Municipal Pier, Monterey, California

I was out walking in our old Venice neighborhood one afternoon. I turned the corner to our street and saw Bill, a Scotsman in his late eighties, standing in his usual spot. He‘d ask me from time to time how the old lady who lived in our house was doing. She moved over 20 years ago, but he couldn’t remember that. I crossed the street, and as I got close, I said, “It’s really nice out here today.

“Yeah, and there aren’t many of us left,” he said. I was used to Bill’s non-sequiturs. He spent hour after hour every day, standing on the parkway next to the curb under a Bradford Pear tree.

“You know, everyone had worries during the war,” he said. “They had some big problems, one thing or another, you know.…” After a moment he continued, “I watched-’em, heard-’em talk, you know, and to me … those worries were like wearing an old jacket.” He turned his head, looking down the street and said, “You can just take it off … you know.”