Friday, November 04, 2005

Duel In The Sun


The late evening sunset is quite blinding on the Monday through Friday drive home now that the clocks have danced in servitude to human whim. It makes an otherwise daily chore more challenging and less tolerable than usual. Sunglasses can dull the bright microwaving rays, but cause shadows to appear more inky and impenetrable. Wrecks on the freeway increase as the westward bound communters fight a duel with the retiring Mr. Sol.

For the past few days I have chosen a route that does not require any freeway mileage. Weaving in and around city blocks, I can manuever myself home with much less stress from traffic jams. I catch a few redlights, but even these are more bearable than a whiteknuckle stop and go freeway pace.

The redlights have another advantage - they allow me the freedom to move my eyes from the road for a bit to gaze at the scenery, such that it is. I grow aware of my surroundings, little changes in the mortar and bricks that I have passed in front of for most of my lifetime: a building with a fresh new mural painted on its side, a little house now turned taqueria, or an old service station with its pumps removed and petunia flats for sale in their place.

Along one stretch of Vickery Boulevard, a lot of change has taken place these past few years. With the railroad track as its parallel twin, Vickery has been a lesser known artery traveling east to west along the south side of Cowtown. Once a haven of industrial type businesses like auto repair and roofing companies, it is slowly evolving into more quaint and appealing artisan shops and small cafes.

This evening while waiting at a stoplight, I glanced to my right and noticed a bent little old man hand hoeing weeds from along the sidewalk. He was perilously close to passing automobiles, but he never flinched at their nearness, never faltered in his slow but deliberate scratching. Dressed in nice slacks and a neat white shortsleeved shirt, I was sure he was the owner of the property on the far side of the walk. Looking up and down the street, the late summer crabgrass and clover had flourished all along the sidewalk, no other property owner caring about tidiness or weed control.

Thirty or forty years ago, this sight would not have been so strange or out of place. Now, the fragile old man with the silver hair and a spine permanently curved seemed like an apparition from that other America. I wondered how many years he had chopped those same weeds; what motivated him to continue the fight against their encroachment, like chasing back the progression of time? Probably the truth was nothing as poetic as I was imagining, but more of a habit, a weekly routine that was necessary and meaningful to him. I wanted to stop and chat a while with the old man, hear his memories aloud.

Of course, I did no such thing. The light changed to the primary green I was waiting for, and my own routine carried me home.

The image of the evening sun, the old man with a hoe, and weeds that defy man's attempt at being civilized have burned into my mind's eye like a photograph to be saved and treasured; a strange and shimery remembrance.

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