I notice her walk in. Here in this space, art covers the walls and books a plenty sit on the shelves. You can look at Dinkytown two ways. One, it’s a cesspool of drunken undergraduate fraternity and sorority house residents and their friends. Multiple cop cars populate the block routinely each weekend. Raging hormones and sexual energy drives propelled by too much alcohol, weed, and blow frequently erupting into chaos. Two, it’s the beginning of many of a young man’s and woman’s adult life. All this variety makes me happy. It’s like Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, street bums freshly arrived into town from corn fields in Iowa and cow pastures in North Dakota. Hitched a train here, there’s not much of a Dinkytown Uprising anymore. It’s not the 1960’s. That’s largely been squelched by the Instagram selfie and the Snapchat filter. Take a selfie with a singing street urchin on your way to the Kitty Cat Klub, it’s cheaper than Honey!
One can be cynical and turn your nose up to it all, the absurdity of young adulthood in a “typical college town” in American in 2017, but not me. For me, it’s an opportunity for a psychic restart. Repping out my fifth set of squats last night at Los Campeones I seriously joked with my iron brother about the identity of place and how strong I feel it influences my overall state of mind. A move from Uptown to Dinkytown is a move from a bougie hood with overpriced condominiums and shitty trendy ‘Merican bars to a place where street bums squatting on the sidewalk brighten my day. It’s subtle. I once verbally fought three cops, almost getting arrested last year, in front of the Uptown Apple Store who were sweeping the street clean of a drunk depressed African-American man in front. He was “bad for business.” One less $700 iPhone sold with each of his prayerful swigs of Colt 45. GOD IN HEAVEN IF YOU ARE REAL MAKE IT STOP! As on Telegraph, in Dinktown the kindness of youth patronizes the lives of the homeless, drunk, and destitute. They might be depressed or schizophrenic. The Dinkytown young might not know the difference, but I do. I know, not that I’ve been there exactly. I mean I did have a car to live in, but that line is thin and now I see this from a different place. I am not that old, but my iron brother said “you have a young energy.”
I always notice her walk in. Sometimes she smiles, and most of the times he grimaces. I smile back and laugh. Next door, I saw the man who dances in cowboy boots and a gothed out skirt at Ground Zero every Saturday night at Bondage-A-Go-Go. I laughed when he said, “I live downtown but come here to feel young.” I said so do I, but I live here, and I am young. I live here to play, and to sit in The Bookhouse to gorge on poetry and Heidegger. It’s like Moe’s Books on Telegraph. It’s not that far away where I was Benjamin and she was Mrs. Robinson in the film The Graduate:
Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin, I am not trying to seduce you.
Benjamin: I know that, but please, Mrs. Robinson, this is difficult…
Mrs. Robinson: Would you like me to seduce you?
Mrs. Robinson: Is that what you’re trying to tell me?
Benjamin: I’m going home now. I apologize for what I said. I hope you can forget it, but I’m going home right now.
Those memories are fresh, but distant here. Mrs. Robinson and I used to dance tango at the Loring Pasta Bar. We used to get pizza at Meza afterwards, but we did not live here in a Dinkytown hovel. The sense of belonging to a place is very strong and is where many of the recent conversations I have had lead. What does it mean to be a self-actualized being? I think, only many years later, it is to know where you come from. It is to know your bloodline and DNA. Not in some kind of fascistic Trumpian way, rather in a way that erases “whiteness” and populates it with diversity. You could be Irish, and be traumatized from a history with the British. You might be a W.A.S.P., traumatized by the pressures of your money and privilege. Religion is here, ethnicity of faith. Peace in the Holy Land, that land of deep passion, good and bad, can be had here over a bowl of hummus and pita at Wally’s Falafel and Hummus. I saw while living in Uptown in Jerusalem: A Cookbook the following:
Hummus is everybody’s favorite food in Jerusalem, and when you talk about something that is so common to everybody but in a place that’s so highly divided in many ways, it is already a formula for explosion in many ways. Everybody wants to take ownership of that plate of hummus, both Jews and Arabs, and when this argument starts, there’s no end to it…
You could be Jewish-American and not sure what it means to be Orthodox or reformed. You could be Turkish-American and not sure what it means to not know your mother tongue or faith, but feel that you don’t quite fit here despite being here. There’s only one way to know who you are here, but I can’t name it. I cannot put it into language. Words elude me. It’s in the silence of place itself. It might be to find the trace of your childhood in the ordinary spaces that populate your mundane day. The subtle ways we relate to homogeneity with difference. Asserting our individuality and identity as a rebellion against a bleach that seeks to turn everything the same. This might be the key to creativity and love today for me. I cannot speak for anyone else. I’ll just observe and pray, meditate on these small moments. Another smile and another meal. One more day at work, on and on. To what end I don’t know, but I am alive and thankful for it. I always notice her walk in, and offer a smile.