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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Spring comes to the backyard

Snowdrops and jonquils and crocuses, oh my, robins and red squirrels, and strange birds, oh boy.

Well strange birds are migrating right now, so birds are passing by we rarely see, including pileated woodpeckers, snow owls and one huge bird all white sitting high up in the pine tree in Central Park. And now it’s not a Seagull Duh!

I was so glad to see the red squirrel spunky and unharmed, making it through our terrible winter. He’s been living in our backyard for years now. Along with the possums, skunks and bunnies. Ah wildlife it adds so much to my life. Maybe not the hawks and owls who also nest in our yard, but hearing the owls scream in the midnight hour is always an eye opener. And Wilber, of course sits up at the window, muttering to himself and trying to make me sit up and guard with him.

Spring always reminds me of my childhood. And I have been thinking alot about Harry Linton.

When I was little I was different, I was not like other children. I was quiet and hidden, even from my parents. One man came forward and said, “ Let me help,” that was Mr. Linton, the man whose name once graced Linton High, now Schenectady High. At 5 years of age, I was reading on an 8th grade level and writing poetry. Harry showed me a world beyond Bridge Street. I got a dog. I took ballet lessons and learned to play the piano, and got a library card. This is why I do what I do. Show a different life to kids who are isolated and in need. It’s not about fancy restaurants or theater tickets, it’s about trust and hanging in through all the bad times. It’s about not letting go and following through. It’s about being there when a lost kid walks through the door, and says, “are you still here?” And I can say, “yes, always,” Thank you Harry.

I remember a Mrs. Sanford down in the Stockade, who offered me what was called elocution lessons, and had me quoting Shakespeare speeches at age 7. And here home, so elegant and open and she was always in shoes and beautiful hose, speaking clearly and pouring me tea. Eliza Doolittle move over, you made me feel like one fair lady.

And now speak of the arts and they come rushing to the door.

“Zucchero” a 60 something world music star, gospel and Cuban, and soul and rock all rolled into one amazing man from Italy. I saw and heard him perform at the Egg Saturday before Easter and is touring the U.S. for the first time. And what a ball of fire. Goodness Gracious. Wears a long black coat and wide brimmed hats and SINGS.

For 1 hour and 45 minutes he kept an audience screaming and dancing. It was kind of like Woodstock 101. It was also the largest gathering of Italian heritage I have ever been in. Old ladies with walkers, teens in sneakers, well fed men of about 400lbs. Women in high HIGH heels, and skin tight minis. Suits everywhere, and canes galore. By the third song everyone (and I do not use this term lightly) was waving hands over head and clapping. And most spoke Italian and almost all knew each other. It was if I had stumbled into a private family party. Everyone danced even those with canes and walkers, everyone sang and yet there was no riot, everyone was in perfect control. I even saw the cha-chas, and tangos. Big Cuban influence. There was a young black female lead guitar player and could she sing. Four piece band, percussion and lead, and bass guitar and an incredible keyboard player. All led by the indefatigable Mr. Zucchero. No breaks, all high voltage, all super charged with excitement. Sidebar here Mr. Zucchero had studied opera, and was a friend of Luciano Pavorotti, he had even written a duet for the two of them.

One of the most moving moments of the night was when Pavorotti’s voice came out of the speakers singing, “Mis-er-re-ri” and Zucchero would sing his answer and in the end this duet would soar in harmony out over the auditorium.

Next art tidbit- the Bolshoi, the Bolshoi Ballet will be at S.P.A.C. this summer in July, I only knew this because someone gave me a ticket. Wednesday July 23, is my date for an afternoon matinee, complete with food and wine. I am assuming they will be in Saratoga for a while. And you should line up for tickets early. I doubt they will be back but you never know. One of the great companies of the world, and while I feel our own New York City Ballet is comparable it is a different style of dance based on the Vaganova technique, and the ballet, I am sure will be an enormous spectacle costumes, scenery, lighting etc, not to mention the spectacular dancing. I urge you to go, you may never get another chance.

And then there’s QUEST Schenectady our Facebook page. It’s beginning to go worldwide. The Kings are sending it everywhere, last I heard it was in Ecuador. Including the Gazette article on their first foray into QUEST. They were and still are our cleaning crew. And I always say, I love to see men scrub floors.

We have a symbiotic relationship now, and help each other. They work as world P.R. agents, and me? I work apparently as their mother. And I quote here off Facebook.

“We love you too Ms. Judy- and as long as u keep doing what u doing, we will be right next to you regardless the situation...Always doin right.”

“You’re our mother”

“True blessings indeed, respect and love from Denver Kolorado.”

The last being from the Urban Warriors, an Indian Advocacy group whose main objective is saving the earth.

Then there's the one from Japan, I can go on, but you get the picture.

Meanwhile at QUEST, we are working together building bird houses and showing movies. And changing the pants of young boys who had an accident. Just another day. Just everyday folks doing extraordinary things for the best kids in the world. Ours!

Like Ty Quan who comes in to help, and real help, not sit around help. Ty is 14 going on 15, and said to me, “Looks like you might need some help.” Will I do. And he cleans, he hauls out trash, he rides in the car and takes each child out and walks them to their door. He s ernest, polite, and very special. I have known him for ever and a day. And when he comes in, the sun, even when it is gray and cloudy walks right in with him.

Then there’s the little boy of 3 who lives on Congress Street, beats his big brother of 8 out the door and climbs in the car and tries to hold it shut while he screams, “I wanna go.”

And finally this sweet, sweet child who’s caught in the middle between her mom and an ex staff member who was fired. Staff members boyfriend sells drugs to her mom, and that also puts mom in the middle, because, sweet little girl practically lives at QUEST. Can you spell “stupido?” All of them except the 8 year old who is always waiting for me. And has a real chance of a good life. And, well, yes, it kind of sticks me somewhere in that equation also. Street justice is harsh and uncaring.

Now lets move on to a real crime.

Two of my girls 11 and 9 were so thrilled to see someone arrested the other day. “ What’s up with this?” I ask. Well they were at the State Street laundromat when the cops came to Auto Zone across the street, and like all of us, our curiousity take away all sense, of propriety, and they rushed across the street to see the perpetrator take off. After the cops caught him, they (the cops) asked, “Why do you always run away?” “Because I can,” was the response. Obviously he was caught again at a later date on a spring day on Albany Street. It would be interesting to see re-arrest records.

Now it’s time for Chestnut St., right across from QUEST’s parking lot. A regular revolving carnival of crime and drama. Actually the whole Vale neighborhood is. And we always have a front row seat. How much money did the Metroplex and the mayor put into the Vale Project, I wonder? Just another ongoing fiasco in the ongoing rebuilding of our city.

And here we sit at QUEST on folding chairs with half the neighborhood watching the hex Chestnut St. blockade and raid going down, it’s almost an ordinary occurrence it happens so often.

But wait, heres a new twist. Here comes a neon green muscle car being chased by an all black cop car, lights flashing, siren roaring, just like the Marvel Comics. And wham bang, smashed right into the telephone pole, then out of the car and where does he run? You guessed it, right down Chestnut Street. 4 other cars pull up, the canine unit follows suit, the ambulance in close pursuit, Nimo, Verizon, Dish Network, and the crowd goes wild. Of course once the anonymous male gets down Chestnut, he just scrambles into Vale Park and disappears.

I’m thinking maybe we should put up a popcorn and lemonade stand; make a little money off the mayhem. Maybe even make some photo postcard souveneers. Label them simply- State St. Schenectady. Or even better, “Can you spell Schenectady?”

What’s interesting is, I see that same car on the street, Albany St. this time with a new hood and front end, all natural, waiting to be painted. The neon green on the rest of the car catching the sun and simply sparkling.

Sometimes I feel like Molly Goldberg. The woman in the sitcom who many many years ago sat at the tenement window on the 9th floor. She rested her ample arms on the sill and surveyed her kingdom and commented on everything that went on, as night drew on you could hear other mothers calling in their children, and at other times there would be lively backing and forthing between neighbors. And sometimes even a little heated exchange.

No cell phones, no T.V., just neighborhood observations.

“A man drove by the church and stopped to talk to me. he was Latino, in a nice car and had arrived at some comfortable life and living. He knew I was the pastor. He waxed nostalgic about having grown up in the projects and pointed to the church and said he had been baptized and made his first communion there.

Then he takes in the scene. Gang members gathered by the bell tower, homeless men and women being fed in great numbers. Folks arriving for the A.A. and N.A. meetings and the E.S.L. classes.

It’s a who’s who of Everybody Who Was Nothing. Gang members, drug addicts, homeless, undocumented. This man sees all this and shakes his head determined and disgusted, as if to say, “tsk, tsk.”

“You know,” he says, “This used to be a church.”

I mount my high horse and say, “You know, most people around here think it’s finally a church.”

Then I ride off into the sunset." —Gregory Boyle, Tattoos On The Heart

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