Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cheers-"People want to go where everybody knows their name"

Last night was one of the most special nights of the last few years.

First though I need to summarize the last month. It is almost surreal. I moved out of the shelter into an SRO a month ago today. After eleven months being around so many people I was concerned at my ability to function on my own. I needed the privacy but it had been so long. Traumatization breeds self doubt.

In one month lots of things have happened. I interviewed Rocky Delgadillo for a blog. I started my own blog.
I was invited to a press conference. It almost led to a job but those are the breaks. I went to a lecture series with Mayor Villaraigosa. I went to the top of city hall and viewed the city. I am interacting with lots of people.

Yesterday, I went on a ride along but I will talk about that later. It was an opporturnity to learn and he appreciated an opportunity to learn as well. I shall discuss that later.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN.". I was invited to sit down with Kevin and Nancy Jean last night. Within a matter of minutes the conversation was free flowing. In the course of it I heard Kevin say that his wife graduated from high school in North Hollywood. I graduated from high school as well in North Hollywood. Some say it is in Studio City. Others say North Hollywood, None the lesss, I knew that North Hollywood was the common denominator, a place to start. Kevin got up for a moment.

"Excuse me, Nancy, where did you go to high school.?", I asked.
"North Hollywood High " was her response. The question was innocuous enough.
"Did you by any chance go to Oxnard Street elementary School?", was the follow up question from me.

This time her eyes twinkled with a bit more curiosity as she waited to here my follow up question.

"Yes, I did", she said with a slight lean forward and a bit more intensity in her inquisitive eyes.

"Do you remember a teacher by the name of Mr. Melton?" was my most important question.

All of a sudden Nancy Jean broke into the biggest smile and recalled Mr. Melton.
"Yes.!!!!!!!!!" " He was the nicest most patient teacher. He made so much of a difference in the lives of students. He went out of his way to help everyone. He was so kind and thoughtful".

I sat there and listened to her speak about Mr. Melton. Tears filled my eyes but were camoflouged by the
patio lights. She brought me close to Mr. Melton.
"Mr. Melton is my father." I knew I found a friend as soon as I mentioned that. We talked forever. Kevin and I talked forever. They embraced me into the community that Tom built. As Tom said, I want a community where everybody enjoys themselves and everybody is the same.

"Everybody is the same here, Walter." Nancy Jean said. I knew that. I worked for a developer that built the same type of community and had a cafe and bar tenants just like the Fernando. The people are a mixture of so many places and things. My father would be happy to know that a student of his school grew up with the values of human togetherness that he tried to instill in his students and the kids at the Crenshaw YMCA. I mention the YMCA because it had a large Asian participation and I spent a great deal of my youth with Japanese, Korean and Chinese kids. We talked about the Black Dahlia murder for a minute. As it happens the Betty, the woman who was killed, was dropped off at the corner of 39th St. and Bronson Ave. It was a lot at that time. That corner was on my paper route. It is 800 yards from my family house. That corner was one of the corners that marked the Japanese community. I have it in thought this morning because I saw where Eric posted something about ImagenAsian looking to staff up. Maybe my exposure to so varied a crowd while growing up may help me.

Nancy Jean and Kevin have no idea what they did for me. It was the second time I was there and each time I felt like I was coming home. What is important is that my father also taught at a school before he went to Oxnard Street school. It was in South Central Los Angeles. The name of the school was Main Street
Elementary School. So you can see how important Main Street is to me. It is a place where I am reexperiencing things learned as a youth, It alows me to regain confidence. Confidence and the importance of it was a topic of discussion last night. Main Street was the street I drove on in Freehold, New Jersey, Springsteen's home town, that offered new experiences for me when I worked as a sales representative for Xerox.

So I gravitate to it. It seems like it is a condensed version of my life. Real estate, education, community feeling and it contains the spirit that many teachers of my father's era wanted their students to have, the spirit that we are all alike and that we should all care about each other.

"We all care about eachother in downtown, Walter", were Nancy Jean's words. Yes. Each time I am on that street I feel that. I feel that since of community that we all watched on television as kids where each town had a Main Street. Mayberry, with Andy and Barney, Springfield, with Wally and the Beaver. All of those shows where everybody cared about eachother.

It is my mission to bridge the gap of communication between worlds. I have more experience at that than anything. To express to the person on the right side of the fence what the person on the left side of the fence is thinking , why they are thinking it and find a common denominator in the same process and reasons in the being of the person on the left side. And vice versa.

Main St has the nucleus, the energy to bring people together. As I said, my father was a teacher on Main St.
I learned alot where he taught. I am learning alot on this Main St. I hope to shed light from all angles to all angles about many issues while I am downtown. This is my journey. What happened last night is what development is about. It is one of the things that a true community brings, a feeling of belonging. What happened last night was that three or four more people knew my name. (I did not get a chance to talk to Gus. That will come).

When I lost that opportunity, recently, I felt a lost that is hard to desribe. Sure, the loss of the income stream was a blow. However, there is something more that does not meet the eye.

Each day I do not have a job, I incur tremendous opportunity cost in not being able to contribute to bringing people together. And yet the cost incurred has enabled a window of light to open in my vision of goals and dreams. Strange but true.

I do not see Skid Row as a problem. I see Skid Row as an amazing opportunity to come up with the right
QUESTIONS so we can EXPLORE the road to the right answers and, in time, DISCOVER the right answers. The way to do that is to bring everybody to discussion 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I already have a set up for the Skid Row chat room. I just don't have a computer so I can be online with live video stream so I can have the chat room open. As soon as I can arrange that, I will launch the chat room on THE SKID ROW broadcasting television channel on the internet.

I want it to be revolutionary. The rich, the poor, the black , the white, the brown and yellow from all walks of life in one room where everyone can speak to each other and learn about each other and share ideas.

There is tremendous brain power on Skid Row. The Fernando building is technically on Skid Row and the owner and the tenants have not lost sight of that, nor do they want to lose sight of it.

I told the recruiter that it was more than a job for me. It gove me the opportunity to be an ambassador to all and for all. I was talking to Kevin. We talked about the process of deal making. We both have had tremendous deal making experience. Let's say we had 12 issues on the table. 12 issues that needed agreement. We explored that process. Kevin said"Hey, if we have two issues that are deal breakers, let's put those aside. Because by concentrating on those two issues, we are not allies. We are not on the same team.
Let's set those aside. Let's concentrate on the 10 that we can solve. Then we have 10 , on the same team, and 2 on opposite sides. The goal of agreement making and co existence doesnn't seem so daunting." And the truth
of it is, he is 100 percent right.

and fill up my heart and soul with warmth. Hopefull I did something for them as well. Soon everybody will know my name. I will be able to laugh and smile and cry and feel whatever I need to feel at the time on Main St. It is happening now. A community is building and spreading in its power and people don't really see all that is happening. Hopefully I can spread the word as I share what is happening with me.

Thanks Nancy Jean. You and Kevin did soooooo much for me last night. If that place where not built, I would not have had the opportunity to feel what I feel. Happy Birthday Kevin. Nancy, I feel my father so much because of you. It is another step in a development. I trust that Tom understands that a sense of community was felt by me and why it happened. Oh yes, and Nancy Jean's last name is the same as my mother's maiden name. She is very special to me, indeed.

And all of us at the table were able to get a lesson about area codes from Bert.

Good morning world.. I love ya.

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