Off the Motorcycle: What’s up Now?


What’s up now?

Big Red and I will be back on the road soon. But for the last few days, after 25 on the road, I’ve been sleeping a lot and wandering around Los Angeles like an amnesiac castaway: to the coffee shop, to the park, to the Starlite Cantina. Reentry problems. Walker Percy wrote about them. Also, no coincidence, the title of my last novel.

My daughter thinks I’m crazy because I smile and say “hello” to everyone I meet. Just how I was raised but apparently they don’t do that in LA. Well, some do and some don’t. The young children still do. This would be a tough place to raise kids.

One park I walked to hardly had any benches in it. Where’s an old biker supposed to sit? I thought of how beautiful Savannah and Rome, Georgia were, with all the parks, paths by the river, and benches galore. I could be wrong but I thought the absence of benches here was purposeful; to discourage the homeless and lingering old bikers.

I’ve been here a few days walking around and only one person has asked for money. Yesterday, while walking to a park, I stopped by a 7-11, a convenience store, and got one of their fountain drinks filled with ice and diet soda.  In the vernacular here it is called a “Big Gulp”. I headed to the park to look for a bench. A skinny guy came up to me later and said: “Got some change?”

I looked through my wallet and fished out 10 bucks and gave it to him.

“Man you are a lifesaver!” He said. “Bless you. See, there still is one kind person left in LA. I’ve been starving.”

“Bless you man.” I replied. Before he hurried off I asked his name.

“Tay Tay. Man,” he continued, “you must have been in my shoes before.”

I smiled at him and nodded. I had never been that bad off but I’d been by that shoe store plenty of times before.

He headed off.

Later, as I was walking home, still sipping on my drink and biting the ice, he suddenly appeared. “Man, you saved me. With that money you gave me I just bought a hot dog and a Big Gulp.” He hoisted the huge plastic cup.

I thought about raising mine and us clinking plastic cups, but how sad would that have been? In a country that has so much, and in a world where I know, that people in their heart of hearts are kind.

2 thoughts on “Off the Motorcycle: What’s up Now?

  1. I was just talking with Burton the other day about a professor I had in college. When he was a social work student in Chicago he had a professor give them the project to go on a street corner and ask for change. Just once, that was all, then write a reflection on it. He said he stood downtown for 4 hours and was never able to do it. I think of that every time I cross someone asking for change. So many people dismiss the person but I don’t think most people realize how difficult it is to put yourself out there and ask for help, to have most people immediately dismiss you, ignore you or make assumptions…anyways, it was so nice to meet you in Santa Rosa outside the brewery and we have book marked your blog!

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