Monday, July 21, 2008

The Borrowers in Barely Living Color

I have often wondered if “The Borrowers” wasn’t based upon the street folk of an inner city neighborhood. . . They are not all homeless. They are not all hungry. But they all have needs they feel they may share with us. Why? Ah. Yes. That’s it: They’ve noticed we are also human and hope we act accordingly. . .

She used to stand on the corner of Warren and Thompson in our front yard attempting to add to her “client list.” Her nose was a little too wide, her eye make up a little too un-natural, her clothing a little too home-schooler mom and her hair. . . well it was a combo of two very different weaves:

The main article was black and consisted of braids and dreads tucked every which way and the secondary layer was a peroxide blonde streak that started at the top of the back of her head and ran down from there to her shoulders like a paint spill or yellow skunk stripe. The whole thing was most fearfully and wonderfully glued, oiled and tucked into a cohesive mass that resembled something Raquel Welch might have used to conceal her pink bits in One Million B.C.

She wore a variety of baggy T-shirts under a variety of loose coats and – always – a sidewalk-length denim skirt that she would slowly roll up toward passing cars while yelling: “Pokes for the Lady!!?”

Eventually the Gang Task Force began hassling her and she was in need to move on from our corner. So she was sharply questioned (*not* by the Gang Task Force) as to whether she was in business out of need, or out of interest in her work. When she stated the latter, she was taken to Victoria Secret to get fitted for proper under garments and have her colors done to get her into appropriate cosmetics. Then on to Lave Bryant to open a charge account for clothing better suited to her build and line of work.

Today she works out of a house that she is buying in a much “better” neighborhood with the help of a few regular clients. We called her the Ugly Hooker, and – though we would have preferred a planting of petunias around a birdbath or sundial, she *did* lend interest to our corner. Sometimes we look out the window toward the corner and cannot help but miss her. . .

The Ugly Hooker. The Dead Baby Doll Lady. The Angry Veteran. Charlotte (who melted all over Tom’s counter). Old Lady Who Scowls. Man Who Says He Needs Milk Money For Kids He Does Not Have. Lady Trying To Get To Bay City.

The people that live on our streets know need better than any pastor, and they touch us at a shared need in a way that sometimes feels akin to a nerve suddenly heard from in a dentist’s chair. We all have a need to be sheltered. To be fed. To be noticed. To be loved. They are no needier than we are, our street people, not really. They are just more honest. SPM


CrowVoice said...

This makes me think of Jan, who used to work the neighborhood around my old house on Jefferson. I'd sometimes see her walking after dawn, shivering in the cold, and I'd give her a ride home: me, in my Park Ranger uniform on my way to work; her, in her never-warm-enough-for-the-weather "uniform" on her way home from a night's work. The first time, she asked if I wanted to "party" and I said, "Jan, I haven't even had my coffee yet and I'm on my way to work, and you've been out all night and need to go home and get some sleep." She agreed. It was like the changing of the guard. Me on day shift teaching kids about Bambi. Her on night shift letting old guys call her Bambi.

Shadow of the Cathedral said...

Seems the area was rife with Bambi's of one sort or another. . . Here's hoping gentrification continues slowly enough as to not scare them all off.

N.S. Piotrowski said...

I enjoyed this post maybe its because I have seen these people, although I have not seen them in a while. Although their stories remind me of the borrowers in my neighborhood. Anyway you should make a note of my new blog. Talk to you soon.