(Take a ride with PCA acupunk Melissa Tiernan. Kind of a love love letter to Providence and to community acupuncture. Originally posted on the POCA website.)
I drive by my childhood home two blocks from where I now live my new life with a job and work community I love, a man I love, a family I love nearby and the adventure of being in an old/new place with ocean nearby after 22 years in desert.
I go past the public library where my mind first began to expand, surrounded by trees I climbed and where I collected chestnuts for childhood games. On past the cathedral style Catholic church where I lost myself in singing & stained glass and which was a center of the community when I was a child, and hopefully still is for many families.
I turn on to a street where one half is lavish old New England homes, the other half traditional three story tenements. I stop at the traffic light and look out at the bluegreen water of the bay, sometimes with a tanker or container ship gliding by. Seagulls and hawks often whirl overhead.
Through a mile or so stretch where the population is almost completely people of color. I see only non-white faces of folks walking, driving, strolling, working in their yards to clear snow, with families, working in shops.
Past Cerritos Liquor store that still has the 8 foot fiberglass painted chicken on the sidewalk next to the front door. It is actually a rooster but everyone refers to the store as the chicken liquors and we all know where that is.
Railroad tracks appear in the road as I pass through a working waterfront with ginormous modern windmills next to mammoth oil tanks, ships being unloaded. The world’s most enormous scrap metal pile, where giant empty dumpsters look like kids’ toys tossed on top (something about this is somehow thrilling to me). Next door is the four story road salt pile; further up, the asphalt pile, as well as three diners for breakfast, lunch and coffee break for port workers, drivers, machine operators.
Past the nude dancing joint, the adult video store and the unfortunately named “gentleman’s” club.
Past the empty graffiti covered textile mills and the electric company’s turreted brick building surrounded by house-sized transformers; next to the storm water gates that protect the city against hurricane floods.
Under the swooping cloverleaf of five highway overpasses, where individual nightly dwellings are tucked in; people wrapped against the cold.
Then, two blocks later, I am turning in towards the clinic past Planned Parenthood, the diner that just says E-A-T in giant retro letters, across from the Clam Shack and the neighborhood dive called Nick-an-Nees’s, with its own comic mural of patrons and pool players. Across the street, the breakfast joint with photos of the original owners from generations ago when this was a vibrant jewelry district. The clinic parking lot is just under the giant painted green dragon that hangs over the edge of the Children’s Museum building and I see families coming out with squeal-y kids lit up with excitement and wonder.
The clinic is on the edge of downtown, just off the main highway, by areas re-gentrifying as they are developed by Brown Medical and Johnson & Wales trade school. Mostly older office buildings and parking lots. The inside of the clinic is warm and cozy and dim and a wash of white noise and lamplight and snoring from 20 chairs. Front desk staff is friendly and familiar and laughing with everybody, like family (and many of them actually are).
Patients are easy going. I don’t know how else to say it, but they just feel like regular people to me: down to earth, friendly, and warm. They mostly don’t care what their pulse says, they just see results for their pain or anxiety or sleep and really settle in for the restful refuge PCA provides in their week. Lot of babies being born to patients lately and also many older patients being brought in by family members, who occasionally get treated themselves. A lot of men here. One skeptical auto mechanic in this week for aches and pains from working in the cold, got pleasantly, surprisingly knocked out during treatment and woke up in a room that had changed from mostly women to mostly men —yay machopuncture!
Something about this daily commute has really driven home how community acupuncture allows for this care, this warmth, to be had in the sometimes industrial and real places we call home. A reminder that there really is no separation, and that the simple good things lie side by side with the grit and grist. Maybe it’s the contrast or the collective, but I am finding it exceptionally beautiful and look forward to doing this commute for a long while.