Wednesday, July 1, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Recently, my rock band began the hunt for a practice space to house our late night rehearsals. With the addition of little ones of our own, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a time and place to get together and make some noise.

We made a few calls and posted on some message boards, and early this morning I got an email from a man offering up his three-car garage as a potential practice space. It was in an unfamiliar part of Buffalo, so I plugged the address into my GPS, and pulled out of my driveway.

Where it led me was surprising. It was only 16 minutes from my house, but it might as well have been Beirut. Half the houses on the street had been torched in what appeared to be the ultimate act of vandalism. Others sat derelict and boarded up – waiting for their turn to go up in smoke too. Within about 100 feet of each other were two makeshift memorial sites for people who had suffered some form of fatal tragedy. One had a teddy bear tied to a tree, with a dozen empty liquor bottles piled at the base of the trunk. It was a sad image. And a bit scary too.

I took one look down this street and did two things – checked to make sure my doors we locked, and immediately decided that my band would not be calling this place home any time soon.

Some people do call this home, however. Several houses down from the pile of bottles was a man sitting on his porch starring stonily into the street. He matched his surroundings – dirty and vacant. I felt sorry for him. What was a bizarre field trip for me was reality to him. It made me wonder – how did he get here? What in his life was different from mine that caused him to live on a street littered with broken bottles and empty buildings, while just a few miles away I enjoyed the modern amenities of middle class life?

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