John N. was a guy that lived up the street from me back in the 60’s. He was a guy that had some struggles and caught a lot of grief because of it. One of the first things you noticed about him was that he had a glass eye. There were a few times where he had put his glass eye in backwards and we had to remind him of it as one eye would be looking right at you, while the other would be looking straight up. Since I was the furthest from ‘cool’ and was very shy with a low self esteem, I guess I could relate to John as he was sort of out of the loop himself. We use to hang up at his backyard and would spend time playing a dumb little game we created about guessing numbers as it related to baseball.
As he got older, he would start hanging out with the neighborhood kids, and you would often see him walking around with a ‘Boom Box’ that was about as big as a 27 inch television and would have it up to the side of his head and would be singing away at full volume not caring who was listening. He really enjoyed his music and would drum along with the beat of the music with his hands and did seem to have some decent rhythm about him. One night we were up at 68 schoolyard, and John decided that he was going to entertain himself playing ‘wipeout’ by banging on the metal rain pipe up in the corner. He was banging away when all of a sudden there was a bright light shining on him. John turned around with one hand over his eye, and shouted “turn off that damn light” as he walked toward it. When he got close enough he realized that it was a cop with a spotlight, and quickly turned to walk away, when the cop told him to “come over here”. After numerous “I’m sorry’s” he was let go and quickly left to go home never to finish his drum solo.
That wasn’t the only wipeout I remember John having as one evening after a snowfall, we were all sledding, when someone got the idea to take and put a broken sled about half way down the hill and covered it with a bit of snow. After a couple of attempts, they coaxed John into the right position at the top of the hill and as he went down the hill, he hit the broken sled head on and continued head first down the hill with arms outstretched minus the sled. He was none the worse for wear as he muttered some expletives as he came back up the hill.
John was another guy that although quite unexceptional stood out as another one of the many unique characters that I recall from those days growing up back in Southwest Baltimore. I believe he has since passed on but left his mark like many of the people I recall growing up back then.
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