Mr. Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead with masks

Following yesterday’s story, here’s another one about interesting people who cloak themselves as your neighbors. Be on the watch and you just might find that the man or woman living next door to you is actually a fascinating human being.

I worked in construction when I was young and was good at it. I loved craft and had a good sense of detail. And I actually finished things that I started, a rare skill among carpenters. This made me popular with a local insurance company who provided me with a good bit of clean up work after storms. One day I was asked to go talk to an old fella who lived out in the woods. A tree had fallen on his garage and the insurance company needed a bid for the repair.

I drove out to his house and the setting was gorgeous. It was one of the older seaside bungalows in an area not yet leveled for a gaudy faux-Craftsman with a view. The house had clear twelve-inch cedar lap siding – so rare that it wasn’t even available – and wooden window frames. His garage was practically demolished. A stout fir had fallen right through the roof, snapping the ridge and collapsing three walls. I bid on the job and got it and then suffered through three weeks of breathing ocean air and watching waves roll up on the shore while rebuilding the garage. Once we started, the owner, probably as old as that twelve-inch siding, would invite me in for coffee each morning. I noticed that he read the Wall Street from cover to cover, circling articles and investments with a red pencil. I’m a fan of money and am especially fond of giving it away in the stock market so we talked about investing a lot.

One day he asked me to get something from the sideboard near the table. Right next to the papers he needed was a picture of him and a woman, arm-in-arm, beaming with broad grins. “Hey!” I said. “Is that you and Margaret Mead? How do you know Margaret Mead?” He laughed a little and said that he ran the anthropology department at Columbia for twenty years. “I knew everybody!”

With apologies to any family or friends of Ms. Mead, he continued. “We used to go out a bit when she was around. She was one of the best gals I ever knew. Smart as a whip and ready to jump in the sack with any warm body who was up for it!” He thought that was damned funny and let out a huge laugh. I didn’t press him on whether he was up for it or not. I’m guessing that he was. So he taught me a bit about anthropology and lots about investing. And I would have bet a thousand dollars that nary a soul living next to him in their new tract-style home had a clue about what a fascinating man lived right next door.

So you never know who might be dealing with. Stay awake and keep your eyes open.

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Author: Dennis Mitton

Science writer. Evolution, bio, health, fitness, longevity, and philosophy. Love Russian lit. Run a slow 5k. Proven breeder/twins. Monkey Dance author.

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