I have an obsession with the seedy
side of life. Being born in the South End
of Columbus, spending formative years there
accounts for preoccupation with the sordid
and unsavory.

On the other hand, when I lived in the South End,
it was a multicultural ideal, free of gangs,
constant crime. Yet, even as a boy, I sensed
underlying rot of humanity that could surface
at any moment. And it did years later
after I’d moved to the suburbs.

In the 40s and 50s it was safe to walk streets
and alleys. I identified with the less fortunate.
I gained insight into other people’s harder ways.
I mingled without feeling superior.

Truth be told, I’ve always had a fascination
with the disreputable side of life. Maybe it was
because my dad sold beer on Sunday when
the blue laws were in place, wrote numbers,
bribed local police, and accidentally left
a 16 mm pornographic film on my toy projector.

I learned about different liquors in our confectionery,
watched alcoholics sway down streets after my dad
fortified them with a pint of wine on credit.

I was a little boy who learned too much too soon
about the unwholesome side of life. I was slightly
ashamed of what I knew and carried guilt for knowing it.