Thursday 23 October 2014


The end of a long, hot day; bands have been playing in the streets and a few sun-reddened spectators linger in the dust.  I’m helping to dismantle the barriers, re-opening the road.  We lift the long beams and hurl them to the sidewalk where they clack loudly in the heavy  silence.  The security guard from the local library walks past, his starched para-military uniform exchanged for a well-worn chequered shirt, he smiles warmly and joins us in the work.  Soon we have all the roughly stencilled ‘City of Clarksdale’ planks stacked away, their chipped white paint tired under the bright blue afternoon sky.

The library security guard is a wonderful character, deep smile lines etched into his dark skin, his eyes gleam brightly with some secret joy and I do not know if he carries a gun.  He stands all day in the quiet of the library, chatting lazily and happily with the librarians; and with people like me who come to use the computers, or to peruse the sale tables - with all their amazingly cheap classics that have spent too long alone on the shelves.  I like to imagine that this security guard has read every tome in the collection, I feel like he knows them personally.  Why does a library need a security guard?

Sitting at a bar, the crumbling parking lot has been hastily converted into a smoking area and so I'm reclining in a scuffed plastic garden chair watching the day melt gloriously into night.  Crickets chirrup from cracks in the concrete and the contrails of jets slice the burning sky into enormous gold and magenta segments.  Slowly the sun collapses behind the weary, squat buildings and so the neon glows a little brighter to compensate, painting all this broken asphalt in buzzing colour.

Another evening, another sky.  The local park is filled with children practicing football in the purple half-light, their little bodies bulked-up comically by hand-me-down armour so that they look like comedic gladiators.  Watching over them protectively, or perhaps ignoring them completely, the smashed-out windows and soot-blackened bricks of an abandoned power station.

Walking home in the shadowless heat of the day, a pack of teenagers halfway down the block.  Each laughing youth a clone of his favourite rapper, someone I don’t know.  I walk on and suddenly the ‘crack’ of a rock hitting the weatherboards of the house beside me.  The youths laugh louder and now I hurry on, scared.  These strangers do not follow me and I wonder whether it may be because they wear their trousers halfway down their legs?  I have not seen them again but I probably wouldn’t ask them, even if I did.

More music, a trio of black-clad Parisians belting out foreign rock, awesome stuff.  Following them, a venerable local singing raspy, pounding classics from the little stage of this immense and gutted former-theatre.  The stars gaze down through the rusty skeleton of what was once a ceiling.

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