Saturday, May 19, 2007

See, it's funny n@

See, I’m surprised people actually read this, which is the big thing to come out of what I did last night. Although I also watched “Night at the Museum”, which was a satisfying experience.

Right now, I’m trying futilely to channel Nick Hornby, who has written several good books and whom I can recommend in print or on film (though I haven’t seen either Fever Pitch). I was reading one of his collections of book reviews this morning before I logged on, and true to form I am a pathetic sponge, my inner voice has now taken on a slight English accent. If I had read Robert Parker I would be trying to be self deprecatingly tough and terse (and I am sure the terse part would be a welcome relief).

Well, I went to a Dowd campaign victory celebration last night. I had stayed at one remove from the campaign throughout the campaign, for reasons both real and (in my mind) cowardly. Of course, I should point out “The Candidate” is one of my favorite movies, so I have high standards in my mind for the life of a campaign. But I met several very nice people there and was somewhat flattered, unfortunately, because then you feel tortured later. In the real world, candidates do let you down.

As an aside, Hornby wrote about reading Candide, which I gather, in my illiterate way, is an attack on optimism. I think we get the suppression of overt optimism done sometime around the third grade these days, replacing it with a cheerful if world weary and familiar cynicism. I’m scheduled (imagine pronouncing “scheduled” with a soft “ch”, my inner voice is such a, um, lady of ill-repute to the last thing I read) to see Shrek III tonight. Although almost all of today’s movies end with an implicit end of history type happy ending (the end of Night at the Museum is the implication that forever more all the characters will dance every night away, even the bad guys, for example), its only in today’s cartoons that adults (or their voices) express that that is the way things should be.

Political candidates are, by definition, supposed to be optimistic, and Pat Dowd probably abuses the definition more than most. But so he should, his campaign was staffed by literate, friendly people who were interested in making a positive change. Well, I assume literate, I didn’t talk to too many people (I have curious blocks, I have no trouble blabbing on the internet or rambling in the occasional class I take, talking people’s ears off while doing their taxes, but I will stand alone at parties for hours, not wanting to break into other people’s conversations), but I was introduced to some scary Ellis and (I believe) Central Catholic students. The New York Times had a painful article about how there are really too many accomplished teenagers now, and the competition to get into the best schools has gotten ludicrous, especially considering how un-accomplished we were when we got in (I went to a good, but not great school, FWIW).

But Patrick Dowd’s people were quite nice. I remember (a little hazily) that someone mentioned they had met quite nice Bodack supporters and/or workers too. Judging by the yard signs in Morningside and Stanton Heights, Bodack supporters and Dowd Supporters were neighbors, and they probably coexist quite well through the rest of the year (or three and a half years).Morningside and Stanton Heights were the fifty fifty neighborhoods. Now Pat Dowd gets to try to live up to his people’s expectations. To win the election (barely) he has set the expectations bar kinda high. I know he seems to be a driven personality, and will work hard. But as one other person (who had reason to be also at one remove from the campaign) told me, his last advice to Patrick would be “Be careful what you ask for”. Having had several of those moments myself over time, I can only sympathize.

Did you read this in the Post Gazette ( These contracts need to be talked about in the Burghosphere. Ironically, I can find no fault with the Housing Authority, except that maybe they should have been more clear from the start. I haven’t looked at the Housing Authority website (no research!) and anyway this seems like a done deal. Interesting article, though.

By the way, the only reason I am writing all this stuff is because my site meter has jumped. I will try to be less long winded in the future, if only to get a few of these moments back for my own life (I can’t worry about yours).


Paul Burr said...

Once I become aware of situations that could possibly reflect some injustice those issues tend to haunt me.Dr. Dowd is smart enough to know that he should address all of his future constituents offering reassure to the Bodack supporters that their concerns will be addressed during his tenure in office. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I don't know if he reads this Blog.If questions come up like this and I were him I would address them.I say it again, a bit louder, "A good and civil servant, someone with the best of intentions, the desire to serve, would put Mr.Bodacks supporters and all voter's concerns at ease and say something.

Its funny how my eyes go straight to certain words when I see them in print. "Central Catholic" are two such words. August Wilson's name is linked to Central Catholic for me and I never fail to think of him when I see the school's name mentioned. Mr.Wilson often told the story (nearly every time he was interviewed here) about how poorly he was treated at Central while he was a student there. He left the school suddenly when he found a note on his desk that began with the word "nigger". This was'nt the first time he had experienced racism there. The Christian Brothers, for some reason didn't take up Mr. Wilson's problems with him or with the rest of the student body, I would think because they didn't want to disrupt the school culture and tradition of silence in the face of such crisis'. The racism there worried Mr. Wilson so much so that he decided to transfer to the reading rooms of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The Library issued a "diploma" to Mr. Wilson on one of his last visits to Pittsburgh. If you're new to the city you might not be aware that these kinds of things went on here. I have to remind myself that the optimism I see among new comers to the city is based on a lack of awareness of these kinds of incidents. If they were aware I'm sure they would be outraged and look for the kind of contrition and penance necessary on the part of the school that leads to redemption but sadly no apology was ever issued.

Anonymous said...

Dowd will certainly reach out to Bodack supporters. The question is, how they will react?

Wasn't Bodack a Central alum?

EdHeath said...

Anon, I don’t know if Mr. Bodack was a Central alum or not, but certainly many fine people have come through there. I went through Allerdice in the late seventies, the time the movie “Dazed and Confused” was set in.

Paul, I certainly share your hope Dr. Dowd takes steps to be able to address the needs of all of his constituents. I think I mentioned I spent some time interning in federal level congressional offices, and I have seen first hand the power of helping constituents. I plan to try to be aware and make public suggestions, both to Dr. Dowd and (maybe more importantly) his staff. Mr. Bodack complimented his staff for their fine service, and I can see why, because it is really the staff that talks to constituents. It is early days yet to worry about this, but Dr. Dowd’s staff will be important in all this.

The only other Council person who has a district office is Twanda Carlisle, besides Mr. Bodack. Should Dr. Dowd have a district office? I really think so, but maybe only on a part time basis, even if it is a few hours a week, even just someone with a cell phone and a laptop in Crazy Mocha (if Crazy Mocha was cool with that). Now, there is a limit to what government can do to help people, especially city government. But the residents of District 7 are grown-ups, they know that. Still, having access to a councilperson, even indirectly, is so important.

I’m not new to the city, my family moved here in 1970. My brother went to Allderdice when they had their race riots (imagine, teenagers acting out). I’m not surprised by the August Wilson story, and I suppose the faculty of Central might not have wanted to disrupt the school culture, but I think in the late fifties everyone’s attitudes were just beginning to change, and racism was still seen as at best a southern problem.

Still, maybe some optimism is based not on a lack of awareness of such incidents, but rather the opposite. I think the optimism in the Dowd camp is because they see us leaving some of the older attitudes behind. Some. Like right now there is actually a lot of good information on city government on the web, but maybe it can be made more clear and easier to use. That's a virtual wooden fence that would be good to take down.

Paul Burr said...

It would be refreshing to get a commitment from Dr.Dowd; reveal the names of everyone he hires and tell the voters what there connection is to him and his campaign. This revelation may bring an end to wide spread patronage and nepotism among our elected officials. There are departments in every level of government where the politically connected are hiding out. You could bet that anyone with a campaign sign up in their yard for a machine candidate was either a city employee or in some way connected to the democratic party.

I believe that Dr.Dowd, as a reformer may be the only hope we have to throw open the curtain and see what kind of pressure he, as a newly elected councilman is up against. Do you think he is already being reminded that he "owes" city jobs to certain supporters? I could never have found out who Mr. Bodack "awarded" jobs to and why. Its one thing to ask for little favors but jobs are on a completely different level. Real reform would mean we can find out who was asking for favors and why they thought they deserved it. Some of the truth about patronage came out when Mr. O'Connor's friends were revealed to be earning substantial salaries after his death. As they were let go just recently, I would be curious to know who will replace them and what connections they have to the administration. If things are going to be reformed this is an excellent place to start. Unless we just want to go on believing that business as usual is ok and some people deserve to be rewarded for doing their civil duty. What an old concept that is.