Walking Across Town. Blinded By the Light.

Isabel Miramontes, Come On

Mid July in Manhattan.

I step out of the Metro North car onto the platform, and walk down the tunnel in Grand Central. There’s zero transition from the air cooled train car @ 69° F to This. The body is swallowed by dampness, cool to not cool, Bam. The softness of the pressed shirt turns to less soft, to not soft, to moist, to sticking to the chest. Feet, are choking from their leather wraps, swollen from weight gain (6.3 lbs in less than 30 days) – chafing is coming, oh, it’s coming, by days end, or sooner. There will be blood.

I exhale little puppy breaths to pass the heat, trying to keep cool. Fail.

It’s 6:28 a.m. Tourists mingle in midtown, coalesce around the network TV studios and their Morning Shows – holding their cups of coffee, hoping to spot a celebrity, or better yet, get a cameo for the folks back home. Hi, Jane from Iowa! [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Or, on the Highway to Hell?

It’s late evening, the sun is setting, the end of a long day. I’m sitting in a Metro North train car on my commute home reflecting on the day. Cool air streams down from the overhead vents.

Summer has arrived in Manhattan, and despite this 23 square mile piece of land being surrounded on all sides by water, the Island can be 10-20° F hotter than it is at home in the suburbs – billions of tons of concrete, steel and asphalt broiling under the late day Sun.

I had read his essay the prior week, and it was still rooting its way into my core, into the marrow of my bones.  I flip open my e-reader to re-read the passages that I have highlighted in George Yancy’s “Is Your God Dead?” where he speaks to leaving our God in our places of worship or in our good intentions.  [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A sewer cleaner cleans road manholes near Jatrabari Dhaka in Bangladesh. For this one-day work, the cleaner gets about $8. (KM Asad, Human Press, wsj.com June 16, 2017)

But what is Hope?

“A Somali girl displaced by drought wears a pair of mock spectacles cut out from a cardboard box as she carries her brother around a camp just outside of Mogadishu. Somalia’s drought is threatening three million lives.”


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence.” by Lord Byron
  • Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP, wsj.com, March 28, 2017

There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing.

mary-louise-parker-aberash-daughter

In September, 2007, Mary-Louise Parker adopted a child from an orphanage in Ethiopia.  The child’s Uncle walked a distance that Parker stated she would complain if she had to travel to in a car. The journey was made with his children, three of which were under 10. The baby was carried on his hip. This excerpt is from a letter written by Parker (“Dear Uncle“) as a tribute to him.  In their first meeting, he said: “I hope that she will be taken care of, go to school and perhaps one day be something, a doctor.”


There are so many reductive adjectives used to describe those materially less fortunate, words the privileged use to anoint them. Words like proud, or graceful…It never rings true. Having seen what I saw when you brought me to the hut where my daughter was born, and introduced me to the people in your village, I felt like I was hovering over every judgment of my reality and yours, unable to land. None of the families I met were intact, everyone had lost children, parents, or a spouse. There was not enough of anything for anyone. The only bounty was in categories of suffering or possible ways to die. I didn’t feel them looking at me with distance, they all smiled and shook my hand.

I hid my embarrassment at how stupid I felt when I entered your hut and was alarmed by the darkness that swallowed me despite it being late morning. Of course I knew there was no electricity, no light would be there except for what might creep in through that ceiling of straw. I knew it, but I couldn’t fathom it until I stood inside with you and stared at an actual nothingness and my eyes adjusted to near black. There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing. As you pointed at different parts of the hut that were designated for the cows to sleep, or the spot where your family of twelve eats when there is food, or where you slept, I saw spots with absolutely nothing in them. There was an absence of comment on your situation that made you seem twenty feet tall. It’s something I could never know if I hadn’t stood there, with you showing me what life is like on another planet where there is no complaining, or showing disappointment. [Read more…]

Breakfast

child-food-hunger

A boy eats a free meal, part of a program by outreach group World Mission Community Care, at a slum area in Tondo city, metro Manila.  (Photo: Romeo Ranoco / Reuters)


Hunger.

food-hunger-children

If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be me.
This is triggered by the tail end of the book title by E. Lockhart:

If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver.

Ruby goes on to say:

I can’t forget things, or ignore them–bad things that happen. I’m a lay-it-all-out person, a dwell-on-it person, an obsess-about-it person. If I hold things in and try to forget or pretend, I become a madman and have panic attacks. I have to talk.

Travis Bickle (De Niro/Taxi Driver/1976) pops in: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.”

I can’t forget things, or ignore them? Most certainly Yes.
Not so many bad things happen, and I’m (very) grateful for that.
I’m certainly a lay-it-all-out person (often to much regret),
and boy, can I obsess. Master class here.
As to a madman,
that depends from which side of the desk you are sitting on in evaluation.
And, as to having to talk, not so much.

It’s Tuesday morning.
It’s overcast. It’s drizzling and traffic is snarled.
I’m running late to a 9 am start at a volunteer event at a Food Bank.

There’s a logistics snag.
The Food Bank manager wasn’t expecting us for 3 hours.
There’s frustration etched in her face, but she puts on her game face and scrambles to coordinate activities for two corporate groups, in a space designed for one.

She proceeds with her introduction: [Read more…]

Reading. Writing.

reading, poor,education

“A girl writes in a notebook she collected from a garbage dump in Lahore, Pakistan. Thousands of children pick recyclable items from waste dumping points to earn a living for their families.”


K.M. Chaudary, Associated Press. Photos of the Day, April 1, 2015 wsj.com

 

It is an issue of private shame

Hungry-Child

James Harrison, New Statesman: The Foodbank Dilemma:

“…A young clean-shaven man leads an older, grey-haired, battered-by-life-version-of-himself to where Tony stands. Tony greets them kindly and asks the younger man who referred them to the food bank. There’s a moment of startled silence. Then the younger man says gruffly, “It’s not for me, it’s for my dad”, and looks down at the floor. The colour flushing his face makes clear his embarrassment…”

“…School holidays are the hardest time because you have to feed your children three times a day. That’s why I am coming here now…”

“…Normally I eat porridge in the morning to fill myself up and then often I don’t eat at all myself in the evenings. But today is the start of the kids’ holidays and so they don’t get the school meals, they have to eat all their food at home and I just can’t manage…”

“…Not having enough food is a very private issue…It is an issue of private shame. People eat mostly within the home, and so what people eat, and the ways in which it is inadequate, people keep to themselves. And it is an issue of private suffering. If you are not getting enough food, or the right kind of food, you absorb the misery yourself. The cost is embodied by you. It is your body that becomes unhealthy…”

“…people turned to food aid as “a strategy of last resort”, when they have exhausted all other possibilities, including cutting back on food and turning to family and friends. No one I met used a foodbank lightly. Louise had been skipping dinners for months before she went to Coventry Foodbank. She finally attended so she could feed her children during the school holiday…”

“…I saw a young woman break down into floods of tears when the food was brought out. She was overwhelmed by the idea that she could feed her family properly that night…”

“…Another man, too shy to talk to me, told the volunteers he had walked miles across the city to get a referral and then a few miles more for his food that afternoon. He didn’t have enough money for the bus fare. He sat, exhausted, cradling a cup of tea, rocking backwards and forwards, before making the same trip home again. This time laden down with his bags of food…”

“…I am down to the last pound or so on my electricity card and I am really starting to worry about that. And so I have been going to bed really hungry for a week or so. It’s my second trip. I was really worried about coming the first time. I was ashamed, but everyone has made me feel so welcome, and told me not to worry. This time I feel more comfortable. I hope my benefit issues will get sorted out soon so I don’t have to come again…”

Read full article here: The Foodbank Dilemma:


Image Credit: shescribes.com

 

Driving. To Exit 9.

man-face-mask-art

It’s Wednesday evening.
I’m on my commute home from work.
Traffic is flowing on I-95 North.
A school of fish gliding down a rapid current.

He drips into consciousness at Exit 5.
There are three words on a piece of tattered cardboard, written with a thick, black, felt pen.
The words are stacked.

Homeless.
Hungry.
Help.

My thoughts shift to a Netflix movie. I’m replaying scenes from 13 Conversations About One Thing as I’m chewing up highway. John Turturro: Life of predictability. Fullness of routine.

He stands at the same Exit. Exit 9. My Exit.
There’s a stop light at the end of the long exit ramp.
You can’t avoid him, unless you are at the back of the line in rush hour.
And then you pass him at 15 mph as you negotiate the corner.

White male. 35-40 years old. Clean shaven. Average weight and height. A coat a bit heavy and oversized for the season, but not unusually so. His eyes, those eyes, emit distress.

Addict? Alcohol? Prescription Drugs? Coke? Meth? 
Unemployed? Unemployable? Record?
Bad decisions? Bad luck?  
He doesn’t give much away.
[Read more…]

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