something about everything

The Reluctant Sightseer

The Reluctant Sightseer

When I’m sitting on that train going through Camden every morning, I sometimes imagine that the dark side of the American dream rises up and sits next to me and stares at me and says: “I’m still here motherfucker.”

I’m not sure why the dark side personified would sit next to me. It could sit next to any one of thousands who flock to train stations from the white suburbs and ride back to the big city for their 9 to 5 ritual – the place from which many of us escaped for those suburbs.

I always look at Camden in the morning from the train.  Many don’t.  Some sway or nod their heads ever so slightly as music infiltrates their brains through earphones. Others stare at iPhones and so avoid the unsettling possibility of making eye contact with other riders.

Sometimes, when I’m riding in, I see a person or two walking the Camden streets. I wonder where they’re going, because the streets look like dead-ends, leading to nowhere, like in an old west ghost town.

I know they’re not walking to the corner store for coffee, because the only evidence that remains of the morning bustle of a corner store is a fractured sign you can’t read anymore above a door you can no longer open. The graffiti tells its story.


I can feel my mood change as the train moves on past this immutable world.

We really don’t want to see this world as a society. It makes us uncomfortable. The people who live there?  Well, they just haven’t worked hard enough to get out of there. Some of us still believe this. It’s ironic to me that the legislation that ended segregation turned out to be impotent in the face of the harsh economic realities that drive segregation.

On the train, I’m a reluctant sightseer into a world that no one wants to see. But the train reminds us about this world; it stares you in the face through the window…and if you dare to look back, then it just might rise up and sit next to you on your way to the city of brotherly love.


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2 thoughts on “The Reluctant Sightseer

  1. Johns friend on said:

    I, too have had similar day-dreams while commuting to work. Mine took place on the 4:48AM out of Westport CT. The train was alway quiet except for the occasional “Ticket Please” that surely shattered the serene sleep of so many. My advantage for being on that train was good parents, hard work and luck. Maybe not in that order but certainly that mixture. While some people of Camden had all three and were able to do better for them selves and their families, those left there to live in the poorest conditions had none. I say none because even with only two of the three success is possible, with only one very slim but not impossible. Waiting for the government to do anything for these people is like leaving on the porch light for Jimmy Hoffa. If any of these unlucky people wants anything they will have to adopt a strong work ethic,work very hard and I guarantee the luck will follow. Because the harder you work the luckier you get. Just ask the people on the 4:48AM out of Westport, CT.

    • Hey John’s friend! I wasn’t suggesting that the government should intervene. I was observing what is, and that most of us would rather not look at the problem because it got this way for a host of complicated reasons, among them racism. And the solutions seem to be beyond reach.

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