Wandering amid the living wreckage of the downtown streets last night, past the deadend drinkers and listing derelicts and waiters upon lost gods who are the constant denizens of this new world gone awry, I watched a man launch out into a busy intersection, ignoring the stoplights, reeling through the stream of traffic, his hands moving through the air as if feeling for something, blindly. The flow of traffic parted around him but did not cease.
A few blocks further along the dark canyon of the avenue gradually filled with echoing sound, the reedy wafting saxophone notes that identified a familiar tune from an earlier Depression, and as I came up to the corner where the street musician was performing, under the arcade of a vacant and abandoned department store, a woman approached from the other direction, and paused to drop some bills into the container at the musician's feet.
A large imposing man garbed in the public anonymity of the private sorrow of his dreaming song.
He did not stop playing but his eyes acknowledged her gesture, and then as I turned the corner and mumbled some words to the mundane effect that hope is all we've got, he nodded, skipped a beat and in a low voice said Right on, brother and then went back into Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
These recurrent anthems of our mass delusion, our forlorn hope.
Dorothy discovers that she is no longer in Kansas: cropped screenshot from trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz, 1939: image by Aylaross, 2010