Stargazing and some unsolicited knowledge

Nov. 25: Stargazer

I step outside and wait for cold air to clear my head. I pace in the alley for a few minutes and begin to shiver and can’t stop and turn toward the back door. And then, for no reason at all, I look at the sky.

The stars.

Everywhere.

One in particular, due south and alive with transcendent bitter light. At first I think it’s just streetlight glare from my smeared glasses but I remove them and clear them with my shirt and replace them and it’s still there, glowing stronger still.

I think about which southern star could possibly be so bright, but I know almost nothing of astronomy, and instead I only search the speckled sky for the few constellations I know, memorized from my 1st-grade pencilbox. I find none. Chances are there’s no way to see them, not among these buildings.

A group of bar stragglers guided west pass by and cross the street toward their car. One of them crosses half the street and then stops in the middle, oncoming traffic be damned, and she says, with elementary-school wonder in her voice, Look at all those stars.

The others have already crossed, have already abandoned the small, unsolved mysteries of the day, are ready to transition home and welcome sleep.

Still silent and still in the street, she says, Seriously, look at all those stars. Isn’t that beautiful.

They don’t hear her, or they ignore her. Doors open, the engine starts. Maybe they are tired and nothing more. Maybe she stumbled and happen to look up for the first time in weeks. Or maybe she is the one among them who stargazes after every passing sun.

It’s so easy to avoid ceaseless wonder and to grow tired with those who single-mindedly embrace it.

Last night I spent time listening to the music I loved some years ago but never returned to for some reason or another. Indifference or maybe I was just busy and distracted by the hits of the day.

There’s this song by the Zephyrs, a neglected Scotland shoegaze band, the single earnest, sonorous piece on a record filled with strong but self-conscious writing.

It’s called, of course, "Stargazer." And here are the lyrics:

Clear me a space

To gaze at the stars

They dreamed about telescopes

Alone in the park

I thought of the empty cars

Surrounded by ugly homes

So hand me a pen

To write the card

To say goodbye

Clear me a space

To gaze at the stars

They dreamed about telescopes

So there’s this girl standing in the middle of the street, transfixed with the same sky I somehow happened to see for the first time in years, and her friends are calling for her now, they’re in the running car with the windows down, yelling for her to come on already, that they want to go, but she can’t help herself, she’s rooted in the middle of this street and she can’t take her eyes away from the sky she’s either never seen before or sees every night as a new creation, the driver is revving the engine, and finally she relents as headlights approach; she steps into the vehicle and one of her friends says, It’s about time. The car disappears down the street, the stars bright as ever on this empty night.

Nov. 26: A bit of unsolicited advice

I’m walking to work because today is warm and tomorrow will be cold, and as I near the blue building north of Franklin on Lyndale, I pause for a moment on the sidewalk to let a delivery man and his stacked dolly of milk crates pass by.

As he does, he looks at me without prompt, smiles big, and says, Things are getting better, man, they’re getting better.

Without another word he continues on into the coffee shop.

26th & Lyndale is an attempt to capture life at a busy Southwest intersection, through essays, observations, conversations, overheard dialogue and other storytelling forms. To check out Brian Voerding’s blog, go to www.26thandlyndale.com.