He was obviously a rather pelagic fellow, smelling not only of the sea but of the blue crabs which have helped to insure the popularity of the Chesapeake waters.
Throw some Old Bay on him and the metaphor would be complete.
He walked stoically toward the Starbucks on the curious pavement made of stones that have been replaced more than a half-a-dozen times already since the Rockville Town Square has opened.
In his right hand he carried a razor blade –
the triple or quadruple razor type which allows you to tug at your protruding whiskers before the other blades sheer them below the skin-line.
In his left hand he carried a beat-up acoustic guitar, and while there was no indication he had recently used the instrument in his right hand as his face sported at least a week’s worth of hairy growth, the instrument in his left hand contained all the trademarks of a well-played and often played instrument.
He sat down on one of the benches near the main stage in Town Square, and placing his razor down, he began to pluck on the guitar with a great vigor, and then placing a glass slide on the middle finger of his left hand he made the guitar howl and scream.
His voice was pungent, in key and sublime. He sang “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds with aplomb. His rendition of “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” evoked the feelings of the Woodstock era- his gray stubble and the peace sign on his guitar gave away the man’s destination in song and origination of the admiration of the same.
With gusto he worked through Crosby, Stills, Nash and Neil Young songs. He played Simon and Garfunkel equally well – making me wonder if he was there in the school yard with Julio.
Occasionally someone walked by and tossed a quarter, a nickel or even a dollar into his old upturned hat on the sidewalk which looked like had been donated by Stephen Stills. I don’t think I ever saw anyone as happy.
In between songs he regaled me with stories of his life. Far from being homeless, he told me he lived and worked in Baltimore and had recently retired – but still owned his fishing boat.
A stern looking woman walked up and hissed at him to get off the street.
He smiled and played.
After playing “Baby Driver” he told me he had recently lost his wife to cancer. He described her suffering and the time they’d spent in Johns Hopkins and a few other hospitals. When a young kid came up to him and said, “Hey, play some rap,” and left laughing, he played “The Boxer,” and smiled.
The man had two grown children and three grand children. His son lived on the west coast somewhere and his daughter was a research doctor in the New York area.
I smiled as he denounced religion and nodded when he told me of the fallacies of his Catholic faith – and I even chuckled a bit as he said the faith and patriotism of priests are equal to the faith and patriotism of stockbrokers.
The hint of Mencken in his quotes made his Baltimore heritage evident. His deification of Johnny Unitas and the “Old Baltimore Colts” only cemented the image in my mind.
I don’t know if I believe everything he said, but I certainly could enjoy his music.
At some point in time he began to preach – a predictable and contentious calling of the street mime, musician and every ward healer ever elected to even the lowest civic post.
The man began ranting between songs. At first it was offered up in 30 second soundbites of noir humor as he grinned, occasionally bit his nails and spit.
The New World order was after us. The Rockville City Council was made of “rejects from reform school,” – hey even a broke clock is right twice a day.
Soon he put down the guitar and his sermons gathered in intensity. Finally he was at a fervor that would make a Southern Baptist Minister envious.
The moon landing was a fake. Cancer is our government’s attempt at population control. Fox News is being persecuted by the liberal agenda. The liberal agenda is actually a stalking horse for the extremists on the far right. The Confederate statue should be melted down. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. The Holocaust is a myth. Jews are persecuted.
There wasn’t an argument he didn’t make or a stance he couldn’t take. In the end I thought I had listened to the Republican debates. And I still don’t’ know what the razor was there for – but I did like the music.