Sunday, July 6, 2008

On Patriotic Hats, Private Property and Barking

The time was 3:15 pm in the 1700 block of Columbia Road Northwest. It was the day before the Fourth of July. Passing by the old Ontario Theater (now an unoccupied space) I noticed a man selling things outside the front door. Things they call chatchkis, a used football, two soccer balls and some dolls. I thought, “Hmm, private enterprise at its very basic best, long live capitalism.” I was on my way to pick up Daniela from the Horizons bus. On the day before the 4th, all the Horizons kids get red, white and blue hats. All those kids with patriotic hats, it's a great photo opportunity.

Walking from the bus stop with Daniela and me were a whole lot of the Bennett kids.

We stopped at the man’s corner of the empty building to look closely at what he was selling.

When I took my camera out, the man selling the stuff did not like it and began speaking unkindly. “You can’t stay here if I don’t want you to,” he said, “This is private property. I’m on private property. You can’t take pictures here if I don't want you to. This is private property.” The kids were all standing away from his stuff, just looking, not bothering him. I was photographing them with their cool hats on.

Turning to our annoyed ad hoc entrepreneur, I said, “Yes, it’s private property, but it’s not your private property.”

He accused me of disrespecting him. I told him I was not disrespecting him, and then asked the kids, “Was I disrespecting him?” They said no. I asked, “If anyone is being disrespectful to anyone here, who’s disrespecting whom?” Kia said, “He’s disrespecting us.”

When the man continued his rant, it sounded like barking. All of a sudden I heard real barking.

It was Juwan barking at the salesman as he was barking at us.

That gave us a rip-roaring laugh.

The poor fellow did not see the humor in Juwan’s barking. He started to talk (bark?) about Mississippi, and how he was treated there but he said he’s not going for it up here. He was standing up for his civil rights right there at the corner of Columbia and 17th.

The children were happy they got a good laugh without being disrespectful. As they were leaving the salesman complained one of them kicked his stuff. “Did you get a picture of that?” he asked. “Sorry,” I told him. “I wasn’t watching.”

“I know who you are,” he informed me. “I know who you are,” he repeated. “I’m your commissioner,” I told him. “I know who you are,” he repeated again, as we left.

“Happy Fourth of July”