I was taking a picture of another "adequate wiring" sign when Eddie, the super, stepped outside. I asked him if he knew how old the sign was. He did know, and he told me. And then he told me 20 million other things. Including:
He was born in Puerto Rico, but moved here to Webster Avenue when he was just a few years old. He and his family were the first Puerto Ricans to move into the neighborhood, and he's witnessed all the changes that have happened since then. He pointed out where the candy store used to be, and the Italian bakery (he loves Italian bagels), and the synagogue. He talked about the trolley line that used to run down Webster Avenue, and he told me about the 1970s, when a cop was shot in the playground down the block, and when he himself was shot and stabbed. He's taken and collected decades of photos of the neighborhood, which I'd love to see sometime. People have asked him if they could buy the old sign I was photographing, but he wants it to stay up on the wall, just as a little trace of the past. (I've forgotten how old he said it was.)
When I asked if I could take his picture, he said I would have to wait until he mopped the foyer, because he didn't want there to be a dirty floor in the picture. He also has a really nice smile, but insisted on keeping a straight face in the photo because he doesn't want anyone seeing his missing teeth.