When I used to work for the public library system, we had a collection of bikers that would often stop by the branch where I worked. Bandanas, tattoos, Frye boots, machines that rumbled with the easily identifiable soft edged “pahtaytah-pahtaytah-paytaytah.”… really. Other folks would scatter when they’d enter but I recognized them. They reminded me of people I’d met growing up. These were nice guys who needed information or a book–nothing more, in spite of every preconceived idea people had.
Today, I met another character from my past. I was in a coffee shop, sipping and writing. A rangy, wiry, grandpa-aged man sat down on a chair by the wall and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs as he waited for the restroom. He had a silver Mexican “onza” coin as a pendant around his neck. There was a pounded gold ring on one finger, a worn-soft billed cap on his short haired head, and a “crush-proof” pack of cigarettes in his neat tee-shirt pocket. He hung his head and shook it slowly while saying to himself, “Folks get in there and then decide to take up homesteading.”
I laughed. Homesteading? Hilarious and completely un-New York. He looked at me, I smiled. This man and my paternal grandfather were of the same cloth. I wanted to say more, but could only smile as memories came back to me. Memories of rubbing cream into his one hand, the other arm having been sacrificed to a train when I was a young child. Memories of playing with his empty cigarette boxes…turning them into garages for matchbox cars or repeatedly opening and shutting them to hear the little poof-click of the lid. Memories of flannel shirts and thick framed glasses and how much he liked my mother’s home made cinnamon bread.
Funny how a two minute interaction can turn into reflecting on decades of experience.