Monday, November 8, 2010

Houses and Communities, "Eighteen in Webster Groves"


In Aaron Brown’s blog, MinnesotaBrown, and his weekend Hibbing Tribune column, he writes about homes that have a sense of permanence and about unremarkable houses hastily constructed. He comments that “the great peoples of the earth build for the future, not for the moment.” My Norwegian grandfather called in carpenters to his farm in West Central Minnesota one hundred years ago to build a sturdy farm house. My mother was seven at the time and remembered the construction. The house has been well maintained over the years and is there today, one mile east of Donnelly.

Back in the 1970s when our growing family relocated from the copper mines of Arizona to coal company headquarters in St. Louis, we settled in an established community on old Route 66, where downtown workers had lived and commuted by rail since the 1904 World’s Fair. In the corporate world of St. Louis I shifted between several companies and decided not to leave the area for another mining camp. Finally, when retirement became an option in the Spring of 1995, I wrote the following letter to our neighbors for the local Webster-Kirkwood Times:

"We sold our house the other day, and the 'SOLD' sign was attached two days later. Much thought and planning went into the decision to sell and move from this comfortable old city. We had arrived eighteen years ago with a new job, children, and pets. We settled into West Cedar Avenue where the neighbors knew each other. Now the job has ended with retirement. The children have all grown up, married, and relocated at a distance. The pets have died and been replaced with Beagle and Kitty.

The eighteen years have been full and fruitful for a Mom and a Dad, their kids, their activities, the house and garden. As we move about this tall three-story building to prepare for our departure, all manner of memories come to life and play across the yard, sound the piano, and fill the elegant dining room. Cartons are filled, furniture is sold off, and last minute building inspector violations (handrails never installed, etc.) get fixed. A living home is being prepared for the next family with kids. It is Grandma and Grandpa who are moving out and selling to the next Mom and Dad with children to fill the five bedrooms.

We are leaving this neighborhood of friends for a lakeside home near far-off Brainerd, Minnesota, a state we left exactly thirty years ago and now rejoin. Born in the Northland to Scandinavian parents, we head up river like salmon towards a smaller city on the same Mississippi River. Yes, it gets cold there, but we’ve enjoyed all the seasons before and are ready to enjoy them some more.

Before we actually close the deal and load the moving van, a few thoughts are in order about this special place where “Eighteen” is not so very long a time at all. It has been a fine place to raise children and get acquainted with a lot of their friends’ parents, as well as all sorts of other neighbors. Whether the subject is shrubs and flowers, running and cycling, Black History and city charters, solid waste and crows, or art galleries and sidewalk dining, this place is never lacking for people to stretch your imagination and share your conversation.

In relocating about six hundred miles to the North, a part of us will remain where the dogwood blooms so beautifully out by the front sidewalk. And we will take the memories of our many friends with us to remember alongside the sparkling waters where the Loon calls.

Eighteen in Webster Groves - a very good part of our lives.

Gordon Prickett
formerly on West Cedar Avenue"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Day 2010: Big Turnout

It is being called "A Wave" that swept across the nation. The complexion of Minnesota's legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives changed from majority Democratic Party to majority Republican. My DFL Congressman in the Eighth District Jim Oberstar lost his seat after 36 years in Congress to an airline pilot who has never run for elective office.

"It's the Economy, Stupid," was heard from the Clinton Presidential campaign back in 1992. Most pundits today agree it is the "Economy" again this Fall that has submerged more than 60 Democratic seats in the House of Representatives. With official unemployment stuck around ten percent and actual unemployment more like 15 to 20 percent, for voters it didn't feel like the Great Recession was over. Millions have been tossed out of their homes or are now facing foreclosure.

Banks and investment houses committed fraud and trickery in the housing market by offering mortgages and securities that were indeed "too good to be true" to careless buyers who snapped them up. Now the buyers stand accused of poor judgement, while the perpetrators have walked away with obscene riches. When the resulting housing bubble burst the overheated economy collapsed. Its rescue has been difficult and expensive. So, blame the victims and blame the political party in power for the downturn.

Enter the Big Money from the businesses that have profited by the government's stalemate. Oil, Health Insurance, Finance, and Pharmaceuticals. With the First Amendment right of "free speech" given them by a 5-to-4 Supreme Court, these corporate, moneyed interests have mounted a no-holds-barred effort to poison the name of "government". Using this anonymous money, newly-organized "Tea Party" demonstrations have been conducted in courthouse squares across the land (Aitkin, MN, included). "Take back our government!" the demonstrators cry.

This Navy veteran helped to defend our citizens for over 17 years, and believe me, as an election judge for the past 12 years, nobody has snatched away our freely-elected government in this neck of the woods!

But an issue which does concern me is "war." We have been fighting two wars, for nine years in Afghanistan, and seven years in Iraq. The mid-term election campaigns were silent on this issue. The prolonged sacrifice of "other people's sons and daughters" by our leaders, who fought both wars with borrowed money, needed to be examined and debated.

After all this time, what are our objectives in the Middle East? Did we continue to fight to control Iraq's oil fields after deposing of its ruler? The attack on the Twin Towers came from al Qaida in Afghanistan, which is currently headquartered in Pakistan, our "ally."

Spending on two wars, and on the increase in armaments and personnel for the past decade, has driven us deep into debt. Cutting taxes for the very rich has deepened the hole we are in. Republican cries for smaller government, lower taxes, and balanced budgets make no sense in our present predicament as we bind up our veterans' wounds and pay off these risky overseas adventures.

I look for the Democratic President and the Democratic Senate to keep on changing these war policies and getting at the real causes of our financial failures and our fiscal irresponsibility. Plus we have the urgent unfinished government business of Immigration Reform, Global Warming, and Alternate Energy Development.

So let the American democratic republic continue to "respond to the people."