Are changing priorities signs,
Signs that suggest apathy,
For all of the stuff left behind?

If so, is that all bad?

Today, with the resolutions starting,
I doubt all those weight loss armies
Are thinking it’s bad to be apathetic about gluttony.

And what’s wrong if they do?

The rub is that apathy is for real,
Not a word to be tossed around without caution,
Kind of like depressed and addicted.

See what I mean?

The words we choose have meaning,
Express yourself well and rest assured that
Priorities can change without apathy being the cause.

“A life of wisdom consists of constantly being engaged in letting go.”
Francisco Varela

Average Salary = $25,000/year

Not much by today’s costs, but
That’s the stat for West Philadelphia today.

West Philadelphia High School graduated
Back in 2011.
Financial difficulties forced tough decisions
And schools shuddered.
The building again was a symbol of the neighborhood,
This time reflecting the demise and absorbing the decay.

Finally, the school district sold the building
So urban renewal, renovations, gentrification,
Whatever the politically charged term,
Could begin.

Rent = $1,600/month

The builder’s vision was such that the community
Could stand swallowing the changes that were coming.
The guy’s grandmother was a West Philly high grad,
He promised to honor her time there and the legacy
Of a great institution.

That of a community hub,
A place where more than book skills were learned…

The changes came,
Classrooms to apartments,
A boiler room to a hotel quality gathering place,
The old gym, still echoing with the sounds of basketball,
Now a modern fitness center
With treadmills, televisions, and chrome plated dumbbells.

The learning circle had been broken.
The connection to a free public education
Broken by the weight of commerce, bills, and capitalism.
The social significance stripped away
As a community struggled to gain footing
In a system stacked against it.

This is where West Philadelphia High School is today.
An example of what happens when things are let go
Or maybe better yet, when things are not let go.

Maybe the school would still be open
If the leaky roof and balky boilers had been replaced sooner.
Had the school been more open to the community,
Perhaps its importance would have been more significant.

Now it’s just another apartment building
In a community that has not figured out
How to grow.

Maybe the new school will be significant for the hipsters
Or whatever new economic juggernaut
Hits while the community is down.
I just wish the hawks circling the declining property values
Would think of those who are being displaced
By bringing them jobs
Instead of eviction notices
Or high priced condos
That can’t be afforded.

Certainly, that is an idea that should not be let go.

“A life of wisdom consists of constantly being engaged in letting go.”
Francisco Varela

Joe and I drove up in the Ryder
We parked on the sidewalk
Walnut Street was jammed up at 43rd
On a hot July day.
We met the landlord at Walsh’s Tavern,
Learned about the swipe and run guys
Who looked to clean up the seats
Closest to the door,
Signed the lease,
Unloaded the truck,
And off Joe went.

That would be the next to last time I saw him.

I had decided to let go of Williamsburg.
Now I found myself in the dark
Waiting for the next day
When PECO would come through.
Then I could make better sense of my situation.

Traffic was non-stop,
The carts did not leave the inside of the grocery store,
The laundry mats were packed,
There was yelling, there were occasional shots, and
Just down the street was West Philly High.

It stood there like no other school I had ever seen.
It seemed part fort, part castle, and sadly
Part prison.
I wondered what it was like going to school there.
Years later I would work for a program
Serving kids from the public high schools in Philly.
It was as bad as I imagined.

The MOVE bombing had already happened.
Crack was destroying a community.
Penn and Drexel were still buying up everything.
There was a guy going solo on his stoop
In the middle of the day.
People stood in the street yelling at voices, but
Having nowhere to go.

West Philly was struggling in the early 1990s.
Philadelphia was struggling.
For every laugh I heard in the streets,
There must have been twenty sirens screaming by.
Somehow I grew to love the city,
Yet I don’t think I was really a part of it.
People were just trying to survive,
So they had little time for the ideals of 1912
When the big school up the road
Offered to help West Philadelphia realize its potential.

Something let the community down.
Naysayers will blame the schools for a communities failings.
Schools might blame politicians.
Politicos blame industry, taxes, or the other party.
What no one realizes is that it is everyone,
Everyone who failed to accept the changes that were coming
And who failed to let go of the “personal particulars”
That were contributing to the downfall.

In the case of West Philadelphia, drugs were a problem.
Violence followed, but where were the jobs,
The attractive options to give people real choice against
The illicits of chemistry and costs of living?
Where was the support for the school as a social institution
Instead of a pawn to be sacrificed
For political or economic gain.

I stayed in West Philadelphia for a year.
Age and ambition were in my favor for making a move.
On a recent trip through the city, I was disappointed to see
Walsh’s Tavern is gone. Koch’s Deli is gone.

West Philadelphia High School?
Sort of gone…

Trying to be a radical is tough
I’m not political junkie, nor
Do I have any spiritual absoluteness,
But I am getting older, love food and beverages, and
Wanting of better living habits.

I’m not the type to put it on others,
Too often I don’t stand up for myself,
Against myself,
Giving in to the temptation of cinnamon sugar
Or smooth beverages from around the region.

Perhaps the test is not cleaning plates,
Washing the palette, or
Absorbing into the coach.
Maybe this really about my transformation
Into an assertive person.

A person who knows
How to say no.
One who acts on the plans
So enthusiastically put together, but
Often hijacked by my radical approach, given where I live.

It will be one o’clock pm before I eat again
That’s the price for finishing the cinnamon sticks
The kids left while I was out.
Dumb, weak me,
All I had to do was throw them away
Instead of ignoring that change voice yelling in my ear.

Tough times ahead…


The style of the dress shoe never changes
Men just keep wearing the same stuff
Business sensible stays within conservative ranges
The style of the shoe never changes
Women’s dogs demand stylistic exchanges
While men find new to be rough
The style of the dress shoe never changes
Men just keep wearing the same stuff.


Photo Credit: Google Images