This morning I walked my dog, as I always do, around the block, clockwise. Past the Hispanic Baptist Church, past the park, past Armoury Commons apartments. That's our route for the first walk of the day; afternoons and evenings we vary it.
This morning I noticed this object on the ground opposite the park entrance. After living in this downtown neighborhood for a couple of years, it speaks to me as clearly as a bent twig would have spoken to an Agawam Indian walking the same spot four hundred years ago.
It's a piece of copper wire, probably from a Chore Boy scouring pad. You rip off a bit of a Chore Boy and stuff it down a "stem" when you're smoking crack cocaine. I see that glint of copper on the sidewalk and know that last night someone's been smoking crack just a stone's throw from my window.
When I moved downtown a couple of years ago, I was struck by the friendliness of the people I passed on the street. A man on the corner would call out to me, "How are you doing today? Are you okay?" "I'm fine," I'd answer as I kept walking.
Two years and many homelesss friends later, it's clear to me that my health is not what's being asked after. "Are you okay?" is drug lingo for "Are you all set for drugs?" If I'm not all set, I now know where I can find [insert your drug of choice here]. In the last two years, I've received an education in a lot of things I never even knew were out there to be learned.
Should I be scared? Not really. Fear is nothing more or less than the knee-jerk reaction of ignorance to a situation. A person with deep mastery of a subject will approach it with confidence, and take his chances. Shit happens--that's not a reason for inaction. I liked this house; it happened to be in this neighborhood. It's a cool little neighborhood and I'm not going to give it over to the crackheads out of fear. Somebody has to live here; somebody has to take back the neighborhoods.
Crack's an epidemic; I'm not denying that. And it's very prevalent in the inner city, for sure. I see the fallout from drug use all around me, and it's not good.
On the other hand, it's everywhere else, too. Just a little more hidden. Or perhaps I should say, not talked about. I could probably go back to Wilbraham today with my enhanced tracking skills and see plenty of things hiding in plain sight.