The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, November 30, 2005  

In Fishtown, Philadelphia

Whenever I think I can no longer be shocked, especially by young children, it happens again.

And so, again, I’m shocked.

As you know, I live in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, a traditionally Irish and Polish working-class area just northeast of Center City that is currently making the transition -- so they tell me -- to the next hot, hip, and trendy spot in the nation’s fifth-largest city.

Perhaps. I remain to be convinced, especially when I walk about nearby streets and am forced to interact with what can be called, charitably at best, the local color, and what I’m more inclined to characterize more simply as the neighborhood’s white trash.

Case in point, with an eye toward the aforementioned kids: There’s a little boy who scampers about who I take to be around eight years old. He’s a cute kid; reasonably well dressed and groomed, by which I mean, and if you lived around here you would catch my drift quickly, he looks clean, and that’s pretty good, all things considered.

I last saw him Sunday evening when I took my dog Mildred out for a post-dinner walk, during which the following conversation ensued:

Local Boy: Hey, mister, you know what I’m doing?

Grouchy Old Man [That’s me.]: Looks like you’re stupidly skateboarding in the middle of the street.

Local Boy: No, I’m waiting for a girl. And when she comes by I’m going to get a piece of her.

Grouchy Old Man: That’s not nice! You know boys don’t hit girls.

Local Boy: I’m not going to hit her. I’m going to [expletive deleted] her!

Grouchy Old Man: Whoa! Well, that’s not nice either. Don’t even think of it! And don’t ever say anything like that again!

Eight years old!

Well, he was having none of my remonstrations, about which I cannot call myself surprised.

But then, get this, he, said “local boy,” threw a ball at me, a ball that hit Mildred!

It wasn’t much of a ball, just a soft rubber ball, but he did it on purpose, and maliciously, and I know this because it’s the second time in a month this little urchin threw something at me. The last time it was a portion of a smashed pumpkin he and a few other pieces of crap broke in front of a neighbor’s house on the night before Halloween.

The incident -- the ball throwing, not the pumpkin-piece tossing -- set me off. Not insanely, I assure you. I was just disgusted. I turned around and marched toward him and glared at him and scowled and shouted, “If you ever throw anything at my dog again, if you as much look at her the wrong way, you’ll be in more trouble than you’ve ever heard of in your life!”

Scared him?

Oh yeah.

Scared me?

That too.

Knowing this crazy neighborhood, this mannerless and misbegotten child is probably being raised by an unemployed nut who’s been on a bender since the Eagles lost. To Denver. Not exactly the type of dad, or mom, who will thank me for keeping the stupid kid in line.

I’ve got to watch my back.

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