Bruce Cockburn "Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon" (1970)
Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon
I was torn between going to work and going to class. Alienation was the order of that day as it was on many of my days. The life at the university had grown stagnant for me. I tottered on the precipice of the present and an uncertain tomorrow. Missing another statistics class would put me one step closer to a failing grade, while a few hours at work meant a few extra bucks in my pocket. I opted for work.
The walk from the campus to the place where I worked took about a half hour. It was not a bad walk up to the main street of Knoxville through downtown to the old city district. The sky drizzled not to a point of drenching me, but enough to dampen my hair which dangled toward my shoulders. I strolled through town in no hurry to get to work. They wouldn't be expecting me today anyway. Since I was a student they let me make my own hours.
My mind wandered as I walked in the misty rain. I pondered my life as it was. I wondered what I should do next. Answers were not at hand. Maybe I didn't really want any answers. Getting through the week was the main thing and the weekend was the prize. On Friday I'd need to go to the liquor store to find something unique to get high on. Every weekend it was a new wine or maybe something stronger. Fun times with my friends.
Walking through the desolate warehouse district the musty smells of the abandoned crumbling buildings mingled with the burnt toast odor of the JFG Coffee Company. They must have been roasting a batch of beans. "The best part of the meal" is what the JFG sign advertised. I didn't drink coffee back then and that smell didn't entice me to want it. JFG was a Knoxville tradition and the star of Jackson Avenue.
That old street--Jackson Avenue--was the location of my place of work. The rain gave the first block of the street a particularly gloomy look. When I came to the old Sullivan Saloon at the corner of Jackson and Central I paused. The old building that had apparently sat there empty since the early 1900's was a fine looking place that I liked to admire. What was inside that building? I was so curious.
This corner was a point of congregation for winos and other lost souls. It was almost as though they were waiting for the saloon to reopen. In an empty plot across from the ghost saloon, homeless men would sometimes have makeshift shelters set up until the police would come to make them move.
Huddled on a stoop of the saloon were Herbert and Foster, a couple of middle-aged black men who were not homeless but lived nearby. Since it was afternoon they were glassy eyed wasted and didn't pay much attention to me as I passed. They would pick up a couple hours of work at the local businesses when they needed some money. Sometimes I'd go to the corner to get them to help me unload a truck. They always reeked of alcohol, but they were dependable for work in the mornings. By afternoon, after they'd downed a bottle or two of Mad Dog 20/20, they'd be too intoxicated to be good for anything. That's how they were as I passed them on this day.
There had to be a better future for me. Wine on the weekends maybe, but some fellows had no control. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe it was more of a question of future and opportunity. I had both.
Have you ever hung out with homeless people or winos? Did you work your way through college? Do you enjoy walking through downtown areas?
I love that it's raining here as I read this! I work with those living with HIV, which includes all kinds of people. And deep inside of every human being is -- a human being.ReplyDelete
No...never go near homeless people. Well there were a few in my neighbourhood in SF who were OK. One used to draw & sell his pictures which I thought was cool and I bought one from him. That year for Xmas I gave him a new drawing pad and oil pastel set. As for college, I had a few odd jobs here and there but mostly I just worked on school vacations. I did answer the request line at a Boston top 40 radio station my senior year. And yes, I love walking through downtown areas as long as they are safe. I'd do it in Boston but not Detroit.ReplyDelete
I serve homeless kids all the time, but there's no danger in that.ReplyDelete
Your posts for the A-Z are great. I'm enjoying them.
>>... Have you ever hung out with homeless people or winos?ReplyDelete
Hell, I AM a wino. Although I've graduated from Mad Dog, Night Train, and Thunderbird to ACME.
>>... Did you work your way through college?
No, I did the American thing and stole someone else's diploma.
>>... Do you enjoy walking through downtown areas?
Yep, always have. I used to spend entire weekend days exploring downtown Los Angeles.
Does your following of mr. Cockburn's work go back that far (1970)?
I had not learned of him until 1979, when "Wondering Where The Lions Are" made a splash, at least on Philadelphia radio.
Have been following him ever since...
Beth -- Everyone likes some degree of recognition and love.ReplyDelete
JoJo -- There's probably not much left open in downtown Detroit. Doesn't seem like a safe place.
Teresa -- There's probably more danger in not feeding homeless children. Thanks for reading my posts.
StMc -- Downtown L.A. is kind of cool to walk around. I've rode the train downtown and done some walking. Don't drive because parking is too much of a hassle and too expensive.
Larry -- Actually I didn't discover Bruce Cockburn until about 1984 I believe and then started buying everything I could find by him. The song I've used here reminds me of the period I've described. I haven't heard his last few releases, but I haven't kept up with much recent music period.
That's a pretty good last line. ;)ReplyDelete
I played the music while reading--really complimented the tone & pacing of your words. I tended bar in college *big surprise* Which reminds me, I owe someone a drink or two:)ReplyDelete
Echoes of Olympus
A to Z #TeamDamyanti
Listening to this song and reading about that walk you took THAT day.ReplyDelete
It forced so many questions without having to say them. Seeing so many samples of life gone wrong, gone down a useless road...
You made me feel as if I were there walking beside you, in a misty rain day.
Sam-- I'm waiting on my Brandy & Amaretto. Or whatever you're mixing.
Susan K. -- Thank you for taking that walk with me.
I tutored the children of homeless parents at our homeless shelter for a few years. It was worthwhile but hard.ReplyDelete
fantastic storytelling! I was right there with you, feeling what you were feeling. The music was a PERFECT match...and now you've turned me on to Bruce Cockburn. Thanks for that. I love the solitary nature of this piece and your writing is very moody. Love it!ReplyDelete