Friday, May 21, 2010


Not sure if I have mentioned but I have an eclectic taste in music. Some types I like more than others but I pretty much run the gamut from the Blues to Classical. It is a mood thing. Only two forms of music am I unable to find a mood to fit, Rap and Progressive Jazz. Can't honestly say I have given either a serious try. Like a baby with a mouth full of strained peas, I will not suffer the whole jar to make a decision. I just spit it out and hope for better fare.

After my early retirement, I took a job as a toll collector on the Florida Turnpike that I have written about earlier. There was a terrific turnover of employees at the turnpike so we were always meeting new co-workers. Unless you enjoyed working with the public and could tolerate low pay, there wasn't much incentive to stay.

The constant turnover always interested me as I got to work with a huge variety of people from retirees like myself to a girl whom we were sure had been raised by wolves and an older gentleman who wasn't quite "paper trained", but that is for another post. It was rarely boring.

Paul was one of the newbies. He was a very nice looking young man, barely 20 with an open friendly face that immediately won me over. I am an easy mark for a quick grin and always enjoyed the lack of entrenched opinions the very young offered. They are some of my favorite people for they haven't learned to even spell the word "jaded".

I had my back to him while I collected tolls when I heard low mutterings accompanied by a rhythmic tapping of his fingers on the counter. When I asked him what he was doing, he got a bit red and said he was "spitting." Seems I had found the button to his flood gates with that question. He opened up about rapping for the next couple of hours.

I learned that freestyle rapping is "spitting" lyrics in ciphers(or alone) that is made up on the spot. While a person may sneak in a line or two that was written the night before, most of the flow was improvised. The often crude language and denigration of women of the popular rappers left me cold. After my few previous experiences with rap, the music form met the same fate in my world as strained peas. Brief, yuck and gone.

What little knowledge I had about Rap led me to believe it was strictly a "black thing" performer wise. I was totally unaware the hottest rapper at the time was Eminem ( pronounced M and M which is a take from his initials). Eminem's real name was Marshall Mathers and he is quite white. Paul had dreams to be the new Eminem.

With a captive, white haired, arthritic but curious audience of one, Paul would entertain on quiet nights. His "spit" was often too quick for me to follow and he cleaned it up for my benefit.

I could see the guy had an extremely fertile mind.He sometimes spit stupid stuff just to make a rhyme. However, when he strayed from free style and put his thoughts to paper, he produced profound and often beautiful phrases that amazed me coming from such a young man. The kid could really turn a phrase.

I actually badgered him to do something with it besides serenading a senior citizen. I told him to quit dreaming about his "music" and to actively see if he could make it. He wouldn't know till he at least tried. Oddly, he did just that and started making self recordings and putting them on the Net. He was invited to perform at area concerts. Being white made him a rarity and his good looks helped. He had moderate success.

Have to admit I was a bit sorry to have lit a fire under him. I was torn for while I think everyone should follow their passion, I feared for him getting into what is often a violent profession. He was a clean cut kid and I wondered how long he would stay that way. At that time, the Rap profession was riddled with drugs and murder. It is only slightly better now. The old lady in me feared he would either become an addict, imprisoned or dead.

Paul was also a talented graffiti type artist. No he did not deface walls and buildings but put his drawings on rolls of paper. When he wasn't talking or spitting, he was making elaborate and quite beautiful graffiti drawings. Again, an art form I was not the least familiar with but one that is actually getting recognition. I sometimes think Paul wished he had been born a poor black child.

Hoping the art might take him away from the possible violence of his music choice, I talked to him about combining his talents of writing and art and perhaps go for the development of graphic novels which he was keenly interested in.

It was fascinating to see how the young mind so eagerly sought out the life paths to take and the lack of fear as the decisions were made. He eventually got excited enough to decide to leave us to enroll in junior college to study computer graphics and composition.

I was going to miss this young man that I had all but made an honorary grandchild, but was thrilled with his choice. The night before he left, he worked feverishly behind me on a scroll of paper. Being both sad and happy he was leaving, I kind of wished our last night working together would have been spent talking, but he quietly labored away.

At the end of the evening he presented me with an elaborate drawing he had spent his free time that evening making for me. I was totally blown away. It contained pictorial fragments of a lot of our conversations. It really was a picture of our friendship. He simply entitled it DREAMS. The other collectors totally loved it and wanted him to do one for them but he refused saying mine was special.

I know I still have it and wanted to take a picture of it to show you , but I fear I put it in one of those "safe" places that is really only safe from me. I still have a storage building with stuff that made the trip from Florida but that my small house will not allow space for.

It seemed from the drawings that I had touched him as much as he had touched me. Sadly, I do not know what became of him. We occasionally ran into each other after he left the turnpike and I once met his delightful girlfriend by accident. She said he was still in school and happy. He may have made several different career choices since I have seen him. That is the wonderful luxury of youth.

Do you find the "different" people or lifestyles threatening or interesting?


  1. You pose an interesting question I have never given much thought about. I think it is easy to be scared of things we don't understand. Rap music has always confused me. It goes so fast sometimes I have no idea what is being said. I do like some of the rhythms though. I detest the foul language and subject matter of some of the rap music. It is great that you could be a mentor of sorts to what sounds like a very nice young man. I hope he found success in whatever he chose as a career.

  2. When I open up and let someone "different" into my life, I am always blessed. Sometimes I am cursed by those who are more judgemental and once in awhile I have been amiss in the friendship, but never regretted an attempt.

    When we changed churches my husband and were open to a lot of new relationships and have been blessed.

    We have received as much or more from our decisions and friendships than we have given.

    But we also were more receptive to giving in our new environment. Funny how some situations in which we find ourselves are toxic to us in many ways, and a simple re-evaluation and change can make us better.

  3. OOPS I forgot to ask if you have followed this young man and his decisions.

  4. Fascinating story! You've met the most interesting people in your life and with your great sense of humor you describe them well.

  5. Patti: I love your story. Young adults, teens are some of the most wonderful critters on the face of the planet. I worked with them for over twenty years and was blessed by each encounter. I think it is in you to observe and find the uniqueness in each of your "people finds". I am also a consumate people investigator. My daughter has all her life been slightly annoyed or put off with/by me for stopping to talk to anyone if so motivated. Some of finds have like your young man just kinda glided away, others are still a part of my friendhship ring.
    You are so astute, and obviously provoundly gifted to motivate. Kudos to you and how wonderful to have your "hidden" stash of memories.....much like my old self..."it's here...somewhere".
    The Olde Bagg, Linda

  6. Because I worked with college students, it gave me an opportunity to work with a very diverse group of young people. I pretty much liked everyone. But I did have a hard time with people who were so angry that they let their fury spill over into everything they did. Creativity is a gift, and you did a great thing nudging this young man to pursue his dreams.

  7. Great story, Patti.... Hope you were able to 'influence' him in his career choices. Wonder what ever happened to him??????

    I have mixed feelings about people who are 'different'... I tend to stay away from them . BUT--on the other hand, some of them are quite interesting. I just have never been in any positions (including jobs) where I have met many people who are different...

    Interesting how it all worked for you though...
    P.S. I don't like RAP either!!!

  8. I find them Very interesting...! Especially if I know nothing about whatever it is, OR, have formed an opinion based on very little information. One can learn a lot about these unknown things, if you take the time, as you did.
    I hope this young man has found his niche---It sounds like he is very very gifted and in many areas.
    Once again, a fascinating post, Patti.

  9. oklhdan,
    I think most people are afraid of the "different". I have always had a very curious mind and find "different" facinating.
    Still don't like rap but then my parents hated rock and roll and they just knew it was the tool of the devil.
    I do hope he found his dream, that is all we can ask out of life.

    It is wonderful to open up to the not so tried and true isn't it? Sounds like you stepped off the comfortable path and took a jog that turned out well.
    Sadly, we lost touch when he left the turnpike. I hope he found a path that gave him fullfillment.

    Reader Wil,
    Thank you Wil. I have been very lucky in the people I have met. I am a student of mankind and love to learn.

    Linda in NM
    We are a lot alike. I too often recieve head shakes for talking to just about anyone,anywhere,anytime.
    You were lucky to work with young minds, they are usually so fresh and uncluttered.

    You like Linda were lucky to work with students. Know what you mean about the "angry". It is really sad to see and worse to be around.
    I just hope that he can be a success in life and never have to stay awake at night pondering "what if".

    Sounds like you just have not been exposed which can make a person hesitant.
    I have always worked with the public and that is where they are, warts, genius,saints, sinners and all.
    I too wonder what happened to him but I have confidence it was only good things.

    Me too Naomi. "OR, have formed an opinion based on very little information." I think those times are the ones I relish the most. The world truly holds a marvelous variety of thoughts, customs, and ideas.

  10. INTERESTING!!!! Takes the cake!!!! I love fascinating...In fact, I have written a post for tomorrow about one of my interesting and wonderful experiences...she loved punk and new wave music...before anyone knew what it was...

    Wonderful post, dear are definitely a kindred spirit...and I want to be just like you when I grow up :-) Love, Janine XO

  11. I really enjoyed reading this post. I hope that young man is using his talents, I would venture to say he thinks of you often.

    Myself, I love meeting and talking to people period. No matter where I go I usually end up talking to someone I have never met before and it is always interesting to me.

    When I was a foster parent and when teaching in the children's ministry at church I met a lot of people different from my self. I loved it!

    Bless you for encouraging that young man.


  12. Interesting. I'm drawn to people who are "different."

  13. I think we are all "different" to somebody so I try to keep an open mind. How boring would my life be if everyone was just like me? (Not that there aren't times when I really wish that were the case!!)

  14. You have such interesting stories to tell, Patti!! (and you tell them well)

    I like meeting people from all walks of life, but my opinion of rapping is that it should be done in private - or at least where I can't hear it...LOL

  15. Sniffles and Smiles,
    I am heading your way to catch your post. It is always so worth the trip.
    Thank you for the wonderful compliment. We are similar sorts aren't we but you have all ready eclipsed me and you are still a puppy yet. Aim higher.

    Variety is the spice of life isn't it? There is so much to learn from others if we just listen. I think the main thing we learn is just how much we are alike.

    Another person who loves to learn. Welcome to the club.

    That is so true. When I see different, they also see different but when we look closer we see the only difference is in the ornaments. The basic person is the same.

    From all my comments, I can see we are not in an exclusive club which is wonderful. Even knowing a rapper and having it spit at me nightly, never got me to enjoy the form.Thank goodness we have other choices.

  16. What a fascinating life you have led, m'dear. And what wonderfully "different" folks you have encountered. Thanks for telling us about this one. He seems a very interesting young man. I hope he found happiness and success.

  17. I think this is one of your best stories ever; so good you encouraged him even if you lost touch with him; most folks I've found are either threatened or stir clear of those who are different and yet if they got to know them they might see they might have something valuable to offer or might learn something. Too bad you lost contact with him I like to think of him as a happy artist doing his thing even now.

  18. This is definitely one of my favorites!

    Yes, I love meeting different ages, different kinds of people. Don't think I could handle a retirement community!

  19. We all meet interesting people along our path in life. Sadly, many of them disappear before we get to know them better. Very thoughtful post. You got a new Stop by my place and listen to my own granny-rap serenade.

  20. Patti, in response to your comment, I put up a link to the info about the chapel. Come back and click on it, please.

  21. Pat
    Thanks, I really have been blessed. I really don't know how he turned out but I am not worried.

    Linda Starr,
    Thank you so much. I know. It is sad for those who shy away for they miss out on some wonderful learning experiences.

    Thanks, so glad you liked it. I live in a white bread community now, by accident, and miss diversity a lot.

    Boomer Pie,
    Welcome to TNS and thank you so much for stopping by and following. I will check out your blog now.

    Heading back there now. Thanks for the link.

  22. I am impressed how well you remember your many encounters. I hope you find that drawing someday. Those super talented people certainly are a delight to watch and see what comes out next. Thanks for sharing about this one.

  23. Youth is intoxicating. Even I feel right now I can become x,y and z. I eventually land on terra firma but the dreams stay ignited for sometime. I find ppl who explore different lifestyles etc very interesting. I don't fancy ppl who are weighed down by tried and tested options. Excellent post. I hope Paul went places!!

  24. Grayquill,
    Ah, don't be too impressed GQ. Ask me what I had for breakfast and you will get a blank look. Long term memory is age's compensation for stealing our short term memory. Pretty fair swap.

    lost world,
    Oh, I do envy your youth and the opportunities it affords. You are quite talented also and have so many options. So glad you are one to explore them.
    You go girl.

  25. Thank you AP..You are too kind to me seriously. I only showcase what I am good at. All my monstrosities are well-disguised;-)

  26. lostworld,
    Disguising monstrosities is a talent in itself.