Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Low Life

Low Life
Lures and Snares of Old New York
, by Luc Sante
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1991


At night sometimes in certain parts of the city, usually in those remaining streets that are left deserted, usually in winter, but sometimes in other seasons if the streets are sufficiently forsaken, the past can be seen as if through a smeared window. Sometimes this effect occurs only for an instant: when you’re walking back from someplace with a head crammed with company and music and sensations, to a point where all new sensations dissipate, on some dead street in the middle West Side lined with jobbers and import showrooms and loading docks and shuttered luncheonettes, or on a street on the Lower East Side where the intersections have no stoplights and everything is nailed down and dark and the only people to be seen dart by as furtively as wraiths. There will be no traffic, and the streetlights will seem to shrink back into their globes, drawing their skirts of illumination into tight circles, and the rutted streets reveal the cobbles under a thin membrane of asphalt, and the buildings all around are masses of unpointed blackened brick or cacophonies of terra-cotta bric-a-brac or yawning cast-iron gravestones six or eight stories tall. This is the sepulcher of New York, the city as a living ruin.

It is also the bridge to the past, the past that shares the same night as the present, even if it inhabits a different day. The night is the corridor of history, not the history of famous people or great events, but that of the marginal, the ignored, the suppressed, the unacknowledged; the history of vice, of error, of confusion, of fear, of want; the history of intoxication, of vainglory, of delusion, of dissipation, of delirium. It strips off the city’s veneer of progress and modernity and civilization and reveals the wilderness. . . . In the streets at night, everything kept hidden comes forth, everyone is subject to the rules of chance, everyone is potentially both murderer and victim, everyone is afraid, just as anyone who sets his or her mind to it can inspire fear in others. At night, everyone is naked.
(p. 357-358)

Thought it applied to Nightwatch! Rick


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