(SOME OF) WHAT I CONSUMED TODAY:
This concept of neighborliness -- what it means and how it manifests -- is obsessing me. I can't seem to get it off my mind, and I am constantly looking for it. I want to know it intimately, even more intimately than I know my face (and that I've sketched over 100 times).
I find it often on buses, those unique spaces of transition. They capture the motion of people between. This kinetic energy, often vibrant like a deep magenta, sometimes combusts into neon fuchsia from misunderstood behaviors or negligent awareness. Other times it warms into a rich violet as riders share memories across geographies and generations. Still, other times it dulls into a forgettable mauve while all hold on hoping to get to their destination uninterrupted.
Today, the bus was that mauve, and I hopped on at 16th and Bryant Street.
I was on my way to meet Andrea Fuenzalida, a friend and fellow artist who helps run The Poppies (a pop-up shop). We were about to plan our next pop-up coming in July. I was looking forward to chatting, planning, and smoking a joint, and it was also just another Tuesday afternoon.
The mauve set it, and I plugged in my earbuds. It was time to tune out, so I stared out the window while listening to my Magical Monday Mix. Aaaahhhhh... just the break needed between barista-ing and a meeting.
The joy of looking out the window is also catching glances of what unfolds on the bus itself. A woman with dirty blonde hair and chipping lavender nail polish held open the back door. "Driver! Can you please wait a minute," she yelled. And without waiting for an answer she ran out the back donor screaming to her friend across the street.
"Hurry up! I got the bus to wait for you. Come on!"
And her friend, scared to cross a busy Fifth Street on a red light, screamed back, "I'm coming! I'm coming!"
The bus did wait, and they both hopped on.
"Thank you, driver," shouted the woman with lavender fingernails. The other woman walked to the front, paid her fare, and profusely thanked the driver. Off we went.
Two stops later, the beep, beep, beep of the wheelchair lift called me back to the bus. An elderly woman using her wheelchair as her walker tried to hop on. Her dexterity, or lack thereof, made navigating the front of the bus difficult, so she struggled. And she struggled some more.
I sat in the back watching waiting for someone closer to help. I thought the driver, who had so patiently waited, would get up and lend a hand. Still, she struggled, and still I waited for someone else.
I became angry and frustrated that no one was acting. Clearly, the elder needed help, and clearly there were able-bodies people in arms reach. "Why wasn't anyone acting," I screamed to myself.
Only, I heard it more clearly as, "Why am I not acting?" So I stood up and walked to help her. Everyone else just stared.
The old woman whose head was wrapped in a navy and gold scarf was clearly flustered. "Can I help you," I asked.
"Oh, dear, yes please," she responded.
We navigated the tricky turn onto the bus from the door together and made our way to where her wheelchair could get locked in. The seat, however, was down. I fumbled underneath the seat knowing there was some sort of latch to lift the seat. But I couldn't find it. I got on my knees and tried to find the latch, but I'm not flexible (never have been) and I couldn't see it.
And everyone else just stared. The driver just sat there.
We sat there long enough for someone else to hop on the bus. He noticed me struggling, knew exactly where the latch was, and pulled. I clicked the wheelchair into position. The woman with her head wrapped sat down.
"We're good to go," she said; the driver pulled away, and I headed back to my seat.
"Driver! Aren't you supposed to help wheelchairs get locked into place," yelled a woman who had just been staring and tapping her foot as we continued down 5th street.
It is here that I notice what is to be a neighbor. Neighbor just means someone in proximity to you. The old woman in the navy and gold head scarf was near me, and therefore my neighbor on that bus.
But neighborliness is something more. It is witnessing those who are near and doing what you can within your means to make life a little better for all. It often requires action, and sometimes it requires pause. Though, it always requires listening, being aware of cues both verbal and silent.
Today, neighborliness meant helping an elder get onto the bus. It also meant not letting that mauve consume me to the point of complacency like so many others on that bus. It meant really listening and not just to the woman as she struggled but to myself. It meant asking of myself that which I was expecting of someone else.
And maybe that is also what it means to just be a neighbor.
On January 20, 2017, I started #100Days to cultivate a daily art practice, to learn more about political issues, and to name values, beliefs, and dreams. It was a focused practice that resulted in neon pop art portraits.