Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stepping Out Again

Always been a walker, always been a writer who found poetry in the pace of a solitary jaunt. Yet it had been awhile since I went a wandering. Many things conspired against me. The harsh winter was one. Having all the streets buried under three feet of snow doesn't encourage a hike.

Snow eventually melts, but sometimes pain is a halter no matter the weather. My feet, my knees, my hips had those pain chains arthritis forged about them and I lacked the courage to challenge those shackles. Something about every step feeling like a knife up your instep and a razor across your toes makes you want to stay still.

Perhaps that assault of pain was related to my thyroid medication not working.  I don't know. It eased up since I changed pills, although some of it is always there to remind me.

Nonetheless, on the heels of my healing heels came blazing summer weather, temperatures in the upper nineties and high humidity to match. Not really the type of air to entice one outside.

The temperature broke this week and a friend has been writing much about his morning walks so this day I stepped out again. I headed down an old route I tramped many time in the pass, especially when walking the dog I once had. I did it with a bit of hesitation wondering could I go the distance or would it become difficult to walk back? When you haven't traipsed a decent distance for a year or more you can no longer be certain of your capacity. We would give it a shot and see what happens.

Some things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse. The photo at the top of the post was taken a couple years ago. I am guessing that may have been one of the last times I actually walked this particular circuit. Anyway, there is a cement path between two houses at the far edge of my community that lead toward I-95. Looking straight down the path you can see the highway. On either side of the path are some hedges and yards.

That was then, this is now. The picture on the right was the first I took this morning, looking down the same path between those two houses, but now the hedges are gone. In their place stand six foot high wooden fences. Behind these fences lurk dogs. On the gate of the right barrier was a sign stating the dog contained within "can cross the yard in 2.6 seconds, can you?" As I walked down this path I heard another dog barking in the yard to the right.

It's sad we have reached this fortress state to keep the darker nature of mankind out.

I walked on beyond the fences to the pathway beyond the development.

Now it is up the footbridge that crosses I-95. First thing I notice here is that the fencing is all new double reinforced and the space between links is much smaller, a protection from people throwing objects onto the highway below. Another sign of the growing darker forces in our society.

If the Little Woman had her way they would tear this footbridge down. I like its convenience, or use to, for crossing to the library, but I haven't gone to the library in ages either. But others still might and a new population is growing over on that side of things.

Upon the pathway are blocks of graffiti. Not the old graffiti I remember. Someone must have come and scrubbed that away. This is newer, bolder, larger.

I pause upon some scribbling at the center of the bridge under the thick canape of silver wire. It is a bit after seven o'clock, just on the outer fringe of rush hour and the highway hasn't thickened with the flood of commuters yet. Most of the traffic is coming from the East, from where Chester and then Philadelphia are just beginning to stir.

I am off today. I have no need to rush anywhere, so amble on.

At the base of the bridge I turn right, down the path of darkness behind the tennis court between the athletic fields.  This way has always been hidden and  sequestered, seemingly unconnected from the world around it, something of the place to dumb the body, but it has become more overgrown along its banks than ever.

There are spots of mud across the pavement from recent rains. I step carefully.

The buildings here were once high schools and the whole grounds behind them are athletic fields. They seem to be going to seed now, where when before I crossed this way they were still well kept, still used for this and that. There was Pee Wee football on that distant field in the fall, the stands ringing with the cheers and encouragements of parents. But as I gaze across this morning I see no stands and the goal posts are gone. It is just a field. The old white snack stand is still there, perhaps it is a storage shed now. To the far side is a new playground for smaller children, which makes sense since the old high school was converted into some kind of elementary school a few years back.  I can see some slides and a wooded climbing apparatus in the center. There are no swings, no merry-go-rounds, no monkey bars, no risks allowed us anymore in this age of pantywaists, worrywarts and fools.

I'm wondering what else is missing and it dawns on me there is no high cage around the tennis court and no net. Even the poles that use to hold the net have been removed. Grass is pushing up through fissures in the court surface. All-in-all it is a forsaken and forlorn scene.

The baseball diamonds to the other side haven't faired much better. The backstops and dugout cages still remain, but weeds and vines are crawling up the links and the place has a look of disuse. These use to be practice fields for Little League, a decade ago my son played on these fields in preparation for the season. They did double duty for the Girls' Club and the after school program  located in the Community Center.

The back wall of the old high school is covered with graffiti. When I come closer there is dinginess and defeat on the faces of the Library, the brick building in the center, and the Community Center off to the right.

I move from the back to the front of the complex. This building has a history. Once it was a high school, the first school integrated in the segregated South.

Constructed 1924-25. Also known as the Green Street School. Prominent in United States history as the first public high school in the 17 segregated states to be legally integrated. (1951-1952)

Plaque commemorating integration at the old high school.

Today the building is part of the Community Center. 

Next door is the newer old high school, the one that replaced the school now the Community Center. But it is no longer such. Now it an elementary school, thus the playground we passed earlier.

My oldest daughter graduated from this school, but she wasn't happy about it. Her own high school was being renovated her senior year and all the students were shuffled off here. Those of her class called it Clay Mount.

I wonder now. The trek so far has been one tinged with depression. Everything I saw appeared frayed at the edges as if unraveling with age. If I continue on along Green Street or down these quiet side streets of town will I find more wear and tear?

Or will there be something pointing to a better tomorrow, signs of new life for the old town?

Will I be able to record it? My batteries are growing weak. I set off with no money or plastic cards in my pockets so even if there might be a store open so early I have nothing to buy replacement batteries with. 

So what lies ahead? Will my batteries fail? Will my hopes for a brighter vision ahead fail?

Is this American Picker's paradise a good or bad sign?

We shall see, we shall see.

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...

"everything is either frayed at the edges as if unraveling with age."

Would this include the walker too Lar? Just saying. :)

I've always loved walking. This morning I think I over did it. I walked around from a couple hours. Not like the old days. I could walk all day and not feel it. This time I was locking up. The reason I was down so long was because I wanted to hang around until the Old Time Photo store opened at 10 am. Usually I leave the beach at 8 am. Boy did I ever take a nap this afternoon!

I'm enjoying your posts. You have the "touch" Lar.