Monthly Archives: June 2016

Nightly Stroll

Most nights when things have settled down my girlfriend and I go for walks. It’s nice to get out and away from things after a hectic day. It’s also interesting to see your neighborhood in slow motion. Most of the time when I pass these streets it’s in a vehicle trying to get from point A to point B as soon as humanly possible.

Strolling down the street you get to see the changes. My girlfriend grew up in this city so about every third house she’ll say, “So and so lived there.” And give me a story about them. Then we’ll pass what was a big old single family home that is now a ten-unit apartment building. Just last night she said,

“That used to be their front yard where all the neighborhood kids would play.” As she pointed to a parking lot.

We take different routes all the time. Sometimes we’ll even drive to other parts of the city and start from there. Just keeping it different and checking out other parts of the city. How the architecture changes just a few blocks away. Off to the edge of town where large farms used to be is starting to slowly change. As older folks die off their kids sell blocks of land to developers. What used to be a working farm is now a twelve estate development named after the farm.

Then there’s a section of almost identical looking homes. Then stuck in the middle of this one thin, funky, barn looking house. Then a house that looks like a bunch of shipping containers when you drive past is actually a marvel of engineering and use of space. Sometimes you can go for blocks with everything looking like cookie cutter molds. Then out of this numbing sameness, a house festooned with flags and banners and wind chimes and colored lights pops up. At that moment you think,

“There’s the person in the neighborhood everyone hates.”

The reality is they’re the most interesting person on the block. Someone holding on to what they remember their neighborhood used to be. With kids playing from yard to yard; parents hanging out together not really paying attention to the mischief that’s going on; when adults knew each others names and the names of their parents.

Sure, it wasn’t like that in every city or on every block. But when you see renovations suffocating the personality of not only that house but all houses around it, you know this neighborhood was like that. One by one new people moved in and began to dictate the personality and path of the neighborhood. It’s why, when you’re walking past and see a house with a yard full of gnomes, your personal taste not withstanding, you have to be happy that they’re hanging in.

Another thing I notice is what people are watching on TV. I know that sounds a little creepy but it’s not as if I’m walking up to their window and sitting on their bushes. But as you walk past it’s almost impossible not to see the flickering screen. If you combine that with the size of some of these TV’s it’s impossible to miss it.

We’re walking up to one house and my girlfriend starts to tell me about the family that lived there and the member who still does. It’s your normal family tale with intrigue, recriminations and jail time. Even in a white bread city battles occur in every home. When I moved here years ago from the inner city I was awed by these houses. I’d stand there not believing that one family lived in a house that size. That had to be a mistake. But it was the truth.

As I began to meet the people in those houses and enter those houses I saw the same things that I’d seen in the city. Just with a better veneer. You can put a two week vacation on a facial contusion but it doesn’t change the fact that it still occurred.

“I think the son a couple of years older than me is living there now. The other sons and daughters got married and moved away. His parents live in Florida. They come back here during the summer.” I’m told as we pass the living room. I glance left into the unblocked window. I can clearly see a man’s head in front of the TV.

It takes a second to register what he’s watching. With most people it’s easy. I’d say 25% is sports, baseball mainly in the summer. The rest is news, shows, movies and video games in differing percentages depending on the neighborhood. But I actually had to look for a few seconds before the images came to view. “I wonder if his parents are home yet?” My girlfriend asks.

“I don’t think so. Not unless they’re also fans of transvestite porn.”

It’s always interesting to learn new things about your neighbors while strolling through on a nice, warm evening.

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A guy. . .

. . .I run in to feels the need to tel me about every movie he’s seen since the last time we were together. He’s a huge movie fan but the problem is he works at a theater so sees many, if not every, movies. Without any editorializing here is part of the conversation.

“I saw this one movie and it was disgusting.”

“Why was it disgusting?”

“At first it was okay. A little weird but then it got gross.”

“What was the problem?”

“About half way through they started killing people and it was a bloody mess.”

“Sounds like half the movies out these days.”

“You don’t understand. Then it got gross when they started with the hemophilia.”

“That would explain all the blood.”

“What are you talking about? They started fucking corpses. Don’t you know what that’s called?”

“I think only one of us here does.”

In case you were wondering, the name of the movie is Neon Demon.

Guy says to me. . .

“Then he turned three hundred and fifty degrees on the subject.”
So he spun all the way around until he almost agreed with himself again?

Classifieds

As pointed out before, I love local newspapers. Not the kind of local newspapers who win Pulitzer Prizes or break news stories. I’m talking the kind of newspapers who print two different pictures of the “Circle 4 Kids” blanket making group. Why two pictures of the same fifteen ladies (and five blankets – only two of which look as if effort went into. The other three are large pictures of officially licensed cartoon characters with trim sewn around them)? Because those fifteen ladies are guaranteed to pick up copies of the paper. Cha-ching! Double the circulation for the week.

The police log was more of the same: woman calls police to report loud noises on her front porch. Police arrive and determine it’s the wind. A report that kids were kicking a ball in a field. Police report and say that’s a good thing. A woman reported that someone stole her flag and flag pole. She left her name and number in case they return them. Someone reported that a van was parked on their street. Police reported that the van was parked legally. Kids playing football apparently lead one of them to break his nose. His own nose? What a sore sport that kid was.

Then, of course, there are the classifieds. Classifieds, for those born in the age of Craigslist, is a place where people pay by the word to sell things they no longer want. Years ago small town newspapers used to make a killing on classifieds. A perfect place to sell their combination color TV/AM/FM Radio/Record Player.

But these days it’s not the cash grab it used to be. Now it’s down to twenty-five people who only have land lines. But one type of item stands out to me. There are three ads for cemetery plots. Over 8% of ad revenue comes from people who, what? Don’t think they’re going to die?

Then there are two ads in a row. “Cross country ski machine” is followed by “Cross country skis and shoes”. Both carry the same name and number. Why not combine that into one ad that says, “Thought cross country would be fun. It wasn’t. It’s cold and miserable. Fifty bucks takes everything.”

But it’s not all people who’ve made terrible purchases in their lives. Some people have items they know are still of use. Like the fellow selling the Smith-Corona Electric Typewriter. Besides being the all important ‘electric’ he wants you to know it’s also ‘portable’. No matter when they were made, pretty much every typewriter is portable. BUT, he also wants you to know it’s ‘in new condition’. New condition? How is that possible for a fifty year old piece of technology? It was only used once to type a suicide note?

The rest of the ads are dotted with baby stuff, bed frames, ‘precious heirloom dolls’. Wait, what? I think they’re missing the point of what an ‘heirloom’ is. Or maybe I’m wrong but isn’t an heirloom something one generation passes on to another generation of their family? But who knows. Maybe now-a-days an heirloom is ‘something one buys off a stranger that says ‘heirloom’ on the
box.

In all of these classified sections there’s always one ad that seems to be there each week. In this town it’s a guy, let’s call him Joe because that’s what the ad says, who is selling a bunch of X-Files stuff. Every week Joe, the motivated seller, calls the newspaper to tell them to re-up his ad because he knows this week will be the week.

Joe may be motivated but he’s not a great businessman. I say that knowing because his ad is always the biggest in the classifieds it’s the most expensive. So, even taking into consideration that, as the largest ad, it may still be only $10, he’s run it faithfully for the last eight months. Same ad, same items. So that means he’s spent at least $320 to sell an item he wants $50 for. That’s more than a bad ROI. That’s a bad return on your investment if your goal is to get people to your house to kill them. X-Files style, of course.

But none of those ads are what caught my attention. It was an ad for a ‘Video Cassette Recorder/Player’. They also want you to know that it’s not one of these horrendous Beta machines. It’s the classic VHS. Good to know. Good to know. Another selling point is that it’s ‘high quality’ and in ‘new condition’. Out of the twenty-five ads fifteen say either ‘excellent’ or ‘new’ condition. I feel bad for the person who is taking the ads. You know they want to get their byline on the front page. Maybe break a story about some tainted cafeteria mac & cheese. But no. All week long they know there going to sit at their desk awaiting another opportunity to type the ‘new’ or excellent’ for the next ‘8 solid pine chairs!’ And yes, the exclamation point was in the ad. I wonder how much that costs?

But I wasn’t interested in the VCR. I mean, even in ‘new condition’ who would be? The last movie released on VHS was ‘A History of Violence’ in 2006. And if you wanted to rent movies where would you go? A disgruntled Blockbuster employee who took the stock of the last Blockbuster? No, the ad got me going because I started to wonder what else this person had.

So I called him.

In a crystal clear phone line (thank you land line!) he sounded nice, polite, eager. I told him I saw his ad in the local paper and, although I wasn’t interested in the VCR, I was wondering if he had anything else for sale.

“What is it you have in mind?” He says in a sentence that was last heard on a VHS tape.

“Well, I was wondering if you had an 8-track player.”

Wow! I could tell by his response he was not a motivated seller.

A guy is talking at me.

“The end of days is just around the corner.” Said a jolly gentleman.

“How long have you believed that?” Asked I.

“I’ve been preaching that for over thirty years.”

“Thirty years?”

“Yes.”

“How long is that fucking corner?”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, wow. You’ve been trying to get around it for thirty years. Personally, you tell me something’s going to happen I’ll give you a week to make it so. Any longer and I’m going to call bullshit.”

The gentleman turned less jolly and much less gentle after that. I love when I can make someone’s blood pressure climb so high I get them one day closer to where they really want to be.

I’m in the supermarket. . .

. . .and this guy who looked like a failed 80’s rocker, tats, wife beater, scraggly face and hair (do you know how difficult it is to pull off scraggly hair with a mullet?), slightly stooped posture was in the produce department with his mother.

She thumping melons and squeezing peaches just going down in produce town. He’s generally following behind aimlessly behind her, plotting future air guitar solos in his head, when he passes the lettuce. When he does that I thought he said something. I couldn’t be sure but if I was right this is one sick individual we have wandering around in public with his aged mother.

Fortunately for me his mother was also pretty aimless in her shopping method so kept passing items time after time. This time I’m close enough to hear them clearly. She’s talking about grapes while he wanders behind passing the lettuce once again when he rips out his best Jimi Hendrix and belts out a quick,

“Foxy lettuce.”

Interruption

I try to be a good listener. I try not to be rude when people are talking. I try to let people finish their story.

But sometimes you just can’t.

I see a guy I’m acquainted with and he’s banged up. Facial lacerations, a cast on one wrist, he even had a walking cast on. I have no idea the true extent of his injuries but the list looks impressive.

The reason I didn’t get the complete list is because I wouldn’t let him complete his story. No, not because I’m some pantywaist who can’t hear a gruesome story. I tell true life gruesome stories that make others cower. I wouldn’t let him complete it because of the way he started it.

I’ll let you be the judge whether I was justified stopping his story.

“Whoa.” I begin. “What happened to you?”

“Last thing I remember was a bunch of us were on a roof drinking Jager. . .”

“And stop right there.”

Justified? I think so. No one needs to hear a story that starts like that.

Its so predictable.