I just returned from an absolutely fantabulous weekend at a lake-side condo with my girlfriends Bridgy, Cricket, Karen and Michelle. We talked, laughed, shot photos, watched movies, used terms like “Rabble Rouser” and “Unctuous”, and consumed delicious meals and calorie-laden snacks. I will post more about this tomorrow when I get pictures from Brigitte.
I suppose that eating my weight in shortbread could be considered for placement in the “Bad” category. The biggest “Bad” of them all is that the motherboard on my computer is shot. It will probably be like the cobbler’s wife that has no shoes. I will be a computer-less wretch with a geek for a husband.
On the way home, we met a very intriguing homeless man traveling from Alaska to Virgina on a modified riding lawnmower pulling a trailer that had a big sign on the back, “NEED FOOD”. We were taking more food home with us than we knew what to do with and so we stopped.I weighted putting an “Ugly” label on this topic because there were many things about this encounter that were insightful, human and lovely. It was also overwhelmingly sad for many reasons. Falling into this situation is much easier and more common than most of us would like to admit. Many Americans are just steps ahead of homelessness, myself included. I dare say this man is luckier than most. There is nothing more ugly to me than the suffering of my fellow man. It doesn’t seem fair that this is just how life is.
His name is Paul Woods.
His traveling companion is a dog is named “Yoda”. Paul used to work and travel with The Grateful Dead. I daresay that this band was, and is, his life. He has 3,000 copies of their music in storage because he cannot travel with them. The day that Jerry Garcia died was more painful to him then the death of his father.
I have no idea where he was born or how he fell into his situation. He was covered head to toe with black dust and oil that made his eyes look startlingly blue. He is missing many of his teeth and was only wearing one glove. He reminded me of Mr. Edwards from “Little House On the Praire”. I almost expected him to call me “Half-Pint”.
There are some things I do know this stranger: He had a love named Annie that he was with for fifteen years and that he met her at a Grateful Dead concert and that Jerry Garcia is perhaps the biggest influence in his life. He has a sister who owns a cafe and his dream is to rent out rooms to the disabled and disadvantaged and to open a commune for “Dead Heads” and lovers of Janis Joplin on the 12 acres his family owns in Virgina.
He doesn’t like banannas and was turned away from a local hotel, The Alta View, in Logan. He was filthy from the elements and from cleaning a chimney for extra money the day before. The clerk at the hotel told him that “They hadn’t rented any rooms in a while.” RIGHT.
He was polite enough to inquire if he could tell a “Dirty redneck joke” and took the decline with a sense of humor. He was also good natured about me photographing him and his dog when I explained that I photograph everything in my life. The seat of his lawn mower was completely held together with duct tape and he hugged the jug of fresh milk we gave him to his chest.
Paul loves to talk, mainly about the Grateful Dead, and it was difficult for us get on our way. He doesn’t get the chance to really talk to people that often. We left him with food, gloves a jacket, some cash and a hope that we made his way a little easier. He left us with a hearty appreciation for the warm car we drove off in and the lives we were traveling back to.
I wonder where he will end up in his life and what other roads he has left to travel.
Paul is 44 years old.In the end, I am not really sure what I take from it all except for the feeling that I am profoundly lucky in my life. Yes, I have had a lot of trial, angst, sadness and hurt, but I am so blessed in my life and loved ones. I have a lot of happiness and joy and having times like this week put it all into perspective.