Liberty

By Raymund Fernandez |October 16,2018 - 09:10 PM

RAYMUND FERNANDEZ

A lady is talking at herself, ranting at the world. The world is passing all about her through the exit doors of Port Authority where the buses end their journey. Here they meet the train and subway tracks taking the rush of humanity in and out the big city. At the nearest street corner, a man is bawling unashamedly in a grief so deep the world has disappeared for him. He cannot see us. I am watching him astounded wondering what could have him cry this way. Is he the heart of New York City? I wonder.

New York is a dirty city in a mad rush to and from work, possibly. It is easy to get lost here. And though we three, my brother, my wife, and I would be here just a few days, we would be lost and then re-found several times. We are staying in a friend’s house in New Jersey, a bit of a bus ride not far away.

We would, of course, walk through Times Square on the way to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Picassos, the Matisses, the Legers, the Moderns, and Vincent’s “Starry Night.” One wishes to stay here longer but we have to spend too much time traveling, we have to do this to see the other places. New York is a dirty city. But I suspect many people like me like it this way. Along the sidewalks – uncollected trash and wonderful cigarette butts.

More or less the same cigarette butts one finds in the streets of Amsterdam, which is equally as free as New York City as things go. One can smoke at certain sidewalks. These reveal themselves by large trash cans ostensibly designed to serve as giant ashtrays if anyone ever bothered to use them that way. How can you keep this city free and not risk dirt? People of various colors, races, beliefs, and purposes rush through here hardly noticing each other, blind to color, race, and religion. How can one have freedom without risking at least some amount of dirt?

So why shouldn’t we three go off to see the 9/11 Memorial? And after that, how can we keep from taking the boat ride that would give us a good view of Lady Liberty? As promised, she shined a brilliant bright blue shooting up into the sky with her golden torch. She is a bit worn, of course. But still holding up against the forces of sea wind and gravity, against Trump and the Republicans, the racists and those who still advocate fascism and white supremacy. They are hidden away somewhere and leaving the rest of us to remember an old innocence: Yes, freedom is possible among men with all their inherent weaknesses. No, you do not have to use violent force to get people to do the right thing. There is always a middle peaceful way. It will only take a bit of trust and time.

New York is a dirty city. It could be cleaner. But at what cost?

Lost once again. We do not know our way home. We google our destination. Look at our maps. And then a working man, a Latino immigrant perhaps, rushes by. We ask him for directions. He smiles. We ask him how to take the bus home to Paramus. He decides to walk us to a stop just to be sure. He says, “Wait here. A ‘jitney’ will pass shortly. It will take you to Paramus. Just tell the driver.”

The jitney is a small bus that works exactly like the jeepneys back home. It is what certain New Yorkers ride to and from work..

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