I think journaling gets a bad reputation. The daily chronicling of our lives is not only wonderful for gaining perspective on a day but it opens up your mind to writing and various other creative outlets. On a typical downtown walk I usually avoid O’Bryant Park because it’s often inundated with a large contingency of homeless, but today I decided to visit the park because I knew I’d be writing and that means doing something new to avoid owning a predictable and stale journal.
As I approached the park there was a worn down woman, ragged, with ripped shorts and dreadlocks. Tattoos covered her legs and arms and her skin had the tint of dirt and outside that you only see on those that choose to live on the streets. But her voice was phenomenal. She had a ukelele in hand and was singing in the middle of a similarly rugged group with a ripped notepad nearby. Her voice was raspy, full of the blues, but with an uplifting pitch that actually drew me closer. I sat down on the bricks near her group and listened.
I sat for a long while. I didn’t write or take pictures or video like so many of the visitors around me but allowed myself to live entirely in the moment, in the presence of this artful presentation of music that I think is lost amongst mainstream media. Businessmen and women with Food-Cart lunches in their laps sat on the bricks beside the homeless; tourists and transplants from India and various other Asian countries littered the rest of the square; a young couple tried holding hands for the first time – everyone was turned in the direction of the Siren and we filled the backdrop of a street side concert.
If people could they walked by and dropped spare change into the hat at her feet. Those without extra change walked up and exclaimed how wonderful they found her music to be. She neither responded or gave any inclination of thanks. The Siren kept playing and it was clear from where I sat that her heart and soul permeated every fiber of her being and the rest of the world ceased to exist.
“It’s easier than just waitin’ ’round to die.” – Her final chorus before a homeless man walked into the middle of the square with a large bottle of wine held up over his head.
He shouted at the top of his lungs, “Who has an opener or a knife or something?”
The music stopped and the Siren placed her ukelele inside of a sack covered in patches of peace symbols and bands I didn’t recognize.
The homeless man did a full rotation and looked past all the sharply dressed people and focused on the other homeless lounging in the shade. “Who has something I can open this bottle with? Anyone? I just need a f@$%!#@ knife or something sharp! F@$%!#@ p@$%$#$, the cops don’t give a s#!% about us. Come on? Someone. F@$% you all.”
The Siren and her group left the park and it became clear that a hierarchy in the homeless structure exists. I found that homeless man walking down another street an hour later, bottle still in head, his face flushed and angry as another group of homeless refused to help him open the bottle.
Today I learned a lesson in perceptions and how we choose to view those we see as beneath us; an absolutely ugly way to phrase it, but I hope to take something from this experience that will make me better in the future.