Friday, July 01, 2005

The People In My NeighborhoodPart 2

Some years ago there was a fire in a local pet store that sold parrots. All the birds were released to the urban wild in an effort to save them from the fire. Happily, they survived and there are now various flocks of green parrots in and around the Los Angeles area. We happen to be graced with one such flock on our street. Beautiful, displaced characters; odd in their surroundings. But they have been here so long that they have faded into the every day flow of the neighborhood and go mostly unnoticed. One doesn’t necessarily think “wild parrots” when contemplating the flora and fauna of urban L.A.

There’s a child that lives in my building who hasn’t grown since he was four years old. He’s about eight or nine now. He’s deaf, and suffers from frequent ear infections that the doctors can do little for. When he gets one of these infections, there are often entire days when the child will be screaming in pain. Other days he is happy and playing, but screaming and yelling with joy. He can’t hear himself, so there is really no way to tell him to keep it down because he has nothing to compare it to. Loud and soft, that is. His mother and grandfather do the best they can. We’ve gotten so used to the sound that no one reacts to it – it has faded into the every day white noise of the neighborhood and goes mostly unnoticed unless a stranger is visiting that has never heard it before. To them it sounds as if the child is being horribly murdered.

There’s a man who lives on my street – well, “LIVES” is such a relative term in some circles – what I mean is that he spends his days and nights there. He has become as much a part of the ebb and flow of the street as the movement of the sun. He sleeps somewhere under the shrubbery at night with his numerous belongings about him and then, starting at about 5:30 a.m., he goes about his day. Being somewhat of a people watcher by nature accompanied by the fact I’m out there walking my dogs at least three times a day, I have had quite a number of opportunities to become fascinated with this person. His job, if you will, is to appear quite busy.

Word of the day:
bus·y Pronunciation Key (b z )
adj. bus·i·er, bus·i·est
1. Engaged in activity, as work; occupied.
2. Sustaining much activity: a busy morning; a busy street.
3. Meddlesome; prying.
4. Being in use, as a telephone line.
5. Cluttered with detail to the point of being distracting: a busy design.

His collected belongings consist of a baby stroller, two large suitcases on rollers, a camper’s backpack, tote bags and a bedroll. At 5:30 a.m., he removes the numerous jackets, ski masks and hats that he has layered himself with for the sleeping hours, folds them carefully, placing them in the baby stroller, which he then covers with a blanket and secures with twine. He then moves these items one by one down to the sidewalk and arranges them neatly the way one would if they were awaiting a cab or the airport shuttle. He spends much time on the careful arranging, grouping and placement of the various items. Once they are arranged to perfection, he begins again, starting with the stroller. He wheels the stroller down the sidewalk to another location, then proceeds back and forth between the new location and the old, collecting his life on wheels, regrouping and precisely arranging that life - perhaps in an attempt to create order out of adverse circumstances – perhaps simply to keep moving in order to avoid being charged with vagrancy. Who knows, but it is his routine and he keeps this routine going from morning until night – up and down one side of the street and then the other, repeating the actions day after day. I’m reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode where a man keeps driving the same stretch of highway over and over again only to determine by episode’s end that he is dead and in Hell . . . or something like that. I wonder about the purgatory that sentences a man to the never-ending movement of his few material belongings, a few feet at a time, endlessly, on a street where the man has no home – and where this beautifully odd and displaced character simply fades like the flying of wild green parrots through the jacaranda trees, or the screams of a deaf child that won’t grow . . . unnoticed, into the everyday flow of our comfortable neighborhood.


Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

that guy reminds me of sisyphus.

great post.

01 July, 2005 15:41  
Blogger Tracey said... incredibly poignant. This made me think about something I've been wanting to blog about...Thanks!

Great post!

01 July, 2005 20:04  
Blogger Whymrhymer said...

I can say it no better than Tracey did: " incredibly poignant!"

What a great post; what a wonderful talent you possess!

01 July, 2005 21:00  
Blogger Laura said...

I love your eye for detail when you watch the goings-on in your neighborhood and write so beautifully about them. I worry about that poor homeless man. What does he eat?

02 July, 2005 07:23  
Anonymous pia said...

love your details. As I live in New York I try not to worry too much about homeless people because then I could spend my whole life doing that!

02 July, 2005 10:49  
Blogger Seamus said...

This so reminds me of "Lily the Homeless Girl" that I've blogged about several times. It is odd how the abnormal becomes normal by its ever-presence in our day-to-day and how it causes such complacency - excellent post!

03 July, 2005 08:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is odd how when we see something all the time we cease to wonder about the why and where of it. Good detail and pathos in this post. It would be interesting to know why he is where he is and why he does it but likely he has no idea why he does it, simply that he does it.


03 July, 2005 10:22  
Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

You make me think...

I wonder how the most common scenario of homelessness really is? I have never been in such a situation as to where I thought I had nowhere to go and nowhere to lay my head. I can't even begin to understand what that's like. The only thing that compares with disease, to me, would be poverty.

How sad.

Good post!

04 July, 2005 22:12  
Blogger R said...

Amazing as it is poignant. You really really should submit these to the L.A. Times girl! Seriously. I love these. Well written..but yet it also gives a voice to the voiceless.

05 July, 2005 12:02  
Blogger Jet said...

When I read the first "The People In My Neighborhood", your talent for decsriptive writing just blew me away. This is really your forte' Mil. You hold a story like a pool in your palms, showing us all the glints before the water slips away. Brava, chica.

05 July, 2005 20:45  
Blogger Chris said...

Awesome post.

You sure keep my attention, and that's hard to do :)

07 July, 2005 18:08  
Blogger Sally said...

Routines are makes what can be viewed as abnormal seem normal.

21 July, 2005 12:05  
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