Culture vulture

Photo Illustration by C. Owsley Rain

Fool for the city
Aside from eavesdropping on strangers in bars, browsing used-book stores, riding my bike through the park, hanging out with my dogs and cats, watching Law and Order reruns with I. Daphne St. Brie, reading new novels by authors I trust (such as William Gibson), feeling the flush of renewed respiratory activity after hitting a fresh asthma inhaler, listening to old Tom Waits records on vinyl, chewing tiny bits of flesh off the bones of a roasted chicken, successfully playing a great groove on some song I’ve never drummed to before, catching a Star Trek episode I’ve never before seen, writing a sentence longer and more convoluted than any other that I’ve written, or sleeping in a freshly made bed, there are few things Culture Vulture enjoys more than simply strolling around the downtown area at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights, inhaling the aromas, and absorbing the ambient sounds of a small city at mid-day. Something weird, or at least mildly interesting, nearly always presents itself.

Take for instance today. It’s my custom to walk down to Tower Records at the beginning of the week to pilfer the pile of free publications that they so graciously set out for their non-buying customers to take advantage of. It’s a public service I try to pay back by actually purchasing something at least once a month. Fortean Times magazine usually, with the odd bargain CD thrown in on a fairly regular basis.

Anyway, there I was trudging back toward the office up Second Street when I paused to really observe a guy using a jackhammer on the side of the building at the corner of Second and Main. They’re making a new entrance or providing openings for ambient lighting or something. But what really caught my eye as a person who has spent many a year in the manual-labor fields was that this guy had literally no protection. No safety goggles. No ear-muff-style hearing protectors. No hardhat. And, to top it all off, he was standing on the second-to-the-top step of about a 12-foot step-ladder, the kind that has a warning sticker about four steps down that says, “Do not stand above this step.”

I mentioned that the fellow under observation was wielding a genuine, air-powered jackhammer; breaking through a wall of bricks about a foot and a half thick by pneumatically pounding it to jagged bits with a steel chisel, right? All while wearing no protective clothing or eyeware. He looked perfectly secure and comfortable, like he’d done it a million times before. He obviously didn’t need some busy-body to rush to his rescue uttering self-righteous cries of indignation at his plight. So I watched for a minute and continued on my way, secure in my belief that it’s none of my business if working people are publicly performing dangerous tasks in broad daylight with little or no regard for personal safety.

April fools!

Foolish songs
1. “The Fool on the Hill,” The Beatles

2. “A Fool Such as I,” Bob Dylan

3. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” Elvin Bishop