Conscious Collisions

Compassionate Traffic

It’s the difficult roads that are less travelled,

so I wonder what if they had raffled off skills

instead of our people? Filled ships with great thoughts

that went the distance to create an existence

where love lived and prospered.

Advertisements

Looking for that lyrical genius that seams hits with his dream riffs of what the world should be and has yet to become. 

New Battery

All people carry fear, all people carry guilt. Heroes are the ones who continue anyway.

Maximo Granzotti

The contours of our connection have taken on new shapes

Forever is different now and revisiting mistakes

is a fruitless effort that leaves me in the same place

Packin heat

The block is hot, but not with cops

the bricks of pain are warm again

the mortar of love has warn away

we scramble from the meccas we call corners.

attempting to run from our pasts, we stumble right into them

into the people we aim not to reflect

whose mirrors consistently hang from our necks.

the concrete streets that absorb this heat seem stiller than they ever been

You Deserve It.

Its what’s behind that door that Baldwin says opens yourself up to yourself that scares us. We are so afraid of embracing the beauty we deserve that we lend the key out and snatch it back when life seems like an attack, but in fact it isn’t. It is the battle of releasing yourself from yourself and allowing a part of you to blend and sink in to the skin of someone who is not your kin. It’s the source of our deepest woes when we lack it and a drug so strong that one hit will do the trick. It is the crux of existence; a cornerstone that many of us are missing. Perhaps that is why we are afraid of liberty.

Morning

With the hair on my legs rubbing against this new mattress, I was reminded of how I managed to buy a bed sheet instead of a bed skirt the night before at Wal-Mart. The increasingly familiar but illegible writing on the packages, signs, doors and streets of Nanjing are becoming a part of my every day life. Its 6:55 am and the lingering bouts of jet lag occasionally force me to wake up earlier than planned. It’s cold in here. I thought I had managed to decipher the characters on the remote for the air-conditioner well enough to set the timer, but it was actually on the whole night. Oh well. The combination of bad lighting in the bathroom and its low ceiling with grey and white stripes makes me feel bigger than I am in the morning. The silver streaks along the stripes glimmer with the little sunlight that peaks through the blinds from the window. The shower head hangs on a curve like a wilted sunflower that still has some life left. The “study” smells stale as I pass the small pink iron over my blue button down shirt. It’s the first day of school and the next beginning of this beginning.

My mom mixed up the time difference and misunderstood that we wanted to Skype this morning with her and my gramma, so the big flat screen displaying the one channel we have in English will have to suffice. Half a roll of semi-sweet and buttery bread paired with the grape juice I managed to buy purely based on the clear picture of grapes on the label is this morning’s breakfast. We have to go grocery shopping as soon as we figure out where’s the best place to get good food. There’s no need to turn on a lot of lights in the morning here. The huge windows all over the apartment let in plenty of light. I can get used to this. The open windows in the kitchen let in the screams, giggles and little stomping feet of the students running around on the elementary school’s track next to our complex. I think that means it’s time for us to go soon. Line 2 to Daxinggong and then take Exit 2. Katrina, one of our program coordinators, wrote down directions for us yesterday to make sure we wouldn’t get lost on our first solo attempt to school. Walter has decided to walk to his school because it’s a little closer but I’ll have to take the metro if I want to make it in time and avoid getting lost. Swipe card in hand, we close our first apartment door behind us and enter the small elevator down the 10 flights.

There are a few ways to make it to the back gate of the Kingdom of Jingling complex. We decide to take the route we took last night. Down the first path, make a right and take the first left. The paths are lined with tall trees that sway slightly with the occasional breeze, but most often stand still to avoid the stickiness of the thick air. As Walter passes his card over the sensor, the faux wrought-iron gate clicks as the latch releases long enough to let us through. This street isn’t too busy but we still have to look in every direction to avoid the mopeds, bikers, cars and whatever else that may be making its way down the street. Shops are opening slowly and as expected, the stares have already begun. I wonder what our new neighbors must be thinking about as their pupils focus on us steadily. These are looks of curiosity and intrigue. Do our black, breathing, living bodies fulfill what they may have imagined them to be in real life? Another reason, we need to learn Chinese soon. The stand near the corner emits smoke that blends with the sun peeking through the trees. Nature’s arrows pointing to something good. Donuts? Churros? It’s not clear what the man is selling, but people crowd around as they stop on their morning commute to pick up one or two of these long pastry-like sticks. As we turn the corner, the salon isn’t open yet and the little shop that has no signs but tons of people pouring out of it at any time of the day is bustling again. Dim sum, tea, and all kinds of pastries are being hurled around by women with those masks tightly bound around their mouths and noses. We have to learn Chinese and figure out what this stuff is. Past the little shop are more little shops that haven’t opened yet. A DVD store, a few restaurants, some boutiques and the standard restaurants. We’re approaching one of those wide intersections and I can feel the anxiety and excitement creeping up on us as we see the build up of mopeds, bikes, cars and pedestrians. If there is one thing that we have learned in these past two weeks, it is that crossing the street is not for the weak-hearted. The experienced can cross the street and text while simultaneously avoiding a crash with a moped or being mowed over by a bus. We might get there in a few months. For now, we have to look in every direction as we make the 30-second trek to the other side of the road. I don’t think any one wants to crash; it’s more of an urgency to make it to wherever it is they need to go. That means turning when it seems safe, not necessarily when the light says so. Each crossing is a symphony of beeps, horns, conversations and brakes that curve, zigzag and swerve from street to street. Xinjiekou, the major metro hub is at the corner.

Walter needs to enter the underground to make it to the other side of the huge road. He can try to cross the street above ground, but tomorrow may come before he’ll make it. Line 2 to Daxinggong and then take Exit 2. As we exchange our goodbyes and good lucks, I follow the blue signs indicating “Line 1,2”. I have a metro card and am confident that I can put money on it. I press “English” on the touch screen of the metro machine and search for “Daxinggong”. As I confirm the stop and enter my 2 Yuan coins, I get confused. Three moving images appear on the screen. One tells me to enter the coins, another tells me to enter cash and another says to put in my metro card. I find an open slot and place my metro card in it. I try to force it in, confusing it for the machines in New York, but the card sits in the slot. I place my coins in and two royal blue tokens hit the bottom of the slot under the screen. A small woman, cleaning the machines with a ragged mop looks at me with confusion. I didn’t need to speak Chinese to understand that I had made a simple process complicated. Simple to her. With my tokens in hand and a bit of a bruised ego, I made my way to the entrance. I stood back to see how people were entering and headed for the least busy opening. Nothing. I couldn’t get through the stupid entrance because I didn’t see a slot for the tokens. As I struggled, a young woman came behind me and grabbed the token. She placed it on the sensor that had a picture of a card on it and pushed me through. I mumbled “xie xie” (thank you) and made my way down the stairs.

Traveling is important for many reasons and one in particular is that it makes the world smaller. It allows you to see how often we are more connected than we believe. The platforms here reminded me of the fancy trains I saw in Dubai almost two years ago. Huge glass panels lined the edges of the platform and stickers on the ground indicated where the openings were when the train pulled up to the station. Unlike in New York where you can argue with people to let people off the train before you get in, here it seems you gotta make your way into the train no matter what. I forced myself onto the cart and looked for the little map of the train line. I had one stop to go. As “Made in America” played through my headphones, I smiled to myself. Sweet baby Jesus.

Only in the Movies

Aching bones and tired bodies sweep across the platform, scurrying amongst “fans” of the blue and white pinstripes to squeeze into one of the train cars. No matter what time of day or part of the year, you can guarantee that the 4 train will be packed. Sometimes I swear the subway gods had a summit and decided to curse all regular passengers of the 4 line. We were banished to eternal waiting and disappointment. When that stupid train does come, its usually packed. Sometimes when you walk to the end of the platform you might get lucky, but don’t get your hopes up. On game days though, the level of discomfort and anger reaches a point where tensions are higher than usual and I’m more irritable than I normally allow myself to be.

This may be too honest, but there is something about a rush of white folk into the Bronx on these particular days that irks me. For many of these “fans”, it is an exciting adventure and spectacle to board an unnecessarily crowded train. The pushing and shoving are details of the stories they’ll tell about “trekking” uptown to see a game. I wonder if they ever think about the people who actually live uptown or in the Bronx?

My grip tightens on the cold metal bar to both avoid collision and release frustration. Do these white folk ever consider the impact of their choice to see this game and the manner in which they do it? Are they concerned about that lady that’s coming home from cleaning someone’s house all day and can’t get a seat? Do they care that some of these people are trying to rush home to pick up their kids and get dinner ready? Some of those tired folk were shut out from the train because the “fans” needed a spot in the moving can of sardines. They’ll have to wait for the next one in 6 minutes. After 8+ hours of working, 6 minutes is an eternity.

To make matters worse, the train is only guaranteed to stop at Yankee Stadium; anywhere else is up for debate or rather, denial.

After surviving the mess of the sporting event that most residents of the borough probably can’t afford, the scratchy voice over the intercom makes bad worse. “Attention, the next stop will be Burnside Ave.” Dammit, the train is skipping four locals stops after 161 street. A wave of sucked teeth, curses, grunts and angry faces washes over the black and brown faces left behind after the deposit of mostly white people at their stadium.

These Bronxites are irritated because they recognize the injustice. As I lean on the pay phone on the platform, a woman turns to me and says, “I can’t believe this. They built that Metronorth station to make it easier for them to get up here, but they all still take this train”

“Word up.” A scruffy dude with a dirty white T and corn rows that have seen better days sips from his sweating Poland Springs bottle. “Did you see how they was drinkin beer like that shit aint illegal?” He took another sip. “I aint never seen no white man pinned against a wall and searched. Go to your block though and across the street you’ll see a black dude cuffed against the wall. You never see that happening to a white dude.”

“Only in the movies,” replied the lady on the opposite side of the pay phone. “They tryna do the Bronx like they did Manhattan. No sir, it aint gonna happen. They can’t do the Bronx like that, especially with all this new public housing.”

I looked past her head as she vented to see a crowded platform of angry people. We all knew what was going on: MTA sponsored discrimination. If it wasn’t clear before who was favored, all you had to do was ride that train to the Bronx. We recognize the injustice, but its disheartning when it seems like there aren’t many options. I too hope “they won’t do the Bronx like they did Manhattan”. That’s only in the movies though.

Dilemma

As he wipes the sleep out his eye, he doesn’t fully wake up. His consciousness continues in a mild slumber as thoughts drift between dormant and active visions. If dreams are the fabric of life, then why does his tapestry upset him?

His hands are tired of weaving certain patterns with this cotton. Picking at his brain with each stitch, he hides a bit of who he is as each fingertip taps and hits. Moves in and out. To form this larger image.

An amateur artisan that strives to be his best, but in the process of learning to be the greatest weaver he can be, he forgets. The young manchild doesn’t remember to make something for himself.

Focused and attentive to detail, he doesn’t want to step back from his work. To take a break from weaving would mean to look at his project in its entirety. Directly. It would mean seeing what he has to see to embrace the whole story.

It May Take Forever

How do we hold ourselves to the standards that we deserve without being too hard/impossible on ourselves or others?

– Ryan G.

The answer might take a lifetime to find as much as I wish i knew it right now.