I was going to write a blog about inspiration this week, bemoaning that I do not wake up covered in inspiration sprinkles and of metaphorically waving my medieval sword to beat vision into submission. Or maybe if I were being honest I was trying to tilt at windmills like some wayward and lost Don Quixote.
Inspiration has been sitting outside my door all week, in the form of human contact with another human being. Many in town know this member of our community, and I've photographed him before in a rainy doorway, some might even know his name, how many of us simply walk past his seat outside Starbucks or the old Asiana and just see a lump of rags sitting plunking away at a guitar. Do we feel pity, sympathy, do we preconceive and judge his story, or de we even see him at all.
What if instead I called him Private Wallace, US Army.
He's one of our own, born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Frederick, joined the Army, then worked in factories here until they closed. After that he hit the road for twelve years, hitchhiked the entire US, "I wanted to see the country, you know ?", laboring wherever he could find work, spending a lot of time in the West, stories of Portland, Oregon, Arizona. Six years ago he came back to Frederick, worked day laborer jobs, standing outside the labor ready every day, until he just got too damn old, body too broken.
He has stories, great ones. We see someone without worth, who has nothing to offer, yet if you spend a little time with him, there is a large touch of Kerouac and Forrest Gump, a freedom of thought, hates alcohol, "I buried too many friends out west, they couldn't stop, It really hurt you know", loves cake in any form.
He's sitting outside now, listen hard and you might recognize the tune, most mornings when I take him a coffee out he launches into the loping off kilter riff of Iggy Pop's "The Passenger", this morning was Neil Young's "Rocking in the free world".
I won't tell you his stories, they are his, not mine to tell. Stop by with a coffee for him (lot of sugar, a little bit of cream), he's right outside Starbucks most days, visit with him a little while and hear a human being, beat down but not completely broken, someone who can speak of a live that has had adventure, seen more of this country than most of us ever will, and lived it.