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street scenes

Two charming street vignettes today, night and day. Then I will embark on a crusade. A crusade, I tell you.

Sitting on the front stoop in Toronto last week late-ish at night (which ebbs and flows with age, don't you find? Late-ish to an eight year old is not lateish to an eighteen or twenty-eight year old, but by the time you hit middle age it starts to cycle back, so that by eighty lateish is back to where it was when you were eight) by which I mean, oh, eleven o'clock. A teenager walked past in her sandals, flip flop flip, a self-possesed confident stride.

This was not strange in itself -- it's a quiet residential neighborhood and a girl alone at night (no matter how late-ish) is not remarkable. I remarked this one because her head was buried in a book. There was no natural light, of course, so she had to hurry from streetlight to streetlight to keep going. I wondered if she would bump into a pole or parked car, but no. There's a god who looks after readers.

I probably wouldn't have bothered mentioning her were it not for the fact that only a few minutes later another reader appeared, walking in the same direction. Another female, late twenties maybe, more formally dressed, went click clack clicking by, head lowered, oblivious to the world outside her page. I waited her out of earshot, then went to the sidewalk myself and peered down the street. Were more ambulant readers on the way? Was this a new movement? The thing recalled those strange mass migrations of the Middle Ages, where whole villages would suddenly head off on a pilgrimage.

The very next morning -- a warm and sunny one -- Mir and I were walking past two street guys, sprawled on their bench.

Hey, got any smokes? the larger one called to us, adding, archly, you have to be smokers because I can see the fire in your eyes.

We shrugged, smiled, shook our heads.

His buddy was lean as a rake handle, with Old Testament hair. Sometimes, he said, there's fire without smokes.

I laughed out loud, and gave him my change. Enough to buy a couple of smokes, maybe -- it's an expensive habit.

Okay, enough charm for now. It's time to expose a villain, a narrow-minded tyrant of the streets. I am working up my righteous anger. But it's getting late-ish and I have to go. So, until next time ...

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