In my first post, I indicated that I would be discussing crime fiction novels by Black American writers. I changed my mind because I’m working on a book about Black writers of crime fiction. Instead, I think I’ll opine on national and world events through a character I created named Alvin S. Simpleton.
I hope Langston Hughes will not turn over in his grave but will forgive me for creating a bad imitation of the famous Harlemite Jesse B. Semple, the character he created in 1943 in the Chicago Defender, an African American weekly newspaper.
Alvin owns a one-chair barbershop he calls “Alvin’s Tonsorial.” He bought the shop to have something to do after he retired from his job with the Federal government.
The shop is located on a street that was once a main thoroughfare before the highway was built. In the window is a handwritten sign announcing the days and times the shop is open:
OPEN TUES. THRU SAT. 10:AM-6:PM
CLOSED SUNDAY AND MON.
Alvin and his friends meet each morning in the barbershop to swap lies and non-expert opinions as ordinary citizens on the economy, foreign affairs, government, politics, women, and any controversial subject they feel incompetent enough to discuss.
Alvin’s friends are Jabo,Leroy, and me. Like Alvin, we are all retired. I’m a retired Federal civil servant, Jabo is a retired Marine major, and Leroy is a retired city bus driver.
Alvin’s nephew, we call him Shortman because he is only about five feet tall, cleans the shop. Shortman is slightly mentally challenged or, as Alvin would say, a little slow. Alvin helps his sister Maggie, Shortman’s mother, by paying Shortman a small wage to clean up the shop.
This column came about at Alvin’s suggestion. One day I was working on my blog as Alvin looked over my shoulder. He had never seen me working on the blog, though he knew I was always on the computer.
“Whatcha doin?” he asked.
“Writing in my blog.”
“Writing in your which?”
I explained what a blog is and told him I often put my thoughts in it so other people can comment on them.
“Hey, why don’t you put something about us four, you know how we argue bout stuff in the shop. Shucks, we be doing some heavy thinkin, you know that. Let folks know how heavy we in this city think.”
I agreed, and you will be reading the results in future posts.