“You know, most people are on their phones these days” the slender man uttered at the highway intersection. “Between that and people acting like I’m not here… it’s a damn shame.” His skin was tanned like leather, most likely from the pounding Texas sun. I had my window down, to his right at the light. At first I couldn’t tell whether or not he was even talking to me. My 16 year old vehicle was struggling to produce the air conditioning it once did, so I rolled down the windows in travel to attempt some level of permeable existence in the heat. If I could circulate air through my cabin, I had a better shot of avoiding sweat developing along my brow.
But, he. He didn’t have that convenience. Instead he had a cardboard sign, a scraggly beard and a stoic facial expression earned by hours of standing in an area.
I don’t, as a general rule, carry any cash. I had nothing to really offer the man other than a bit of acknowledgement in a fleeting moment. Even if down on one’s luck, there is a dignity to respect in all of us.
I think after maintaining eye contact for a beat I responded with a “good luck” or something similar before the light changed and once again the moment would differentiate, driven at the same pace that corresponded to my gas pedal and the timing of the light. I offered what I could in that moment, even if only attention.
I recalled that experience this week as I have been thinking much about pacing and how we spend our time. In my twenties, I was constantly rushing between events and appointments. In my thirties, I have learned (most days, at least) how to slow down a bit. And, at the intersections, maybe look more around to appreciate where I am going as well as from where I have come from.
I don’t always have a deep albeit brief philosophical reflection with a stranger. There are plenty of times that I have the windows up and am fiddling with my radio preset stations. When transporting my daughter, I am constantly focusing between the road, my mirrors, the gauges and checking on how she is doing. She sweetly slumps a bit into her carseat and falls asleep on longer drives.
However, across various parts of Houston (& Austin and Soon in a City near You?), you too may also have noticed the work of various artists who have decorated utility boxes with the help of the @minimurals project by UP Art Studio. The project commissions local artists to beautify the city through seeking proposals and selecting bids each year for designs. These small urban canvases can provide history, art and a refuge from everything that is happening in the world. Something to draw your eyes and capture your attention at a stoplight in rush hour traffic.
It probably comes as no surprise that the boombox blog’s favorite installment is cassette themed, but I am a sucker for kitsch. This utility box (transformed by @sergiosart) is near 19th Street and Heights Blvd. I always look for it when I visit the area. I’d encourage you to map out the mini mural projects in your area and find your favorite!
This week’s track is “Roots Mural Theme” by Weapons of Peace. I thought that the bold introduction after an international drum break was fitting, as though the utility box just appears after it’s place among the concrete jungle. It tells a story. It’s part of our journey.
And until our next adventure together, let’s take care of one another.