Tuesday, November 22, 2005

a holy roller faux pax?

There was a rather large man strapped into a wheelchair on the Murfreesboro square a couple of weeks ago. He had an old tape player rolling a near-warbled cassette of an enthusiastic Baptist minister and a sketchbook opened on an easel, and he would look up briefly from his intense artistry to greet each of the passersby with great joy and enthusiasm. He seemed to posses a diminished mental capacity along with his physical ailments but was not there asking for money or trying and sell any of his artwork.

I had noticed him from a block away as he happily addressed the line of attorneys, couriers, shoppers, and other assorted business folk walking sparsely around the square on the slow afternoon. He looked quite happy in his overalls and religious sweatshirt, and I was even looking forward to engaging him a bit as I rounded the corner.

But he did not speak to me.

I did not walk by in a crowd. I walked by in an evenly dispersed line of pedestrians, and each of the others got a “How are you?” while I did not receive even a smile, though I was intentionally smiling at him. I felt like the one of diminished mental capacity.

So I stopped, turned around, and then passed back by him from the other direction. From this angle I noticed that he was drawing pictures of Christ on the cross despite the fact that he stopped after every line to look up at the courthouse and then back to his sketchbook.

I didn’t get acknowledged from this direction either, and I assumed that it was simply because I was coming from his blind side until I head him give each of the ladies behind me an “Afternoon”.

It was a bit unnerving for some reason. I have experienced similar feelings from the few panhandlers in downtown Nashville on Saturday nights who hassle others for a few dollars and then neglect to ask me. I never give it to them, but it is always nice to be asked, as I otherwise come away with the impression that I look poor and am somehow not good enough for the vagrants. Were they not covered in their own bodily fluids I might someday grab them by their frayed lapels and demand that they explain themselves through hooch breath and slurred syllables.

Look, I am not an intimidating figure. I do not walk around with one of these* on my head. I shave on most days and try to maintain a relatively kempt appearance. I was merely a simple man on the downtown square to pick up a couple of books at the library and receive my monthly buzzcut and listen to the gossip in the barbershop. I am the sort of person who wants to have a brief conversation with a mentally challenged religious artist on a street corner. I love eccentric, yet non-threatening characters in my downtown and make every effort to make them feel welcome.

So I tried three or four more times without success. On the last walk by I called out “afternoon” to him and received only a sideways glance and slight nod in return.
Am I to gather from this that I am evil?
* Special thanks to Aunt B for alerting us all to this Christmas must-have. I can't for the life of me understand how this isn't on Oprah's favorite things list.

4 Comments:

Blogger Vol Abroad said...

Forget the monkey, I want one of them Cabela hats. Damn the price.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Why not go for the best of both worlds and have a similar hat made from monkey?

2:10 PM  
Anonymous sethro said...

it took me a minute to understand what that guy in the Hat picture was doing. are we not past the dangers of muzzle loading? even bearded outdoorsmen can carry cartridges. still, the headgear is beyond impressive.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I think you kind of have to go for the muzzle loading while wearing that hat. Also, indoor restrooms and cell phones should really be off limits as well. It is the unwritten code of the hat.

4:56 PM  

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