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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