Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good-bye to friends and strangers

We've lost a number of good people recently in the neighborhood. Luminary Jan Metzger didn't call this place home, but she worked in a nearby community and made this neighborhood part of her living laboratory for alternative transportation. She inspired so many in her short sixty years, advocating for safe and welcoming environments for bicycles and pedestrians. It's great testimony to her character that she leaves so many behind to carry on her legacy. She made this city a more hospitable one, and she is deeply missed.

Tom Cunningham was a salty, opinionated, mensch of a guy with a striking likeness to Ernest Hemingway. He'd been born and raised in the neighborhood, in a house overlooking Kosciuszko Park -- Koz for short -- with its lovely if deteriorating fieldhouse still standing, and a line of seniors waiting in line every morning at 7 to claim a lane in the Olympic indoor swimming pool. It's because of Tom that Koz, once (and still occasionally) a haven for gangbangers and drug dealers, got a soft-surface playlot, native landscaping, and replacement tennis nets a few years back. He loved that park like it was one of his kids, and it's up to those of us remaining to use it, and use it well, in his memory.

Finally, my subway stop is a little quieter these days. For as long as I can remember (and we'll have been here nine years in August), the back vestibule of the station filled up with music. It didn't really matter day or night: There was Mick the busker, playing his pan flute for some pocket change or an occasional crumpled bill. Nicknamed the Pan Man by some, Mick looked pretty down on his luck -- stringy hair, dingy clothes, the kind of guy you guessed was probably living in a shelter somewhere, or harboring a Howard Hughes-like inheritance so he could just do his own thing for a while.

Funny thing was, I never much thought about Mick. He was always just there, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in having taken him for granted, or even being sporadically annoyed by the lilting constancy of those damn pan pipes. I never actually knew Mick's name until he died and people started filling in the gaps of his life. But now I feel his absence like a tiny hole in my throat. He leaves behind his silence. That silence has a shape.


leslie said...

Thanks for this, Christy. These are true losses for your neighborhood. Three cheers for memorable people! (The leaf photo is lovely, too.)

Rosemary said...

Beautiful post, Christy. You've made me miss Mick (and Jan and Tom), too.

Christy said...

Thanks, Leslie and Rosemary. These things always seem to happen in threes, so hopefully the sad news is behind us, and the crocuses coming up are signs of new life ahead.

tracy said...

A beautiful tribute!