the city, you learn when to breathe. You learn when to hold your
learn not to breathe when you pass that homeless man sleeping on a
bench beneath the flag of New Zealand on the Benjamin Franklin
Parkway, that mile-long boulevard connecting Love Park with the
Philadelphia Art Museum, yes, that same museum where Rocky Balboa
charged up all those stairs. Today you will find people of all ages
and races running up those steps before turning back to pump their
arms in triumph while smiling friends snap pictures to keep the
memory alive. You can even buy a tee shirt from the man who hangs out
at the Rocky statue.
we're done at the Art Museum. We're heading back. We're approaching
that man sleeping upon the park bench beneath the flag of New
that you will taste him, if you don't hold your breath. You will feel
him settle upon your tongue like the stale communion host you had
this morning in church. You will taste urine and body odor and
Even in your innocence, you will taste guilt.
will wonder why he sleeps upon that bench.
will feel anger.
might be afraid—no, not of him, but of possibilities and the loss
of good fortune.
assured, you will forget him: As you head towards Love Park, you will
be distracted by a noisy, colorful parade and the people there—the
happy people dancing and singing; clapping and waving to the
crowd—will cause you to forget the man sleeping upon the park bench
beneath the flag of New Zealand along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
reminders are everywhere.
beggar woman sits every day outside the Reading Terminal Market. As
you approach, you will study her long, gray hair, her thick and
dimpled thighs, her tarnished folding chair. You will want to reach
for your camera, to capture the way she sits with her head cast down,
her arms crossed against her chest. As you enter the market, you
hear her mumble words that no one understands.
will push inside the doors. Only then, will you breathe.
will be jostled about by cheerful shoppers in search of fresh
tomatoes; homemade soap smelling of roses and lavender; Amish chow
chow; coffee, locally roasted. You will celebrate your good fortune
in finding the farrmer from Lancaster who sells organic grapes from
the hundred year old vineyard that twists along the Appalachian Trail.
You will take joy in the dirt beneath his fingernails: here is a true
steward of the land. You will listen to his story about a father, one
hundred and four years old; an eighty-three year old brother;
thirteen siblings in all. You will marvel at his vitality.
will tell him that you've been looking for organic grapes for six
months, to make a levain—a starter for the bread you wish to bake
in your pretty suburban home. He will tell you that wild crab apples
are best, but that the grapes are a good second choice. He will point
out the white yeast that covers the grapes; the yeast that you've
been seeking for six months.
will buy two pints of organic white grapes and watch as the farmer
carefully cradles them into a white plastic bag. You will hold that
bag of grapes to your nose and inhale deeply and the scent
will spread over your tongue like jelly or perhaps communion wine.
as you exit the market, you will pass the beggar woman sitting
outside. You will clutch your bag of organic grapes even tighter
about the neck, hoping that the beggar woman won't breathe upon your
Labels: Community, Creative non-fiction, essay, farming