Pick one up today— Sidewalk Story: the book
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I love Berkeley, but my crush is New York City.
Not a Cat
The young couple stood at the edge of the sidewalk, leaning into a raised garden, the woman’s reaching arm half-hidden by a garage. The man brought his coffee cup to his lips and sipped, looked up as an acorn fell. The woman smiled as she seemed to be stroking something. Nearing, I saw it was not a cat but a cactus. Her fingers traced the outlines of the succulent and all its tiny duplicates. “Babies!” she said. The man turned. She looked into his blue eyes, expectantly.
I’m the only one on the sidewalk. I walk by the Port-O-Let that is parked by the curb, and a man coughs from within to let me know he is there. It’s that kind of cough. But if he had not coughed, I would not be thinking about who is inside. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can’t decide.
I approach the Port-O-Let and recognize a pit bull I see every morning who is on a leash that is threaded through the locked door to the owner. I see this couple every day and always smile and greet them, but even leashed, I am wary of the dog alone. I cross the street. When I get to the corner I hear the outhouse door open and slam. I do not turn and wave.
I saw the turkey mom
and her four teens again.
Met a man with a big lens
but they have little heads
and the background is
to capture them.
I Still Talk on a Landline
I say, hey will I get a new phone? and he says, don’t you want to try playing with my ‘touch first? and I say, what? like a baby doll before the baby? we already know the phone will poop and spit and kick for attention. who needs to practice?
Entertainment, Your Choice
The Bimbo Band waited behind glass for someone to feed a quarter to them. Seven smiling monkeys they were, stuffed and poised to entertain at the drop of a coin. Herb Alpert, their specialty. The competition was fierce: zombie electronics and illuminated car chases beat out the mechanical memories as each day trumpeted the museum’s opening. Madame Olga would read your palm, if only you would notice her. And the Sex-O-Meter? You could find out faster in a bar or a dorm room.
Every time Maggie May introduced Rod to her friends he asked them or her to spell the name slowly while he counted the letters on his fingers to see if they could be racehorses. He felt less threatened when the men had longer names like Buckminster because he had hopes they would be disqualified sooner. One night, he met two Janes and worried how he would record their differences, but finally decided that one was “JaneHotLegs” and the other was “JaneFirstCut”. He told Maggie May, “I Was Only Joking,” but she said, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” If the character count was fifteen or under, Rod spent the rest of the evening deciding whether the friend would win, place, or show and what the odds might be. It was sexy, at first. She had always liked horses. But eventually, she changed tracks, tired of the game.
Fifty minutes late, thanks to mechanical difficulties and a fight at home, but it would be a long day anyway. Kevin got out of his truck, went to the back and began rummaging.
"Hey, Kev! You got a new truck!"Otis was headed toward the back of the raised house carrying lumber under his arm to cut down.
"Naw," Kevin said. "Same old piece of shit." Otis waited. Kevin found the tool belt under a tarp and cinched it around his hips. A screwdriver fell through a hole. "I need a new one."
"Yeah?" said Otis.
Yeah. Maybe he would learn to sew. Or meditate.
The sun was out, but it felt like the Dark Ages. A dozen crows sat high on the wires cawing together, a warning, a cry. My companion and I looked for predators; she had once seen crows alarming for an owl. But we scanned the air and trees and found no owl. Where were they looking? Their beaks pointed down. There, we saw the black bundle, a fallen friend. A car came. Don’t run over it! And swerved. A little gloved man got out of a van and scooped their friend into a black bag. The crows cried louder. Somewhat shaken, we continued on our way.
At the outdoor café, the woman at the metal table behind us ripped open a cellophane wrapped package with her teeth and ate one thin cookie after another as she dried her eyes with her flowing skirt.
The four little boys smiled shyly, ready to play dress-up, their mother’s clothes far away. Instead, Pacific Gas and Electric gave them garlands and a job welcoming visitors to the new power substation, designed by Willis Polk, built to restore energy after the 1906 earthquake.
A century later, a man walked into a plaza and was puzzled. He stared up at the cherubs set into the new brick wall of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and noted that these little cherubs, who were obviously boys, were obviously not Jewish. Yet, here they were.
Policing the Children
I rounded the corner to find flashing lights and a police SUV with all its doors open. What’s wrong? What’s going on? Then I saw the children. Knee high. Lots of them, all the same size. Moving around. Their teachers nearby, smiling.
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