He entered and exited my field of vision – the 27X27 inch square of one of my living room windows – all in a matter of seconds, really. I’d pulled a chair over to the window to enjoy the post-downpour breeze on this late summer afternoon and was unknowingly well-positioned for the show. Walking up Georgia Avenue past the red and burgundy – Washington Redskins themed – front window of Charlie’s restaurant, he was largely unremarkable, except of course, the striking disparity between his appearance and his behavior. I heard him before I saw him,” Awwwawwwahh, Aaahuu, Aaahhuu!” First the low, urgent murmur, then progressively louder with unintelligible self-talk mixed in. To be fair, I was sitting in my second floor window across the street from the guy, with a light flow of Georgia Avenue traffic humming below, a lawnmower running in the not-to-far distance, as well as my being literally face to face with the insistent singing of the birds and insects in the tree just outside of my window, so I suppose his words could have been intelligible to someone else. Point is, when I first spotted him, the murmur was still low and I did not connect the man to the noise right away, simply because of his markedly normal appearance. I was looking at a middle-aged white man of average height and weight. He was dressed in well-fitting, belted khaki shorts, a white t-shirt, white sneakers and a blue baseball cap. Finishing off his painfully average outfit was as fresh, clean backpack. And then it all seemed to happen at the same moment; I noticed he walked with his knees a bit too bent, giving his gait a conspicuous, off-balance bounce, his limbs did not seem completely under his control, and, wait, the increasingly louder grunting and talking were coming from him! Instantaneously, I was transported to the year 2008 on that chilly, late summer day in Paris when I witnessed a scene that would later become a blog entry entitled, Homeless Turf War. For sure it was the same unintelligible grunt and hard, bouncy walk accompanied by limbs flying in every direction, but this guy was definitely not homeless.
A moment earlier I had noticed a young black man standing outside of Charlie’s. I never saw him move but somewhere between the onset of my friend’s noisy ascent and the upping of the dramatic behavior, the guy had rolled. And then I spotted him. No doubt uninterested in yet another crazy person walking up Georgia Avenue, he’d gone into the restaurant and started his work hanging decorative lights in the front window, just narrowly missing the festivities.
Barely passed Charlie’s, my friend’s noises and bouncing were joined by a powerful – what I can only call – head tossing. He was tossing his head up and down, side to side and slowly added his arms to the mix. One jerking, backwards head-toss too many, and off popped the blue cap, revealing his very average, thinning, white hair. One of his already swinging arms attempted unsuccessfully to catch the cap on its descent, and as it hit the ground, he hit a fevered pitch. Bending wildly at the waist – knees locked, he scooped up his hat and plopped it lopsidedly down on top of his now-standing, untamed strands. His noises became the loudest yet, Ahhuuuah, AAaawwaa, Awaahhhuuu! Since he had to make a 180 degree turn to retrieve his fallen hat, I guess he decided, “Why stop there?”, and started a series of 360 degree turns, arms flailing wildly about. The talking now continued, still completely unintelligible to me, however there was a definite tone of anger and frustration at this point. He continued this way, walking up the Avenue, hurling his arms, his head and his incomprehensible, angry words. And then he was out of my field of vision. Not having a television or being a big mainstream movie watcher, I tend to notice that things like this affect me a bit more than other people. So, I was still sitting in the same spot, taking in the experience. Asking myself, the how’s and why’s to a seemingly normal individual behaving in a manner obviously completely out of his control; He seems to need medication. Where is his family/doctor? How did he get dressed like that? What’s he so angry about? And before I could wrangle up any answers, there he came again. I looked up to find my friend entering my square of vision from the left this time, heading down Georgia Avenue. The angry self-talk was in full swing, as were the dramatically moving arms and head, only now he had what appeared to be a 16 ounce plastic bottle of soda in his left hand. Mission complete. Just your average Saturday afternoon 7-11 run, I guess.