It all comes down to: ‘What do I know?’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2001

"Life is a continual process of remaking ourselves".

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

"Life is a continual process of remaking ourselves"

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– Albert Camus,

French novelist

Ain’t that the truth.

Or is it?

It seems certain that Austin’s life – if you could say that it has one, is to remake itself or "tear old stuff down" or move it out.

Suddenly the town is in dire straights for "low-income housing." If I remember correctly many of the low-income houses in the community were bulldozed – I suspect on the basis "they were unsightly."

It seems to me there could have been some way many of them could have been preserved with far less money then building new "low-income housing" but as my dad used to say, "What do I know?"

And I suppose it was, with one of the City Councils way back when, that "North Main" was in it’s natural state, with the Cedar River meandering its natural course, was part of the world that so inspired Richard Eberhart. The river that was so important for the his children to experience on a canoe trip when they visited last October – our last beautiful day.

Back in Eberhart’s day it was an area for extra Cedar River to "hang out" until it could make its way downstream in an orderly fashion.

Somebody must have owned all that property too and dreamed of filling in nature’s natural watershed that indeed came to be. I remember how Frank Skala, my great uncle, used to complain about the development there when the river was rerouted and the watershed filled in.

He knew.

Camus’ quote is not intended to talk about towns – or is it.

I remember not so long ago when the school board in all its wisdom decided it would be in the district’s best interest to close Shaw School.

We were told it was "to save money."

At the same time I remember being told that Shaw School was the most energy-efficient school in the district and it was a neighborhood school, like Sumner. Kids came to it from every nearby which way.

The same school that produced a state director of education, Tom Nelson, who in part was responsible in part for getting the charter schools up and going and is now a superintendent and former Austin school district business administrator.

There was a good mix at Shaw. Few had to ride a bus.

Now these kids are bused somewhere. Today this is an ever-increasing expense. In those days one had to live two miles from the school to ride the bus; now it isn’t a mile.

I remember working with a group of students there on debate and the strong job they did – then going to Banfield where the students were just there but … there’s no use crying over spilled milk.

Getting back to Camus’ quote of "remaking ourselves," my own life is changing again. My stay with the Austin Daily Herald has come to an end. I’ve accepted a position with Family Focus, an in-home counseling program – returning to the kind of work I did do at another time in my life..

The editor, Chuck Gysi, has assured me another month of doing my column. To those of you I have offended, I have read about it in your letters to the editor, something I used to do with another Herald columnist. He, incidentally, e-mailed me at one point when I was being criticized and said, "You’re doing a good job if your getting reactions like that." I think there is some truth in that.

Alex Pate, a black author from the Cities and a writing instructor says, "If you read or write long enough, you will get to know yourself." Yeah.

Our writing group that meets at the library from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays would all agree with that. Not only do we come to write and chit chat but we usually leave with a book or two we’ve checked out.

As for poetry, Austin’s own Richard Eberhart said, "It’s struggles of the soul that make poetry possible."

It’s not the assignment my son brought home, actually a worksheet on "Concrete Poems" that has three circles which mention "adjectives," "verbs" and "feelings" and then tells him to begin "their" concrete poem. This brings instant flashbacks to my days in school when we were told what to read and what to write while our own thoughts turned to mush.

I don’t think that’s what Alex Pate was talking about and maybe – hopefully – someday schools will make room for students to strike out with their own interests not with these directed "masses" assignment pouring water on their own burning coals.

Bob Vilt’s column appears Tuesdays. E-mail him at