Are you perhaps familiar with the contrivance used by hunters known as a deer-stand? It’s a platform which allows a deer-hunter to be above a deer’s line of sight, perhaps fifteen or twenty feet above the ground. Early deer-stands were crude affairs made of boards nailed into the tree’s trunk with short boards nailed sequentially up the truck in order to form a ladder. Land-owners didn’t like these, as it ruined the tree as a future saw-log, so in recent decades manufacturers have come up with non-invasive stands which are held to the tree by a strap.
My second-floor porch looks out over 14th Street and I spend a lot of time out there. I read, smoke, and play music. I have some hanging plants out on that porch and flats of tomato and pepper seedlings.
I think of that porch as my people-stand. I enjoy watching Quincyans walking by on the sidewalk, especially women walking their dogs.
People usually like to tell strangers about their dogs and babies. There are two corresponding entry-to-conversation lines:
“What kind of dog is that?”
“What a cute baby! How old?”
Children are another matter. You can’t ask what breed they are, after all! An imaginary conversation:
“What kind of kid is that?”
“Oh, he’s a mutt, a mix of Irish, German, and English.”
It’s a beautiful spring afternoon, with a delicate balance of cool breeze and sunshine to temper it. I was out on the porch in my stand, playing the fiddle and watching kids from a middle school down the street proceeding by in boisterous bunches.
A pretty 14-year-old girl looked up at me and said:
“You’re just awesome on that violin! Good job!”
She gave me a thumbs-up. Naturally this was gratifying to me.
A bit later a boy wearing a backpack walked by, then turned back and looked up at me.
“Do you know those musicians who play that really cool music at La Gondola?”
“I’m one of ’em!”
“My mother used to play with you guys.”
He told me her name and I said, “Sure, I remember her! Tell her hi for me!”
What amuses me is hearing snippets of kids’ conversation as they walk by. They don’t know that I’m up here eavesdropping. Here’s an example: a nine-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl were walking by today. The boy winced and said, “My shoes are hurting my feet!”
He bent over and took off his running shoes, then straightened up and said, “I’m gonna be an Indian now!” He walked off down the sidewalk in his stocking feet. The girl capered ahead and said, “I’ll be your Indian wife!”
Later a seven-year-old blonde boy wheeled up on a bike laden down with two plastic grocery sacks hanging from the handlebars. He paused and looked up at me. He said, “You like to listen to loud music, don’tya?”
“I like to play it, too!”
“I like rock, that’s my favorite kind of music. I don’t like rap music, except for one song. It doesn’t have bad words in it!”
There are some thieves who patrol this neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. I learned indirectly of their existence when my spare tire, which was in the bed of my pick-up, was stolen last week. Scrap metal prices are high right now, and there is a local junkyard which will buy wheel-rims with the tires mounted on them.
I’m tempted to monitor the street early in the morning from my aerie, armed with a paint-ball gun. If I saw someone tampering with vehicles I could mark them with paint and call the police.
“911! What is the nature of your problem?”
“Tell the officers patrolling the streets to look for people driving around with blotches of yellow paint on their clothes. They are thieves!”