Michael Rosen

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January 2012 Archives

My friend Aaron...
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was visiting.

He keeps recommending a "How To" book on writing he says I should read. He says my writing "is hard to parse."

Parse: (used with object) to analyze (a sentence) in terms of grammatical constituents, identifying the parts of speech, syntactic relations, etc.

He wanted duck. This is Aaron:
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sucking out the brains.

That's the truth. And a metaphor.

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Dear Mr. William Cox,

I hope this letter reaches you before your mother's memorial service this Sunday. People who loved Mary are trying to find you.

Mary said you are in or near San Francisco, and that you work in computers or finance. She was more interested in who you are, than what you do.

Your mother - Mary Spink - loved you. She loved your sister. She loved a lot of us and took deep care of many more than that; probably because she couldn't take good care of you and your sister when you were young. Mary was haunted by her failure till the day she died. All the years I knew her, Mary was trying to make good what she had made bad.

Mary didn't hide much about her past. We know that she arrived in New York as a haunted young woman. A girl, really. Abused in childhood. Pursued by demons and alone in a hard place. She told us that she became an addict. She whored and pimped. She ran bad checks and fell for men in their power who hustled others, supplied drugs and could execute those who wouldn't pay for what they'd taken.

With pride, Mary shipped rifles for the Black Panthers and helped hide these in the empty basement pool the Christodora House, where the Panthers were running a nursery and free breakfast program. She was showing heart.

Mary told us she fired a gun and shot off part of a policeman's nose. She was convicted of various crimes and served Federal time.

You and your sister might have been born before then. Maybe after. Mary spoke about your father always in respectful terms, about keeping you warm and safe in the open top drawer of a dresser in their apartment.

She spoke about hardship. About being addicted and an inadequate mother and losing you and your sister.

Mary was released from prison and opened a tiny newsstand in the Lower East Side. She eventually opened a hardware shop with Henry Gifford, her dear friend. She cleaned apartment buildings, learned them from the inside out and grew to manage them.
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Mary said that volunteering was the best way for anyone without credentials to gain experience, build trust and prove him or herself in an organization.

Mary spoke from experience.

She grew to become the Executive Director of the Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association, Inc., thankfully LESPMHA for short; rehabbing and constructing buildings throughout our neighborhood, creating hundreds of affordable homes. Many families are able to remain in the Lower East Side, keeping a community here, only because LESPMHA keeps rents affordable.

Mary, from her own pocket, funded scholarship after scholarship for young people in our community, to maintain the Lower East Side as a place of diversity, creativity, acceptance and opportunity.

Mary earned many awards in the past years. All deserved.

As much as anything, she earned the respect and trust of many.

Some years ago, it seems like five, she said she'd reestablished contact with you and your sister. She was proud of that. She was also chaste, anxious and timid.

She flew to San Francisco, said she visited with you and your sister, and was slowly making amends face to face and on the phone.

Then your sister died.

And Mary's explanations of being in touch with you seemed far away after that, nothing she really touched. She told us she spoke with you now and then, and you would agree to see her if she traveled west. But you wouldn't come to New York.
We wanted to tell you how ill Mary was, that her liver was finally failing, her kidneys were going, we hoped you'd visit.

There's no record of calls from you to her, or her to you.

Mary's memorial will be this Sunday at the Cooper Union building at East 7th and 3rd Avenue. At 5:30 PM.

Mary always let us know that you were deeply hurt by who she was. Please come to the memorial for who she became.

I hope this letter finds you,

Michael Rosen

 

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