After getting home at 5 a.m. Monday, I wasn't about to set an alarm for any particular time. The plan was to catch up on my sleep and wake up when my body said it was time. Or at least my stomach.
But with the windows open, I was exposed to the audible elements of the neighborhood. When I heard the daily cacophony of high school students walking down the street, I first thought I'd slept until 2:30, which is when they usually pass by on their way home and to the city buses. But the clock showed 12:15, so I deduced that it must have been a half-day.
As I lay there trying to drift back to sleep, it occurred to me that the shouting outside wasn't the usual back-and-forth across the street. And the honking seemed to be a little more frequent then normal. When the yells reached a certain level, I flashed back to the seventh-grade playground and realized what I was hearing.
There was a fight going on. Right outside my house.
On the street.
I ran into the guest room and looked out over the patio and through the trees. In the street by our driveway a circle had formed. In the middle were two boys circling one another, fists up, taking the occasional jab at one another. The leaves on the trees obscured the full scene, so I don't know exactly which two were fighting or if it had gotten very far, but with a soundtrack and a little lyrical dialogue and it could've been Clifton's west side story -- and yes, we live on the western end of town.
Shortly after I got to the window, though, the cars lined up in the street -- there was no room to get around the crowd that had gathered -- won after repeated honking, and the circle broke up, the would-be combatants decamping to opposite sides of the street. I didn't even have enough time to really comprehend that I still don't know, or have programmed into my phone, the number for the Clifton police. Yeah, I'd decided I was going to age 40 years and be the 70-year-old man who essentially tells the kids to get out of his yard. Had a scuffle broken out -- or even a melee -- it could've spilled over into the driveway and onto the car, and that would've been a bigger problem.
There was no way I was opening the window and yelling at the young whippersnappers, though. I'm not drawing any more attention to the house than I have to with the kids passing by daily.
Lou Gehrig in Asbury Park
4 years ago