Harlan and Ryan.
I actually wrote another post for the “Moment” prompt from REVERB10, which I’m doing a pretty bad job of keeping up on but oh don’t you worry because I’m going to write every post, and I’d have posted the original #moment post a few days ago but I couldn’t find a way to finish it, and I’m glad I couldn’t, because this is better.
I originally wrote a post about the moment at which I went broke. The moment I ran out of money.
I’ll post it at some point.
That post would be this post but I met Harlan and Ryan.
And I decided that writing about a moment wasn’t as important as HAVING one, so I decided to have one.
I couldn’t bust up the confidence to talk to them on first pass. I was out on Fraser Street to buy a bottle of wine.
They were sitting outside the liquor store.
They exuded danger and rough and a little crazy. Cigarettes, booze, and occasionally a solid street fight. I couldn’t get past the fact that they were sitting in front of a liquor store up at 30th and Fraser, one of them strumming a guitar, at 8pm on a Sunday night in Vancouver.
If you were looking to make money by begging in front of a business establishment, you wouldn’t choose a liquor store in my neighborhood on a Sunday night.
The bottle of wine I’d come for, well…it ended up including a fifth of the cheapest whisky they had. I tried to convince myself that I bought the whisky because I love whisky. Also, whisky usually turns out to be something worth having, but the truth is that I grabbed it because I really wanted to talk to these dudes sitting on the sidewalk, and I figured that sitting on the sidewalk outside of a liquor store meant that you…well…kind of dig liquor. Maybe I’d share some sauce for a real conversation?
We all do it.
On that notion I walked out of the store and mustered a ‘what up‘ and offered them a cigarette. It’s chilly in Vancouver now. Chilly enough to make the sidewalk annoyingly cold, I’d imagine.
I gave Harlan a smoke and when I offered Ryan one, they offered to share. I balked at that and pushed another smoke at Ryan. Their humility was obvious, and welcome.
I asked them what their story was, and they both laughed at the enormity of that question.
You don’t end up chillin’ on the sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood in Vancouver without having a story that takes hours to even lay the groundwork on.
Ryan, by the way, is tattooed across his forehead. Both of them have the roughest kind of teeth, and the most tattered, leathery, challenge-the-world clothes that amount to a look that would make your parents hold their breath and reach for one another.
Dangerous looking dudes, these two, and incredibly nice.
H: I spent a bunch of time in jail…but fuck it man, I’m here now. You can’t keep me down!
R: Come closer, man, I can’t hear out of that ear. What kind of music do you like? I’ll play whatever, man.
ME: You know what? I just love music. All of it. I love that you’re playing it here. Play whatever.
[around here I snapped the phone above, with permission]
R: Yeah…hey we saw an great show last night.
He named three local bands I’d never heard of.
R: Oh wow…they’ve been around since the eighties…they’re right here on my shoulder.
He pulled at his leather jacket to show me his jean vest with a band’s patch sewed on…the band’s name was ‘something ABORTIONS‘.
They told me they’d just found a place to live down the street, for $850, with free cable and internet. They were so pumped, and I was too, actually, because I think that every awesome city in North America should have livable places that people can grab for around $400. The realest cities have the people who need affordable rent, for whatever reason.
Harlan offered me a bag of potato chips in return for the whisky swigs I’d offered them.
ME: Potato chips? What?
H: Yeah, yeah that place three blocks down just threw these out! They cost like 3 bucks…feel my backpack…it’s mostly air. Chips are such a ripoff.
[they’d scoped the local dumpsters]
He had a backpack full of potato chips…all kinds. I went for some salt & pepper organic bag.
ME: You know, I’m laughing, guys, because of how awesome that is, and because I’m probably more broke than you. You guys just own it so well and it’s so real that it’s almost funny.
It was an amazing conversation.
It was an amazing connection, right into the world of someone completely random. A moment, the way that moments can be grabbed.
A pair of dudes that almost looked so scary you couldn’t be scared at all. You just wondered what made them them.
You saw life’s battle scars, and they reminded you that you wore the same ravage.
You looked at them and thought about what you must look like to strangers, and how much that image must leave out, in most cases.
How trivial worrying about the way people perceive you really is.
Because the two guys sitting on the sidewalk playing tunes on a Sunday evening with tattoos across their foreheads…those guys were seriously cool.
They were intelligent, introspective, funny people with a very real view on the way the world works.
It was a moment.
What makes you feel alive?