So you think you know Lewiston. You subscribe to the local news feeds. You keep your ear on the police scanner and you never miss one of Ernie Edwards downtown photos on Facebook.
Way to go, Cronkite. But I'm telling you, you're only getting half the picture. The fun half is typically missing from the accounts you get in the morning paper or on the evening news. To really grasp a Lewiston event, you have to be there. Otherwise, you miss all that solid-gold nuance on the periphery:
* The 2-year-old girl crawling through a busted screen on the third floor while her mother smokes and talks on the phone.
* The scowling people on the street below muttering about what a horrible mother that is up there.
* The obviously stoned guy with the red eyes and the blank, 5-mile stare talking about all the nasty drug dealers who live in that tenement right there, dude.
* The cop angrily pointing at the photographer and yelling: "I'm not going to tell you again to move back!"
* The photographer, who wasn't all that close, wandering over to the reporter and saying: "You know? When cops yell at me, it usually means they're mad at you."
* The jogger who maintains his pace and runs right through the field of cops, even if the cops are collecting evidence or hauling sniper rifles out of the trunk. At eight of every 10 high-drama scenes, that jogger is there. You have to figure he is either very arrogant or very dumb. I'm not buying that, "I'm in the zone when I jog" argument. You just ran over a body part, ya hump. And when the cops yell at the aspiring Bruce Jenner, he invariably gives them the outstretched arms, open mouth look. "What? What'd I do?" I'm leaning toward very dumb.
* The reporter who thinks it's deliciously funny whenever that jogger appears. Every time it happens, the reporter considers trying to interview Mr. Health Nut to learn why he does what he does. But by the time the reporter thinks of it, the jogger is on the run again. And there is no way the reporter wants to start hoofing it just to catch up. No interview is worth that.
* The kid with the funny haircut who wants everyone to know that a certain cop is a good friend of his. "That guy?" he'll say. "We been buddies a long time. He really helps me out. I'd take a bullet for the man." The dude moves from one knot of people to the next, telling everyone he sees what a good friend he has in that cop right there. Then the officer wanders over and the funny haircut guy jumps up and down and yells hello. To which the cop responds: "Do I know you?"
* The older guy who refuses to let this madness interrupt his day. Doesn't matter that shots have been fired. Doesn't matter that the cops are all tense and tweaked, guns in hand and adrenaline surging like the Androscoggin at flood stage. The way the older guy sees it, it's his right — he pays taxes, after all — to crawl under his F-210 and work on the muffler. That's what he was doing before shots rang out; that's what he's doing now. If a police officer comes along and asks Mr. Goodwrench to clear out, the aggrieved fellow will say something helpful, like: "You got a warrant?" Which just baffles the cop because it doesn't make any damn sense. And while the officer thinks it over, Mr. Goodwrench will just keep on tightening those bolts and will continue to do so until a stray bullet catches him in the leg. And when that happens, he's going to sue somebody. You just know it.
* The dog walker. She (it's always a she and usually a very old she) is like the jogger or the mechanic. So there are cops everywhere. So they're elbow-crawling their way across the streets with rifles in hand. So what? Does that mean she's not supposed to walk her poochie? When Miffy has to go, she will tell the crowd of crouching spectators, then Miffy has to go. Only, because she's an older lady, her dog's first name is actually "My," as in "My Miffy doesn't like police. See? She's peeing on one of their shoes as we speak. That's My Miffy. Ain't she something?" You get the feeling that Miffy will someday go for the old woman's throat and regret nothing.
* The young lovers who can agree on one thing and one thing only: The best time to have a loud, screeching argument is when there are hundreds of people around, including armed policemen, who are no doubt interested in hearing all about their romantic troubles. While everyone else is focused on the gun play, Mr. and Mrs. Romeo will fling loud accusations back and forth. "You went out drinking with Shawn and you know I don't like that son of a bee itch." "Well, maybe I wouldn't go out drinking with Shawn if you stayed home and took care of your kid once in a while."
The funnest part of that kind of to-do is watching everyone else on the street pretend they're not listening. But you've got to listen. It's like Jerry Springer or People's Court. We just don't get involved. Most of us would rather take a hit of Mace right up the nose than get tangled up in that mess.
* The "ain't that just like Lewiston" crowd. It doesn't matter what the scene is. It doesn't matter how long it's been perfectly peaceful around the city. No matter what, somebody — and usually groups of sneering somebodies — will declare that "ain't this just like Lewiston!" As though the crime rate here rivals that of St. Louis or Detroit. As though you can't so much as walk to the store without tripping over a murder victim.
In a thousand years, when there are no traces left of any of us, the planet will be visited by creepy aliens from another world. Upon landing in the empty stretch that was once Lewiston, one of the aliens will stub one of its 40 toes and, as he's hopping up and down and sputtering extraterrestrial swear words, will utter some alien version of, "Ain't that just like Lewiston! Stupid toe-mangling city!" And then he will annihilate the whole place with his ray gun and that will be that.
* The "CSI" addict. This is the young fellow, always shirtless, who will stand on the sidewalk narrating the whole, sordid affair. "You see that rifle the cop is carrying? That's an AR-15. And you see where he's standing? That's the kill zone. That sergeant over there is calling for a wider perimeter. And that guy with the beard? Undercover fed. And you see that angry-looking hag stomping this way? That's my mom. I gotta go."
* The oinkers. These are 50-something men who believe it is 1978 and they are still teenagers butting heads with the police. They have beer bellies and mullets and sagging flesh from which old tattoos hang like melting candy. When a police officer wanders just out of earshot, the oinkers will actually start making pig sounds and they will say things like: "I smell bacon!" The officer, meanwhile, was born in 1988. He has no idea that "pig" was once a pejorative used by hippies to describe lawmen. The officer believes the men on the corner simply have bad nasal congestion.
* Walt Whitman. This is the fellow, typically bearded, who spends months — nay, years! — crafting clever things to say should he ever find himself in the thick of downtown police action. Today, his time has finally come. Police are interviewing witnesses. They are hauling guys out of a tenement left and right and putting them in handcuffs.
Waiting for the perfect moment, stepping out into the street so he will be heard by all, Walt Whitman yells: "Leave it to Jesus to sort out! That's what it all comes down to, anyway!"
He looks genuinely perplexed when the line doesn't draw applause.
* The pay-attention-to-me guy. This is the dude who approaches me as I'm leaning comfortably against a post and taking in the action. He sidles up next to me all conspiratorial-like and says:
"You a cop?"
"Milkman? Shoeshine boy? Sword swallower?"
"I'm a reporter."
"Reporter, eh? Exactly what I thought. Boy, do I have a story for you."
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can let him know you have a heckuva story for him at firstname.lastname@example.org.