Saint Paul

    8:00 p.m. driving into the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. The city is in act 47 bankruptcy.

    Across the Schuylkill river and the Penn street bridge, tony West Reading defines “aglow” and “open” for holiday shopping. In the light humid air, there is almost a halo surrounding a pair of white carriage horses and carriage stand by the curb normally reserved for cars. Some of the shops reestablished here from Fifth Street, Reading better to please their customers.

   I cross over the Schuylkill river. Reading is a Gritty City.

   Penn Square, which to me often looks lost, forlorn and without sheen, is decorated with a big round holiday tree. The tree is accompanied by a menorah. City park  has some white lights. The pagoda, a local landmark which has had some work done recently, has a red aura.

   Among brownstone row houses stands a church. It is on the corner to my left. I turn left. I find a place to park on an uphill street. The pagoda is magnetic in this neighborhood. I look up at it: red neon, red neon. I have to get out. I secure the car with the parking brake. It is steep, this hill, like San Francisco or St. Paul.

   I pass the church door with its porch light on.  The sign on the church office door gives the hours, and several flyers advertise events, such as Movie Night December 3 at 6:30 to benefit the library across and down the street a piece and a pancake breakfast at the neighborhood Appleby’s restaurant. Another event is for music at the rural St. Daniels Church later this month, about 15 miles west of here in Robesonia. 

   The pagoda forms a definite focal point. In the street, a woman struggles with a collapsible stroller. The Pagoda lords over the scene. I was just on my way to the Y to take a shower. I’ve no heat or hot water at home.


2 thoughts on “Saint Paul

  1. If we must say “holiday tree” perhaps we must say “holiday candles” (instead of menorah).

    Got high grade deja vu from this piece, as when reading Updike’s Brewer prose. Our teenage memories of Penn Street in the 40s are vivid. (Reading’s heyday, WWII not withstanding.)


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