They’re So Beautiful

The wind turbines seem to be offline, but the blades were rotating gently in the morning breeze. The light reflecting and changing on the bright white surfaces was fascinating, and the clean, aerodynamic look– contrasting with the rusty rail cars and low buildings.

In between taking care of two generations of family, I had time just before sunrise, and then around noon. I took those few minutes to get pix of the windmills, from as many angles as possible.

The view of the windmills at the tops of the little streets off Allens Ave is amazing, but I was unable to get the right perspective– and also people were looking at me like I might be up to something. I decided to go back another time, and maybe capture that picture with a paintbrush– which is often more true than a camera.

How Did That Happen?

Dawn on Providence Harbor

The windmills seemed to appear overnight. Mary, Kmareka’s Environmental Science consultant, says they are going to supply 85% of the electricity for the Fields Point waste treatment plant.

They’re pretty amazing, especially looking down the streets named after states on Allen’s Ave. They loom over the triple deckers, but screened by trees, they may not be so visible when the leaves come in.

How did something so big sneak up on us?

Resident Permit Parking

Providence Daily Dose has an update on the parking situation in our lovely city, where you may still see barns and hitching posts, but dare not leave your car on the street overnight.

Does anyone else remember the Cianci decades, when police could never retrieve a stolen car, but always managed to ticket them, including one that had a dead guy in it?

Our intrepid officers have better things to do at 2am than write tickets–that’s when the bars let out after all.

I went to a community meeting where people were opposed to overnight parking. Some worried about students crammed into overcrowded apartments. I don’t see the connection, especially since permits would be limited to the legal number of occupants, and illegal parkers would be in the same situation they are now. I heard people say they don’t want the neighborhood cluttered with cars, but my neighborhood has paved its little front yards to make parking lots– and demolished nice old houses to replace them with first floor garage units.

We all wish the cars would go away, except for our own, but that’s a different problem to solve. Meanwhile, we are smaller than Boston, have wider streets than Pawtucket. Providence pre-dates the age of autos, and hopefully will outlast it. Resident permit parking is a fair and rational way to deal with our cars today.

Another Brothel Raid

And unlike ‘Club Osaka’ in 1990, the police did not throw the women in jail and let the customers go. ProJo has the story here.

This use of the new law criminalizing indoor prostitution is not the usual routine of arresting prostitutes until they’re bailed out by their pimp. This kind of operation takes investigation and enlists multiple agencies including Day One. It is a targeted action against human trafficking.

I think that all our work and lobbying was not in vain. From the beginning there were those who wanted to ‘close the loophole’ and thought that was all that needed to be done. We helped get a strong anti-trafficking law passed in 2007, and also helped ensure that the ‘criminalization’ would allow the police and courts to recognize victims trapped in this life.

The two women accused of prostitution were interviewed by the state police and an advocate from Day One, a Providence resource center whose mission is to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence. Demers said they were trying to determine whether the women were victims of human trafficking.
Despite the high volume of customers and little pay, the women “admitted no one was forcing them to do this,” Demers said. “It appeared they were doing this under their own free will.”

I don’t aspire to be Carrie Nation, axing a bar to save drinkers from demon rum, and I think there are some people who have options and choose prostitution. But not these women. Shipped from out of state, fifty to a hundred men a day. I hope someone can persuade them to testify.

Some of the people arrested, including the ringleaders, were here illegally, and will be dealing with ICE. Some of the customers will pay way more than the $30 they were expecting as they were wanted for deportation. The rest are outed– names and addresses in the Journal. Raids like this may work as a deterrent to people who used to break the law with impunity.

But to really make our state a place that traffickers will avoid, we will have to keep investing money and will in good police work and victim advocacy. If word gets around that victims can call on the law for justice, people will testify. Nearby states, none of which had a ‘loophole’ and all of which have prostitution, will have to coordinate investigations.

This isn’t about morality, or ‘cleaning up our city’. Our city will continue to be an immoral mess no matter what. This is about prosecuting a crime– one of the worst. Anyone who holds another person in bondage belongs in jail. We had a war about that, and it’s not over yet.

Providence, September 10

At Waterplace

Friday, sunset, the eve of another September 11, a day that will never again be ordinary. I was working downtown in 2001, Providence is where I heard the news, watched the towers fall over and over on TV’s and video screens in Dexter Manor, high-rise housing for the elderly and disabled. 

I took a walk downtown this evening to look at the Wall of Hope. The Wall is a series of hand-painted tiles, over 1,000, made by school children and people in the community as a response to the World Trade Center attack. The granite marker explaining the installation is almost unreadable– acid rain probably, but the tiles lining the walkway and tunnel to the Providence River are bright and unfaded. 

A man sways toward me with his hand out slurring something about food. I give him my bus fare, I can walk home and I think my RIPTIK will probably work on the return bus anyway.  A couple is strolling through the tunnel, the woman stopping to take pictures of the wall. 

I’m struck by the expressions of peace, of hope, of grief for what was done to our country and more than three thousand innocent people. It echoes what I felt and heard in the aftermath nine years ago, when the sky was blue and eerily devoid of airplanes.  For the first time the people on the street lost their categories in my mind and became, simply, American.

Industrial National

Walking back through the park with the grand fountain I see a man sitting on a bench, I think he’s going to panhandle me but he just smiles and flashes a peace sign. The crowd at Kennedy Plaza is, as they used to say, a United Nations. Sometimes we are a United Nation. In the days after September 11 we came together. I visited three churches the night of the World Trade Towers attack. They were lit up with doors open. I didn’t want to be alone.

Waiting for the bus at the Tunnel I see the sign for the First Baptist Church. The church that was founded by Roger Williams before the American Revolution. Still defending freedom after all these years. It was never easy. Like the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. Finding our way when there are real enemies without, and conflict within is the challenge we face. But we have faced this before. Our better angels are speaking, if we will hear them.

Gathered by Roger Williams

David Jaffe wrote his own account, and a meditation on what we lost, Recollections of September 11.

Save the ‘P’

Extraordinary Rendition at India Point Park

Sorry I missed the mayoral debate last night, but I was down in India Point Park watching Extraordinary Rendition marching band and the sunset.

However, reading the ProJo report today, I see that Angel Taveras is the only candidate who would not toss out the ‘P’ that stands for Providence, the Creative Capital.

All the candidates, with the exception of Taveras, said they would get rid of the city slogan (“the Creative Capital”) and symbol (an orange capital ‘P’) that Cicilline spent more than $100,000 to develop.

“People think it’s a parking sign,” said Costantino.

Folks, in these difficult times I would not throw out anything that costs $100,000. I’m unhappy that Mayor Cicilline didn’t hire local talent to create it (maybe we’re the creative capital that can’t create a logo), but I actually think it’s pretty good and I like seeing it around town. If the other candidates are promising to fork out more money for a new logo, and tear down all those signs and make new ones then that’s the stand they are taking.  Myself,  I would rather have my property taxes used for the schools or outdoor concerts like last night. And with all respect to Mr. Costantino, we Providence residents know there is no parking anywhere, we simply choose the space that is least illegal.  It’s called creative parking.

I agree with Angel Taveras– branding takes time and starting from scratch is a waste of money and time needed elsewhere. And I like the ‘P’. That is my stand and I’m sticking to it.

In Burnside Park–Rally for Health Reform

If I had a dollar for every time someone yelled at me–‘Get a job!’ I would not be working two of them. But a flexible schedule is a luxury that never gets old. I wondered who on earth else would be free to come downtown at noon on a weekday to rally for health care.

I made a last-minute decision to take the bus, hoping the driver would let me on with my sign. A woman was waiting at the stop, we got talking and it turned out she was going to the same demonstration. She told me that she is a psychotherapist and spends many hours on the phone with insurance providers, being shuffled from department to department, just to get paid. Since there were two of us I turned my sign to face the oncoming cars, and I was getting honks and waves just waiting there.

Downtown, a small crowd was assembled in front of the monument in Burnside Park. Sen. Whitehouse has an office nearby, perhaps someone spoke for him before I arrived, but my first impression was of a group huddled around a statue. Speakers were using a bullhorn on the monument steps but you had to strain to hear them. I would not have minded making the message more visible. I turned my sign outward toward the people waiting at the bus stops in Kennedy Plaza.

Back to the job thing. I was amazed at the professional people who had taken time out to attend this rally. Among them, Hanna Watson, from Brown Medical School advocating for her patients, Claudia Gregoire, a lawyer, speaking on behalf of small businesses, a nurse who lost coverage for needed care when her insurance changed, a man whose sick wife was evicted from her hospital bed when her insurance denied her. Perhaps we were preaching to the choir. Perhaps not. There was one man who shouted, ‘Who’ll pay for all this?’

‘I’ll tell you,’ I said, trying to be helpful. ‘You see, we’re all paying for it when costs are passed on to…’

At that point he got surly, said a few things about illegals and they can just go to the emergency room and left in a trail of alcohol fumes.

I noticed that a reporter from WPRO followed after him, perhaps disappointed at the lack of action.

Recently I heard a story on the radio, about a woman who went up to Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a list of important reforms.

‘We elected you,’ she said, ‘you need to do all these things.’

He looked at her and said, ‘You have to make me.’

It’s true. The insurance corporations are talking through their lobbyists, and we have to try ten times as hard to be heard. And that’s a reform for another day. But this is a crucial time, the health system is broken. Only we can build a better one.