Broken Clouds 32° Good Morning
Broken Clouds 32° Good Morning

I can’t drive, but I’m getting around and savoring life

Fortunately, I can walk to buy newspapers, bagels, pills and wine, necessities of life.

The intersection of California Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.

The intersection of California Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave. in Freeport, as seen on Google Maps. Photo Credit: Google Street View

Rescue workers used the “jaws of life” to cut me out of my car in August 2016, a few months after a heart valve replacement. What happened? It’s a mystery. I was speeding at my usual 20-plus mph on a quiet street when my Honda Civic apparently hit a parked car and wound up upside down. The only thing I remember is that I wasn’t distracted by an enchantress in short shorts.

To save lives and my wife’s sanity, I gave up driving.

Without wheels, I’m a burden. I can’t do my part. My wife chauffeurs me. We shop, bank and visit doctors together.

Fortunately, I can walk to buy newspapers, bagels, pills and wine, necessities of life.

When I lived in Greenwich Village, I used to watch S.J. Perelman, writer of Marx brothers movies, walk his black poodle. A humorist, he had the depressed look of a basset hound. In Freeport, I don’t look for celebrities, but stroll and observe, hoping to conjure up a person who’s interesting. The French call an idler who observes a flaneur. Call me the Freeport Flaneur.

Months ago, I saw a man with a dog that looked like a pit bull. It wasn’t.

Dogs are like teen-agers: They often look worse than they are. The dog’s name is Boss. I pet him. We bond.

My eye caught the owner’s license plate. Part of its says “DRJ.” Dr. J is the nickname of Roosevelt basketball great Julius Irving. Is he a fan? No, explained the patient dog owner. The state just happened to give it to him that way.

But that leaves Boss. In the 1960s, a boss was something very good. Was this why Boss got his name? No, he was named after the fashion designer, Hugo Boss!

Around the corner from me flies a flag depicting a soldier in battle gear kneeling in prayer. I finally got enough nerve to ask the owner whether he was in Afghanistan or Iraq.

He sadly shook his head and explained how he rues never enlisting. I’m flattered that he shared his feelings with me, sad that his regret lingers.

My most frequent chat mate is a retired Nassau County police detective. A gentle guy, he walks his barking dog, a light-brown mutt, on a short lease, trying to calm him. We share an annoyance with a woman who walks her dog unleashed. When I mumble my discontent, she assures me the dog is harmless.

She seems articulate and carries a plastic bag for poops. Her assurance rings true. But she makes me wonder: What is her need to let the dog go unbridled, making people uncomfortable?

I live in Stearns Park, an area of Freeport with huge oaks and pleasing architecture, sort of a suburb within a suburb.

Over the years, I’ve waved from afar to a guy who has a fantastic display of flowers, and shouted my praise.

One day, he rushed across the street to shake my hand and introduce himself. His accent was as smooth as a sip of Beaujolais. I close my eyes and he’s the French movie star Jean-Pierre Aumont. But he’s Haitian.

I fumbled for my Erasmus Hall High School French, came up with, “Ca va,” which can mean, “How goes it?”

Many of our neighbors, he told me, are also immigrants. His daughters are in college. Freeport, he assured me, is on the rise.

With a bonsoir and a warm smile, he took his leave.

I savored his charm and moved on.

Reader Harold Pockriss lives in Freeport.