Missing Characters

For some reason, this morning I woke up thinking about missing characters – not in texts or emails, but in real life.  I feel like all of the really great, interesting, sometimes mysterious characters have disappeared, and I’m only just now noticing.

Let’s start small, with my hometown characters:

First, there is Scooter Lady. She would ride up and down the main streets on a black Vespa scooter, dressed in black pants, black turtleneck, and black helmet, no matter the heat index, conversing with the Power(s) That Be, usually at the top of her lungs.  The rumor on her background was that at one time she was a high priced criminal lawyer, but the stress of fortune and fame sent her over the edge, and so she drove around town defending the world to the heavens.  Or, possibly, prosecuting us.  I almost cried when I heard she had caused one too many fender benders, and They took her scooter away.

And there was that impeccably dressed older gentleman who would take his walk every morning, and wave and smile at each individual car that drove by. And I do mean he waved at each of us individually; he liked to make eye contact with us drivers, so we knew he really was greeting us, and, I liked to think, wishing us a good day or a safe journey.  He no longer takes his walks, and I miss his morning smile and blessing.

There’s the grizzled old guy who rode around town on his bicycle, with all of his possessions packed onto it.  His bike had a tall whippy flag on the back, though I’m not sure if it was a safety device to keep him from getting run over, or an announcement of “Here I am! You can’t stop me from being free!”  He used to sit outside the grocery store where my son worked, and, when I (rather idly) expressed concern about him, my son told me he had sat down and had a conversation with the guy (which was more than I had ever thought to do), and he really wasn’t poor – had more than enough to live on, just liked to be free and live rough.  I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, either, so I like to think he traded up to a camper.

My sister lives in a small town in Vermont (is there any other kind of town in Vermont? No.), and when we were up there in October, we met a busker at the farmer’s market who has the only registered therapy cat in the U.S.! Now, that’s a hometown character. He plays and sings for tips, with the cat sitting on his shoulders.  Really nice guy, had some hard times, and possibly some PTSD, and has the warmth and weight of the cat on his shoulders to keep him fully in this world.  I’m pretty sure my cat has been planning my demise since the first day we brought her home, and only procrastinates because she can’t yet use the can opener. That’s why I’ll never have an electric can opener.

Others I miss?  Old time-y black and white movie stars.  Mae West, W.C.Fields, Danny Kay, Fred Astaire.  Mae West was a queen in the industry;  she was a strong, big busted, sexy woman who could cut a man to ribbons with her words.  Since I watched a lot of Mae West when I was little (what was my mom thinking?)(she was thinking “Sit down and watch TV, Ann, I’m tired), I’m pretty sure that’s where I get a lot (two words) of my sarcasm. W.C. Fields was one of the funniest (and drunkest) actors of his day, Danny Kay was not only hilarious, but so gifted in physical comedy that he could move like a boneless cat (really, that’s a good  thing – I can’t come up with a better analogy, but I’ll work on it) – even his prat falls were graceful.  And no one could dance like Fred Astaire. His feet didn’t touch the floor.  Bing Crosby was not only a gifted singer, but he had the added advantage of looking just like my dad, so I was always starry-eyed when I watched his movies.

I haven’t seen a black and white movie on the TV menu in ages – maybe I haven’t paid for the right cable channels.  I’d like nothing better than to spend today cuddled up with the puppers on the couch, marathoning black-and-whites (Funny aside, and I hope I am giving correct credit where it is due, one of my daughter’s friends tweeted that she missed the days when we watched movies in marathons, versus binge-watching, because it sounds so much more like we are accomplishing something instead of wallowing in it. She said it much better, and in only 140 characters.).

And I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old woman, with the “I miss the old days – they were so much better!” attitude. I am a little worried about approaching the odd-duck character stage of life.  And am I already there?? My boss and I were joking around yesterday when she asked if I would still be her secretary for the next 20 years. I realized I’d be 76, and if I was still in that office, everyone would be too scared to come through my door to talk to me, so yes, I’d do it! Pretty sure that was her main reason for losing sleep last night.

I was going to get all preachy to end this missive, with “Though many of my heroes have fallen in the past months, I have many more who stand tall, in and out of the public eye” etc., etc., but I’ve jumped around enough. This isn’t about heroes or devils, just about people who have impacted me in small but important ways, even though I didn’t ever know them.  I thank you, Scooter Lady, Older Gentleman, and Bike Guy.  I wish you well, where ever you are. You are missed.

(Here is a current character in my life – I call this pic “Snoop Dob”.)

4 thoughts on “Missing Characters”

  1. What a great thing to wake up to this morning, AP. I even said “oh goodie” out loud. I miss the Writer’s Almanac so much more than I thought I would but your column made everything ok, for the day! Wonderfully written.

  2. Echoing Liz’s “oh goodie” comment, and another great read. Most of my “characters” were and are relations, and most in a very good way. Maybe they don’t count in your sense, though.

    BTW, I think your Waving Guy moved to our neighborhood, so come visit!

  3. I gave myself some chores to do before sitting down with a cup of hot cocoa and your good read. My reward for finally doing that vacuuming. You never disappoint.

    I loved that Devon took the time to talk to the Grizzled Old Guy. We should all learn a lesson from that.

    Oh, and that picture of Snoop Dob! Perfect.

  4. As always, a very good read. It warmed my heart on this cold Vermont day. BTW Check out Noir Alley on TCM and get ready for some old B&W classics.

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