Pardon the lack of the usual formatting. My current mobile computing setup of an iPad+bluetooth keyboard is possessed yet again, and might possibly be on its way out of the 5th floor window behind me at any moment. Anyway, on with it:
Sometimes I need to be hit upside the head. Sometimes I don’t know my own mind. Yesterday after a fairly victorious set on the WDVX Blue Plate Special, I was standing by the merch table, selling 2 or 3 CDs and talking with folks. This man came up to me, elderly, obviously well-traveled in the sense that I got the impression via things he said that he was essentially homeless, moving from place to place. He took an interest in the front cover of the new record, Long Gone Time–my friend Mike Noland’s beautiful painting of a deer struggling in a flooding river (a response to the Katrina disaster). The old man said, “I sure wish I had a way of having a copy of that picture.” He was looking at the shirts on the table. I started digging in the merch tub, for any stray promo cards I might’ve remembered to throw in. Came up empty. He was looking at the shirts. Why didn’t I put it together? He needed a damned shirt. What he was wearing had been slept in, and walked in, for many a mile and day. He said, “Tell you what: I’ll give all the money I have for one of those shirts.” I said, thinking in the moment that I was being GENEROUS, “okay, what size do you wear?” I fished out an XL; he then handed me a very small wad of one dollar bills, 3 to be precise (I counted later). Then he pulled one of those plastic flat football-shaped coin-purses out of his pocket, and opened it up, dumping about 50¢ into his hand, then into mine. We exchanged a little more small talk, then parted ways. Why in the hell didn’t I just give the guy the shirt and let him keep what was indeed likely every dime he had?! Sometimes I amaze myself with my own thoughtlessness. I guess when I get on the road, a certain measure of self-defense/self-protection kicks in. You know, the old “Mama didn’t raise no fool” mentality. But why it kicked in at that particular time, well, only the damned devil knows. Wherever that man is today, I hope he’s enjoying that shirt, and has found a greater kindness than I offered him, along his way.