Michael Rosen

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May 2010 Archives

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Ending poverty - as in, ending the poverty we allow from racism and class discrimination:
The millions of people in our American underclass -- yes, we have an underclass, and it's growing swiftly -- don't know how to get out of their poverty. The children their certainly don't. The irmothers, often young, often not much more than children themselves, or children themselves, don't know the way out of poverty, for themselves and their daughters and sons. The fathers,,, there are far too few fathers around, for a range of reasons. Jail plays a part. Going into jail, leaving behind children, fracturing families, on and on. Then eventually dying from jail, from the ins and outs of it.

So once upon a time one mother and one father had three sons...
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..and the mother and father both died. They died from the streets. It's hard on the streets. And the brothers, the older brothers, did everything they knew, when they were really still children themselves, to help the family. That's what brothers do. That's love. That's devotion. That's loyalty, and from their perspective, learning to be a man. Before any child should be trying to be a man. But the older brothers wanted everyone in their home to have milk in the refrigerator. To have bread and tuna fish on the shelves. To have some money for clothes, school supplies. To be able to go to the movies once in a while. To not say "no" all the time.

But as I said, people in poverty don't know the way out. If you think they do, then you're looking from far away.

And looking from far away doesn't help, at all. It might make you a famous radio or talk show host. But it doesn't end poverty. To end poverty, you have to get close. You have to reach in and grab a child's hand, perhaps grab a handful of hands and start pulling people out.

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IT HELPS TO:

1. Think about "family" in a new way. In a broader, fuller, deeper way. We are family, together. Us people. Then...

2. Work with a kid. Whether WHEDCo, Big Brothers Big Sisters, an inner city or another disadvantaged area with a Little League or Soccer club... Start formally. Do good things there.

3. And let a kid into your life. Let a kid know you are there, on the other end of a phone, in a once or week or three times a week or every day setting, you are there. You're holding hands across the divide and you are NOT going to let go.

4. Then be there. Unconditionally there. Keep holding on. Because if you let go, that kid will fall.

5. Read together. Then read more. And when you're both tired of reading, when you're all tired of reading, start reading again. The next day or the next meeting or the next week, read again.

6. Focus on Education:
"How are you doing in school?
"Good."
"How are your grades?"
"Good."
It only took us YEARS to know these conversations were really just talking about the weather, NOT about school.
Insist on the importance of graduating high school.
Make sure high school gets done! And if that can't be, make sure a GED is finished. Which means meetings and tutoring and being there.
Being there.
This isn't lip service, this isn't good intent, this is ending poverty.

7. College !!
Community College? - Yes, it's perfectly fine and probably often the only way more times than not. But you have to stay on top of things. College degrees... the traditional difference in earnings between a college graduate and not-a-college graduate have been enough to plant oneself in the middle class.

or.... a Trade. Trade School. A real, true trade, a craft. Same thing as the above.

Janet Mills gave me the grace of her time. She suggested, or at least I understood she suggested, that I think about what we all can do to end poverty. So I will work on this list.... Things that we all can do, that will end poverty. Because a child is too precious to throw away. If we honestly care about life, it goes farther than from conception to delivery. Much farther.

And if we care, it can lead to here...
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That's Kindu and Elaine - "Saint Elaine," to me.

Kindu graduated college !!! Farmingdale Stage College. I have a photo album of graduation photos on my Facebook Fan Page for What Else But Home.

With Leslie's bike accident, I've fallen behind. I've needed to update my blog re Carlos and baseball, re Kindu and his graduation with a BS this past Sunday from Farmingdale State College !

Leslie is getting better. Thank you, to all our friends. She's working with a physical therapist, her post-concussion issues seem to be getting better, and she goes to see the orthopedist tomorrow, to check on her hip/leg surgery, the pins in her femur. She's staying awake a little longer each night, is more aware. My parents, Shirley and Howard, spent the last week with us, taking care of things here. Leslie's parents, Ria and Mike, have been wonderful, as have our sons. Our friends. On and on. So Thank You !

And Gee Gee, thank you for the letter you sent.

Carlos: I've not reported enough. Carlos and I left NY on a Friday. We drove to Washington, PA, for a Saturday tryout for the Wild Things, in the Frontier League. The plan was to then continue on to Avon, Ohio, for the larger Frontier League tryouts.

This is Carlos' home in Queens. He lives on the top floor. That's Carlos, in front of his car. I bought that car years ago, for him. He loves that car. Did I say that he LOVES that car. I don't like cars, the carbon footprint. More about the carbon footprint.
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We stayed in a Comfort Inn near the ball field. Carlos signed in early:
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We met Todd Marlin, a sweet and good man. Carlos ran and threw and caught. And then he batted. He tried to bat. His right hand, his power hand, swelled up to a half-hand bigger. He couldn't bat. We saw no reason to continue on to Avon. Carlos was crushed. Clayton Snellgrove, whom we went to see later on (I'm foreshadowing), said Carlos could well have broken a small bone in his hand near the base of his thumb. I'm not sure what that bone is called, but Clayton said batters have broken it and had it removed and played again.

In the batting cage:
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We decided it didn't make sense to go home. We thought it would make sense to spend time talking about life. We started to drive to Cleveland, two hours away, and looked up Elon, North Carolina, which was only 500'ish miles away. So we turned south and started going. We wanted to surprise Ripton on a Saturday night.

Which we did. This is Carlos and Ripton, the next morning:
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Ripton wanted to visit his girlfriend in DC, that was only another 400'ish miles away. We drove him north and near Richmond the visit didn't work. So we had lunch in downtown Richmond, sweet place. We drove back to Elon. Six hours later. That's a carbon footprint, but it's time with my sons.

Clayton Snellgrove is in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Murfreesboro is only 7 hours and 40 minutes, 482 miles from Elon. Clayton played 4 years with the Padres, making it to AAA ball, then two years with Frontier League teams, where he was the batting champion one year.

He and his wife Erin were lovely with Carlos and me. They have a three legged dog, and a beautiful young son named Canton. Because they met in Ohio.

We drove into the storms and flooding around Nashville.
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Clayton wrote: "I now have an amazing story story to tell thanks to you and Carlos. Driving into the worst flood to hit Middle Tennessee in 100 years, my new FRIENDS included me in their soul searching adventure. I hope the detour to Murfreesboro was not a waste of time. I honestly think Carlos is in a good spot...

I have attached the photo Erin took before you left. Just a note for your notes. We ate at Miller's Grocery. It was a county store for 75 years in the little whistle-stop community of Christiana, TN before being turned into the cafe in 1995. It actually sits about 10 miles south of Murfreesboro, TN. You didn't see much of Murfreesboro, but it is a nice college town with 2 malls, 2 cinemas, all the chain hotels and restaurants you want. But as you discovered, in TN you're never far from some down home fun."

Miller's Grocery, a great food place:
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Clayton runs a baseball academy in Murfreesboro, is a writer and the author of The Ball Player.

A dog ate my lunch while I took that photo outside Miller's Grocery. I put my leftover lunch down on the street to take the photo. In New York, I know enough not to leave my food out on the street after dark, overnight. A rat would devour it, a pigeon come and feast. But in Broad Day Light ? That dog ran right up and off with my chicken fried steak!

Oh yes. Clayton said Carlos should keep in shape, and come spring decide if he wants to try out at least for the Frontier League again. He can come stay with Clayton and Erin for a week, and Clayton will throw him batting practice each morning and afternoon and make Frontier League intros for him at next year's tryouts. If Carlos wants then.

We drove home. Five nights, 2600 miles more or less. A huge figure-8 across the eastern part of the country. A huge carbon footprint. An old fashioned road trip. I drove, we have a manual shift and Carlos doesn't know how to maneuver that car.

And Kindu graduated college ! And Ripton came home for the summer. But I can't write anymore now. But I will later. I have photos.

Leslie was in a bike accident this past Tuesday night.

Thank you to everyone who's called and asked after her health.

Time has blurred, so I think it was Tuesday night. Since friends ask "What happened?": Leslie was on Pitt Street, biking home around 9PM or so. I heard a thud in back of me, sounding like a car accident. Leslie was lying on her right side, unconscious. She was wearing a helmet. Two men on the sidewalk pointed to an empty plastic milk carton they said she hit. She wasn't struck, as far as I can tell, by a car or truck.

Leslie started to bleed from her head, and after five minutes or so regained a bit of counsciousness. Kindu came. Our friend Nicola was walking by and took our bikes home. A firetruck came to 911 calls, and then an ambulance. The ambulance took us to the Bellevue Hospital trauma unit, which is a wonderful place for acute need if you unfortunately have that need. Leslie's parents and all our guys came.

Leslie had a brain bleed (I know there's a medical term), a broken hip and they initially thought but ruled out a broken shoulder.

The next day, after a series of CT scans to make sure the brain had stabilized, the orthopedic team operated on her hip. The fracture was stable, so though the physicians were ready for a hip replacement, they instead stabilized the femur with three screws.

Leslie was kept in the recovery room for 24+ hours because her trachea had swollen to the intubation - after the first day she was grabbing staff in the recovery room and demanding they take out the intubation tube, writing notes and silently screaming. One of her notes was telling Kindu to stop visiting and go to his classes - he finishes college this semester. Another was to tell me to go to North Carolina for Ripton, where he needed a parent--I was already there. Kindu has been a hero throughout. Leslie's partner and our friend, Shelley Kolton, keeps proving she's a magical care giver. Mike & Ria are at their best. All our boys (I know they're young men, but they're still our boys). And friends.

Leslie was eventually released from the recovery room to a regular patient room in Bellevue. The medical care seemed great at Bellevue. The staff was entirely friendly. And as they told me, as typical for a NYC hospital, chronically understaffed. Leslie was left to lie in her own urine for a night and early morning because there weren't enough staff to clean her up and change the bed. The head nurse said staff called in sick and there were no replacements. The patient advocate lady who came by doing her survey said lying in your own pee at Bellevue is common, and apparently more. And as my friend Rosie Mendez, our local City Councilmember told me yesterday, there are more budget cuts on the way.

Leslie is now at NYU Hospital, a couple blocks further up 1st Avenue.

I'm aware there are many others, just down the block, who couldn't move from one hospital to another.

Leslie is dizzy, in pain. It seems she'll be "fine," though bike riding seems to be over.

Recuperation will take time. Family and friends are visiting. I'm sorry I'm not responding to everyone who calls, texts or writes. Feel free to visit. I'll write another update in a couple days.

P.S.: Friends have been asking... I'll give a Carlos update, but in a bit, after life calms.


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