Sunday at Cass
February 22, 2015
I had heard about this semi-monthly action of compassion from Barbara Ingalls, a friend of mine. She had often posted photos of this on her Facebook page. It was easy for me to find reasons not to come down. We had purchased a house in Chesterfield Township, a 30-mile jaunt down I-94; Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple’s service begins at 10:30AM, ending around 11:30AM, not leaving much time to swing down to Cass Park in time to participate significantly; and lately, there always seemed to be construction on I-94 on the weekends leading into Detroit, with more detours and back-ups obstructing the drive. Then there was the weather – the cold and snow during the winter and the summer distractions. And, to be honest, busy weeks and late-night Saturday nights discouraged me from setting an alarm on Sunday mornings.
But I wanted to do this. I wanted to balance this with my practice. I decided on this particular Sunday, after the service at Still Point, to witness what was going on at Cass Park. My hope was to alternate Sundays – with sitting practice at Still Point on the 1st and 3rd (and 5th) Sundays of the month, and life practice on the 2nd and 4th.
I happened to pick a Sunday that Barb couldn’t attend. I felt a little out of place, standing out in my Detroit Vipers jacket and camera slung around my neck. I mingled a little. One volunteer asked me about my Vipers jacket. She told me her sister had dated Peter Ciavaglia – one of the stars of the team back in the day. He is still in the area, she told me, as a financial consultant. Vintage as it is, that Vipers jacket still opens the door to conversation.
I chatted with the man on the left in the photo above. He was a mechanic for twenty-plus years. He admitted to using cocaine while employed, but held down the job all those years until the business went under. He sought recovery and has been off drugs, which cost him his family. He explained to me that they deserted him because they were all drug users and felt uncomfortable about his clean and sober lifestyle. He worked for a garage for another couple years, but it closed, then he lost his apartment and had been homeless ever since. He talked about taking care of his brother who had suffered a stroke and lived on the west side of Detroit. His brother just sits around the house and bemoans about not being able to do anything, losing all sense of purpose. He said he’d much rather be homeless and alive then moping around a home feeling hopeless.
The scarves on the trees were left behind for those who wandered into Cass Park after everyone had left.
I was conservative about my photography, unsure of the protocol and wanting to respect the sanctity of what I was witnessing.