Wow. How did we get halfway into September? Next you are going to tell me that summer is over. Psshaw! We are having the best weather of the year here in the Northwest; I don’t want to believe it. But when I see my neighbor’s pumpkin vines dying back and the tired green of my own garden, I know it must be true. Sigh. All you people who love autumn best: now’s your time. Enjoy. I am steadfast in my loyalty to spring, that season of renewal and rebirth. And not having to rake leaves.
Today is the holiday of Rosh Hashanah – the start of the Jewish New Year – and a time of deepening reflection. It’s a time to ponder the sweetness of life, acknowledge our own imperfection and mortality, and to be immersed in memories. It was a perfect day to make a gift in honor of my mother.
I headed off walking down Broadway thinking I’d do a little window shopping, get a cup of coffee, and maybe encounter my next recipient. I hadn’t gotten too far when a man in a shirt and tie (and semi-snazzy hat) came out of a doorway and almost walked right into me. “Is there a Goodwill around here?” he asked. I took note of his frail frame stooped over a walker and am sure the concern crept into my voice. “There is, down this way. But it’s quite a few blocks.”
He appeared undeterred and fell into step beside me, pushing his walker along. I must admit, he was surprisingly spry. He commented that my glasses made me look intelligent. “I bet your IQ is at least 117,” he surmised. “Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls,” I joshed. Inside, I was wondering if I had found my guy (or, rather if he had found me). “That was sure easy,” I thought to myself.
“How are you today?” I asked him. “I’m great!” he said with a wide grin. “Quadrilateral!” Somehow, this made sense.
“I’d like to tell you a little about myself,” my new friend continued. He said he was a writer, lives in a nice apartment and gets VA benefits as a result of serving 22 days in the military decades ago. He asked my name and, when I said it was Jill, he said, “I’m a Jack!” He spun around to show me his hatband.
Then it started to get strange. He told me he is a prophet and knows more than anyone I have ever met. “Anyone?” I wondered. “Yes, anyone,” he insisted. He said that all men are soon to become slaves and have their “asses kicked” by women. He started quoting the bible at length. We must have been quite the pair. As we passed people sitting outside cafes and restaurants, they looked at me and smiled. A few winked.
Finally we could see Goodwill a few blocks ahead and I pointed it out to him, bidding him goodbye and starting to cross to the other side of the street. He was a little hard to shake. He followed me across and started asking personal questions. I didn’t want to be rude and was relieved when eventually he rolled along.
I must admit, it set me back a bit. It’s not the first time I launched headlong into a conversation and had to pull myself out by the hair. It’s never fun, though, and it makes me wary. By now I was sitting outside Peet’s with my coffee. I looked at everybody a little suspiciously, and felt annoyed by those responsible for the cigarette smoke wafting by. A dreary self-doubt threatening my mood, I got up and started walking east toward home.
I passed one of my favorite shops and decided to pop in to take a look. Sometimes I am lucky to find something really cute and in my size. It was such a day and I found something adorable. You will see me wearing it soon. I also picked out a pair of earrings for Louise. A lady can never have too many.
The cashier was ringing up my purchases when a tall man in a motorcycle helmet appeared. He asked the woman behind the counter if she would like to buy any CDs, unzipping a backpack and showing his wares. “Sorry, I don’t have any money,” she professed (her hand on the cash drawer). The guy was all smiles beneath his outsized helmet.
“Is it your own music?” I asked. “I have some of that, too,” he said, pulling out some CDs and laying them on the counter. I was intrigued by his upbeat attitude and somehow wanted to atone for the store employee’s cool reception. “Once I finish up here I’d like to know more,” I said.
The label on the CD said his name was Andrew Johnson, aka Irealization. I followed him outside into the sun.
He told me he writes music, does vocals and plays drums. He’s a painter too. I bought two of his original CDs.
Then I said I had a gift I wanted to pass on to him. I told him my mom had died two years ago and I was honoring her this way. “I hope you’ll accept this,” I said, handing him the hundred. “Oh, wow, I’ve never taken anything like this!” he said. “I would like to give you some more CDs,” he urged, opening the backpack again. “No, really,” I said. “No strings attached!”
We stood there in the beautiful day, talking like old friends. “That must be a hard way to make a living,” I observed. He admitted it could be tough at times but that he was getting by. “The hardest part is expenses with my van – about $300 every month in gas, just driving around town!” We agreed that there must be better ways to provide energy – ways that would cost less and be healthier for everyone. He looked up toward the sky and the tall buildings down the street. “If we fill the place with as much solar panels as we can and use the sun as our main source of energy – the sun won’t get smaller and it won’t shine less! The wind is the same; we can fill many areas with wind mill and it won’t use up the wind and prevent the wind from blowing. Oil and coal are limited resources that can be used up and the less we have while a lot of people are dependent upon it the more expensive it will be.” I said I agreed with him.
He said I could take his picture and put it on the blog. He took off his helmet.
His scooter was parked at the curb and I admired it. Andrew said he had ridden it to Eugene and back on just $6 in gas. It only goes about 30 mph and the trip had taken him five hours each way, but it was worth it.
Shortly after I arrived home I got an email from Andrew. He attached a soundtrack entitled “Today Is a Day For Everyone” – a song about peace, renewal and how we are all connected. He also sent a photo of one of his paintings. He said he would like to give me this painting. Wow! I can’t wait.
Dear Andrew. Thank you. May your tank always be full.
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