Sunday, April 23, 2006

Summer in the City

Yesterday was one of the very first days it has actually felt like summer. It meant short sleeves and shorts and flip flops could be worn without guessing. It meant there would be barefoot Frisbee and longboarding in the park (and there were, as I’ve the bruises and scrapes to account for it).

It also means I’ll get to start sleeping with the window open again soon. Because of where I live in the city – where the business district meets the residential – I’m able to pick up on drunken conversation and arguments in the wee hours of morning. The sidewalk outside is notorious as a stopping place, but stopping just under my window is the best place to go from a whisper to a scream.

I remember getting to call the cops (also nearby) a few years back to report a noise ordinance. It was happening between two friends and/or enemies just outside and, while there certainly was a disagreement that needed to be addressed, I needed to wake up in a few hours for work. I think the cops (three of them) made it over in less than 30 seconds, just after the hair pulling had started. Sadly, I’ve become accustomed to the banter now. I’m so used to the noise, I’m able to snore right through sirens.

Yesterday afternoon I had a couple occasions to sit outside in front of my complex. It’s that kind of weather. A couple of guys came walking down the street to interrupt my street staring and nature listening, one being an aging hippy, while the other was an inebriated Indian. The Indian was singing a Led Zeppelin song and getting all the words wrong in the process. One lyric in “Rock ‘n Roll” had become “Been a long time since the Book of Loo-o-ove!” I was busy masking my laughter when the hippy addressed me.

“Can I buy a cigarette offa you?”

Had I had one, I’d have sold it. Because I don’t smoke, I couldn’t and didn’t. But he wanted to start up a conversation anyway. He wondered at the orange XanGo bracelet I was wearing, asking if I’d just got out of the hospital. I didn’t have a chance to answer before he was telling me all about his Indian friend, the one who’d stopped a few steps up, motionless and hanging his head. I learned his friend didn’t speak much English. The next few minutes were his own; I was there to hear what he had to say. At least he apologized in the end.

“Don’t mind me, I’m just a little high right now.”

“That’s cool.” (Aside from telling him I had no smokes, this was the only other thing I got to say.)

“Eh, I don’t think so, but the way I figure it, I’m 51, I got all my hair and all my teeth!”

He wasn’t lying. He had some longish hair, some of it in braids, and he had all of his teeth, even if most of them were varying shades of yellow and brown. So, as long as you can hold on to the things that keep you tied to your youth (i.e. hair and teeth), you’re allowed the right to toke up. At least, I think that’s what he was getting at. He left, nudging his friend, who immediately started walking again. This time, he chose to sing some Black Sabbath. And, incidentally, he didn’t have all of his teeth. And what he didn’t have he made up for in volume.

On my second encounter, I was waiting for my ride to the park: Frisbee was on the brain. I picked a shady spot just near the edge of the half wall out front to squat down in front of. I sipped on my bottled water and waited and enjoyed the shade. I was halfway through my water when more of the sidewalk walkers approached me. I’d seen them coming and was doing that far-off look in the other direction, the one that says, “I may have seen you, but parked cars are much more interesting to me.”

“Hey! Can I have a drink of your water?”

I didn’t hesitate, but I’m not quite sure why. She downed a good third of my water and handed it back, thanking me and continuing to wherever her destination was. Her older, plumper friend said something about my being a Saint as she was incredibly thirsty. I placed the cap back on my bottle and knew I wouldn’t be drinking the rest of it. I have a hard enough time drinking from the same cup my nephew does. But to drink from a bottle after someone – someone I don’t even know the name of – has guzzled her share? That’s just insanity. I later shared it with a puppy named Nanook. No word as to whether or not he’s got the puppy runs. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve stayed inside all day today. The window, however, is open.


aisy said...

I was in LA yesterday and it was colder than Utah. Booo!

And on the plane back I was "fortunate" enough to sit by a young man on his way home from a weekend ministry. He asked if he could speak with me for a few minutes which took the whole plane ride. The whole time I kep wishing for my music and my book that was sitting right on my lap. I might blog about it but I may try to shed it from my memory. If only I could be as good natured as you with fellow strangers.

ewesa said...

funny how people have such different "social standards". like, for some people the mere fact that you are looking somewhat towards them is enough to get a conversation going, and some people you can make eye contact with day after day and never speak a word.
I suspect you were simply observing, Dainon. like, hmm, here are interesting people, lets see what they do, and what they say. I can't quite get to that level. I want to see what people will do, but when they actually start talking to me I get nervous. I am most comfortable and happy observing from a safe distance.

Dainon said...

Yeah, I'm a rampant observer as well. Sometimes there are words, sometimes there aren't. When there are, though, it usually makes for a much better story. Also, the fact I was right in front of my place had a direct effect on my ease. After all, this is my hood. This is where I lay my head. This is not, however, where I drink from water bottles shared with the hood. Capiche?

plainoldsarah said...

speaking of hoods - some guy knocked on my door last saturday morn around 8 a.m. asking for spare change for the bus. that's where panhandling crosses the line. of course i was awake so it wasn't that bothersome, but really!