My wife and I rent a pretty decent-sized house here in Galesburg, and the best thing about this house is that it has porches: one in front and one in back. Between last summer and this summer, the porches have served fairly quotidian roles in our lives: I walk onto the front porch, for instance, to get the mail each afternoon. Sometimes, visitors show up on the front porch, and we let them into the house or pretend we’re not here until they stop ringing the bell. The back porch sits just off a mudroom, and basically I walk down its steps each morning on my way to the garage. Sometimes, in the winter, I’ll shovel the thing, so we don’t get ice on the steps, but for the most part, from September to May, I barely notice it’s there.
Now, though, it’s summer, and the porches serve new roles in our lives, though still fairly quotidian. On the back porch, which is speckled with monstrous piles of bird shit (seriously, I’d like to know what these birds are eating and how so much of their excrement winds up on our porch—there are no trees hanging over it) I grill: steaks, salmon, Romaine lettuce and onions and mushrooms for grilled salad, burgers, whatever. I love the grill, and I love walking out onto the back porch with a beverage and firing the thing up. The porch faces west, and I am usually grilling in the evenings, facing the sun, and it is so hot sometimes standing in front of the grill I can barely breathe, but as I stand on the back porch and grill, I like even the uncomfortably hot sun. The suffering, I stupidly and romantically think, will only make me enjoy it all a little more.
On the front porch, we sit and watch the cars go by. The front porch, obviously, faces east, so in the evening, after I’ve sweated through my grilling session, the front porch is cool and shaded. There is always a breeze. We live about halfway between Galesburg’s two hospitals, so we see a lot of ambulances. But we also live on a pretty busy residential thoroughfare, so we see a lot of other stuff—which is pretty much the reason for this post.
Saturday: We saw a woman who was probably close to seventy years old wearing hot pink scrubs and riding a yellow Harley, without a helmet; we saw a woman sitting in the passenger seat of a little sports car take off her shirt and throw it out the sun roof onto the street; we saw something similar happen to a dirty diaper; and we saw some minivan-driving grandpa hock an enormous loogie out his driver’s side window. These glimpses of the ordinary, for us, are what summer is all about. And they’re things that would easily pass us by if we weren’t sitting out on the porch, engaging the cool air, and listening to Batteries & Beer* as it wafts out the screen door to us.
Now that I’m thinking about porch business, I realize that none of this past weekend’s observations was as spectacular or sad as the drunken bicyclist from last year, but, hey, it’s only June.
And now that I’ve mentioned the drunken bicyclist I should probably elaborate, but it’s its own story. Maybe I’ll tell it sometime soon.
*Batteries & Beer is a Live 365 radio station featuring alt-country--lots of Lucinda Williams, Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Gillian Welch, and people I’ve never even heard of. It’s a great station, the perfect porch-sitting music. Check it out.