The Perks of Walking

One of the perks of walking, aside from being healthy, is the people and things you meet. I thought I might share a few of them to give you some idea of what it is like to walk around my Cambridge neighborhood.

On one of my recent excursions I looked up to see this woman coming toward me.
"Who is this guy?" she must be asking herself

“Excuse me,” I said. “I really like your look. Do you mind if I take a picture?”

“Sure,” she said. 

Then, she stopped dead in her tracks. She was having second thoughts.

She cocked her head to one side and took a long, hard look at me.

“Wait! Are you some kind of weirdo?” she asked.

I assured her that I was not, though why she should have accepted my assurances is beyond me. I mean would some kind of weirdo ever say yes to that question? She took up a position with her back against a wall and stared at my iPhone.

“Would you care to smile?” I asked.

She shook her head no. That, I thought, was important. It must have had something to do with what the “look” did for her. It takes a lot of courage, I thought, to dress against the grain. I tried to imagine myself putting on a dress and walking up Mass. Ave. No way, José. She was carrying it off with aplomb.

I especially liked the touch of the line drawn across her right eye so that the eyebrow became the hilt of a dagger. It lent that side of her face a kind of menace that said keep your distance.  In the corner of the other eye was the hint of tears. The two sides of her face were at odds with one another. The left said, “Keep your distance.” The right asked, “Why are you keeping your distance?” No wonder she didn't want to smile.

The bright red color of her dollar store wig was just right, the way it matched the touches of red in the fringes of her outfit. She must have made this costume herself. It shows a lot of attention to detail, especially the red-fringed white apron around her middle that made her look like a cocktail waitress in a Dada bar.

But what is that expression on her face? The partially closed eyes are slightly wary, slightly defiant, slightly quizzical. She is obviously not completely relaxed. Take a look at that left hand bent back against the hip. Who is this guy, really? she must be asking herself.

If she is in hiding, she has done it very well. I doubt I could pick her out of a lineup where everyone was wearing civvies.

Nick and Willie
I thanked her for the photograph, walked around the corner and ran into Nick on his bicycle and Willie in his knapsack.

"Do you mind if I take your photograph?" I asked.

“Go ahead,” said Nick. 

He had no second thoughts.  He also had no trouble smiling. He told me he was a graduate student and lived in the neighborhood.

A week or so later I ran into Jack.

Jack wasn’t alive, of course. Even so, I felt sorry for him. He must have brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of kids on Halloween. And now here he was, discarded in a trash bin, his mouth in a round O as if to say

“Oh my! How could this have happened? I was on top of the world just yesterday.”


Cover of Wendell Minor's Julie


Post Script:

I recently took a trip to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum.  I recommend it for everyone.  He was an incredible illustrator.  As it happened, there was an exhibition of children's books, including Julie (1994) by Wendell Minor.  The cover illustration was by Jean Craighead George.  I couldn't resist photographing it and putting it up next to Nick and Willie.  Talk about life mimicking art .