Nature Boy

As a DC Bike Messenger for 19 years running I see a lot of stuff.  I see a lot of strange stuff and some not so strange stuff.   Then there are things that look rote until they appear again and you realize they aren’t.

For instance the person I noticed walking one day.  In a suit.   Tired but somewhat composed.   The next day seen again.   In another part of town.  Same suit.  A little disheveled.  A little less composed.    Still walking, but blending in.  A part of the crowd.

This continues.   Each time more ragged.   More dirty but still a guy in a suit, walking.  I cover a wide area of the city.  So does this person.  I figure I may be the only one who is aware that he is basically on walkabout.  From somewhere, for some reason.  One day he just left something behind and started walking.  My vantage point is invisible but my scan is wide.  Blended in and part of the fabric.  Not stopping too long and not repeating too much.

There is another man who has been in his routine for as long as I have been in mine.  Between 9th Street and 14th Street NW bordered by L to the north and D to the south.   A small region but big enough to get lost in.   Mostly alleys and loading docks. He rarely comes out onto the main drags during business hours.

In the early 90’s he was draped with ties and moved slow.   Hunched over slightly but at the same time solid steady and consistent.   Disconnected but firmly focused on his movement and direction.  The ties hanging down gave him a lagoon creature vibe.  Over the years he has lost the ties but has maintained the same appearance of purpose.  An incredible time span and a statement on resilience and survival.

If I myself wasn’t shadowing those same routes in the courier lanes his appearance would be isolated and without continuity, but when viewed through this lens his movements are not so different then a career government employee on the same stretch.

There have been numerous characters that come and go.  Footnotes and sign posts.  I crisscross the metro boundaries so much, that patterns appear even if I don’t seek them.

One winter I started to see a man with a big walking stick who was wearing nothing but cut up shorts that gave the appearance of a loin cloth.   Obviously an unusual sight and something that garnered notice.  At the same time the data, details and oddities come so fast and regular that I mainly, for self preservation as well as business purposes, stay focused on choosing good clean bike lines and transacting my parcel delivery.

I figured this was a one shot deal.  The conditions and the garb were both extreme for the setting.  I started to see the man regularly as I passed through Lafeyette Park.  He arrived around the same time and sat at the same bench.  In the gear.

On an especially challenging weather day with northwest winds, temps in the mid thirties and a persistent rain; a day when I had all my gear on and still couldn’t get warm I saw him in place.   Sitting.   Calm.   Relaxed.   Poised and clear.

This is months after he appeared.   Always, his countenance was even.

Frequently he would be engaging folks in discussion but they came to him.  No ranting.  No proclamations. No solicitations.  No posters.   Just a dude, in a loin cloth, on a bench……..

I guess it was my turn.  Mainly I wanted to know about that internal temperature gauge he had going.  Granted, at the time I was pursuing the racing in a big way and my body fat was close to zero, but the tolerance disparity was embarrassing.

He was there with the answers.  Some I could have projected.  Mind management and relaxation techniques.  Stuff that is evident and possible but he had taken to fruition and high levels.  He said in the winter he ate greens that only grow in the cold.  I don’t know about the science on that one but it made sense and his result confirmed.

That winter he was a regular visitor to the park.   This is over ten years ago.   Then he was gone.   Another footnote but a strong imprint.   Blunt proof and a reminder of the mind and bodies capacity.

Recently he reappeared looking the same as before.  Strong and positive.  Even though previous contact was limited I rolled up and he greeted me like a friend.   He greets everyone like that.

He’s got a name. Elijah Nature Boy Logan.  He’s got a website and stories written about him.   He’s got a wide dimension spanning philosophy.  The particulars can be up for grabs and debated but he walks it like he talks it and still, sits in the center, calm and composed.

He is in town for a ‘few months’.  Another stint and then I imagine he will be gone just as quietly as he arrived.

Later that day in a different park corner I see a guy dressed in a full overcoat doing a moody remnant of tai chi.  It is 90 degrees out.  I’m rolling.  In motion.  The sharp late day sun is kicking angles and shadows on the rush hour traffic.  I look for space and watch for irregularities.

Inexplicably a person is hitchhiking.  Traffic is a standstill at Mass Ave and 5th Street.   This elderly man is dressed in yellow shorts and a yellow t-shirt and carries a satchel on a pole that resembles a hobo stick.  He’s got his thumb out like he just stepped off the old Route 66.

I’m blocks past him now still dodging obstacles and meeting deadlines. Trying to be fluid but unhurried.  A yellow memory blur is all that registers.  There is more coming at me.  Moving parts.  Signs, symbols and trap doors.  It’s endless.

(note: gratuitous Soda photo taken previous day, same park under different circumstances)


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