Author: Courtney Hartmann
Neighborhood: North Park
Occupation: Freelance writer
It’s Hump Day to most. Weed Wednesday to me. When I get home after a long day, I know there will be people huddled in a group, smoking weed in the alley. This should shock me or disturb me or make me look away, but it is something familiar and is no different than a meet-up for coffee or a cold beer after work. It is a weekly ritual.
I don’t participate in Weed Wednesday, but some days I think I should.
My whole neighborhood provides that offbeat comfort to me. It allows me to blend right in, go unnoticed for days; however, in contradiction, I feel recognized at just the right moments. Like when the solicitor outside of Vons sees me, he knows that I’m not going to sign his petition or listen to what he has to say. The first time was enough, and now when he sees me we exchange knowing looks and he doesn’t approach me at all. He just yells out, “Have a good day!”
When I walk into Starbucks, they know my name, and depending on the barista, they know my order: tall white-chocolate mocha and cranberry-orange scone. This is the same with City Dragon and North Park Sushi. At times I’m such a creature of habit, it’s scary. But in instances such as this, it makes me feel like a subpar VIP (if there is such a thing).
The teller at the bank knows that I want everything deposited as cash. I know he just got back from Italy and that working weekends doesn’t bother him. And even on Friday afternoons, when there is nothing but a chaotic cluster, he is patient, calm, and always smiling.
There is a sea of characters at the library, myself included. I’ve been followed through the stacks twice. Once, the parking lot security officer tracked me down to make sure I am actually a library-card owner. The other time, a man followed me through the fiction section, over to the magazines, and back to the stacks, only to stare at me from the other side. I stared back, unamused. He meandered back to his corral. No words exchanged. Just a common understanding that he needed to get away from me.
North Park is the best place to get a contact high, figuratively speaking — and on Weed Wednesdays, literally so. I’m constantly crossing paths and coming into contact with people who are strangers to me yet still strike me as strangely familiar.
We are all the odd man out.
I know that after it rains, my sidewalk will be covered with an army of snails. I know that it’s on Saturday morning that my apartment complex feels the most alive, with the varying music from everyone’s windows creating the best soundtrack to start my day. I know Wednesday means the weekend is upon us, and if I’m very lucky, I’ll get a whiff of that high.