Friday, July 4, 2008

The Morning Commute

If you happened to be driving down North Elm Street in Westfield during yesterday afternoon's torrential downpour and saw a smiling and soaking-wet middle-aged man walking with his face upturned to the pelting drops, his ready umbrella unused, still rolled up in his hand at his side...Well, that was me. Maybe you thought, "That guy is crazy." Or maybe you thought, "That looks like fun."

You'd be right on both counts.

Changes taking place in my once 'same-old same-old' life have prompted me to rethink the road I choose, the direction that I'm headed. Some factors are out of my control, but much of the future can be wrought by my own hand, and fresh eyes cast on a stale existence can yield results beneficial to mind and soul. One change: I have begun to commute to work via bus, Westfield to Springfield and back again. I set off from Lockhouse Road.

Is there any man who doesn't feel the tug of the tracks in passing? The yen for an unknown horizon? Perhaps it is the blood of gypsy ancestors flowing through my heart that stirs this unremitting desire to discover the dream of lives unknown.

As a child, my father fished in Powder Mill Brook, so named because of the old gunpowder manufactory located upstream. Native trout were plentiful then and gunpowder was too, World War II raging in the background of his young life.

Memories can be misty or clear as a chiming bell. They are creeping ivy climbing garden walls.

Sometimes we wait until the foundation of our lives implodes before we begin to sort through the rubble that had long been waiting to be. Often we discover what we have known all along.

Prospect Street Hill soars skyward toward blur. Early Westfield mornings are peace for a loner of a soul. The occasional passerby. The pleasant, "Good morning!" And then the welcome envelope of solitude returned.

We all must find our niche.

Dawn. Independence Day. Light from darkness. The symbolism is deafening.

The bridge construction continues on in Westfield, the river a formidable opponent to those who would tame it with a span.

Some photographs - like memories and mornings - are blurrier than others. When I was in high school a friend of my brother's worked here afternoons, making whips on the old machines. This building, once home to the Westfield Whip Manufacturing company, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Any folks remember this wall from the 60s and 70s and the message that was spray-painted down its length? I do. It read, "Support our boys in Viet Nam." My cousin Billy and my Aunt Mary Lou Vinisko served. The war took them both, one quicker than the other.

The corner of Westfield's Main and Elm Streets against the backdrop of a new day.

When I was a kid, communist Russia was the enemy that threatened us. Some Westfield folks even built their own personal bomb shelters. How I long for those simpler times.

Good news and bad. Winnings and summonses, wedding invitations and death notices. The old post office is a repository of posted ghosts of words and dead letters.

When workmen were allowed to take pride in the result, beautiful buildings emerged from empty earth. Today all is cost and efficiency, no room for doodads and details.

Main Street, Springfield, on a crisp summer morning washes the local soul in a flood of nostalgia and fills the heart with a sense of purpose.

When I was a boy, this was Bay State West, the tallest building in downtown Springfield. My best friend and I would take the bus from Westfield to Springfield and wander through the structures and streets. Johnson's bookstore, once south of here, was always part of the journey.

The Hotel Worthy facade: Art in architecture.

Springfield has more to offer than to fear. I lived in the city for twenty years and have worked here for almost twenty-three. Just keep a wary eye on her politicians and you should be okay.

Call me a fool, but I love Springfield. The streaming sun shines, highlights all of the promised possibilities of a fresh morning in the city. Now that I am a man alone again, I think about moving back. I have choices now. We all do. I will savor the mulling of mine, long denied.

"Now I don't know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it's Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day"

-Bruce Springsteen, 'Independence Day'

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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sojourner said...

Call me a fool, too, for I love Springfield. I lived there for 20 years as well and have long admired some of the beauty you captured in your photos. There are many magical spots in the city that capture a glimpse of golden times for the city and its residents. If you return there to live, I look forward to seeing you share many more of them with us in future posts.

Anonymous said...

This is so creative. This is very artistic and the shots are HOT! I love that you are showing the beauty of a city that so many people depict as being ugly. Nice work.