Urban Hike

Urban hiking.

An exercise in diversity and exploration.

We stepped out of our world.   To see what a city would have to offer.  We started in an old part of the city.  With row houses looking fabulously renovated.  And fabulously shabby.   Side by side.

We had to cross a river.

Under a bridge we tried to figure out how to get on the bridge.  We went in to the fancy hotel on one side of the bridge and immediately received friendly and well trained help.   We went out of the hotel, crossed the street, went in to a Taco Bell where you had to be buzzed in the bathrooms to keep the drug addicts from going in unseen.  We crossed the bridge and watched as the homeless on the other side of the bridge went about their day, moving on from where ever they had spent the night.  Over the bridge.  In to a hubbub of city life.  Sports arenas.   Cultural high lights.  And societal lows.

Our feet moving us through worlds that, without exaggeration, exist within a few steps of one another.  Yet exist in different planes of reality.    And have no correlation.  At all.

Old downtown buildings with character and class mixed it up with modern monsters of glass and steel.  Those old buildings are holding their own.

Locals gathered together to support the buy local and buy small movement.   The locals were pulling in the crowds.

A few more steps.

Moving from one highly populated event we entered a neighborhood with crumbling building fronts, chained and fenced off housing units.  Homes that had to have lives lived completely within the confines of this neighborhood.  Full lives.  Crazy, happy, sad and frustrated lives.  It had the scent and essence of lives lived out.  The men standing in groups of two, three or four stopped talked as we passed.  Some avoided looking at us.  Some would.  Some would speak.  Some wouldn’t.

A few more steps.  Another world.

A market place established that sold fresh meats,  fresh produce, and gave the city a feeling of community and culture.  Here there was a mix.  Mingling.  Moving crowds.  No one minds the press of people.  Everyone dodges around, stops, waits.     The crowd just seems to breathe together.  Pulses.  It doesn’t make sense.  You expect impatience or frustration.  But it’s the market place.  It’s expected.  It’s part of the fabric.   The people weaving in and out creating the pattern.

A few more steps.

We see a couple on the other side of the street.  Twenty five or thirty feet behind them follows a young man.  Holding himself with one hand.  Then both hands.  Yelling something at the couple.  Never stopping.  The couple just keeps moving.   We approach an older man sitting in the doorway of a storefront.  He appears to have a bullet cartridge belt over his shoulder.  Like some old fashioned gun slinger.  As we approach I say hello and he returns the greeting.  It wasn’t bullets in the belt, but little bottles of something.   And it was a shiny gun slinger type belt.  It made me happy it wasn’t bullets.  The buildings here aren’t very graceful in their decline.  Many of them are full of charitable organizations.  Help for the homeless, the unemployed, the down on their luck.  Free stores and free food.

Then a few more steps.

And the buildings are old but fresh in their appearance.  With life of business and busyness.  People in and out.

We cross the street when a bakery is spotted.  It looks lively.  We go in and wait.  We spot a bacon chocolate doughnut.  And I have a bacon chocolate doughnut.   And life is beautifully divine.

Out the door we go.  Steps take us out of the bustling business section.

And in to a not busy on Saturday downtown intersection.

A man approaches.  Asks if we are from the area and we say no.  Hoping he doesn’t ask for directions because we have no idea where we are or where we are or how to get any where.  Then his story.  I could have written his script from all of the trainings and scams I have heard in my years of dealing with scammed elderly.   He is from Tennessee and he took a Greyhound bus from home to here for a job.  But the bus was three hours late so he didn’t get the job.  And do we know of any churches he can get money or help from.  We aren’t from the area but we tell him about the places we passed blocks and blocks up the street.  We direct him.  His eyes were beautiful.  He said he only needs four more dollars to get the rest of his ticket back to Tennessee.  We told him we didn’t have cash.  He didn’t push.  He thanked us for the information.  I wish he had only wanted directions.

Steps steps steps.

We walk in to a museum.  I am nearly physically ill by the time we leave.  A museum about slavery, freedom, and those who lived through one and fought for the second.  The weight of cruelty inflicted on human beings pressed down heavily on me.

When our steps finally took us outside it dawned on me the heat of the oppression.   The air felt good.

Steps took us over a bridge that spanned a river.   My friend had forgotten to turn in the self guided tour smart tool and reclaim her driver’s license.  We traversed that bridge again.  And for the rest of our lives if I ever do anything wrong to her I will only have to say “bridge” and I will be forgiven.  Our steps take us to yet another bridge.  Back across the river for the fourth time.  Our steps likely totaled fifteen miles on bridges alone today.  If that is an exaggeration that is only a technicality to my legs.

To another festival.

Our steps take us in to an old section revitalized and vibrant.  In this world we sit and listen to a band doing an incredible job.  So incredible that a woman in her sixties had no problem standing in the middle of the street dancing her heart out.  And making mine smile.  More steps took us to another band on another street playing.   It did nothing to engage us.  Our steps moves us on.  We passed a small small child on a scooter.  With no parent in sight.  We stopped.  There were way too many people around for such a small child to be alone.  We stood waiting until the father appeared and claimed the child.   Stepping away to find our third band.  A band playing German tunes.  And we sat.  And we laughed.  And we enjoyed.  And one of us sang and I did a very good job of it.  And there danced the little girl we had seen on the scooter.

And there danced a,  fast approaching drunk, bridal party.

And there danced a man and woman wearing souvenir German hats.

And there ran a tall and skinny young man laughing and spilling beer as another tall young man but with a beard ran after him trying to hit him behind the knee.

And there swayed two women not willing to dance but kind of feeling the music.

And there danced a couple with the young woman grabbing a couple of unsuspecting people from the crowd to twirl with her.

And there walked that man with the red hair and beard who I’ve seen five times in different places.   He was limping.  He sat next to me but never spoke and seemed very alone.

The German band yodeled and I loved it.  My friend drank German beer.

And we both wondered how many steps we had left in us.

We exercised well today in diversity and exploration.