Monday, April 14, 2014

Dump Town

Some of it's in your head. Maybe all of it.

Take a walk. What do you see?

Around here it's a lot of everything.

People are on the streets, dogs are ranging, pigeons are hammering their pecking organs at every speck, car horns are kicking us all in the head, buses are laying down block-long loads of dark, lingering, opaque diesel exhaust.

Look up then. What's there?

Mud brick, wattle, clay half-pipe shingles, peeling paint, tangled electrical and telephone wires. Cracked or smashed windows. Fading signs. Drying laundry. Decaying wood.

This is a dump. It's rotting, even some of the new stuff. Nothing in old town is straight, not any more, even if it once was, and there is damn little of that.

Many sidewalks, those of tile, are constantly dusty, or permanently stained by pigeon crap, or those plus dog excrement, even after the latest torrential rainfall yields, recedes, and dries. Cobble pavements are buckled as though the stones themselves want to pry themselves up and make a run for it.

Other sidewalks? The graveyard of concrete. Where it goes to die. Disaster zones. Lumpy, roiled, rolling, broken, cutting, split. Finding ten paces of solid, flat walking space is a treat you take your friends to explore.

This is paradise. They call it that. Mostly those selling real estate, or tours. Hey Mom, hey Dad, come see. Greatest place in the world to retire. We say so right here, and we can make it happen for you too. Sign here, 'K?

You know what? This is a place. Maybe you like it and maybe not. Maybe some of it, or only parts.

Don't like it? Maybe you aren't paying attention — not noticing the parts you'd like.

One thing — it's alive.

Go out at six a.m., a half-hour before sunrise, and people are working, setting up for the day, having at it. Putting up their stands, filling buckets with water, arranging flowers, waiting for the soup lady. City crews are somewhere close by, with their water truck, spraying down this area today, that area yesterday, the other area tomorrow.

The street sweepers are already out too, with their brooms and scoops and wheeled trash cans, diligently chasing down all those tiny scraps that you never see, because they got there first.

Delivery trucks, a few, sneak along here and there, and later, when the sun is higher, there will be women and men and boys and girls pushing their wheelbarrows of strawberries or grapes or cherimoya. The sun does it, gets it started and then accelerates it, until day definitely gets its hold on the world and makes it bright and warm again.

And all those old, cracked, faded, lumpy, sagging buildings showing their bones in those side walls and such? Some of them begin to look really fine after all.


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