A neighborly morning complete with street opera

June 18, 2020


A neighborly morning as that persistent northeast wind finally let go.  Fog gave way to sunshine.

I passed Mario as I headed out for a three-mile hike to clear my head.  He was walking home from picking up his newspapers of the day.  We exchanged pleasantries as the sounds of demolition equipment rattled across the street from the Lewes school.

Pleasantries.  Smiles and small talk.  In the early 1970s we lived in a second floor apartment on Pleasant Street in Oberlin, Ohio. Carl Younglass lived downstairs.  He was very old and his mind was going.  Some nights we would awaken in our bed over his living room in the wee hours of the morning, long after we finished listening to Derek and the Dominos playing Layla on a Sony tape recorder.  We could hear rumbling from downstairs.  Carl was moving furniture around for a reason that only his mind could fathom. That was long ago.

This morning, I turned the corner.  Halfway down the street Sherry stopped her car in the middle of the roadway.  “Did you see the house at the end of the street?  They’ve painted it a dark gray.  It looks great.” (Later in the day I read an obituary for Tony Sing, Sherry’s neighbor for decades. Tony lived to the beat of his own drum, loved living simply in the heart of Lewes.  Reading of his death saddened me.  My sympathies to Cathy and all of his family.)

The molded concrete block house and property that Sherry spoke of are notable for a few reasons, but after many decades of sitting empty, it’s finally getting well-deserved attention. One of its most notable features is the colorful sea glass embedded into stucco covering the gable end at the back of the house and also in the front gable end of the garage. It might be on the front gable too but I’ve never noticed that. 

Two vehicles, a Jeep and a sedan, stopped behind Sherry as we chatted briefly. The guy in the sedan, behind the Jeep driver, honked impatiently. Sherry drove on, the Jeep driver tossed his arm out the window and threw the finger up for the sedan driver. I hollered to the Jeep driver that I agreed. The sedan driver slumped, looked straight ahead, and scowled as he passed. Maybe he had a good reason to be in a hurry.  I don’t know but I generally give people the benefit of the doubt.

Then I heard a voice come from a house on the other side of the street.  “Thanks Dennis.”

“Who’s that hollering my name?” I walked closer and saw the face of a lady - maybe Phyllis - looking through the screen of her front porch window.

She thought I had said something to the sedan driver about his speed. “They come a hellin’ up this street like it’s the Indianapolis speedway.”

“How are you doing,” I asked.

“Oh, OK, I guess.  One of my kitties just died and that’s been rough. The other one doesn’t know what to do.”

“Maybe you should get another kitten - to keep the other company.”

“I’m too old for that.  I don’t need anything else to lose.  It hurts too much.”

I think she said something about the fact that her one cat that died liked to listen to opera.

“Pavarotti,” she said.  

“I like Pavarotti.  Andrea Bocelli too.”

“Nessun Dorma,” she said. Then, a star of the metal screen, she broke into some of the familiar notes of that famous Italian aria, right on key. Mario probably knows it. 

I figured why not make it a duet.  So I picked up where she left off, and sang about 15 more notes. Live opera, right there from a front porch window, and standing in the middle of the street. If I knew any music from Romeo and Juliet I would have broken into that too. Just seemed like the right thing do do. But as I write this, all I can think of from the Romeo and Juliet musical canon is Mark Knopfler’s beautiful song about the star-crossed lovers. In it he sings “There’s a place for us.” Echoes of Leonard Bernstein’s adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy he used to create his West Side Story.

So there you have it.  Neighborliness, simplicity, live opera all on a quiet residential street as the curtain begins to fold back on the summer of 2020.

When Nora and Jeff married, they wanted a celebration of the quotidian aspects of day-to-day living - the little things that make up the bulk of our lives that we tend to take for granted. Quotidian. I never knew what it meant before then.

There’s a little taste of quotidian for you. Stay in touch with the folks around you, enjoy the little things, and spread a little love around.


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