#28 In Roads-Science freak

I’m hoofing along the kitschy section if downtown Sebastopol, California when I notice a homeless shopping cart at a closed gas station. I head over to see if I can meet the owner when suddenly Mike descends upon me. “Hi, do you recognize me?” he asks as he takes off his glasses, waves his hand across his face and bows as if he is presenting himself. “No,” I giggle. “I must say I do not recognize you.” He circles around me as if trying to find the perfect lighting since perhaps I am just not seeing clearly and raises his eyebrows in question. I shake my head no, I still do not recognize him. “Well, alright then. The sun is out, the clouds are out of the southwest and it’s a beautiful day. Thank you for talking to me. Goodbye.”

I ask to take his picture and he hops in the air in excitement. “Yes! Please do, where would you like me to stand? Do you want my glasses off? Do you know about the place across the street? It’s where I take my meals everyday.” I notice he has plastic cutlery in his shirt pocket. He looks hungry. I tell him I’ve never been there and was actually looking for a place to eat. “Marvelous, then I shall join you and we will enjoy the offerings.” We walk through the salad bar and each load up our waxed boxes. He explains how carbohydrates are actually very bad for you and he watches his sugar intake, but he really loves dried cranberries. At check out I offer to buy his lunch since he is quietly counting the change from his pocket. He is delighted, though assures me he had no expectations of such a gesture. I tell him I appreciate his company and it’s what friends do. We retire outside to eat even though he’s frustrated there are no chairs in the sun.

My new friend asks if I like science as he takes out a pen and begins drawing. He explains how, as a child, he designed his own stereoscope and this diagram will help me understand how he did it. There are mountains and some math equations, since he loves trigonometry and algebra, and it’s all about the optics. He gives me the drawing to study later. He recalls the grief of losing his brother to extreme alcoholism a few years back. “He was just 45. I used to drink more than I should have but I’m not so bad these days,” he says. He has a pension and knows a lot more about the government than he should since he grew up in New Mexico and there are just things he cannot talk about.

I ask if it was his cart I saw earlier and he immediately sits straight up in his chair. “No way! I am allergic to that guy. Can’t stand to be around him because he knows everything about everything. He is just awful. And so is his dog. They are both opinionated assholes.” He walks me back across the parking lot and bids me good day.


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