Four years earlier.
Like a thief in the night I leave these towns; working just enough to get to the next city where I’ll continue my tour of America. I travel on I-80 then connect to 76 which takes me by Pittsburgh where I stop for a few days.
It is a city that at one time was in decay. Much like Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Memphis, the list goes on and on. But, there is construction here. People building infrastructure, new places of commerce, hope. I see this hope when I talk to folks in bars. Impressed with new shopping malls going up in the suburbs. These are destinations built to look like small cities. Stores after stores with restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and Olive Garden where you get as many breadsticks as you like. Don’t forget the never ending soup and salad bowl.
People, lemmings, walk up and down the brand new sidewalks going into Chico’s, Macy’s, Build A Bear, The Gap, Old Navy, and countless other spanking new businesses. All of them smiling and happy while looking at their phones. Watching music videos, reading emails, texts, talking out loud as they carry the instruments in their hands away from their mouths. They walk in front of traffic. Cars honk at them. Kids on motorized skateboards zip by on their way to no-where. The flowers are fresh smelling and the grass is green. The people of Pittsburgh, of America, are proud of these architectural achievements. We are in love with the brand new.
And I look at this mall. This shopping mecca. I see plastic. It is not real. Much like Times Square in Manhattan is not real. Disney characters following you around. Handing out leaflets to tour the island. Too many people, too many lights, too much loud thumping bass and blaring notes, all of America is becoming the same.
I sleep in a parking garage by the bus station downtown Pittsburgh. I sit there listening to jazz on the public radio station; jazz, the last American art form. And it is old jazz, bop jazz. Coltrane, Davis, Monk, Max Roach, Bill Evans, Mingus, they all play that night as I dream with a soundtrack playing till the sun comes up. Light gleaming inside my pickup. It is a sign from God. Another day has begun.