Alas, Alack

March 19, 2008

Bishop McDevitt

On January 22 I wrote in this space about the latest announcement about the future of the building pictured at left, Bishop McDevitt High School.

“Officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg have narrowed the site options for a new Bishop McDevitt High School to three, but they’re not saying where those sites are. One diocesan official also said renovating the existing school, which has been a fixture on Market Street since the 1930s, is still being considered. . . . The bishop said it is ‘too early in the process to reveal the sensitive information,’ but the decision could be made within two months.”

Well, here we are.

Within five years, a new campus will rise on what is now farmland about four miles east of the urban hillside where the building that holds the best memories of my teen years now stands.

When I first wrote about this possibility, I said

I feel resigned, accepting, confident that the bishop will make the decision that is the right one, even if it’s not the one I want. Nothing can take away the memory of the days I spent inside that building. I’ll be sad if it falls to another purpose and I can never again enter it as one returning home. But ‘the memory of your counsel,’ as the Alma Mater puts it, lives inside me and helps every single day to keep my heart ‘serene and true.’

I knew this was coming. I knew it was inevitable. Today I am less accepting than I am sad.

The news comes the day after I took my Bread Loaf admissions manuscript, the one I mailed on Monday, through workshop with two readers whose insights I trust and value. The manuscript is not hopeless, of course, but it is a lot weaker than I was willing to admit to myself as I scribble-scribbled my way toward a conclusion. (I needed a dramatic event, so I made a house that figures prominently in the piece suffer an explosion — an explosion! — that gets everyone out on the street wringing their hands and wailing alas, alack. Why not a simple fire? my friend Mitch asked. Because I was just scribble-scribbling. Alas, alack.)

So today I get to picture my flawed, inadequate manuscript landing in Bread Loaf’s slush pile where it will compete with 2,000 others for 100 spots. And I also get to imagine what will become of the Twin Towers, already being referred to as “the old property” once the move is made:

“Rhoades said he would appoint a special committee to plan for that use. The diocese has already received inquiries from developers, though it isn’t clear what their ideas are for the old property, said the Rev. Edward Quinlan, secretary of education for the diocese. “

The D-word. Ouch.

And do you know what the worst part is? The very worst part?

All the progress I’ve made in personal growth, in learning to move through life with grace and confidence using such methods as prayer, meditation, visualization, and positive self-talk, has left me bereft of a once-favorite coping technique. As the rain falls this morning and I beweep my marginal manuscript and contemplate the loss of physical access to a place I loved so much, I know that procuring and consuming a loaf of La Brea Bakery Pecan Raisin Bread (56 Weight Watcher points in each loaf, but who’s counting) will not help. In fact, it will make things worse, because the sweet solace of the taste and texture of the bread will give way to trying to remember it through the misery of post-prandial reactive hyperinsulinemia and its confusion, irritability, fatigue, and headaches.

Alas. Alack.

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