WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Harder Streets...

I found myself in a very sketchy part of town. Maybe one of the sketchiest in the City. It's not far from where I live, but this "hard street" neighborhood couldn't be more different from the one I live in. Worlds away. I was looking to buy a bicycle. I ventured into the neighborhood, trying my best to be invisible. Hard streets. The kind of streets where anything can happen. And where anything does happen frequently. Gangs. Drug deals. Drug deals gone wrong. Drive-bys. Stray bullets. Dead people. This is a very poor, African American neighborhood.

Everything seemed shabby, broken, falling apart, slapped together. The buildings and the pavement pockmarked, old, beat, lots of rubble and cheap trash strewn about. Everything bleak and going to seed. Disorder. Entropy. No money, no neighborhood development funds here. Poor. A really, really poor, hard, raw neighborhood.  I felt on edge. Alert. Expectant. A blank queasiness in the pit of my stomach.

I was standing on the sidewalk with another white guy. Two uncomfortable white guys looking very much out of place. We were waiting for someone to come to the shop door, to let us in to check out bicycles. Minutes ticked by. No one showed up. Very Samuel Beckett-like. Standing around. Waiting. No Godot. Wild goose chase. A futile trip. It really did seem like we intentionally put ourselves in harm's way for no good reason.

Random. Stupid. Wrong place. Wrong time. What could happen?

A few minutes passed, seemed like forever, we both decided it was time to high-tail it out of the area. We took our uneasiness with us. Headed back to our more comfortable urban neighborhoods. Yes, the hard streets. People live there. People spend their whole lives there. They call it home. Do the best they can.

The bleakness, the futility, the weird, disorienting uneasiness, hung over me like a dark cloud. It only slowly dissipated once I arrived back at my place. Safe and sound. Relatively. Still, a bit of a hangover from the harder streets.

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