Characters around town

Having grown up in a small town and settled in the big city, I’m a fan those WTF? moments afforded by both places. I suppose the suburbs also have their quirks, but it’s hard to spot the characters when people are cocooned in their cars and no one hangs out on the front porch.

Don’t you love characters? You know, the people who add an unexpected twist to your daily routine? On Sunday night–well after dark, probably after 10 PM–I was sitting at a red light when I saw an old man zipping down the middle of Arch Street in a wheelchair. “Hmm,” I thought. “That guy is zipping down the middle of Arch Street in a wheelchair.”

Something aside from the obvious safety issue seemed awry, and it took a few seconds to figure out why. The man was propelling the chair not with his arms but with his legs. His skinny little geezer legs were going about a mile a minute.

And a few weeks ago, I was walking home from Reading Terminal Market and encountered one of my neighbors, an old, black fellow with suspenders, short pants, and a cane, singing his heart out on the front stoop. With his ultra-mellow dog at his feet, the man belted out the oldies:

Oh, I love you more today than yes-ter-day
But not as much as tomorrow!


14 responses to “Characters around town”

  1. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    I live in a small town and we have plenty of “porch monkeys” with character around here. The only difference is armament…you have handguns and we have shotguns.

  2. Becky

    Exactly–small towns and large cities are good for character spotting, but it’s the suburbs that seem colorless.

  3. Sam

    There is this old east asian guy in my neighborhood who insists on walking backwards – in the street! He seems oblivious to the various vehicles that come thundering toward him, behind him. I haven’t seen him in a while. He may be dead.

  4. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    Speaking of characters, I was in Yonkers/Bronx last week. While I was there I went to an Italian deli where the people represented the archetype of the Bronx stereotype.

    I thoroughly enjoyed being called “Hun” and “doll” and having the workers yell at each other while my order was made. Their teeth were stained yellow from too much smoking and the woman all wore either tight jeans or stirrup pants.

    The deli was on a narrow street with other small stores and plenty of row homes for the house wives to sit on the stoop and talk about the neighbor’s dog that barks all night and to gossip about how “little Anna Marie” is pregnant at 16.

    AAAHHHHHH….sometimes life is great when the world fits into my narrow view of reality.

    PS – The food was great too.

  5. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    “Exactly–small towns and large cities are good for character spotting, but it’s the suburbs that seem colorless”

    That is because the burbs mostly have people of European decent that walk around with sticks up their ass.

    I am half European and half Latin lover. I may have a stick up my ass but I also know how to shake that ass. The burbs need more ass shakers.

    Hmmm…I noticed that I say “ass” a lot in my posts, does that mean anything? I better not ask a Freudian.

  6. Becky

    I love these little slices of life. Thanks for sharing them!

    Sam, I sincerely hope the Asian man in your neighborhood is alive and well.

    Bernard, were they calling you hun or hon?

  7. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    That should be “descent” and not “decent”.

  8. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    I think they meant “hun” because I came in on a horse and cut people down with my sword.

  9. Glenn

    I will never forget driving home a few years back. It was late (after 2) and the streets were very quiet. I was zooming up a large hill near my house when suddenly I saw an old man (if he wasn’t 80 he was close to it) on his hands and knees in the middle of the street.

    Thinking he had been hit by a car or something I stopped and got out as he crawled across the street.

    I started to walk toward him asking him if he was ok, or had been hit, and if he needed any help. He looked at me angrily and said, “I am fine, leave me alone! I am just drunk!”

    I have seen him many many times after that, and I can count on one hand how many times he hasn’t appeared drunk.

  10. Becky

    Where was this, Glenn? Are you a New Yorker?

    And where the hell is Moon Pappy? I’m waiting for him to chime in about some of the characters in Lititz. Shoe man, perhaps? Though perhaps shoe man deserves his own entry.

  11. Glenn

    Oh, sorry Becky.
    Yes, I am a New Yorker. This happened in a little town called Tuckahoe.

  12. philip

    We just buried one our “characters” in Hoptown yesterday. An elderly gentlemen who seemed to enjoy wandering the streets and playing his guitar and singing. The obit read “No known relatives, address not listed” but he got a nice graveside service courtesy of one of the local funeral homes and a prominent retired minister.

    The old fellow’s one memory was several years ago he managed to get an invitation to appear on a very widely watched morning tv talk and variety show in Nashville. Nashville is 70 miles from Hoptown. The show started at 6 am. He walked all the way carrying his guitar. He made it in time.

  13. Becky

    Philip, that’s a seriously great story. No kidding–it brings a tear to my eye.

  14. Bernard (The Beat is back)

    “No known relatives”

    Should have read “Surviving relatives are the people of Hoptown.”

    Great story.