IN MY UNIQUELY CRAZED WAY I believe a writer isn't doing his job unless he's in a struggle for survival.
That seems to be anyway, accidentally or intentionally, how I've lived much of my life, jumping again and again from a tolerable situation into one less safe.
Fitting if I feel beaten down lately by circumstances-- not to mention maliciously mocked and attacked by Manhattan establishment fops and pseudo-underground stool pigeons alike. Fitting that I'm staying for the moment in the Beaten-Down City.
What a tragic place!-- a sad comedy whose streets scream with loss and pain. The City's downtown is very beautiful actually. The moving river is full of soul and beauty. Buildings surrounding the river gleam. All downtown lacks is people. The rest of the city is in ruins, the remains of half-a-century of boomtown industrial wealth followed by half-a-century of relentless failure.
There is much to write about here-- part of the reason I returned is to rediscover myself as a writer. I should start with my journey from Philly. First, though, a short image, because it strongly affected me.
Every day I pass through once-glamorous Grand Circus Park on the way to my new job-- how temporary a job I can't say. At night I walk again through the park on my way back to where I'm staying. During the day the weather is sunny; the west side of the park's semi-circle, where the fountain is, is surrounded by loitering street people, the discarded residue of society. One afternoon a bundled up figure in a wheelchair-- man or woman; probably woman-- had parked itself against the fountain. A single brown hand from the multi-hued rags extended itself into the coolness of the rippling urban fountain, on this hot September day. I sat on the rim of the walkway which surrounds the fountain, building my energy and courage to face trying to prove myself at a new workplace with strange-to-me people. This old dog hasn't been completely up to speed. I sat for thirty minutes, chilling, one could say, in the sun, until it was time to leave. All the while the brown hand in the fountain extending from a bundle of rags in a wheelchair remained. Young men smirked to themselves, old men slept, crackheads chortled and exclaimed, beggars walked past, the sun beat on us all, and the bundled up raggedy figure in the wheelchair by the side of the fountain remained.
Last night walking home in darkness, the city silent, deserted, with no Tigers baseball game to momentarily fill nearby streets, I noticed that activists had erected throughout the park, on the grass on both sides of Woodward Ave, small white tombstones to represent American dead military people from the ongoing permanent war in the Mideast. I paused to glance at some of the names before continuing.
The area around the fountain was empty now save for one solitary figure in a wheelchair, facing the rim-like barrier, back to fountain, head tilted, sleeping, inside its layers of rag-like clothing. What a life!
A forgotten soul. Somewhere people laughed, drank, ate, partied, among glowing lights, yet in the silent darkness of the once-glamorous but now seedy park the most forgotten person in the most forgotten city sat alone outside with no place to go, apart, sleeping. Alone in a deserted city containing miles of desolation. The image was heart-breaking. The conjunction of this civilization's realities shook me: the remembrance of dead, the ruins of a once-great American metropolis; the abandoned core, price paid for war, greed, and empire.
If I'm back here in this toughest of spots, hardest of cities, maybe it's for a reason: to serve as witness on stray occasions to this huge and terrible nation's real stories.