It's summer in Harlem. Rush hour. On African Square, in front of the pristine facade of Starbucks, a man fishes out on the ground from what appears to be a combination of drugs and dehydration. A woman walks by with curlers in her hair, a tank top, basketball shorts, and flip flops. "That's that HEAT!", she says to nobody, and everybody.
Someone's placed a piece of cardboard underneath the man's face to prevent him from scratching it up, or to catch the next pile of vomit they missed the first two times. Mothers pass by him with their kids in tow. A woman in matching African top and head wrap stops to watch. On the corner a man licks his coco helado, his tee shirt reads, "Just cause you wear a hoodie doesn't mean your a criminal." Behind him, medics finally load the sick man into a Mount Sanai ambulance.
In Harlem, the street is theatre, and the play is life. The catch, there is no curtain....or intermission. Everyone is an actor, whether they like it or not. It's beautiful, and raw. Very raw. The homeless walk next to infants in strollers. The elderly, who so often are shoved into retirement homes elsewhere, sit in worn lawn chairs out front of large apartment buildings. They muse, while staring blankly across boulevards. Down on 116th, a domino game is set up in the street next to a fire hydrant, between parked cars. Addicts shuffle from corner to corner, while passing teenagers rag on each other, laughing at the top of their lungs. From the fenced patio of Red Rooster bistro, wealthier Harlemites sip craft cocktails, pretending what exists outside of their enclosure doesn't include them. It does.
Not often are you able to witness the whole of society, in all it's facets, play out in front of you in a matter of minutes. It's mesmerizing. Like the crossover dribble of the teenage girl as she crosses the street. Each bounce syncopated, to the rhythm of the African drums from off in the distance.
It's summer in Harlem.