There But For Fortune


Walking down Wilshire Blvd. the other day, a man carrying a lavender backpack (above) happened to pass me by. The bicycle he was pushing was as burdened down as a burro.

All his possessions in the world were strategically secured on top of it — a high-back chair, clean pillow, assortment of plastic and paper bags neatly filled with essentials, and some sort of turbine contraption that was bound, in front, to the frame. Quite a feat of engineering.

But what really got to me was the chair. And that there was just one.

It brought to mind a timeless, tender folk song, “There But For Fortune,” written by the late Phil Ochs, which I’d listened to so often during high school, that I’d worn out the grooves in the LP. This gentleman seemed to be the embodiment of its chorus.

Yet, my curiosity was piqued, because he didn’t look like the typical homeless person I usually see on Wilshire. He wasn’t haphazardly put together. He was orderly, and clean.

Homeless people that have bicycles are usually riding them — with their collection of plastic bags ballooning out all over the frame.

Unlike this man. Interested, I continued following behind him on my way home. At the corner of Crenshaw Blvd., a burly looking guy waiting for the bus glanced at the bike. Then he looked at me and shrugged.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” he said.

I so admire that kind of laid back attitude, the calm acceptance of the vicissitudes of life, which, to someone as hyper as me, does not come naturally.

As man and bike rolled to the next corner, the light turned red and I caught up to them.

I screwed up my courage and asked in the most matter-of-fact manner I could, “Are you going far?”

“I am moving,” he said, in heavily accented speech, sounding Eastern European or Russian. He was staring straight ahead.

“Somewhere around here?”

“Down there,” he said, craning his neck and lifting his chin toward Western Ave. A beat went by before he added, “Situation is changed. Now, I move.”

With that, he tuned me out and went on his way.

I never would have guessed that this man and I would’ve had something in common. That he would be in the process of moving house, just like me.


Never assume.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “There But For Fortune”

  1. Maraya Says:

    Lovely. I like the way you’ve interpreted the blog format, like a daily meditation on some small experience that means something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: