Park Bench Confab

This morning was another fine one, cool and sunny, with the sun shining obliquely from low in the southeastern sky. The sun gave just enough benign warmth to temper the coolness of the air.

I hadn’t intended to go on a walk just yet  — I’d just had my coffee and I was still barefoot.   I was trying to read an essay on the web, part of the daily harvest of essays and articles provided by that digital/cultural garden Arts and Letters Daily (

Unfortunately Ubu the difficult dog, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, was distracting me with her yips and barking every time someone passed the house, walking along the sidewalk.  I sighed.

“C’mon, Ubu, let’s go out on the porch for a while, okay?”

Ubu eagerly followed me to the front door.  I leashed her before we went out.  Once out on the porch I was struck by the sheer fineness of the morning.  I couldn’t help but walk down the sidewalk a ways, the dog by my side snuffling up mysterious odors from the grass bordering the cracked and misaligned slabs of concrete.

I felt that familiar sense of vulnerability which increased the farther I ventured from home with bare feet.  What if there was broken glass or sharp gravel?  The cool and humid atmosphere gradually effaced that trivial worry and we walked on.  He was speaking of a summer evening rather than a morning, but Henry Thoreau’s rhapsodic description of “imbibing delight through every pore” came to mind.

Before long the dog and I were in Central Park, with its diagonal sidewalks converging upon a central fountain.  We approached a park bench.  I greeted the two old men, one of them white and the other black, who were sitting side by side on the bench, each with a newspaper partially folded on his lap.  They were evidently discussing the news of the day, with the newspapers providing the seeds of conversation.

The white man was bald and looked to be in his seventies.  The black man was a bit younger and wore overalls; perched on the back of his head was one of those engineer caps which look as if they are sewn from old-fashioned blue-and-white-striped mattress ticking.

I didn’t stop, but as I passed by I heard an intriguing sentence fragment:

“…now three or four hundred years ago…”

What could they have been talking about?  I prefer not knowing — I delight in speculating about the context of that fragment.




Filed under Hannibal

3 responses to “Park Bench Confab

  1. Joan

    It’s interesting to hear of your walking the same sidewalks barefooted as I did when I was a kid. I’m sure most of the pavement blocks have not been replaced since, as you mentioned the cracks. The same cracks used to pose a rough obstacle course to a kid roller-skating down the sidewalk. As for barefootedness… I used to wait until the first summer day my mom deemed it suitable to go barefoot, and from that day onward, with the exception being Sunday, wore no shoes. Even on Sunday, I wore sandals. In fact, had I tried to wear winter oxfords or saddle shoes, they would have been woefully too short to get into. One time my mother cut the toes of the ugly things off and told me to wear those. I would not. I loathed “winter shoes” and would not succumb until fall, when a new school pair was in the offing.

    That park used to have a red popcorn stand situated on the corner of 5th and Broadway. The fellow who operated it was either blind or partially sighted. I wonder if Darrell remembers it.

  2. Darrell

    There you are Joan.

    Yes, I remember the red popcorn stand. It was some sort of converted truck as I recall, possibly from the 19-teens. There was a white one on the lower corner of the park, opposite of the City Hall. A vision impaired fellow ran that one as well. For some reason, when my Dad took me to town and I started whining for popcorn, he’d invariably stop at the white stand, altho I thought the red truck up the block was far classier. When I asked about the red truck, he’d say “Nah!” but never give a reason.

  3. Joan

    I didn’t remember that there were two stands. I wonder if one had popcorn and the other had cold things, like popsickles and ice cream bars. The one nearest the Orpheum, (later Tom Sawyer) theater was the only one I remember.

    It was a whole entertainment system withing walking distance of my house. The library, two movie houses, the Mary Anne Sweet Shop for ice cream, Washburn’s drugs for comics and sometimes Osterloh’s bookstore for trinkets if we we had saved our allowance. Powers can do the Rialto Theater nostagia bit so much better than I, but I remember those Sat. Matinee’s with 13 cartoons and a serial or two. It was just so very safe! We wandered that whole city and our parents never even blinked wondering where we were. If we did anything untoward, the neighbors would rat us out anyway. (grin)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s