The bay windows look out onto a side street. In any other part of the country, any other major American city, it’d be considered an alley. In Philly though, it’s a street. It’s a street cars drive up and down unusually fast. Old women drive slower. But most cars cruise- one tire on the curb, the other missing the dark brown stanitions that line both sides of the street.
So far I have seen two grown men urinating in the alley. A mangy black dog runs down it once a week, and on weekends, the people in the house behind us operate a car wash. It’s a very detailed car wash. The couple spend what seems like hours on one car, another car already lined up, ready to be next. It looks like they clean with toothbrushes.
At night, the alley or more specifically, Cambridge St, looks iconic and crisp. It looks like a habitat of seedy dealings and sketchy wanderers. If you wanted a quiet place to talk to yourself, it seems as good as any dark alley in Philly. It might lack the quiet charm of Leisure Alley or the nostalgia of West Philly alleys, but it is undeterred by these shortcomings. It’s an alley that probably wouldn’t mind if you needed to kill someone there- as long as you cleaned up after yourself. No one wants to get their car washed and dodge a corpse while doing so.
Not even Glenn Beck, a dude who seems to be afraid of everything except over-exposure.
It’s looking out these bay windows and down on to Cambridge Street that I spend a lot of time these days. There is no roof deck to retreat too. No idyllic skyline to take in while pondering life problems and the what if’s and what may be’s. The gals who come by will just have to be impressed by the exposed brick and French doors. My desk sits at an angle by the windows, a little distance from them in case it rains. It has turned out to be a great place to read periodicals and enjoy a beer after work. Out these windows, the frustrations seem to dissipate and bank accounts and rock shows don’t matter- unless they’re happening on Cambridge St. Alleys are simple to look at, simple to find solace in. They start, they end and very little happens in between. It’s a nihilist metaphor for life and they don’t even care!
But I care and right now, I’m looking out the window. No one is around, it’s quiet. The brightness of the one building’s new siding is fading with the setting sun. Out on Girard, the sunsets look amazing despite the crackheads and drifters and panhandlers. On Cambridge St, night comes quickly. It happens so fast it makes you start planning for the morning. Again, it’s the simplicity, the easy turnings of the seasons and the lax ocean motion of inner city trappings.
In a few minutes, the church bells will start. They’ll chime for fifteen minutes, some sort of tune that I can’t put my finger on, and then they’ll close up shop for the night. The midgets in the bell-tower head out for cocktails and we’re all just hoping they don’t get gunned down in a drug deal gone wrong down at the new Piazza.
But midgets- they’re just not as simple as alleys.
Few things are.