Monday, July 23, 2012

I walk through the ghost town, this would be my city...

Two huge cups of coffee in front of me, woke up to the dog whimpering last night, I don't know from loneliness or kidney stones, her family comes back today and I've become adept at administering medication through canine teeth but end up opting to sprinkle the contents of the capsules atop the kibbles and bits like sugar on corn flakes. If austerity ever really hits, maybe I can work at a kennel or something. It'll be nice to come home and sleep at my own place.

I think the cat actually misses me, because I hear her crying when I come up the stairs to check on her water and food while I've been gone the last two weeks. I'm sure we'll have a movie night soon because I'm still sleepwalking and while the weekend felt like a vacation, I don't know how I got through grad school taking a full load, working 30 hours a week and still finding time to go see bands every couple days back when such acts came through Clevelandia, Kent, and Akron on a frequent basis.

With the game cancelled, I took the other dog I watched down to the valley where the lush canopy of green filtered the sun like stained glass, the river sparkled, and we ambled through side trails down the side and if I was home more, maybe I'd get a dog, because I kind of like this companionship thing. Having another breathing mammal along for protection and accompaniment, with its drooling adoration for you are the one who pours the water and the food, and takes it on car rides with the windows down, it's something I could get used to.

There's a garden walk even in Clevelandia so me and one of my community garden people end up driving around parts of the west side I've never explored getting inspired by these green spaces created in other almost-hoods, these serene enclaves with spiraling wisteria vines and repurposed scraps as trellises. Her son isn't interested so we drop him off and drive out to the east side with a map that isn't terribly accurate, driving through the parts of the city where my relatives once lived before white flight.

She's not from around her so she has no loaded assumptions or fears of environs like St. Clair, Hough, Superior, and it's been awhile since I've come through these parts now that my friend who used to live down there now lives further down in the hood and would rather come to the west side to see me than have me drive over to his parts where drive-by shootings have escalated more to the occasional mortar round being tossed on someone's lawn.

We drive by a couple of gardens in vacant lots, and I think about all of the data that I pore through at work about the problems of the urban core, one of which was once overcrowding and now there are vacant lots everywhere, and where there are no vacant lots there are so many houses empty, curtains blowing in deglassed windows, crumbling front porches, because not only did white flight decimate these neighborhoods, the people that moved in get out if they can.

But yet, there is a greenhouse on the land of a deconsecrated church in the heart of a forgotten neighborhood, across the street from the Hell's Angels clubhouse, where the vast space has some people from the neighborhood singing soulful acapella renditions of Steely Dan songs and people playing piano in the former sanctuary and chalkboards scrawled with ideals, and the girl who shows us around shows us heating built with adobe for the greenhouses in winter and the former nunnery getting restored to be livable again and it reminds me of some hippie commune or crusty squat but the people were pretty friendly. I think about how I would have been all about this when I was 22 and idealistic and prospects for life were bleak, and I'm glad The Kids still have this energy even if I've more or less sold out to The Man.

I took her through the streets of the old Polish neighborhood, where St. Casimir's just reopened, and where my grandpa's side first settled, where he played tennis and went to dances, where his brother got mugged on East 79th, the house that my dad was born in, the house where one of my best guy friends lived where I'd sleep on his couch beneath the African mud cloth on the wall listening to the Fugees while he got ready.

And then we ended up in Hough, where there were race riots back in the day, and shiny new homes where the streets once burned, and an older lady there shows us and the cops who came through her massive gorgeous garden on a side lot, full of flowers from Alabama and vegetables and I wonder how she does it. We're all talking about what we're growing and I'm finding it kind of surreal that we're all here together with common ground that we otherwise wouldn't have if we weren't connected to the earth that we walk on. I'm also kicking myself for not having a camera with me even though that might have ruined some of these moments.

But I love driving these streets, getting lost in forgotten corners of shuttered factories and crumbling towers, to the amusement of the old men sitting on front porches at these crazy white girls driving through with the windows down and the Screaming Trees on the CD player in the beatup car with the front end taped together. She's of a similar mind, someone who appreciates the grit without romanticism, curious, friendly, and pondering. I feel so thankful that I get to see these places with her and that we're equally willing to explore.

It feels like a coda to to the end of the day when I pick up a former bandmate to go see Agalloch at the Beachland again. I wasn't feeling the opener all that much, but we got two hours of meandering alternately beautiful and heavy tuneage, and while the vocals will never be my thing, the songs hit me in that place I can't explain, those guitars and the bass lines and Aesop's drums. She wasn't as into it, but one of my fellow DJs was there so we enjoyed it together. I guess I'm not the only one who goes alone, there were a lot of solitary folk there. Once again, I wish I had a camera, but at least Randal was there to document a little closer.

Drove back to the house of my friends for one last night to get five hours of sleep, feeling like there were few wasted moments in the past days, and so much strange and surprising beauty.


  1. building a greenhouse sounds like a re-consecration to me...

    1. Agreed. I hope I cross paths with some of those people again. There was something very beautiful about that open and repurposed space...

  2. out here on the plains I'm dreaming of roaming buffalo in the ruins of sprawl and agribusinesses, minus the fences of course.


  4. Coke works wonders. And everyone sells out to The Man, otherwise there are no Marshall stacks.