I left for my Vagrants & Vagabonds, Outlaws & Thieves tour in late July, which Joe played no small part in inspiring. About seven weeks later I spotted him in his usual Tuesday morning location. The first thing I noticed – and it still makes me cringe, just thinking about it – was the abrasions on his scalp. Still open and bleeding after 7 weeks! As I sat and talked with him, he would reach up every now and again to scratch at the scabs. I decided not to mention it, I only pray this doesn’t lead to something worse, like infection.
Joe was dressed rather comfortably for the cool September climate, donning jeans and a light jacket. On his feet he wore a pair of women’s black pleather sandals.
I noticed something else about his appearance recently. With a thick, square, graying beard he looks very much like a balding civilian Fidel Castro (it’s hard to imagine Castro without the fatigues). Joe even has huge ears, characteristic of old Cuban men.
I caught him up on my tour, vaguely describing my itinerary and everything that happened on my trip. He was glad I was still alive. I noticed that he had a sketch book lying nearby. What a find! I asked him whether he’s an artist. Indeed.
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He showed me some pages from his sketch book. Most of his drawings are just ink pen scribbles. His art is either crudely infantile or brilliantly genius; it reminded me of some Woody Guthrie art work. Other pages had diagrams with perfectly drawn arcs and what appeared to be dimensions.
“How did you draw those arcs?”

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“With a compass!”
Of course.
These reminded me of Da Vinci’s prototypical helicopter designs.
He asked me what I was doing later.
“Just going back to my place to get some work done. I found out recently that I don’t have a job anymore, so I have to figure out how to make money with my music. How about yourself?”
“I think I’ll go down to a café where I can use their computers.”
“Sure,” I replied, “I went to a few places like that on my tour – coffee shops that had computers available for people to use for free. It was really great!”
“Oh, well I don’t agree with that! Free computers! And who pays for that?! The tax payer? No, I don’t agree with that!”
Now I was really confused.
“No, the tax payer doesn’t pay… it’s the business…”
“Healthcare! Education! Those are necessities! Not computers, I don’t agree with that. Who pays for it, the tax payer?”
“But if the business wants to provide it…”
“Well sure, a business. If the business wants to. But the government shouldn’t provide computers, it’s not a necessity!”
We played this game for a little while. Joe tends to repeat himself several times, usually cyclically, and rarely changes his mind, regardless what you say. It’s a little strange, but I guess that’s just how his mind operates. I was still really glad to have used free internet, no matter who was paying for it! And my guess is that Joe still thinks the government should provide for housing, health care, and education; not computers. I can let it go.
I changed the subject, “This is great whether we’re having, huh? But I bet it’s starting to get cold at night… where do you go when it gets too cold, when it snows?”
He said he heads down to Penn Station or to homeless shelters. He started talking about the seasons again with his usual hand gestures. Again, I could hardly hear anything he was saying; but I have a general idea. I once spent a week sleeping on the streets – but it was in Orlando and the middle of March. It must be much colder on the NYC sidewalks at 2:00AM in mid-September. I know he won’t be able to stay out there too much longer and it’s only a matter of time before I can’t expect to see him at his usual Tuesday morning location.

By: Gio Andollo

 


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