Weave Real Connections

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.

You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting, after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

Marge Piercy, “Seven of Pentacles”

I wasn’t familiar with Piercy’s poem before today’s memorial service for Joe Herzenberg – a great way to illuminate the influence Joe had on our community. Great remembrances from folks like Gerry Cohen, Leonard Rogoff, Jon Courtland, Ellie Kinnaird and Kathie Young (who did an incredible job keeping Joe going over the last year).

Joe could be mischievous, cantankerous and real curmudgeon. He also was a passionate defender of what he believed in – including our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. In fact, as Ellie noted, Joe was an inveterate cheerleader for Dec. 15th’s Bill of Rights Day event on the old Post Office’s steps – a role she feared would not be taken up by someone new.

Speaking of roles unfilled, Franklin St. used to be the home to many unorthodox citizens – folks like Joe and Marty – but as the old generation disappears the number of new folks stepping into those roles seems diminished. Sure, even today, there are unusual folks that are being woven into our community’s fabric but it seems at a lesser and lesser rate.

Then again, maybe it just seems that way to me as I’ve taken on my own role that has swept me away from the undercurrents of our local creative culture.






2 responses to “Weave Real Connections”

  1. Friends of Joe Avatar

    Will, thanks for sharing your memories of Joe. We linked to both your posts at Remembering Joe Herzenberg – http://joeherzenberg.blogspot.com – where more recollections about Joe’s life are posted, including photos, audio interviews, and video clips.

  2. Chuck Morton Avatar

    When my father first started commuting to Chapel Hill in 1971, he took me to lunch at Hector’s, Breadman’s and Sutton’s. On these walks down exotic Franklin Street of the 1970’s, we witnessed an amazing street culture that simply is no longer there. The Hari Krishnas still sing occasionally, but reduced in numbers. The Court of King Nyle has passed into history (the last time I saw Sandy, Countess of Carrboro, he was decked out in cowboy leather in a Raliegh cowboy bar). The flower ladies have mostly retired; only one remains. Now even Squeaky’s hot dog cart is gone.

    Joe and his floppy hat were really only a small part of the picture. My own father was famous for his plaid bow tie and sportcoat combination (apparently fashionable among undergrads at Dartmouth in the late 1930’s). Please remember that at that time the streets were crowded with chromed finned cars in technicolor combonations not seen in recent years. Signs tended to be bigger and flashier with bright colors and flashing lights.

    Today’s street scenes are far tamer, and very beige by comparison. The same may be said for today’s people, unfortunately. There are no more regional accents, having all been smoothed over by constant television exposure. Today’s youth are conforming more rigidly to peer expectations than previous generations, and modern technology allows those peer expectations to be more rigidly inforced than ever before. Big Brother IS watching, and all his Facebook friends know instantly your transgressions.

    Characters like Joe are becoming rarer for all these reasons. We definitely need the next generation of characters to step forward. Remind me to stop wearing my shoes on Franklin Street. And do your part – grow your beard longer, or wear a cape or something. Maybe I’ll wear my tail out.

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