Unchain my Heart


The sign reads, “Have you always wondered if you were adopted? Find out the truth.” I see it out of my peripheral vision, but it doesn’t sink in until I am almost passed it. So I stop and walk back over to the pole where the flyer is stapled, where lots of flyers are stapled, but today, at this moment, the adoption one is the only thing I am interested in.

On the bottom of the flier are these strips, all cut in nice and even, so that you could tear one off and not have to memorize the telephone number or have to write it on your hand or anything. I think to myself, now that’s a nice touch, and I tear off one of the tabs and put it in my blazer pocket.

I am on my way to the office where I work, which is only five blocks from my apartment, but feels as if it exists on another planet. Everyday I take this same route. As usual, this morning, I pass the bocci ball courts and glance over at the grumpy old Italian men who smile at me. They smile, but I know they harbor ill will toward me because I let my dog make on their grass. I pick it up mind you, the poop, but that doesn’t seem to make it any better for them. No matter. They smile at me anyway cause I’m still young and pretty enough to turn an old man’s head.
After I pass them, the scenery doesn’t change much for the next three blocks, rows of Victorians holding each other up is all you get. They aren’t any big deal. You grow up around Victorians your whole life and even they, like anything else, get to be pretty boring. Same old cornices, porticoes, and gew gaws. Then, a couple more steps and I get to the projects. Here we go. This is the other planet part. These projects are a disgrace. The architecture is early nothing and the landscape is, if you can imagine, even worse.

Some do-gooder types, doctor’s wives or somebody, have made a faint attempt at planting a garden on one side of the building-to make the people who have to live here feel better – they have started this garden in a space where there is barely enough soil to choke a weed out. In front of it they’ve put up a handmade cardboard sign that reads, “Hope Garden – Courtesy of The Ladies Tennis Club.” The dried up flowers just make the whole issue even more dismal.

I wonder if at the time they were building these projects, someone thought, “Hey, concrete blocks, now here’s a good idea.” I try to imagine that was the case, but it’s tough, cause you ain’t ever seen anything look more piss poor. Believe it or not I read in the community paper that the builder actually won an award for the modern design. My foot won a design. I mean, come on, whose fooling who? Whoever built these buildings has done a great disservice to the people who have to live here, not to mention those of us who have to pass it. I think that so-called builder guy ought to be strung up, tarred and feathered good, for inflicting so much ugliness on so many people all at once.

Being from the South, I have seen many a nasty project, but I have to admit these are the worst I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The whole complex looks like some kind of bomb shelter ready for the next wave of a nuclear holocaust. The buildings are made up of prison-grey blocks that cling to each other all desperate like. There’s never any children or old people hanging around, just a bunch of hood looking youths, looking like trouble all the time. And where there are windows, some people have put up some ugly, cheap burglar bars – as if. The bars only make the place seem more prisonlike and horrible, like somewhere that no one would ever dream of living.

I always turn my head when I get to this corner, because I don’t want to look at these projects. Oh, I used to look at them and think to myself don’t turn your head, you have to look and count your lucky stars and all that kind of crap you get told your whole life. I said this to myself when I first moved here. Far away from my natural home, I felt lucky to be here in San Francisco and fortunate to have escaped the South and my family. I guess that’s why those heart strings of mine were easily pulled by anyone I could imagine in there, who might have it worse off than me.

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