Monday, December 01, 2003

Rear window
Sights and sounds from the 19th floor kitchen window of the Lucky Number Apartment; some enhanced with a pair of cheap, bootleg Soviet army binoculars, others only viewed with the naked eye.
1. Sunrise. A woman on the 11th floor of the apartment catty-corner from mine comes out in yellow and black pajamas to gather laundry hanging on her balcony. She looks like a queen bee emerging from a mammoth hive. The clothes are colorful-- purple towels, blue and white acid washed jeans, an orange T-shirt, pink underwear and a red jacket that still hangs awkwardly after she leaves, momentarily lifeless without arms to animate it.
2. Half a block north behind a concrete wall that blocks the ground-level view of a vacant, abandoned construction site there is a family living in the hollow confines of a raised, half-finished foundation. I can see them from my height, but they are otherwise hidden from the street and sidewalk 40 yards from their "home." She emerges with a portable grill and begins cooking breakfast.
There's a blanket that serves as a door to the foundation's interior and it opens again as their child, a toddler walks unsteadily into the morning. A few minutes later a man pushes the blanket aside and joins his wife and son. They sit on cinder blocks and an old folding chair to eat. The man goes back into the foundation and returns with a rickety bike. He wheels it to the wall, peers through a long, vertical crack just wide enough for him to push his body and the bike through and - seeing the coast is clear - goes off for the day.
3. Hundreds of middle school students in a military style formation and white and blue uniforms stand at attention on a soccer field as a loudspeaker blares The East is Red and then Country Roads.
4. A bicycle loaded with 5-foot long planks of lumber, atop which a small child sits sanshelmet while the (also helmetless) rider steers a precarious path through oncoming traffic and pedestrians. At one point he almost wings an elderly woman with the boards which are strapped crossways on the bike. I am reminded of an old Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy bit.
5. Behind the walls of a performing arts center that seems to be permanently under construction, there are five bulky, middle-aged Chinese matrons in velour purple and white sweat suits doing morning exercises with swords and fans. Despite their heft, these women move with remarkable grace and quickness, combining deft footwork and graceful swings with the swords which are adorned long red cords and tassels on the grips. The tassels sweep the ground as the blades slice the air.
When they lay the swords down and take the fans, they begin to a sinuous, silent dance. First the fans are closed and then simultaneously snapped open with enough force that I can hear a faint 'pop' carried by the chilly morning breeze that has begun to push through my open window.

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