By STEVE KRAUSE
There’s a good chance you’ve seen this if you peruse Facebook at all. There’s Rudolph, with his red nose, looking up at a stunned Santa.
He looks like a reindeer, but there are some differences. First, his antlers have been sawed off, and if you know deer, you know that antlers play a huge role in all sorts of male rituals.
Also, Rudolph has no legs. Instead, his torso rests on four cinder blocks, much like a car does after it’s been stripped and left for dead in some God-forsaken, burned-out section of a downtrodden city.
Poor Rudolph. He’s parked on a rooftop, obviously having waited as Santa slid down another chimney with his payload of toys. Santa has come back to his sleigh, and has encountered his No. 1 reindeer, who is looking up at him forlornly as he contemplates his missing antlers and limbs. Santa is looking back at him with sad eyes.
“‘Stop in Lynn,’ you said …” Rudolph says, staring up at Santa.
“‘We’ll be fine,’ you said …”
It matters little that this meme isn’t exclusive to Lynn. I’ve seen the same meme, only it mocked Revere. And I even saw one for Newark, N.J.
But I have to tell you, when I saw it, I got my back up. I’m from Lynn, still live in Lynn, and have very much bought into the city’s plan to re-establish itself. And all it takes is one stupid thing like this to reignite the whole “Lynn is ghetto” thing that we’ve spent the better part of 30 years trying to erase.
Now, I grew up in a section of West Lynn that is known as Lynnhurst, and it encompasses streets both in this city and Saugus. My childhood haunts were miles away — both in the literal and figurative sense — from the scene depicted in this meme. It wasn’t until I was about 12, and got stuck for a ride from the Boys Club and had to walk home, that I happened into sections of the city to which I’d never paid attention, and saw some of the things this meme brings to mind, such as stripped and deserted cars.
As I got older, one of the houses in my neighborhood ended up being almost a haven for cars that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Some of them were mounted on cinder blocks like our friend Rudolph. The thought of such blight creeping into our nice, quiet Lynnhurst neighborhood upset a lot of people.
For the next 20 or so years, wherever I moved, that blight wasn’t far away from me. East Lynn … West Lynn … my beloved enclave in Pine Hill, it didn’t seem to make much difference. You didn’t have to go very far to see unregistered cars stuck in driveways, with no wheels, and mounted on cinder blocks. And a chained up, snarling dog — which often accompanied this scenario — just added to the ambiance.
You see that combination staring you in the face, and you begin to wonder. In fact, when neighborhood crime watches started springing up in the ’90s, one of the first things the watch captains went after were these cinder-block mobiles with no license plates.
They, like me, obviously lived by the broken windows theory, which endeavors to monitor the small, petty vandalism crimes in hopes of preventing the bigger ones later on down the line.
I support this theory vigorously. If you can turn a 12-year-old around after he or she has broken a window or sprawled graffiti on someone’s property, and not wait until the person has graduated into hardened crimes, you’ve accomplished something.
I see unregistered cars, mounted on cinder blocks, sitting in someone’s driveway, day after day, week after week, gathering rust, as a sign of blight and very much akin to the broken windows theory.
Which brings us back to Rudolph, stuck on a rooftop. No antlers. No legs. Just waiting for all of the other reindeer to laugh at him and call him names. He certainly couldn’t play any reindeer games, even if his friends let him. He’s going down in history as the first reindeer to be cut down and mounted on cinder blocks while ALIVE. And he’s very unhappy.
If it’s any consolation, Rudolph was allowed to keep his red nose (he’s lucky that wasn’t swiped too; I’m sure it could fetch a fortune in a pawn shop somewhere). Then again, what good are headlights if you can’t drive the car?
Steve Krause can be reached at [email protected]