You can tell it’s a chilly morning in Santa Monica. Pedestrians with hooded sweatshirts are actually wearing their hoods up.
How chilly was it? See: Previous paragraph. I fear I may have entered an inescapable loop.
Nope. I’m out.
I do not carry a thermometer with me. But my guesstimation from forty years of West Coast habitation is that it was in the mid-fifties.
But with a breeze.
I know I can’t possibly persuade residents East and North of here that that’s cold. But it felt cold to me. Possibly the consequence of forty years of West Coast habitation. Relocated to the “Temperate Zone”, your body no longer tolerates frigid temperatures.
Or even the mid-fifties with a breeze.
Experiencing close-to-winter weather conditions, it is necessary to make a crucial determination before leaving the house:
Which jacket should I put on?
I have three jackets, available for varying degrees of coldification. I decide, as my middle-of-the-road temperament decrees – on a fully lined cotton windbreaker. I believe that will be sufficient. I step outside, discovering almost immediately..
That I am wrong.
It is frickin’ freezing!
And, as is also my temperament, being now fifty feet away from my house, I am too stubborn to return home and switch to the black leather “Bomber Jacket” more appropriate for the blustery conditions I am required to endure.
I scrunch my body together “tortoise-like” – shoulders hunched, head retracted and pointed downward – to preserve “body heat”, contravening my “Horse Doctor’s” * directions – * a bodywork specialist who works three days a week on people and three days a week on horses – to lift up my ribcage. I proceed to my destination, the Groundwork Coffee Emporium, contorted like like a pretzel.
There is one advantage to walking scrunched up with your head pointed down. You see stuff you would never see with your head up. (Including inadvertently dropped coinage.)
Here’s what I saw on the sidewalk during my Thursday morning walk.
A green-printed announcement proclaiming,
“I sold hemp.”
Which I did not understand. I get “I sell hemp.” with accompanying “Contact Information.” If you wanted to, you could contact those people and procure hemp. But…
“I sold hemp”?
Why would they write that? And by the way, when did they do it? I walk around that area all the time; I have never seen anyone writing anything! Do they do it l at night? How do they see anything? Do they have to sit on the sidewalk? Or is it “Stencil-On-A-Stick?”
Are some of the questions that cross my mind, the most important one being, “Why did they do it?”
Perhaps they’re in some kind of bizarre “Twelve-Step” program requiring “addicts” to make confessions on sidewalks. Which is possible, although strange.
“Couldn’t I just tell people?”
“People forget. You stencil ‘I sold hemp’ on a sidewalk and it stays there till they resurface.”
I continue to turn this curious mystery over in my mind, till I discover the next sidewalk decoration.
I am confronted by a two-foot image of a longhaired man, a bandanna over his face, his eyes masked by impenetrable sunglasses and a slung-low black fedora, under which are the words,
“You Love The Man.”
This message, I believe, would be more meaningful had I had any idea who “The Man” was.
The third announcement was considerably angrier. With apologies for the language – I did not make it up, I just read it off the sidewalk – the neatly printed instruction said,
“Fuck the phone. Look up!”
Two questions come to mind here.
If you see a person walking towards you paying no attention to where they are going, do you really need them to “Look up”? Or do you simply step out of their way?
If you write this on the sidewalk, are you not defeating the purpose of your message by, in order to read it, requiring people to look down?
Three interesting messages. And I’d have missed all of them, had I lifted my ribcage and looked straight ahead.
Having appreciated my surprising “Walk-and-Read”, I finally reached Groundwork, procured my traditional “Venice Blend” coffee, and I headed back home.
On my return sojourn, re-visiting the three announcements – now upside-down on the sidewalk – a blond “Surfer Dude” loped by headed for the beach, wearing a half pulled-on “wet suit”, a t-shirt, and he was barefoot.
I unzipped my windbreaker.
It was apparently warming up.