In the neighborhood, in spring


Emerging from my bunker to chat with the neighbors (tonywoodphoto)

What’s he building in there?/What the hell is he building/In there?/He has subscriptions to those/Magazines… He never/Waves when he goes by/He’s hiding something from/The rest of us… He’s all/To himself… I think I know/Why…

Tom Waits

Overheard while running past a couple of old gents in South Philly: “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be alright. I’ve had dementia my whole life.”

This just after I step around a Lady Gaga clone walking a fur-clad dachshund and say hello to my neighbor T., who sells antiques on the street and plays Verdi at full volume and is convinced it’s only a matter of time before the Colombian mob takes him out.

On my home street the girls next door, a cheerful gang of beer-drinking Roller Derby fans, are playing cornhole, an unfortunately named variation on horseshoes that involving two teams trying to toss sacks of pebbles into small round holes in freestanding wooden platforms. Other neighbors are watching from their folding chairs — the ex-Army Ranger and his psychologist wife, the guitarist, the woman who talks like Roseanne Barr, the director of absurdist plays who wears sensible shoes.

And the dogs, of course. There are few kids but dogs, the focal point of socialization on this street, are everywhere. From a distance, it looks like the whole gang, the neighbors and their dogs, are preparing for a midday hunt.

I say hi to my neighbors and they say hi to me, and we chat. I pet an over-friendly dog and duck into my bunker to get some work done. My neighbors are ducking in and out of their bunkers, too. It’s an unexpectedly warm day and everyone is getting back into the swing of playing outdoors and gossiping.

Each of us is here for our collective amusement. What happened to Coyote Boy, our trash-picker neighbor, whose brother sold the house after their father died? Is Mrs. R dead or did her kids put her in a home? Is D working? What happened to the woman he used to brawl with? Did he bury her in his basement?

Later I’ll ride my bike to a bookstore in West Philly and notice all the trees have suddenly sprouted pink or white blossoms and are arching over the streets like twin rows of bouquets. I’ll deduce from this, and from the reappearance of my neighbors, that it’s time to write a story about spring.

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