Wheeler Ave

by bicyclemark

I think it was February 2001. It must have been, because that’s the anniversary month for one of the most terrible shootings of my lifetime to take place in New York City.

As an aspiring and naïve freelance journalist, in between waitering gigs, I decided the anniversary of such a terrible event warranted my presence and some first-hand revisiting. I had never really been to the Bronx, not that I could remember anyway, and I was eager to see the spot, observe the people, smell the air, learn what I could learn; about what had changed since Amadou Diallo was shot 41 one times by police officers.

Somebody rode part of the way with me, but eventually I was on my own and further up the subway line than ever before. I got out and followed my little hand scribbled map that would guide me to the street, to his home. I pictured people standing around. Maybe praying. Maybe a bunch of flowers or statues of saints or something. I wondered if the street would be closed off, maybe because of some big rememberence vigil. I honestly didn’t even know if I had the right day, my only thought was to see what I could see, and share it with those that had chosen to forget the sadness and the pain.

Of course, as usual in life, nothing was as I’d imagined. Nothing exciting happened. No exciting feeling came over me. The air on Wheeler Ave didn’t feel any more or less desperate than the rest of the Bronx. No candle light vigil. No police blockade. Nuthin! A second thought, there may have been some dried out flowers and almost extinguished candles, but nothing that stands out in my memory.

I walked around the block a few times and grew increasingly tired. Heading back to the subway, I glanced one more time towards the house, and pictured that young man standing there. Those final moments. The shots.

I never wrote a single word about it. I think I told a few people the story, but being so uneventful, even the story faded from my story telling.

Why mention it? Obviously with the shooting of Sean Bell, 50 times- who doesn’t think back to it? And the fact that even back in 2001, there wasn’t so much remembering, not that I saw.. maybe that says something. Not much seemed to have changed on Wheeler Ave back then, just like nothing seems to have changed when a young man, the night before his wedding, gets 50 shots fired at him by law enforcement professionals.

How High’s The Water

by bicyclemark

As I got on the international train from Brussels to Amsterdam, I knew it would be packed and bursting at the seams with people returning home from their weekend in Belgium. And this day was no different, with people huddling in the space between train cars, struggling to find a spot just to stand and read their magazines in peace.

I’m an international train veteran, so I used my secret methods for getting myself a seat. And as luck would have it, the person sitting next to me was a gentleman heading to the Hague on business. Not just any business… urban planning to deal with rising water levels! Who did he work for, as I surely asked, the government of London!

Amazingly before I knew any of this, we started chatting casually in between his soduku and my final chapters of 4th of July, Asbury Park. He was asking about the train, and what time it actually arrives in the Hague. It eventually evolved in how the city is layed out, and more generally, the ol’ “how the dutch have built the country in unorthodox ways.” We spoke of the taking land from the sea and building below sea level. And it was right around there where he smiled and said “Enjoy while you can, because things will certainly change.” And right there we got into the rising sea levels and the struggle to keep water out; he then explaining what he was doing for the city government of London.

Among the interesting things he pointed out to me, were the cases of London as well as New York City, both of whom are in need of plans to deal with sea levels that are definitely rising. Apparently his work was to address the problem for his city’s context. And I wondered aloud about what New York City could possibly do to protect against water rising up and swallowing its streets.

He wasn’t big in offering me solutions. It was, as he said, the purpose of his meetings in places like the Hague. I asked if he would be heading to New Orleans, he said he very much wanted to:

“That’s really what the future is about… mass movement of people, away from situations where they must leave in order to survive. Cities must all get into planning for it… how and where to move mass amounts of their populations.”

Eventually we got to the Hague and he wished me goodluck with my journalism endeavors.

When I got home I went right to my boat and started taking the water out of it.