What I Love about My 5 minute Commute (besides that it is 5 minutes!)

What I love about my five minute commute (besides that is five minutes!):

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 black and brown faces of folks walking, driving, strolling, working in their yards to clear snow, hanging with families, working in their 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 and Johnson & Wales Universities medical programs. 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.

Author: melissa

Found community acupuncture in my last year of acupuncture school and it was like cool water on the dry desert of aculand. It addressed all those nagging questions of how to make acupuncture accessible and inviting to people like me, in my own communities as well as actually make a living and I knew I would practice this way for the rest of my life. I have learned more (about acupuncture, about people and community, about myself) in the past few years of running a CA clinic and being an acupunk at another BDC clinic than ever before. It's one of my all-time favorite places to be. I am eternally grateful to this community for its welcoming support, its passionate determination and its irreverence for useless sacred cows. I look forward to our continued work in supporting community acupuncture clinics worldwide!

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  1. I love the experience of your narrative commute. Thank you for opening this window into your life in RI. This would make a great video to a Day in the Life series of C acupuncturists. All the best.

  2. I LOVE this post. It sums up so beautifully what my hope has been for community acupuncture all along — that punks could work in the communities that they came from. Thank you, Melissa.

  3. Oh, Melissa! What a beautiful love poem to your home. I’m so happy to read about your return. I imagine you being deeply nourished by good rest and peace and connection, and then offering all of that back out again to your community.

  4. Thanks, everyone! It’s such a wonderful move so far! My original love for CA has been reinvigorated, and my eyes are more open in many ways. It was so hard to leave my original clinic at first, after putting so much of myself into getting it started and sustainable, and having it turn ugly and painful in the end, unfortunately. But after weighing all the pros and cons of battling over it (or taking a chance that it would not exist in some form to continue to serve patients), starting a new clinic from scratch, or jumping into an existing BDC, it was clear that this was the next stage upwards and onwards in my POCA life. I encourage all CA punks to consider joining an existing BDC clinic (Nashville!!)if being a sole clinic owner or in a partnership (consider this decision very, very carefully)is not for you. Being part of a stable, well-run clinic with co-workers who really get it, communicate honestly, and work hard and well together as a team is priceless.

    And it’s funny, my old clinic was so very pretty, and was in a very pretty town but, sadly, it was often a head-banging experience in terms of really gaining traction in the boutique-y, new age-y culture there. I miss many of the patients and volunteers, but I now see that many of the mistakes we made by not sticking even closer to the model/culture of CA created a much different atmosphere and may have hindered growth.
    I’ve always been happy to share my CA experiences rather than hide them–the good with the not so good, as a way we can all support and learn from each other. I’d say look for real over ritzy, authenticity over beauty and don’t give up finding your perfect placement in the POCAverse.

  5. I loved going on this ride with you through your poem. Made me feel really buttoned into our big little town and really lucky to get to be close to and treat so many of its people. So sweet to hear your native (RI) experience of returning and continuing.