Dream of: 25 February 2001 "Dandelions And Blue Jays"
I stepped off the big yellow passenger bus which I had been riding cross-country. The bus filled with passengers was making a short stop in a large city. Needing to stretch my legs, I began walking around the streets. I had strolled two or three blocks before I realized I was in a mean part of town – dilapidated buildings with broken windows. A few black people milled about here and there. A group of young black girls (7-8 years old) were playing in some weeds. One girl had picked an armful of greens which I recognized as dandelion leaves. Obviously her family was so poor she had to go out and pick the greens to eat. How did they manage in winter?
I turned and headed back in the direction of the bus. I needed to get out of here as quickly as possible. But I dallied as I noticed a railroad track on my right, running along the sidewalk. Just inside the track lay a penny, and I bent over to pick it up. Then I noticed another penny, and another, making a little trail along the inside of the track. I picked up each penny, thinking some child must have been playing a game with them here and left them. To think, as poor as they were, they would leave money around like this! Well, I wasn't too proud to pick it up. Finally I saw something silver shining and picked up one, two, three quarters, all lying together in the soft dirt inside the tracks.
When the money trail ran out, I straightened back up and hurried on toward the bus, beginning to have a foreboding premonition that I might have delayed too long. And when I finally turned the corner to where I could see the place where the bus had parked, my dread became reality the bus had left without me! I tried to maintain my composure, glancing around me at all the black faces on these obviously rough streets.
Where was I? I thought I might be in Memphis. But when I looked down a vista of streets, in the distance I could see tall buildings, and there the St. Louis Arch. I was in St. Louis! I was stuck, without any luggage, all of which had been on the bus. Maybe I could catch a cab to the bus station. Maybe the bus was headed to the bus station and I could still catch it. I looked up and down the street, but no taxis were in sight. I waited and waited, and kept noticing everyone was black. I sat down on a bench, and hoping no one was looking, I carefully pulled out my wallet. I had quite a few $100 bills, which I extracted, and slipped into my left sock. I also took out some credit cards and stuck them in my pocket. I left only a few small bills in the billfold, which I stuck back in my pocket.
It looked as if I were going to have to stay in St. Louis, and as if I would need a place to live. A muscular white fellow jogged past me and gave me a friendly hello. Well, at least I wasn't the only white person here. He looked as if he had experience in the area. I wished I were in as good condition as he. I also wished I had a gun. I figured carrying a gun here would probably be illegal; nevertheless, I would feel much safer if I had one.
I walked a short distance and then entered a tall brick tenement building, thinking I might be able to find someplace here to stay. I began ascending the stairs, one flight after another. On each floor was a white door which I had to push open. Picasso was following behind me, and I had to be careful not to shut the door on him each time. But I figured he knew how to push the door open if he needed to. All the way up the stairs, I was worried someone would suddenly spring out and attack me. I would just have to react as best I could.
The building was tall; I climbed all the way to the top floor. But I wasn't happy with what I saw. I looked down the long dark corridor; a grungy black man was going through one of the doors which lined the corridor. I had the feeling that this was the worst floor in the building, and that the most derelict people lived here. I turned back to the stairwell and descended a few floors.
This time, when I stepped out of the stairwell and into a hallway, I entered the first door which I found. I walked into a fairly large room, vacant except for a bed in one corner. This room would do for me. I would be able to stay here until I was ready to move on. I knew I was in the middle of a ghetto, surround by poor blacks, and life would be difficult here. Nevertheless, I had to admit, something about this environment attracted me. I had previously wondered what it would be like to live somewhere like this, so different from the accommodations to which I was accustomed. There was something challenging and invigorating about this kind of place.
My one concern was the noise. I was in a corner room, so I only had people living on one side of me. I imagined my neighbors were a poor black family, and I worried they might be noisy at night when I was trying to sleep. Even now I could hear a disturbing din in the background, noise which I surely couldn't tolerate at night. Where was the racket coming from? I walked over to the large window on one side of the room, the only side which had a window, and I looked out at the other tall buildings which surrounded mine. There, on the eaves of the buildings, were flocks of birds, chirping wildly. And in the branches of a tall tree sat a bright blue jay, the only bird I could identify. The din wasn't from people, but from birds! Maybe, then, at night, when the birds were quiet, the noise wouldn't be so bad here after all here in my new home.
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