3 January

A Talk With Mickey On Main Street. “Saturday Will Be Different.”

by Jon Katz
Mickey On Main Street

Mickey has good clothes and proper shoes for the winter, his step brother George Forss takes good care of him. Mickey and I see one another often, he is a creative dresser, just like my wife, he has his own style, summer or winter.

Mickey was a bright student at a special New York City High School for the gifted, he had a schizophrenic drug breakdown during the 60’s, and never fully recovered. He came to live with George more than 20 years ago and has an apartment in George’s house.

He wanders freely, mostly along Main Street, where he walks back and forth every day in all kinds of weather.

We don’t often talk much. I take his portrait a lot, and he is the only photo subject I pay, I give him from $3 to $5 and pay for his lunch if he is hungry. He loves the home fries and chile at the Round House. A lot of people in town watch out for Mickey, and give him money for coffee or cigarettes.

Today, I sat down with Mickey, and I told him I was worried about Saturday, and he paid close attention to me and asked me why I was worried.

I said the cold that day would be serious and frightening. The wind chill was expected to be -45 and a person could contract frostbite in under ten minutes, especially if the face and fingers are exposed. Mickey never covers his face or wears gloves.

“Mickey,” I said, “I am not one to fuss about the winter, we are all used to cold up here, but this one is different, a major storm with very high winds and brutal temperatures is coming through Friday night and Saturday, and I am just suggesting you stay home on Saturday with George. I’ll call George and make sure he knows about the storm, which I am sure he does, he pays attention to things.”

“Mickey,” I said, “this is none of my business, but I think Saturday is a day you might think about staying home all day, and we can make sure you have coffee and food if that would help you.”

He looked at me, and said, “okay, okay. Saturday will be cold.” That’s right, I said, and I will look for you to remind you.

I am sure Mickey will be all right, people keep an eye on him all across Main Street, I just had this concern about him, that he might think Saturday will be just another winter day, like so many others.

But Saturday will not be just another day, and we will be fine, and will be protected and safe, but I know that is not true for so many other people in so many other places. This is a tough time for the vulnerable in America, nobody seems to want to pay for their care.

In my town, we check on the elderly alone in old farmhouses in this kind of weather, and on people like Mickey, who just might not know to be careful on Saturday, or precisely how to be careful. Mickey was paying close attention to me, I think he understood what I was saying.

I will make sure. The forecast reports are frightening, and we will open up the inside of our barn to make sure they all have fresh hay, warm water, grain and shelter. That is all we can do. I have great faith in our farmhouse.

I’m glad I caught up with Mickey, it was on my mind.

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