The Brood: A Love Letter to the City

by Holly Mohr

I was driving through South Side the other night around 9pm, and there were skateboarders in the middle of the street. East Carson St.

Summer is getting closer, it’s true, but the sky is still pitch black at 9pm, and the streets are certainly not empty of cars on any night in this neighborhood.

My first thought (me being me) was, of course, panic, and sure, yeah, judgment (“what are they thinking?! Who would do that?!”).

But my panic and judgment soon turned to gratitude, lightness . . . even joy.

How wonderful, I thought, that so much is happening here, right now. So many vastly different kinds of people are living their lives, being exactly who they are, publicly, together, right here in front of me. It’s not any kind of “special,” day (or night)—no particular event has called all these people out tonight. It’s just life, and they’re living it.

I almost missed it, but I didn’t! In my exhaustion after a long work day, I almost only noticed the perpetually bizarre Pittsburgh traffic patterns, the never-ending to-do list, my body’s persistent need for more sleep. Luckily, though, inexplicably, I noticed.

Right in front of me, all around me, is literally my dream come true. For real. I fucking love the city.

As a child growing up in the suburbs, how I longed for the city! I saw the city as a place with so much raw honesty, so many real things happening. I know at this point, I’m probably supposed to tell you how I grew out of that, that the grit, brokenness, lawlessness spat me out and caused me to come to my senses.

But no. Dear God, no.

Driving home that night behind the skateboarders, passing the Cambodian restaurants, the Irish ones, the Venezuelan ones, the shops that sell patchouli and Tibetan singing bowls, oh, Dear Lord, I thanked you for hearing my prayer and placing me here.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. People need different things.

But in spite of the pollution, I can breathe here. In spite of the crime rates, I experience solidarity. Life is happening, I can see it all around. And I can feel my own life blood; I know I am part of this life.

At our wedding reception nearly fifteen years ago, Eric and I danced to Peter Gabriel. I remember looking into his eyes at the line, “I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.”

The line before that one is, “It gets so hard, working so hard for our survival.”

We know that one’s true. Graduating during a recession with philosophy degrees, getting married young and (somewhat unexpectedly) starting to have babies right after, we have been singing that line for a decade and a half, falling asleep to it in our bodies, hearing it resonate in our souls. So much has been so hard.

But we entered this partnership with a vision—we vowed not only to remain together, but to keep each other awake and alive. Stay open. Notice. Keep wondering. Ask the questions–push until you find the truth. Build until you’ve made something beautiful. Don’t settle for anything less than inspiration, gratitude, love, in WHATEVER you do, every day. Love. Persist. Be real. Keep growing.

It’s easy for me to get trapped in my own head. I need really clear, obvious sensation around me to remind me to continue to inhabit the material world. The city does that for me. My children, jumping on my face and screaming in my ear (also hugging, kissing, loving me) do that for me.

Eric, me, the city, philosophy, prayer, art–we keep working together. We’re working to stay awake and alive.

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