MORE things they’d arrest you for in the suburbs.

On Friday I blogged about hookers. Specifically, how do my husband & I drive them from our block back into the darkened alleyways from whence they sprang? Hayden mentioned SIGNS, Curly suggested an AIRHORN. Both excellent ideas, but of course the airhorn has won my heart b/c it is WAY LOUD. Unfortunately as I was waaay too busy this glorious weekend to buy an airhorn, I am hoping Curly will be a love and send me hers. THANKS IN ADVANCE, BABE!! I promise to think of you each time I interrupt coitus w/ a blast from your horn.

All this talk of hookers has reminded me of another post I wrote a while back, describing other Quality of Life issues we’ve experienced living here in Philly. So I figured – Hey, IT’S MONDAY. It’s gray and cloudy & Blah. Why not spice up the crapfest that is The Start of the Workweek w/ MORE weird tales?? YAY!

11) Years ago my sister rented an apartment just off Rittenhouse Square, a wealthy part of Philly. Her only issue there was walking her dogs – at the time, 2 rescued greyhounds. Her one dog was fine when it came to letting fly; she’d go anywhere. Unfortunately her other dog had been severely abused at the track and was so skittish she couldn’t potty without privacy. A pretty tall order in the middle of the city. My sister ended up walking the dogs through a labyrinth of darkened alleyways three times a day. Not enticing. and even less so when she began discovering mounds of human feces along the way. So much for hoity-toity.

12) One night years ago, I went out to meet friends. At the end of the night, I walked back to my car and noticed the window of my jeep hanging open. DAMN! what’d they steal this time? Strangely, nothing. But someone had decided to sit inside consuming an entire six pack of beer. Leaving the empties. How nice.

13) I met a guy when I was 19. He was older, foreign, went to PENN. I wasn’t attracted to him in the least, but he was so dogged persistent I finally gave him my number just to shut him up. LEARN FROM MY STUPIDITY. For weeks this dude would call my parents’ house, leaving messages on the machine, and if I ever mistakenly answered the phone – that’s right, inevitably him. Initially I was polite. Quickly that disintegrated into downright hostility. I’d never met anyone so overbearing, arrogant and aggressive. Everything about him screamed I AM A RAPIST. Finally I’D HAD ENOUGH, and in no uncertain terms told this guy that I was never ever EVER in my life going to go out with him. I ended with LOSE MY NUMBER! & slammed down the phone. I kid you not, this clueless jackass called back 5 minutes later to ask when we were going to meet. Shortly thereafter I moved into my first apartment. Somehow dude got my new number and began calling. I started sleeping up the street at a friend’s. FINALLY finally, he stopped calling. Perhaps he’d been deported.

14) I was driving to school one day behind a big old beater. Suddenly the driver rolls down his window and tosses out – not just a cup, not just a napkin, but a WHOLE F*CKING CHICKEN DINNER. Jumbo bucket with assorted bits, biscuits, the whole damn thing. Bones flying everywhere. I was so shocked I nearly rear-ended him.

15) Years ago, my husband worked as a manager at a bookstore in 30th Street (the main train station here in Philly). One night after closing, he went to get a drink at the public water fountain. when he sensed someone standing right behind him. He spun round to find a homeless guy inches from his face. My husband took off. The man, enraged over something, began coming at him, swinging an enormous bag filled with (it turned out) heavy glass bottles. He flung the bag at my husband. Fortunately it missed him, but crashed to the ground, bottles shattering everywhere. My husband scrambled to find the box cutter he kept on him for work – finally pulling it out of his pocket and threatening the guy to back off. At the sight of the cutter, the man stopped and just walked away.

16) One night in college, I was out at a dive bar with friends. The place was packed. We were lucky enough to get a table and pretty soon a couple guys asked if they could join us. We spent the next few hours boozing with these new “friends,” one of whom was an extremely effeminate dog-groomer. I’ll never forget him. Not only was he a good laugh, but at some point during the night he STOLE MY WALLET.

17) When I lived with my parents, I had to drive to and from the city, 30 minutes, each way. And YES, it got old real fast. I used to see a panhandler at a particular intersection almost daily, who w/out fail would give me the same line. His wife – at that very moment – was giving birth to their child in the alley behind the car dealership, and if I could please spare 50 cents, it would surely mean the difference between life & death. He was so damn earnest about the whole thing, I gave him money. But after a dozen kids, it was just plain insulting.

18) Years ago, there was a guy who lived on Rittenhouse Square called Fast Eddie (same nickname as Philly’s former mayor (now PA governor) but a different guy altogether). THIS Eddie had a distinctly disturbing addiction to used underwear (aka, poopie pants), and would solicit purchase in the park from desirable candidates (aka, young boys). He was ultimately arrested and charged with a whole host of crimes involving minors and deviant sexual acts. A FORTUNATE THING for many inner-city boys. Unfortunately, a guy I once liked confessed he’d sold a pair of his boxers to Eddie for cash. We remained “just friends” .

Things they’d arrest you for in the suburbs.

But in the city – anything goes. Need proof?

1) When we lived in our last apartment, my husband & I were awoken one night by noise in the alleyway. We looked out our 2nd floor window to find our landlord splayed on the steps outside his apartment, mumbling incoherently. What really caught our attention: he was dressed in drag and shooting up.

2) A couple years ago I was on the phone with a friend, looked out the window into our alley and spied a man standing there urinating. Middle of the day, just casually taking a wizz against my next-door neighbor’s house. I ran out and started yelling at him. He took off running down the block, fastening his pants as he went. I suppose I should be happy – another neighbor has a “pooper”.

3) Our block on summer nights is a prostitute’s dream – dark, semi-secluded with lots of tree cover. Some of the more interesting run-ins we’ve had with local hookers:

  • My husband approached a car where an illicit rendezvous was taking place. He banged on the window and told them to hit the road. The client got out of the car and threatened to kill my husband. Threatening? Not really – since the dude was standing in the middle of the street buck naked.
  • One prostitute was finishing up with a client. As I approached her car, she very considerately opened the door and proceeded to vomit on the curb. This would be just before she threw the used condom out the window.

4) Back in graduate school, I owned a Jeep Wrangler which I drove to & from campus. One morning, I left my apartment, got into my jeep to head to school, and noticed another car had pulled up right next to mine. As I was parked on a busy street, I assumed the person was just waiting to take my parking spot. Nope. I looked over (and being higher up – in a JEEP) saw Mr. Happy Hands going to town on himself, grinning up at me with enthusiasm. I did not smile back.

5) A few months later, same thing, different guy. I spent 20 minutes on I-95 trying to avoid some whack job driving right beside me, trying his utmost to get my attention, in my elevated jeep wrangler. To be safe, I now avoid all brownish Monte Carlos with Delaware plates.

6 ) My first year of graduate school, I rented an apartment right next to a guy with an unbelievable addiction to (surprise, surprise) porn. Unfortunately didn’t know this until AFTER signing the lease. He seemed to be a fairly nice guy, but I don’t think I ever saw him with a pair of pants on. Liked to hang out in the hallway in his boxers. He appeared to spend all of his waking time watching porno movies, which wouldn’t have bothered me quite so much had he been considerate enough to a) turn down the volume, or b) close his window shades. As we shared a wall – which ever-so-conveniently happened to be wood paneled (old Victorian house), I spent many waking hours wondering whether he’d drilled some sort of Porky’s style peep hole into it I’d never be able to find. I started changing in the bathroom after that. Occasionally my cat Sammy would wander out into the hallway before I could stop him. Dude would throw his door open like he was waiting for it and immediately start petting my cat. I really didn’t like that. When workmen at the building started asking me about him – “hey do you know that guy? he’s got a real problem..” etc, it got to be a bit much. A small porn collection might disturb a sensitive person, but one so massive that it’s creeping out the Big Burly Workmen? YIKES. I didn’t renew my lease.

7) Same apartment – other side. This second guy was really nice with no apparent porn addiction. A big heavyweight footballer. One night, I woke up at 4AM, my apartment filled with smoke, someone wailing on the door (porn guy in his boxers) – hallway also filled with smoke. The fire department arrived in moments, no response from the Footballer. They break down his door to find him out cold. Turns out he’d gone to the huge Greek Picnic at the Plateau here in Philly, came back wasted and decided to make some hot dogs. Unfortunately, he passed out before he took the pot off the stove. Great smoking wieners, Batman!

8) More about my jeep. Man how I loved that car. Unfortunately b/c of the soft top it was the biggest theft magnet imaginable. I had at least one radio stolen per year, sometimes two or three, and additionally had huge kicker box speakers literally pried out of the back of my car. I installed a Viper alarm system, as in: “Protected by Viper, STAND BACK” which never did anything except amuse neighborhood boys who used to love setting it off, and annoy the sh*t out of myself and everyone else w/in 200 feet. While clubbing one night, someone stole the entire TOP off my car. This was only topped by coming out one morning to find someone had stolen both doors. Man I miss that car.

9) The second apartment I had in grad school was a lovely place – with built-in bookcases and a sweet little balcony I wasn’t supposed to use, but of course I did. The down side: people were constantly leaving the front door open, so occasionally you’d hear your doorknob rattle, look out through the peep hole and see some shady guy standing there on your doormat, mumbling something about having “mistaken your apartment for someone else’s.” Yeah, okay. I came home one day from school to find someone had conveniently popped the lock open on my door and stolen the few things I’d had worth stealing: my VCR, my jewelry, and my gym bag. Of course what do I miss still? The jewelry? Nah. WELL – yes, the one turquoise ring most definitely – but NO, it would be my ratty yet irreplaceable gym shorts which were in the bag, and doubtless got tossed right into some dumpster. Cops came, took the report. No arrest, no leads. No gym shorts. Sad story.

10) Several months ago, my husband caught a 9 year old kid trying to steal our daughter’s bike off our porch. Broad daylight, middle of the afternoon, and this kid’s flat on his belly squirming up our steps, reaching out to pull the bike to him, so he can leap up on it and flee. His two companions, on their own pint-sized bikes, were waiting as lookouts in the street. So my husband comes around the corner of the house and actually catches this kid in the act. And was he scared? Crying? Shame-faced? Fat chance. He actually had a lie ready & waiting. Told us he was coming up on the porch to ask for a tire pump. Funny, I didn’t know we looked like the local service station. Unless you’re looking for the SELF SERVE. Poor dumb kid. 9 years old and he’s already a remorseless criminal. I must have asked him ten times to tell me where he lived. YOU KNOW I was gonna set his mom straight. “Um, I don’t know where I live.” “I don’t know the house number.” “Our phone number just got changed.” etc. Too young for the juvenile court system, no parental supervision – Unless you’re counting the 17 year old thug he calls a friend. The future ain’t looking too bright.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone?

A friend once sent me one of those email quizzes where you have to answer a long list of personal questions. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these yourself? I see quite a few of them posted on other people’s blogs, and I think they’re sort of interesting. Anyway, these quizzes tend to ask many of the same questions (mostly about favorites, what you’re wearing, listening to, etc.), but the one my friend sent also had the question: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

Vertigo is a little something like my friend’s quiz – a semi-illuminating answer that only hints at what’s below. I can describe to you what it feels like, but until you experience it firsthand, you’ll never really understand. Up until a week ago, I had a really good hold on my Meniere’s symptoms and had the feeling that I was in control of the disease. I don’t know what being on that boat did to me – whether it was the food, the motion, or some combination thereof, but this past week has shown me that control is an illusion. We simply can’t control much of what happens to and around us.

Yesterday evening, 2 teenagers with a sawed-off shotgun assaulted a man right around the corner from my home. They tried to rob him, but he didn’t have any money or valuables, and that really pissed them off – so they blew an enormous hole in his leg. His blood is still pooled on the front steps of the house behind mine. It made me think of my husband’s response to the same quiz question I listed above: What is the first thing you notice about someone? Whether they’re packing [heat].

I guess that’s life as we know it in Philadelphia, November 11, 2007.

Not funny at all.

We can’t control much of what happens in our lives, but we can all make choices. Today I am well enough to be out of bed – and I’m making the choice to share with others something I learned this week.

If you’re waiting until everything is *just so* in your life before allowing yourself to really live and be happy, you’re destined to be one sad sack. Things will likely never be perfect. So do the best you can with what you’ve got – because I can guarantee there are people who have it way worse than you. And surprisingly, many of those people have a better attitude. When terrible things happen, don’t look to the heavens, shaking your fist at God and wondering why you’ve been cursed. Look inside, believe in yourself, and understand there are things beyond your control. We may never understand why horrible things happen, but I do believe there is a greater plan. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it, don’t sit around complaining that things suck. Fight against injustice, DON’T be a part of the problem. And always, always, embrace the positive. Love and respect yourself and those around you. And for the love of God, get over yourself already (No, it’s NOT really “all about you”), take time to share and be a servant to the world, rather than expect everyone to bow down before your sorry ass. Despite what your tee-shirt says, you are NOT royalty.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of my post. Well, I guess in my own roundabout way I’m trying to make a point. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it their eyes? Their crutches? The gun pointed at your face? What do we see when we look at others? What do we see when we look inside ourselves?

I was about as low as I’ve been this week, but illness is not necessarily a bad thing if it renders you a wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. If you can laugh at pain and hold strong in times of fear, then you’re no longer captive to either. And that is a worthy goal.