A tree grows in Noho. 

Noho is prettier by morning light, before midday heat has a chance to searingly illuminate my neighborhood’s myriad of cosmetic challenges: bedding (or tin foil) as curtains on front windows, fly-worried dog poop peppering cracked sidewalk, weeds shimmering victoriously in the many once-prepped-for-new-buildings and now terminally-vacant lots, the homeless released from the shelter miserably loitering, palm trees shedding, the old fronds, heavy as limbs, falling like Skylab, randomly clunking pavement—trash and recycling bins stranded on their sides for the second or third day, fast food containers blossoming in gutters, squirrels fighting viciously atop telephone poles, etc.    

Before 10a.m., though, I spy prettiness–Mulholland Drive’s leafy riviera in the distance, wild parrots shrieking through plush blue sky, a balcony done in carnations and annuals. The air is cool, laced with marine layer seeped in from Santa Monica, the palm trees are nothing but shaggily pretty and the park spreads wide and tree-besotted, a minor sea of shady green speckled in curious squirrels. T and I make our way there. He sits up so well now in the jogging stroller, his tiny, deceptively powerful hands gripping the tray. I watch him look left to right, spotting the kitty when I do, cocking his head at the sound of the kids when we near the little school. As we pass one of the newer apartment buildings, one of the modern, multi-colored sparkly sorts that make the rest of the block dull and dubious (Noho is such a mishmash of old, new and inexplicable in between, like the rectangular apartment building/prison-replica—flat, low and mustard with tiny barred windows—right next to the charmingly shuttered Cape Cod affair heralded by thriving roses), as we pass the multi-colored sparkly building I see a boy ahead on the pavement and he’s probably six or seven and I’m always interested in little boys because I have one and I’m particularly interested in this little boy because he’s got a toy-ish bow and arrow and the arrow is aimed right at us.   

I stop, angling the stroller so that I am between my son and possible incoming. And then I see a mother standing near the boy. She is talking on a cell phone, a finger plugging her free ear. Maybe she says something to her son, maybe not, but he lowers the bow and arrow.   

Here, right here is where crucial decision making takes place. Intuition tells me to cross the street and carry on my way with a small river’s distance between us and that boy. But, as Scott says, repeatedly, at least more than six times a week, I’m stubborn. I continue on my original path, my limbs tensed, my reflexes on High Alert in case the boy takes aim at us again, which, of course, he does. I knew he would. I knew. Everyone knows that many, many little boys like to hold copies of dangerous weaponry and they like to point the weaponry at moving targets. This is where parents and their wisdom come in and it seems the boy’s mother is more engrossed in her phone conversation than her son’s experimenting/testing. I am so curious to see if she will do something, this mother, to stop her son from actually letting the arrow go—so curious I quicken the pace. And when the mother sees me, T and the stroller and her son taking aim at us, here is exactly what she does, all the while talking on the phone:   

She takes a step closer to her son.  That’s it. One step. Phone and plugging finger never leave her ears.  

Here is what I do when the boy releases the arrow: 

My lightning-quick reflexes have me in front of the stroller so fast I block the arrow (so what if it only has a suckered tip!) from reaching my son with post-C-section tummy bulge. I snatch the arrow from the pavement and bend it into a U-shape (it’s plastic and won’t snap in two–arrrgh). I throw the contorted arrow into the street, adding to Noho trash. I march T’s stroller over to the boy, yank the bow from him and ruin it by placing my red Converse, lace-less casual on the bow-string and pulling up on the bow’s handle until everything bends into a grotesque. That, too, goes into the street as I tell the boy he will never, ever point dangerous implements at babies or anyone and berate the indignant mother for allowing her son to utilize a weapon. It’s not your fault, I tell the boy. Your mother should have stopped you. Then I carry on up the street as the woman screams obscenities at me, the boy’s sobs hounding my ears. 

Don’t hate me. This isn’t what happens (although perhaps in certain dreams).    

The mother does take a step closer to her son, but this has no effect on him or his aim. What has an effect on the boy’s aim is that his father appears from nowhere and, his voice startling the boy so that the boy’s aim careens confusedly from me and T to sparkly building, declares the boy should be careful where he points that thing. The father appears before I can a) ask the boy to point the bow and arrow at his mother, or b) ask the mother to please ask her boy to point the bow and arrow at maybe herself vs. us. I would have stopped and I would have done this had the father—for some reason carrying, at 10a.m., a casserole dish covered in tin foil—not intervened, or whoever he was. The boy’s eyes were on me and T as we passed. He had dutifully lowered the bow and arrow. And here is where I feel badly: I didn’t look at him. Not even one flickering glance. No brief smile meted. I gave him nada. Poor little dude.   

And I know that whether Noho, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara or Beverly Hills, T and I could have come across the same bow-and-arrow-toting boy. It’s not Noho’s fault, its foibles and afternoon ugliness and occasional cool spots and stupid smelly roses, that I fantasized for the next hour about how I should have handled the situation, should there have been an arrow-leaving-bow situation, and how I should have looked at the little boy and—winked? Smiled in an I-know-you manner? Raised a brow, Spock-style?    

It’s not Noho’s fault Scott and I have a seven month old in Noho. 

But what I really, really want is to be out of Noho, no matter its Arts District, Metro station, popular lofts, or the promising holding-value on our condo, or that Noho is the future home of The Tonight Show. Before T, we jogged by the dog poop on our way to the park without a glance, happy to be homeowners and near Starbucks, theatres and Pit Fire Pizza and the park, even though it means we drive a long way to the ocean these days. We enjoyed living in funky/freaky. It totally suited us. But the older T gets, the more I want to not have to drive to fun, walkable areas, but emerge from our front door into a walkable area. Because although that boy with his faux weapon is everywhere, dog poop drying on a discarded mattress is not.

We’re moving.

2 Responses to “Barbs”

  1. PB says:

    Well, pb, I wish that mother had been more aware of her son’s behavior, but who knows–maybe she still doesn’t get enough sleep. Feel for her, pb. Feel for her.

  2. […] clarify: we moved from busy NoHo to the wilds of uber-quiet suburbia. We were used to sirens and overhead helicopter traffic and […]