Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Absence of Movement

While driving yesterday I tried to make a right turn. This bus was in my way.

It wasn't much of a hindrance. The bus blocked the entrance to a street, sure, but I went around it. I briefly drove the Parkway, took the first right, and made it home. I was delayed a minute, maybe. The oddity of the situation was, and maybe you cannot tell from the picture, that the bus was entirely broken down. There was no driver, there were no passengers, and it was still.

Complete absence of motion. Serene stillness. I don't see those much anymore.

I work with video and social media. Twitter feeds that refresh every second, a constant stream of emails finding my inbox, and the ceaseless stimulation of video I've come to expect at all times. I have three screens in front of me. One is an iPad, one my laptop, one a monitor, and one of the three is always playing a video. I could be working on the video. It could be streaming on Netflix.

A moment when I cannot hear or see a moving car comes only when I am sleeping.

I sleep restlessly. My hands, shoulders, and neck protrude above my comforter. Mosquitoes nip at them. My dogs move around every hour. They gnaw on bones or jump into bed. I don't mind it, I feel rested, but in  my sleep I am not still.

Serenity may be in the mountains. From them I may stare down onto civilization while drifting through the natural world's creeping, placid hours.

Peace may be in the ruins of old civilizations that once sprinted but now lay still.

Maybe the paradise of calm is a mountain ruin like Machu Picchu.

No. While I do want to visit Machu Picchu and I do cherish my time in the mountains I live in a city. Speed, congestion, and movement are constants.

My primary weapons against this consistency are words.

I may write feverishly, or my writing may paced. More often I take the latter approach but either way I control it. I create characters that move how I like them too. I even make time.I make time slow and it combats the rapid pace of my surroundings.

In reading I find the same solace. Reading demands a reprieve from motion. Words are read at a reader's pace, sure, but a well constructed work of depth requires a reader's concentration. That concentration requires pause for thought. That concentration requires one to forgo their surroundings and, for a moment at least, be still.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A shining example


Walking east on Race street yesterday, away from my car and toward my apartment, I stopped to take this in (and take this picture):

"This" is N Lambert Street. Amid the clutter and noise of Logan Square N Lambert, what might have been an alleyway of no significance, is a clean, peaceful, block where children sometimes play in the afternoons. It seems to be a non-sequitur in the story of Philadelphia filth. It has not gone unrecognized. Rather, it is a model upon which the city bestowed this:

These models of residential city splendor do exist. A small community can come together and make a single street clean, even if that street is just an a connecting alley. More signs like these and, collectively, the residents can refresh the city. In the process we will restore its image.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Things I See When I Walk My Dog (6)

Philadelphia is one of the dirtiest cities in America. Travel + Liesure told me so. I would like to disagree.

I've been to New Orleans. It is a dirtier city. There is trash on Bourbon street and the sidewalks are covered, it seems, with an impermeable layer of gummy filth. New Orleans has Katrina to blame, and wonderful parades that are worth the clutter of their wake. They have a debaucherous reputation too, one that sees college kids and middle aged partiers freeing their bladders without guilt on the streets while hurricanes spill from their plastic cups.

Much of this is tourist New Orleans. The dirty side of an otherwise attractive city.

Philadelphia's filth is not driven by some wild tourist culture or flamboyant celebration, our filth comes from trash cans that overflow with daily waste and an uncleanly manner that feeds a reputation. I see it everyday when my Samoyed puppy thrills in the chase of a windblown plastic bag that floats by and gets caught up on a dated parking meter. I see it everyday when I reach into the throat of my 6 year old Malamute and retrieve the shards of chicken bones he's pulled from their hiding places in the Logan Square grass.

I give too much credit and too much blame in this little post.

Still, I say with certainty, this garbage is a problem. It is one problem of many but it is striking, and visual, and a critical thread of a complex public image.

Monday, June 13, 2011


The outside world came into my apartment last night. It does so everyday, I suppose. I see and hear droning flies. The soles of shoes, and the pads of dogs, track soil from the earth to my warped hardwood floors. Last night though, there were sparks.

I have not been too aware of the firefly's brillinat bioluminescence since I was young, since I would gather the bugs in my hands and confine them to glass jars. With squares of tin foil I would secure the jars, and with scissors pock it with little holes. I hoped that the bugs might live. In the morning I would forget them. The only thing to do, days later, was open the window and release the dessicate bodies to the air. There, the wind might carry them. Or, they would fall to the driveway pavement, and turn to dust under rubber tires.

Last night I saw one, a firefly, a lightining bug, flash before my mirror. It pulled me, then on my pillow, from pending sleep. Memories eased back to me, innocently enough, as the brilliant bug landed on my wall. I should have been amazed by the superb biology of the insignifcant insect. Instead, I reminisced. My children, I thought, will torture fireflies like I did. As they do I will smile.

I drifted into slumber. Once, maybe twice, the flash of the lightning bug's bulb brought me back. I watched it crawl along the wall, above the mirror, and closed my eyes.

In the morning it was gone.