THE EVOLVING CITY

Brian Gilmore

 

IN MEMORY OF 8-TRACK
(for my brother, Keith, and cousin Billy)

Somewhere there is a bright green Vega hatchback with an 8- track tape deck
sitting still and rusting, just like the one my cousin and I cruised through the
city in back in l972; Kool and the Gang lit up the world as I waved to pretty long legged
women in the park by the river with the golf course where families used to have picnics
and the Park Police would not be around anywhere.

There is Bootsy’s Rubberband 8 track tape in the back of my mind playing the same song
over and over. My brother and I are in his green Plymouth Volare station wagon with the
hatchback looking at a long line of fast moving black boys, blowing hard on whistles,
riding glossy Schwinns and Fuji’s, and yelling at cars to move while bouncing to the beat
of “Halleluiah, they call me Casper.”

There are songs in my mind that recall some of the best days I have ever
known. On his 8-track tape deck my brother is playing Stanley Clarke, Isley
Brothers, Commodores, Brothers Johnson. We are riding through the city with the cool
summer air blowing in from the hatch that he always keeps up. All is quiet and
soulful in the city and there are no Park Police cruising neighborhoods that are nowhere
near the woods.

My cousin and I were at a junkyard last week and saw a green hatchback Vega
rusting in the sunlight. The 8-track tape deck had been removed and destroyed
and Kool and Gang is somewhere playing ‘Ladies Night.’My cousin and I talk of all the
park police riding through the old neighborhood and why the youth don’t ride bicycles
through the city anymore and blow whistles. I think of that song that goes, “Mr. Ronald
Bell on synthesizer, Ladies and gentleman.”

I cruise my old neighborhood these days, blast Main Ingredient on the CD player
in my car. Turn it up loud. Imagine I am riding with my brother Keith or
cousin Billy, and there are young bicycle riders with whistles flying past us and
pretty women waving to a sound that dared save us all. I hit a button on the
CD player, hear, “Happiness is just around the bend” come on loud and crisp. Realize
now more than ever I need to hear these kind of songs when I ride through the city with
so many Park Police cars cruising through the old neighborhood: Homes and streets that
are nowhere near the woods.

 

 

Brian Gilmore is a public interest lawyer, poet, writer, and columnist with the Progressive Media Project. His first book of poetry, elvis presley is alive and well and Living in Harlem, was published by Third World Press of Chicago in 1993. His second collection, Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags: Poem for Duke Ellington (Karibu Books 2000) is an aesthetic biography in verse on the life and work of jazz master Duke Ellington. His poetry, fiction, and other writings have been published in The Progressive, The Baltimore Sun, The Utne Reader, In Search of Color Everywhere, and The Detroit Free Press. He currently resides in Takoma Park, MD with his wife, Elanna, and daughters, Adanya, Lirit, and Pannonica.

 

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.

 

To read more by this author:
Brian Gilmore
Brian Gilmore's Introduction to Vol, 2, No. 4 (Fall 2001)
Gilmore's Tribute to Waring Cuney: The Memorial Issue
Brian Gilmore: DC Places Issue

Brian Gilmore: Split This Rock Issue
Brian Gilmore: Audio Issue
Brian Gilmore: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue
Brian Gilmore: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Brian Gilmore on Drum & Spear Bookstore: Literary Organizations Issue
Brian Gilmore: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Brian Gilmore on May Miller: Poetic Ancestors Issue