[Marxism] Poconos commuter hell, part 2
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 12 17:56:50 MDT 2004
NY Times, April 12, 2004
A HOME TOO FAR
Trying to Hang On in the Poconos, From Before Dawn to Way Past Dusk
By ANDREW JACOBS
MOUNT POCONO, Pa. - Dazed with exhaustion, Angela Dean takes a third swipe
at the snooze bar and then realizes she cannot afford another 10-minute
reprieve from reality. It is 3:30 a.m., and there is laundry to be done,
lunches to be made and homework to be checked before she can climb aboard
the 5:15 bus that carries her to her big city job two states away.
She smears toothpaste on her sons' toothbrushes, changes the water in a
fishbowl that has turned brown and then trudges into Trenton's bedroom.
"C'mon ragamuffin child," she says, shaking her whimpering 8-year-old awake
and pushing him toward the bathroom. Eleven-year-old Michael is less
compliant, and only the promise of a lollipop gets him out of bed. Half an
hour later, the boys are bundled into the car and Ms. Dean is driving like
mad to the home of a baby sitter. "Pay attention in class," she calls to
Trenton before heading down the mountain.
With a minute to spare, Ms. Dean boards the bus and nods to the bleary-eyed
club of commuters. As the bus rumbles past the darkened windows of strip
malls and half-finished homes, Ms. Dean unfolds a blanket, tries to apply
makeup and gives in to slumber. By the time it crosses the Pennsylvania-New
Jersey border, the 5:15 has become a rolling dormitory, the whoosh of
hydraulic brakes mingling with an orchestra of snores.
Nearly three hours later, after the usual crush at the Lincoln Tunnel, the
bus emerges into Midtown, and Ms. Dean, 38, a labor investigator for New
York State, fixes her hair and offers a bitter assessment of her life. "I
spend more time with these people than I do with my own family," she says,
stuffing the blanket into her bag.
Ms. Dean is a weary soldier in a growing legion of teachers, subway
conductors and executive secretaries, 17,000 strong, who make the voyage
each day from the forested Pocono highlands to the steel escarpments of
Manhattan. Largely black and Latino, urban refugees from places like
Newark, Brooklyn and Queens, they come here for the schools, the trees and
the $140,000 starter homes, seeking what generations of middle-class
strivers have always sought. With Long Island, Westchester and suburban New
Jersey beyond their means, more than 44,000 arrived in the 1990's.
But this mass westward migration has also had a dark side. Since 1995, more
than one in five households with mortgages in Monroe County, Pa., have
stumbled into foreclosure proceedings, their credit ruined, their family
life in tatters.
Some simply misjudged the financial and physical strain of commuting or the
cost of heating a home through the bitter Pocono winters. Others
overstretched budgets, leaving themselves vulnerable to unforeseen expenses
or an unexpected pink slip. Hundreds more, perhaps thousands, fell victim
to misleading real estate deals that saddled them with overpriced houses
they could neither refinance nor sell.
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