The Way I See It Today: The Sad and Pathetic Story of Mr. Willie


So today I went out on a mini-photowalk around my neighborhood.  I wanted to get some air, since I had been cooped up in my apartment since my birthday last week, and I also needed to drop a couple of movies in the mail. 

So Himself and I set out, walking north on Martin Luther King Drive. We crossed Claremont Ave and continued north, snapping a few photos here and there as we saw fit.

As we walked, we encountered Mr. Willie, an older man dressed in a work uniform and carrying what looked to be a gas-powered lawn trimmer.  He looked to be in his late 50s or early 60s and had crossed MLK Drive. As he walked toward us, he noticed that Himself had a camera and asked to have his picture taken.  He smiled, and joked; Himself snapped a photo, and we went our way, Mr. Willie continued walking east.

So Himself and I continued walking up MLK Drive to the post office. I dropped my movies into the mailbox, and we continued over to the MLK Plaza, which is a small shopping center with a grocery store, a laundromat, a Payless shoe store, a discount or “Dollar” store, a check cashing spot, and some other smaller vendors inside.  We went to the dollar store to grab some batteries, came back out and walked toward the supermarket.  

We reached the end of the parking lot and made a left to walk toward Ocean Avenue.  I snapped a few photos, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Mr. Willie walking toward me.  He shouted, “Oh, you have a camera, too, I see.  He has a camera, and you have a camera!  How ’bout that!”

(c) Mom of Three Photography, all rights reserved

 

I laughed…while snapping this photo of him walking toward us.  He’s got the trimmer in one hand, and a cigarette in the other.  His hat is turned back, he’s sweating profusely, but he’s grinning broadly like he was so excited to see us.

So he asked us, “Where are you two from?” We respond, “we live in the neighborhood, around here.”

I noticed that when people in my hood see me with the Nikon, they automatically assume I’m a reporter or the police.

When I assure them that I’m not, they either ask me to take a photo, or they start telling me their life story.

Mr. Willie was no different, and proceeds to tell us his life story.  He moved to Jersey City in 1959 from the south. He’s 65 years old.  He rattled off all of places he’s lived in the Greenville area, had to be at least 6 or 7 addresses.

 He has 8 kids and something like 27 grandkids.

He just left his son’s house, where he cut the grass.

(Record player screeeeech!) Huh? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?That’s strange.

He is no longer living with his wife, and he’s pretty pleased about that, because his wife, who happened to be 47, was cheating on him.  He was pleased because he didn’t feel it to be fair to be tied down by a woman who obviously didn’t care about him anymore, by virtue of the fact that she was cheating.  He recounted how he caught her with her lover and scared the lover off.

 So many sordid details, my eyes were beginning to glaze over. I’m thinking, this is way too much TMI.

I’m thinking to myself…this could be my dad.  How sad is this?  This man is 65 years old, toting around a lawn trimmer, sweating and smoking cigarettes, and telling complete strangers about his failed marriage, and the fact that he rents a room and cuts his son’s grass. 
 
I’m thinking about all of this and wondering how unfair life is, that someone who came to the north from the south looking for a better opportunity for himself and his family ended up handed a 2-lb bag of shit in a 1-lb bag. 
 
So Mr. Willie pulls out a brown paper bag with a bottle of something that probably wasn’t Gatorade and proceeds to take a swig. Then he pulls out some money and asks me to run inside the grocery store for some chicken necks.  I’m like, OMG, chicken necks?  People still eat those?
 
Mr. Willie says, “yes!! and you can make a meal out of chicken necks! Can you please go in and get me 2 pounds please?” 
 
So I leave Mr. Willie and Himself and walk toward the grocery story, wondering why men always assume that women *want* to go to the grocery story to get food for them.  But since I try to respect my elders, I didn’t give him any back talk. 
 
I enter the store, walk to the back, grab the goods, pay for them, and walk back around to where they are still standing and talking.  Whatever they were discussing, I guess was too sensitive for a woman’s ears.  I know the deal. 
 
I walk up, hand the bag and the change to Mr. Willie, and he smiles, thanks me and we all begin walking together toward Ocean Avenue.  Before we get to the corner, he stops and points at the bodega across the way.  He proceeds to tell us in graphic detail about the drug addicts, drug dealers, the bodily habits of the people living in his building, and other stuff that I don’t care to repeat here in this post. 
 
After he drops those bombs on us, he says,”well, I guess I should be going,” and cuts across the vacant lot to the end of the street…he crosses the street to the other side, and stops to converse with the folks he had just disparaged moments before.
 
Wow.  And that, my friends, is the story of Mr. Willie. 
 

(c) Mom of Three Photography, all rights reserved

 

I just hope that we as GenXers don’t meet that same fate.  Way too sad. 
 
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