Dog Alley was hopping tonight. At least one side of it was.
To the north of this asphalt alley that I regularly travel, the expanding E. B. Lane company was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a fancy party and live music on a patio above the black surface traversed by garbage trucks once a week. Invited guests were dressed to the 9s, all members of the same Beautiful People Club. Men in suits and ties. Some women wore white gloves that extended almost to the elbow. The nearby historic neighborhood, F. Q. Story, vibrated with the drum beat, the vocalists and the schmoozing, its nearby streets glutted with parked cars of recent vintage.
Lane is no small-deal advertising and public relations company. It has expanded, thanks largely to its most important client, the Arizona Lottery. The Lottery is said to be the biggest ad account in Arizona. Other Lane clients include the Arizona Cardinals pro football team, Harkins Theatres and the Arizona Biltmore Spa and Resort. And times are so upbeat that the company recently branched out to Denver.
“Still Madmen After All These Years,” a sign read not far from the festivities, playing on the popular TV series, Mad Men. The glamour of Madison Avenue execs filled the air. Passing by along Dog Alley, you had the feeling Don and Roger were out there mingling, clinking wine glasses.
You quickly notice that the newest, smoothest asphalt in Dog Alley ends where the company’s parking lot ends. The rest of the alley, all the way down to 7th Avenue, is pitted and uneven. An after-thought.
On the south side of Dog Alley, not far from all these wanna-be one-percenters, a middle-aged man lay “sleeping it off” on a bed of hard dirt and bits of refuse from nearby garbage containers. He looked to be of middle age, heavy-set, maybe American Indian or Hispanic, graying hair. He and his brethern are known in America as the homeless. Hopeless street people. No money. Just hanging in there until it’s all over.
This was to my mind probably the highlight of the prone man’s day. Sleeping now, the ugliness and desperation of this day, another mind-numbing struggle like all the rest, was temporarily suppressed only to begin all over tomorrow. In this sense Dog Alley was not merely an asphalt path 15-feet wide, separating north from south. It was a vast gulf light years from one side to the other.
I thought of waking the sleeper and asking what he thought of the party-goers nearby. But of course I didn’t.