Hal Taussig on Community, Clotheslines, and the Ties That Bind

Untours StaffSubmitted by
This is a piece that Hal Taussig, our late founder, published on the Untours Cafe back in 2007. I think this captures the man and his values so well.
El Kover and her husband Bill, some well loved Untourists, recently spent a couple of days in Media, PA where our offices are. We had invited them to come to witness The Today Show filming. Today, I want to thank El for being such an observant and thoughtful person. 
On her first visit to our house she noticed the clothesline running from our second floor balcony. Later she showed up with two thoughtful presents: 50 feet of brand new clothesline and enough clothespins to last until we’re 100 years old. There was immediate simpatico, for El, too, hangs her clothes out to dry.
About our clothesline, until April this year it ran to a tree. The back side of the houses on our street borders an un-kept park, really a jungle of trees on steep ground sloping to the creek below. In the summer from our balcony we can’t see the suburban houses on the opposite side of valley, houses less than a city block away.
About our neighborhood, it’s composed of narrow houses which were built for mill workers.
In a bit of gentrification, rooms were added on the back end. But the narrowness, not the length, is apparent to passersby. I think this re-enforces our own community’s vision of itself; it’s my impression that most of my neighbors share a desire to live simple lives. We like the appearance of days of yore. There is a feeling of neighborliness which neither Norma nor I have experienced anywhere else in our eighty-some years. 
Let’s go back to the clothesline and at the same time let’s forge ahead into the issue of neighborliness—beginning with our next-door neighbors: Dale and Ellen, who have turned their attic into a one-bedroom apartment, occupied by our friend, Tina, who occasionally is Norma’s caregiver at night when I travel for Untours or the Foundation. Until recently three clotheslines ran to a nearby tree from three balconies: Norma’s, Ellen’s and Tina’s. The tree swayed in the wind, sometimes breaking the line, or de-arranging the pulleys.
Dale is a professional builder who keeps long ladders hanging on his house—ladders I could borrow (without asking—neighbors being neighborly) to fix the clothesline. But after I passed my eightieth birthday Norma and my daughter issued an edict: no more climbing of 50-foot ladders propped against trees. 
Six months ago, our clothesline came off the pulley but was running (not smoothly) on the axel. Ellen’s and Dale’s line was broken. My next door neighbor to the rescue: Dale would make the clothsline problem go away. If Norma and I would allow him to attach Ellen’s and Tina’s line to our balcony he would run our clothesline to his balcony. No more problems with swaying trees, broken lines, derailed pulleys.
Our values had been tying us together. We all hated to waste electricity on dryers, and we loved the smell of freshly aired laundry. Now we had a symbol of these shared values: two houses (three dwellings) tied physically together with clotheslines. Tying these three neighbors together physically speaks a word about our neighborhood’s community goals.
But I must close with a word to El. A word about a different kind of neighborliness:…the spirit of Untours Café… the spirit which made Bill contact NBC on Untours behalf… the intangible force which made El want to give Norma and me cloths pins and a clothesline.
Now there’s a small problem: Dale tied us together with a line which has a core of wire wrapped by canvas—clothesline which will last longer than our houses.
I want to mail the clothesline El gave me to someone on Untours Café. This will keep the sense of community discussed in this blog—keep it growing.
Anyone in the market for a clothesline? 
(The clothesline did find a home many years ago.)

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