Thursday, October 6, 2011

reclaiming what's lost on Hanover.

there was about 40 minutes before my bus to New York
city was set to shove off. i opted to make the walk
to the parking lot where the buses were. i kept my
music off. not out of fear mind you; i wanted to take
the time to fully ingest everything along the way. this
part of DC was what some would call 'reclaimed'. the
term always bring to mind old Westerns where the cowboys
killed off Natives replete with buttered popcorn. this
stretch of North Capitol Street that i walked down has
seen better days. it contains one of the more notorious
blocks in the city and possibly in all of the country's
failed 'war on drugs', Hanover Place. it was here that
Cornell Jones, aka 'The Ghost' was serving fiends and
serving notice, making the street a veritable open-air
drug market.

you wouldn't be able to tell on first glance today. the
rowhouses are all neat, with a couple bearing the tell-tale
signs of renovation; new windows with the stickers and of
course, fresh cement pointing. all around this section
you can see a good deal of construction. cranes dot the
distance like lighthouses on the shores of an uncertain
future. tucked away off on First Avenue, three new condo
developments have been built along with a Harris Teeter.
reclamation, 21st century style.

but it only goes but so far. i see that walking these
blocks. older brothers dot this section. they hug the
corners like children do to their parents' legs. a few
hang around by the liquor stores. liquor stores that seem
to be better fortresses of solitude than Schuster could
have given Superman, what with their rusted window bars
and fading fluorescent lights. Big Bear at the corner of
N Street seems to be an exception only because most float
between there and the tiny deli two doors down. i look at
the faces of these men and a few women from Florida Avenue
on down. the struggle has worn them like a pair of blue
denims far past holding itself together. their faces are
the tough rawhide one incurs on the streets. i don't know
their stories but i know how they got them. at one point,
10% of DC's population were former prison inmates. and
then they got released onto the street. these folks speak
in tones seasoned with doo-wop, soul one can only get with
a crushed heart and a few cartons of cigarettes. they may
move slow but they're still on the hustle. any hustle that
keeps them alive.

there's tears tugging at the corner of my eye. maybe they're
there in response to them, those who've given even that luxury
up. i wonder what they see in me as i walk past. i wonder how
they feel seeing new buildings that will fill with people who
won't have any idea about their part of the District. such
moments i don't take for granted. they stick with me for days.
their lives are what i've been warned against. but in these times,
one check or misstep can put me right there. so i know i am
no different. i walk on and tell myself again i need to be that
life that reclaims their lives.

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