I live in the rambunctious yet strangely sedate area of Los Angeles called Silver Lake. Today there's an autumn hustle and bustle on my street., a flourishing thoroughfare in disguise. It includes virtually everything in your imagination. There's a hardware store, gym, hamburger joint, liquor place, hair salon, a pizzeria. Name it, including the upscale wine shoppe directly across the street from where I am standing. Talk about a changing neighborhood!
I guess I'm an integral part. I live in one of those strange houses that sit atop a hill. An accompanying garage rests at street level. Among other things this means postal delivery is through a slot in the garage wall down at street level. I didn't mention that the garage door is perched directly in the midst of an always busy street scene. I suppose my own street scene could be instantly translated into one in Japan or China, Berlin or Toronto or Barcelona or New Delhi. My street scene could be virtually interchangable with yours.
I've introduced you to my street. It's called Hyperion Ave. and is a busy thoroughfare at peak morning and late afternoon hours. Even wide awake and energetic youth might have a problem coping with this pace, this energy, and the demands it makes. At ninety, I have a problem too. In fact, at this moment (picture me) I'm engaged in driving my car from the busy street scene into the cool sanctuary of my garage's parking space. Remember, this is also the location where my regular delivery of mail occurs.
I'm down on my knees on the pavement directly inside the garage. I'm struggling gamely to deal with a seeming bit of chaos in the form of scattered mail pieces. Facing me are letters, bills, ads, small packages and -- don't forget -- the divine gift of junk mail. Dealing practically with it resembles a singular art form. Methodically I try to construct a workable small pile of items while also endeavoring to lose none. Not to draw attention to myself, but let me point out, this takes skill. Brown leaves blow down the cracks of the sidewalk.
I'm so absorbed that I don't notice a woman standing there. Quietly observing my existential dance with reality, she quietly asks "Might I be of help?" Turning to look at her, I can see her hair is red, eyes blue. She wears an easy smile. Anchored on my knees resting in unyielding cement, I answer yes. Certainly. Please. Quickly she takes over. Efficiently she places the entire mountain of mail (my perception) into a single, workable stack. She dismisses my helplessness while never exploiting it.
"One of these days the city needs to come in and fix all these cracks in the sidewalk," she says. "I've lived here for twenty years and it just gets worse all the time." Her arms fillled with my mail, she is standing up now. She appears ready to go. I realize probably I will never see her again. My God, she helped me. Really just by being present. She was completely available for a few significant moments when I seemed ineffably helpless.
Now she is smiling again, treating my need as a casual thing to be dealt with effortlessly and without punctuation. "We all have needs from time to time, and a part of life is to assist others," she says.
Out the door, now she is gone. I hold a small stack of mail that she's given me. It all seemed to happen so quickly. In a curious way I need what I guess we'd call verification. Had anyone really been here with me at all? One might ask if she were something like an angel in disguise.
Yet was there a disguise at all?