Any Given Sunday
I wanted to tell you about my walk to Macy’s yesterday, before I forget.
It’s the reason for the love part of my love/hate relationship with Philadelphia.
I mean…you just have to leave your house…
I grabbed my bag of returns and headed north, straight into center city. I had only gone a few blocks when I heard jazz coming from an open car window. Only when the light changed, the music got closer and louder instead of farther away. I thought perhaps then, it was coming from an open window of a nearby home. I came upon Washington Avenue, a main thoroughfare, and a rather ugly intersection, at that! Flanked by a U-Haul Storage building wrapped in chainlink, an empty, overgrown lot, Enterprise Car Rentals and Sav-A-Lot, one of those low-end supermarkets for the super-poor. You almost miss the Buddhist temple if you forget to look for it. If you look up, you can barely see the sky for all the cellular towers and telephone/cable wires.
Where was that soulful music coming from?
I waited for the light to change and saw him, there, against the chain-link. A man in dark navy pants and a long sleeved, button-down shirt, sweating like a hog before the fire, playing a tenor saxophone in the noonday sun, most beautifully. I crossed the street and looked for his change cup and there was none. I wasn’t surprised. He didn’t really appear to be playing for money. He appeared to be playing because he just has to.
He stood on Washington, a few feet from the corner, so I passed him, but paused, and stood just around the right angle, separated by air and a triangle of hot, black, asphalt. I stayed for a few songs. As he ended one, I yelled, “Thank you!” behind his back and he waved without skipping a beat. I walked away, but oh-so-slowly, as he pursed his lips around the next number.
As I sauntered off, an old woman in a wheelchair with a cute haircut and one leg rolled up aside me.
“So, what…are you just out for a walk?” as if we’ve known each other for years.
I looked at her, being conscious to not look down.
“Welll…I’m actually heading to Macy’s with some returns but I had to stop to listen. He’s brilliant, isn’t he?”
“Oh, yeah…(she waved off the musician like she waved off the lights, turning red.) I’m coming from church. I live in the high rise at Lombard. It’s an old age home.”
From there she launched into a story about her dear friend that just died of cancer. Her children were drug addicts and on the street…she saved the grandchildren, but now she’s dead-and the children are missing and where are the grandchildren?! Oh! And she stole from her before she died. The kids stole from the mother, the mother stole from the friend….They hadn’t spoken…I was doing my best to keep up and the players straight.
Here, she paused and her thoughts got stuck in her throat,
“I’m sorry…I’m going to cry-I shouldn’t cry-I’m talking your ear off.”
I didn’t skip a beat-”It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
She cried a little and I stayed with her and listened…intently.
She was coming from church begging forgiveness for all of the sins.
I felt honored.
If all I am is a Vessel to carry away random tears, so be it. How many Vessels have I filled and filled again?
We came to her corner and exchanged names and “good days!”
Joy filled, I crossed Lombard and hoped I carried away some of her pain.
It was the marked highlight of my day.
Two blocks later, I was still beaming and almost not surprised to see three horses and their cowboys resting in a parking lot as I crossed Pine, where Dirty Frank’s, The Last Drop and the (ever-changing-hands) middle eastern restaurant intersect.
It is a corner I have been quite at home, from time-to-time-to-time.
I crossed over to pet the horses and find out the occasion for their being (in the city).
I was treated a bit like an idiot for not already knowing.
Dolly, the horse, looked me dead in the eye and tried to remind me to consider the source.
I pet the soft skin of her nose, but still,
“Look buddy, I’m just headed to Macy’s…!”
Then I understood, or was made to understand by a stuck-up, sneering, homosexual cowboy.
It seems I was headed into the heart of the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade.
“Oh! Fantastic!” I clapped like a happy schoolgirl, taking the horse’s advice and ignoring the attitude and dropping my own.
I would tell you how proud the parade was, but…I was actually a tiny bit disappointed.
The parade I used to know was a wild, all-out, no-holds-barred, skin party of a parade.
This year (and it has been quite a few years between this one and my last) I saw lots of matching t-shirts…this year’s gay pride is brought to you by Big Banks and Corporations…this year’s parade passes out Dunkin Donuts and palettes of Poland Spring.
Where is Our Pride?!
It wasn’t all matching corporate t-shirts, though.
Spirit still managed to break through my darker judgements and the clouds of over-management.
There was still plenty of skin, a good bit of individuality and lots of public affection quaking the streets, on this oh-so-colorful Sunday, in my filthy and fabulous, City Of Brotherly Love!