Monday, December 1, 2008

circle of brotherly love

I watched some moving pictures of Philadelphia
last night on tv. Wandering wounded on the corner,
young black men with babies tucked in their arms -
9mm handguns nestled inside their waistbands -
they had lost the ability to form meaning with their
mouths, nothing of any import or note got said,
and the police were simply going through the
motions, from one paycheck to the next, glad just
to have a job; a badge and a pension and good health
insurance. A generous degree or two of self-respect.

Everybody runs everywhere, it seems. When they
are not high and swimming aimlessly in circles. Round
and around like wheezing lung fish in a puddle. Or
shooting up in a vacant lot. Stepping on some crack.

Shoals of knives. A boost up off the kerb. A stroll on
the safer side of the street; goats and gold rope chains.

And you just can't make the rent. Young men sprawled
face down on the dirty tarmac and sisters, cousins
wailing. Paramedics breaking between the waves. Dull
condolences and whispered spitting feathers on the road.
But you might just make that next bag. The next twelve.
Everybody is hustling or else being hustled. There is no
middle ground. The script is so derelict it might reduce
one to tears - there is more money to be made, it's said,
peddling McDonalds. Flipping burgers. And all those
bloods on the corner are motherless boys. Only aunts.

And you just can't make the rent. And the police sure as
fuck don't care. Their barbecues and secret handshakes.

But this is Philadelphia. "Last year it was 'Kiladelphia',"
a young hood intones, his shirt wound about him like a
shroud. It looks a lot like any other dead end cul-de-sac.
Too hot to breathe in August, cold right through til April.

No trace of Philly Soul. No ornamental tail fins. Industry
on the wane. Gamble & Huff cocked a snoot and walked.

And It did not move me. Somebody left the video rolling.
Someone forgot to sweep out the ashes in the morning.

"playground needles": image by grafitto 17.



WZJN said...

Know what really got to me? The ending, the last paragraph.

ib said...

How so ?

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Wasn't Philly the city that gave us disco?

ib said...

The area, I think, was to the north. Very bleak. Low rise buildings in rows and rows, many bulldozed or otherwise razed, like empty sockets after amateur dentistry.

It seemed well beyond any reasonable prospect of regeneration, and I don't think that was even low down on any civic agenda.

Bar the architecture, it reminded me of where I live. We do not experience anywhere near the same degree of gun crime, though. Yet. Pretty much, we have a similar ethnic mix; the same level of single parenting and dependence on welfare; the same problems with narcotics.

It numbed me.

Yes. Philly Soul and Disco. Hard to believe.