Fun in South Philadelphia.

I have become a person who watches trash television.  I don’t have any defense, but I also don’t feel that bad about it.

I’m at Melissa’s; we have eaten fish tacos and are watching her cable.  At the beginning of the third date in the second to last episode of A Shot at Love 2 with Tila Tequila, someone shoots off a gun in front of the house across the street. I follow Melissa and Darlene who dash to the front window, and I follow them outside.  The woman across the street keeps her door open, always, I learn, and she’s on the phone with the cops saying that there were young kids, she heard them swearing, they sounded like black kids, and then a gun went off and yeah everybody’s coming out of their houses.

We’re peering up and down the street from the front stoop.

On the one hand I feel chastised because I would have been like the tenants of the two other apartments in this building who did not come down.  I would have thought, well by the time I’ve heard it, I’ve failed to witness the crime.  I hear no cries for help, so what good does it do.  And I would not have had that moment with my neighbor, in which we confirm what has happened in our community and share that we are both concerned.  Agreed when she said “well, they’ve got to find them because somebody could get hurt.” But I also don’t know what we hope to accomplish by looking at a street that is no different now, after the fact, than in the moments just before.  Except to confirm that fact—that there is nothing for us to do.

So we go back inside, watch Brittany’s shot at love come to an end, I finish my Dos Equis and then I venture out into the scary world.  Maybe I should not be so blase about it, but I have always felt that my feelings, that my abstract existential fear, should I feel it, would have no effect on my chances for survival.  And my chances of coming to an untimely end on this night seems unlikely to be any different because of, or in any way related to, some teenagers who discharged a gun across the street from me a half hour before and went off into the night.

There are people out as usual and the only difference in my path home is that I feel inclined to follow a woman in heels that I see walking down Tasker, instead of continuing down deserted 17th.  I’d just passed a man standing at a corner, alone, staring west with one hand fully inside the band of his jockey shorts.

Within a block of home base, I run into my neighbor, whom I’ll call Joseph, for the sake of giving him a name.  I’d passed him earlier on my way back from work. He was walking with two other gentlemen, presumably friends, and wearing a strange, sort of see-through net top, that is especially strange for a man of 50, a father, who has a pacemaker.  He seems now to be coming home from that outing, carrying several laden black plastic bags that the local bodegas hand you your six pack in.

How are you doing, I say and he asks if I want a beer.  I say I’ve had some already and need to go to bed and he says “Are you mad with me?”  No, I tell him, and he insists all he’s gotten from me lately is that—’oh how’s it going?’ I play the work card.  And, I mean, I do spend only three or so of my waking work-week hours really in my house on our street, and I neglect a lot of things.

I did let him in my house once to chat because he knocked on my door and I wanted to be a good neighbor.  I was alone, but I thought, he has a pacemaker, so I can probably take him if he tries anything.  He later apologized because he apparently didn’t remember everything he’d said while he was in my house. I could have reminded him that he told me about being in gangs as a teenager when his mother first bought her house on this street, that he ran with a crowd in which forcible sex was common practice—and thank goodness he never participated—and that the army helped clean him up.  But I didn’t.

So, I have tried be, if not less cordial, then less chummy with the local alcoholic.  Joseph tells me how he’s just met the new guy across the street and walks me to my front steps.  Said new guy has just stepped out to walk his dog, so Joseph officially introduces us. They’re vegans, the couple across the street.  Says so on the back of their white SUV, and is tattooed on the girl’s arm.

Anyway, suffice it to say that I made it inside and to the comfort of my bed, and in time to watch the end of the BBC World News on PBS.  And tomorrow I will take a crack at another day.


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