portishead blended into a handful of other semi-Edith Piaf wannabes crooning overhead, bluesy lyrics that are fused with intercontinental beats and rhymes, still hearkening to another time — although today i’m not sure whether that time is before or yet to come.
an otherwise picture perfect sunday morning in philly has been marred with melancholia as news about a recent attack in philadelphia arrived in my inbox. i first heard about the incident while i was en route to ithaca a few weeks ago, but in the wake of the inconceivable penn state news-drama-tragedy that broke very soon after, the story of the man who was shot on his way home, just steps away from my regular grocery store, did not receive the same attention as it might have.
an excerpt from the story about darren rogers, the concierge at an old city apartment building for twenty years, a fellow flaneur:
A staple of Rogers’ well-ordered routine were his long walks to work.
First, he’d catch a trolley from his Southwest Philadelphia apartment. From 30th Street, he’d walk a winding, nearly four-mile route to work – for the exercise, he told his friends, and for the peace he found in the busy rhythms of Center City, and in the quiet, historic streets of Society Hill.
Along the way, he’d listen to rock and jazz cassettes on his Walkman. Sometimes, he’d walk all the way home.
stories are humanizing. i continue to believe this. learning more about the gentle character of the man who was attacked and then brutally shot by two other men, all strangers, colors this morning with more hues than the leaves on the trees outside. what would be like if we were no longer strangers, all of us known entities to one another? or at least went about our days with the possibility that we might know or want to know the others amidst whom we walk? and resist the sort of early and hateful indoctrination that was the focus of a 20/20 story about the westboro church community. sensational journalistic tactics aside, a poll on the 20/20 website poses an interesting, if somewhat oversimplified and unexamined, question: [should parents be allowed] to teach their children to discriminate and hate others based on race, religion, and sexual preference?
i watched the raw security footage of the attack on mr. rogers that the news site philly.com had made available via the police. two men walking east approached, punched, kicked and shot a single man walking west and to the untrained eye it seemed to happen in a flash, spontaneously. as the headline shouts, a brutal, random attack. does it matter that the attackers, still at large, are white and purportedly young and the victim is black and in his 40s? some people will turn and keep the focus here, and while race has been more foregrounded recently as a site of tension in this city than for several years prior and is worthy of continued attention and study, to rest the inquiry here would be misguided it seems. do we want to know the stories of the attackers? and how do we maintain our postures as generous listeners? depth of analysis eludes me as morning creeps toward afternoon and my mind lingers on sadness of this incident, made more poignant by quotes from rogers’ mother and co-worker:
“He was surprised how people cared about him so much,” [co-worker Allison Jones] said. “I told him: ‘Darren, people don’t just like you. They love you.’ ”
“He loved this city too much to ever leave,” [his mother] said. “The sports, the history, the architecture. He loves Philadelphia so much.”
we can do better, philly. much better. must be better.