Two centuries ago they would have been the town fools, the village idiots, to put it bluntly. Each would have had his own eccentricity: old Theo Martin, always talking to himself a mile a minute; Connie Norris, stopping and standing and staring at nothing for hours on end, sometimes in the middle of the road, so the traffic (of carts and carriages) has to go around her; Kit Smart, suddenly dropping to his knees and calling on everyone around to do the same and pray.
A century later they all would be in institutions.
Now they are back, reintegrated into the community, the town fools, the village idiots, heavily medicated and eccentricity-free. If we had one person who wandered the sidewalks with blank, expressionless eyes and no awareness of himself, his surroundings, or the present moment, that might be called eccentric. If there are a half-dozen people in town like that, it’s called a condition – specifically, in this case, a side effect.
A couple of months ago a new roamer appeared, putting one foot in front of another on the big boulevard into town, who looks exactly like Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’ve passed by the guy two dozen times already, and I still can’t get used to it. My immediate reaction, when I see him, is famous movie star. Not until the message from my retina gets to the next synapse, or the next one after that, do I identify him as the crazy guy who looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Yesterday was Halloween, so here is a Halloween thought: what if our roamers were not just figuratively the walking dead?