From my window I can see across the park opposite my house. In fact I have a park behind my house too which I think makes me lucky and/or astute in the ways of real estate. But it's the front park - one of inner Melbourne's bigger parks - that is offered up to me every single day and there are people who wander past on almost every one of those days.
Hipster Pug Man
This one man turns up on a daily basis in his vintage hepcatmobile and lets his awesome pug loose on the park. He always dresses like a real hipster (the man) in big shades and sweet shirts and an icebox attitude and he lets his pug go nuts on the field. He throws sticks and jives along the path and sometimes talks to other park-goers. But he does it daily and I wonder: why are you driving here? You can't be a local, Hipster Pug Man, or you'd walk here. And you can't be too far off, since you check in every single day. Is it possible that you live in a house so close that this is the nearest place to walk your dog, but so distant that you have to drive? You confuse my sense of scale, Hipster Pug Man!
The Guy Formerly Known As Basketball Guy
This guy's arrival used to be heralded by the PFUNGGG... PFUNGGG... PFUNGGG of a basketball lazily bounced in front of him as he walked. One of those old school deals in faded purple and orange with the tiny raised bumps for grip. He was tall and broad and had thick curly brown hair and usually smiled a little bit even though he was on his own. He would amble up the street and head for the court in the middle of the park, always on his own in the middle of the day. I wondered if he would find someone at the court to "shoot some hoops" with. I hoped so.
Then one day he began dribbling his basketball with a girl walking alongside him. They were both young and talking amiably and though she didn't seem interested in the basketball they seemed interested in each other. I thought: good for you two.
Now the guy has mostly stopped going to the park, but occasionally he appears on his own. No girl, no basketball. Like today, he arrived and lay down on his back on the grass with his eyes closed. I went out for a few hours and when I came back he was still there. Eyes still closed, still on his own. Now I hope everything is alright for the guy I once knew as Basketball Guy.
Child-Walking Lady walks her four- or five-year-old toddler for long stretches. The little guy cavorts in the park, having adventures with tan bark and discovering the secrets of trees. All the while, Child-Walking Lady keeps a close eye on her charge while remaining entirely unusually dressed for the position. She wears clothes better suited to a star-studded event opening - expensive black dresses or shiny suits. Her hair is short and slicked-down and she spends long serious periods on her phone. She dresses like she has somewhere important to be, somewhere where she will be seen. Why do you dress like this for a stroll in the park, Child-Walking Lady? I imagine you have your reasons.
Poor Old Pants! That might be condescending, but he is poor. Old Pants drops by the park most days to walk up to a particular spot of hedging and lower his pants. He's very old and kind of dirty looking, but I don't think anybody would be offended by him. He keeps a large and baggy pair of boxers on when he drops his trousers and doesn't actually do anything once they're around his ankles. If anything, he does this in such an organised fashion that the casual passerby would probably think he was just a liberated older fellow dropping his pants momentarily in order to adjust some otherwise inaccessible undergarments. Then the pants are back up and belted before you know it. Nothing to see here, folks. It's just that he does it most days, and in the same spot. If you look closely, his belt is a length of rope. His face is tanned and unwashed. And nobody talks to Old Pants.
As I say, it doesn't seem particularly offensive and he's technically keeping decent. But it's an odd routine. Maybe he's only enjoying the air. Do you even know, Old Pants? Will anyone ever stop to find out?
Lots of people ride their bikes past my window, often without helmets. I envy their care- and helmet-free ways. And lots of people ride bikes to the park throughout the day and dump their wheels on a patch of green and lie down for some quiet time. One woman takes this practice to epic, Lawrence of Arabia levels. She'll often arrive in the early afternoon and sit down in a nice sunny spot for hours at a time. Not just a couple of hours, either. I've clocked her at seven hour stretches. She'll read, sometimes, but more often she'll just sit thinking or maybe cat-napping. At first I thought she was waiting for someone, and sure enough a friend would often turn up. But this would be after a good three or four hour wait. And just as often she'll leave alone, not disappointed at having been stood up or anything. Why does she spend an entire working day thinking in the park? Who does this? Who is allowed to do this?
One man in his 50s used to turn up during summer and settle down for some tanning time. He would strip off his shirt to show off the ripped abs under his crinkly newspaper chest. And he would make a point of his tanning routine in order to justify his staring at women like the Bike Waiter. Maybe he thought his partial nudity was some kind of concession pass, but from my window his 20-minute long sideways looks at people nearby came across as creepy. He hasn't been around lately, which saved me from having to yell "quit the leching, lechy!"
Cos I woulda.
I have a quiet respect for the Bird Dude. He doesn't raise the same kinds of questions my other cast of characters pose. He does what he does, and what he does is walk past my window with a bird on each shoulder. He seems about my age and his birds are small. One bright yellow and one bright blue. They're about the size of canaries, but neither my eyesight nor my knowledge of birds is enough to identify their breed. Hell, I don't even know if breed is the right word. But Bird Dude probably knows. He walks past modestly, like the opposite of someone screaming "look at me - I'm a bird dude! I'm actually walking down the street with birds on my shoulders!" If there was an opposite to someone like that, he would be it.
Even though I don't know why he walks with these birds, I don't feel the need to wonder that much. Maybe because of his beatific calm which is matched, I should add, by the chilled demeanour of his avian buddies. I get the feeling that if I asked him "Why are you walking with the birds?" he would simply shrug and reply "Because the birds need walking, you know?"