Weird Little Presents

NOTE: I started this entry at the time of the event. That would be 3+ years ago. I never finished it, in part because the object in question mysteriously disappeared only to be discovered recently in the possession of my jerk of a  thief of a  meddling wonderful, caring, dear father. I’d like to get rid of the saved drafts lurking on my admin page, so I’m going to do my best to sift through the cobweb-obscured plethora of images that are clogging my memory and hopefully resurface with the proper progression of events to tell this story.*

I went downtown last night one night three years ago around midnight to help a friend foist some sample CDs from her band on the innocent and unsuspecting residents of Ann Arbor.  It was surprisingly easy to get rid of most of them, particularly considering that neither of us is great at talking to strangers. This spurred us to get creative; hanging them on tree branches and propping them on ledges where they were sure to be noticed. We must have looked ridiculous during this, but that’s not really new.

Having finished the difficult part, we were wandering aimlessly and enjoying the cool night air when we passed a younger man playing guitar on Main St. He looked reasonably out of place (I affectionately refer to Main as “the rich people’s district”), and we considered him awkwardly for a few minutes before deciding to offer one of the remaining CDs. He took it gratefully, and we managed to make a small amount of painful small talk in an attempt to be polite. I probably shouldn’t say “painful” because that implies that it was not enjoyable, but as I mentioned above my friend and I are both awkward with strangers. It was unusual for both of us to instigate an acquaintance.

After a few minutes he started asking us about Ann Arbor, and where one might go to find music-related pursuits. Supplies, as well as unusual resources, instruments, and people. He’d left Minneapolis because he didn’t like the city, and was traveling around trying to find a new home. We listed all the places that seemed relevant (I was by far less helpful than my friend), and here’s where things got weird.

We’d managed about ten minutes of conversation with a stranger, which was impressive for both of us. We were just about to be on our way, when he said “Okay I know this is going to sound pretty weird and maybe creepy, but I want to give you guys something. My car is just down the block.”

Uh, yeah. “Maybe” creepy. On the other hand, I’m a careful and slightly paranoid person and he didn’t seem threatening. He seemed honest. I realize that there is absolutely no way to make this sound reasonable, so you’ll just have to trust me. I’m not the sort of person to follow strange men to their cars in the night, but we both had an inexplicable inclination to trust him. His car really was “just down the block”, and there were still a fair number of people out and about. He opened the trunk and started digging around, assuring us that it would “just take him a minute to find them”. “Sorry, I know it’s right here somewhere.”

Later we’d confer only to reveal that I was half picturing this man pulling a gun on us, while she’d personally envisioned a knife**. This was not a personal response stemming from his deportment, but a visceral response to modern socialization of children forbidding us to ever trust a “stranger” (particularly if they happen to be male).

Finally he resurfaced looking slightly embarrassed and holding something shielded in his hands. “I guess…I thought they were really interesting. One is sort of better than the other…” And he handed us each one of these.

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Radio tubes.

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It gets better. He went on to explain that he’d intended to take an old-style road trip with just the things he could fit in a small car. He’d been traveling city to city with a collection of weird little presents that he’d hoped to give to the people he met along the way, only we were the first people who had taken the time to stop and converse. Most people walked right past assuming that he was a beggar or a crazy.

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I’ve thought about this man frequently over the past few years, and what he’d expected to find. He was relying on the community to recognize him as a normal, functional, and non-threatening part of society. That’s not how things worked out, but my theories and explanations on the matter are quite verbose and deserving of their own personal entry.

Wherever that man ended up, I hope that he’s happy, successful, and part of a functioning community where people will talk to him on the street.

I’m reminded of my father’s stories of hitchhiking all over hell and gone in the late 1970s. (Maybe it’s fitting that he stole my radio tube? I’m still re-stealing it when I move out.) I’ve always been jealous, but I’ve been told the world is simply not the same as it used to be. I’m inclined to believe it.

* For anyone familiar with the Hannibal Lector series, I wish I could effectively build a memory house (or whatever he calls it). Somehow I don’t think I’m organized or committed enough to make that work.

** On a slightly morbid note, I’d rather face a killer with a knife than a gun. At least you can run from a knife. Then again, you could get stuck between a rock and an experienced knife thrower. In that case your best hope is to learn how to apparate. Good luck.

One Response to “Weird Little Presents”

  1. pooh Says:

    Wow, what a wonderful story.

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