In my previous post I talked about the interesting people or places I encountered while traveling. After writing that essay, I heard a piece on the radio about the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street and suddenly remembered ”the song.” The one I’m sure you heard over and over as a child if you likewise grew up with Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. That catchy tune sung by Bob McGrath known as, “Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood.” As I immediately regretted looking that particular Sesame Street segment up on You tube, it’s stuck in my head now, and I realized that one never has to travel far to encounter the interesting or unexplained.
So, with apologies to Jeff Moss, I give you my version of “The People in My Neighborhood(s).”
“Would you care for white sports socks?” The man in my Brooklyn Neighborhood would ask just as politely and softly as can be. But once he’d finalized a sale he would move on down the street shouting obscenities loudly at nobody in general. “Stupid ——- ass son of a —— F— you in the —– God damn ——.” He would rattle off profanity combinations I had never even considered. I would sometimes walk in his direction just so I could listen to him and write down some of his fluid profane poem. He never stumbled or was at a loss for words as he rattled of his scatological diatribe. The only thing that would interrupt his rant was a possible sock buyer. “Two packages for a dollar, sir. Thank you and god bless.” He would almost whisper politely as he made a sale.
Eventually, about three years ago, I noticed that he was no longer around. Many people in the neighborhoods knew him. He’d been selling socks for years. Sadly, nobody knows what happened to him.
Another person in my Brooklyn Neighborhood was a man who used to stand at the intersection of the busy street near my apartment shouting, “Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!” He spewed a fiery sermon while waving his holy book at the cars. “Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!” He would show up every few months, and each time I saw him he was moving further out into the busy street. Eventually he looked like a traffic cop directing drivers with his book. “Blood of Jesus! ” he shouted almost hitting cars with the Bible. Like the sock sales man, he’s not been seen in a while. I wonder if he’s on a corner someplace else in the city. Or hopefully he’s found a safer place to preach.
One mundane day in Syracuse, where I lived for only a year, I took my car to a local neighborhood garage for the routine task of getting it inspected. I left the car with, Sam the mechanic, one of the people in my neighborhood, and walked down the street to get lunch at an outdoor hotdog vender. As I started to put the first bite of my questionable lunch into my mouth, I saw my car speeding down the street towards me. It turned into the dirt parking lot where the food vendor was set up and skid to a stop next to me while kicking up a cloud of dust. The driver opened the passenger side door and urged me to get in. It was Sam the mechanic. I got in wondering if there was something urgently wrong with my car. Once I shut the door, he sped off again and started driving down the streets of a nearby quiet neighborhood.
“It’s time.” He said as he searched the streets with his eyes.
“It’s time?” I asked.
“She loves it, you can tell.” He told me as he turned down another street. “She must be down this way by now. You know she loves it, the attention. She always walks her dog about now.”
“Who?” I said. I lost interest in eating.
“We don’t know her name.” He replied. “But she wears these tight-short pants or a tiny mini skirt when she walks her dog. She knows what she’s doing. She WANTS guys to look at her. She gets off on it.”
“So you’re the guy in my neighborhood who stalks women?” I didn’t really ask that, but I wish I had.
“Yeah, Yeah! Not stalk, though. She loves it like I said. Don’t worry. Damn! I think we missed her. She is F—— sweet!”
I never took my car there again, obviously. I didn’t really want to know any more about how Sam did his job. Even if it does involved incredibly tight shorts pants.
My oldest neighborhood “person” was not a person at all. When I was only four or five years old there was a large yellow cat that was obviously a stray. A very friendly stray though. I would often play with it while my mom would complain that it was probably very “dirty” or infested with fleas. As a child you don’t care about these things and the yellow cat was a regular visitor to our yard. I even have a picture of me holding it.
Of course there came a time when I realized we hadn’t seen that yellow cat in a while and eventually I forgot about her altogether. Around age ten or eleven though, the old run down house on the other end of my block was being torn down. The first step in this process was to clean out the insides. My friends and I walked by the house looking at large piles of garbage and picking through old rusted appliances. There on the ground, amidst the rubble, was something I instantly recognized. A semi mummified yellow cat. I didn’t want to know that.
Tim Hamilton is an artist who has adapted Treasure Island and, most recently, Fahrenheit 451 into graphic novels. He is also a founder of the Act-I-Vate comix collective.