The "Penis Man"

It was February 2nd, 1979 and my best friend, Eve and I had just finished reading “Harriet the Spy”, a book about  a 10 year old girl who loved peeking into the lives of others and recording everything into her black and white bound notebook.  By February 9th each of us had our own black and white notebooks into which we poured the thoughts, observations, ideas and experiences that we 9 year olds felt merited codifying.  

“Angela uses her hairbrush in public! That’s weird,”  Eve wrote on one of her pages.  “I wonder if trees pee,” I wrote on one of mine.   We packed the notebook with important facts: “I got a new barrette.”  “ Eve and I both love peanut butter.”    “Today, the Ms. Pac Man game was broken at the store so we bought hot chocolate instead." And so on.  It was mostly excruciating minutia from the lives of the one-digited age group, but the knowledge that these tidbits were being set into written history was sensational.

We would sit by the window of my parents’ bedroom, in their New York City apartment and peer down at the passersby below in Riverside Park, making up stories about each person, their history, their destination, the way they walked and looked around. We honed our observation skills in order to find clues that would be integral to solving the mystery of why people go to the park. There was a guy with brown shoes and a yellow down jacket who walked his dog every day and never picked up the poop.  We watched him looking around to see if anyone noticed him sidestepping away from the steaming pile.  We jotted it down in our notebooks, eyeing each other with knowing spy glances.  He hadn’t escaped our elementary microscope, and if the feds came searching for the culprit who left the load of dog doo on that grassy patch,  we’d be more than happy to give them a read of page 26 date March 31st, 1979. We felt in the know, guided by intuition and eager to put together puzzle pieces that would enlighten the masses about human behavior.