The ducks go South where its warm and toasty. Where do the old men, especially old men who do not have a lot of money, go?
All spring summer and fall old men hang out in the public courtyard near my South End building. I'll see them in small groups, hands and arms swinging, voices rising and falling, a few canes raised to emphasize a point. The language would mostly be Spanish, which I don't really understand, but the exchanges appear mostly civil, no blood is shed. Others will be seated, in ones and twos, often slowly sipping a coffee. Cigarette butts are picked up and relit. Nothing is wasted. Some of the guys are loners. I say guys deliberately, you don't see many woman. Some are obviously deranged. My favorite character offers blessings accompanied by "Jesus saves" to passer byes. I miss the old man who would scream: "Kill me" as he ran towards you with fists raised. He was a big guy, but with his pants hanging down almost to his crotch, the image became less fearsome! During the summer, with the screen door and windows open his screaming would start to grate on my nerves. I must admit, there were times I started to lace up my sneakers with the thought of taking him up on his offer. Thankfully the police eventually took him to his own "happy place".
In J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield would obsess over a particular question:
Where do the ducks in Central Park go in the winter? He wanders around a park looking for the lagoon where the ducks hang out:
"it was partly frozen and partly not frozen. But I didn't see any ducks around. I walked all around the whole damn lake – I damn near fell in once, in fact – but I didn't see a single duck. I thought maybe if there were any around, they might be asleep or something near the edge of the water, near the grass and all."
He asks an old cabbie near Central Park: "The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?"
Old Horwitz turned all the way around and looked at me. He was a very impatient-type guy. He wasn't a bad guy, though.
"How the hell should I know?" he said.
"How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that?"
"The fish don't go no place. They stay right where they are, the fish. Right in the goddam lake."
"Listen," he said. "If you was a fish, Mother Nature'd take care of you, wouldn't she? Right? You don't think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?"
During the good weather the more energetic (or at least mobile) old men would be zipping around the square on bicycles. Some would be decked out with streamers, handle bar mounted horns and elaborate baskets and trailers. Early in the spring I saw a very overweight fellow slowly navigate the courtyard. Throughout the summer he slimmed down, got a tan and started to look somewhat healthy. He still always moved at a leisurely pace.
I knew some of these guys traveled a distance. I once saw the overweight guy at the supermarket a few miles away. A few miles doesn't sound like much, but I do remember some of my first spring rides when I was in my forties. I had to stop a few times climbing (climbing?) a small hill on my way to the supermarket two miles from my house. I cringe recalling my pathetic state.
I remember reading that long ago some explorer discovered where old elephants go to die.
Now, I don't think that they all have wandered off to die, but, after almost fifty inches of snow I ask myself: Where did the old South End conversationalists, the cyclists, all go?
Did they all win the lottery, maybe splitting a big jackpot. Have they, like the ducks, flown away to warmer climes? I know that some hang out in the reading rooms of the library. Some actually look like they are reading. Others have their heads cradled in their arms, until the security guard raps his knuckles, hard, on the wooden table.
The library has been closed a lot because of the snowstorms. Public transportation has also been disrupted.
Up until a month ago, before the snow started to fall, a guy would show up about 8:00 AM every weekday and chain his bike to a tree. He'd reappear about 5:00 PM and ride away. I assume he had a job nearby. I haven't seen any sign of his bike this year. Is he still employed, is he well, alive?
The snow is very high, the sign at the entry to the park, fifteen feet high, has been buried by the plows!
I feel very lucky on a day like today. I am warm, dry, safe. I don't need to keep moving to stay warm. I may have nowhere to go, which is not really a concern as there is no where open to go to. Better yet, I have no need to go anywhere.
May I recommend for your enjoyment: Momma, they took away my coffee shop, and now they're digging up my back yard!
I am by no means ready to die! So, with that fact established, let's begin at the beginning: See links for all the Genesis posts to date: Genesis Through My Eyes
In my not too distant past, if I were to see a street person, a bum, sleeping in a door front or on a park bench, I would have kept my distance and perhaps shrugged my shoulders.: He had the "smarts" to ask someone where to go, I didn't
Waldo County, situated in mid-coast Maine along scenic Penobscot Bay, has genuine New England character evidenced by working port towns and quaint rural villages. Visitors are awed by the area's unspoiled beauty. From striking coastal views to sweeping mountain vistas, dramatic natural settings abound. In addition great care has been taken to preserve and refurbish numerous historic landmarks, homes and buildings. Consequently, the Maine of yesteryear is still found here.
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