Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Harm City Author's Notebook Harm City to Chicongo
The Cedar Lane
An Exercise in Prophetic Pedestrianism

I spent the weekend in Outer Whitebreadistan, split between two family homes, playing a hard-boiled scrabble tournament with my aunt, mother and brother-in-law, then, three times, between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., walking across the old barn turned residential greenspace and over the other side of the hill a mile off to my oldest son’s house. Here, buster, a dog of nearly two decades, with a bladder to match, was penned into his owner’s kitchen, where it would be easy for me to clean up any urinary disasters.

I spent the morning hours of each day sitting on a swivel chair in the kitchen reading various books, while Buster alternately snored away and suggested such recreational activities as going out back and counting the cars that drove down the street, marking the passage of each vehicle with a concise bark, looking over his shoulder at me to make certain I had noticed a potential enemy and then continuing his lifelong vigil.

The serene exercise of strolling through Outer Whitebreadistan, however, had its haunting moment each and every time. The haunting occurred between two houses across from the community pool, on the eastern side of a nearly perfect hill, once the crown of a hundred acre farm. Now, this place that was productive agricultural land in the year of my birth is, in my decrepitude, a bedroom community on the brink of invasion, in rezoning sights, cheap hive housing and Walmart looming on the near horizon as Maryland tools up its mass transit infrastructure and streamlines its resident alien driver’s license application process to fast track immigrants past the waiting Natives at the DMVcounter, one beautiful thread of the civic engineer’s art stands like a gaping maw awaiting the wicked and innocent of the future.

The east-west passage down the north slope is paved in concrete block, a perfectly lain sidewalk, with no weeds sprouting up through the cracks 30 years after its installation. The north house has been vacant for a year, put up for sale just after the beautiful cedar-lined lane was aggressively trimmed back from what was once a shaded gabble of some fifty yards, a wonderful place to stroll on a sunny day, serving both a higher esthetic purpose and a practical function for the exercise-minded resident.

Something unreported, however, happened on this shaded foot path.

I have a sense for such things, for the secret spaces of children, that become the “tweener” spaces for the homeless, the shooting galleries for addicts, the hunting lanes for robbers, rapists and murderers, as the schedule of population replacement and intentional blight, overtakes the hidden creases in the adult world that we as children might have glorified as BMX ramp, a skateboard run, or even a stand-in for the Kyber pass in a neighborhood crab apple battle.

It has just recently become a connecting space to be wary.

In five years the cedars will host beatings and robberies.

In ten years this will be a marshalling place for a local gang set.

In 15 years addicts will nod and fiend among needles, vials and improvised crack pipes.

In 20 years a fence will block the way and serve as a hurdle for hoods outrunning the pigs…

My grandson will be 27.

My last trip through the now maimed, but still obscure enough for terrible daylight deeds, cedar-lined path was at dusk, this past Sunday, March 4, 2018, as I strode down the concrete way in heavy hooded coat, joints thawed enough to achieve an even swinging stride, temporarily reborn with the new season, as a young teenage paleface, half my mass, turned up the path, glanced at me, shivered visibly, rolled his shoulders forward and walked by as fast as possible while holding his breath. In some past age, I should have said, “good evening.”

But in this day and age, with Reparation Recover Agents and replacement populations being recruited to chase out the 1980s homesteaders that have just paid off their mortgages, I wouldn’t be doing this kid a favor by encouraging him to exchange pleasantries with a strange man, in a lonely space on the edge of night.

Take Me To Your Breeder

Letters from an Extraterrestrial Anthropologist

Add Comment
BobMarch 8, 2018 2:36 AM UTC

O/T, granted, but Martin van Creveld's someone generally worth listening to.
KenMarch 6, 2018 8:52 PM UTC

Hi James!

Here's an article from today's Guardian on "The Wire", which is labeled as " one of the greatest shows in the history of US television – some would say the greatest."


responds:March 7, 2018 10:02 PM UTC

The Wire, despite obvious attempts ti edify and lionize characters in the story line, was so authentic in its depiction of hoodrat life, that it savagely negated its own guilt-ridden pretensions.
LaManoMarch 6, 2018 6:32 PM UTC

Watched this very process unfold in Beltsville, Maryland. In my youth, my uncle's home was in what was considered a very nice suburban development - he was a doctor and lived in a doctor's neighborhood.

It began rotting at the fringes in the early 80s, a few more unkempt lawns, lots of "For Sale" signs as Lovecraftian "squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and narrow eyes" began occupying the houses 10 at a time.

Today, English is hardly spoken there. No one walks the streets, no girls are out jogging in the evening, and concrete Jersey barriers block off streets in some areas.

As far as the young guy you passed, a "Good Evening" would probably help, since it will reinforce the fact that he has very little to fear from a man of his own race, now or in the future ...