As I walked down the street of the neighborhood of my youth, I saw him sitting on the front porch doing nothing in particular. We used to call him "Mahondo", and it had been at least 25 years since I had seen him last. Back in those days the boys in the neighborhood put together a softball team and got in a city league. We were good! Our teammate Mahondo was an intimidating figure. If you can picture a bull in the ring, you'll have a general idea of Mahondo's build and demeanor.
"What have you been up to?" I asked him.
"Trying to avoid child support." One might say he was watching life pass by from his own front porch.
He invited me up for a beer and proceeded to share the gist of his past 25 years. He had spent some time in jail for smashing a bottle over someone's head in bar room brawl. His social life consisted of going down to the corner tavern for happy hour. He couldn't find a job because he didn't have the right connections, but he didn't want to go out of town in search of employment either. And naturally none of his problems were his fault.
Then there is the story of another fellow, a year older than I, who grew up directly across the street from me. One day I visited my grandmother in the nursing home, and who should I see but the guy from across the street. He doesn't work at the nursing home. He lives there. He can't talk, he can't walk, and he generally is unable to take care of himself. I could tell by the look in his eye that he recognized me. Here was someone whose mind was blown by drugs and other poisons, culminating in a series of strokes.
And then there was David. I saw him and the wife of his youth on their bicycles on their way home from his parents' house. He was a foreman at a local plant, and his daughters are grown and married. He is happily growing older with his high school sweetheart, who hasn't changed a bit in 30 years. And she still gazes at him with the same look she had when she married that young Marine those many decades ago.
One neighborhood, three men, three paths. None of this was luck. People don’tsucceed because they are "lucky" or because they "know somebody", or because of "politics". One neighborhood. Three men. Three paths. It was the paths they chose that led these men to their unique destinies.