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By Tardsie

Pervert Alley Doesn’t Have An Official Motto, But This Is As Good As Anything.

At the bottom of my street there’s a rude clutch of a half-dozen shanty apartments that we call Pervert Alley. Pervert Alley is two low rectangular buildings set at right angles to one another, forming roughly half the border of the parking lot it shares with a popular coffee shop. The coffee shop’s been there about ten years now. Before that it was, among other things, a self-help legal center and a doctor’s office, and much of the time it lay vacant. But as far back as I can remember, Pervert Alley has remained constant and unchanged.

Like my house and a lot of the houses in my neighborhood, Pervert Alley is old and was built on the cheap in the years following World War II. Painted in washed-out earth tones, Pervert Alley seems almost designed to be unremarkable–a thing to be seen and then just as quickly forgotten, as if it were shameful or somehow malignant.

There is a commonality to the people who call Pervert Alley home, a worn and tattered theme played out in face after face, year after year. They are neither young–perhaps because the young are still too full of hope to find themselves tossed upon Pervert Alley’s bitter shores–nor are they usually very old; they are not the kind of people who can expect to grow old. They are the fringers and the forgotten, Halbermenschen who haunt the peripheries of society, phantoms who live alongside us, but never with us.


Like Pervert Alley, It’s Full Of Whimsical Characters That You Would Under No Circumstances Leave Unsupervised With Your Children.

The occupant of the first apartment is a gentleman we call–appropriately enough–Pervert #1, and, ironically, the aging registered sex offender is likely the only bona fide pervert residing in Pervert Alley. He keeps to himself and seems to be in poor health, and I expect before much longer that I’ll see a new face in #1. Mostly what I feel for him is pity.

A middle-aged couple live in #2. The man looks a little like George Carlin and the woman like what I imagine a small-town librarian should look like: tall and narrow with round, owlish glasses and straight hair the color of steel wool pulled into a tight bun and pinned up with a variety of makeshift items–pencils, disposable chopsticks, nail files. She has a weary, long-suffering face which I associate for some reason with the pitiless expanse of Midwest prairie, and not the shadow of the Oprah-proclaimed “happiest town in America.” They’re a friendly couple, and sometimes we wave. Passing the husband on my walk one day as he chatted with a friend, I overheard him say of his wife:  “She’s got a heart of gold and she’ll do anything for anybody. Give you the shirt off her back.” He paused before saying, “But the only thing she has to eat all day is vodka.”


Like This, But A Lot Drunker.

Terry, who lives in #3, is a nut, but not the dangerous kind. At his worst, he’s tiresome. Terry is the star of The Terry Wives of Windsor, a cable-access show I’ve never seen, but which I assume is some kind of drag revue. I first met Terry about ten years ago when he applied for membership in a business organization with which I was associated at the time. Terry had dyed his hair red, in a shade that has never been known to spring forth from a human scalp. His t-shirt was a failed home tie-dye which clung to his scrawny frame like Spandex. However, the pièce de résistance was his footwear, Converse All-Stars  he’d decorated in loops and whirls with a purple permanent marker. It doubtless won’t surprise anyone that he wasn’t invited to join the group. I’ve always been nice to him, though, and when he told me recently how much it meant to him that “you guys {because he now includes my wife & kids} have always supported me,” I felt both touched and a little sad at the same time.

The fourth apartment is a dim, hidden sanctum at the end of the first row, partially blocked by the intersection of the smaller structure which comprises Apartments #5 & #6. I have no idea who–or what–lives in Apartment #4.

Apartment #5 seems to have trouble keeping a steady occupant, and a stream of losers, leeches and ne’er-do-wells have stumbled, slunk and staggered through its door. The current resident has been there just a few months. It’s not easy to tell how old she is; she might be my age or younger, but she’s seen some hard living. She’s tall and blubbery, and her fat hangs unhealthily from her the way it does from an old person, so that her arms and legs jut like broomsticks covered in melted rubber from a body as round and heavy as a swollen tick. She has a predator’s eyes, set in a vapid, moony face crowned by a tangle of greasy, colorless locks. At night she gets fucked up and yells things. She does sometimes in the daylight, too.

The man who lives in #6 is named Daniel, and he’s the hardest for me to talk about even though he’s the reason I started writing about Pervert Alley in the first place. Daniel was, perhaps improbably, my friend. Maybe he still is. He’s changed, and not for the better. Daniel had seen some rough times in his life, but at nearly fifty years old he was finally getting his life together. But then he met Shelly, and that’s a story I’ll tell you next time.


We Don’t Intend To Imply That All Women Are Soul-Crushing Succubi Who Love Nothing More Than To Bring A Man To Ruin. But Clearly, Some Are.