Friday, September 21, 2007

Abandoned City, Abandoned People

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.

2 comments:

fdw said...

Not since the waste-land or better yet HD's triptych "The Walls Do Not Fall" does the "witness" find a clearer picture from this King's personalized reportage of collapse and mad despair of the post- modern american big city. Or more pertinently the ravaging of Detroit and Newark(among others) a little more than thirty years ago which like the present pogrom of Immanent Domain was beset by the precedential "Urban Renewal", both are fronts for cutural flatlining and among other things, thru the pressure on the social fabric of racial/ethnic indigengous urban disenfranchised poor and working poor (there's no working class you see: if one looks at the speeches and sound bites of the dominant/ submissive parties in the last two or three elections that term is not mentioned at all, niether on and thruout the corporateState controlled mass media-- the ol' totem and taboo at work instead}which, blantantly substantiated by the infusion of guns and drugs by the institutional real estate interests along red-
lines,IS cultural and physical cleansing.
Places like NYUK and Bagdadadelphia are even less transparent however covering up the decay and abandonment of the city with thick GLAMOUROUS patinas and facades to grow the image just like in our sick funeral parlor tricks.
But the rising of the Alternative world-is-possible is as unstoppable. The signs complemented by the desparate Spectacles of War, Economic immolation by the high Aztec priesthood of the Federal Reserve, the paralysis of the country's arts and literature by the corruption of elites and complicity of the CIAKGB(only worst and yet more obvious to everyone since the Cold War "ended") and the general use of force and violence by Emperial Capitalism all around the planet and the sacrafice of planet itself.
Most grieviously in the last few days in Burma where the Theravadan monks the centers of vipassana meditation who stand up for the ppeople of their country for no other crime than protesting by the example of the brahmavacara life, the homeless life, and passive resistence have been killed and rounded up after being beaten and their monastaries and "places of religious practice" profaned by violence and bloodshed
without any real or official support from the Western powers probably because Burma's military junta is in bed with American and British oil companies and have been. Every individual or coalition of such that are with radical conscience needs to one way or another declaim and howl at the top of their lungs (where the brain sits)against these additional crimes of the militaristpostindustrial crimes.

King said...

Great post.
Yes, I was reading about what's happening in Burma. A tragedy. The assault is happening all over, man. It's why the underground/underclass voices should not be divided, but united in fulfilling our role, as writers, to speak the truth about current happenings. Not being afraid to speak those truths.
If we don't speak out-- who else will?
Re: Detroit. Some things haven't changed. I was walking up Cass Ave early this morning when approached by a friendly prostitute. "Hey babe. What you need?" she asked. "You need a girl? Huh? You need a blow?"
She was casually laughing; high on life-- or something!