Friday, March 19, 2010

Ed and Me

Day 31 of 46 c Lenten Season 2010

Show and Tell

“Wow – who’s that old guy?” you may be asking. Not the guy with the glasses; the man wearing the suit and tie.

I’m the guy in the glasses, and the fellow to the right of my photo is the inimitable Ed Koch, New York City's 105th mayor back in the late 1970's and 1980’s and still one of the city’s most die-hard supporters.

Koch’s mayoral administration inherited a bankrupt city heaving in the throws of middle-class flight. Crime stalked virtually everybody, infrastructure was literally falling apart, and experts saw the city’s future as being darker than the polluted East River.

He's No Mr. Ed

During his roller-coaster three-term tenure, however, Koch managed to right the city's abysmal finances, staunch much of the middle-class and corporate flight from the city, and reinvigorate the pride New Yorkers thought had also fled. Ultimately, though, political corruption within his administration cost Koch his hoped-for fourth term to the elegant, soft-spoken David Dinkins (who I met once, btw, on the steps of City Hall when I was an intern).

Even if you couldn’t stand his liberal biases, you had to admire the sheer chutzpah with which the Bronx-born Koch dove into his job. Single and childless, he seemed to have all the time in the world to devote to salvaging his hometown. Everywhere he went, he’d stop people on the street or in building lobbies and bluntly quiz them: “Hey – How’m I doin’?”

Unlike those who considered suburbia Eden, Koch embraced the city New York was evolving into – a city whose apex had already crested in terms of its economic might and the hometown for most of America's corporations. People and headquarters were gone and not coming back, so Koch helped the Big Apple re-confront the diversity which had made it great to begin with. Most of the renewed interest in central-city employment and living that has reversed dying urban areas all over North America during the last decade can ultimately be traced to Ed Koch and his simple yet controversial recipe for making lemonade out of lemons.

Maybe another mayor during those 12 years could have done a better job. But New York didn’t have another mayor, it had Koch. And certainly, a lot of people could have done a lot worse than he did. Koch was and is a liberal, but a liberal with a better grasp on reality than most of his ilk. For example, he is a staunch supporter of current celebrity mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, although some dismiss him as a Democrat in Republican clothing. Koch also opposed affirmative action, saying that it was demeaning to minorities since it assumed they intrinsically needed extra help to get and keep a job.

Author, Author!

So why did I strike an Ed Koch pose in the picture to the left? Many of my friends believe I’m another Democrat in Republican garb, but that’s not why I was trying to look like Koch.

Actually, I didn’t have anybody in mind when that picture was taken. My editor at needed a photo for my inaugural article to appear on her site next Tuesday, and I don't like having my picture taken and was goofing off. It wasn't until she sent me the image file that I realized the resemblance to Hizzonor (what New Yorkers call their mayors). That is the real reason I’m posting this picture here on Show-and-Tell day! This is my way of announcing that I’ll be a published Internet author as of next week.

I have to qualify that because I’m already a paid, published author. Back when I was in high school, my aunt was working for a textbook company in Greenwich Village, and they needed a story about the old west for one of their books. She suggested that one of her nephews in Texas could write it, and they paid me the princely sum of $35 to do so. Of course, I don’t have a copy of what I wrote for them, but I remember it had something to do with a horse pumping water with one of those old hand pumps. The story I wrote doesn't matter anyway, because when they got ahold of it, they edited the living daylight out of it so I could barely recognize it when my aunt sent me the final version. Leave it to a bunch of New York City editors to re-write a story about the Wild West from their offices in Greenwich Village.

Of course, that all took place during the Koch administration, back when vast stretches of New York could probably have been considered as violent and lawless as the Wild West reputedly was. So maybe those editors weren’t as disconnected from my story as I thought.

I invite you to look for my article on this coming Tuesday. It’s the first in a five-part series on singles in the church. Whether you’re single, married, or something in-between, hopefully you can get something out of it.

And then you can tell me "how I'm doin'!"

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