Showing posts with label walking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label walking. Show all posts

13 April, 2021

feeling the drift: a psychogeographer in a GPS world


Under the 2nd Street Bridge (The George Clark Memorial Bridge), Louisville, KY. This was designed by Ralph Mojeski and was completed in 1929.  This arch, not far from the Belle of Louisville's berth, was maybe designed to welcome river passenger's to the city, most likely passengers from the Fall Cities Ferry & Transit Co.1 , which operated in 1929 (until the bridge opened).

Tourism, human circulation considered as consumption ... is fundamentally nothing more than the leisure of going to see what has become banal. - Guy Debord

That moment when you discover there's a language for the thing you do naturally, have always done naturally. Sometimes when I tell people I've not had the chance to travel internationally, the reactions vary from genuine surprise (which I always appreciate) to vaguely patronizing pity.  It's not that I don't feel like I'm missing something. But I figure the international world will be there when the wind kicks up in that direction. There's a shit ton of intention to most people's notion of travel. The destination creates the reason for the trip, which has been mine over the last few years. There's nothing wrong with this, anymore than there's anything wrong with the notion of travel as a vacation (i.e., a temporary separation from one's normal life -- which isn't necessarily tourism but is often reduced to it). But as I've written about before, neither of those spheres of travel have been my natural modality.

My travel, though has always been more of a drift. Yes, it may have been precipitated by some external event... but the act of being in motion has always been at the heart of my travels. This gives me the opportunity slow down and see things that get missed in flyovers. 

And there's a word for that: drift. In French, the term is dérive

Fountain of Mary Mother of God - St. John Vianney, Louisville, KY This was a girl's Catholic School it's closure in 2008. There is a large Vietnamese population in the Beechmont, the city's most ethnically diverse neighborhood. The mass here is still performed in Vietnamese and French. I always stop when I have occasion to walk by it, say a Hail, Mary, and ask for a blessing. 

Travel for me generally means to drift, usually with only a loose notion of where I'm going. It's been this way ever since I was a kid and learned to ride a bike.  And while it took me a long time to become aware of it, the motion was always more important than the destination.

Roadside memorial, Woodlawn Ave. Louisville KY. It's visited and maintained regularly. I've seen these along the road to memorialize deaths in automobile accidents. This memorializes a boy who was murdered at this location.

I've been walking around a lot lately. We only have one car, and I've been a mostly foot and public transit traveler for some time, now. I like walking, though sometimes it just plain hurts. Before the pandemic, I could walk 8 or 10 miles at a clip with very little problems. I'm working my way back to that, because I want to walk much longer distances than 8 or 10 miles. Walking brings the world down to size, allows me to drift and focus on whatever holds my attention. Walking is also a good meditative practice for me. 

Nine years ago, I took my first long walk along a stretch of Route 66. I was in worse shape then than I am now. I walk slow, and it takes me longer than the Google Maps average to get from abstract point to abstract point. But that walk taught me (among many other things) that I kinda LIKE being out and on foot... albeit out and on foot and slightly more knowledgeable. So I'm practicing in the place I live: Louisville. 

Wanted Posters left from last summer's protests over the murder of Breonna Taylor.
The skate park on Clay Ave. near River Rd. #sayhername

Louisville is a savage, sad, and beautiful city. It has a lot of history -- a large portion of which the city tends to ignore, which is still visible in the architecture that revisionists and gentrifiers haven't gotten around to erasing yet.  This adds a certain amount of urgency to my explorations, maybe. I want to see the parts the city planners want to erase in the name of tourism, gentrification, and cultural homogenization: the blanding of all that's rough and lovely and fraught and full of memory. 

Display on 4th Street downtown. This is as close as Louisville ... and America in general, it seems... gets to embracing social change: as something remembered, not as something experienced.

This town has rhythm to it
th trains n planes and river drums
summers storm and winters hum 
(Strawberry Lane)

If the point of travel is to take in experience and allow it to change you, certainly world travel will do that. Hell, getting out you old hometown for more than a tourist excursion will do that. Ultimately, it's about truly OBSERVING the world and in doing so, constantly rethinking your own place in it. And there's no reason to start with where you are... surrounded by all the places and things you only THINK you've seen.


1 Bates, Alan L., et al. “Falls Cities Ferries: A Note.” Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 95, no. 3, 1999, pp. 255–283. JSTOR, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

22 February, 2019

Reading the Grounds

Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
Embrace the break in weather where you can. True, there are months when the last time you saw the sun feels like a dream; but when the rain break and there is a clear path, take advantage of it the best you can. [from Field Notes]

Even though I'm not bound to foot travel -- there is the bus, of course, and most recently, Mule -- I still like to walk. True, I could start up Mule and drive to a park and walk around a pre-designated track. I see merit in it, certainly for other people, because it's difficult enough to get exercise in a society that depends on us sitting in front of a computer, or staring at our phones, buying things. True, if you look long enough, nearly every aspect of the constructed reality we experience every day depends on commerce of some kind: whether it's the cappuccino I bought at the coffee shop today or the smiles my wife and I exchanged this morning before she left for work. But when I am not in motion in the world, there are fewer opportunities to see the world as it truly is instead of the filtered commodity that trickles in through my phone or my computer. When I am not in motion in the world, I'm not even certain the world exists.

Living as I do along the Ohio River, a once major artery of commerce of all kinds from coal, to slaves, to settlers, in a city whose very existence depended on commerce and The Falls that created a natural choke point for people to have to slow down and walk their boats through (Once Upon a Time), the metaphor and myth of commerce are a foundation upon which many myths have been  built.

But it's easy to let that take over... which is to say, it's easy to let that constructed reality dictate our
Mick Parsons #rubbertramp
our entire lives. And if the materialists are correct -- both the Capitalists and the Communists -- and we are simply matter in motion, then really, this constructed reality is nothing more than an increasingly complex maze we spend our days and nights in until one day, we stop moving and the maze moves on without us.

Unless there's something more. And when I walk around my neighborhood, or anywhere, and take in the sounds, the feel of broken cement underfoot, the vibrations of the coolish February air here in the grand divot that is the Ohio River Valley, I end up thinking of commerce as something more than buying and selling, more than money for sweat and blood, more than blood and bone in the name of man's most majestic and dangerous machination -- Contemporary American Society. 

This is why, I think, I am bound to travel whether I think I want it or not. A warm wind kicks up, the currents shift, and nothing is set right until I feel this world moving under foot. Because it's only in motion that this constructed reality shakes loose and the world opens itself wide for eyes willing to see, for ears willing to listen, and for hands willing to embrace it on its own terms. 

As old mystics read tea leaves
I flip my empty cup
open the heart, examining
the dark grounds and find
one more map towards
the river mouth and the sea.

Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
The past is gone, the future is full.

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02 October, 2012

Cornbelt Intermezzo - Union Miner's Cemetery/ 15 Miles to Litchfield

That's the problem with politics. Everybody's cock-blocking everybody else! Cock-blocking! - Overheard at Crawdaddy's Bar in Mount Olive, IL

This is what happens when a lack of planning works out exactly as planned. - Me, aloud to no one, around mile 10

Going to Mount Olive is one of the few excursions I've taken this year where I actually wanted to go somewhere to see some specific thing. In this case, the Union Miner's Cemetery, and the Mother Jones/ Union Martyrs Monument. That I'd want to go see it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows my love of history -- of stories in general, especially the forgotten or overlooked ones -- or my politics. A few of those same people would also point out that I haven't, as a habit, liked to visit cemeteries; but, since it IS October, and since I probably won't get to celebrate All Hallow's Eve with all the ghosts and ghoulies, I need to get my cemetery time in.

It's not that I don't think we need to respect our hallowed dead. Quite the contrary. I think they deserve something more than a monument or a headstone.

Standing in front of the Union Miner's Memorial, I was struck by two things:

  1. Our pitifully short collective memory, and
  2. my own need to be useful.

Before I left Mount Carroll this time, when I would talk to people about going to Mount Olive to see Mother Jones' grave, I was saddened by how hardly anyone knew who I was talking about.  A master agitator, and a one woman army who spent most of her adult life working to ensure that workers got a fair shake. She once helped settle a strike in favor of a local miner's union in Pennsylvania by getting all the wives together and rattling pans and pots. The sound scared the mules, which frightened the scabs brought in to help break the strike by taking their jobs.

Some of the other people memorialized on the monument died in the Battle of Virden -- another one of those ... eh... undiscussed bits of history... probably because the larger narrative of Manifest Destiny is muddied by those stories that can't be poured into a rose-colored Little House on the Prairie mold.

Speaking of colored -- another thing that's rarely discussed when race relations are the topic is how coal and mineral mine owners intentionally used black labor from the south as scabs -- this encouraged sometimes prevalent bigotry among union members and gave them a new target... when they should have been going after the bosses instead.

Soaking in these stories so I can learn more about them and pass them on is central to why I do what I do. The itchy foot leads the way, to a certain extent; it certainly isn't all some deep and burning mission that drives me out of comfortable surroundings and the company of friends and loved ones.

And while some would -- and have -- told me it all sounds so idyllic, the truth is that sometimes it's not. As a matter of fact, I might even go as far as to say that more than occasionally  tramping around on bus, on train, on foot, and on the good grace of friends who happen to be going in that particular direction has it's share of difficulty.

While I am safely ensconced in a still-too-highly-priced-but cheaper-than-Super 8 motel, last night I slept outside. Lucky for me, I had my Mexican blanket (hmmm... I'm detecting a theme) and my sleeping pad... which is awesome, by the way. It's not sturdy enough not to end up with holes from sticks and twigs, but it does a great job of keeping the cold ground not so cold. Luckily the weather was working in my favor, too. It got a little cold after 1 in the morning, but no frost and no rain.

I was on foot from Mount Olive to Litchfield up Route 66. I'd walked from Staunton, the nearest motel Northwest of Mount Olive, in order to visit the monument. That was a nice stretch of the legs -- just over 4 miles. From Mount Olive to Litchfield -- the next nearest place with a motel other than backtracking to Staunton -- was, according to available digital intelligence and map coordination,  just over 9 miles.

While I do like to walk, and I'm not afraid to hoof it over a fair distance, even I knew that was more than I had walked in a single stretch. EVER. I'm probably not in the shape I ought to be in. And on top of that, my feet have been in rebellion against for as long as I can remember. I adjust to the sometimes perpetual pain by walking a little slower than the average gait. So right there, I knew the estimated 3.5 hours allotted to make the walk was going to be longer.

Much, much longer.

Another complication was Route 66 itself. Large segments of it aren't marked, and there a difference between Route 66 and "Old Route 66" (which was used until the "new" one was finished in 1940.)  As a matter of fact, all of southern Illinois -- the rural part, at any rate -- lacks signage. I understand that there probably weren't signs telling drivers how far away the next town was back when people drove state highways. But why now?

Oh, right. Nostalgia. Well, I can tell you that along Route 66 there's more nostalgia than anything else. And that includes a cheap bowl of soup.

My pace slows considerably as my lousy feet and out of shape leg muscles sent waves of pain up through my body. As the sun was going down, it became clear that I wasn't going to make it to Litchfield to sleep... which had been my plan. So I found a place off the side of the road, across the ditch and over a small embankment, behind a medium sized fir tree. Brush and small trees on the other side, down the slope, to a creek and, on the other side of that train tracks.

The sun sank quickly and the sky was over cast. Breezy, but not cold. Luckily, the embankment protected me from the wind as well as from view; I didn't want to start a fire because I didn't want to draw attention to myself.

Other than the crickets serenading me to sleep, the only other neighbor of note was a deer. I think it was a deer, anyway. Something was sitting in the brush a stones throw down the embankment from me. It sounded like deer, and I was perfectly willing to believe it was.

The world has a rhythm. Wind through the dying leaves. Crickets and the rustling of deer in the brush. At one point I thought I heard it start to rain, but quickly realized it wasn't rain. It was dew. Intermittently, trains rolled by and added to the song. traffic eventually trickled down and then stopped altogether. The wind died down. Silence. Solace.

Around 9:30 the clouds broke a little and the moon shone through, like a lazy, watchful eye. By midnight they had all but dissipated. The moon was so bright I could read by it. some stars were visible, too. I was tired, lonely, but I didn't feel alone. And I knew I was going to be okay.

I broke camp at first light and kept on towards Litchfield, finally making it, and managing to get checked in a motel for the night.

Of course, I have a 17 mile hike up Route 66 to Carlinville, where the nearest Amtrak station is. And I hear it's supposed to frost soon -- if not tonight, then tomorrow night. I probably should have planned this better, but it's been worthwhile, too.

If you happen to know someone who's driving between Litchfield and Carlinville, send them my direction. I could use a lift. To be honest, I'm probably stuck at least tonight, and probably tomorrow night. And in spite of my frugality -- I only spend money on liquids and housing -- I'm burning through my travel funds faster than I had hoped.

07 June, 2012

Homo Viator (At The World's Edge): Ferlinghetti's Gambit, Part 2

Part 1 HERE

[I'm in transit, on a 15 hour burn to Phoenix. The bus, as far as L.A. anyway, is the first bus outfitted with electric outlets and WiFi since St. Louis.  Thank GAWD. Sometimes, Dear Reader, the universe is kind. Take care to keep that in mind, even when it's not.]

The poetry section didn't disappoint. A lot of familiar names, like Montale, Vaca, Auden.  The  names you'd expect: Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso.

Corso. I taught Corso in writing workshops at the drug and alcohol rehab at the Cincinnati VA. Those crusty old bastards ate him up. Couldn't get enough.

The rocking chair looked entirely too comfortable not to sit in. Those old rocking chairs are like that; they get some wear and tear. Some love, some care. They take on a character and a personality all of their own; they can become a defining factor in any space they inhabit or any space they are removed from. That it was labeled -- perhaps sardonically -- "Poet's Chair" added to the look, but didn't scare me off. My feet were starting to scream from inside my boots and a few minutes repose with a little bit of poetry seemed in order to me.

And besides, I thought. If there's some stupid rule about not sitting in the chair unless your Ferlinghetti -- perish the un-egalitarian thought, but hell, it's his shop he can piss in the non-fiction section if he wants to -- then it was a good start to achieving my goal.

I chose a collection by Auden -- As I Walked Out One Evening: Songs, Ballads, Lullabies, Limericks, and Other Light Verse -- and flipped through to "Letter to Lord Byron, Part 1." Auden is one of those poets I came to only maybe in the last 10 years or so. Formal, disarmingly and deceptively light, he gets passed over often. It probably helps that he's not only a Brit, but something of a Socialist... and since we don't even like to read our OWN Reds, Ballad, let alone those from across the pond, Auden is continually ignored in a culture that prefers to ignore homegrown poets regardless of their politics. 

Such a funny poem. The speaker is a young poet, writing contemporarily, to Byron. And since Byron is, of course, long dead, the speaker is able to imbue the Romantic Bard with all sorts of characteristics... including making him a bosom buddy: someone with whom  the speaker can relate, pontificate, and try out his ideas on. 

In short, Byron is in artist's hell. 

While I was sitting there, reading, resting my feet, enjoying a cozy corner next to a small window with west coast light pouring,  another person perusing the shelves asked in what I thought was a British accent "Do you charge tax for books in America?"

"Yes," I reported grimly. "They do. Why do you think I'm sitting here reading it?"

"That's a good plan." he said, taking his prospective purchases downstairs.

There was another person up there, an older, balding man in a blue shirt and tie. He stuck to the poetry criticism section. I wanted to smack him with Leaves of Grass, but the copies weren't handy, being on the other side of the room.

After a while, though, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard anything. There was some office kid sliding in and out of a nondescript door between the stairwell and the bookcase of Beat Poetry anthologies. But no grumbly old poets. The closest I could get was thumbing through one of his books -- a newer collection published by City Lights as part of a series on San Francisco poets.

As I went back downstairs, I quickly pondered my options. I could cause a ruckus and run the risk of the sourly bald register jockey calling the cops... who would, I'm sure, arrive promptly and not trample my civil liberties. Or, I could leave defeated.

I looked around one more time to see if I could catch some glimpse of the man. I noticed a closet under an alcove, it was open, full of books yet to be stocked. There had been a hand written sign in large black letters:


Couldn't have said it better myself.

In the end, I didn't get to be told to fuck off by one of my few living* literary heroes. 

But I got to read Auden, and sit in a comfy rocking chair, and breathe in the same space as Corso, McClure, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and  Bukowski. And, of course, Ferlinghetti... who remains as much a mystery to me as, well... most mysteries.

* Update: Lawrence Ferlinghetti died February 2021 at the age of 101 years. In 2012 he wasn't one of my few living literary heroes. He was the only one. 

Homo Viator (At the World's Edge): Ferlinghetti's Gambit, Part 1


It was a simple yet elegant plan.

My intention was to find the City Lights Bookstore, bask in the literary mecca of any and everyone who has read The Beats, and in the process, get Ferlinghetti to tell me to fuck off. The chances of that aren't nearly as far off as you might think; after all, City Lights Bookstore has been in the same location at the edge of Chinatown since it opened in 1953. In addition to being a fully functional bookstore -- where one can still go in order to buy books -- it's also a place where literary things continue to happen. It's also the home base for City Lights Books, which continues to publish interesting stuff even though it's been suggested that people don't really read anymore.

And in addition to that, City Lights Co-Founder and literary juggernaut Lawrence Ferlinghetti is almost as famous for being a crank as he is for being a poet/publisher/ independent book store proprietor.


Before striking out from the hostel late in the morning this morning, I asked the girl at the front desk about the best bus route to City Lights. I had a pretty good idea, having done a little research before I hit town, but I wanted to make sure my thinking on the matter correct, that there wasn't some change in the bus schedule that hadn't made it to the internet, and that I could find it without getting too lost.

She recommended that I walk there. She assured me she did it all the time and that it usually took her a half hour. Her directions took me straight through the heart of Chinatown. Naturally, I assumed it would take me longer to walk up Larkin to Geary, and then up Geary to Stockton... which would lead me through Chinatown and eventually to the mecca.

Let me point out that today was a beautiful day. I didn't mind the walk, and it would save me money not having to pay for bus fare.

China town was an amazing experience, a cacophony of smells, and people. The produce markets had people sometimes 3 or 4 deep, and all kinds of chatter. Crowds of people moving, or not moving. At one point, even before I walked through the Stockton Street tunnel that was the official boundary for Chinatown, I wasn't sure I had even the slightest clue where I was going. And I had a map, kindly provided by the very polite desk person at the hostel. Between that and the fact that San Fran is an easy city to walk around in, and an interesting one, too. All of the rail stations I ran across had easy to read maps with YOU ARE HERE red dots on them.  In addition, because the city is, in it's heart, an old port city -- the grand version of the river towns I grew up around -- it's not as economically or racially segregated. (Note: NOT AS.) In Little Saigon and the surrounding neighborhood, where the hostel is, there are countless residential motels, slums, dives, and shops, all buttressed up against high class hotels meant to attract tourists. Workaday people, artists (usually identified either by mod black attire or some version of Goodwill Hippie throw back), tourists, street folk, hookers, druggies, pimps, and various Others all share the same space... mostly by ignoring and occasionally sneering. Particularly at the street folk. The warm weather and the hope of secretly class conscious tourists make the city a natural haven. Some people blame the 60's. I blame the wind off the bay.  Walking through anyplace is the best way to get to know a place, and San Francisco is a romantic city to wander in...romantic in the way that only something old, something new, something ugly, and something beautiful can smash together and create.

After I found City Lights, it took me a minute or two to catch my breath before I walked in.  The neatly put together San Franny behind the register didn't acknowledge me. I walked in started perusing books. I found the Bukowski right away... in several languages.  That was all fiction, though.

What I wanted, what I needed... was poetry.

I had long wearied of trying to find a respectable poetry section in any book store anywhere.  I knew that if anyone would have a poetry section worth slowing down and looking into, it would be Ferlinghetti -- the man, the myth, the poet, the publisher, the rank asshole among living poetry legends.

I'm going to have to finish this on on the road, Dear Readers. My time in the city that inspired Dashiell Hammett is done. I'm heading east again, towards The Valley of the Sun.

Part 2 HERE

17 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Part 2: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Gimped Up Transient Techno-Hobos

There is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent National Asylum for the helpless. -- Mark Twain, The Gilded Age

Bitch set me up. -- Marion Barry, former Mayor of Washington D.C.

The weather has apparently stopped it's malicious attacks against me; at least temporarily. Although the arctic cold did bring me into the city – which, by the way, was never supposed to be a city. The Founding Fathers never intended that anyone should live here.

And really, someone should have listened to them on that one.

Where the weather left off, though, it seems that the city itself has picked up and carried on.

As I believe I wrote in an early post, my left Achilles Tendon had been giving me fits. This is nothing new. I was born with lousy feet, I have and will continue to live with lousy feet, and... unless they make stem cell repairative techniques free and available to the public, I will die with lousy fee. A little constant pain is nothing. And yes, there are days when I have to let my foot rest. And NO, I'm not 80 years old.

(Or, as my friend and host Eric so wittily pointed out on Facebook: “You're too young to be an old man.”)

I fully expect to have to use a cane someday. But it will be a kick ass one. With flames and arcane and esoteric symbols. And a heavy topper to bop idjits on the head with.

My intention was to report to you, faithfully, about all the usual landmarks in all their phallic and boob-shaped glory. (Don't believe me? Look at the Washington Monument. Then find an aerial view and check out the large number of boobs – I mean DOMES – in the Greater Metro DC area. You can say what you want about them – but the Founding Fathers were a bunch obsessed titty fuckers.

And that may be the most respectful thing I will ever say about them as a group.

On my one and only day out, I managed to get to the National Gallery of Art. I wanted to see the Rothko exhibit – which I wrote about in my last post. On my way to the bus stop, I stopped in front of a restaurant named DULCINEA. The signage also included Picasso's “Quixote.” And not only is Don Quixote de la Mancha one of my favorite old books, but The Man From La Manchais one of my few favorite musicals.

On Georgia Ave near Euclid, across from Howard University.

As I was standing there, thinking about taking a picture of the sign for a blog post, an extraordinarily beautiful woman of Mediterranean descent sauntered out and asked if I would be interested in some free food. They had just opened the restaurant, she explained, and were giving way free samples as a way to get people interested. I hadn't eaten yet and I have trouble turning down exquisite olive skinned women with big dark eyes. And the food was pretty good. If you've never tried good Mediterranean food, please do. It's usually fresh, it's interesting, and it leaves you full without feeling disgusting.

I ate, talked to the owner some about the travails of opening a new restaurant, and left, assuring them that I would tell my kind and gentle hosts about them. Then I caught the Route 70 bus down to 7thand Constitution and made my way to the Gallery. And after that calming and meditative experience – and I mean that in all seriousness – I walked around a bit. Walked by the National Archives, the Federal Trade Commission – which, by the way, has stone sculpture in front of it that was clearly influenced by Social Realist painter Grant Lee Wood.

(Social Realism in art, just in case you weren't aware, is rooted in the idea that the people are the backbone of the country, not the government; that inequities need to be addressed. And many artists in the Social Realist movement had communist or socialist leanings... neither of which I see as bad things.)

My friend and host Eric is a librarian at one of the D.C. Public Library Branches; that particular night, he had to work until 9, so I decided to cool my heels, as it were, at the library and maybe read a book I haven't read in a while. I rode the Route 70 bus … the same bus I rode down to 7th and Constitution, near the Gallery... and it went conveniently by library. Across Rhode Island Ave from the library, there was a 7-11. I went in there to buy a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich. I hadn't eaten much that day, and hadn't had my daily allowance of coffee, either.

I've been in many 7-11's over the years, and many times more convenience stores; I even worked the register at a Dairy Mart in Lexington, Kentucky. And I know that they can, sometimes, get really busy. Sometimes there's a line, maybe 4 or 5 deep. This store had a line to the register that basically started at the register, went back the entire refrigerated aisle, wrapped back up near the coffee and fountain drinks, and into the trail mix. Seriously. There were two registers, and two register jockeys. Only one of them appeared to be actually working, however. The other looked like he was furiously counting out his draw like he was preparing to make a run for the door.

After finally being able to buy my sandwich (FRESH MADE TODAY!) and my coffee (FRESH BURNED DAILY!) I decided to find a seat in front of the library to eat my sandwich and drink my coffee. On my way out, I ran into a woman who asked me for change so she could “buy a sandwich.” She must've seen the one in my hand, because it was clear that she had no intention of buying a sandwich. A bottle, maybe. Or a rock or two. You become aware of the look when you see it enough. And it's not exclusive to the the poor, the homeless, or to inner city blacks (Although I have known people who honestly believe – due to their lack of experience – that this is the case.) I've seen that desperate look in the faces of the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed, drunks, and drug addicts. I've also seen it painted across the faces of unhappily married women, miserable husbands saddled up to the bar, and the young children of Jehovah's Witnesses.

That deep down misery, that brokenness, that desperation – can be soothed in any number of ways. Drugs and booze are only two options that happen to be the most accessible. There are others. If you don't believe me, watch Hoarders sometime.

Thems some fucked up folks.

I didn't have much, but I gave her a few bucks for whatever her intentions were. You can call it enabling if you want. I don't really care. The difference between her and me is as thin as a strand of hair. The difference between most of you and her is, too, if you're paying attention at all.

The neighborhood kids were running around and playing in front of the library as I ate my sandwich and drank my coffee. I'd had a pretty good day, all in all. I felt at peace with myself in way that I hadn't felt in a long time – even before leaving Mount Carroll. And the fact that I was in the process of planning my return – albeit temporary – to the Midwest didn't disturb the peaceful mood I was in. Quite the contrary. I already had my New York plans laid out, and had just gotten a short trip up to Boston to visit another college friend and compatriot, Collins, worked out. I was in the process of deciding the best foot forward... that is, how keep myself writing and mobile while being as little a burden to my friends as possible. I do my best thinking – and some of my best writing – when I'm on the move. The human mind is designed to work better with increased blood flow – which is the reason why I like to walk as much as possible.

Any one who knows me knows I hardly ever exercise for the sake of exercise. And while I have enormous respect for people who do – like, for example, my friend Washington Eric's husband Arc (I wrote about him a little in my first Washington post.) – who is a vegan/gluten free gay rugby player. He's also something of a masochist – which partially accounts for why rugby appeals to him – and he could, in all likelihood kick my ass. He exercises and counts all the little numbers that people count when they actually care about their bodies. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm done with this meat sack, there won't be enough of it left to cremate. I plan on running it into dust.

I felt a bit more ready to take on another beginning... transgress some new boundaries... erase lines and write new ones... move forward into an unfolding present tense.

Which is why, I'm certain, that Washington D.C. – the heart of which thrives on petty nostalgia, useless sentimentality, and a very American tendency to believe in some lost utopian past – felt the need to trip me up. Literally.

During the remainder of Eric's shift, I read through half of Saul Bellow's Henderson, The Rain King. I don't like all of Bellow's work; but I do like this one. A lot. Henderson is a protagonist/narrator I have always been able to identify with; because he's a guy who's never been comfortable in his own skin, and is never at home in the world, no matter how hard he tries or what his intentions are.

After Eric's shift, we waited for the Route 70 bus and headed back toward Georgia Ave and Fairmont, the street he and Arc live on. We were walking past the Howard University Campus, enjoying a nice conversation about the neighborhood and how eclectic it was; I showed him Dulcinea's and we talked a bit about literature. That's one of the nice things about having librarians for friends – they actually read. They don't always get to avoid the lousy stuff, of course – but reading is part of the job. We had just passed Euclid, the cross street, when I looked up from our conversation and noticed two women walking towards us. They were busy talking – one of them speaking in an animated fashion, sort of waving her hands around. The other woman was shorter, blonde, wearing a skirt and heels.

I guess this is the place where I mention … again … my odd affection for power women. Don't ask me why.

I moved to the right, trying to move out of the way. That portion of the sidewalk is made out of brick. Not that it makes a difference, you understand. I can trip and fall on nearly any surface, and I have. But I would also like to point out – by way of defending myself – that I hadn't drank anything stronger than coffee and that the edge of the sidewalk... because it's brick … was uneven.

If I HAD been drinking, I wouldn't have fallen. And I would've gotten the blonde's number, too. Because in spite of myself, I am occasionally charming when drunk.

Instead, my foot rolled off the edge of the sidewalk – I had stepped towards the inside, rather than street side – causing my ankle to bend one direction and my body to fall in an entirely different one.

Good thing for me, I know how to fall.

It's a gift of long experience.

Luckily, I landed on my ass – no kissing the bricks for this experienced tumbler. I sat there for a minute, cussing like a sailor and looking at my right ankle to see if looked broken, It looked like it hurt. Because it DID hurt.

Now, it's important after a fall like that, not to get up too quickly. For one, you need to catch your breath. For another – and this may only be me – sometimes falling makes me want to throw up. So I was sitting there, Eric was standing there asking me if I was ok, and so was the blonde – whose shapely legs had caused me to side step in the first place. In between wondering whether I'd be able to walk the rest of the way back to Eric and Arc's I thought:

I bet Eric never has this problem. There's no woman's legs anywhere that cause him to fall and look like an ass.”

She asked me several times if I was alright. And, once I was able to answer, went on her way into the darkness and into permanent anonymity.

Luckily, I was able to hobble home, but my ankle was swollen to the size of a lemon... which, to be honest, is what I felt like at just that moment. The following morning, the swelling had gone down, but the ankle was tender. I could still move my toes, though.

D.C., it seems, counts casualty in it's own way.

On the upside, though, the sudden fall had caused an endorphin release that actually made the Achilles Tendon on my left foot start to hurt less. The inflamed swelling even went down.

So what can we learn from all this?

If your head hurts, stub your toe. Sounds odd, but believe me. It really does work.

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