Saturday, May 06, 2006

Camoflage Man

That's what some of the guys called him because of what he wore. Actually, it was a set of green work clothes, same shirt and pants every day. Well, same type. If it really was the same exact threads, it was good that we stayed away from him.

This guy was like 40s lady in that he too was often seen on the move down Oregon Avenue. But where she walked down the street gracefully, "Camoflage Man" walked more with the strut of a person looking to do someone harm. Mean look on his face, eyes somewhat staring, but not bulging out of the sockets, arms tense like they were going to connect with someone's face if he didn't keep walking. Quite a character, although one you probably didn't want to get up close and personal with.

I remember the only time I ever saw him doing something more than walking. I was behind him in line at the old Shop & Bag supermarket at 20th & Oregon. This is the place that's now a CVS, and was a Penn Fruit market before Shop & Bag. I think Camoflage Man almost made the cashier jump out of her skin. He had maybe six boxes of cereal in his shopping cart, and when he got up to the fron of the line, pulled each box out of the cart and slammed each on the belt. He didn't say a word, just slammed them down hard, enough to really smash them. The cashier sheepishly asked for the amount of his purchase. Camoflage Man paid, got his change, and walked away with his cereal. Not one word. I didn't look on the floor to see if the cashier left a wet spot, but I'd almost bet she did.

Why was this guy so angry that he would slam things down and not say anything? Maybe it was his diet. If I ate cereal and nothing but all day, I'd be a grumpy guy too. Perhaps it was because he lacked a variety of clothing. Wearing green work clothes day in and out may leave a man feeling blue. In his case, more red with rage. Hey, maybe it would have been cool to have his phone number, adding him to the legion of folks called in the early morning hours to a less than happy greeting. I suppose he would have had to say something to vent at the crank calls, slamming cereal boxes into the receiver doesn't translate well during a phone call. If he did that, he probably wouldn't have had us bother him on many nights. It just wouldn't have entertained us. Hey, I don't even know if this guy lived in an inhabitable place, let alone having a phone.


John Gacy, Wayne Williams, Ted Bundy, etc. - Serial killers from the 70s. What do they have to do with this post? Probably nothing more than the fact that Camoflage Man seemed to be the kind of guy who you'd expect to someday find on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer - above the fold - with the blazing headline of Serial Killer Captured, Terrorized City. Or would he have been a Cereal Killer? Snap, Crackle, and Pop can come out of hiding, he hasn't been seen for a couple of decades.

Shorty - Ol' Shorty was a homeless guy who lived in the abandoned Evening Bulletin newspaper stand outside the old "Miller Bar" at 15th & Oregon Avenue (where Mio Sogno now sits). It was only called "Miller Bar" because we didn't know it's real name. It had a Miller Beer sign above the street, so the name stuck. I really don't remember seeing anyone go in there to drink. (Hey, idea for another post - places where nothing seems to happen - Ricci Funeral Home, Frank's Cabana Steaks, Philomena's Hair Salon, etc).

Shorty had a big scruffy beard and walked up and down the streets, talking with no one but himself. Not someone who drew a lot of interest, but a neighborhood fixture who I remembered. Sorry Shorty, you get only a short mention here.

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