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I passed Lucius Love on the staircase this morning. He was ascending the stairs slowly, as befitting a man of his advanced age. He gripped his walking stick with one hand and the bannister with the other. (The bannister in my building is the kind of bannister for which the word "bannister" was surely invented — ancient, solid wood smoothed by 100 years of hands scrabbling for support. Not an ounce of iron or steel in its zigzagging climb from the ground floor to Lucius Love's apartment three flights up. You can have your Communist "railings" and Futurist elevators; I'll keep my bannister, thanks.)

Lucius was smoking in the building again. He's been told not to, but I guess there's an age you reach where you simply stop taking orders from younger people, or stop hearing them altogether.

"Good morning, Todd."

"Good morning, Mr. Love."

I've developed an unspoken mental imperative to formally address older people in my neighborhood. Mr. Love, Miss Willis, etc. Next door there's an older gentleman who looks a lot like "Mudfoot" from Fat Albert. Deep brown leather skin. Unstructured bucket hat. Salt-and-pepper beard like one of those Santa Claus beards I used to make in grade school, from cotton balls glued on a construction paper backing. (I always used too much glue, making the beard impractically heavy. I've never been handy.) The older gentleman sits on a folding wooden chair most days, all day, sometimes clutching a brown paper bag filled with either cough medicine or King Cobra Malt Liquor. I don't want to speculate about what exactly is in that paper bag, but I don't think cough medicine comes in a can. When we first met I asked his name and he replied, big wide smile, "Lion." Naturally, I call him Mr. Lion. Like my bannister, it just fits.

WE FIRST MET ON 09.18.2006

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