Friday, July 22, 2011

Night Owl Jamboree

We keep some pretty weird hours.

I sometimes go to work at 4:30 a.m. and sometimes at 2 p.m.  B doesn't work.  I've learned to be something approximating a morning person when necessary, but ultimately, given my druthers, I'd stay up all night and get a million things done.  And these days I often do.  It makes those early mornings a little harder to fit into my schedule without cat naps here and there, but that's the price you pay for freedom, I guess.

I've referred to the woman down the hall as Scary Neighbor, but most of the time we refer to her as Bad Nana, Mean Nana, or, if she's been particularly awful in our direction, Bitch Nana.  From what I've gathered, she cares for (and I mean this in the very loosest sense of the word) her granddaughter, who is roughly 4 or 5, and, based on my interactions with her in the hallway, smart and sassy as all get out.

This makes me incredibly sad, because Bad Nana is the very last person I would put in charge of anyone's well-being, least of all a child's.

In our late night world, we make music and talk philosophy and blog and cook and generally live a happy life of creativity, terrible jokes and awesome food. And then Bad Nana came and added the hobby of listening to Bad Nana hold court among her weird harem of 20-something hoodlums and 40-something, generally intoxicated African men.  In general, she has nothing good to say about any of them when they're not around.  And she's got some pretty ignorant things to say about her Muslim friends, and you'll have to trust me on that, because I wouldn't repeat them for a million dollars.

This evening I decided to reclaim a tupperware container of beans that had been sadly neglected.  It is a sad but true fact that vegetable proteins rot with a furious stench worthy of their animal counterparts (a word to the wise: if your tofu turns, just toss the container. Seriously.  I've literally never encountered anything as foul as rotten tofu).  So I dumped it in the trash and took the trash out.

Around from the back of the building came one of Bad Nana's older-type friends who greeted me with vigor and attempted to make small talk.  The last time I exchanged pleasantries with one of Bad Nana's friends it ended with, "Aw, you gettin' cold over there...I see you, girl."  It took me until I was in the apartment and had put the grocery bags down to realize that he was referring to my nipples at which point I considered going back outside to throw down.  Instead, I adopted a policy of icy avoidance of the whole lot.

So when I found myself there with Cheery Drunk Guy, I began to consider my options.  He obviously wanted to get in the building, and I, obviously, did not want to let him in behind me.  Happily or not, it turned out that in his sojourn behind the building, he'd managed to wake Bad Nana.  Bad Nana was not happy.  And when Bad Nana ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

She stormed out the door.

"Do you know what time it is? Don't DO this to me. For real.  It's motherfuckin' three o'clock in the morning...who the fuck's that? [I waved a little] Oh...For real, what the fuck do you want at motherfuckin' three in the morning?"

I was really hoping here that she'd just relent and let him in and make a path for me to scurry back to my happy little world, but instead they sat down.  I was running out of ways to drag out the task of putting out the trash.

"Seriously, yo, do you know who's awake at three o'clock in the morning?  Motherfuckin' crackheads.  The only people awake at three o'clock in the morning are motherfuckin' crackheads. For real.  I finally got to sleep after four days awake and you fuckin' wake me up..."

I finally just sucked it up and excused myself to get past them.  They stayed on the steps dropping motherfuckin' F-bombs for another half-hour.

And I went back to my cocoon and made a baked tempeh salad to take to work tomorrow night while B nerded out on the new sampler we got for pennies.

The number of times the phrase, "It's a small world," has come in the past week has been astronomical.  It's funny that people use it almost exclusively to demonstrate how many ties there are between disparate people at great geographical distances, or in unexpected circumstances.  And I've used it a million times myself. Portland, Maine, is practically the capital of the Small World phenomenon.

It's interesting, then, that we rarely note the opposite, which is undoubtedly more common.  The life that Bad Nana leads has virtually nothing to do with mine, despite our shared accommodations and physical proximity.  The same could be said for Gordon, the elderly fellow who used to live across the hall and could often be found holding a sign asking for change at the corner of State and Forest, "Homeless, please help."  Whatever Bad Nana thinks she knows about crackheads, Gordon was one, and he was in bed by 9 every night.

The parade of coincidence and serendipity that triggers our "Small World" excitement is definitely enthralling and more than a little magical, but I'm way more intrigued with the flip side, the people I pass on the street every day, the clerks in the store, the tenants of buildings I pass all the time that I've never met.  That we are capable of encountering people all the time and know nothing about them is astounding.  I think there's a sort of instantaneous, animal sorting that happens, "Like me, not like"  It's really a kind of alarmingly disengaged way to go about our lives. Because whether the assessment is "like" or "not like," the result is the same:  we never really consider the people around us as distinct individuals.  Unless someone is singled out for fame or infamy, we tend not to bother.

If that sounds like a judgment, it's because it is.  But from a practical standpoint, I know it would take a huge amount of energy to think differently, given the number of people we encounter every day.

There's something (or several somethings) swimming around in here, but the sky's pink and Bad Nana's cussing on the stoop and it's bed time.


  1. I love how specific you get with your labels. This blog post is brought to you by "crackheads, Bad Nana, tofu and the letter P."