Some people prefer to live in the country, where their evenings are filled with a symphony of birds cawing, animals foraging through whatever animals forage through under the cover of darkness, insects mating, leaves falling, or merely the elusive silence of the night that is quickly disappearing.
I, on the other hand, prefer a seat on the metal balcony that is my little slice of urban outdoor heaven. It is from this location that I can eavesdrop on the cacophony of city life. There is something soothing to me about cars, buses, trains, garbage trucks, sirens, conversations whispered and screamed, air conditioning units, and the humming of civilization below me. That is my silence.
One evening a few weeks ago, around 10 p.m., I was sitting outside with a glass of wine and a giant intrusive ear, only to be delighted to hear some young men in the alley. This isn’t just any alley I hover above. My alley hosts some of the choicest dumpsters in the city of San Antonio, and is home to at least five homeless men nightly. It’s a very interactive alley with no curfew and it self regulates, establishing its own rules and decorum.
Of course, I peered over the rail. But I observed intrigued me beyond the usual alley traffic: a tripod, a bright light, and a young man with a camera who appeared to be making a video.
The hook is firmly set in my lip and I squint to take in what is happening below. There is a back door to a church kitchen there, tatted up like every other door in the alley, and I can see several arms extended making gang gestures and emphasizing emotion with force and strength. I can’t see anything but the arms and hands, but I don’t need to hear the lyrics to know the song.
Some unnatural force made me tell Grandpa that we have to go down to the alley to talk to these boys. As fate would have it, Grandpa drank a few Shiners, so he obliged – as long as I went the way he dictated. That wasn’t my route of choice, because that meant we would go through the side street, hang a left, and navigate through the makeshift living quarters of the already sleeping gentlemen who reside there.
That was a first for me, so I believe I can check that off my bucket list. Thank God. By the time we reached the big dumpster where they had been standing, the boys had already moved on. Perfect, I told Grandpa, if we walk really fast, we can catch them once we cross Navarro Street. Grandpa gave me a menacing glance, but I raced ahead, knowing full well that he would protect me if I get beat up and left for dead.
Now the boys were within yelling distance, so, of course, I hollered out something to the effect of “Hey Guys!” Well, it worked. They stopped walking and stood in front of a reeking dumpster and a spray-painted, monogrammed wall. They all wore matching hoodies, beanies, pants, and shoes, which were all black. For not having a wardrobe department, I was impressed with their coordination and classic look.
A conversation ensued and they relaxed once they realized I was an old lady with the curiosity of a three-year-old eating boogers for the first time. These young men have a great story. They were filming a video for their social media accounts. The band is Kollapse, and they told me the genre is rap, horrorcore, and underground (a note to self was delivered at this point to research “horrorcore,” later, in a more appropriate setting).
They introduced themselves, and I think I heard the following names: JJ The Wicked, 18, Skitzo, and Heresy. I can’t be 100% sure, but I am probably close. These young men were polite, easygoing, and engaging. I asked them if, while filming in the church doorway, they knew what that was. They didn’t know it was a passage that led to the stories they rap about. That was just the creative genius of the alley giving them a helping hand. Kollapse is a San Antonio home grown talent that is living the dream.
I told them how impressive it is that they are seeking their potential, following their hearts, and living with a passion that few dare pursue. I was humbled by their honesty and enthusiasm to dare to be unconventional and authentic. Whether they achieve the success they desire is irrelevant. They are trying and they believe in themselves enough to put it out there. Whether I like the music, the lyrics, or the genre has nothing to do with it. I like the gumption.
So that is the silence and the peace that quell my soul. I was thinking to myself – as Grandpa was shaking his head and walking back with me – that I missed a meet-and-greet that night with a mayoral candidate. And then I wondered how many of these candidates really know the constituents that flavor this great city. I am lucky. I got to shake hands with the future in a filthy alley on a Saturday night in the darkness and the confusion where life culminates and flourishes. As a bonus, I learned a new handshake that I doubt I will ever use at a cocktail mixer.
*Featured/top image: Kollapse walks down an alley near Travis Street. Photo by Scott Ball.