The Concrete Jungle

Took a new route home from work the other day.

I started out like I usually do – down the industrial leg.  The cemetery did some judicious tree-trimming along their fence, so I no longer have to dodge the long boughs to get through. More sunshine and less shade make that stretch just a bit hotter though – so it’s one of those give & take situations that everyone over the age of 12 has learned to adjust to.

 

Instead of heading all the way down the industrial leg, I took a slightly sharp right turn into a residential area…in search of more trees.  More shade.  A bit more breeze.  Plus – I get to tramp on different concrete.  Who knows what I’m gonna find?

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(the last time I took a different route home, I ended up snapping a couple of shots of Les Paul’s memorial graveside…so ADVENTURE!)

The residential trail WAS a bit cooler, as I was walking with my back toward the sun instead of it blasting my side – and the wind was brisk enough to cool things down a bit.

Ooooo – big hill.  Let’s turn left here to avoid…

And down into a stretch of …how shall I say this…

Cheap Apartment Units?

It was almost like I’d stepped through a portal.  Trash now clogged the streets and gutters – empty pop cans, Power-Aid containers, the torn pages from at least one book.  Various scraps of other unidentifiable paper danced in the breeze up and down the obviously-patched (read…badly tended) blacktop street.  The lawns were dominated by brown, frizzy, untamed grass, widely interspersed with large swaths of light brown dirt under the old oak trees.   Concrete stairways marched up the low rise between the apartment buildings and the sidewalk clearly showing their bellies – the earth had eroded from underneath them.  The handrails were either missing or brown with rust.

The buildings themselves – all brick – all uniform – all looking like they had been more than just a bit neglected in the maintenance department.  A LOT of the windows in these buildings had cracked blinds, blankets, or sheets hanging in lieu of commercial, uniform, curtains.  One window even sported a large splash of mud.

Because it was a nice, sunshiny afternoon, the residents of this neighborhood were out and about.  A couple of young men were conversing with another couple of young men in a car stopped dead in the middle of the street.  Off to the side on the other side of the street another couple of men conversed in the doorway of one of the buildings.

A young lady finished her conversation with another, then darted across the street after giving me a long look.

On my side – 3 moms stood on the dry grass chatting with each other as they kept eagle-eyes on the kids playing nearby.

As I approached, all those eyes zeroed in on me.

 

Now…my favored ideal when I’m out and about is what I like to call chameleon mode.  Yes, the people around me are aware of me, and I of them, but I’ve pulled in my energies nice & tight, so I just flit on the edge of that awareness.  If you’re a fan of the Hitchhiker’s series – it’s almost as if I’ve placed a SEP (someone else’s problem) field around myself.

SEP Field

I like it when observing eyes just slide off.

Yesterday … no amount of pulling in of my energies was going to make those eyes NOT notice.  And focus.

I was the interloper.  The intruder.  The one who did NOT belong.

The expressions of the regular denizens of that place went from easy and social to calculating.  Alarmed.  Assessing.  Was I a threat?  A predator?

Or was I prey?

I watched body language change as each set of eyes came to rest on me.  Backs stiffened up.  Conversations died.  Eyes narrowed and nostrils flared.  Hands unconsciously curled and the kids play abruptly ended.

Now…I’ve been breathing air for quite some time.  Driven through my share of ghetto-ish neighborhoods, walked a couple others.  But this is the first time in a LONG time I’ve been in such a place without companionship.

Yes…I was extremely concerned.  But I bravely soldered on through to the marching beat of the tune blasting on my iPod – and they all just stared as I walked.  I guess I was assessed as SEP after all.

Now that my adventure has ended…I gotta ask…

Does anyone else out feel the poverty in the air when you find yourself in (gah!  I HATE political correctness!) a disadvantaged neighborhood?  Can you taste the desperation in the wind?  Do the vibrations of these struggling humans echo from the Earth itself?  Does the miasma which chokes these locations threaten to cut off your breath?

Or am I just too freaking sensitive for my own good?

 

A Walk on the Wild -Powder Room- side…

I’ve pretty much solidified my walking route home…when I get to walk, that is.  We’ve had a lot of wet weather so far this summer.  Last week, I got 2 clear days to walk – the remainder of the week had rolling storms consigning me to watching the world through streaky windshield wipers.  This week was a bit better…but I think my demon-weather summoning fat cells are continuing their spell work.

On the (not) plus (-size anymore) side – I had to make another journey to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul for smaller pants – the 16’s finally got to the point of ‘I don’t need to unbutton the fly to take them off.’  I stocked up on some funky shirts while I was there.  I may actually LIKE going clothing shopping again.  Three cheeses for Ketosis!!!

Hip Hip Havarti!!!!  Hip Hip Havarti!!!!  Hip Hip Havarti!!!!

Some of my more dirt-minded (NOT dirtY-minded…watch the difference :D) co-workers have started to lament on the status of their gardens.  Vegetable gardens all over the area are starting to look pretty sad with all the moisture coming down.  Plants need sunshine as well as water, and they’re starting to REALLY need a few hot, sunny days.

I hope things turn around, for Erica’s Garden’s Sake.  Cucumbers should be cherished!

Aaaaaanywaaaaaaaaaaay….

Today’s walk started out pretty normal.  Some sunshine peeking through the clouds, a bit of a breeze, a selection of my favorite tunes queued up on my iPod.

Through the industrial leg.  Check.

Past the Greenspace.  Check.

Homage given to the Fox River….Check.

It’s that witchy thing, where I bow to the river.  Just go with it…

Down into Bethesda Park….check.

Now wait a minute…what’s THAT?

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No…not that.  THAT…

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There…on the light post…

 

OH MY GAWD!

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It can’t be…but it is…

That innocent little cup from work…the one that broke containment a couple of months ago…is now stalking me on my walking route!

1re73z

Walkabout Down Memory Lane

I may have mentioned I started walking to work this spring…

 

Ok…so I’m kinda obsessed, and ya’ll get to share.

This morning, I was passed by a commuter on roller skates.  She was a middle-aged lady, wore a fairly standard backpack, and sported a bright pink helmet with matching knee and elbow pads.  The wheels on her skates may have matched the bright pink of the rest of her ensemble, but had been darkened slightly from use.

She was also on the street – which is a hell of a lot smoother than the sidewalk I was currently pounding.

I had to giggle just a bit – but not loud enough to put her off her stride.  I’d hate to cause an accident with my rather hard-to-explain mirth.

See – I did the roller skate thing a long time ago.

Remember wavy

Look out!!!! It’s the ‘memory shimmer!’

I officially became a teenager in the tender year of 1980.

but I’m still 29 thanks to ‘female’ maths

In this year of big, permed hair, screen-printed satin jackets, and eye-blistering neon-colors – one of the biggest social gathering places for those newly minted teens was the skating rink.  There, you could blithely roll your heart out on a stretch of perfectly level, perfectly straight, and perfectly clean poured concrete, while the punk music blasted out of the speakers and stage lights flared, spun and flickered across the painted expanse.

All your classmates were there, too…doing what teens do worst – attempting to flirt with the opposite sex.

Well, except for me.  I was more interested in actually skating.

At this age, I didn’t yet understand the biological Human directive to form pair bonds…

I had a pair of rink skates.  Not the little metal numbers you had to screw onto your shoes (although I owned a pair or two of those, too…) – but a real pair of above-the-ankle leather boots with the wheel assembly permanently bolted onto the hard sole.  I dressed ’em up with hot pink wheels, neon-purple, sparkly laces, and pink/purple puffballs strapped to the toes.  I even had a bright blue satin jacket with the rink’s name screen-printed across the back.

The rink was within walking distance of home, and I went there every chance I could.  Not that there were a lot of chances in 1980.  The parent’s divorce was final, and Mom had moved back to the ‘ancestral’ part of Wisconsin with my and my little brother in tow to work a 2nd shift job in a nursing home.  Guess who got the responsibility of making sure I and my little 10 year old brother had food at night?

I can still wield a can opener with the best Olympiads!

So 1980 was memorable, if only for the year I got my first ‘real’ skates, learned how to heat up cans of food, and realized I had little awareness of or interest in the whole boy/girl attraction thing.

I loved my skates though…they represented freedom & frivolity!

Now…I’m just gonna fast-forward through the remains of the 80’s.  The fashion trends are starting to make a comeback, anyway, so why remember when I can just look out a window and see the same stuff on the street?

Yea!!!  I’m 20.  Out on my own for the first time eveah!  Just me and my wits against the rest of society!

Damn…this sucks.  

A broken-down car, some mother-fu*k3#! stealing my bicycle, less than $50 in the bank, a tiny efficiency apartment with a lecherous landlord, a job waiting tables in an extremely depressed segment of the US…

Yea…I had to walk to work.  But, unlike now…back then I resented having to do it.  I’d rather have had wheels.

Can you see where I’m going with this?  I HAD wheels – my old trusty freedom-loving skates.  And, unlike the bicycle that went off on its own, the skates I could bring inside the restaurant for protection against the tender mercies of the more ‘unsavory’ elements in town.

So I skated to work once…

 

 

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ONCE!

It didn’t go so well.  First…I was out of practice.  Second, the sidewalks had cracks and pits and ankle-breaking perils (sticks, small stones, various debris) randomly scattered about.  Third – curbs.  Do you know how difficult it is to step off a curb with wheels strapped to your feet???

Lastly – there was traffic.  Both other pedestrians and actual cars.

There were no cars in the Skate-Rink…and everyone rolled the same direction.

Welcome to real life!

 

I did survive that trip in to work…sweaty and shaking but intact and unbroken.  At the end of that shift serving grouchy people burgers & fries…mopping up various spills and cleaning tables that the public left incredibly messy – I didn’t even bother lacing the skates back on.  I just looped ’em over my shoulders and walked back to my little shelter.

I don’t think I ever wore my skates again.

 

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Somebody Order an Ark?

We had a weather-event in Wisconsin last week Tuesday.  It got wet.

Really wet.

Really, REALLY wet.

Dinosaur weather

I remember 2 ladies at work not able to make it in, as they were flooded in.  I remember one lady who managed to get TO work getting a news push, citing the dam that was 2 blocks from her house had failed.

(for the record…everyone ended up safe, as sane as before, and semi-dry…)

I remember having to drive to work, as I don’t own a wetsuit or flippers.

I also remember walking to work the day after the stormage pounded through…because I had to detour.  Bethesda park’s walking path was flooded.  Now…I could get ON the footbridge spanning the Fox River…but I couldn’t get off it.

Here’s a couple of shots

 

This one, taken earlier in the spring, the Fox River is firmly in it’s banks, you can see the walking path winding all the way across the park.20170508_165502

Here’s the shot from the same vantage point.  You can see where the water has totally covered most the path.

Flood July 2017 Bethesda Park

This morning when I once again donned my walking shoes and set off…I thought I’d at least see where the water now was in the park, and see if I could now get through.

Almost success!

I can now get onto the park grounds from the footbridge, but I have to go straight up the hill instead of the walking path down by the river.  I call it ‘Taking the High Road.’

I’ll take it whatever way I can get it 😀

noahs-ark

No (ah) Ark Required!

Get on my Lawn!

For quite some time, now, I have a segment of my walk where I abandon the solid concrete and put feet on the ground itself.  I feel by doing so, I connect just that much better with our Earth.  Connecting with nature (even the tiny bits you find in your standard city) is something that speaks beyond words.

There is this long swatch of grass bordering the railroad tracks and the river.  Because it’s this close to the tracks, it’s considered the domain of the city (you can’t build that close to the tracks because…well…when rail accidents happen, they tend to spread their destruction), and thus, is fair game for any walkers who wish to wander.

So…I leave the pavement at the beginning of this swatch, and tromp across a narrow band of green with the river on one side, the street on the other, and the tracks once the river bends north to swing around Bethesda Park.

Right here…the little red line…is part of my walk home.

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The trees along this stretch fan out and over the grass, giving me a bit of shade.  The breeze comes up from the river, giving me a bit of relief from the (usually) hot sun.  It’s here that I offer a bit of blessing, and a bit of homage, to the Fox River.

I honor the Fox River with a bow and a few soft words of admiration when I come up to this point on my homeward journey, because water is life, for which I am grateful.

The Natural has taken it upon itself to give a little something back to me.

Raspberry bush

I have been graced with a tangle of wild raspberry bushes under the canopy of trees bordering the river.

I take one or 2 berries a day…just a bit of sweetness for my walk.  I leave the rest.  So far, the bushes haven’t been stripped by any foragers…either of the 4 legged or 2 legged kind.  I feel it’s a bit of a secret understanding between the Natural and I – and a tangible display of our mutual acceptance of each other.

 

Guitar Town

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Waukesha is called (unofficially) Guitar Town.  Now…we do have several music-themed shops in the downtown area (teaching, repairing, selling instruments, and a brisk trade in old vinyl).  We also have Friday Night Live every week from Memorial day to Labor day in the downtown area, live concerts on Tuesday nights by the library, and bars offering bands the opportunity to play live throughout the year – this would suggest music town more than guitar town.

So why are we Guitar Town?

Waukesha is the birthplace of Les Paul.  The guy who, according to his Wiki page, was one of the ‘architects of the modern solid-body electric guitar.’

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This is the guy who made Gibson…GIBSON

We, the denizens of this little town, celebrate Les Paul in a lot of ways.  We’ve the Les Paul highway, the Les Paul school.

We’ve got murals painted all over town celebrating his life:

20170516_171211We’ve also got guitar sculptures scattered all across the town…

 

And, yes…we’ve got his final resting place.

 

I wandered through the cemetery on the walk home tonight – after all, it’s right across the street from work…and found where he’s laid down.  I’m not the only one to do so…several musicians had been there before me, leaving tribute in the only way guitar players can:

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Those are guitar picks on his grave.