Join or Die

I walked around Boston today in the crisp, autumn weather. I felt far more relaxed after I left the car behind in the lower depths of the earth in a parking garage.

It is odd to think of the world we have created below ground beneath cities. What must the subterranean beings think—earthworms crawling along and then, “bam?” They hit a wall.

I remember traveling around Italy on a whirlwind “see Italy in ten days” trip when I was in high school. It was marvelous but also coupled with long hours on a bus and a few hours in cities where one could easily spend a few months or years.

In Rome, there was an entire corner of the city roped off. Layers of earth had been pulled back ever so carefully to reveal an entire city beneath the historic city of Rome, which we all thought of as ancient in an of itself.

The beings that have taken up residence above have found remarkable behavior patterns and an impressive ability to survive. In cities, I have seen Rock Pigeon hobbling along with peg leg, broken wings, scruffy appearance; squirrel nibbling on chicken wing bones, Cooper’s Hawk perched on a wire, waiting for just the right moment to take out a starling.

Not unlike our beyond human counterparts, wildlife of the human persuasion are caught up in the pulse of activity and rhythm of the city, as well as the question of survival.

One false step and a taxi could bring it all to an end. And it isn’t exactly like our fellow homo sapiens on the sidewalk are part of a great circle of harmonious life.

People push. They stand in the middle of the sidewalk, pointing at their surroundings, oblivious to anyone around them. Some walk far too slow. Others walk far too fast.

It is an intense rhythmic groove. One can easily get swept up in. Along for the ride, I can coax myself into the city mindset, get my “Boston” on as a co-worker who grew up in Lowell describes it. If I think of it as an urban dance—tango with the taxi, sidestep with the rock pigeon, moonwalk with the grey squirrel—I feel more graceful.

I grew up with regular visits to Boston. My parents brought me to Saturday morning symphony performances for youth. There was the Nutcracker Ballet each winter, Alvin Ailey modern dance, from which I would leave singing gospel tunes at the top of my tiny lungs. “Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel?”

Visiting Boston years later, the hours are a novelty. I enjoy them. I can fill the shoes of a tourist. I take pictures of things I never noticed as a child and teenager. I visit stores I went to when I was in high school. I remember spots where my friends and I would rail slide on roller blades—we thought we were hot shit. Now, I am just glad I survived all of that falling on solid pavement. I wasn’t any more graceful then than I am now.

I admire the many shades of color on stone, brick, feather, and leaf, the reflections in the many windows, the rays of light, and the shadows. There is beauty in this strange cityscape where the social and ecological realms collide.

While there is much to admire, I am still relieved to hightail it out of the there before the onset of rush hour traffic sets in. I will take sweatpants and slipper over high-heeled leather boot and tight, painted on jeans any day.

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