>Tales from Rust Belt

>Bullock and I spent the evening of the 4th of July eating ribs and drinking fine wines on the front porch of Will and Beck’s place in Rust Belt Historic District.* Being a Historic District of 19th and early 20th century homes, a lot of them have huge, room-sized front porches (although the one I posted about here does not). W & B frequently have dinner and drinks out there. The friendly neighbors two doors down, who are also the Eyes of the Neighborhood, have a beer keg on theirs and frequently invite passers-by up to imbibe.

And while we were eating, the family next door came home from the official fireworks. Everyone exchanged greetings and Will said he missed their old ritual of unofficial neighborhood fireworks. But alas, neighbor dad is now a VIP employee of the city and a public figure, so he has had to mend his law-breaking ways. He seemed a little grumpy about it. I don’t know why, but this cracks me up, in part because the fireworks are probably the *only* skeleton in VIP’s closet in a town full of politicos with shady pasts and wheeling and dealing. It’s like the big bangs and pyrotechnics were an explosion of Mr. VIP’s id all at once, and now he’s got to keep it all contained. I don’t usually approve of launching fireworks in residential neighborhoods — not to mention ones full of historic Victorians! — but I felt a little sad for Mr. VIP.

****

The other day I was walking from my office, backpack in tow, across the main drag that serves as the boundary of campus, when something shiny caught my eye. I knew it was a lavish and fancy car bejeweled with chrome, but I wasn’t sure which kind, so I took another look. I’m not usually good at identifying cars, but the tell-tale hood ornament told me it was a Rolls Royce. That’s not something you see around Rust Belt very often, so then I snuck a glance at the driver. Given the fact that I grew up down the street from the founder of Rival Manufacturing (the Crock Pot people), who lived in our neighborhood to keep an eye on his grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter, and was driven around town in a huge Rolls, I tend to associate Rolls Royces with super old white dudes with “help.” So I was a little surprised to see a Boomer-age black guy driving this one.

It pleased me, so I grinned. He saw me checking out his car and he saw me grinning. So he caught my eye and said, “Can I carry your books for you?”

I have to say, that’s the most innocent sounding non-innocent come-on I’ve ever heard, so I gotta give him some credit. I laughed and said, “No thank you, but you have a lovely car.”

I heart Rust Belt.

*Will and Beck are pseudonyms I haven’t used in a long time. I named them after William Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett because it suits their professions and specialties and tastes (though Beck is actually a woman).

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