Introducing Izzy (Greenbelt)

Don't Know Much About History The voice on the phone was not familiar to me, but it spoke as if it knew me.

"Hello," it said. "Meet me at the historical marker on Southway." When I told the Brunette, she wanted to know why I didn't ask who it was.

"I didn't want to make him feel bad that I didn't remember him," I said, although the real reason was that I didn't want to look stupid. I mean, how stupid is it not to remember what the voice of one of your imaginary friends sounds like?

"So you might know him?" she asked.

"...I guess, maybe," I said, uncertainly. "But I'd better go down there because even if he doesn't know me, he's going to be disappointed if I don't show up."

"Well, you gotta do what you gotta do," she said. "Just be careful. I can't come save you from Atlanta." I told her I'd be careful. I put on my helmet and rode over. Sure enough, a guy was sitting there on the curb, staring down at his shoes. He looked up when I pulled up next to the map of Greenbelt, but then he looked back down at his shoes again. I stood there trying to think what to say.

"Uh, hi," I said, finally.

"Hello," he replied, without looking up.

"Um," I said. "Do I know you?" He looked up at me again, a little longer this time before turning his head attention back to the ground.

"I don't. No," he said.

"Well, uh, did you just call someone and ask them to meet you here? 'cause I got this call from someone I don't know and..." I trailed off. He laughed bitterly.

"Can't even dial a phone right," he said. "Sorry, wrong number and all."

He looked pretty bummed out, all the same, so I asked if he was okay.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm okay. Just writer's block, you know."

"You a writer?" I asked. Man, that's the dumbest question isn't it? Nobody who isn't a writer has writer's block. No, the whole world can spew millions upon millions of words, but slap the title writer on and the river dries up.

"I guess," he said. "I write a blog, and I'm just tired of it all. Can't seem to ... I don't know, the words aren't. They don't ... " He reached his hand out as if the words might be in the air near the bus stop, but he finally only shrugged. "I had this idea for a project, like I need another project. Go 'round to historical markers and write interesting stuff about them."

We both stared at the historical marker for a few moments. It said:

Greenbelt was the first of three planned garden towns built and owned by the U.S. Government during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was a "New Deal" experiment in community planning, of note to urban planners throughout the world. The 885 original homes were built in a series of clusters, joined by interior walks, and circling central business, civic and recreation facilities. Greenbelt was incorporated June 1, 1937 as the first Maryland city with council-manager government. In 1952 the residents of the community formed a cooperative and purchased most of the government built houses. By 1954, the U.S. Government had sold all developed property and most vacant land. While many new neighborhoods are also included in the present city, the original planned community continues as a cooperative.

"Nope. Nothing," he said. "A few shards, sure. Nothing up to my normal standards, though. Not clever. Not a single bon mot."

"You know, Franklin Roosevelt actually put the first fish in the lake around back," I said. He looked hopeful for a moment, then the light went out and he shook his head. Not enough. I'm pretty tired of politics, myself.

"Sometimes, it doesn't come, I guess," I said. What would sound encouraging: keep writing, eventually you'll like what you write? No, that didn't sound right.

"Guess these artificial exercises are just that: artificial," he said, finally. Then, he said something really witty that made me laugh. I can't write it here because they were not my words, but trust me: very funny. The bus came down the road, and he turned to it with resignation. As he got on the bus, I asked, "What are you called?"

"Me?" he said. "I -- " but he was interrupted by the door closing and rode off into the sunset.

I've decided to call him Izzy.

0 thoughtful messages from friendly readers: