Monday, January 9, 2012


Yesterday a guy who lives down the block had a mental breakdown in the middle of the street. There may have been drugs involved. Supposedly he was outside screaming but I hadn't heard him. One of my neighbors called but I was trying to get some work done so I didn't pick up. Then she texted, “I just called 911”. I called her back.

Why? What happened?
Haven’t you heard the guy in the street?
No, what guy?

She told me. She said he was screaming and throwing things, singing, doing a crazy jig and crying. He was talking about the apocolypse. He was breaking things.
As she talked, I walked downstairs and outside. “And now he’s just lying in the street,” she said.
“I see him,” I clicked off the phone.

My neighbor Mike was washing his car with his back to the guy 100 feet away.
What’s going on? I asked him.
He turned and looked, holding the hose away from himself, the water spouting out in an arc. “What? Oh yeah. Him”.
We both stared at the heap. Mike shrugged. ‘”He’s manic. That happens to my friend, Tommy.”
“It's worse when he drinks”, he turned and got back to work on his hubcaps. We could hear the sirens getting closer.
Is he violent?
"Jesus, Mike." He acted like going crazy was like getting a flat tire.

The sirens were a block over. The heap jumped up and started going with the jig again. His legs were like noodles, he was laughing and saying everyone was going to die. Mike’s wife Julie stuck her head out the door. What’s going on?
Some guy’s freaking out.
She came out onto the sidewalk at the same time two fire-engines, loud with swirling lights, came around the corner. The Jig-Dancer stood facing them with his arms outstretched and his head thrown back. He didn’t budge.
Oh look, it’s like Tommy, Julie said.
“That’s what I said”. This, from Mike.

The firemen got out of their trucks and, oddly, walked right by the crazy guy and over towards Carlos house. Carlos is (allegedly) a gang member and if 911 gets called on our street, it usually has something to do with him. He and his entire family: mom, gramps, wife, kids, stood behind the fence watching the spectacle. Carlos twirled his fore-finger at the cops, not unkindly, and then pointed to the crazy guy who was running in circles like he was trying to catch his tail.
Julie raised her chin to me and said, "I'm cleaning out the game closet, do you guys want any board games?"
"Ah," I was having a hard time turning my head away from the guy. He was dodging and turning in between two firemen. A cop car zipped past me silently like a shark and then bwoop-bwooped up by the guys. "What? Oh, No thanks."
"We 're getting rid of tons of crap. Look at all this", she pointed to a mountain of old toys on the front lawn.
Oh, I said. They were going to strap the guy to a stretcher. They rolled one behind him. It was upright, all he had to do was back onto it and they would pull the straps around him.
You probably have your own crap, she said.
I turned to face Julie and watched her mouth moving. I watched her mouth moving like I was stoned and she was endlessly fascinating. I wanted to know how she could keep going on.
Yeah, and then I went through a whole box of 8-track....

The guy screamed and bent in half and thrashed and swore. It made me think I have been worried lately, not to the flipping out point, but worried enough that I always wonder how far I am exactly. I know I'm an optimist, so I rely on being able to bounce back but still, I'm curious about it.

Mike has old xbox games from...
Just then, the firemen formed a circle around him. I could see from the corner of my eye. I could see that slowly, easily, the guy was stepping back onto the gurney. He wasn't resisting. I wondered what the firemen said to him. Those guys, always the heroes. He laid back and they pulled the white straps around him and then gently eased him from vertical to horizontal. He seemed so much calmer.

"I think we're just going to have to throw it all out...Mike can you help me carry this out?" Mike turned off the hose and and started yelling that he wanted to go through all that stuff first. "Just hold on."

The fireman was talking to the guy on the stretcher. The guy looked up at him like he was a kid listening to a story. I wished I could hear him. Maybe he was telling him he could rest now. Maybe he  told him things were going to get better.


  1. Such amazingly dinstinct words. You always have a way of sucking me in to your stories. I am a huge fan.