The nature of life in reality . . .
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The nature of life in reality . . .

Strange people in my neighborhood


I have lived in Memphis my entire life, save for my five years at college. You would think that growing up in such a place, I would be used to seeing strange things. I am, but I still stand slack-jawed on occasion.

Now, I grew up in the outskirts of Bartlett. I hesitate to call it Suburbia, because we had trees. My parents, however, had always worked "in town". I worked at Children's Theatre, which was nestled away in midtown Memphis. I even went to school in Midtown for a while. It didn't take me long to figure out that I liked the "city" better than where I lived. That isn't to say that I didn't like the house I grew up in. In fact I still miss it in a lot of ways.

Well going back to the point I started, my mother worked downtown for many years. I would go to work with her on summer and holiday breaks and I even started to work there when I was home from college. From the front of the office, we had full picture window views of Front St. and Monroe Ave. For those of you who don't know a lot about downtown Memphis, that is a veritable hotbed of pedestrian activity. I wouldn't say it beats the Main Street Mall (or whatever they're calling it now) but it sure comes close. I saw a lot go past that window . . . the crazy old woman who had screaming fights with her husband that wasn't there . . . the guy with the 1890's parasol and top hat in the middle of the summer . . . but nothing beats the shower guy.

Memphis is hot in the summer. It's hot as hell actually, and twice as humid. In the 1980's, the powers that be in city government had the contrived idea that double decker busses shaped like Mississippi riverboats were chic. They weren't. They also had a tendency to tip over when turning corners. Still we were left with lots of showboat shaped bus stops. Essentially they were fiberglass enclosed park benches. Nobody sat there waiting for a bus because nobody takes the bus in Memphis. But, the homeless population claimed then for their own. There was this man who lived in one in front of the downtown library. One very hot and very humid August afternoon, it rained. You might think that this would bring some relief from the heat. You would be wrong. These summer showers only serve to increase the amount of water vapor in the air and make it even less desirable to go out of doors. The water came on like a faucet. There wasn't any thunder and lightening and howling winds. It was just as hot. Now it was wet.

The aforeto mentioned homeless man decided to seize on this meterologic opportunity. You see, most of the homeless shelters in the city at that time didn't have showers. They'd feed you and give you soap but they wouldn't let you bathe. He was pretty stinky, being that it was August in Memphis and all, so he stepped out of the bus stop and proceeded to strip naked. Armed with soap in hand he lathered, rinsed and repeated. After rinsing the remaining residue from his now clean body, he soaped up his clothes and rang them out in the rain. Now clean, he put his clothes back on and retreated once again to the safety of the showboat stop.

I always said that I was going to put that into a movie someday.

Monday night, which was a new moon, James and I attended a Playwrights' Forum meeting. I'll go into the details of that organization at a later time as I've already gone on far too long and strayed far from my topic too often. After the meeting, we were standing on the sidewalk in front of Theatreworks, which faces the parking lot for Overton Square. Now I won't knock the square. I've loved the area since I was a kid. I'm having my wedding there for Christ's sake! But, I can say with all seriousness that the management gives less than a fuck about it.

Tony, a dear friend and artistic director of the Memphis Black Repertory Theatre, was telling us the horror stories he has encountered at his office space there. Apparently his neighbor was missing the lid to her toilet tank. She complained to the management and the next day her toilet tank had a lid that didn't fit. Curiously, Tony's toilet tank lid was missing. When he called the management, he was told they "knew nothing". Anyway, you get my point about the dedication of the management staff. Well, as we were spinning yarns about the state of property management and community theatre, Overton Square's attempt to secure the safety of its customers comes wheeling by. We all stopped talking.

Most of the shopping and entertainment districts around town have some sort of parking lot security. The Mall of Memphis has guard towers (for good reason, I might ad). Hickory Ridge has white trucks with yellow lights. Oak court has big beefy guys on mountain bikes. The Orpheum has armed guards. What does Overton Square have? A middle aged man on a tricycle.

He even had a little orange flag and a basket.

That's too good. I can't say anything to make it better.

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