Friday, December 10
I awoke at 1:45 A.M. and could not go back to sleep for worrying about having to share a narrow road with Friday traffic going into Philadelphia. Therefore I decided to get up and begin the fourteen mile walk hoping to get near the city before the morning rush began. Though I had been warned about the neighborhood through which I would be passing and the possibility of being robbed - I decided that that was a “maybe” whereas the traffic issue was a given. So 3:00 A.M. found me heading down a very cold and dark street that would lead me through “The Bottoms” - a low income area on the outskirts of Philadelphia. I wasn’t overly concerned for with the hour being late and the temperature being frigid - I guessed that no one would be out and about. I was wrong.
For several miles I had the road to myself as I walked through some fairly nice neighborhoods but after crossing Route 1 the road began a downhill descent - both physically and economically and all began to change.
Walking down Lancaster Avenue alone with my cart I must have presented a crazy sight - a white guy in a poor black neighborhood at 4:00 A.M. in the morning. Pushing my cart with its American flags past piled up garbage and broken glass I really had no business being in this neighborhood but like always on this journey - I do what I have to do and therefore here I was.
On various street corners stood young men silently watching me with hoods pulled up and cell phones in hand - rather like sentinels guarding a territory. For the first time I began to grow concerned for my safety but not one word was said as I passed silently by. I had the bear spray ready to use if necessary but I was allowed to pass unmolested. After several miles and much to my relief the street suddenly popped me into the main city and I left “The Bottoms” behind. It is a commentary on our society that just beyond the bright lights of downtown with its hustle bustle and latte' sippers that these poor neighborhoods exist in its shadow.
How disenfranchised they must feel from the American Dream.