Riding Through the Flats of Holyoke

I bicycled down into the Holyoke flats tonight. I began my bike jaunt up in the Holyoke highlands, these are leafy suburbs with nice old homes and people out front doing yard work. There was a nip in the air, it definitely isn’t August any more. I rode down, further toward the heart of this city of 50,000, into the area where the houses turned into apartment buildings, and young men gathered on street corners. Outside an apartment building, I smelled burning reefer and saw men looking on as a fierce-looking pit bull took a crap on the sidewalk. Unlike in other neighborhoods no one bothered to pick it up and put it in a plastic bag. I didn’t look their way, kept on riding my upright bike, feeling so out of place down there on Essex street.

I passed a car that was full of young men, the windows were tinted and the tires were thick. They did not look up at me as I pedaled past, nor did I look their way.

A little while on, a young man with a crewcut was pulling a toddler in a little cart, he was about one and he grinned as he wizzed along. Across the street kids were playing tackle football with no pads on. I heard a shriek, an echo that reverberated among boarded up apartment buildings. Kids were riding bikes through rubble strewn streets. One house had a sign for an old deli up on its garage, either they were selling sandwiches there or they just liked the way that sign looked. I kept riding back up, returning to my safe neighborhood in the highlands, where Cindy was cooking dinner. I was glad I didn’t live where I just rode my bike.