Balcony lady, I missed her yesterday. When we walked down to Bronte by the lake, there is an apartment up above a store front, where balcony lady lives. I call her balcony lady because I don’t know her real name, but I am fortunate enough to know her kind. They make the world a bit more fancy and a bit more kind, and it just seems to be a twist of personality that when God put together people on the assembly line, some got an extra dash of sugar and spice.
Get a bunch of people together, and certain ones will rise up into positions of natural influence one way or another. Because influence can go either way, it’s a happy turn to acknowledge that some people just make the world a better place. When they are around, they enliven the party, and they make people sit up straight and want to be better human beings. If I were given a choice whether to be an internet influencer, or one of these real-life influencers I would take the latter any day, except that it is not my particular gift. Those kind of people just let you open up your heart and put your legs up in a dangerous and sometimes unkind world.
Those kind of people can also influence a work place. If you are really fortunate, such a person will be your boss. I have on a number of times been lucky enough to work around someone who never listened to gossip, always thought the best, and always advised on the good side of morals. They did not think about themselves first, which can be unusual.
Anyway, getting back to balcony lady, what we know about her from our walks, played out during the entire COVID lockdown where you couldn’t go anywhere because there was nowhere to go. No stores were open in fear of disease. Even cash could not change hands. You had to reconstruct your days, to work from home, to source out new and more pedestrian forms of entertainment, and to enjoy the sudden quiet and green that happened when few cars were on the road and few people were on the street.
In all of this, balcony lady was a beacon of hope. She also had style, out on her balcony peering down at the world in a fancy gown, and a glass of wine. Despite being alone, she was making friends with the world, and more than that, making a party. Her own particular flare was the jazzy kind. She had old-fashioned jazz style music eminating from her apartment, and it animated her movements in a hypnotic kind of way. She would sway under its influence, not in any hurry and just taking in the world as it was no matter what. She might be the urban counterpart of Thoreau, who ran away to Walden Pond for a year to live simply. He famously said, “ I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life... to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...”
Balcony lady’s version might go a bit like this, if I could paraphrase what I think goes on in her brain. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so lavishly in spirit as to put to rout all that was not life, and to bring anyone else I could find who was listening to the party.”
Balcony lady is not a one-off. Italy made the news during the worst of their pandemic cycle, when people gathered on their balconies and shared songs of hope, and religious worship. They cheered each other up, and reminded themselves that they were not really alone in the world.
We walked past balcony lady’s building, and the party that had spread out onto the street for three months and made everyone feel better, was conspicuously absent. There is a reason for that. The outdoor patios have opened up and people are filling the streets and drinking in life deeply and I think, with some relief. I don’t want to forget balcony lady, but I want to thank her. She, and all others of her kind made my world a little better for a time. I suspect she is out somewhere in fancy ball gown with a glass of wine in hand, no doubt the life of the party.