I met this kindly gentleman while walking around Seattle taking some footage of the night life at Pike Place Market one evening while in town on business. We struck up a wonderful, intriguing conversation which I thoroughly enjoyed. Initially he approached me asking for a cigarette – which I happily surrendered – than simply began talking. During his approach, I noticed his gait was one of pain as he was obviously dependent upon the cane he used.
The discussion was fragmented and led from one topic to another with no apparent tangent. I do not recall how the topic of food and locality developed, but we discovered we had both lived in Birmingham, Alabama for a period of time; and we both lovingly described our memories of good ol’ southern barbeque. The hickory smoked meat which literally fell of the bone. My time there was a brief two years of which I have mostly forgotten. During our reminiscing, he vividly described “B-ham” and in doing so brought back to life a part of my past which had nearly faded entirely away.
When talking about Alabama barbeque, he moved the locality of regional foods to New Orleans…. his love for duck, turtle soup, and, yes, the gumbo – even fondly naming his favorite restaurant The Two Sisters. His eyes filled with a look of melancholy as it became apparent that The Big Easy was very dear to him.
Now he resides in Seattle in a mission near the stadium and takes the bus to the market for some nightly panhandling.
In the blink of an eye, he left the food behind and proceeded to fill me in on his health woes – how he is suffering from “bone disease” – which was very apparent. Missing one eye and using a cane is obvious from first glance, but then he described how he had an arm and shoulder removed from his disease. He then obligingly slipped his jacket off of his left shoulder to display where his appendage had once been. Additionally, one of his ribs is protruding through his skin, and in two weeks, is due for surgery to remove one of his legs as his ankle bone is also not staying where it should be.
During our entire chat, it was very clear he was sound of mind and not intoxicated on any substance of any sort. A peaceful man who, I believe, simply wanted friendly conversation. He never asked me directly or indirectly for money. He only referenced was there, “to work up some money….”
How his path led him to a mission, we did not discuss. It was not important to me where he lived nor why he was there. Only that I enjoy his company if only for twenty minutes. There is much wisdom to be found if only one opens their eyes and ears and closes their mouth.
His parting words: “…appreciate keeping living, even coming up to one leg, I’m above ground”
The photos are actually frame exports from my camcorder which I had running. The settings were not right therefore the quality was poor – but I love listening back on our conversation. Since it is difficult to improve poor quality images, best to modify them. Plus I feel this man deserves to be show as photographic art and he was beautiful on both the inside and out.
This is my first installment of “Faces of the homeless.” I am several years into a “personal project” and homelessness is a part of it. I have met some fascinating people and will be sharing bits and pieces here in my blog. Please check back for future postings.