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"My Hair Is Long. I'm Dangerous."
posted April 5, 2007 @1:02a
I took a trip to Hawaii about a year and a half ago. It was gorgeous; but apparently being on an island tends to make me feel a bit trapped. I knew my plane was scheduled to have a stop in LA... So when we landed, I got off the plane with my guitar.

I didn't get back on.

I rode the airport bus to the car rental area, and the lady behind the counter asked me where I was going. I let her know I had just jumped the plane with no plans, and that I wanted to go to a place where there would be lots of musicians. She directed me to Venice Beach, which, I later discovered, is more famous for its large-muscle people and wandering vagrants than for its musicians.

I arrived at Venice and parked near the beach. I got out of my rental, and was soon addressed by someone obviously living on the street. She was young, seated on the sidewalk cross-legged, and looking quited dirty and haggard for her age. She yelled, "my family is the Bush family!"

What do you say to a statement like that? I yelled back, "um.... okay!"

As I got closer to her, she spoke again, "my family is the Bush family, " then added, her voice trailing off to a faint mumble, "then the satellites exploded... or something..." the way, I found no musicians at Venice Beach. So I pulled a Jim Morrison: I got back in the car and drove straight to the middle of the desert...

No matter what city you happen to be roaming at any given time, you're just about guaranteed to run into people. There are people everywhere. And in some larger cities, you'll find some people that live on the street. And that's not scary to me. In fact, I enjoy hanging out with people on the street, and I've met some really interesting characters all over the nation by doing so.

But I've never really cared for panhandlers. And that's mainly because of their shady tactics. For instance, I was in downtown Knoxville one night, and a dude approached me asking for a dollar. I said, "man what do you need a dollar for?"

He answered, "beer."

"Man I ain't buyin' you no beer. Take it easy."

But then I was down there the very next night, and the same guy approached me, again asking for a dollar. I said, "man what do you need a dollar for?"

This time he paused for a second, looked me in the eye, and said, "... food."

Yeah, I gave him a dollar.

But shortly following that, I met a different kind of street-money-asker person. It was late one night about two weeks after the food-beer incident. He looked to be about 60 years old. His face was weathered and unshaven, his hair was gray, and he had a really bad limp on both legs. It looked as though his ankles had collapsed, and he walked on the inside of them, with feet turned outward. He said, "man you got some change?"

As I always do, I asked the old guy why he needed the money. He simply stated, "I just need some change. I need some change." Usually, if I don't get a straight answer, I don't donate. But this guy seemed a little different. So I just asked, "you gonna be okay?"

"I just need some change."

As I reached into my pocket to see what I had, he told me his legs were hurting a little bit. Then for some reason, he got a little more comfortable with me. He calmly said, "I jumped out of a building. Two years ago." He pointed to a beautiful church a few blocks away and continued, "I jumped out a window in that church. I had lost my son... then I lost my mom a month later. I didn't want to live..."

I said, "MAN. Man. That's horrible. I'm sorry to hear that. That's awful."

"Yeah. I laid there eleven hours before they found me. Eleven hours I laid there, just thinking about what I done."

I just stood there, shocked. I said, "man. I can't even imagine going through something like that." I didn't know what else to say. "That had to be really painful."

The old man started, "you know... right after I jumped, I was thinkin'." He cracked a smile, then spoke, chuckling, "I was thinkin', 'oh man, you shouldn't have done that!'" I couldn't help but laugh. Then he said, "I ain't never gonna do that again. God saved me. He wanted me to live."

Everybody has a story.

Most of the time, we meet somebody new and make a judgment. We survey eye color, hair length, and accent. We ask stupid questions about occupations and hometowns and history. We gather all the facts. Then we form an opinion about that person - a nearly permanent opinion - based on nothing but meaningless, shallow fluff. And some people take it a step further, acting and speaking to others as if they know everything about this person - this person with whom they've spoken for thirty minutes at best. Facts don't make a person.

Everybody has a story.


great story. i love the the stories you pass on.sorry i'm n ot typing so well but i had left armsurgey today andts completely numb and i amleft handed lol, so overlook my sloppy typing. i love reading your anecdotes. they are great.

posted by Diana on 4/5/2007 @3:00:55 PM

Well thank you very much! Good luck on your recovery. It'll be sore awhile, but I'm sure it'll be worth it.

posted by Jason Wells on 4/9/2007 @1:18:03 AM
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