Monday, January 22, 2007

A Special Place

After a week’s ice and rain, there was a perfect break of sunshine and warmth throughout the capital city. I wasn’t the only one to notice, for the cavity of greenery on the corner of West 9th and Guadalupe Streetwas busy with activity; luring in quantities of transients looking for a place to pass the time.

Perimeter hills, vast tree canopies, and the picturesque gazebo amidst the cavernous setting, created what would be place for an outdoor concert with ideal natural tiers. Instead, this Sunday morning the gazebo housed a variety of activities, none of which comprised a center act… well, almost.

A man in a blue wind breaker sat on the higher steps of the gazebo eating his recently acquired lunch. Minutes earlier, two men posted at a nearby picnic table to give out lunches to the transients. The blue wind breaker man stopped to talk to them and headed to the gazebo with a lunch in hand which he held so intently close to himself.He was quick to devour all three items, alternating between sandwich and juice, chips and juice, sandwich, chips, and then juice. An older gray haired man had been observing the blue jacket man from a few meters distance. He slowly approached the gazebo, stopping at the bottom of the steps and raising a foot up to have a leg to lean on. Both men conversed, sporadically elevating their gazes towards the men at the picnic table who had gained the attention of many others with their absurd comments and perverse conversation. It seemed Gray-haired man wanted in on the lunch special. Shortly after he too went over to the picnic table and returned to the gazebo to enjoy his own sandwich, chips, and juice next to his new-found friend.

After many hours of soliciting on the corner of I-35 and Riverside Drive, a middle-aged man trekked the long journey to West 9th and Guadalupe to complete his Sunday routine that included waiting for the church truck that brought the occasional food and clothing. He sat on the curb of 9th for some time, searching in desperation for the source that would take his appetite and give him warmth. He transitioned to sit on an epiphanic tree stump that made him apprehend the potential of the gazebo: a place to lie down and count pieces of gum under the baluster of the gazebo rail. He lay there for the remainder of my time spent observing other passerby’s. I later sparked a conversation with another older man, Joe, who wore a beat down sweater and muddy khakis. He told me about his daughter whom he saw little of, his Spanish ex-wife, successful brother in-laws, and his own alcohol and drug abuse. Despite his off tangent conversation, he came off as generous man, and I was glad to offer a listening ear. At least he caught the church truck that was giving out the soup; I couldn’t help but stare at what seemed to be a bean stuck in his over-grown mustache.

Two friends walk up to the immediate center of the green concavity to have a casual conversation. One of them steers his bicycle by his side while the other in a black hoodie subtly brings his legs tightly together and hunches over to hold his stomach. With a determined step, he heads toward the gazebo, and without hesitation, unzips his pants and micturates on the side wall, only feet away from the men enjoying their lunch. As I and other onlookers gaze at him, he shows no shame or remorse and proceeds with a little shake and zipping of his pants. He returns his attention to his friend and they continue their conversation.

Although at first glance this Roman columned gazebo would seem to house family oriented activities, this Sunday it has served a different purpose: to fulfill the essential needs of its transient guests.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

It is interesting how urban users react to a Gazeebo that does not blend with the park as people walk by. Instantly do they make a decision to visit or not visit the place. Basing the decision upon the people occupancy, the number of people occupancy, and the type of people occupying it. Other issues such as cleaness and the site of others peeing next to the gazeebo might effect that decision as well. Intended as such an urban contribution for the public could quickly lose its program or changed by the nature of people.