Like most people Jenn and I have a morning routine for workdays. It's not until something changes about your routine that notice how rooted it is in the place you live. I'm always up at the crack of dawn trying to turn out the day's blog post and get some email out the door. Then we have breakfast and at about 8am every morning Jenn, Frankie and I head out. Frank and I walk Jenn to the train and then proceed to the park. Since the beginning of the summer, there was a new addition to the routine.
There's a freight/AMTRAK rail line that cuts through Astoria on it's way north. To support this elevated rail line huge arches run over some of the streets of our neighborhood. At the base of one these arches there is also the entrance to the N/Q train between 23rd Ave and Astoria Blvd. It was at this specific arch that the new addition to our morning walk lay. Literally.
He was a man, from what I could tell pretty tall with a longish beard. His white skin had clearly been browned by days on end in the sunshine. We never spoke to the man because every morning he was sound asleep in a pile of sleeping bags, garbage bags filled with stuff and piles of clothes. We always took note of him not so much for what he said but for what he never said. He always looked so peaceful there with his old headphones covering his dirty ears.
Until this morning.
I didn't know anything about the man under the arch except that he was sleepy and he liked his headphones. But someone knew him and someone knew that he had died, not just disappeared. They took the time to write a tiny memorial to Chris.
Had Chris really been there for years? Maybe he slept in several spots around the neighborhood? Now I was taken aback by my own lack of knowledge about my surroundings.
I noticed one more scrap of paper.
I've written a lot of words about lighting - how it effects the spaces we're in everyday. I've written about the effects of light on urbanity. But at the end of the day, our towns and cities are comprised of spaces and people. So when someone dies, when someone's space goes unoccupied the entire neighborhood feels it. No piece is too small to go unnoticed. Chris was a homeless man who slept under an arch, it was his neighborhood too. He will be missed.