Living, City, Breathing

The running drum rhythm of my chosen morning commute exercises its right to huff, puff and pant exasperated background noise, all the while the hustling bustled up commotion surrounding me and my four year old companion seems perfectly situated to the slow, groggy motion of an early morning.

Busses pass us by, some picking up cranky middle aged black men who might ask you the time but wouldn’t return the favor with as much as a thank you or, African Goddess forbid, a head nod of acknowledgement, while others drop off those men’s mothers, on their way to one of the four or five grocery stores in the neighborhood. Having just returned from a week long vacation on more southern, less shady shores, I’m thinking of purple peppers and low fat cheese and how we need paper towels. Then our bus comes and my pint sized fellow and I make our way onto the 86B Frankstown.

The bus portion of our travels is thick with black folk, and these riders are typically docile in the earlier hours of the morning, save for a large nurse who is insisting that the similarly large, similarly loud lady next to her calls her later this evening. I can only imagine that they have no intentions of continuing their little acquaintance outside the rickety glass and fiberglass walls of this, the bus, but I laugh at the high school-ness of it all and pull the cord to signal the bus driver to stop.

We’re dropped at corner, Penn & Evaline, which is pouring overflowing with youths, all wearing extra baggy clothes, mostly denim, some with embroidered dragons on the backs of their jackets or down their jean legs. One girls Jaylo-esque jumpsuit reads “juicy” across the back, and I can’t help but imagine the disgustingly gooey implications of such a claim. They laugh and point and shout something about “being tight” and I imagine they’re talking about my pants. I want to inform them of how my skater ancestry invented baggy pants in the name of function long before hip hop borrowed the form in order to emulate their prison brethren. I think about this even after the boy at my side has been left at his school, a quirky mansion overgrown with ivy and the laughter of very small children being brought up to hug trees and chant at the moon as only a happy hippie homeschool away from home could. I decide to let the idea go and continue on my way, merry as it may be.

Sidewalks become streets, dodging in and weaving out of passing cars, the rising blazing sunlight in their eyes; streets become parks, lined with sidewalks, a sign reading “Friendship Park” makes me happy every time I read it. I follow the cement sidewalk trail that leads down either side of this football field shaped patch of grass between the more ghetto neightborhoods of Penn and the large hospital that marks the beginning of this Little Italy that I spend my mornings bathing coffee, tea and cigarettes in. Kicking an acorn down the path a bushy tailed, black eyed squirrel darts in front of me, some sort of game I’ve noticed they love to play, pretending to be risking their lives, knowing full and well that they’re safe from the sit-wait-and-bang that their forest dwelling counterparts tell them of. “I could never live in the forest,” they tell their woodland counterparts, “all that shooting and trapping, it’s enough to kill a person!” to which they’re replied “Yeah, I know, but really I like the quiet of it all and you can’t beat the rent.”

A pigeon watches it all, trying still to convince me that his head bobbing dance hasn’t gone out of style as a crowd of his kind leap from their pecking feast on the road beside me to avoid certain death at the hands of slowly waking morning commuters.

Everything about the city is buzzing and humming with a new day, the smiles and frowns, the furrowed brows and pursed smoking lips, the red lights and the people late for interviews. It’s all buzzing and humming into me as I open the door to the coffee shop with the free wifi and get ready to have a nice, easy morning of watching people and combining syllables…

Up Next: Paganathanism, A Historic Overlook