old white men

The first full week of the second quarter of my sophomore year of college is over. And, as it often happens at school, I have gone the week without a post here. Here are a couple of fragments about two strangers I’ve seen in the last week or so.

The first one is something I posted on Facebook while flying back to Seattle a week and a half ago:

There is a bearded old man sitting across the aisle from me in the airplane. So far, he has written a couple stanzas of poetry, the first line of which ended with “solitude,” and ordered the cheese, crackers, and fruit box—he fumbled with the crackers’ wrapper for a solid minute. Now he is on ebay looking through hundreds of antique Persian rugs. When I started writing this status, my intent was to say, “Well isn’t he weird,” but I’ve just realized I might be intruding on the privacy of my future self.

At several times during the flight I felt the strong urge to strike up a conversation with him. I waited for the right moment. Asking a stranger about his solitude poetry seemed inappropriate, but asking to see if he wanted help opening his crackers after watching him struggle for a while might have been a nice gesture. Or, I suppose, it could have made him feel pathetic. After an hour of his persian rug browsing, I considered tapping his shoulder to tell him “I like the pattern on that one” but I didn’t want to make him feel obligated to buy a rug he wasn’t all that interested in. They were at least $150 each, so it would have been an investment.

I didn’t talk to him.

I went to a coffee shop yesterday with some friends to do homework. In the corner of this cafe was an old WWII veteran. He sat and watched the patrons type on our Macbooks and drink our lattes. My mum’s dad was also a veteran of WWII. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded two purple hearts. One of my biggest regrets in life so far is that I never asked him about his days in the service. The only time that I remember him talking about it I didn’t listen because I was too young to appreciate the stories of a dying generation. So when I saw this old man with the blue baseball cap, I wanted to grab a voice recorder out of thin air and talk to him for an hour. But, as established by the first story, that isn’t the kind of thing I do.

Out of the blue he began talking to a young guy siting at the table next to his. He opened with a rhetorical question about the young man’s thoughts on gun control. Before receiving a response, he told his companion that he has been shooting guns since the age of seventeen. He knows the purpose of guns. They’re made to kill. But how do we stop gun violence in schools? Ban them? “I remember when they banned alcohol. People drank anyway.” So a ban isn’t the answer. “I don’t know… I don’t know.” I was hoping he knew.

I’ll end this little post with the music of lauren elle, a friend of mine. Whenever she makes new music I always post it because it is wonderful. Her new EP is free on bandcamp.com. It is her voice and her ukelele. Enjoy.

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