Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's walking by

Thirty years ago (yes) I walked home from school sometimes with a girl named Beth. When I'd first asked Beth where she lived, she told me the name of the street (Hugenot Court, I still remember). Figuring out where it was, I asked her "is it a dead end?" meaning only to determine whether there were there any other streets off of it. "NO," she said, turning up her pale, pinched little nose in her pale, pinched little face. "I HATE it when people call it a 'dead end.' It is a COURT." Hm. Maybe it was just the once that we walked home together.

If only she'd said it was a "cul-de-sac," which I could've told her meant "bottom of the bag." I was better at French than making friends, in those days.

Today, I live at the end of a CIRCLE. The street is named _____ Circle. So don't ask me if it's a DEAD END. 'Round these parts, the signs say "NO OUTLET," anyhow, much friendlier and less judgmental than "DEAD END." And streets that are named ____ Circle or _____ Court don't have those signs because most people are smart enough to know that that's what Circle and Court MEAN. Take THAT, 12-year-old self.

I digress. Before I've even started, I digress.

Some people live in places where passers-by are too many to count; for others, a single passer-by would be the news of the day. Our little circle falls in the suburban in-between. We're part of a large-ish neighborhood of mostly year-round residents (a lot of Cape Cod homes, particularly in outer Cape towns, stand empty most of the year). Lots of walkers and joggers make our street part of their loops. Through the window over my desk, I've gotten to recognize the regulars. Here are some of them:

There is a guy about my age, fit, with a head of thick dark brown hair that bounces as he runs. I have no idea who he is but I look forward to his runs. I have started calling him George Stephanopoulos and imagining that he is listening to political news on his ipod.

There's an older man, a wiry fellow, brisk walker. He carries a stick, but doesn't use it for walking support. He just swings it around as he goes. We have some flowers planted at the base of our mailbox at the end of the driveway. As he walks past, Stick Man swats at the flowers. It doesn't seem a malicious gesture, more that he's swinging the stick around and he just can't help trying to make contact. He pulls the punch at the last second and hasn't yet wrecked the flowers. It's the kind of thing I would do, if I walked around swinging a stick.

There are several walkers who always make the rounds in pairs. One pair is of an elderly woman, her back bent at a severe, improbable angle, and a younger one -- daughter? niece? neighbor, companion? They go at a good clip. Bent as she is, that old lady can go. She'll be all right.

There's a young woman, lycra-sporting, ponytailed, who power walks laps around the circle, all the while SHOUTING cheerfully into her phone. Really, shouting.

There's a husky guy with a curly mop of hair and a mustache who used to walk/run around the circle with his German Shepherd. His run seemed more of a play-run than an exercise run. He'd do it in workboots. The dog would be loose and romping around all the yards, and when I'd see him I'd say to myself, dude, if that dog shits on my lawn, you will regret it. (Because I'm just like that about dog shit. Whack my flowers if you must, and I'll probably say "well. That was odd." But do not under any circumstances let your dog crap on my grass.) But the dog never did; he'd just run around like a maniac, following his owner, who'd sometimes run backwards to laugh at him playing. Last time I saw them, the guy was with a young woman pushing a stroller, and the dog was leashed. Happens to the best of us, big dog.

Sometimes my neighbor across the street will stroll around, drink occasionally in hand, to see what Mr. Sandyshoes has been up to. Mr. Sandyshoes is always up to something; it usually involves intriguing noises from power tools, and it's hardly ever possible to tell from the front of the house what it is. I felt for this neighbor. I knew how curious he must be, watching lumber being unloaded, listening to various noises of major projects underway. I was glad when eventually he just came up the driveway and said "so what's all this then?" Sometimes he scares the crap out of me by appearing out of nowhere while I am in my lawn-mowing trance, but that's my own fault. Mr. Sandy startles me just by coming in the room sometimes, and I'll jump damn near out of my skin, and he'll say, "hello, yes, it's me... I live here, remember?"

Who's walking around where you live?


  1. OK, I love this post. Completely. An observed life.

  2. ditto, loved it too. But your neighbor who comes around to see 'what's up' is plant for tax assessor. The first 10 feet of your lawn is a dog crap allowed zone cause it is govt property called right of way. Picking it up by the owner is merely social convention. In my neighborhood, we had the "walker" a woman who would walk the route 8 times per day--she was chronic depressed, we have Mr. Magoo, 80 years old picks up the litter as he walks--Nature boy buddy rogers--nothing need be added. Old Fat Bike Guy. Dan the Dog Walking Man--uses cute dogs in attempt to pick up women. And the shirtless guys my wife has taken to yelling at them: Just because you can doesn't mean you should to their confusion and consternation.

  3. Thanks :).

    An assessor's plant... hee!

    I know about the 10'. I'm just cranky about it.

    It sounds like your neighborhood's worth watching too. I especially like "just because you can...".