For some reason this morning I can still see the moon glowing through the fog of the overcast sky and its like a foreboding omen or something as I walk down Third Street on my way back to the apartment building. Must a been some kinda night out here last night. There’s trash and empty liquor bottles all over the place and in the middle of the intersection there’s a torn pair of women’s red panties and one black stiletto high heel shoe.
Apparently in an aggressive attempt at urban renewal someone saw fit to overturn a couple of newspaper kiosks and now there’s so much paper strewn about that it feels like I’m walking on a slightly soggy carpet. And seriously! What’s with the crusty old pairs of sneakers hanging by their laces from the telephone pole wires? So far on Stillman Alley alone there’s gotta be six or seven pairs hanging over the middle of the street like wayward holiday decorations only they’ll be up there way into the next century and in celebration of what?
Cultural diversity at its best I guess.
I can hear my name being shouted and kicking it in front of Jack’s liquor store at 8:30 in the morning drinking some sort of glowing red type liquid out of a paper cup is none other than one of South of Market’s finest – Johnny Boy Walton. So as in a “greet the neighbors/hang out with the locals” type of gesture I cross the street and stop to hear what it is he’s got to say this cold December morning. Staccato like through the mist his words come out in a rhyming ditty bop kinda pigeon english that he interjects with involuntary spastic inflections between the syncopated beat that he continually hops and dips too. Though admittedly it must only be pounding away in his head as I can’t hear a damn thing but the morning traffic as it goes by.
“Yo Braw! Draw ya brakes now brudder! Gotta smoke?”
And as always it takes a few seconds for what he just said to decode itself and I tell him for the thousandth time that I don’t smoke anymore and we both look at each other and then at the ground where there appears to be a whole head’s worth of hair lying there in large discarded strands. So I kinda indicate it with a movement of my chin and really not expecting an answer I say “Like what’s the deal here with all the fur JB?”
At which point its his turn to nod toward a pile of what looks like discarded clothes and mumble something about Clara “hating on a bitch” and apparently because she hated on her she “shanked her weave off.”
And the only really odd part here is that what he said makes sense to me. Not that Clara’s need to de-weave someone necessarily made sense but that I understand what he is saying and can actually follow the continuum of his thoughts as I now see that this ragged pile of clothes is improbably wrapped around someone that’s trying to get up. And maybe they’re only getting up because they heard their name being mentioned and as I’m starting to comprehend that this stirring pile of soiled clothing might be Clara I’m hoping that my head of hair isn’t in the least bit offensive to Clara’s sensibilities or that for some reason she’s gonna all of a sudden start hating on me.
“Bitch deserved it! She come back I git her!”
And with that statement said, some woman, whom I’m gathering is Clara though I can’t see her face as she’s all sorta hunched over like raises herself off of the sidewalk and swerves around the corner and is gone from my sight.
“Clara?” I ask.
“Best head on turd street.” Johnny Boy says.
“Whoa now JB!”
“Only a five spot!”
“That’s Ok, man, that’s Ok! More than I wanna know mister urban pimp!”
Obviously this discussion is starting to digress in a decidedly downward manner but what kind of dialog did I really expect I was going to engage in with someone drinking codeine cough syrup mixed with red wine for breakfast?
Thankfully the screeching sound of an aluminum extension ladder being raised mercifully cuts short our conversation and we both turn to look at a couple of guys steadying a ladder against the outside of my apartment building while another one starts climbing upwards and none of them look like they’re maintenance men or even painters for that matter. And right about this time I’m starting to really get stoked that the building is now full of cameras instead of a few inept security personnal like it used to be as apparently someone has figured out the glaringly obvious flaw in the management’s new plan of defense and it looks like we’re now being besieged from the outside via ladders!
“Nathan” says John Boy.
“Nathan and his Bras. Come ta get they shit. Evicted dey waz!” He says.
Ok, so this is how they’re doing it these days! Now instead of having to pay that last month’s rent and then being allowed to get back in and collect what meager possessions they had been forced to leave behind. Former tenants, and this is only if they lived on the lower floors, will now just exercise their right to eminent domain and bypass that pesky financial requirement as well as some minor misdemeanor laws regarding private property and do it themselves. Of course this won’t give any of the local crackheads any ideas because even if they were paying attention or even had enough energy to attempt such a feat it wouldn’t matter because they’d of already sold off any aluminum ladder that they might have stolen to the recycler for dope money. But none the less I’m still glad that I have moved to the “courtyard” side and finally those rusty strands of barbed wire that hang haphazardly all over the back of the building have come in handy for keeping out intruding trespassers especially the one’s who come equipped with really tall extension ladders.
Meanwhile Clara must have found something else of interest to hate on because she’s screaming way down at the other end of the alley and waving her arms about and maybe I’ll just be taking this opportunity to be getting back to my apartment. So I nod a fond farewell to Johnny Boy and making sure not to walk under the ladder, bad luck you know, plus they seem to be precariously balancing a small sofa two flights up – and all nonchalant like with not a care in the world I stroll into the deserted lobby of my apartment building.