The Pre-Dawn Light


Well, it’s been quite a week here at Lake Wobegon.  I got the cops called on me—again.  One way you know if you’re being a good activist is if they call the cops on you, and this is two weeks in a row.  Both times it was by women.  They weren’t getting their own way so they called in armed men to get it for them.  Unfortunately, both times the guys with guns decided I was right.  Take that, Leslie and Woman from ARISE!

Leslie has caused much bad unhappiness here at Happy Manor.  S/he is male but lives as female.  I got no problem with that; most of us here don’t.  We’re old people who’ve seen a lot and learned to live with it.  But Leslie is just gratuitously mean, volunteering nastiness where none is called for.  I have no illusions about how hard Leslie’s life has been.  A girl growing up in a boy’s body in the 1950’s?  In a time when “Ike” Eisenhower was president, everybody was watching Father Knows Best, and every boy had a poster of Annette Funicello on his bedroom door?  No, Leslie didn’t have it easy but you would think that, after six decades, she would have learned something about being nice.  She hasn’t, so she’s being evicted.  The community not only has the right, but the responsibility, to eject a member who causes severe upset.  In biblical terms, she must go and “live outside the camp.”  The upset she caused has resulted in the manager going ballistic on all of us. 

I am one of five children and our mother used to spank us.  She’d use a paddle or hair brush or her bare hand if she was in a hurry.  Decades later, my siblings and I discussed it and agreed that it never hurt us none.  We weren’t abused children.  We understood, even if we couldn’t verbalize it, that Mom just had been pushed over the limit of her tolerance and needed to restore control of her world.  I figure the manager—who is an extraordinarily kind and smart woman—just got pushed too far.  (Besides, Leslie started it.)

Spring has come to Lake Wobegon.  First, Daylight Savings Time, to which I personally object.  Anybody with a major autoimmune disorder will tell you that seasonal change is really hard and I’ve got the majorest autoimmune disorder, type unknown.  Second, hordes of geese flew north.  Well, actually, they flew west, but I’ve never seen so many geese migrate in such a short time—three days.  The snowdrops and some crocuses are in blossom.  Some daffodils are in bud.  Tulips are up.  Robins are back.  And the temperature dropped to 28 degrees and we had two days of snow.  As my father used to say, “If spring comes, can winter be far behind?”  Upstate New York’s reality.

As I write this, the pre-dawn sky is turning pink and O Holy Night is on the player—fall on your knees, Christ is the Lord!  Darkness withdraws and the Light comes into the world.  There’s a sea change happening.  Here at Happy Manor, the Tenants Association meetings, with Leslie as president, have been ending with the police being called.  Some of us started a new group called the Happiness Project.  The only vote we took was to not form an organization.  We’re planning Sunday breakfasts, a writers group, and an Easter Saturday brunch with Godspell. At the tenants’ association meetings, they yell, fight and accomplish nothing.  At our meetings, we laugh and get the job done.  It occurred to me that at our meetings, four of the six people present put God first.  At some point, each of us said, “Oh, I can’t do that then—I’ve got church.”

Ever the social activist, this week I’ve had meetings with my city Common Councilor and my state legislator’s chief of staff.  Got some sewage to clean out of Lake Wobegon.  Yesterday I spent fifty minutes on the phone with Centro bus company because they are, again, failing to serve people with disabilities at the same level as people who are abled-bodied.  It’s not that Centro makes disabled people ride in the back of the bus; it’s that they leave the short buses in the parking lot over the weekend and make us stay home.  That’s one issue.

The other issue is that SUNY Upstate Medical Center has spent $122 million of your money on a total boondoggle, the Institute for Human Performance (IHP).  The IHP was built at a cost of $50 million dollars and opened in 2000.  Two-thirds of the building is not being used, including a three-story gym with a four-lane track and about a hundred exercise machines.  Not being used.  They built it for a grant they didn’t get.  Thirteen years, a gym and all that equipment not being used, and you paid for it.  So why didn’t Upstate President David Smith call Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and say “I’ll lease it to the city for $1, but you have to provide security and management?”

President Smith isn’t just sitting on an empty building—he’s building an addition to it.  The two-thirds un-used $50 million Institute for Human Performance will soon open a $78 million addition.  I wrote to the NYS Inspector General before they welded the first I-beams for the new addition.  She forwarded it to the SUNY auditor, who dropped it.   So I sat with the NYS assemblyman’s chief-of-staff and said WTF?  He and I talked about transportation, $122 million wasted, and politics.  And you know what?  After talking a while, he said something like ‘you either can play politics or rise to the higher level of what God calls us to.’  Well, how about that?

Folks, there’s a new day dawning.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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