There’s a fella who lives in my neighborhood; he’s an old man now. Big, bombastic guy, with a voice that hits you like a concussive shell, coupled with a physique and stature that suggest the tall trees he used to work among as a lumberjack in his youth.
He’s kind of the major-domo of our neighborhood. Or the Mayor, you might say. He’s retired now from his duties at a certain old-fashioned gentlemen’s club, near downtown San Jose. Now, if you’re like me you thought those things only existed in old Wilfrid Hyde-White movies. Imagine my surprise (some ten years ago) to find out not only do they exist, but that I have the company of one of their most courteous and courtly denizens right across the street from me.
He actually still goes to work there sometimes, pressed into service emeritus during occasional times of need. He’s real proud as he leaves, all dressed up, backing that Cadillac land-yacht he drives out onto the street. He did that a lot last year. This year he mostly just stays around here and runs the neighborhood.
He’s a big man, like I said—but older now, beginning to stoop. Still, he hails everybody and knows everyone, his red-cheeked good humor crossing all factional lines. Never intrusive or meddlesome, nothing like that; just watchful somehow without being nosy. And helpful. Knows a lot about everybody’s yard, and what grows there. Looks after things if anybody’s away, and might even trim your hedge for you if an extended illness keeps you from it. He does call me Jimmy, which never fails to delight me as you can imagine. But then he does the same thing with the guy next door to my right, and Johnnie is probably ninety if he’s a day, so I guess it’s all right.
You just see him everywhere, rain or shine. And one of the big reasons for that is that he takes a lot of morning walks. And I don’t mean a walk every morning, I mean several each morning. Then several each afternoon, followed soon after by several each evening. He walks his dog, you see.
Ah, yes…the dog. The dog is a little scruff of a thing, schnauzer I think, about 10 tons of attitude squeezed down into 12 pounds of flesh. Pure dynamite couldn’t be more explosive. You can’t go anywhere near his master’s house without him trying to come through the screen door after you, his big owner hushing him from behind to little (if not intensifying) effect. And then all the way back across the street the sound follows you home, like a spanking.
So anyway, there the big guy is, maybe a dozen or so times a day, out walking his little dynamite stick. He’ll be booming his way down the street, greeting newcomers and old-timers alike. Always a good word, always an offer to help unload the groceries. And always those beaming red cheeks.
In fact, the only time I can remember him without his trademark sunny disposition is one morning about three years ago, when two burglars broke in the back of my house and rushed out the front with a bunch of stuff I needed to replace anyway.
Insurance took care of it all fine, but I think The Mayor took the experience more personally than I did. This in spite of the fact that he saw them in the act, and promptly summoned the police. (…Should’ve turned loose the dog.)
The whole episode seemed to just about kill him, and I wouldn’t want anything like that to happen. I’m hoping the Mayor sees fit to stay around here with us for a good long time.