Archive for the 'The People in Your Neighborhood' Category


Hot August night

A familiar face peered out from the shelter of an open trunk. He was fussing with something inside, and he was trying to get my attention.

“Hey hey hey!” I shouted.

“Alex!” he called back. He knew my face but not my name. I didn’t remember his, either, so it seemed hypocritical to correct him. Continue reading ‘Hot August night’


Bottle job

The free hooch continues to roll in like manna from heaven.

I was out back watering the garden this morning when I heard my neighbor call out to me.

“Jeffrey,” she called from the other side of the fence. “Jeffrey,” she said again.

“Yeah?” I answered.

“Oh—hi, Eric,” she said.

She must be in her 70s, and I know her eyesight isn’t so great, but her hearing is just fine.

Continue reading ‘Bottle job’


No plastic to go

My vegan wrap was something of a mess that day.

I’m not vegan. Nor am I remotely a vegetarian. I just occasionally take advantage of other people’s dietary principles to find something light and low-calorie, but filling and delicious, for lunch.

I would have taken it cold, but the girl at the cafe had thrown it on the panini grill so resolutely, so automatically and with no room for questioning or debate, that it seemed unthinkable to say anything against it. Anyway, once something has started heating, you don’t want it to take it half-heated. You might as well go all the way.

When I unwrapped it at my office and took the first bite, a dried-up chickpea fall onto my desk. It left behind an indentation in the tortilla, so I guessed it had been stuck to the outside and likely had cooked on the grill that way. Probably the order directly before mine had come undone or lost a few bits and pieces as it was removed.

I picked up the chickpea and ate it.

Then I was surprised by a dried cranberry. It was stuck to the tortilla like a jewel. I took it with a bite as if it belonged there. Could I really say it didn’t belong there? No big deal.

I don’t like to be particular, but I amused myself with fantasies of a different me — one who might be bothered by a stray chickpea in his lunch and an errant dried cranberry encrusted on his tortilla. Continue reading ‘No plastic to go’


Hung up on rudeness

An old Asian man talking on a cell phone—I think he was speaking Chinese—entered the 23 bus heading north into Center City. He sat behind a black woman.

The second his cheeks hit the seat, she half-turned, never quite looking at him, and yelled to … I don’t know, the opposite wall, maybe, “I know you ain’t gonna sit behind me yapping into that thing at me!” Her eyes were wide, her lips stern.

Continue reading ‘Hung up on rudeness’


Movin’ Out

It’s always amusing to me when someone else tells me how gay people behave. I can never decide if I should congratulate them on their acute powers of observation, or if I should point out that, being gay myself, I have some familiarity with the subject.

I was fussing with the window boxes in front of our house on a recent Saturday, when a neighbor approached me on the sidewalk.

“Hey, I gotta ask you something,” she said.

I rolled my eyes, dropped my moss roses and turned to her attention.

Several times a week, we can hear this woman slamming doors and yelling at her teenage son from five houses down. She calls him a piece of shit. She threatens to throw him out of the house. She curses like a sailor and carries on like she’s on the edge of a mental breakdown. Continue reading ‘Movin’ Out’


Here, kitty, kitty…

Thursday afternoon, on my way to the post office, I passed the fenced-in front grounds of a Catholic school in my neighborhood. The school day was over, so I was surprised to hear a woman’s voice inside the fence over the sound of my headphones.

She held the leashes of two dogs with one hand and her phone with the other. The dogs seemed agitated and restless, but she ignored them, carrying on as if she were talking to a girlfriend about her date last weekend or a sale at the Acme.

Ten paces further I saw a group of people clustered around a tree, each of them looking upward. None of them was wearing a coat, despite the snow and the cold. Glancing upward myself, I saw a cat, totally exposed in the leafless upper branches.

Two teenage girls were calling up to the cat, who seemed to be in no mood to come down. They held something up to it. It was white. It looked like a snowball, but I assumed it must be something else. Surely they were trying to coax it down with with something that would actually attract it.

“She’s scared. She senses the dogs nearby,” someone said.

No kidding. The dogs are as plain as day, and no more than 30 feet away. I guess it’s good that the woman is holding her dogs back, I thought, but as long as they’re there, whining and yipping, that cat is going to stay put. Doesn’t anyone watch cartoons?

Continue reading ‘Here, kitty, kitty…’


Of Coffee and Donuts and Half-Eaten Hoagies

On Election Day, I always have a soft spot in my heart for the volunteers working the polls. Every polling station has some variation of the same thing: a half dozen retirees, sitting on folding chairs, stationed at folding tables, a box of a dozen donuts on one side, a slowly cooling polystyrene cup of coffee on the other. They look over the rims of their glasses at you. They squint in the dull fluorescent, sometimes gently flickering, light.

Whatcha last name, hon?

Continue reading ‘Of Coffee and Donuts and Half-Eaten Hoagies’

the untallied hours