Put a Cape on that Artist

The following anecdote comes from writer Steve O’Connor, who got the report from a comrade downtown. Without revealing the protagonist so that he won’t get accosted at a later date on Central Street, I want to share this example of one man being a Superhero of the City for the way he stands up for civil society and decent sidewalks. Anyone who says the artists aren’t adding enough value to the city should consider what these defenders of “beauty” do out there every day. This artist shows there’s more than one “Fighter” in Lowell. For publication, I revised a few words in deference to standards and practices at rh.com. Following is the story in the artist’s voice.–PM

“Speaking of dumping, how about the one where I confronted a piece of crap on Central Street. We were approaching each other from, obviously, opposite directions and just as we were about to pass each other he ejected a compact disc onto the sidewalk from some mechanical device he was cradling. Right next to the disc was a trash barrel.

“We both continued on for about ten steps before I looked back to see if he had picked it up. He hadn’t, and so I called to him, ‘Hey, you dropped something.’ He turned, dropped his backpack on the sidewalk, and shouted, ‘You want to make something of it?’

“Now, the guy topped me by about 150 pounds, and I topped him by about 50 years, and, although in my mind I sometimes still think like a 20-year-old, all I have to do is look in the mirror in the morning to realize I can’t move like I think I might. So when I turned and approached him at a brisk pace (my natural walk), it wasn’t with the intent of confronting him in a Micky Ward kind of waltz . . . it was simply to engage him in a civics lesson without shouting.

“But when I stopped about two feet in front of him, I saw his eyes were popped open with surprise and uncertainty of what had just changed in the situation. I was equally surprised at his surprise but, collecting myself, proceeded to tell him that it would be just as easy to put his trash into a barrel as on the ground. Realizing that I probably wasn’t going to put my 76-year-old fist into his fat gut, he informed me that it didn’t matter what he did because Lowell was a crap-dump anyway, so who cares.

“My completely rational and considered reply was, ‘If Lowell is a dump, it’s because of effing lard a-holes like you dumping your crap on the ground when you’ve got a trash barrel right next to you.’ Then I turned and went on my way. End of escapade.

“The only regret I have about this encounter is that, because it happened on the bridge over the canal (and here my fantasy really takes hold), he didn’t lunge at me and I, in my superhero mode, didn’t step aside only enough to assist him in his headlong flight over the railing and into the icy water below. He wouldn’t have drowned, not with all the shopping carts, bicycles, and old tires to hold him up, but he may have thought about dumping trash on the ground again. And then again, maybe not.

“Actually, he was only doing his part in what I am beginning to realize is a symbiotic relationship I have with the pigs of this city: it’s their job to throw their crap on the ground and my job to pick it up, so I guess we’re in cahoots. Happy new year.”

5 Responses to Put a Cape on that Artist

  1. Guy LeFebvre says:

    Mr. O’Connor, I’d like to inform you that not all ” fat pieces of crap ” are slobs who don’t care about the city. This one happens to care about Lowell and does walk to the barrel to dispose of trash when necessary.I did not realize body weight was directly related common courtesy but I see it can be trumped by ” artistic license”.

  2. PaulM says:

    Guy: Steve didn’t say these things. He passed along the anecdote to me for posting. I’m sure the source of the story didn’t mean to say all people who look alike act in the same way. He was describing a certain young guy. The man involved in the confrotation was clearly angry about what had happened and used language that was “hot.” I understand your point, though, and thanks for making it. No offense meant.

  3. Steve says:


    I apologize by proxy too Guy. And so would the artist in question. No one wants to
    offend a guy (no pun intended) who is a scholar, a knowledgeable collector of Lowell artifacts, an expert on on Lowell history, an invaluable repository of local lore, and the person to talk to if you have any questions about Ben Butler.

  4. Guy LeFebvre says:

    Thanks Steve, I’m usually not bothered, I guess I just got up on the wrong side of the bed.
    ps: Bring some books by the store.