The fly by…day twelve.
You could smell it before you ever entered the area, a putrid combination of cheap booze, urine and stale marijuana which became the norm if you walked anywhere near the park across from where I work five years ago. Back then I would see dirty needles, used condoms, half eaten food and human waste scattered everywhere. It was a gathering place for the homeless, folks struggling with mental illness, drug dealers and the women who did their dirty work, many simply had no where else to go.
Oh there were the people who said it could never happen, it would never happen. Those folks who thought the idea of a 46 million dollar renovation to the park would be a disaster not to mention a huge waste of money. No one would come downtown and certainly not to “that” part of town. Nothing could have prepared any of us for what would happen next.
It reopened in 2012 after a breathtaking transformation, and I have been there more times than I can count. I have been there for concerts, (Rock, Bluegrass, Jazz, Folk, and Opera) I have sprawled out on a blanket looking up at the stars while trying to focus on the movie that was showing on the giant screen. I have done yoga in there with 300 other people on the lawn, and brought my dogs to the dog park to run and rip and play right across from where I work. The thing I do most often is just watch the people, it never gets old. I watched a group of young kids who helped an elderly man tie his shoe that had come undone one day, they sang him a song as they knelt down before him making a big production out of crossing the laces. He clapped when they finished as they raced away to their next stop in the park and I stood there with giant tears dripping down my face. I wonder what the homeless lady and the police officer are laughing about as they continue their conversation like they are life long friends. I watch people of all colors, all sizes and ages, the wealthy, the poor the hopeless and the dreamers all gathered together.
I left work tonight after a very long day, that damn boot felt like it weighed 100 lbs but I waked through the park to hear the Bluegrass band playing in the gazebo, taking in deep breaths of the lingering smokey goodness of Eli’s BBQ. I stopped to watch a moment of the heated kickball game in a league that plays every Thursday at the far end of the park but mostly I watch the people, because that alone does something for me that few other places can offer. It gives me hope that we can all find a way to live together despite our biggest differences, despite all the reasons why the world says it shouldn’t work, in this measly 8 acres in the middle of an urban tapestry is does.