Wednesday, November 19, 2008
the man in the twill suit and panama hat
Yesterday afternoon I had a long break at work. I took my computer to the Panniken in Del Mar to get some writing done. The coffee shop is usually filled with people working on computers. After, minimal but perfunctory nod at my fellow cafe mates, I settled myself into a high-back armchair and began to work on some writing. I was on a roll and only a little distracted when I looked up and saw an older gentleman in a tailored twill suit and Panama hat enter the cafe. He looked like the kind of man who would speak with a British accent, call you old chap and talk about how when was an lad he would catch pigeons in the Jardin de Tuliere for Hemingway. He entered the room I was writing in and started introducing himself the people.
"Hello, can you spare $3 for a Norwegian veteran?" I didn't have any cash on me and neither did anyone in my room. Close-up the man's tailored suit was dirty and his white patent leather shoes. were highly polished but cracked with age. He went to panhandle others but he sparked a great reaction in the previously silent room.
We all started speculating on why the man was panhandling; why he was dressed the way he was. He had sparked a mini-camaraderie in the room, it was lovely. One of the women in the room followed the man to the counter to see if he ordered anything with the money he had panhandled from customers. She came back and triumphantly told us he had asked for a sample of coffee and walked away. All of us in the room were elated, it was like we had discovered out own personal sociological experiment to watch.
I noticed when people gave him money we would hand them a slip of paper. I begged one of the slips from a man who had given him money. The paper read: His Name, 45th President of the United States of America. The paper also listed his agenda as president which included gems such as : current money will be replaced with new money; a new constitution will be drafted for the approval of We the people. It also listed books he had read.
All in all it was a strange, charming and slightly surreal experience. A coffee shop employee told us the man comes in about once a month, begs money and then asks for his coffee sample and leaves. It was nice though. He turned a room full of walled in strangers into a little community for a while. I, of course, was inventing all sorts of stories about him in my head, his childhood, lost loves, where he got the twill suit. Things like that are good for the imagination.
VONA has announced it's faculty for next year. Kind of a dream team if you ask me. I didn't go last year but may apply to study with Ana Castillo. I may even apply for two weeks so I can work with Asha Bandele. I will see how my money is. VONA is always fun and exhausting. My girls Patrica and Sharline make it ridiculously wild, though maybe I am the wild one since they said it was very mellow this year without me. It's a lot of money but I get good feedback on my writing. We'll see.