I think as a child he might have taken walks with Albert Einstein . He wears his clothes carelessly , muted shades of browns , heathers and grey , his blue eyes his only primary color . A woolen sweater , worn wool jacket with flaps on the pockets and he smiles as he catches my glance , hitching up his sleeves , his white hair whiter against his black turtleneck , a dark pigment of sun damage below his eyes . And then I notice his hiking shoes and see him as an intergalactic hitchhiker even though his car which I noticed pull into the parking lot , is an old ford falcon with lights that flicker on this still dark early morning where I fill up my thermos with coffee and pour a Guatamalan blend into my mother’s china teacup , one of the few things I have saved since her death , always remembering her at 3 in the afternoon when she always sipped her one cup a day coffee black while watching “As the World Turns ” in the den before we all came home from school .
My friend Paulo comes by , greets me with , ” I’m glad your finally back ” , sees that I’m busy reading ” The Captains Verses ” and sits down with the unknown ( to me ) writer , and soon calls out over the empty cafe , ” France’s , come over here , I want you to meet Alec !” And so we are finally introduced as he pulls a chair over for me . They talk of photography , Paulo being a portrait photographer ; Detroit where they are both from , and it’s destruction where the firemen have no boots , the cops , no working cars and the fact that coyotes are howling around in packs in the abandoned buildings of graffiti . An ominous cloud has rolled into the stratosphere above this ruined metropolis where it’s inhabitants have a spooky serpent – like fear on their stricken faces . And , listening , I can understand William Blakes lament , ” Ah , sunflower , weary of time …”
Photo by Yves Marchand , Room 1505 … Lee Plaza Hotel … ” Detroit Urban Decay ”
I am not frightened of new ideas but of the old ones . I listen as Alec tells of the urban explorers who wander thru the ghost buildings and warehouses , with their cameras and collecting metal for odd pieces of art . And I listen too as Paulo tells of his teenage rail adventures riding on an open car freight train across India with Pakistani and Russian soldiers . I remember , but stay silent , that the Buddhists say there are 84,000 paths to supreme enlightenment . Is poverty one and ruin another ? I get up to get a glass of water , recognizing that I don’t always know just where I stand . Standing , I begin to watch where I put my feet and it is at that moment that a path appears and with it the infinite sky , the living blue hand itself . Does it happen on 8 mile road , the one Eminem raps about in his home town of Detroit , does it happen for the homeless ?
” Francis , you look far away , are you OK dear ” says Alec as he gets ready to leave. Does he know me so well already? ” A few of us are going to the Avenue Bar tomorrow night , your brother too …try and join us , really , please be there … ” His scarf trails in the gust of wind as he pushes back his hair , turns and walks out of the door alone .
” What are you working on ,Francie ? ” Paulo asks .
” Oh , I don’t know , trying to come up with a love story , not wanting to use any of my disappointing ones but trying to make up a new one .”
” I thought you were writing about what happened to Dave ?”
” I am , um … Working in two parts now …1972 and 2014 … But having some difficulties …maybe I’ll see you tomorrow night .”
” I hope so , that would be great ,”
” I really like that new portrait in your window , who is she ? Maybe she could be the love interest in my story !”
” Francie , you crack me up sometimes , by the way , you still have to come by and look at those photos I took of you last month , there’s over a hundred so let’s make some time soon , I want to see what you think of them .”
Photo by Sally Mann
Walking home , feeling feverish suddenly , I pass under the sassafras trees so fragrant that the hills in front of me seem to spread out and shrink at will . I look and watch above as a thousand birds in formation expand and contract and change shape … an amazing site and I once again repeat only to myself this time , ” you will travel in a land of marvels .”
Shall I stop at Cottenseed and buy something new for tomorrow night … Only a crazy fleeting desire as I walk by . After all , my prized momentos are the things I didn’t buy , they are the things I was given , or the things I found … or just maybe they found me . They’re ordinary , yet acquiring them in far away places , penetrates them with mystery and extracts a raw flavor . Like those three smooth stones now huddled like wise men on my dresser . Who knows how old they are or what current carried them to the shore where I fished them from the waves on a sunny summer afternoon at the tip of Point Oneida . Nature endures and it hooks with a strong almost invisible line and shimmies my heart like the lights that flicker from Alecs’ car .
Time : 4:48 pm … Place : Michigan , United States … Date : November 7, 2014 … Weather: snow flurries expected later tonight … Music score : ” You’ve Got the Love ” Florence and the Machine with Royal Albert Hall Orchestra
” We do not grow absolutely , chronologically . We grow sometimes in one dimension and not in another ; unevenly . We grow partially . We are relative . We are mature in one realm , childish in another . The past , present and future mingle and pull us backward , forward or fix us in the present . We are made up of layers , cells , constellations .” Anais Nin