It was a long, long, long weekend.
Friday, already behind on sleep, I rose at 8:00 and worked from 10:00 am that morning until 1:00 after midnight with a 30 minute break.
Got home, got to bed about 3:00 and up again at 5:00 and drove to Monmouth for drill formation at 7:00 am. Off of drill at 4:30 and drove to Portland, changed, and bartended from 7:00 pm until I got off work around 10:00 (they let me go early) and I was starting to wake up. Once you pass a certain mark of being awake the body starts to amp itself up. I knew that if I didnt’ get to sleep soon I’d never get any sleep at all.
Up again at 5:00 am and well rested, seemingly, after a six hours of sleep. Drill again that day and drove to Portland after for another night of bartending. Closed the bar and got home near 12:30 and in bed soon after. I slept late Monday, went to therapy and then to work.
Catching up on sleep causd me to miss studying for a midterm on Tuesday at 10. So I stayed up after work (home at 12:30 AM) until 3:30 and got back up at 6:40 and crammed until 8:30 when I left for school.
But at school I went through the motions and apologized for not doing anything in any of my classes. I hadn’t read for one class, wrote for a group project, and haven’t done anything for another group project. I simply didn’t have the time.
In between classes I listened to five minutes of a GREAT podcast called Deos’ Shadow. Really, not only is it the best Pagan podcast out there, but it is one of the best podcasts of any type as well. Synchronicity works. For there was a lecture from Dr Myers on a book called The Other Side of Virtue. I recall seeing it on The Witches’ Voice website but didn’t look into it (I thought the cover looked hokey… whats that saying again?). The author talked about virtues, Pagan virtues, and the deeper meanings and significance that they had for heroes in their time. He was essentially saying the very themes I am trying to find in my reading right now on happiness, virtue, warriorhood, mythology, trauma, and more. This book needed to be mine! I’ve been saying that all my readings about PTSD and about warriorhood and dealing with trauma and so on and so forth, come down to two themes… meaning and social support. The author of this book, in the first ten minutes, stated that there is heroic virtue in all the historical, philosphical (which again, I must state, was Pagan in nature. Just because it is “pagan” doesn’t make it barbaric. Ancient texts are very sophisticated. Herodotus, Aristotle, Plato, and others ring a bell?), mythological, and so on, virtues of heroes and the hero ideal all had a world meaning, but they also had soemething that writers missed (such as in the Uberman of Nietzche, which is propsed as an individual accomplishment), and that is that they were all SOCIAL in nature. Two themes here addressed… that the warrior hero had meaning in the life and role and that this identity was very social. Yes, this book HAS to become mine!
So after class I went went to Borders, it was closer, and saw they didn’t have it. I looked up Powell’s on my phone and did a search, no luck, called them, no luck. So I left. Okay, I did buy one book… The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt. It was referenced in class and I really liked what it had to say on its back cover, the intro, and the topics covered in the introduction. Stopping at a Chipotle and munching on a burrito I read the full introduction and really liked that I got it.
I called around, nobody had the book. Oh well. I’ll order it.
I was pretty happy and walking down the street toward my truck. I didn’t see any coffee shops open on the way, or I would have stopped to read and do homework. But no joy. So I kept going. I turned onto the Park Blocks and walked, whistling Beethoven’s 9th and enjoying the sunshine this late in the day (like 7 pm). I got near the Teddy Roosevelt statue in the blocks, betwee the museums and in front of the roses, and I saw an older man, (fifties?) in dirty clothes, a bottle of beer or something, dirty, holding a guitar, smiling and saying hello to everyone. He made eye contact with me, smiled and said hello in a loud and intoxicated manner. I smiled and said hello and stopped. He asked if would pray for him and then asked if I’d pray to Jesus for him. I said that Jesus was a cool guy, but my gods were of a different sort. He said ‘don’t matter, pray for me’. He was quite jovial. I sat down next to him on the bench and he shook my hand (many times) and I asked his name. Danny. He asked mine. We talked a little in that meaningless ramble of those intoxicated. I took in the details of him. He was a thin brown man and I could not tell if he was Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Indian, or what. The top of his head was bald but his hair was scraggly on the sides with streaks of white and grey mixed in his black curls. His face had deep lines, particularly around the cheeks. He had a five day beard. I noted that he had faint touches of silver glitter to the side and above each cheek. It was nearly gone, but still visible. I asked him to play me a song. He was surprised and he picked up the guitar, Josie was her name, and he lightly strummed it, ever so gently, and didn’t so much as make a chord but tried what I recognized as making harmonics, or rather the attempt. Because I know how to play, I got the impression that he knew how to play a long time ago and the memory was a faint one. He would play a little, and then apologize for it being out of tune, or such. I’d pat his back, smile and assure him that it was great, continue on please. He did. He finally put the guitar aside and we sat there and talked for a while, meaningless talk, and I just tried to accept him, to open up to him, to feel him and let him feel that I was really present with him. I would look at his hair an skin and eyes and teeth (filled with chewing tobacco and dripping out of his mouth) and he’d look back at me and smile and tell me that if he could get his guitar in tune he would rock the park with a song, and if he had an electric he’d rock “the whole damn city”. He also told me that he could build a sky scraper that would go high into the sky.
Near the end he looked at me and said “youre an ex marine aren’t you?” I was amazed. For my demeanor was, if anything, very non-military. I slapped him on his back and laughed and asked how he knew. “I just know”, he said. He said he was prior Army. Had been a sniper in Iraq “the first time over” (I assume Desert Storm) and said he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. We started back to singing, he played some more on his guitar, I lent an odd grunt noise to the song, and he made up some words and a gibberish phrase chorus to go along, to which I also sang along with him. When it came time for me to leave he looked at me and the first touches of sadness that I had seen from him, came into his voice. He asked if I had a couple of dollars. I put my arm around him again and told him that for that music he played, I did indeed want to give him some money. He said that it had to be hush hush, looking around. I assume that he was afraid of the cops getting him for panhandling. I told him that he was a street musician, playing music, to which I was supporting… nothing wrong with that. I had some money in my pocket, I dont’ know how much it was, could have been $3 or it could have been $13. I just got it all and gave it to him and clasped his hand again, telling him great playing and to take care of himself.
As I left I could hear another chorus of drunken gibberish music behind me. I called a friend and left a message on the phone about what happened. I wanted to to solve this man’s problems, right his life, and I wanted to run at the same time. In my message I lamented that the recognition of not being able to fix it all propels me to often do nothing, when instead I shouldn’t feel so guilty about doing only a little and just do it. Perhaps, I mused, I did more good by sitting with him for fifteen minutes than not stopping at all. Seems obvious. After I hung up the phone and walked the last two blocks to my truck, I began to feel emotional and tears welled up in side of me. In the truck, driving out of the garage, I wept for the man.
And now, as I write this, my eyes again wet with memory, I ask myself, what would a good man have done in my stead? Oh I am not trying to be hard on myself here, I am wanting to be better than I am.
Gods, give him windfall. Spirits and Ancestors, watch over him.