Neighborhood Follies

Walking down the street yesterday on my way to the library, I tripped on some uneven concrete. Unfortunately, a garden variety bum was standing mere yards away and witnessed the entire brief affair.

“Oh, you got to be careful!” he admonished.

“I know,” I mumbled.

“C’mere,” he said, gesturing to jagged mess that had just interrupted my otherwise fluid strolling. “Dig it, man, lemme show you.”

“Nah,” I said, waving him off and moving on. What was this street prophet going to show me that I didn’t already know? Was this break in the sidewalk a portal to some magical, Narnia-esque world? Unless it had Wi-Fi and air conditioning, I really wasn’t interested. Besides, I could feel a I-just-had-a-meaningful-converstaion-with-you-now-give-me-money moment coming on.

Moments later, I sauntered up to the front doors of the Brooklyn Public Library, Marcy branch.

Ah, I thought, here is a sanctuary of class and learning, a quiet and humble space where I can settle in for a few hours and concentrate without being distracted by the extraordinarily noisy subletter currently taking up residence in my end of the apartment.

I walked through the library doors and was instantly greeted by a horrifying sight. A shirtless vagabond, seated at one of the library’s few tables, was eating mayonnaise out of an industrial-sized tub. With his fingers. He slowly turned to look at me. Our eyes met, and I knew if I got out alive, I should just go straight home and thank my houseguest for always using utensils.

A tree-lined stretch of DeKalb Avenue provided the final thrill for the afternoon. A teenager in a red shirt zoomed past me as I moseyed home, sprinting Carl Lewis-style while looking over his shoulder every couple seconds like a frightened cat. I looked over my shoulder and saw no one chasing him. Perhaps he shoplifted a candy bar? Perhaps not. They usually don’t send three squad cars after you for such an offense.

The teen suspect was vaulting himself over a concrete divider as the police cruisers swooped in a la “Starsky and Hutch,” quickly but quietly. You’d think a cop car would make more noise when it pulls up on to the sidewalk and two officers jump out with their hands on their belts (couldn’t see if they were going for tasers, guns, or flashlights). I walked past the sidewalk cop car, which was now parallel with the housing complex the kid had disappeared into, and noticed two comically large Bug Gulps in the cup holders. A bulky white bag of what had to be food sat just behind the Gulps between the seats.

If I were a complete bastard…, I thought. Nah, not even. With my luck, those Big Gulps were both filled with Sprite, and the bag of food contained deep fried mushrooms with a side of extra salty olives. No thanks, cops.

I walked a safe distance from the cop car and watched a trickle of back-up fuzz arrive from various corners of the block. They were all young and dashing, not at all like the engorged stereotypes you imagine when someone says, “New York City cop.” After a few minutes, a gaggle of officers bled out the building’s front door. They had the suspect, now shirtless (just like Mr. Mayonnaise), in custody. By this point, the whole neighborhood was watching. Even a group of firefighters were standing just outside their firehouse, waiting for the inevitable conclusion (shove kid in back of car, bark into walkie-talkies, drive away).

Reflecting upon all of this a few hours later in the shower, I realized that was a lot of action for one afternoon. I should leave the house more often.

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