Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Jake In The Neighborhood

In the course of my life
(to put food
on the table and
to keep a roof
over my head)
I have had to be
a jack of all trades
(only later in life
did I earn a
MSW degree)

I have worked as
an insurance salesman
driving instructor
social worker
fund raiser
public relations guru
real estate sales
financial planner
gas station attendant
sous chef
taxi driver
state civil servant
city civil servant
book store clerk
bus boy
dish washer
bar tender
baby sitter
lawn mower helper
food store clerk
among other things
too numerous to mention
(and not necessarily
in the aforementioned order)

My work life
often took me
into neighborhoods
that were well outside
my comfort zone
but the nature
of the work
had me climbing stairs
in low income housing projects
and in areas of the city
where the police and firemen
feared to go

I have been in crack houses
looking for abandoned babies
rat infested tenements
slum housing of every
stripe and kind
I was one of those
intrepid warriors of the
working class
forced by necessity
to rush into circumstances
where angels have feared to tread
(I'm not bragging
just explaining)

Some how
(mostly by the
Grace of G-d)
I have managed
to survive it all
and to even have
been able
to have reached
the age of retirement
even though
I've had to go into
dangerous  neighborhoods
(mostly in NYC and
where no white man or
white jew
had ever gone before

In short
I was and still am
(in many ways)
the proverbial
Neighborhood Jake 
(a so-called Jake
is the street code word
for Jew)

Some of the neighborhood residents
would shout out the term
as a warning to their neighbors that a
Jake was in the area
either to sell them
things that they
didn't want or need
(at shy lock prices)
or as a representative of
the Man
come to enforce
some law or regulation
that could lead to
state supervision or to
the removal of their children
(into foster care)
or even to their arrest
and incarceration
on various and sundry
(and very often)
trumped up charges

Being the official
Neighborhood Jake
was a shitty job
(but as the proverb goes)
someone had to do it

Philadelphia, Pa. 2013

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