January 1, 2014

1/1/14, From rags to riches out here on the road. Feelin’ kinda’ rich this morning after grabbing an orange from the tree next to my tent and now I’m sitting in a Starbucks having an Americano. Happy New Year! Hope y’all enjoy this story from a past walk, a personal favorite:

At Bedford, Virginia, near the Goodwill store in a strip mall, I was using an outside electrical outlet to recharge my phone and laptop when I spotted a very beat up 1964 Plymouth Valiant pull into the parking space in front of where I was standing. Out stepped Randy, a man about my age. He was carrying a much worn guitar case and a folding chair. After he pulled a beautiful and shiny steel guitar from its case, he placed the open case in front of his chair, obviously as a container for appreciative listeners to drop money into. He played the blues… played them damn good! He told me proudly that he never learned to play until he was 25.

I told him I loved the blues and asked was he familiar with Roy Buchanan. He said he loved his rendition of the Peter Gunn theme. I agreed. We both agreed on what a true tragedy that such a talent as Roy Buchanan had taken his own life in a jail cell. I told him I had seen Albert King live and was right up front watching the blues legend perform. Randy expressed envy, said he had most every album Albert King ever made. He strummed that fine instrument continually as we talked… a young black man walked up and placed two dollars in Randy’s guitar case. “Good blues man… real good… thanks.” he said. A guy stepped up next to us and started singing ‘the blues’ in one of the most talented voices I’ve ever heard! He said his name was Charlie Frazier and after I complimented him on his beautiful voice, he said, “I bought my first house with this voice.” He went on to tell us that he had worked with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, The Drifters, Gary U.S. Bonds, John Lee Hooker, and the Chantels! After singing along with Randy in a couple more songs, Charlie excused himself saying he had to get a prescription filled. A few minutes later Charlie rejoined us with a bottle in a brown paper bag under his arm and I realized it was a Virginia state liquor store he had gone into.

Randy and I discussed the beauty of a LOVE LIFE attitude and had some laughs as he strummed his steel guitar and thanked those who threw in mostly change and an occasional dollar or two. A little boy being watched by his mother came up and threw in some change. Randy looked up at him and laughingly said, “Thank you, I do believe you made my quota for the day and I now have enough that I can go home now!” The proud smile on the little ones face was priceless. Randy watched as I unplugged my electronics and prepared to depart and said to me, “Is that all you need man, a little shot of electricity from time to time, now that is freedom man!”

Charlie called me the next day thinking I might still be in the area and offered to share some of the best black bean soup and cornbread I would ever eat in my whole life. Wish I’d still been around. Randy and Charlie gave me my real shot of electricity. There is the beauty of life all around us if we but look for it with our hearts open with expectation, not closed in fear. LOVE LIFE.

Holy crap! Well, I’m sleeping under the stars tonight. Tried hard to make it through San Bernadino and into the boonies where I could pitch my tent, didn’t happen. I’m just at the edge of town on CA route 18, Rim of the World Hwy. I’m on a bush covered ridge full of paths and little cleared spots homeless people have created. A homeless guy, Vincent, showed me a spot no one was using. He wished me a Happy New Year then went back to the task of seperating his glass bottles, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans for the refund. Hey, there’s a Starbucks nearby for morning coffee. See, life spoils me rotten. LOVE LIFE and happy 2014!