Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Trenton News update: French Towers elevator saga day 6

TRENTON -- Here's a lift for residents at the French Towers: the two-car elevator that has been down since last Friday's storm fried all of the motherboards is scheduled to be up and running some time today, or early evening, according to Director Kenny King.

The news couldn't come at a better time because anger and frustration began to hit a bubbling point Thursday with some of the residents on the higher floors, as The Trenton News chronicled during a 105-minute noon run to check on the well-being of residents.

Edward Anthony Salter, an artist and member of Occupy Trenton, led a 3-person "noon run" group with Round One and his daughter Janet Jackson. They checked every room from the 10th floor down to the 5th to see if folks wanted water or cookies or both or if they needed help downstairs to get to appointments. They knocked on every door to offer anything the residents needed. Most of the folks smiled when Round One opened the cookie bag. Another resident walked out of his room with a box of Klondikes. He was delivering them to a friend on another floor. What would you do for a Klondike bar? "Cartwheels," he said laughing before shoving a whole cookie in his mouth. Big smile. One man on the 8th floor opened his door and said "I've got everything," and as he pointed to the elevator he said, "all I want is that working."

An older woman in her pink robe and head wrap took 4 cookies and water and told Salter, Round One and Janet "God is going to reward y'all." The man in the video above lives on the 9th floor. He didn't want water. He didn't want cookies. He wanted the damn elevator to work again. He closed the door on Round One. A few seconds later he opened the door again, calmer. Like every other resident at French Towers, the big man wanted the elevator to work again. Round One felt badly for him. Really bad. He gave the man 4 cookies, then 8. Then he gave him an entire package.

Janet provided a humorous moment on the 8th floor. She knocked and said, "Would you like some cookies and milk?" She corrected herself as her cheeks turned red.

Minutes later on the 8th floor, Round One knocked on a door. The man opened and told Edward Anthony Salter no thanks. Then he saw Round One. "Oh, there's my man, Round One! Come on in!" So the trio and a reporter went into the Candyman's room. He used to be a chef for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and showed us all a ton of pictures. His room was full of cool stuff, including one of those dancing dolls that sings Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World".

We were somewhere near the 6th floor, on the edge of the busted elevator, when the philosphy kicked in. Edward Anthony Salter is a strong man with a sharp mind for discussion, an acute sense for detail and an soothing personality. He's the type of guy you'd want talking someone down from the ledge. Very calm demeanor. Checking up on these residents is more than knocking on their doors and offering them some cookies. The person with the clipboard cannot forget one resident and must remember all of their patterns. He gives every resident at least a minute to get to the door. He double-checks which residents haven't answered their door two or more times in a row because that signifies something could be wrong. Maybe nothing's wrong, but the person with the clipboard can take nothing for granted. He takes every note from the noon run down to the director to compare notes from previous runs. The person with the clipboard today, Edward Anthony Salter, who talked freely about being a ward of the state as a kid and moving around from one "pack of wolves" to another to another, tells Round One and Janet Jackson to pay particular attention to those on the 6th floor because many of them are in wheelchairs or use canes or walkers "so ask if they have any appointments."

As for the philosophical, Edward Anthony Salter the artist and Trenton Occupier said that Trenton needs to better mobilize community groups by creating a "community crisis management line so we can coordinate." So many Trenton organizations stepped up this week, but none of them coordinated, just showed up to the French Towers to help the residents. Salter said these groups should probably spend a day to become certified in First Aid through the Red Cross. Then talk broached on FEMA and if federal resources should be made available for sagas like this. "We don't need federal monies," Salter said. He understands the difference between catastrophe and elevator motherboards getting fried. "This is an instance of 'Where are people in the community?'" Round One quickly said "This is community love."

One o'clock rolled around about the time Edward Anthony Salter, Round One and Janet Jackson finished the 6th floor. They decided to do the 5th floor just in case. One elderly woman by the name of Jackie answered the door and eagerly put her hands out for cookies. "Anything! I'm honegry!" Round One gave her a handful of lemon-creme cookies. Then the woman across the hall opened her door, then another. "This is fun!" Jackie said. "We havin' a party!"

After 105 minutes the noon run was done. We hit the stairwell to head back to the lobby. On the 4th-floor landing was Perry Shaw III, Don McKinnis and Shihid Wilson of A Better Way. They were with a 10th-floor woman who was sitting down for a few seconds on her 160-step downard journey so she could get to a doctor appointment. She was a bit emotional and talked a lot of Jesus Love. Perry Shaw was wearing a gray 3-piece suit because earlier he had a meeting with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Then he came to the French Towers at 12:45 to carry 97-year-old Mamie Kelly downstairs from the 6th floor so she could go to the doctor. Then he went back up to the 10th floor to bring this woman down.

After a fight with a block of ice that he had to stab down to make fit into the cooler, Perry Shaw III, looking dapper in that gray 3-piece suit, popped on his helmet, hopped on his motorcycle and raced west down West State like he couldn't get there fast enough.

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