Saturday after in LeDroit Park, the tree-lined neighborhood behind Howard University. Mamas walking back from the supermarket with kids dragging behind, Popsicles dripping. Out of row houses with small lawns comes the drone of televisions as working-class daddies listen to the game. Young boys, in shorts and shirtless, crisscross Second Street to the basket ball courts. Down the street a bald man hoses down a big red Chrysler.
Up the street comes the bacon man. The bacon man has nothing to do with the Washington of big government, limousines, fancy restaurants with Perrier water, bureaucrats. He is country.
Baaaayh-Cuunnh, Baaaayn-Cuunnh." He snaps it off. Shouting it out in a deep southern accent. You can hear him for blocks away. He's pushing a shopping cart with a big cardboard box in it, a slab of bacon showing out the side.
My man is working at pushing that cart down the middle of the street, leaning down, holding his arms stiff in front of him. Cars slow to go around him. Cars don't bother him. He bothers cars. "Got that Baaayh-Cuunnh."
An old woman sticks her head out a window, shouting back "How much you sellin' that bacun for?"
Baconman, his plaid shirt dark with sweat, leans up from his load. "Got that Baaaayh-Cuunnh, cuts you a slab -- come on and see."
The old lady slaps her hand on the window sill and asks again. Her voice says she won't ask a third time. "How much for that bacun this week? I's seen bacun 'fore."
"Have you got that dollar, darlun?" he asks. "Give you some slab for that dollar." The old lady is gone from the window.
At the door, the old lady has her hair rolled up, a change purse in one hand, the other holding a pink bathrobe around her."Lemme see that bacun," she says, going down the stoop and easing her spreading hips between parked cars.
"Baaaayh-cuuhhn" says Baconman, letting it out loud, a song of triumph. He's got a customer. With a big hand, made ugly by dirty, stubbly nails, he lifts the cardboard cover and leans the side of bacon on edge so the lady can see. No smile, but she nods.
It's too much for my curiosity. I want to see that meat too. The Muslims used to come by selling fish, frozen fish. But bacon -- I've never seen anyone selling bacon door-to-door.
"Look at this Baayh-Cuunnh," Baconman says, as I approach. Baconman has seen me. He's got two customers.
Up close Baconman looks older. He's got an accent thick as his bacon and a sweet smile he's showing the old lady. In his big left hand is a kitchen knife, long and sharp with a jagged edge. Cardboard cover pulled back the bacon is exposed: snow white fat with veins of dark red meat. The fat smells. The bacon smells.
"How you know that bacon isn't spoiled?" I ask the lady. She pays me no mind.
"That bacon good?" I ask Baconman. He looks at me like I should leave.
"Don't you have to keep it on ice?"
"This is good Baaayh-Cuunnh," he sings out. "Ain't no problem with it. You some inspector?"
The old lady, whose hair smells of fancy grease, says: "I ain't out 'chere to talk. Lemme have some of that bacun."
"I'll give you this for $2," Baconman says, his hand a way from the end of the meat.
"You'll gimme this," says the lady, moving her hand up the meat. Baconman doesn't hesitate. He starts hacking with his knife just short of where she had her hand. Compromise. He's got a sale.
"Baaayh-Cuuunnh," he trumpets in victory. Others come now -- a teen-age girl and her mother with a dog, the Korean who owns the corner grocery.
The dog sniffs at the bacon. Baconman is finished cutting away at the slab. He hands the old lady in the robe her piece of meat -- raw, no paper, no nothing. She counts out eight quarters. Baconman looks around, his eyes say "next." His mouth bellows "Got that Baaaayyh-Cuuuunnh!" You don't realize how loud he is until you're up close.
The young girl points -- says nothing -- indicating she wants him to cut from the other side of the slab. "I got a dollar and some," she says. Baconman gives her the eye.
"I'll let you and your pretty mo'her get some bacun, baby," he says. The Korean interrupts, "Don't you have to keep it refrigerated?"
Baconman turns off the smile. He keeps cutting. "Baaaayh-Cuunnh's good bacun," he says on the downstroke of a slice.
"Where'd you get that bacon?" asks the Korean. Baconman shakes his head, turns to the young girl and gives her a tired look. "I got the bacun, that's all you have to know. Baaaayh-Cuunnh."
Finished with another sale, Baconman looks around for someone to show money. He looks at me. I think to myself, I worry enough about eating pork. This is too much for a New York boy who buys his bacon frozen and vacuum-sealed in a plastic wrapper.
Two days later, I see the old lady at the bus stop. "How was that bacon?"
I ask. She looks at me like I'm crazy.
"He's got some sweet bacun," she says. "Look for him every week."