Monday, October 01, 2007

Ned On The Bench

#301 Ned On The Bench

(ALTOONA, PA) -- Those of us who live in the Party And Football Capital of the Known Universe, try to escape on Saturdays. You can’t get a seat in a restaurant, the supermarkets are out of anything edible, the liquor stores and beer “distributors,” as they call them here are out of everything worthy to drink. So it’s Escape To Altoona, a storied small town that calls itself a city.

The nicest thing about it is there’s almost no one there. That means you can get around easily, even though there isn’t much to get around to. Altoona is a city abandoned by its only claim to fame, the railroads. The Horseshoe Curve is here, yet. It’s kind of like a museum of nothing.

But they have stores, unlike the Party And Football Capital of the Known Universe.

So here it is, late afternoon. Sitting on a stone bench outside a department store that’s kind of a cross between Macy’s (overpriced, but lots of sales,) and S. Klein on Union Square (crowded aisles and “brands” you’ve never heard of and will never hear of again.)

Just taking in the sun and the view of some nice mountains, which although they are not in Altoona, can be seen from Altoona. Maybe this place is the mountain observatory.

Up comes Ned. Probably not his name. It’s probably Michael. Everyone here is Michael. But this guy is a Ned, if ever there was one. And he says “Room for another loafter on that bench?” Sure.

He puts down his cane and sits. Two old guys. Two canes. Lots of sun. He says “you know I don’t have to use this cane all the time, but I did some work around the place yesterday and my artificial hip’s acting up.”

Before long, we’re into hip history. His first shot at it was in 1981. That, he says, was lousy from the start but he tolerated it until 1984, then had it re-done. About ten years later something went wrong with one of the pieces and he had that replaced, but not the whole thing.

Before long, Ned’s offering instructions on how to buy generic extra-strength Excedrin at Wal-Mart.

We compare notes on the effectiveness of plain aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Anacin (yes, they still make that,) and Motrin, and we cannot come to a consensus, which is fine.

Two old men, sitting on a mountain-view stone bench outside a department store. It’s SOOOO Norman Rockwell.

Better than arguing religion and politics. Ned looks like a Republican who goes to church most Sundays. His audience varies between doubtful and hostile to both memberships, depending on how vociferously they are exposited.

When Mrs. Ned appears, shopping bags in hand, Ned excuses himself, expresses wishes for a nice day and they drift off toward their car. Well, she drifts, but he hobbles.

He does not offer to help her with the packages.

Probably no good for his triple hip bypass.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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