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Civic Duty


If you happen to be in Agincourt on a Tuesday night and are really bored, consider attending a City Council meeting. They start at 7.

Howard got stuck with “study hall” that night–a veiled reference to being held after school–because Phil Arbogast, the reporter who usually covers the Council, took his family to Orlando this week. Seems the wrong time of year to visit Florida, but it’s not my call. Actually, I’m hardpressed to proffer a reason for Florida itself, let alone Florida in August.

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Cycles and Seasons

Wild animals caught in a trap have been known to escape by gnawing off their own leg. I can identify.

Tuesday’s council agenda was less than exciting (though not without its moments), consisting (among other items) of: 1) the second reading of an ordinance further regulating fireworks displays (no doubt a consequence of the Tea Party debacle last Fourth of July); 2) ongoing treatment of Dutch Elm disease in the neighborhood of Gnostic Grove; 3) approval of a new plow for snow removal this winter; and 4) the sale of city property for a 28-unit apartment complex so irredeemably ugly that it would have been rejected in Stalinist Russia. During the earlier items, my mind wandered and so did my eyes.



Have you noticed the WPA mural circling the Council Chamber? I had always chalked it up to boilerplate Depression Era rhetoric: private vice versus public virtue; Horatio Alger boostrap levitation; a “we’ll get through this together” sort of thing. But then I began reading the mural as a graphic novel whose bare-breasted brawn insinuates deeper, more particular meaning.

Imagine a story beginning above the mayor’s seat (at the center of the five council chairs), read progressively clockwise around the room to the point of origin. If that ambiguous central figure represents our founding in 1853 as well as the year of it’s painting in 1938, there’s an eighty-five-year narrative here and, just maybe, an editorial without words that hasn’t been “read” since the paint dried.

The clockwise narrative, for example, shows the passage of seasons. But could they mean more than that: from the Spring of our urban origins and the Summer of its first fruits to the Fall (from Grace) of corruption and decay through the Winter of repair, reconciliation and renewal. Was this a reminder of thoughtless repetative pattern or the artist’s simple need to use some green and orange paint?

And are the more than three dozen figures in the mural symbolically drawn from a gallery of ancient archetypes, or might they represent actual figures from Agincourt’s past? I’m especially curious about the jaded and jaundiced pair 180 degrees from the council, just above the chamber entrance–the last reminder we’d see on our return to civic life.

When the meeting adjourned at 9:15, I wrote and filed the “Council Notes” for Wednesday’s Plantagenet. But I also resolved to read that mural as its artist Karl Wasserman may have intended.

Do you think Howard makes this stuff up?

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