August 28, 2009

The hour changes the city that changes me

In April, an unexpected window of free time opened while I was in a city that once offered smiles, love and musical notes swallowed quickly with ale. Back doors, stage doors, friends' doors opened for me then. But when single life switched to married-and mom-routines I visited the city less often. I let most live music slip away again.

My daughter's fight to beat breast cancer led her to this city nine months ago and I have again become an almost resident. This time the doors lead to labs, doctor's offices and infusion centers.

Sometime, I rush in a visit to Whole Foods to stock up on hormone- and vitamin-free food. The city becomes one of pain, of healing, of tests when the focus is cancer. I don't take time to find coffee or beads or friends.I travel the same streets but the sites/sights are different. Now, the medical center hides the music that is in the city's shadows.

But on this one day, some plans fall through and I have unexpected free time early in the morning. 7 a.m. early. I take a quiet ride through Ann Arbor, seeing a city so different from the one I usually hustle through at mid day after the cancer demands. It is a city view that is much different from the one I saw while actively chasing music through studios and bars and musician hangouts.

With light but without rushing people on bikes and feet and in cars, I can see the mammoth buildings that define the various campuses of the university. Those buildings line the sidewalks, sprinkled almost randomly in blocks of houses, restaurants and stores.

The further you go from campus, the more you escape into the town of everywhere: Starbucks, Panera Bread,and Subway, line up with the JCPenny, David's Bridal, and Walgreens.

But in the sprawling area called the campus, there is room for the unusual. An Indian restaurant, a used bookstore, a shop of 100 percent cottons, tie-dyed. I remember this part from the days and nights of booking musicians, of rehearsing the bands, of playing and collecting.

A few news racks carry "daily" newspapers, and weekday newspapers. But there also are others - aimed at families, aimed at those striving for healthy eating and living, aimed at those whose lives center around music and nightlife.

An hour alone - who to call to share this unexpected pleasure of 60 minutes emptied of musts. The seller of organic foods won't open for an hour so filling the time becomes my treat.

So many people here I would like to see - some purely pleasure, some for possible work, some just because. So far, nearly every time I plan to meet someone the schedule changes.

A normal visit is a rush to, through and out of this city for cancer treatments that include chemo and bags filled with healthy groceries that do not play hide and seek in rows of hormone- or vitamin injected foods.

I am a vehicle on these trips, a provider, a soother.

Taking time for my pleasures seem like stealing, perhaps sinning. Yes, I know the importance of taking care of the caretaker.

But knowing and doing? We all know how the first will not ensure the second. Or perhaps in a way I believe that my rushing is taking care as it allows all of us to return to the sacredness of home quickly.

Who to beg for a moment? Some are just settling into their beds at this hour, still addicted to audience adoration and musical notes. Some are busy dressing selves and kin, prepping for the mad dash to nursery, school and work.

Did I answer my own question with the word beg?

I could call. I could sit in a coffee shop and male more lists. Or I could sit under a tree listening to a city awakening. Or I could just sit. Alone. Doing nothing. Alone.

Taking care of me by slipping into a silence only cities can generate.Or slipping into a place that lets me empty thoughts into a post. Tell me again why the "Publish Post" button was missed again?


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