In the neighborhood

A phone call kept me up to midnight. Fireworks in the street kept the cats hopping. The dog staring at me with imploring eyes. My wife slept through it all.

She had wanted me to stay up waiting for Milo, our 14-year-old, to make it home safely. He’d gone up to the Empire Plaza with his friends, all justice warriors who have been marching around our city all week. They had wanted to hang out, to take in the muggy evening.

Young kids were dancing in the street, their moms on one stoop, dads and uncles on the next one down. Food on grills smelled great, A table had been brought out with salads, a birthday cake with nine candles.


Lockdown was officially lifting. The George Floyd protests across the country had gained enough steam to overcome their initial sullying with looting, and an overwrought police crackdown. Dancing was in order.

We’d watched a documentary on the Panthers, then Fruitvale Station, which charted a similar episode in Oakland years ago. Now they’re calling Albany the new Oakland. There’s spirit here among the crumbling nineteenth-century streets.

Milo made it home before midnight. His crowd’s happy to be in each others’ presence again. We parents are letting them all be a pod among themselves.

Everyone’s still wearing masks when marching, shopping, or venturing into neighborhoods not their own. No one wore one last night.

Milo said the folks across the street offered him some cake, but he chose a smoked turkey wing. I told him I was proud he made it home without nagging. And that we lived where we do now.

I think things’ll work out.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.

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