Mr. Baker’s Parade
There was an old guy who used to walk by my growing-up house every day when I was a kid, when I was out in the yard. His name was Mr. Baker. He was wicked old. Seemed kind of ancient. If my flickering brain cells remember correctly, he was always wearing dressy clothes, I picture nice pants (old peoples’ pants) and a sports jacket. He was, for sure, always wearing a hat, some kind of top hat, round with a brim. Mostly I remember his cigar. There was always a cigar. I couldn’t tell you this morning if it was lit or not, I’m guessing it was, but ever-present was a cigar between his lips, making that daily journey with him.
I was thinking about Mr. Baker yesterday morning while out on a daily walk of my own – sans cigar – he showed up in my head along with my memory of what I experienced as his gentle uniqueness, and I had the thought, while walking, that now I’m a Mr. Baker. It’s not the same small residential street like back there in Wareham, Massachusetts in the 50’s and 60’s. And his dressing up is my dressing down, me every morning with old shorts, a tank top of one color or another, NB running/walking shoes and white ankle socks. But I imagined that when I turned the corner off the busy Balour Drive with its fast-moving morning cars and trucks and made the left up the hill on Melba Road, that when I was passing house after house and possibly with Melba Road folks up and about at 6:25 and looking out the window, they saw this old guy walking up the road and a few minutes later back down it. And there he was again, yes, he passed last Thursday and last Friday and Saturday and Sunday too, “Right Honey?”, and now again here Monday morning. While we get up and ready for work and our day, there’s this old guy in a tank top passing up and back down. They just don’t know my name is Mr. Cushman, how would they – I don’t know anyone here. It’s easier to say, “There he goes again.”
I cannot imagine, back when I was nine or 11 or 13, thinking that’d be me some day, I’d be just like Mr. Baker, walking the same route pretty much the same time of the day, strolling along slowly and surely, and who knows what’s on that cat’s mind – anything at all? – the folks on Melba might wonder. But they’d only wonder for a moment. Life’s lifey, and there’s stuff to do.
I’ve been walking another everyday route here in Encinitas, California too, this one on the numbered streets – Second, Third, and Fourth – over next to the cliffs and up above the Pacific Ocean. It’s my new favorite walk, those streets surprisingly not whizzing with cars, and, sure, they’re just houses after houses and some apartment buildings and tourists condos and stuff side-by-side and mostly all the roads lead to the Moonlight Beach parking lot, just plain old streets, but there’s something about being in the balmy sunny air and seeing big succulents and bougainvillea and flowers all over, already I feel amazingly blessed for having found it – having found my way all the way to here near San Diego. And showing up everyday on the numbered streets, I guess if anyone’s noticing, me being a Mr. Baker here and now. “Look, Sweetie, there’s that older dude again.”
My Mr. Baker may have traveled up one side of the country or across it to get there to my hometown of Wareham, or not, I’ll never know. He was just the old guy walking by everyday, looking real peaceable, like that same old same old walk was enough. Probably more than enough. He walked under Dutch Elms lining each side of High Street when I was young, though the Elms were gone by my high school days. Maybe Mr. Baker was by then too – I don’t remember. Somewhere I stopped seeing and noticing him, and that could have been my new-found important growing-up busyness – versus him no longer there. Maybe not noticing enough of the real stuff anymore.
Anyway – it seems fun, to me, how things in this life sometimes go. Life’s parade. Going around, coming around….