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Street Urchins et al

By Mark Crantz

By Mark Crantz

I’ve known a street urchin or two from my Chicago days. They were characters straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. One enterprising fellow missing a leg would ask for money outside a popular train entrance. Even the entrance he chose had been changed to look like a Paris train station from the late 1800’s. It should have looked like London instead of Paris, but I have to admit the setting was close enough that it lent authenticity to his smudged cheeks, tattered clothing and the spiel, “Hey mate, can you help a fella get a leg up?”  And my favorite come on, “I put my pants on one leg at a time.  Bet I can beat you to the office. Got a buck?” Over time I got a lot of chitchat and he got a lot of dollars because I don’t race in mornings. However, I do hurry it up at Happy Hours. Just ask around town.

But street urchins can be a jealous lot.  Word got around that this fellow was making so much money that he spent winters in Florida at his condominium in Coral Cables. I believed this rumor had grown into a fanciful legend that really had no street cred. Then on a rare occasion I drove my car to work and parked in the garage that shared this train entrance to Michigan Avenue.  That’s when I found it. At the bottom of the steps leading up to street side was a neat pile of clothing. There was one custom made white shirt, one silk tie, a Joseph Abboud sports jacket, and a lone British Loakes, which is the best handmade British shoe that takes eight weeks and two hundred operations to make.  Who would leave this splendid attire? And then I saw it.  Just a little ways down and behind the ticket machine leaned an artificial leg sporting the missing Loakes. By George, this was proof that my street urchin was doing very well indeed. He really was beating me to the office, making more than me, and the insult to injury was he did it in half the time. While I worked through Chicago winters, he was sunning himself. I can’t say for sure, but I believe his artificial leg was more tanned than mine.  For sure it didn’t have my varicose veins.

Fool me once but don’t fool me twice. I read in the Indy that trouble is brewing with Laguna’s urchins. The dreaded sea urchins are causing ripples in the tidal pools.  According to people in the know, not me, these sea urchins are eating kelp. This is not a good thing to eat because it makes you purple. Marine experts can easily find these thieving urchins after eating frenzies because they become purple and there’s no kelp around.  It’s the same thing as exploding dye packs that banks use to foil bank robbers.  Hidden in the money is an exploding packet that colors the robber purple when he tries to spend his ill gotten gains. That’s where the expression, “I’m purple with rage” comes from.  The exception to this rule is Prince’s album “Purple Rain.”  Music Billboard ranks the album as a top 25 well-gotten gain of all times and places Prince number one in looks when dressed in purple. Sesame Street ranks his name “P” as the second best letter in the alphabet.

Experts are divided on what to do about these ravenous urchins.  One camp wants to rip the urchins from their tidal pool homes and make them walk the plank somewhere near Avalon. Others say let Mother Nature be. These marauding urchins have tiny stomachs and cannot possibly eat forests of Laguna kelp.  Who’s right?

I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is not smart to trust urchins.  Let us compromise and ship the offensive purple sea urchins to Florida where there’s a surplus of available condominiums for them. And if the urchin preservationists persist, then throw in Loakes’ flippers as a sweetener.  It will be well worth the handmade costs.

Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago.  He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.”  His recently deceased Border Collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.

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