Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rip Van Winkle takes a walk

They came. They went.

The kids were here for a minute over the holidays...and now off to OK with Tom to visit family and enjoy the benefits of having a Cherokee casino on their great grandfather's land. Free admission! 

I'm enjoying the peace and quiet—never thought I'd say that. Have I succumbed to that terrible state of decrepitude, where I've gotten used to having no kids in the house? I fought it for so long, but I'm like every parent who's ever lived: accepting the inevitable. You get to see your kids for a bit, and then you blink and they're gone. 

I've been taking a lot of walks around Mt. Washington in their absence. The mountains are beautiful this time of year. 

The winter flowers are in bloom. 

But I feel like Rip Van Winkle who's woken up from a twenty year nap. I'm surprised at how old the inhabitants of this hill have gotten in the time I was last down here (usually I walk up the hill, this time I've been walking down). The schizophrenic, the gangsta, the professor: they've all aged since I last saw them. What happened? What year is this? Was I, Rip Van Winkle, asleep perchance? 

The schizophrenic, who probably isn't as ancient and brittle as he looks, is skinnier and more agitated than ever on his walks around Terrace 49. His hair is salt and pepper and his face drawn tight. He walks with his hands clutched behind his back, and he smokes and drinks a coke at the same time. He's as ubiquitous as the ice cream truck that moves slowly along the street. It rings its bell but no children come. The schizophrenic walks to quell his voices but to no avail. 

The gangster has aged tremendously. He used to rip through the neighborhood on his bike doing wheelies down Ave. 50, home to the Ave. gangs. Surely he was part of that gang, by his tattoos and baggy clothes. You could see him riding around at any time, night or day, with a gun sticking out of his back pocket. He'd yell and scream obscenities at any disturbance, so you knew to stay out of his way. But in the last few years he's really slowed down; walks with a limp now and the aid of a cane. No gun in sight. His clothes are still baggy, but that's because he's shrunk. 

The professor is completely white-haired. I hardly recognized him but I see he's still a neat dresser. His daughter, who's named after a strong tea, had a baby at the age of 16 and continues to live at home with her husband and little girl; the last time I saw her daughter she was running around in diapers. Now she must be at least 8 or 9. Eight years, nine years, that's a long time. Lots of aging going on in that many years.

And I look at myself in the mirror... but let's change the subject. 

If you want to read a good book about growing old, I recommend the masterly Walter Mosley and his new work of fiction: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. It's a beaut.


  1. a new kind of drawing, like it a lot, capturing the gesture of those characters. Thanks for these vivid portraits, drawn and seen and told.

  2. Those drawings! I love them - so fresh & spontaneous. You must be getting younger, while the rest of the world ages. Huh. How'd you do that?