Sold one “Cheesesteak.” It was a reward for behaving well.
Grandparents had selected the café table beside mine to park two noisy grandchildren. I did not cast one annoyed glance. I did not huffily move. I barely thought, Can’t you stifle those brats? As they left, the grandfather said, “Are you the author?”
He turned out to be from Overbrook Park, a couple years younger than me, a lawyer now in Sacramento. “My ideal reader,” I told him. He e-mailed two days later he’d been enthralled by our points of connection and was eager to discuss/develop them.
I had another “Are you Bob?” too. (See: “Adventures” #72.)
It came from Tamara, maybe 30, floral print dress, brown hair pinned with a barrette. This time I was seated outside the café and she was headed in. She was a poet, she said, thinking of self-publishing too. “When do you write?” she asked. “Does anything disturb you?” (I had been a lawyer for 40 years. I’d had two heart attacks. That, I thought, was disturbing.) “$10,” I said, pointing. “$15.” “I’ll think about it,” she said.
Edward followed. Black, three-days white stubble, thick glasses, Second Life zipper jacket. Thinking of becoming a poet, he said. Studying how-to books about the process. “Read poems,” I said. “Write them. Read and write. Read and write.”
A car interrupted my instruction. “Was that my wife?” he said.
“Don’t let her get away,” I said.
“Is that a poem?”
“You never know.”
Andrew, 55, tained sweat shirt, shorts, low cut sneakers, came next. His face had the flush or sun and wind and alcohol. He wanted to know if I’d heard Tom Petty had died.
“Cardiac arrest,” I said. “66.”
This news had shaken Andrew, whom, I might add, I had never seen before. He had, he told me, read the story in the “Chronicle” three times. He had seen Petty perform at the Greek Theater three weeks before, which made, it seemed, the news difficult to absorb.
I said something about “any day” and “you never know.”
Andrew drew a lesson about not waiting. That if there was something you were thinking of doing, you should do it.
I had no argument there.
He talked about Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel and some more about Tom Petty. He asked if I knew The Traveling Wilburys.
“Hey,” I said, “I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan.” I turned around the baseball cap I had been wearing back to front, so he could read the name on it.
“When I was going to UCLA,” he said, “living up on Mullohand, I was hitching to class, and this red El Dorado pulled up, and Bob Dylan was driving. He gave me a ride.”
“Wow!” I said.
“People don’t believe me. But why should I lie?”
“I believe you.”
“He was playing Bob Dylan on his tape deck.”
A half-hour later, I saw him standing at the other end of the Safeway parking lot, unmoving, staring west., thinking, I supposed, what he wanted. Two day later, I saw him on the same corner.