Chester Filbert was a kid who was about the same age as I was in the late 1960s. He lived at ‘5264 West One hundred and seventy-seventh Street,’ according to author Ellen Raskin.
He claimed that ‘nothing ever happened’ on his block, because he considered ‘happenings’ needing spies and astronauts, marching bands and haunted houses, and courageous hunters hunting ferocious lions and tigers.
Meanwhile, on West One hundred and seventy-seventh Street, as he sits on the curb and laments his case to the reader, there is a house being painted yellow; a group of children playing ding-dong-ditch on a spinster; twin sisters jumping rope until one falls and breaks her arm and is carried off on a stretcher; a thief in a Zorro-like mask being pursued by The Law and hiding behind trees; a fire; and an armored car that gets in a head-on accident and whose back doors fly open, releasing $50 bills everywhere (that’s $300 apiece in 2011 dollars).
Chester missed all this. He announced on the penultimate page, when the $50 bills are flurrying about and all his neighbors are grabbing them, even the spinster from her Victorian home’s widow’s walk, ‘When I grow up I’m going to move.’ Presumably to somewhere where things happened. The last page shows him walking up the stoop to his house. His hands are clasped behind his back in a manner befitting a 60-year-old, resigned, rather than a 6-year-old, restless.
Chester would have missed last summer’s mosquito infestation in the basements of multiple brownstones on West 84th Street and their study by intrigued scientists from Rutgers University. He’d miss that Edgar’s Café is closing tomorrow. He’d miss the white lady telling the black teenagers to move away from the front of her building and the black kids telling the white lady that she’s racist. He’d miss pretending to be a mountain goat when climbing over mounds of greying snow at the street corners in January. He’d miss meeting Carmine and her two long-haired dachshunds—Chocolate Love Affair (a ‘breeder,’ Carmine explains) and Guinness. He’d have thought nothing ever happened on West 84th Street.
And he’d be tempted to move.
Raskin dedicated the book to ‘children everywhere, except Chester Filbert.’
‘He’s just too dull.’