Friday, January 29, 2010

Through the Alley

Yesterday I took a different route to the beach. I went down the alley west of Meridian Avenue. It was quiet and shady. The trash men hadn't come. There were two couches and a mattress.

I took a shot of the washing machine chained to the ground, roofless. For a dollar and a quarter tenants can do their wash outside.

There were two doors painted violet.

I appreciated the charm of a life with violet doors until I came to the cart, which served as someone's home. The person had stepped away, so I thought, and I took a picture. Among the stack of books was "Gray's Anatomy." These carts have their own vocabulary: there are always brooms and plastic bags. This one had four brooms and many plastic bags, as well as a tarp, rope, a painting, and a carved fish on a plaque. I went closer; my camera clicked, and I saw someone sitting on the ground in back of the cart. The person was bare-legged. I saw the twitch of a thigh muscle, put down my camera and hurried away.

When I came to the cross street I didn't know where I was. The horizon had tilted. The familiar street looked strange. Finally near the beach I stopped at the women's toilet and went into the stall. A voice filled the room--folksy, southern, confidential, a Sugar, Precious, let-me-tell-you-how-to-bake-biscuits voice. A woman's voice announcing the end of the world. I heard the words "fire" and "sun." Someone must have a radio, I thought, but when I stepped out of the stall, the voice stopped. There was someone in the large stall; there was a suitcase pushed against the door. I saw bare feet in flip-flops, veined ankles.

Everything seemed strange. The gulls huge as Thanksgiving turkeys for a crowd of thirty. Click of the camera, twitch of a muscle, Sybil of the Stall had brought on a change of perspective.

On the beach at Fifteenth Street I heard music like Nino Rota's. Three lithe men were juggling, criss-crossing in an elegant dance. There movements were like the carnival-like scenes that redeemed the world in Fellini's films.

Just west of them, on the hard pavement a man flung himself into the air in ragged pirouettes. He had tremendous velocity but not great lift. He whirled. "Is it exercise or is something wrong with his mind?" a passerby asked. The whirling man turned to me. "In honor of Jesus," he said.

I walked down fourteenth Street to Collins, then Washington Avenue, on to Pennsylvania, and Euclid and went home to our condo on Meridian.


  1. Mim in real-surreal wonderland...
    like a little movie in my mind.

  2. It was an odd walk, the shock of the super-real.

  3. Miriam, you a match for Elizabeth Bishop on her best day.

  4. Not by a long shot, Bluedog. Thank you!

  5. oh, wow, in honor of Jesus...
    lovely, dear heart...

  6. This is my favorite kind of journey. Alleys side roads short cuts roads that go nowhere. And you find the stuff you're supposed to find I think. Thank you for the card! I have it on my desk. Dreaming of travel.

  7. What a world you live, in Mim. How strange to cross through alleys, and streets to come across such different examples of life and people.

    The overloaded trolley from which someone lives is a heart stopper. It fills me with awe.

  8. No telling what I'll find today. Lovely to hear from you all!

  9. Mim-

    The very best thing about this wonder of the internet is getting to see the world through the eyes of people who make it better and more exciting and amazing and you do that so incredibly here.

    Thank you for enriching what it means for us to be alive!



  10. You are welcome, dear Tearful!

  11. Goodness, so very eye-opening! I like the violet doors, somehow they say so much, don't they? And possibly a lot more sense than the man "honouring Jesus".

  12. wonderfully evocative, mim.
    this reminds me of a late afternoon, many years ago, when i went to see Fellini's Satyricon, at the old Exeter theater in Boston.
    when the film was over, afternoon had passed into night, and we were directed to leave the theater via a backdoor, into a shadowy, Felliniesque alley where i had never been before...and which, at the time, i was not positive existed outside my imagination.

  13. It may all be senseless, Lewis, though I hope not.

    Susan, I remember the Exeter so well!. I saw my first Bergman film there. "The Seventh Seal." I'm not up to watching it now. There was the Exeter, and that cafe on Newbury Street serving espresso. Do you remember the name? Long before Starbuck's.

  14. I was all ready to jump up from the computer and get ready for work, when I decided to look at one more blog. Many minutes later, I'm still here. You pay loving attention to the details of the moment! A delight, always.

  15. You do as well, T. Clear, in your blog.