The warm weather affords many the opportunity to partake in a traditional method of passing time, settin’ on a stoop. The act of sitting there staring wherever your eyes take you is important. It gives your mind time to figure things out.

Growing up in Detroit we had a front and back porch. You had to “act right” sitting out front. Many punishments came with the stipulation that you were not to wander past the porch. If you wanted to fight or eat a juicy watermelon over spread out newspapers, you had to “take that mess around back!” The front porch was used for less rowdy stuff like playing my car/your car, which was a simple but fun game. When a car came down the street, the first one was yours, and the next one was whoever else was on the stoop. If you were lucky, you became the “owner” of a shiny Cadillac or Lincoln, and if not, you had to deal with the raggedy Corvair or Dart. The game was over when you got tired and went in the house.

People watching is perfect for stoop settin’. You can wave to the passers by and maybe laugh a little at Tube Top Tammy, who managed to squeeze every ounce of her overweight-ness into a fire engine red or lime green top, matching nothing else she had on. The front stoop was where little girls learned to braid hair and sit with a dress on. Bubbles were blown into the air from sticky bottles, and contests were held to see whose bubbles went further.

Nowadays stoops in NYC are filled with 3 generations on hot, summer nights. Every other stoop has something different going on. Lovers too broke to do anything else but cling to each other. Outside dinner parties. New Yorkers have extended the stoop to include the sidewalk, where they set up card tables and play dominoes. I smile when I come home late at night and see somebody just sitting, alone with their thoughts.

If we make eye contact, I give them a look that says “I hope you figure it out.”

William Stephenson

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