Yesterday was a good day, I thought. Not too cold, a little rain, and to top it off, the wife won a certificate for a free hair-do at Monday night bingo, so there’s thirty bucks that won’t be coming out of my wallet this month. All in all, a pretty good start to the month of May in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and six.
There was one thing though, happened yesterday just after noon that I’m still scratching my head about. I was over to Wiley’s True Value to look at sprinkler heads. Turns out they’re going on sale Memorial Day, so I didn’t spend much more than an hour there. Well I step out the door and what do I see but Ed Martz walking down the middle of Third Street, and I mean the middle of the street. He was walking real slow, kind of a measured pace; not like he was drunk or anything, more like he’s on a slow march. Staring straight ahead, blank look on his face. So I stand there watching him, and he gets to the end of the block by the courthouse and he turns around and starts marching back up the block.
Well, I didn’t have anyplace I needed to be till dinner hit the plate at 5, so I just stood there watching. Ed walked right past me and we just kind of nodded at each other, and he just kept on walking right on through to the end of the block. And then he turns around and starts the whole thing over again!
So I duck back into Wiley’s to see if anybody knows what in the H-E-double-toothpicks Ed might be up to, and they don’t know, so I step back outside just as Ed is coming by again. I try to stop him, but he’s not stopping. He motions for me to walk alongside him, so I start kind of shuffling next to him. “Hey Ed. Nice day for a stroll,” I say.
Well, Ed’s never been too long on chat, so I wasn’t too put off. But I realized I was going to have to get to the point if I wanted to learn anything. “Gonna wear a rut in the road the way you’re going there.”
He smiled a little bit right there. I thought that was a good thing – I’ve found that your bona fide lunatics don’t usually see the humor in themselves too much. I could see on his face that he was deciding to tell me about it. I just walked along there and let him take his time – like I said, I wasn’t in any great hurry to get home, and any chance I get to treat my ears to a speech from someone other than the mother of my children is a chance I’m going to take.
Ed took a deep breath. “I guess you could say I’m showing solidarity with my fellow immigrants.” That’s exactly what he said; you don’t quickly forget it when someone you actually know says a sentence like that.
I hardly knew where to start. “Well Ed, you’re not a got-damned immigrant. You’ve lived here your whole life.”
He shook his head. “No sir. Fact is, I was born in Mexico City, Mexico, way south of the Rio Grande.”
I didn’t want to believe him, but I thought back and I realized that I couldn’t remember ever seeing him till he was maybe 8 years old. I remembered that he was always running back then, up and down the block, all around the balcony at the Regal Theater, from one end of Picket Park to the other. I suppose that made his current plodding pace all the more strange. So then Ed takes out his wallet, pulls out a picture and hands it to me. It’s an old photo of this skinny little mamacita, and she’s holding this little boy who could have been Ed as a baby, except the picture looks like a Mexican, and Ed just looks like a regular guy, though I’ve got to say he’s always the first one in town to get a tan come spring. But the kid in the picture has the same squinty right eye that Ed has, so – what could I say? “Well, what kind of name is Martz for a wetback?” I made sure to laugh when I said that. I’ve always been good at making people relax by making a joke, but I guess Ed wasn’t in a mood to laugh yesterday.
“My mother’s name was Martinez, and she figured I’d do better up here if I had a name that sounded more regular.” Well, I hate to say it, and I didn’t tell Ed this, but you could do a whole lot better than Martz if you wanted a regular name. Fact is, some of us always wondered about that name. Ed’s always been a bit of a loner, and we kind of hoped it wasn’t because he was Jewish. So now he turns out to be Mexican instead. Let that be a lesson to all of us, I say – be careful what you wish for.
So then I suddenly remember that we’re walking down the middle of Third Street. “Well all right amigo,” I say, “Mexican, wetback, whatever. That still doesn’t tell me what you’re up to. Is it some kind of holiday down there? National Get Off Your Ass and Walk Around Day?” Ed still wasn’t in the mood for jokes. He kind of gave me that patient smile you give to someone who’s being an a-hole, but I didn’t take any offense.
At that point, Ed goes off on a talking jag for about five minutes. Lord Almighty, he used more ten dollar words than an insurance salesman after a pot of coffee. He says there’s folks doing this marching in every city in America today, all at the same time. Now I’ve got to tell you, I thought right then he’d gone around the bend. But to be fair, Bob Schieffer said the same thing on the CBS News when I got home, so I can’t call Ed a liar.
So I said to him, “Well, Ed, I can see where a couple hundred people might make for quite a march, but all by yourself – I don’t mean any disrespect, but it’s not really a proper march when it’s just one guy who isn’t carrying a sign, he isn’t chanting anything, and there’s not even a TV camera pointed at him. You know?”
Ed didn’t say anything for a while. We got to the courthouse, turned around, and started walking the other way. When he finally spoke, I could tell he’d been thinking for a while, ’cause he started talking real quiet like I wasn’t even there, so that I had to watch how I was breathing or I couldn’t have heard him. “I don’t care if nobody sees me… And I don’t care why they’re marching in Springfield, or Chicago, or New York or anyplace else. ’Cause I’m not marching for myself. And I don’t know any of them, so I guess I’m not really marching for them either.”
He kept looking down at his hand while he was talking. I finally looked there and realized he was still holding that picture of the mother and the baby. He didn’t say anything else, and I had the feeling that he was done talking. I thought I should walk with him for a bit, though, so I went up and down the street a couple more times before I took my leave.
I stopped at Dave’s Deluxe on the way home, as I’d worked up a pretty good thirst what with all that walking. I was also kind of hoping Gus and Andy would be there; they’d have known what to make of all this. But nobody was there except the new barmaid – Kendra, I think is her name, so there wasn’t anybody there to really talk with. It still doesn’t quite add up to me. I’ll say this much – I don’t think Ed is crazy. He’s got his reasons, even if he couldn’t quite say them out loud today. But he and I need to talk some more, that’s for sure. Boy I tell you, the things you hear when you talk to people!