Since it is now the end of a long Thanksgiving day and the food and drink have rendered me unable to have a thought unrelated to my stomach, I needed to fish out an old bit I wrote three years ago. When you read it you’ll notice my current four-year old makes an appearance as a one year old baby in a stroller who has yet to utter any profanities or cause any trouble. The salad days as I like to remember them.
Also keep in mind that I do genuinely feel sad about people who live on the street with no homes or family to speak of. I just don’t like it when they accidentally almost inflict physical damage on my family or myself.
Washington enjoys scorching hot oppressive summer weather, so while out taking walks in our neighborhood, we stop and make friendly chit chat with our friends and acquaintances. Usually we nod politely and say good morning to our lesser known locals while fanning ourselves and complaining endlessly. The unfortunate side effect of all this warm gooey goodness is the inability to spot and identify the clearly insane and downtrodden that also infest the area. Sadly, most times it is too late to avoid the encounter.
Let me walk you through a typical transaction.
I set off on my trek down the street and wave hello to any number of locals, make plans with a few others, and let my one year old interact with a few of his same age pals. A sharp right turn at the end of Kilbourne puts me on 19th street headed towards Lamont and Park. I admire the elaborate elevated gardens and sculpture that line 19th and avoid the numberous fat hairy bees buzzing endlessly through the plant life. A local handyman waves at Sam and I, clearly no threat there. As a matter of fact, I try to peek past him at the renovations taking place. I cross Lamont and pass an unknown female in her early twenties, she smiles at us and keeps on yakking on her cell phone. We approach the corner of Park and proceed to make a right and in the distance I spy a shapeless entity. Out of the corner of my other eye I catch someone crossing and coming up fast from my rear flank. I have mere seconds to measure up these situations and decide whether to make eye contact and smile, duck, pivot and retreat or stand ground. If you use the aversion tactics you could end up seeming unfriendly to an otherwise befuddled neighbor that dressed oddly this morning. Mark number one coming towards me reveals himself in enough time for me to take evasive action. The dead give away at fifty feet? Two heavy down full length coats covered in questionable stains and unlaced combat boots two sizes too small. That,and he is weaving back and forth in a most disturbing fashion while punching at an imaginary adversary. We serpentine out of Muhammad Ali’s way and manage not to register on his radar. Situation under control, until……….
Around the corner we bound only to be met by a swinging metal crutch mere inches from my head. This is where my ninja skills come into play and with super human speed I dodge what could have been a painful blow to the noggin. Mark #2 had only been a shadowy figure moments ago as I dealt with #1 and because I had let my guard down he was now the main problem. Clearly, he wasn’t seeing me nor was he aiming at anyone in particular. He was having a terrible day in his alternate reality and he was just swinging his crutch to fend off some sort of epic beast or attacker. For a moment I was angry, but then I just felt sad. Giving # 2 space enough to freely swing his weapon I cut around him in a large circle to his left and made my way to the opposite side of the street. My stroller bound tot seemed fascinated with all this excitement and wore a wide smile on his face.
Too many cats, super long unkempt hair, heavy layers of clothing in the middle of summer, using a cardboard box under the local freeway overpass as your main address- these are the things we usually use to gauge sanity. As the years have passed I wondered to myself if these poor downtrodden souls were of any real threat to anyone. What about Bob Smith the well dressed neighbor who looks harmless but houses a state of the art prison system in this lower level to cage poor abductees ?(don’t laugh, this happened in the neighborhood of someone I know) Or the lovely socialite who charms everyone with her great parties and social graces but drives home drunk and kills somebody? On second thought, I’ll take the local crutch guy after all.