They Shut Down Easy Street

Things around here just ain't what they used to be.
Things around here just ain’t what they used to be.

Big cities have no monopoly on anything. Here in my town, we like to think we don’t have similar problems, but we do. The folks who used to work in factories now ask me if I’d like to try the new Three-Cheese Double Bacon Burger on the fresh-baked bun with curly cheese fries and a side salad.

And a side salad!

Whoa, Pops, I’m strictly on the dollar menu since the coupons expired.

We’ve got no room to talk. We’ve got more than our share of problems. The main reason Chicago’s got more is Chicago’s got more. People, that is. Their bad guys occur at a much greater rate per square mile.

Or bad gals. I don’t want to be branded as sexist where my villains are concerned.

I didn’t sign on today to talk crime, though.

So much of what I see is frustrating. I reckon I ought to spend more time with my eyes closed. Then I could accentuate the positive. Writers get told that all the time.

I worked one summer here.
I worked one summer here.

I guess I could shut up and go to Walmart. But I won’t. What I’d mainly do there is notice how all the cereal boxes are getting thinner, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a watermelon that weighed sixty pounds (or even twenty). Even the wild blackberries lining my road are puny this year.

If I went strictly by my Facebook feed, as most people do, I’d conclude that the only people making any money are the ones playing the Powerball, and yet somehow I never buy lottery tickets anymore. I haven’t noticed education getting any better from the Education Lottery, and I suspect there are lots of stock photos out there of twenty-dollar bills laid out like a poker hand.

Life’s getting weird, man.

I was leaving the Fatz Café, where I’d just had the fried-pork-chop special because it’s $6.99 on Tuesdays once a man reaches a certain age. On the road that connects Fatz and the Hampton Inn with Highway 72, this blue Nissan started blowing its horn, and the middle-aged lady driving it started waving her arms at me. I stopped and rolled down my window. (I didn’t really roll it down. I pushed a button.)

Another woman, who looked a lot like the one driving, was also in the car. They weren’t particularly attractive, but then again, they could’ve been thinking the same of me.

“Would you mind buying us something to eat?” the lady asked.

I took a deep breath. “No,” I said. “I really can’t.”

I’m accustomed to panhandlers in big cities. I might not have been that surprised if it was the McDonald’s. I might have even given the lady a five and pointed to the dollar menu. But Fatz Café! I reckon she wanted me to perform a three-point turn, open the front door for them, and tell the greeter, who would probably think I was intruding on her turf by opening the door, “Anything they want, on me!”

I was flabbergasted, flummoxed, perturbed, and taken aback, but, fortunately, I had the handy option of just driving home.

“I understand,” the lady said.

“I should hope so,” I said to myself, pressing the window button again.

Powerful empathic urges reside within me. A long time ago, I had to come up with a personal policy regarding people seeking handouts, though I did violate it once when I was driving in San Francisco and a guy held up a sign that read, “Who am I fooling? I need a beer.” I gave him a five spot for honesty. I’d like to think he had a beer.

In general, though, I only give a greenback to those who do something. If I’m in the city, on the way into a ballgame, or just walking the streets, I tip people who play instruments, sing, juggle, dance, or, oh, I don’t know, perform a soliloquy from Shakespeare. If a guy says, “Hey, man, how about some help for the homeless?” I just move on. Once, in Detroit, I whirled around and asked, “Would that be for the homeless in general, or … you?” but I only did it because there was a cop nearby, and I figured the guy wouldn’t pull a knife.

Sheesh. Now I’ve got to deal with that stuff here in town.


4 thoughts on “They Shut Down Easy Street

  1. Randy

    i gave folks money if they had a good story to tell. real, made up. it did not matter. just let it be original. not the old: “I’ve got to get bus fare to get to (town 30 miles away).”

  2. First Avenue used to be the hub of town. Our population of about 3600 supported two drugstores situated on the corner of First Avenue and 7th Street – Falks and James’ Drugs. Falks had a great soda fountain. I loved Vanilla Cokes. The Dime Store was next door and Carlson’s Clothiers, where I spent my first baby-sitting money on a swirling full skirt near the end of the block. All are gone now. James’ Drugs is an Irish pub where they make a mean pizza and mix good drinks. The Falks building has housed a souvenir store, but it is empty now. Carlson’s is empty and has been for some time.

    They tore down the high school. Since I left home in 1960, I can only guess that the town fathers let it deteriorate to the point where it was beyond repair. I have one of the bricks from the school. They built a fancy new high school, but I’ve read there are problems with it.

    The A&W Root Beer Stand closed and was vacant for many years, then bought by Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut closed over the winter.

    I rarely give money to people begging on the street because I’m sure it will be spent for drugs or it will be given to the pimp-like people who house them in dumps and take advantage of their sad situation.

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