Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dispatches from a Recovering Bleeding Heart: City Bureaucracy

24 June 2009

Inspector S. Durant
Code Enforcement
Housing Division
990 Spring Garden Street
3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Dear Inspector Durant:

Thank you for taking time today to speak with me about the Violation Notice dated June 3, 2009 regarding my property at 422 [Naomi] Street. In the Notice, you cited two violations: 1) failure to obtain a permit for use as a community garden on a vacant lot; and 2) failure to obtain a vacant lot license. You explained that a neighbor had reported a community garden on the lot, and that you verified this by visiting the lot, which you said “looks like a community garden.” As I assured you over the phone today, and as I would have been more than happy to explain to you before the Violation Notice was issued had you asked, the garden at 422 [Naomi] (as well as the garden at 420 [Naomi], which I also own) is NOT a community garden. It is my private garden, on which I grow vegetables for my family. Thank you for clearing my case of that violation.

As we also discussed on the phone today, I will send my application for a Vacant Lot License immediately. As soon as I receive the license, I will notify you of that fact, and then I will appreciate your sending me written verification that all Violations, including the community garden permit violation, have been resolved, and that my case is closed.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions. I can be reached at home at 215 [123-4567].


Marta [last name deleted]

cc: Mr. and Mrs. Barnett Meadowland


24 June 2009

Department of Licenses and Inspections
License Issuance Unit
Public Service Concourse
1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19102

To Whom It May Concern:

It has been brought to my attention by Inspector Durant of the Code Enforcement, Housing Division, that I require a license in order to own a vacant lot. I received a Violation Notice regarding 422 [Naomi] Street, Case No. 201770. I also have recently purchased the adjoining vacant lot at 424 [Naomi] Street. Enclosed is my application for Vacant Lot Licenses for both of these properties.

Please note that I am a private individual, and I do not operate a business in the City of Philadelphia, or anywhere else. I own these two vacant lots in order to grow vegetables for my family’s private use. Therefore, I do not have a Business Tax # (see question #4 on the application). I also have answered question #16, but I am not sure it actually applies to me; please note that I do not own a corporation or partnership. I am merely a private owner of two vacant lots.

Finally, I have not received the booklet Partners for Good Housing, and I suspect that it does not apply to me, but if I need to receive it in order to be issued a Vacant Lot License, please send it to me immediately. If I do not need it, please save the paper and the postage.

I look forward to these licenses being issued at your earliest possible convenience, as I am eager to clear up any violations. If you have any questions, or if I have failed to provide you with all the information you require, please do not hesitate to contact me at 215 [123 2467].


Marta [last name deleted]

cc: Inspector S. Durant, Code Enforcement, Housing Division

Monday, June 15, 2009

Diary of a Mad Housewife: Nuts and Bolts

This is "blogging lite," for Jeffrey.

I have tried all sorts of organizational strategies in my life, most of which have been utter failures.  I'm good at setting them up, but not so great at following through consistently.  I find the more technological they are -- for example, anything requiring a computer -- the less likely I am actually to use them.  My calendar on my MacBook still flags on-going meetings that haven't been going on for years, and to-do lists from 2007.  Finally, this year, I hit on a very low-tech strategy that seems to work for me.  Right before the New Year, I bought a pretty, red Moleskine notebook with blank pages.  At the outer top corner of each page, I have written the date, beginning with "Th Jan 1."  Today is "June 15 M."  On the inside front cover are a few recurring checklists for housekeeping and self-care, which I try to check occasionally, but mostly now can check mentally.  On the blank pages for each day, I write appointments, of course, but there is still room on each page for my daily to-do list, which is the sum total of my organizational strategy: pencil and paper and a list.  What doesn't get done one day can be put on the next day's list.  Sometimes I work off the same list for a couple of days, but I find it's better, and more satisfying, if I write a new list each morning.  

Here's today's list (pretend I have hand-written a small square in front of each item, for checking off when complete):
  • morning chores (this is one of my lists from the front inside cover, and includes breakfast dishes, making beds, a load of laundry, putting away clothes and shoes from the day before, and cleaning the bathroom sink)
  • send email to school board re: revision of bylaws for tomorrow's retreat
  • take car to shop
  • take a walk (home from car shop)
  • call re: garden permit (did you know you need a permit to plant a garden on your own property if it is not adjacent to your house? I just got a letter in the mail Saturday informing me of this fact.... and Marta leans just a little bit more libertarian...)
  • laundry
  • vacuum/mop
  • dust
  • clean bathrooms
  • hang dining room curtain cat recently pulled down
  • meal planning/make grocery list
  • shell peas
  • freeze strawberries
  • grocery shop
  • put this list on blog (check)
  • Melissa arrives @4:00!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Holding the Laceys in the Light

I recently received heartbreaking news from my friend Patrick Lacey, whom I blogged with awhile back about homemaking, that his brother James was killed in a car accident.  Patrick was headed to Philadelphia this weekend for a visit, but instead is making his way back to Indiana to be with his family.  Patrick's father, Paul, was one of my and Julie's English professors at Earlham College (now retired), and is currently the Clerk of the American Friends Service Committee.  I don't know Patrick's mother, who is a writer and homemaker as I understand it, or his sister, who is also an English professor at Earlham, but I am holding them in the light, along with Patrick and Paul, and of course James.  I hope you will too.  

Patrick has written a beautiful tribute to James on his blog, Loose Ends.  I didn't know James, but feel like I do at least a little bit after reading Patrick's blog.  He sounds like he was a very special guy.  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dispatches from a Recovering Bleeding Heart: Abortion

I have lots of thoughts about the awful murder of Dr. Tiller in Wichita, Kansas this past Sunday morning, and about abortion in general, but unfortunately no time or energy to get them out of my head and onto my blog.  But I have been so very moved by a series of testimonials at The Daily Dish over the past week called "It's So Personal."  These are emails Sullivan has received, mostly from women, a few from men, describing the excruciating and heartbreaking circumstances that led them to consider, and in many cases choose, a late-term abortion.  You can read them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Updated:  Sullivan has published one post with a compilation of links to all the posts here, which will make it easier to read them all if you want.

Before he read all those testimonials, Sully was firmly opposed to all late-term abortions. Hearing all those women's stories has him rethinking his position. I am just so moved by all this, and it gives me hope, even in the midst of this terrible moment in the abortion debate.

I never stop being amazed at what happens when people stop lobbing bombs at one another (both literal and metaphorical bombs) and actually start talking and listening to one another.  I don't mean to be naive:  I know that really talking, and really listening, is not enough to change the world, but it seems to me that it is necessary, if not sufficient.  And I don't mean just talking and listening when it's easy; I mean talking and listening when it's really really hard -- being willing to tell your story even when it makes you terribly vulnerable, and having a mind and heart open to being changed by what you hear in turn.  I'm enormously frustrated by how infrequently we let ourselves do that in this polarized culture.  I know for me, sentimentality and ideology are a lethal combination that shuts down dialogue.  That's why I'm a recovering bleeding heart:  I'm pretty sure there's no cure for my tender heart and my passionate sense of justice, and truth be told, I'm not looking for a cure.   But I sure am willing to talk and open to persuasion.