"If he's crazy, what does that make you?"

If a man is walking toward a woman and he wants to make a provocative comment to her as they pass one another, he's got just enough time to get out two words. I have noticed this lately in my own strolls up and down Chicago Avenue. One recent example took place as I walked past a man asking other people for money but to me he made some kissy noises and said, "Baby, please!" I turned half expecting him to complete the line with "don't go" but instead noticed that he was standing a couple of feet away from what was pretty clearly his own poop. I have seen this dude before...peeing on the corner of Damen and Chicago while wearing giant, yellow waders. Chicago Ave is his oyster and apparently the metaphorical shell reminds him of a toilet seat. As I kept walking I remembered a similar scene as I walked past "El Moderno Mexico" on Ashland and a man who was peeing against the building turned and said, "How you doin' mamacita?" While more than two words I give him points for a) continuing to pee and b) saying that to me while I had to step over his stream of urine as is pooled on the sidewalk. Every once in a while I forget that I have a beacon for truly crazy strangers but rest assured the beacon never waivers. 

This started when I had my first few jobs in downtown Kalamazoo. In the center of the downtown area is the Rickman House which is a half-way house for mentally disabled adults. At any given time there was an amazing cast of characters roaming the city. One wore a huge feather headdress, and referred to himeself as The Chief (no, he was not aware he was making a reference to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). One man was dressed as Uncle Sam complete with wig and flag and would propose marriage to every woman he saw. There was a very large woman who would often, I saw it more than three times, get naked and dance to her reflection in front window of one particular store (hilariously named The Mole Hole). Since I worked in coffee shops in Kalamazoo for years, if there is one thing crazy people like to do it is drink coffee for a million hours, I got to know my regulars very well. More than my fellow employees I started to notice that I was the one that they sought out and cornered with their poetry for hours. To be honest, they were just more interesting and much funnier than the majority of college kids that were also hanging out. Therein is the source of the beacon. People who are continually met with dismissal when they try to start a conversation are keenly aware of when there is a window in a listener. Let me state for the record that I have no poker face for anything, ever, at all, so whenever someone says something bonkers the window blows open. Like when a man said to me, "I would drink your bathwater!" I said, "That's disgusting!" Then we both laughed and walked away.

At this point in my life the people who know me the best, who have known me the longest say things like, "You have more weird interactions with strangers than anyone I've ever met." That is actually a quote directly following this example: while walking down Division I was mid-sentence with my companion when the homeless Rastafarian passing us held up his hand, we high-fived, and I continued my story without missing a beat. 


  1. a little bird on my shoulder told me that you were writing again... with hopes of not sounding pompous i want to tell you that i am so very proud of you. i can see your light burning from 700 miles away. happy vd and with hopes that your bed stays warm always, birdy.

    with love from bk...


  2. Thanks, that means a lot. I'm glad you stumbled upon it.

  3. Great post Meredith. I have a friend like you who always has the funniest stories of encountering characters on the street. I never understood what is was about him that invites these interactions but I think I get it now.