Matthew Lickona 1:14 p.m., May 24
Weeds sprouting from the blacktop. Dry grass forming wreaths around the utility poles. Splatters of oil baked onto the filthy sidewalk. A car drives past with the radio volume at max, brakes squealing as a car shoots into the fast lane from a side street, right in front of a guy in an old truck with bad brakes.
Hi gorgeous, hi gorgeous,how are you today? I was going to ignore the guy yelling at me across 4 lanes of traffic, but it’s my early morning greeting guy,an African American man probably a little younger than me, in a beret, leaning back comfortably on the bus bench where he sits in the mornings and early afternoons, helping someone with their groceries, chatting up the bus passengers. I said “yes” and flashed the peace sign, and he did the same.
Today the Jiffy Lube guys are inflating more balloons and hanging up flags. Just before I cross, I see another guy heading for the driveway with a sign $10 off oil change right now.
There a nice looking man in the parking lot at Burger King, but he is talking to himself as he heads toward me- something about the Rocky Mountains and a truck. I avoid his eyes, act like I don’t see him.
Palm trees and jacarandas are just starting to bloom, hints of lavender flowers appearing overnight. Seagulls posing on light posts and squawking at pedestrians. Pigeons circling and swooping in a synchronized wave, and today two brown birds that look like pigeons but are they? Seagulls everywhere today, cawing cawing, the sound of summer approaching.
The bus shelter is made of metal that has holes punched in it to let the air and the light through. The sun is out earlier, and by the time I reach the station the day is glowing. A kid in a sweatshirt is standing in the perfect spot to catch the reflected light, which makes his hood appear like a helmet made of chain maille, I see the Vietnamese man rolling his cart towards the bus, his fishing pole secured to the handle, a small cooler, a fishing net, a book, and a teddy bear. On top of the cooler is a boom box, battery operated, secured with bungy cords. He never makes eye contact. Lots of kids this morning, carrying skateboards, surfboards, ipods. Looks like school is out and they are headed to the beach. The ARC group got new shirts, a vibrant red, and they are all gathered in one spot waiting for their van to take them to work.
Walking the long curved sidewalk towards the corner, I pass the same woman everyday. Looks like she bought a reusable stainless coffee cup like mine instead of the paper cups. I wonder if she makes her coffee at home, or at work, since it’s not clear if she is coming or going.
The weather this year is odd, we’ve had only a few days of sun, near the coast at least. My tomatoes got horn worms worse than any previous year, and I’m really going to try to wean myself from my addiction to try to make tomatoes grow at home. I’m just not in the right place, and once I find one of those worms as big as my finger, I lose my appetite.
The topic of conversation the entire summer, and into the autumn at the station near my home is the weather. Oh I know it’s going to get hot and we are going to wish it was like this. You know it’s true. I just got back from St. Louis, DC, NY, wherever and it was so hot and humid it was unbelievable. I’m glad there’s no sun, it’ll come, we always think it won’t but it will. It is now October, and I think we’ve had 1 week of summer and a whole lot of gloom. I think I went to work without a second layer for only about two weeks this year.
The weather is changing. I love sandal season, and during this time of year that is all I wear. Started getting pedicures again since my feet are on display. Green on the hillsides turns to brown. This is traditionally fire season, but I think it’s going to be a mild one. Someone said yesterday there was a 40 degree difference in temperature yesterday from the week before. That’s a lot., and now that I think of it, it doesn’t really make sense. 20 maybe, not 40.
Regardless, all summer the number on the streets between the station and work have been growing. Lots of men, middle aged, 40s, 50s, maybe some 60s. Most are showered and dressed in clean clothes, but wheeling a suitcase behind them every morning. I’ve been trying to figure out where they are living, in a hotel? In a shelter? I see some of the same faces everyday, and only rarely a woman. I smile and say good morning to all of them, and even the homeless bicycle people wave at me, must have seen me giving the peace sign to my friend in the beret or maybe they all talk about me, and make up stories about who I am.