
Mayor Terry McConn knew of a new HUD program and was eager to
start mining: an arts center might prove just the right shovel.
"Know anything about the newbies?" whispered Katrine to Horace,
eying the unfamiliar faces. Before Horace could answer Lara
Tremor entered. Looking as crisp and commanding as a notice of
condemnation. Her mini-me carried a brief case bulging with grant
apps and back-dated loan docs. Also in tow was Sergeant Mike
Testirolla. Community policing rep for Hams End. Sergeant
Mike could Weed & Seed with the best of em. He'd helped flip
so many HUD bucked Cop Next Door homes that he was known
in local real estate circles as Sergeant Flapjack.
"Welcome" boomed Horace
"Sit right here" said Katrine, gesturing to chairs at the head
of the table.
Lara Tremor was on a tight schedule. She and Mayor McConn had an
appointment to meet dead political consultant Bob Slotsky at the
Samaria Lounge in half an hour. Slotsky wanted to hash over
how Lara and McConn had murdered him. And squeeze them for
reparations. Lara was gearing for a tough negotiation. Plus
Sergeant Mike had to get back to tending bar at the Peanut King
Brew Barn. So after a quik gabble of government acronyms and a
resolution to quash an out-of-towner who wanted to open a store
in the nabe but hadn't asked HENA's permission, the floor was
thrown open to Lara and Sergeant Mike.
Sergeant Mike said an arts center would mean safer streets
because they'd be busy at all hours.
The hardcore did the bobble-doll.
Since there aren't any questions I'll turn this over to Lara
said Sergeant Mike flopping back in his chair.
I got a question said one of the newbies. A fat lady in a
flowered dress. With a couple of missing teeth.
Horace and Katrine rolled their eyes. Sergeant Mike put his
listening face on his glistening face. (As said, the heat was
pumping.) Lara looked at her watch.
I got the drug dealers hanging out on my steps all night I call
the police all the time but they don't come.
Officer Mike said thanks for being such a good citizen we need
the eyes and ears of people like you and be sure and tell the
dispatcher you already called that will help and I'll make a note
of it now where did you say you live? His pen hovered over his
notebook. The lady said her address. Then added right next to Al-Patah's Candy Store. Oh said Sergeant Mike and put away his pen.
Moving on-- said Horace with ill concealed irritation.
But another newbie started gassing. A guy. Young professional
type. Khaki shorts. Hawaiian shirt. Clacking-- I'm concerned
about the multi family building next to the house I just bought.
The absentee landlord rents to anyone. I mean ANYONE. My partner
and I figure he stands in front of prisons and hands out Section
8 vouchers to parolees. But only to ones convicted of violent
crimes. And we hear he's subdivided his units. His tenants toss
syringes and condoms over the fence. The garbage is piling up
on his porch. Can't he be cited for building code violations?
Out came Sergeant Mike's pen. Scribble scribble. Lucky this
yuppie A-hole couldn't see Mister Bic was a dead soldier. Also
lucky he didn't know that HENA head Horace Stumpfler had a piece
of the investment property action at Casa Parolee.
"I'm afraid I can't stay any longer" said Lara Tremor in a
voice as warm as an ice tray stuck to the floor of a freezer.
The mini-me was already shoveling grant apps and back dated loan
docs back into her brief case. "Perhaps a few HENA officers can
meet with me later this week in my office".
After Tremor and crew left, the HENA hardcore tried recruiting
Fat Lady and Upscale to pick up garbage and plant HUD buds next
neighborhood clean-up day. Fat Lady couldn't make it because she
had to work weekends. But Upscale was ready willing and eager.
Saying he really believed in neighborhood associations and new
urbanism was the wave of the future. Horace and Katrine looked
at each other and began mentally measuring Upscale for a Howdy Doody suit.
To be continued...
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"Let a fool be made serviceable according to his folly."
Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 1911
Episodes of Revitalization, My Lovely
Revitalization, My Lovely; Chapter One
Revitalization, My Lovely; Chapter Two
Revitalization, My Lovely; Chapter Three
Revitalization, My Lovely; Chapter Four
Revitalization, My Lovely; Chapter Five
Revitalization, My Lovely Reloaded; Chapter Six
Revitalization, My Lovely Reloaded; Chapter Seven
Revitalization, My Lovely Reloaded; Chapter Eight
Send comments or confidential tips to: