"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, July 02, 2004
transient Function: noun
1 : one that is transient: as a : a transient guest b : a person traveling about usually in search of work
2 : people you can find at resorts in season
Smokey was, well, a bum.
For some reason he just came to mind today, twenty nine years after the fact. I figured I would share Smokey with the rest of you.
Picture this: It's 1978. It is the height of the Summer in August, at the beach. The place drew people like Smokey as if it were some sort of magnet for the odd and displaced, and each one could find a home there if even for a little while.
One day Smokey just walked up off of the beach. He was maybe 25, maybe 40, it was hard to tell. He had a dark, dark tan that comes from standing countless hours in the sun. His hair was long and his beard was too, and so was his smile.
Smokey looked like he knew things, things the rest of us didn't. He would look at you and somehow his eyes would just sparkle.
If you were sixteen, you couldn't help but like him. Since I was sixteen, I guess it was a foregone conclusion.
I remember my first experience with Smokey. He was sitting on a bench near where my friends and I hung out. Several of them were talking to him, and I went over with my current girlfriend (which I changed on a weekly basis, so I have no idea which one it was) to see what was up.
I remember that Smokey asked one of us to go to the beach, about fifty yards away, and come back with some nice shells. Then he would show us something. So off we went and gathered a few handfulls.
He sorted through the shells and picked out one or two sturdy ones. Then he reached into his pocket on his cut off jeans and pulled out a little pouch. From the pouch, he produced a little triangular file.
He began to dig into the middle of the shell with the file, carefully, until he had a hole. Then he widened it, and started putting points on it with the file. One, two, three, four, five...and there was a star. A few little marks on the front to make it look like a shooting star, a quick hole in the top, a shoestring from his pouch, and there was a necklace.
Whoa. The whole thing had only taken maybe a minute.
Then he grabbed another shell. This time, though, he pulled yet another file from his pouch, a tiny round rattail file. When the hole was cut, the triangle file made a point on the bottom, and the round one made two rounded edges on top....a heart.
I sat there watching until I had learned everything about how to do those shells, and several of us bought Smokey some dinner that night.
Over the next couple of weeks, Smokey spent hours talking to us. He shared stories, not so much about him, but about life. In a way it was as if he was giving us wisdom.
One night I was having a girl over to dinner, and wanted so badly to impress her. I went to see Smokey to see if he had any ideas.
"Go buy a coral orange candle," he told me. "And then along with it burn some frangipane incense."
So I went out and found those things, and the evening went wonderfully. Of course, Smokey knew that there was no magic about those particular items. No, the magic was only in my believing there was magic. I didn't need magic, I needed self confidence, and that's what he sent me to the store to buy.
One day, Smokey just vanished as silently as he arrived. We never heard from Smokey again. Now, years and years later, he's probably long gone. I just hope he spent his time with people who appreciated him.
Because I sure did.
Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.
Edith Sitwell (1887 - 1964)