By Alexander Houston
I have a low-flying bird’s eye view of the world as I write at the front window of my 2nd story home. From here I see a little of the good and too much of the bad and the ugly. But what I see in many ways motivates me.
We have had an wet spring and early summer and the vegetation in the large triangular lot across the street is shouting out to be mowed. I put it off until Friday, my day off. I speak to my neighbor. He permits me use his mower for the job.
The lot is 100 feet by 100feet by 90 feet and looks like a jungle. I arrived home from work on Thursday when Anthony asked me “when?”. I knew he was talking about the lot. That same desolate triangle owned by some conglomerate who takes, absolutely, no responsibility for it. The lot is always dirty even after the weekly and sometimes biweekly cleanings I give it. Now, it looks like the Congo and the owner is no where to be found. But hark, you can hear these slum lords screaming even now should something like this play out in their neighborhoods.
“Tomorrow Ant, I will take care of it tomorrow.” All I wanted to do now was to go in, turn on the air conditioner, and get a shower. Anthony bellowed back,”I be out to help.” Privately I thought ‘I will believe that when I see it.’
The weather forecast for Friday was high 90s. I got a good nights sleep and rose early to begin. Anthony H was there too. In fact, after many hours and a fading zeal he was still there. He was pushing me. “Might as well get it all done now” said he “No one else is going to do it.” And I had doubted him and here he was pushing me to be better.”Stand back I am going to pull this one up by the roots.” Give me a minute, I have a tool that will make extrication easier I will be right back.” And he was, before I could regain my breath.
Anthony H fits the mould perfectly. He is a good neighbor. So often, when I am out front cleaning passersby with good intentions will remark, “Good job fellow” or “I am going to come out to give you a hand here,” but they never do.
That Friday was my first prolonged encounter with Anthony. He has always been around looking, watching and reporting on illegalities. He is the eyes and ears of Foulkrod and Penn streets. I got to speak to him at length on Wednesday night.
AH: Anthony, how long have you been a resident of Frankford?
Anthony H: We, my mother and brother, have been here for over 15 years.
AH: Has the neighborhood changed any in 15 years?
Anthony H: Most definitely, from 1992-1999 it was nice around here. After that things started to decline especially since 2009 & 2010.
AH: What do you think has been the cause of this decline?
Anthony H: Without a doubt, the drug trade as well as a lack of concern for others. Also violence and sloppiness is more rampant.
AH: Concern for others?
Anthony H: I mean common courtesy. Looking out for one another. Keeping an eye on suspicious activities and reporting them. Also cleanliness and motivation is missing.
AH: You are active in that regard. For example, you had to evict a tenant. Why?
Anthony H: The mechanic was disrespectful, sloppy and he kept too many cars on the block. He had to go.
AH: How about the property on the right-hand corner of Foulkrod and Penn? As I understand it is now being developed.
Anthony H: Yes it is being developed and I am keeping an eye on it. Development is good, but the owner must get in good tenants and he cannot open a bar or deli here. We will not have it. It will not improve the area.
AH: Can you tell me about the halfway house at Penn and Leiper streets?
Anthony H: They try to maintain. I would like to see them more motivated, cleaner, more respectful of others’ rights and properties. More motivated to be better neighbors mostly. I should not have to keep after them to keep things orderly.
AH: How about your mother’s house? As I understand it is for sale.
Anthony H: We rent. We have done so for many years and the landlord is another slum-lord and has not maintained the building well. Personally, I do not think it will sell in its current condition.
AH: Well, we would certainly miss you in this community. You are a good neighbor. You keep your eyes open to what is going on around here. I, personally, have benefitted from your diligence. What would you like to see in the way of improvements in the area?
Anthony H: I want to see people motivated to do good, to love their neighbors, to show respect and kindness, to look out for each other, to keep clean, and to follow the laws. This is the definition of a good neighbor.
My discussion with Anthony resonates even to this very hour. Really, it is a call for ALL of us to be (as he puts it) more motivated. And that is the duty of man, women, boy, and girl: to know good, to do justly, and to walk humbly. And all the virtues Anthony spoke of are encapsulated in the words of the prophet Micah. And to those can be added the words of yet another prophet who said “But let justice roll down like water and righteousness as a mighty stream.” Now, I’m no prophet, but I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read Anthony’s statements. I long to see the day when we all become a little more motivated. And I see the day we all become good neighbors and watchful citizens.