Hide and seek

 May I share a child's recollection;

            I was brought up in Queens NYC, in a nice enough neighborhood 

      on a nice enough block. The houses there were described 'semi-attached',

      meaning one building contained 4 apartments; two up -two down and

      each  building was separated by a driveway leading to a little garage or

      a polite patch of concrete or grass. In front, , all the houses had neat little

      postage stamp 'lawns'.

            Around 5:00 or so, Mothers would call out to their children for 

      dinner. Those voices were identifiable both for the names they called and,

      for their music. You knew whose car was whose. Your bike might sleep 

      on the lawn. Some 'lawns' had 'hedges', some not but all were square. 

      The houses were square and flat on top. All was safe and neat.

           In December, some front windows sported Christmas lights and others

       menorahs. Other than that though, it was all pretty homogenized and the 

       same. Equal.

            In July and August these bunker like homes became seasonably

       uncomfortable and so we took to the stoops. Pretty much everybody

       came out to perch on their stoop. Lights remained off so not to bring 

       bugs which generally came anyway. Some folks listened to the 

       ballgame on 'transistor radios' while some bounced from stoop to stoop

       and back again.

             We played hide and seek in the dark. The whole block was 'in' 

        except for some locations where persnickety old neighbors didn't want

        us in their realm for reasons that made no sense to us. But no matter.

              It was summer. We were safe. Crickets chirped and fireflys winked

       spirit songs in the dark.

               That was around 1962 or so. Let's call it...the Kennedy/Johnson

       administration. The social fabric woven those hot summer nights would

       last all year. Civility, respect and concern was not requested or ever 

       denied and never in short supply.

                Until it changed. Folks didn't come out on the stoops no more. 

        Young, old and in-between didn't spend those fragrant hours together. 

        What happened? 

                 

 

              Air conditioners. They all got A.C. And stayed inside to watch  

       in black & white splendor, the Joe Pep Yankees race to the bottom.

       The bugs didn't bite and the sheets didn't soak.   

              Wasn't this good? Wasn't this better? But no one sensed what was

       lost. What was lost?

               Strange in our species how shiney gold plated comforts may on

       occasion obscure or even trump a condition of value and heft.

              Cohesion was lost. Socially reinforcing behavior was lost. People

       moved away sometimes, and new people moved in but you might only

       see them, not know them. Unless of course, you were the type to cross

       the street and shake a hand. Not many of those, we may not see the like

        again.

               Now it is 2019. Let's call it the Chaos administration. 

         Having divided and separated the herd, the predators may now pick off

         individuals or lay traps baited with poison promise of variety and ease.

               Look at us. Look. Sitting, standing, walking, driving, starring

         joyless into rectangle fireflys, believing our minds engaged. 

         The poison promise and the bill is on the way. Minds are engaged

         in the shower where no one is offering terms. Where thoughts may run

        free and may safely graze in tranquil meadows.

               Hell with that ! Water proof cell phones! 

               That will make life better. Fill the empty moments.

               We might miss something !!

          Captives made to march through the arch.   

              Roll call on C-block.

                   Eunuchs proceed to the palace, 

                        with their junk in little wooden boxes.

          Could any religious orthodoxy dream of devotion so pure, 

                                                                                      so unrelenting.

          Called to prayer from no minaret,

                                                 no ringing bells 

                                                     no re-purposed horn.

          But you know the worst part? The worst fucking part?;

                  Who is teaching our Children?

                         To what benefit? To what result?  

TEXT BY: ROBERT BLOCK