Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Times, They Are a Not Changin

If you’re a country music enthusiast, you’ll surely remember that song by Tracey Lawrence, “Time Marches On." Unlike most country songs that sing about unfaithful women and lonesome cowboys, Lawrence professes that the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. He illustrates his point by saying, “North moves South and South Moves North” and “A star is born, a star burns out.” Well I only half way agree with Mr Lawrence, everything does not change, however everything does not remain the same.

Tonight I was walking through my old stomping grounds of inner-city Portland. I was outside Powell’s Books and I saw the this bum. That same bum I’d seen years before. That same bum who received a whole cheesecake from me that was a leftover from a wedding reception. And here I was, and there he was, approximately three years later, still holding his cardboard sign. I don’t think he remembered me, the cheesecake girl. Some years ago when this same bum had approached me for change, I had given him a half eaten bag of soy nuts that for some reason happened to be in my pocket. He thanked me, but then I heard him trying to pawn of the soy nuts onto another street dweller. I’d like to believe he was just sharing but I am led to believe that he was trying to ditch the healthy snack. And, he was still there; I was astonished! What’s even more haunting about the encounter is that across the street there was that same man playing the trumpet. The street musician who perches himself on a little stool, and wears a tuxedo and Mickey Mouse ears still plays in the same spot year after year. He plays a potpourri of jaunty tunes near a busy stoplight and has to stop every so often to turn the page in the music he is following. Two years later and I see him again in the same spot, wearing the same costume, and playing the same tunes.

Some things are expected to change. I had expected a new batch of street dwellers and street musicians, so I was surprised that they were still the same people. However, it could be a prime sport for securing soy nuts or cheesecakes, if you happen to be sparinging (slang: requesting or hinting at someone’s spare change; sparechanging). If you’re a street performer you might be in the middle of a great multitude of people who are trying to cross the boulevard and that could be financially advantageous.

There are some things which one expects never to change. My Uncle Phillip has this purple shirt which I am sure he worn at least 3 days a week for the last 17 years. I remember him in that purple plaid shirt when I was a kid. He has received new shirts as gifts but I suppose he has a tendency to return to the familiarity and trustworthiness of the purple shirt. Some things will never change.

Some things do change. For example a man in the middle of a mid life crises has been known to re-invent himself. You might see these men sporting longer hair, riding on a Harley, and flaunting a much younger girlfriend. There are the inevitable changes of the twenty-something crowd (of which I am a part of). We’re always changing our minds, majors, careers or towns. I’m a perfect example of an ever-changing young adult, as are most, of not all of my friends. There’s the child who grows up, who starts wearing make-up, doesn’t refuse to eat vegetables (they might even employ a vegetarian diet), starts driving a car and carrying on with the opposite sex. People get married, acquire children, buy houses, and join Mommy and Tot time at the local community center. Some changes are just expected.

Some things I wish would change, I should like to hear kazoo music instead of trumpet music whilst I cross Burnside. I should like to get harassed for change by someone new. I expect change from everyone else. From this observation of life I have concluded that some things such as bums, struggling musicians and purple shirts don’t change while other aspects of life such as jobs and towns are expected to change.