May 2023

Theater in the Street

Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones

Bear with me while I connect a few dots.

It all started when I ran across a YouTube recipe for tabouli and in my head put that together with some garlic mint yogurt just gotten from Costco a couple of days ago, and my stash of cracked grain-- of which I have more than enough –and, coincidentally, leftover parsley, leftover cherry tomatoes and, insanely, leftover mint which I had propagated because…Mint.

As this dinner menu coalesced—with the frozen lamb chunks I genuinely, finally, have to use—my general enthusiasm began to develop and leak over into other areas.

See, here's the thing: on my short list of crazy tasks, there exists one that it would be truly nice to at last just cross the hell off, push off the cliff, disinvite to the party—I actually mentioned it to my brother Tim last week. In the dining room, we have what we call the fancy sideboard in order to distinguish it from the built-in Craftsman. It's French, it has a lot of carving (no gilt) yet it is delicate and graceful, as opposed to the other. Also, one of the chief attributes that caused me to haul it home in the first place is its atypical collection of carefully distributed ornamental medallions throughout. They consist of miniature carved wooden ovals within which are tiny, exquisite pieces of blue and white Wedgwood.


This hits for me.

So. Getting to the issue. The center portion of this lovely has two fair size doors which open to reveal a storage area. For many, many years I have stored linens and random lightweight things in this compartment. Sadly, at some point the sagging wooden shelf simply wouldn't bear weight anymore. I stuck a vertical piece of plywood underneath to prop it up, but that meant I could never vacuum under there without risking knocking it out of place. And sometimes it just fell over on its own. This whole thing was not optimum. (Did I mention I just got a little floor robot vac? Dying to try it out on them unreachable dust bunnies.)

The new me grasps vibrations out of the air and forms them into action! We have Tim at hand just down the street waiting to diagnose that poor benighted shelf and in fact today is Friday, so time to go. The shelf conveniently comes in three longsections which I can stash under my arm. I can grab my hat and a favorite bag, making sure to go past my delicious pet grapefruit tree. Then on the way home go up another street where I know there's a patch of mint. Because... Mint.

Hallelujah! In the distance as I'm approaching the tree I can see one generous specimen, face down on the sidewalk. This is my jam. Doesn't matter how often I go past that tree, like as not there's gonna be fruit—some damaged, especially after a windstorm, and that is why my refrigerator is well stocked. Nobody else cares. I just don't understand that. Just wash it and cut off the bad stuff. Don't get me started.

Out in front of the antique store, working on a busted chair, well…my brother is not feeling it today. I stash my grapefruit bag on the ground, other side of the worktable. He looks at my shelf parts. Maybe he's just distracted or something; we can't seem to get on the same page. He just wants to slap in a replacement outta quarter-inch plywood. K, the owner of the shop takes a quick look, that's hardwood he says, that's good stuff. And he walks away. I'm at the point of remarking on the possibility of an approach I would like to take, which in the face of woodworking expertise is a little bit of a risk, but hey what's life without risk?

Out of nowhere we suddenly hear screaming. That's not unusual—somebody excited about the Giants game, maybe somebody hit the go-ahead run, who knows, but no. It continues, this time ratcheted up to pretty scary decibels. A guy across the street is—how shall I put this— extremely upset. I mean as in repeated iterations of fuck fuck fuck fuck [unintelligible] and now he's starting to roam around in the middle of the road. Happily, he heads off to a side street, but not so lucky for the restaurant sitting right there with its door open.

The sideboard shelf is no longer getting any attention. I set the pieces down on the worktable gingerly. K has walked down the street to get a better look. There are some mutterings from others, but mostly I think folks would rather just keep moving on down the sidewalk. About 10-15 minutes or so in, and we're starting to get a little concerned. The decibel level ebbs and flows, but now he's sitting on the curb across from the restaurant, mercifully out of the street, but still having a vigorous conversation with the air, arms and fingers stabbing for emphasis.

My body just moves itself almost involuntarily over to the curb. I have a clear view of him, kitty cornered across the street, and something in me starts breathing and looking at him, standing as stone-still as I can. I observe that what I want to do is send this guy a message. Not sure what it is, but I'm gonna go ahead and say love and peace. Couldn't hurt. We're all standing as though transfixed.

And of course, here come the cops. Don't know who called them, don't care. It is what it is. Weirdly I realize that I have been holding my phone in my hand this whole time. Is that what it's come to? Don't have to actually record anything, just the presence of phones has its effect, even though the guy is white. The officer doesn't technically do much. I think he may be on the radio asking for advice.

And here comes another cruiser. K and Tim are now standing directly across from the action. There's some head shaking going on. The plan seems to be for these two officers to stand a good distance away on either side of this poor fella and just talk. That's pretty much what they spend the next 15 minutes doing. Not like he's calmed down, oh no he's pretty much letting them have it now. Fuck fuck fuck fuck [unintelligible] get the fuck away from me.

Ironically enough, when you have a business and the doors are open sometimes you gotta deal with customers. So yes, K has to go back because he can see that someone is peering in the shop window, and that means potential sale, so he scoots on over there. This means in various kinds of alternate universes we could continue discussing my sideboard. Tim says he thinks I should wrap the sections together with blue tape and see if there's any reason at all why there had to be sections in the first place. Like why can't it be one solid piece? I can't answer that, but I see where he's going with it. I would like to glue those pieces together and perhaps brace it to keep it from sagging? I know my brother; I can tell when he's intrigued by a problem and when he is just outright bored. This is the latter.

In the confusion, S who also hangs around mostly polishing things, moves my grapefruit bag, from where I had it safely stashed on the ground. Hey, I found this anybody know where it comes from? Yes, duh. I don't say that but I do notice that grapefruit juice has completely soaked up the bottom. I don't know why that annoys me. Actually, I do know why. I had every intention of going on past my favorite mint patch on the way home and this bag was supposed to be where I would toss in my surreptitious gleaning. Now I just feel tacky with a squashed grapefruit. So, I gotta go inside, get a couple of paper towels.

Meanwhile, somehow in the interim Mr. Thing has gotten installed in one of the cruisers. We're unclear on his status, but it appears not good because the next thing the fire department is arriving. Get out the way! Whoop whoop! As we make our way back up the street, a little group forms, somebody says yeah bet they put on handcuffs, he had a seizure. Oh no! Poor guy.

To their credit it's only a few minutes and then the paramedics arrive. Our group has enlarged to include a couple, apparently trying to make their way to K's shop with a question, but can't help asking hey what's going on, as folks do when they're just coming on the scene. The lady especially wants details. So, I tell her, he's really upset. Not sure if he's off his meds but seems likely. He's really really really upset. She murmurs oh that's too bad that's too bad.

Here's where it gets a little fun. While the semi-witnessing population is not truly witnessing through the blockage of emergency vehicles, conversations spring up. They take little twists and turns at the end of which I have discovered that I have three or four things in common with this woman. Like I know the UU church she goes to cause I sang in their choir long ago and have thought of rejoining them; I know precisely where she lives because I used to deliver newsletters there; she also goes hiking with one of my old newsletter gang; and her sister-in-law lives right across from me for 25 years.

And we both hate her. She's a Royal Pain. Oh ho, do I have anecdotes. Oh ho, does she want to hear all about it. Showrunners couldn't make this up.

My grapefruit is just fine by now, the bag's all dry. After the gossip indulgence I'll go get my mint. Take my shelf back home for tape rehab. As if to close the chapter, just as we're making fun plans with her husband and with K to check out repair for the little antique Chinese trunk sitting in their car just down the street at their house, the Subject of this hour -long drama finally emerges in the form of a not-comatose, not -debilitated or particularly abused-looking, actually quite alert person of, I would say, perhaps the age of one of my sons, like 45 maybe? He's sitting semi-reclined on a gurney, surrounded by two cruisers, two cops, two paramedics and an ambulance.

He's still yelling.

Get the FUCK away from me.



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Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones has a long, full career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer. She writes a monthly column
and is a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2023 Claudine Jones
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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