Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - A Dead Mayor And His Connection to My Mom

Okay, this is going to sound a little bitter.   I don't care.   It's a long time in coming.

The guy on the right is the current mayor of my home town, Mount Vernon, New York.   He's Richard Thomas and it's apparently his job to preside over the impending death of this once great town.  If you've driven through that place lately, you will know it's an inoperable malignant tumor.   Destroyed by years of political corruption.

The scumbag on the left is the former mayor Ronald Blackwood who actually accelerated the city's cancerous state back when it still had a chance to survive. Blackwood might not have been the final nail in the coffin, but he certainly was the first twenty.  

Blackwood died this week and there are no tears on my pillow.  For those of you who think it's horrible to speak ill of the dead, why don't you sign off this blog right now and go play Words with Friends?   The following words will not be your favorite cup of coffee on this Sunday.

In the obits on this shithead, Ronald Blackwood was remembered as the very first African-American to be the mayor of a city in New York City.   Woot woot. Being first doesn't necessarily mean you're good.  In my world, a lot of politicians are sleazy.   And they come in all sizes, shapes, and...yes, colors.

You see, in an indirect way, Ronald Blackwood destroyed my mother.   And the so-called teachable moment here?   Racism actually is a two-way street.

A little backstory on Mom.  As soon as I was out of the third grade, my mother chose to go back to work.   She had always earned a salary her whole life.  I guess she was progressive in her own way.   Or, more likely, she needed the money to continually pay down her charge account at Bromley's Dress Shop on Fourth Avenue.   She was very much the clothes horse.

Once I got in high school and became pretty self-sufficient, my mom wanted to branch from the small factories or offices she worked at in Mount Vernon.   Her girlfriend's husband was a big wig at a major accounting firm on 42nd Street in Manhattan.   It was your standard bookkeeper position, but my mother really relished the opportunity to go down into the city every day via Metro North.  I don't remember her being as happy as she was during those years at the company which later became part of the famed Ernst and Young. 

As she got older, the commute became a bit tougher.   One morning while walking to a different office, she got mugged on 48th Street and Fifth Avenue at 7:30 in the morning.  That made her think that, as she entered her 60s, there might come the time to consider a job closer to home and not dependent on the 5:31PM express to Fleetwood.

As luck would have it, a golden opportunity came out of the blue.   The son-in-law of a good friend was starting out his small business, a custom bakery and he had already rented space on Sixth Avenue in Mount Vernon, a veritable five-minute cab ride from my mom's apartment.   He needed somebody to do the books and financials for his enterprise.   My mother jumped at this.   She resigned from the accounting firm after almost 20 years.   This was going to be her perfect "final" job as she still wanted to stay vital and work with a bit less travel.

There were good-bye parties and lavish farewell presents as the old firm sent my mother off.   Here's a photo with her showing off one of the lovely parting gifts.
All was good.

And then the bottom fell out.  The son-in-law called.   The city of Mount Vernon had denied him the necessary food preparation license.   You see, at this time, then new-Mayor Blackwood was only allowing small business licenses to go to African-American or, more specifically, Haitian entrepreneurs.   Of course, all others could still get licenses if they had the exorbitant money to pay for them. The son-in-law didn't have the coin.  The bakery never opened.

Suddenly, my mom was unemployed.   And forced into an uneasy, early, and unwanted retirement.   Ill-prepared to handle this, she fell into deep depression.  She was routine-less for the first time in thirty years.  With less activity, her manageable arthritis became less so.  There were pain killers.   There was a bit of alcohol.  After an accidental overdose, there was a prolonged stay in a hospital.   

After about two years of total despair, my mother rebounded a little bit.   But, ultimately, she was never the same until her death.   Hastened, I believe, because she did not get to finish her working career the way she wanted.   Sped up, I feel, because of Blackwood's rather discriminatory stipulation.   

Yes, there are consequences.   

So that's why I show no sympathy in the death of Mayor Ronald Blackwood.   And, since readers turn up on this blog all the time because of Google searches, I can only hope this tale will be a sobering view of one local politician who is being mourned and saluted this week.


Dinner last night:  Pot roast and vegetables.

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